How long does it take to get a digital download from

The wife has been interested in checking out Skyrim for a while now, and I have to admit that I was a little bit too. I intended to purchase her a copy of it yesterday for digital download, thinking that if it looked good and had reasonable controls on the PC ported version of it, I might get it for myself as well. So I started looking for places that had the digital download available. GameFly had it available, but I haven’t ordered anything from them since I used to get the downloads from Direct2Drive, and I was afraid that this fact could delay the download, so I looked elsewhere. Then I saw that had it available.

Now, I have a BestBuy Rewards mastercard. I haven’t used it in over a year though, because it is issued by Swindler’s Bank and Trust, who have been slapped with so many class action lawsuits over the last few years that, frankly, I just typed “hsbc class action lawsuit” in the search bar and picked a random one for that link -the bank was directly involved in the Madoff scandal, as well as being sued for selling bogus credit protection plans, being sued for harassing phone calls, being sued for intentionally not mailing credit card statements and then charging late fees on them; in short, if Satan ran a credit card company, he would be envious of their business practices. But I did earn some reward points with Best Buy for using it.

That was a whole other issue. When you start your rewards account they have it set to automatically print out reward certificates at some ridiculously low number, and while I don’t remember what that amount is, let’s say it’s $5. So every time you earn $5 in rewards they send you a certificate that is good for a couple of months and expires if you don’t use it. Obviously you aren’t going to plan major purchases around having a $5 off certificate laying around, so mine all expired. I navigated my way through the maze of a website for the rewards card though, and was able to change it so that my rewards would accumulate and only print out when the value of it was $500 (although when I look at it now, it is still set at that, but the only options you can now set it for are 5, 10, or 20 bucks, so maybe it has changed). At any rate, even though I haven’t used the card in over a year, I had $70 in rewards certificates stacked up in there, so I figured why not use them to get not one, but two copies of Skyrim for less than the price of one!


So I placed the order for two digital copies of Skyrim from expecting the download to be available instantly. I was basing that on the following information, which is readily available on their website:

For your digital products delivered by Best Buy pc app: You’ll receive another e-mail when your game or software is available in My Downloads in pc app. It usually takes just a few minutes.

Please note: It may take up to 15 minutes for new orders to show up in your account.

So based on the information available on their website it should take no longer than 15 minutes for the digital download to be available… 12 hours later I called customer service to see what was up with the order -fearing that the rewards points I used were going to be disallowed for some reason or another. Here are some direct quotes from the representative with my (paraphrased) questions and responses:

Me: I just ordered some digital software and have been waiting on it for a while, how long should the process take?

Rep: “The credit card verification process can take up to four hours. After that your games will be available.”

Me: Alright, it’s been twelve hours.

Rep: “One moment.” (here she placed me on hold) “I just spoke to my supervisor and he said that since the system upgrades on the weekend, this could take a little longer than normal. Please allow up to 48 hours.”

Me: “Is 48 hours within BestBuy’s definition of the scope of “just a few minutes”? (this one is a direct quote, I had planned to ask that about the 12 hours I had already been waiting, but changed it on the fly. Go improv!)

Rep: “Our website suggests that as a possible time frame, but does not guarantee it.”

Me: Can I have my money back so I can just buy it from a reputable company?

Rep: “We can process a return for you, however the funds will not be returned to you for 2-3 business days.”

I did finally get the downloads and game codes. Ultimately I had to wait roughly 16 hours for them to be available. It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense to me though; if I had ordered this from any other company, the download is available the very second you make a payment. One would assume that since BestBuy is such a huge company they could at least match the other 2-bit services out there. One would be wrong. The good news is that now that I have spent all my reward points I have no reason to ever make another purchase from BestBuy, and judging by their impressive 10% rating on customer service scoreboard it’s probably for the best (that stat is horribly skewed since that website is designed specifically to collect complaints… I know that, but I am using it here because this process pissed me off quite a bit. What really pissed me off about it was the customer service rep was not even a bit concerned about the misleading statements on the website, and didn’t seem to give half a rat’s ass whether I ever got my products; she seemed actively annoyed that I had called at all).

