My Geek Weekend: Occam’s Razor

In between two birthday parties and various football games (U-M loses to Toledo?!?! ND loses, Redskins lose, MSU wins, good weekend for football) and other stuff, I hacked away at some computer stuff too.
Last week, I spent a lot of time trying to convert videos to watch on my iPod Touch. I figured that with winter fast approaching, I’d probably be riding the bus more often on those occasions when I wimp out on riding my bike. As such, catching up on all the stuff I have on Tivo would be cool to do while passing the time. Alas, all my efforts were frustrated by the fact that every video converter I tried managed to freeze up my computer.
I initially thought the problem was with a failing hard drive, so I spent part of the week backing up everything on the hard drive. I then checked the hard drive for errors, but it came back with no problems reported.
My next thought was that it was a heat problem. This was partially confirmed when I ran a tool called SpeedFan that monitored my CPU’s temperature. During one video conversion, the computer locked up with the CPU at a temperature of 98 degrees Celsius! That’s 208 degrees Fahrenheit, 4 degrees away from boiling water. In other words, hot! So, I popped open the case to take a look, and I discovered that every outlet vent of my case was covered in a layer of dust, preventing the fans from pushing air out, and trapping the hot air inside. I cleared out the vents, and while doing so rediscovered the fact that my CPU fan had a knob I could use to crank up the speed a bit higher, thus cooling the CPU even more effectively.
After this cleaning routine, I was able to grab a show off my Tivo and encode it into an iPod-friendly format. It was a little bit jittery, but not too bad. I’m going to play with the settings a little bit more to see if I can smooth it out some, but I’m calling the geek weekend a success as a result of getting it to work once.
It just goes to show you: if your computer is freezing up, the most likely culprit is the simplest one, overheating. Occam’s Razor in action.
Oh yeah, and did I mention, I succeeded in the One Hundred Pushup Challenge! On Saturday night, I powered out 100 pushups! I am still shocked that all my hard work paid off and I accomplished my goal.