Introduction

I utilize a dual-system solution to stream and play simultaneously. The first system’s goal is to produce high setting gameplay at at least 60 FPS, the second system’s goal is to stream that at the best h264 settings possible.

Part list/rationale

All parts listed below use my referral link. It may be possible to find the parts at a better price if you look elsewhere. Ordering via my referral link helps me continue to do what I do and is appreciated, but it’s not required nor would I suggest doing it if you can find lower prices elsewhere.
NOTE: NZXT offered me a 3-month partnership in exchange for the H440 case and the Kraken X61 cooler. I no longer use the H440 due to its inability to keep my streaming system cool without dismantling the case. I want to include this tidbit here in the interest of full disclosure.
I also currently (as of  this post’s date)  have a partnership with both Blue Microphones and Sennheiser. I was using the 598’s far before the Baby Bottle, but I switched to the Baby Bottle as part of my agreement with Blue, though I did so only on the condition that I found it to be an adequate replacement for my Rode NT1-A.

Streaming System

CPU: Intel i7-5960X

I want as many cores as possible for streaming since the x264 encoder will utilize as many threads as you throw at it.  Streams are still limited due to bandwidth (you can’t push more than 3.5mbs-4.5mbs, really, from your PC to the Twitch ingest servers) so the more compression you can achieve, the better. This was the most powerful, consumer-level CPU on the market, now dwarfed by the newly released Broadwell-E chip, the 6950X. I want to upgrade, but the $1,500 price tag is a bit steep, I’m not sure if I’ll wait for Skylake-E or just pick up this chip in the near future.

Cooler: Kraken X61

I wanted to get something beefier this time than a Thermaltake 3.0 Extreme or an h100i. The Kraken X61 has always gotten great reviews on performance, but people have said it’s rather bulky. I still have a case, however, that allows me to fit the radiator with relative ease so I can take advantage of the cooling it has to offer. So far it’s done an exceptional job. I’ve had this cooler for over a year now and I’ve had no complaints.

Motherboard – ASUS X99-DELUXE

I love ASUS boards and this board is decked out with features for overclocking support and potential SLI stuff down the line, as well as a ton of SATA ports for all of my HDDs. It has an M.2 slot as well, which I’m starting to become more interested in, though it’d be kind of wasted on the streaming system since I Don’t need to load much.

Memory – G.Skill Ripjaws 4 series 16GB 2400

Just 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. Nothing special here.

SSD – Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB

Amazing SSD with an amazing controller using amazing NAND.

GPU – MSI GeForce GTX 780

Considering this rig is now dedicated to streaming, this graphics card is completely adequate. I’m only using it now because it’s a carry-over from when I played games on this system as well.

Capture Card – Datapath Limited VisionDVI-DL

I needed a capture card that had a pixel clock high enough to do a full 1440p/60fps capture with accurate colors (RGB vs YUV). This is the best card I could find. It’s extremely pricey ($1,500), but it’s performing absolutely marvelously. I don’t regret this purchase whatsoever.

Sound Card – Syba SD-PEX63081

This is a simple sound card that allows me to receive digital audio (via TOSLINK) from my gaming PC.

Case – Fractal Design Define R5 (White)

I love this case. I’ve said it before, and I continue to say it. I purchased this because it matches the black one I have on my gaming rig.

PSU – SeaSonic 850W

What can I say? SeaSonic makes excellent power supplies and 850 watts is more than enough power for my system.

Gaming System

CPU: Intel i7-4790K

Since this rig is dedicated to gaming I’d normally opt for an i5, but the stock speeds of this i7 were too good to pass up. I’m happy I went this route as I was easily able to overclock the chip to a cool 4.9GHz with zero problems.

Cooler: Swiftech H220-X

Honestly, it took every fiber of my being to purchase this. I had horrible reliability problems with the H220. I had three, THREE separate H220’s die on me in the course of 5 months, and both H220’s that I sold to customers died within a year as well. I decided to ignore my gut and go for an H220-X as the reviews (at least for functioning units…) were so amazing for this cooler.