As I noted in a comment in one of their forums, “I really believe that if bestbuy were to completely scrap their digital download service it would increase their sales. If every sale you make loses you a customer for life, it’s probably not going to increase profit.” And to answer the question put forth in the title of this post, How long does it take to get a digital download from The answer is 16 hours, but 16 particularly annoying hours because the website intentionally misleads you and the customer service reps lie to you. Kudos!

The $700(ish) PC build begins!

I had initially planned to take copious photos of the PC build to put up here with lengthy descriptions of the PC building process. I did take some photos, and I am going to talk about specific parts of my particular build, but NewEgg has a 3-part video series on PC building that covers everything in much more detail than I ever could:

Part One covers the parts that you will need to buy before taking on the project. Unless you have never taken the sides off of a PC tower it doesn’t really offer much in the way of new information.

Part Two Is where they cover the actual assembly of the components. I kept this one up on my screen as I was putting these things together just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. It is quite informative, and is definitely a recommended view for first timers.

Part Three Covers installation of the software in your new machine. This also isn’t something that will be a great deal of use, but it does cover the subject well, so is worth watching -especially for first time builders.

pile of componentsMy particular circumstance was this: I wanted to build a pc for about 800 bucks. That changed after I had ordered a pair or video cards and a pair of power supplies (as was detailed in a previous post). With the video cards, power supplies, and cases in hand, my mission changed from building one 800 dollar PC to buying the rest of the components to build TWO reasonable gaming systems for under 1000. I did it, but barely.

The previous post has the exact specs of what went into it, but I will sum it: Rosewill Gear X3 cases, Rosewill 600 watt power supplies, Intel BOXDH67CLB3 motherboards, Intel core i3 2120 processors, Radeon HD6850 video cards, Team Elite 8gig (2×4 gig) RAM, WD Caviar Blue 500GB HDDs, ASUS DVD drives, NZXT fan controllers, Rosewill CPU cooling fans (there were a lot of complaints about noise and vibration with the stock fan for the i3-2120), 1x140mm fan and 5x120mm fan per system, and finally, Windows 7 Home Premium. That all tallied up to $731 per system after delivery charges. Not a bad price for what it is, I think. And it looked like you see here before I started the build.

It was pretty intimidating to look at. While you can’t really tell in the photo, that all took up a huge chunk of my living room. I had planned on waiting until the weekend (my day off) to start putting them together, but I wanted to start getting the place dug out, so I opted to start working on them after I got home from an 11 hour shift on Wednesday night (they are all 11 or 12 hour shifts, so no biggy).

The first external build went together pretty quickly:

the external build

As you can (maybe) see in the photo, I did the full, powered external build on the first system (although I had the power supply disconnected and the 6-pin power removed from the GPU before I thought to snap a picture). The only reason I went so far as to power it up externally was because I had bought such a random mish-mash of components that I wanted to make sure they actually would work together. When I got around to building the second one I still put the CPU, CPU cooler and RAM into it externally, but I didn’t do a full, powered external build. Now a note about the particular Intel board I was using (all Intel boards?): The boards came with an electric system speaker hard-wired to the motherboard -and no system speaker header-. I was thanking the stars that there was no system speaker header though because in the process of googling the location of it, I found out that the Intel board had done away with the single post beep. If I hadn’t known that bit of information I’m sure I would have freaked right the fuck out when it didn’t make a sound at power up.

The workday being 11 hours and the drive each way being an hour, I really only had an hour and a half or so to work on this on day one (and opening all the boxes probably accounted for at least half an hour of that). That led to leaving the first system, not to mention the living room, in a state of complete disarray. The following photos should be pretty clear evidence of that:

pc blowing up

living room blowing up

cleaned up pcWhen I started on night two (another hour and a half or so to work on it) all the components were in place (except the fans), and I just had to get everything wired up, and said wires put away. I did this exactly wrong. I thought that the way to go about it would be to run the big ass power wires all around first, then fit the little ones in where I could. While this ultimately did work, it meant having to feed the wires for the front panel, the SATA cables, the fan wires, pretty much everything, over the top of the big ass cables that were already in place. Once I had it all hooked up, the result of that was that the cables were sticking so far out of the cable-corraling side of the machine that it took a good deal of force to get the side on. So while you may see a nice clean machine here on the right (except the extra power cables all gathered up below the drive bays), the back was a huge fucking mess. It was bad enough that, even though I made it through the Windows install, driver installs, and windows updates on the second day, I would go back the next day and reroute all the cables. I mean, I may want to add or remove a component at some point and if I opened up that mess I’d probably have to kick my own ass.

backside of pcUnfortunately I didn’t take a picture of what it looked like before I re-worked the cables and this photo doesn’t do a lot of justice to just how well the wires are actually secured. As you can see, the big, braided power supply cables are the real hard part to hide. In this photo there are four fan cables, the USB 2.0 front panel cables, the HD audio front panel cables, a USB 3.0 passthrough cable, and all 6 (well 4, but 6 pins) of the power, reset, LED, and HDD LED cables running from the front panel to their destination, and aside from the big-ass, white molex mess near the drive bays (the fan controller came with 3 pin connectors, the front fan had a molex connector, so I had to use a 3-pin to molex converter to hook up the front fan. And since there are six fans and only 5 slots on the controller, and since the headers on the motherboard are conveniently 4-pin [none of the fans had such a connector] I had to add two additional 3-pin to molex converter to wire together the two top fans [because I didn’t have a 3-pin splitter and there is nowhere to get one in a town of 3000 people at 3am]) all you can really see is the braided power cables and the SATA cables. And while the photo doesn’t really evidence it, the wires were all below flush and the side panel slid on without any cartoon-character-sitting-on-a-suitcase type shenanigans.

One other thought on the cabling subject: It was actually a good thing that I had to rewire the case, because it gave me a day to think about it while I was at work and I handled it completely differently. The first time I wired it up, I just grouped everything together and zip-tied it. It seemed like a good idea, but what if I need to change the power supply later, or the hard drive, and everything is tied together? So in the second run I routed and tied all the front panel wires first, then I routed and tied the fans, then I routed and tied the power cables, and the SATA cables went in without ties because I think they will be the most likely to need to be moved in the very near future. If anything else need replaced I should be able to change it without having to rewire the entire case.

So build one took me three nights at an hour and a half a night to complete from opening the first box to the latest windows updates being installed. Build 2 started at about 4:30 am on Sunday. The build took roughly 2 hours to complete, but I stopped after installing windows and the drivers because the front panel USB didn’t work. I would have kicked myself for not doing a full, powered external build except that the front USB isn’t something you are going to check during that process. The USB 3.0 passthrough was working, the audio and mic was working, the power and reset buttons were working, just not the USB. So rather than finishing up, I had to leave it for after some sleep.

front pinsWhen I got back up to try to troubleshoot the USB problem, I searched google for anyone else having the same issue, and of course found nothing. But since I had no way to test the USB headers on the motherboard, I decided to check the front panel connections first. Unfortunately I couldn’t see what the hell was holding the front panel on, and any google search for the case with “front panel” in it just resulted in dozens of pages of the item description, which conveniently says, “Easy to remove front panel”, but doesn’t tell you how to remove it. Nor does the owner’s manual. Once I got out a flashlight I was able to chase down six of these little plastic clothespin looking things (two of which can be seen in the photo) that were holding it on. A quick job with some needle-nosed pliers and I finally had access to the front panel connectors:

front panel connectors

finished pcWhile it is hooked up in the photo, the USB connector was absolutely disconnected when I got the front panel off. I don’t know if it was that way from the factory or if my various routing maneuvers caused it, but I was certainly glad that all I had to do was plug it back in to get USB; I really didn’t want to have to rip the whole thing apart and RMA the motherboard or the case. Anyhow, each build took 3 to 3.5 hours including installing all drivers and latest windows updates. The finished product (one of them) is to the right here, complete with snazzy Intel core i3, Sapphire Radeon HD6850 and genuine windows stickers in place -for that professional look … or it would be if there was any way at all to fit the component stickers on the front panel or the genuine windows sticker on the chasis -which there simply is not. As you can see, this is a very plain little box. Previously I was very happy to have big, bright, shiny PC’s to showcase just how big my penis is, but all the LED’s and cold fusion lights in the world can’t increase your frame rate… Also worth noting that all those bright, shiny LED’s are a bitch to keep clean.