That being said, it’s been about a year since I’ve had this and I can hear the pump starting to go on some days. I’ll probably have to replace it in the coming 12 months. I would never, ever recommend any product from Swiftech.

Motherboard – ASRock Z97 EXTREME9

This ASRock board has made the top of a few lists for reliability/overclockability. So far so good, everything’s been working fine.

Memory – G.Skill Trident X 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600

Just 16 GB of DDR3 RAM. Nothing special here.

SSD – Samsung 850 Pro Series 256GB

This SSD is awesome. I think I restart my computer in like 15 seconds now, it’s insane. I’ve been happy with this since the day I got it.

GPU – 2 x EVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Superclocked ACX 2.0

I want to be able to slaughter games at max settings at 1440p. Two of these bad boys definitely get the job done. I haven’t overclocked them yet, but I haven’t really needed to. These have performed amazingly so far for me, and they’re quiet, too.

I’ll probably look to upgrade these to a single 1080 Ti or 1080 Ti SLI in the upcoming few months.

Case – Fractal Design Define R5 (Black)

I’ve built so many customer rigs using the R4 that I just had to give the R5 a shot. I absolutely love this case. It’s quiet, I was able to put a smaller fan on the side to keep my GPUs cool, and it seems to have no problem dealing with the heat generated inside the case. I absolutely love this thing.

PSU – SeaSonic 860W

Another SeaSonic PSU. Not much to say here, this provides more than enough power for my system.

Peripherals

Microphone – Blue Microphones Baby Bottle

I used to use a Rode NT1-A, but I recently picked up a sponsorship from Blue. I told them that I’d consider switching to one of their microphones if they could offer me an equivalent so I requested a Baby Bottle. After trying it, it was pretty easy to accept the switch. The microphone sounds great on stream.

Mixer – Behringer XENYX X1204USB

I needed a mixer that could take sound from both of my systems and output it to a single channel for streaming. I’m also using this mixer to output just my microphone to both systems as well so I’m able to chat with people on Skype on one system and in game on the gaming system.

Headphones – Sennheiser HD598’s

I finally retired my first pair of these, but I own a second pair, now. I like the sound and I love the comfort. I might be upgrading these to HD599’s in the future, though…

Keyboard – Topre Type Heaven

It’s hard to explain why, but I started to fall out of favor with mechanical switches. Maybe it’s because I mentally associate them with “gamer” or maybe I just feel like they feel cheap, I’m not sure how to describe it. I gave the topre switches a shot and I really enjoyed using them. I might upgrade to a more expensive topre board in the future, I’m not sure yet.

Mouse – Zowie FK1

If it has a 3310 in it, I’ll use it. Was previously using a Finalmouse, now I’m using this. No strong feelings one way or another, it seems to get the job done.

Gaming Monitor – ASUS ROG SWIFT PG279Q

After using a 1440p monitor for so long it seems impossible to go back to using a 1080p monitor. The 165hz improvement over a 60hz screen is absolutely noticeable. I don’t think I can step down to a 60hz monitor after using one of these. I love this monitor, it’s absolutely amazing, though it was a bit pricey.

Streaming Monitor – ASUS ROG SWIFT PG27AQ

I regret buying this monitor. It looks beautiful, but  3840 X 2160 @ 27″ is just impossible to read. I currently have to scale the text up just to be able to read it. I’d recommend at least 32″ for a resolution of this size.

I saw a post on /r/politics that seemed pretty extreme in regards to establishing a friendly, working relationship between Trump’s campaign and Putin. The claims are pretty extreme, so I was encouraged to do some independent research to see if I could verify each one independently. To avoid any claims of bias or misinterpretation or mis-contextualization, I’ve tried to pull quotes directly from Trump himself to verify each point.

Claim #1 – Trump has praised Putin numerous times, calling him a far better leader than Obama.

  • Putin’s complements were “an honor” for Trump – Fox News interview with Howard Kurtz
  • In 2013 on an MSNBC interview when asked if he had a “conversational relationship with Putin” – “I do have a relationship,” denies it 2 seconds later in the video in an interview 2 years later.
  • Same video, CPAC 2014, says Putin sent him a “beautiful present.
  • Trump calls Putin a “liked” and “respected” leader in his country.
  • In response to Putin calling him brilliant, he says Putin is “a leader,” compares Putin’s killing of journalists to things our country does, says “that’s the way it is”,
  • ““I’ve always felt fine about Putin. I think that he’s a strong leader,” he said. “I think he’s up in the 80s, which is you see where Obama’s in the 30s and the low 40s and he’s up in the 80s.”A June 2016 article by the Politico.

Ruling: True

Claim #2 – Donald Trump has taken an anti-NATO stance.

Ruling: True

Claim #3 – Donald Trump’s campaign’s ONLY intervention in the entire GOP platform was to remove anti-Putin language from the platform re: Ukraine.

Ruling: True

Claim #4 – Carter Paige, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers traveled to Russia and gave a speech attacking America’s policies towards Russia, calling America’s focus on democratization and fighting inequality “hypocritical.”

  • heatst article – “Addressing hundreds of new graduates, Page spoke about world economics and “how to increase potential in unstable times.” In his speech, given just last month on July 7th, Donald Trump’s right-hand man criticized American foreign policy for using cold war stereotypes and “often-hypocritical focus on democratization.” But it wasn’t all doom and gloom– if Trump’s foreign policy chief was against American policy, he loved Putin. Mr. Page publicly complimented Russia, currently aiding Assad in Syria against American-backed rebels, for “really moving ahead.””, here’s a link to the actual speech with the quote time-stamped.

Ruling: True

Claim #5 – The Intelligence community has confirmed that Russian Intelligence is responsible for the hacking of the DNC.

  • The U.S. government “has reported that intelligence agencies have “high confidence” regarding the Russian government’s involvement.”, according to the New York Times
  • “”The weight of the evidence favors an explanation that the Russians leaked the documents to favor Trump, so it is more than a conspiracy theory but still speculative,” Hennessey said.” from Politifact.

Ruling: Half-True, I think “confirmed” is too strong a word to use at this point.

Claim #6 – Donald Trump called on Russia to release/hack any emails they could get their hands on.

  • “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” – from Trump himself. More praise for Putin in this video as well.

Ruling: True

Claim #7 – Trump’s campaign manager has ties to pro-Putin oligarchs who were propped up by the Kremlin.

  • “Manafort also worked as an adviser on the Ukrainian presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych (and his Party of Regions during the same time span) from December 2004 until the February 2010 Ukrainian presidential election even as the U.S. government (and McCain) opposed Yanukovych because of his ties to Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin.” from Wikipedia.
  • Here’s a Politifact article detailing other relationships Manafort has with various Russian entities.

Ruling: Mostly True, I don’t like the plural of “oligarchs” as I can’t find more than one example of a head politician being supported by him.

Claim #8 – Now we know Manafort potentially received a cash payment of more than $12 million.

  • The New York Times reports – “Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau.”

Ruling: True

_____________________________________________

I don’t wish to engage in much conjecture here, but the ties between Trump and Putin are starting to become alarming at this point. If Trump himself isn’t directly under the direction of Putin, it seems that many elements of his campaign might be, with or without his knowledge. I’ll leave the speculation up to you guys.

 

I receive a ton of e-mails with people asking me how to break in to the streaming scene these days. I thought I’d include a list of three, helpful tips that a lot of the “underground” knows but won’t necessarily share with you.