So once I had these things built and all the drivers in place, I had to run the Windows Experience Index to see where I was at, and was rather disappointed to see:

experience index
an experience index of 5.9. I know I wasn’t running premium parts, but my two year old pc has exactly the same rating! Further inspection shows that it’s not that bad:

experience index performance

Looking at the same page on my two-year-old PC, it has exactly the same thing crippling it: damn hard drive. But when you are putting together a 700(ish) dollar PC in February 2012, there’s no way you can go with a solid state drive with a reasonable amount of storage and a decent video card. But since the machines are primarily going to be used for playing games I think the rest of the ratings are pretty damn good for the budget. I am keeping an eye on SSD’s though, and as soon as I can get 120 gigs or better for a reasonable price I will probably jump on that -of course I will have to buy one for each machine.

And in case you are wondering, ReaperCell Systems is the company I invented just so I could put a cool logo on this thing (see, because the box is so plain it made me think of the ‘sleeper’ cars; old granny boats that some kids used to drive in high school. That made me think of ‘sleeper reaper’, but that is a game someone made already, plus it sounds too cutesy. That made me think of ‘sleeper cell’, which is also a game (and a tv show), but it made me think of ‘Reaper Cell’, and I like the way it sounds)… Because it was either that or a picture of me, and no one wants to see that.

The Great 2012 PC component adventure

The idea was to do a minor upgrade to the two main pcs in the house. I just wanted to bump up the graphics a little bit. My graphics card is an antiquated (by enthusiast standards) radeon hd 5570, while my wife is sporting the also antiquated (by enthusiast standards) geforce 220. I say antiquated (by enthusiast standards) because they are plenty for what we are doing now, but they won’t be able to play new games at max frame rate, and my computers are the one area of life that I like to indulge (on a budget).

sapphire radeon 6850

Sapphire Radeon 6850 - mmmm.

So I set about to choosing a video card. I turned to Tom’s Hardware’s best video cards for the money to help me pick them out. If you are at all geeky about computers and you don’t know about that site, you certainly should check it out. Nearly any time I am trying to find information on a specific pc component, I am able to find it there. The site doesn’t just have a dude throwing out anecdotal evidence for why he thinks one brand is better than the other; there are pages and pages of benchmarks and extensive testing. The testing even breaks it down by what component is better suited for what task. To use a for instance, in the January edition of best processor for the moneyit breaks down the current hundred dollar processors and mentions that the AMD is better suited for multi-tasking, while the Intel counterpart may pull ahead in single application speed. That is exactly why I go there for the majority of my research. So in the aforementioned best graphics card for the money article, I found the Radeon graphics card they recommended in the ~150 dollar price range to be just what I was looking for; I play my games in 1920×1080 or 1920×1200 depending on the game, while the wife plays them at a lower resolution because she likes the interface to be bigger (she is a clicker, not a hotkey-er). This card should be able to run any game in those resolutions without having to lower settings. I was able to pick up a pair of the Sapphire Radeon 6850 cards for 149.99 a piece.

And that is how it all started.

I set about to scrolling through my email for the invoices for all the crap in our current pcs (I never delete any email. I have copied all incoming and outgoing email from pc to pc ((minus obvious junk mail)) for quite literally more than a decade) to see what I put into the power supplies at the time of purchase. You see, the video cards that are currently in our pcs are in there mostly because I was trying to get the best cards I could find without having to run separate power -that is, they are powered by the PCI-e slot alone.

Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL

Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL

It turns out that I (just like all pc manufacturers nowadays) had totally skimped on the power supplies on our current machines. In both cases they have listed the “surge” power on the PC stats, so realistically they are running at about half the listed power (and how can they get by with that? They don’t do that with a power supply when you buy it, why is it different when it comes already in a case?) While my wife’s rig does have a 600w power supply, that is a no-name, 600w “surge” unit that does not have a 6-pin power connector for the PCI-e. My machine only has a 500w “surge” unit, but it does have a 6-pin connector… which really doesn’t make sense, because at the maybe 250 watts it puts out continuously it won’t be able to realistically push a discrete video card in the first place unless I, you know, remove the cpu. At any rate, when I ordered the video cards, I went ahead and ordered a power supply unit as well. I ordered a Rosewill Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL 600w power supply for $59.99. I did this based on favorable results I have had with Rosewill power supplies in the past, as well as the ratings the power supply has on NewEgg. A lot of enthusiasts throw around the “you don’t want to run a cheap power supply like that because it will fry your whole system” phrase. But, what? In the 501-600 watt category on NewEgg, this particular unit has 73% five star ratings, which is better than the OCZ Fatal1ty and ModXstream, better than the Antec TruePower, better than the SeaSonic Bronze, better than the Corsair Gaming series. In fact the only supply you can find with a better % of 5 star ratings is the Antec BP 550 and then a few that have under 35 reviews, while this one has over 600. So I can’t figure out what they are basing this on. That is actually the reason I am writing this, but I will get to that later.

When the cards arrived, I threw them right into the pc’s. More or less as expected, my machine would fire up and run with it, but when I attempted to actually use the card to play a game the system would simply shut off. The wife’s machine could run it, but barely. It soon became evident that I would need to get a new power supply for her machine as well. So I ordered another of the Rosewill ones pictured above to replace the cheap-ass, flimsy crap that came with the system.

Roswill X3 Gamer Case

Roswill X3 Gear Case

top fan detailHere is the part where I curse NewEgg (where I buy all my parts). When I went online to order her power supply, they had the exact case I had been planning to buy for my next pc build on sale with their shell shocker deal for … $39.99. When I say it was the exact case I had been wanting, I don’t mean that I was looking at this case and a few others too, I mean I had done some research on cases, I narrowed my decision down to a few different ones, then I watched the NewEgg review of it on YouTubeand decided it was definitely the case I wanted. The major selling points for me were: 1)A single USB 3.0 on the front panel; I recently got an external hard drive that uses USB 3.0, and I currently have it running through a 2.0 on my machine. I am storing all my programming crap on the external drive so I don’t have to copy it to a thumb drive anytime I want to use it on a different machine. Having the USB 3.0 on the front panel will make that so much easier. 2) The case has one front, two top, two side, and one rear fan position. I intend to use them all -more air is always better. 3)There are slide-out, washable filters on the PSU intake and front fan intake. I have several dogs that like to strategically place their hair all over the case fans on my PC’s, hopefully this will alleviate some of that. This leads us nicely into 4) The thing that sets this case apart from all others I had been looking at is what you see to the right here: The top fans can be lifted out for cleaning. My current rig has 2 top fans, but to clean them I have to disconnect all the cables and take the pc out, otherwise I have to blow the dust down on top of the MOBO and other components. With this I should be able to quickly snap them out, hit them with compressed air and be right back in business. In theory.

At this point, I had already purchased three out of 8 of the components necessary to build two new ground up pcs, so I started shopping that idea to see if I could come up with a build that was 1) forward compatible. 2) A reasonable upgrade over our existing systems. 3) Cheap. And while I didn’t know it at the time, 4) Just to piss off some smug, know-it-all enthusiasts. Here is the final build -in image form, as the cart came through in email with base64 encryption, which didn’t transfer to the web page. I also made it into a public wish list, which looks like it will stay active for about six months, after which that link will be broken and I will be directly responsible for slopp(ier that usual)y writing.

newegg shopping cart

I’m no computer expert and I don’t pretend to be. I would have been happy to hide in a dark corner somewhere to build this budget box and never tell anyone what components went into it… Had it not been for the wild, unsubstantiated facts that were being spewed to me when I asked for a compatibility check in a popular pc building forum. First up was this one:

…It’s a low quality power supply that could potentially fry other computer components. The Seasonic 520W would output more in reality and definitely safer. Alternatives are the Atnec Earthwatts Green 500W (no power cords included) .

This scared the beejeezeus out of me. Could my choice of this piece of shit power supply cause my entire pc to catch fire, rape my wife, stalk and kill my children? Oh noes! That actually talked me out of the build completely for about a week. That was when I started reading customer reviews for the power supplies (and other components) and tried to find evidence beyond anecdotal of this (or any other for that matter) spontaneously exploding and taking the rest of the machine with it. Sure, there is this video (which is thrown about on every pc building forum):

What you’ll notice about that video is that -like all tests designed for a specific result- they conveniently don’t tell you what they are testing, don’t show you any evidence of what load is on it, don’t perform the same test on units from multiple brands, hell, for all I know this is corsair performing this test on their very own power unit.