  • Purchase fake viewers

Twitch sorts streams from most to least viewers and really doesn’t offer any other form of discovery on their site. This means that simply having a lot of viewers is guaranteed to net you more viewers as people click a particular game and see your name at the top of the list. The easiest way to bump yourself up this list is to acquire false viewers via a viewbot. Don’t be afraid about getting caught, though! As long as you don’t show the viewbots on stream, you can continue to stream with no repercussions, just like Massan (proof), Winter (proof), Athene (proof) (proof) and P4wnyhof (proof). Actually, even if you get caught, you could just make another account and get in with Twitch staff to start streaming again like pink_sparkles (proof) (proof)! This only works if you pay close attention to rule number 2, though…

  • Be a reasonably attractive woman

Getting partnered helps a ton when it comes to generating income off of your stream. It allows people to subscribe directly to you so you can receive a generous portion (50%!) of their money, it also gives you your own exclusive Twitch emotes that can be used around Twitch! Getting partnered on Twitch, though, can be quite difficult, as the guidelines request you have an average concurrent viewership of 500+ (not just a one-time peak) + regularly broadcast. There’s an easy shortcut around this, though – just be a reasonably attractive woman who’s “friends” with someone working at Twitch! There are a plethora of women who are partnered without being anywhere near the requirements, like RosieRiver (proof), Syrinnea (proof), Alliestrasza (proof), sarahgracie (proof), shaperka (proof), andrinja (proof), urqueeen (proof), psychoobunny (proof), etc…etc…

  • Scam your viewers

Sometimes making money via donations, subscriptions, raffles, sub trains, shady sponsorships and ad revenue isn’t enough! If that’s the case, it’s time to take things to the next level, just like Syndicate, TmarTn, m0E_tv, and JoshOG! You could rig bets like m0E (proof), or you could pretend to stumble upon a gambling site that you just so happen to own and promote it like Syndicate, TmarTn and JoshOG (proof)(proof).

I hope after reading some of these tips you guys can expand your minds a little and really see the possibilities of expanding your presence on Twitch. Good luck out there, broadcasters!

Questions about politics come up often in chat, so I figured I’d catalog my thoughts about Donald Trump here so I have something concrete to point to every time he’s brought up.

Politics in the United States right now leaves me unimaginably disappointed with Americans. I’m embarrassed to be a citizen of this country now more than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’m not one to be nationalistic; I’ve never really taken much pride in being part Cuban or being American or anything. For some reason, though, I am absolutely humiliated that I’m included in a group of people that are seriously considering electing Donald Trump as the head of state.

I have honestly never been more convinced that Democracy is a horrible idea. Every day I see people from all age groups, ethnicities and backgrounds flock to support someone who’s views are so hollow, who’s messages are so vapid, and who’s rhetoric reeks of anti-intellectual thinking. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can tell Trump is just completely full of shit.

  • This is someone who openly supports bringing back “worse” than torture. Even if this were just for terrorists, this is an abhorrent idea. We’re America, we’re supposed to be the good guys, not fucking barbarians. Not to mention the fact that torture doesn’t really work.
    • Bonus Trump stupidity: he says that “Christians” are getting their heads chopped off, then casually mentions “other people” are as well at the end. Funny story, Muslims are by large the number one direct (and indirect) victim of ISIS.
    • Bonus Trump stupidity: Trump says that “not since medieval times” have we seen people getting their heads chopped off. I guess he forgot about people like (NSFL warning, extremely graphic violence) Nick Berg. Also, Saudi Arabia (our ally!) has been beheading people for decades. Again, Trump is very rarely concerned with the facts when he speaks.
  • Trump calls into question the “gross incompetence” of Obama, then claims that we should enact a “total and complete shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States.” This excerpt has already made it’s way into an Al-Shabaab terrorist recruitment video (an affiliate of Al Qaeda). There are over 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet. Why would you try to paint them all with the same brush?
  • In the infinite wisdom of all of Trump’s foreign political experience, he suggests that we “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and then “take the oil.” Who’s oil does he think we’d be taking? Does he think that ISIS just found that oil lying around on its own? The DoD has intentionally avoided bombing oil infrastructure, and for plenty of good reasons: the environmental impact could be disastrous, rebuilding the infrastructure after reclaiming it would be difficult, and the regions immediately surrounded by ISIS would all be without oil and power.
    • Bonus Trump stupidity: Trump has no idea who General Soleimani is, yet responds in the affirmative, then goes on to further make himself look like a buffoon.
    • Bonus Trump stupidity: Trump loves who Russians are bombing, yet has no idea who they were bombing.
    • Bonus Trump stupidity: Trump recites a story that was probably forwarded to him from someone’s grandmother that is not only completely untrue, but presents an untrue conclusions as well: that violence works better than diplomacy.
  • Trump has also gone on record making fun of John McCain because he was captured in North Vietnam after his plane was shot down. Highlights of McCain’s stay in North Vietnam include: losing 50 pounds, spending 2 years in solitary confinement, having a crushed shoulder, getting bayoneted, getting beaten every two hours while suffering by dysentery, and more. What’s more, when McCain was offered an early release for propaganda purposes, he turned it down, stating every officer captured before him must be released first. You might not like McCain for his politics, but he was an amazing soldier during the war. As a result of the severe torture he endured in Vietnam, McCain is still incapable of raising his arms over his head.
  • Trump wants to send all Syrian refugees home as soon as he becomes president because he thinks that ISIS could possibly be sending a “200,000 man army.” If our border is as porous as he claims it is, why would terrorists risk the vetting process and not just come over from Mexico?
  • He wants to build a wall to stop illegal immigration. How does this help us with the 4-5 million illegal immigrants who are here because they over-stayed their visas? What about the Big Bend National park, with almost 120 miles of it running along the border? Are we just going to throw up a huge fence right down the middle of every canyon and river we come across? What about the illegal immigrants brought in by boat? What about the illegal immigrants smuggled in via vehicles? Illegal immigration is a $6,000,000,000/year business, do you seriously think a fence is going to keep these people from continuing to smuggle illegals in and out of our country?

How can his supporters be so naive?

Facts don’t tend to concern people who support Trump, only the rallying cries of “MAEK MERICAA GR8 AGEN”, “WE GONA BUILD A WALL!” and “WE LOSE 2 CHINA NON EVRYTING!!1”

I understand that people in America, as a whole, can be fairly ignorant and uninformed, but I never imagined that someone as ridiculous as Trump would gain such widespread support. It’s disappointing to me because it’s not really Trump that I’m frustrated with, it’s what he reveals about my country: it’s full of hateful, ignorant, xenophobic, racist, bigoted people, and they’re coming out in droves to vote for someone who so enthusiastically embodies everything they believe in.

tl;dr of this article: Travel company failed to rebook a flight for me, showed up at the airport, had to book my own flight, travel company claims no wrong-doing.

On the 2nd of December, 2015, a ticket was booked for me by a company I do work for. This project was going to take place over a week-long period in Krefeld, Germany. This company booked a ticket for me via the ABC Travel Service. My original itinerary had me leaving on the 15th of December, at 17:43, and arriving in Germany at 16:55 on the 16th of December. My original departure date was on the 21st of December, at 10:15.

Due to a miscommunication between me and the shuttle operator, there was a mix-up on what time I was supposed to depart the venue I was working at to leave for the airport. This error resulted in me missing my originally scheduled flight. It wasn’t a massive deal as I figured I could easily rebook a flight out either later that day or, worst case scenario, the next morning.

At this point, I called ABC Travel Service up, gave them my booking confirmation, and told them I needed to reschedule my flight to leave at a later time, or the next day.  After a brief conversation on the phone, I was told that one of their travel agents (I’ll call her L) would be e-mailing me a new itinerary we’d discussed for the next day. I would be able to pay a €200 change fee to rebook my flight.

L e-mailed me several minutes after our conversation. I reviewed the new itinerary, which departed at 6:10 the following morning, the 22nd of December. The itinerary seemed fine and it matched what we discussed on the phone, so I paid the €200 change fee on their website and sent an e-mail to the booking agent confirming that the payment was complete. After some initial difficulty with a strange website bug saying that “Javascript needed to be enabled,” my card was finally accepted. The website displayed a confirmation page and my Chase card showed the charge as a pending transaction, so I sent an e-mail to L confirming my payment had been made and that the itinerary would be fine. This payment was made at 14:11, almost 2 hours before their deadline for me to pay.