Next up is my immense annoyance at what constitutes a low quality computer component. What is this based on? I don’t know of any pc part manufacturers that say like, “Buy Widget Brand motherboards, creating low quality pc components for over 3 days now”. Feel free to take the time to search the internet for any computer parts being advertised as “low quality”, I think you’ll come up with the same thing I did: nada. In fact the only references to ‘low quality’ that I can come up with in any reputable review or benchmark testing is in reference to the video setting on graphics cards during testing. Simply put: low quality computer parts is a subjective term. If you have an old eMachine or Dell system laying around somewhere, go pop the cover off of it and take a look at the stock power supply. All of them that I have laying around (about three) have a power supply that is non-descript, wrapped in some cheap galvanized looking tin, look flimsy, feel flimsy, and weight about 10% of what any hard drive you can buy from NewEgg does. I actually wrote about that when I was replacing the stock power supply in my first CyberPower PC. So to me, and probably any layman out there, I think the definition of a low quality power supply would be these cheap-ass, stock power supplies. To some enthusiasts, however, anything that is not their preferred brand gets that moniker.

Since the power supply that was suggested several times as the best replacement for the Rosewill was the Seasonic 520 Bronze, I started to compare the two as objectively as I could with the information I had at my disposal. They had roughly an equal % of DOA complaints -but I would ignore those anyway as DOA does happen and NewEgg is stellar at their customer service and RMA process. As I mentioned way up in this page, the Rosewill power supply that I bought has 73% 5 star ratings on newegg. The Seasonic 520w Bronze currently has 67% 5 star ratings. Of those reviews, 5% (3) are 1 star ratings that say that this high quality psu failed between six and nine months. A direct comparison to the customer reviews of the Rosewill product is difficult since it has 10 times the customer ratings, but I went through the 100 most recent reviews (35 more reviews than the Seasonic has total), and there are also about 5% (5) 1 star ratings based on longevity, only in the case of the Rosewill there is one instance where the customer review says it lasted only six months, while the other four gave it a one star rating because it lasted between 2.5 and 3.5 years. So the average complaint of failure of the high quality Seasonic is 7 months, the average complaint of failure of the low quality Rosewill is 2.25 years. So the term low quality is subjective indeed.

It was at about that point that I realized that it is all bullshit. This is really no different than someone who really likes Ford saying that Chevy is poorly built, shoddy crap, and any foreign cars are death traps held together by rice paper and spit. Someone uses a particular component (a power supply in this case) and every other one is worthless crap. I did find one little nugget in a forum that proves a point (although I think it is exactly the opposite of what the poster was going for):

A low quality psu can do all kinds of things including frying your entire system…if you try to run it anywhere near the overexaggerated wattage rating

Well that is true of any power supply, isn’t it?

The thing is that in the case of Chevy vs. Ford I know that it is just an opinion. In the case of the power supplies I was under the (mistaken) impression that there was undeniable truth to what the tech guys were saying on the forums. I am thankful that I took the time to look a bit further into this because it really changed my entire view of pc building. Every stat I need to know is right there in the component listing, and rather than taking the advice of someone who says that component x is worthless at face value, I can read reviews of actual customers to see if that opinion has merit. In every case in this budget build, the answer to that question was a resounding no.

With all that in mind, I put the pc back together using my own research instead of listening to what the tech guys in the forums were saying. I went with the Intel BOXDH67CLB3 LGA 1155 Intel H67 motherboard because it had the features I was looking for: USB 3.0, SATA 6gb/s, 4×240 pin DDR3 SDRAM, a much lower sticker price and, you guessed it, better customer reviews than the MSI H67A-G43 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel H67 that was being recommended. The Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge was a no brainer at that price range. And of course for the RAM I went with the Team Elite 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM because, once again, it had a much lower sticker price than what was being suggested (G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333) and had great customer reviews. And that is what happened with every other component in the build.

To be fair, I haven’t built this thing yet, so it is entirely possible that once I hit the power button it will catch fire, rape my wife, stalk and kill my children. …I’m going to call that unlikely… Since I’m going to assume that’s not going to happen, the bottom line is that I saved myself about 20% off of what the tech guys recommended, and got these two machines built with the components you see listed for about $731 each (after bundle discounts and shipping). I’m not saying that you should outright ignore input on a pc build, but I am saying that you should definitely use that input to augment your own research and make a relatively informed decision; just because TechMan2012 has godlike builder status in the forums doesn’t necessarily mean his opinion is gospel.