The next morning I left for the airport, arrived two hours earlier than my flight was supposed to depart (just in case) and stood in line to check in for my flight. Much to my dismay, I found that I had no reservation for this flight. After verifying with the ticket agent, I went to the help counter to call Delta and figure out what was going on with my reservation. After a phone call with a Delta employee, I found out that no new reservation had been made. I had no flight out, I was at the airport, and I had no way to contact the travel company as their offices wouldn’t open for a few more hours. I checked my e-mail and I had nothing from them saying they had any trouble rebooking my flight.

It seems obvious at this point that the travel agency has dropped the ball and failed to rebook my flight. After failing to get a hold of anyone from the travel agency via phone and e-mail, it seemed my option were limited. I would either be forced to wait for the booking agency to open (and miss my flight) and hope they could book me another flight tomorrow, or I could simply purchase a one-way ticket myself, eat the cost, and hope that the travel company would reimburse me due to their error. I was thinking this because their liability clause states that they pay for damages that occur due to gross negligence on behalf of their company.

(I had already been stuck in Germany a day longer than I’d wanted to be. This was partially my fault, and I accept full responsibility for that. I did not, however, want to stay in Germany a second day, especially due to the fault of a travel agency that I had paid a €200 change fee to. I also had no idea if they’d be able to book a flight the following day since they’d already screwed up one rebooking and the holiday season was approaching. I had plans made for the 24th and the thought of being stuck in Germany during Christmas due to holiday travel congestion was not appealing to me. On top of all of this, I’d have had to deal with having no transportation or company, figuring out extra costs for hotel/food, missing another day of work, and doing all of this in a city where English isn’t commonly spoken by many of the merchants.)

So with everything laid out before me, I attempted to repurchase the same itinerary the booking company was supposed to reserve for me. The Delta representative on the phone, however, informed me that all coach seats were sold out and I’d have to book first class seats, meaning the one way flight home would cost over €3,400. I asked if there was anything cheaper, and the cheapest ticket she was able to find was a one-way ticket home for about €1,900. I gritted my teeth, ate the cost, and booked my flight home.

I received an e-mail from a new travel agent, N, approximately 6 hours after the departure of my “scheduled” itinerary. This e-mail included another itinerary for the 23rd, claiming that the last flight “was not confirmed from the airline.” At this point, I was already out of Germany on my flight home, probably somewhere between de Gaulle and DTL.

After playing e-mail and phone tag with several different agents over the following week, I kept hearing that I needed to speak with “the boss.” After finally getting in contact with “The Boss,” we were finally able to have a phone conversation that lasted about an hour long. I didn’t really think to record this until a few minutes after it started, and there were problems I had recording it that caused the audio to cut out 3 different times during the conversation. That being said, the entirety of the conversation is included in this YouTube video.

I’ll detail some of the points he brings up, with time stamps, and point out many of the contradictions/problems/peculiarities in his story.

All timestamps, again, come from this YouTube video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxAUmT7YOk4&feature=youtu.be