Auto oddities and hallucination

I was driving home from work the other night in my little Mazda B2300 -some of you may remember this pickup from it’s starring role in my first (and to date only) cinematic production Tailgate: The Movie, which I am embedding right here just in case you happened to miss it at the myriad film festivals that I never entered it into, but probably should have just to be an ass:

It’s been a good little truck for the last couple of years. I have put about 40,000 miles on it since I bought it sometime in 2009, and it hasn’t left me stranded (okay, once). Upkeep has been pretty minimal: I’ve changed the oil a few times, I replaced an alternator a week or so after I got it (that was the once), I had to replace the flimsy, plastic intake manifold along the way, a heater exchange valve was replaced, and now it is leaking a bit of the refrigerant for the air conditioning -so I just keep pumping more in as opposed to getting it repaired because honestly global warming is taking way to long to come to a head to really have any effect on me personally 🙂

60/40 Mazda Seat

Luxurious new seat -nothing like mine

Like all cars, though, this one came with some quirks. Probably the worst of which is that someone had removed the stock “60/40” seat and replaced it with a couple of bucket seats. Why is this bad? Well for one the bucket seats look damn near identical to the 60/40 seat, only without the center compartment for storage, elbow leaning, and cup holding needs. Secondly, the bucket seats they chose came from the back of a mini van. So while they look pretty much identical to the stock seat in shape, and could probably pass for stock in a pinch, they have a cupholder that can only be expanded if the doors are open (and why they put the cupholders on the outside edge of the seats instead of the inside I gots no idea). Thirdly, and probably the only issue of real importance, is that the seats, being from the back of a mini van, do not have the sensor hardware necessary to use the airbag switch cables … so the airbag light on the dash has been on since the day I bought it (and probably well before that, as there is evidence of a piece of electrical tape covering up the position of that light on the instrument console).

As with all things, I told myself I would fix it one day. All it really should take is a seat from a similar Mazda or Ford Ranger to be installed and I should be able to hook the switch back up to solve the problem. Of course finding the seat has been all but impossible. I’ve seen a couple of them advertised on ebay over the years, and have seen them a couple of times on some auto salvage parts websites, but invariably the shipping on them just kills any thought of making it a reality. If I can buy the seats for 200 dollars, but it costs 150 more to have it shipped I simply can’t make myself to it. One of these days though, I will finally fix it for real: I’ll just remove the light bulb in the dash that shows the airbag status. (And here I should point out that this is all conjecture. I bought the pickup for well below low blue book, and it did come with a salvaged title. It could be that the airbag was deployed in an accident years ago and the seats were only changed to get rid of the blood stains from the horrific crash…)

Lockout tool kit - some parts not legal in all statesAnother of the quirks was discovered quite by accident when I was fumbling around for my Slim Jim lockout toolkit. To elaborate on that, I once locked my keys in the pickup, and even though I had never attempted to break into a car, I went ahead and dropped 15 bucks on one to try it out before I spent over a hundred to get a locksmith out. Once I got to the truck and chose my weapon, I had the door opened in under 10 seconds. No one was more surprised than me. Since then I have had a bit of a flair for unlocking cars with the little toolkit (which looks very similar to what you see to the left here). My next break-in attempt was for one of the cashiers at work, she locked her keys in her Pontiac Grand Am -which had electronic locks and I thought I certainly wouldn’t be able to crack, but I tried it to humor her. Perhaps 2 minutes in the door popped right open. Next up was a Ford van from the late 70’s. That one practically opened up just because it saw me coming… But to date I am most surprised that I was able to pop the door on a 2007 Ford Mustang. This one also had power door locks, but this one is certainly new enough it should be using all of the preventive features that are supposed to make the slim jim lockout toolkit obsolete. I’d like to say that I got right in, but I didn’t. This one took me a good 10 minutes of fumbling around to finally get to pop open, but it was all worth while to see the relieved look on the woman’s face when I got in. In fact to date the only car I was not able to get into using the old slim jim method was a 2001 Camry. I was able to get into it, I just had to use a different device to manipulate the electronic door lock on the driver’s arm rest after the attempts with the slim jim had failed. So breaking into cars thus far is a 100% success rate. I would also like to point out that I am doing this for customer service in my official capacity at work -not to go joyriding.