  • 1:20: for some reason he’s in disbelief that a one-way international ticket booked 45 minutes before the flight is €1,900 and claims that I booked “the most expensive flight”…which is blatantly untrue, and anyone who travels knows first class flights would be way more expensive. The flight Delta originally offered (the one ABC Travel said they were going to book) was over €3,400
  • 2:26: now he changes stories and says the “he can’t issue the ticket for the next day”…??? Why would he say that now, after they offered me the itinerary…?
  • 2:55: he now begins to claim my payment was incomplete/didn’t go through, and says that they could not issue the ticket as a result. Then he claims that I should have called “a day before” even though I was booking a ticket that was supposed to leave in about 14 hours…
  • 3:58: he continues on about how it’s not possible for me to change my ticket and makes excuses about how it’s not possible to change a ticket on such short notice. Then at 4:25 he says it’s “your fault” that I missed my first flight.
  • 4:59: I complain that if I pay 200 euros to pay a change fee, they should have contacted me if there was a failure for the payment going through. Everything looked like it went through on my end. At 5:49 he claims that “the connection between your credit card company and our inquirer here…was completely wrong.”
  • 6:49: He blames me for “trying several times” to make my card work, then claims my IP address was sending a “70% fake signal on that transaction”…?? Then claims they have “no contact, no address” for the card..??
  • 7:50: first cut out
  • 8:00: saying that I tried too many times to pay on the same IP address..??
  • 9:44: I ask why the agent wouldn’t respond to me asking for confirmation of the flight…He says that maybe she went on vacation or left the office, and then they would have to wait until Monday to figure things out. Something also about “strange signals”…
  • 11:13: Now he claims that since I paid the 200 euros to his company the ticket should be changed automatically, even though there’s no way the airline could automatically change the flight if I make a payment to the travel agency, and even though he previously said I hadn’t made the payment.
  • 12:18: Now he claims they can’t rebook the ticket since they didn’t have the money…
  • 12:54: “If we don’t get the money, why should we respond? Maybe you found somebody else!” ..????
  • 14:46: Here he claims that they had made reservations for me that day, “100,000%.” I ask him to show me a receipt or anything proving that they had actually rebooked it, but he claims that it was “lost out of their system” and he wasn’t able to show it to me. Unfortunately the second part of this is cut out a little.
  • 16:00: He claims my transaction is “high risk” and no one would touch it…even though they send me a possible itinerary the next day..?
  • 17:15: the audio is a bit jarbly here but it should be mostly understandable.
  • 18:49: He claims on his legal side that they’re only responsible for the tickets they confirm, so I quote the part of his website about the gross negligence. He claims again that I simply failed to pay the change fee.
  • 19:50: “We can speed up the conversation…what do you want we should do?” “Reimburse me for the ticket.” “*laugh* never ever sir, never ever.”
  • 25:19: another cut in the audio.
  • 26:09: He says they don’t respond to customers after not making payments. When I tell him she sent me an e-mail the next day, he says “I don’t know”…

I could go on, but the next 35 minutes are more or less the same back and forth. Just running around in circles with him making up random things that contradict everything else he’s said. It’s annoying that the agent who e-mailed me also claimed that the airline was the one who failed to respond to the booking, while the boss claims it was due to a payment failure on my part. By the end of the call, I honestly couldn’t tell if I was just dealing with an incompetent business or a weasel who was trying to get out of paying out any kind of damages.

I was never even offered so much as compensation for what a hotel stay would have cost me had I stayed an extra day.

I figure the chance of any legal recourse of seeking compensation through other means is almost impossible, so I guess this story is more just venting more than anything else. And maybe others can see the way these guys conduct business and avoid them in the future.

Community Vote 1st Place – RudiMusic – untitled

Community Vote 2nd Place – JayTea – Story of a Miserable Memester

Destiny’s 1st Place Pick – cparsons – The Beginning

Destiny’s 2nd Place Pick – UKDaza – Echoes of the Unknown

$75 was awarded to each 1st place winner and $50 to each second place winner!

Check the thread for all the submissions!

You know the drill. We’ll do community voting in the same way we’ve done the last one. I’m increasing the prize pool a little because there are too many great compositions that are slipping  by and distributing the money a little more differently. The prize pool will increase to $250. The community will choose two winners, 1st of which gets $75 and 2nd which gets $50, and I will choose one winner which gets $75, and then a second place choice who will get $50.

Composition Challenge #7

Description

Welcome back to the key of a minor. First section is a very simple i-v with E octave pedal tones. Eventually the v becomes a V, with the final section being FM7, em7, d9, CM7.c

Deadline

All submissions must be submitted no later than midnight, EST, on July 30th, 2015.

Submissions should be posted to the reddit thread linked above where it says “Discuss this on reddit” in the following format:

Name submitter wishes to go by: [name]

Name of and link to piece: [name of piece, with link]

The name doesn’t necessarily have to be the same one you use on reddit/soundcloud, though using a consistent name helps for branding. The piece should be downloadable to the public.

Judging

Judging will take place at 1500, EST, on August 1st 2015.