My how I digress… It was when I was reaching behind the seat for the slim jim lockout toolkit (and isn’t it ironic that I now keep the thing behind the seat? So if I happen to lock my keys in the truck again I will have to buy another lockout toolkit to get to both the keys and the lockout toolkit) that I happened across a thick electrical wire with frayed ends from where it had been ripped off of … something … Apparently I must have hit it against the metal on the back of the cab or something, because a huge spark shot out and (as I would only discover later) it blew the fuse to my turn signals. I took the time later to trace this wire up under the dash and remove it from the fuse block -where it had been haphazardly smashed into an existing spot instead of using one of the several empty (but powered) slots. I thought it may have been to an audio amplifier, but unless they had the stereo rigged to make the lights flash with the beat I can’t figure out why they would have wired it on that circuit. Just another quirk.

Of course the quirk that I came across the other night was a factory one.

Mmmm.  Corn NutsI was leaving work at right around 3am -I generally leave anywhere between 3-6am on Sunday morning. Taking a page from the old-school truckers, I keep a bag of corn nuts in the pickup. The idea is that if you are driving a long stretch of straight road in the dark, crunching on seeds or nuts will keep you from dozing off or getting hypnotized by the road. I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced either of those, but the crunch does keep me alert. I was reaching for that bag of beauties just after I left work (Barbecue this time, though they are generally Ranch), but I couldn’t find them. Alone on the road, I reached down to turn on the dome light to aid in my search. There was a bright flash of light, and then … nothing.

Driving in the wee hours and being the only car on the road can make your mind do some pretty neat stuff. There will be times when I am on the road and I literally don’t see another car -going either direction- for the entire 50 mile ride home. Sometimes my mind wanders off and I wonder if maybe there was a Langoliers type event that left me as the only human remaining on earth. Then I generally grab some corn nuts, because that is some bizarre shit to be letting yourself think while you are driving, and thus -in theory at least- at the height of your senses. Such was the case when I flicked the switch and the bright light flashed and faded inside the cab of the truck.

I was still going down the road, but when I looked down I saw that the speedometer was dead set on 0, and the odometer wasn’t moving either. This is what appears to be an old-school, mechanical odometer and speedometer rig, and it’s a touch eerie to look down and see them suddenly frozen in time as you speed down the interstate. In an instant, my mind thought: oh Fuck! That fraction of a second that I took my eyes off the road … There must have been something there … I must have crashed… Maybe this is death… Maybe the crash is so horrific that my mind produced some wicked hallucinogens to keep me from seeing it. Another fraction of a second and my rational mind was able to take over: this isn’t nearly hot enough to be hell, I’m obviously not dead. I pulled off the interstate at the Casa Blanca exit and took stock of my surroundings. Cars speeding past me on the interstate. The ground beneath my feet felt real enough. Maybe a bizarre coincidence caused the speedometer cable to break at precisely the same moment as the bulb for the dome light blew out? Where can I buy a lottery ticket at this hour?

Once I decided that I wasn’t dead, I grabbed my phone and downloaded a speedometer app from the Android market. I put the phone where the speedometer ought to be and was back on my may. Although the story would have been much more interesting if it had been a Langoliers type thing…

Once I got home I was able to fire up google and find a copy of the 2003 Ford Ranger Owner Manual online. While it still took some guess and check, I was able to find that the speedometer and odometer, while they appear to be mechanical, are actually completely electronic, and controlled by a fuse. And, for reasons unknown, the fuse panel remained the same size, shape, and layout for a decade but they moved fuses around inside it year to year. Once I found the correct fuse position for my pickup (fuse 26) and replaced it, my speedometer and odometer came back, and my dome light came on. But what an odd combination of things to have on the same circuit. That is the only thing in the instrument cluster that was affected. All the lights still worked -even the lights for the odometer and speedometer- it was just the controller for them that is tied to the dome light. Nonetheless, the problem is solved.

As I said, it has its quirks. I just hope that next time it’s not like the cigarette lighter gets stuck and when the fuse blows it also takes out the headlights and the power brakes… I can’t be certain of that though, because that would make every bit as much sense as the speedometer and dome light being on the same circuit. But if that does happen I’d like to have some electrodes attached to my head to figure out what the hell part of my brain is causing those insane theories to pop up.