As a reminder, you grant me a non-exclusive license to use any music submitted to this challenge for my Twitch, Youtube and future tournament series. I will not and cannot DMCA any piece of music you ever submit to this contest, whether you or another person posts or uses it. You still retain 100% of the original rights to the songs and you can revoke my permission to use your submissions at any time with no notice.

Good luck!

We live-streamed this voting process once more. Here are the two winners from Composition Challenge #6:

Community Vote Winner – Osvelit – Conflict

Osvelit’s piece did a great job in staying faithful to the original yet branching out into something new and unique. The recorded vocals sounded awesome, I almost wish they were louder. The guitar/post-rocky section worked well as a climax to the piece as well, even if things did seem a bit “crunched” in the middle. The fade out and return to the original verse at the end were handled perfectly as well.

Destiny’s Top Pick – Saturnine – The Song of Khala

I had no idea I’d be picking a piece like this as the winner. Normally I’d opt for something more rocky with some guitar playing, like Osvelit’s earlier piece or UKDaza’s interpretation of this (Cowboy’s from Mars), or I’d go with something more jazzy, like Cparson’s awesome arrangement, The End. I felt like this piece really stuck out in that it went to capture a very, very specific “feel” and it did it almost perfectly. I absolutely loved the bass in this, it was so perfect. The crescendo/decrescendo of the strings is awesome. The hollow sounding xylophone/marimba thing that carries the melody fits the piece perfectly, giving it that sort of “ethereal” sound that’s reflected in every other part of the arrangement. The ending synth-vocals finish the piece off nicely as well. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this piece.

There were a lot of other high quality submissions to this composition challenge as well, all of which can be found in the reddit submission thread.

I am using a dual-system streaming set-up now. One system is essentially dedicated to encoding and streaming while capturing the monitor of another system that is exclusively dedicated to running the game at the highest possible settings on a 1440p QX2710 monitor.

NOTE: NZXT offered me a partnership in exchange for the H440 case and the Kraken X61 cooler. I want to include this tidbit here in the interest of full disclosure.

Part list/rationale

All parts listed below use my referral link. It may be possible to find the parts at a better price if you look elsewhere. Ordering via my referral link helps me continue to do what I do and is appreciated, but it’s not required nor would I suggest doing it if you can find lower prices elsewhere.

Streaming System

CPU: Intel i7-5960X

I wanted the absolute best processor possible. Streams are still limited due to bandwidth (you can’t push more than 3.5mbs, really, from Twitch to the client) so the more compression you can achieve, the better. This is the most powerful consumer-level CPU on the market, so it’s an obvious choice here.

Cooler: Kraken X61

I wanted to get something beefier this time than a Thermaltake 3.0 Extreme or an h100i. The Kraken X61 has always gotten great reviews on performance, but people have said it’s rather bulky. I have a case, however, that allows me to fit the radiator with relative ease so I can take advantage of the cooling it has to offer. So far it’s done an exceptional job.

Motherboard – ASUS X99-DELUXE

I love ASUS boards and this board is decked out with features for overclocking support and potential SLI stuff down the line, as well as a ton of SATA ports for all of my HDDs.

Memory – G.Skill Ripjaws 4 series 16GB 2400

Just 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. Nothing special here.

SSD – Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB

Amazing SSD with an amazing controller using amazing NAND.

GPU – MSI GeForce GTX 780

Considering this rig is now dedicated to streaming, this graphics card is complete overkill. I’m only using it now because it’s a carry-over from when I played games on this system as well.

Capture Card – Datapath Limited VisionDVI-DL Capture Card

I needed a capture card that had a pixel clock high enough to do a full 1440p/60fps capture with accurate colors. This is the best card I could find. It’s extremely pricey ($1,500), but it’s performing absolutely marvelously. I don’t regret this purchase whatsoever.

Case – NZXT H440

As I’ve had this case for longer, I’ve ran into a few issues as I try to push more and more performance from the chip. I’ve had to remove the front and top of the case as the case itself simply seems incapable of getting rid of the heat being generated. The case still looks nice, aesthetically, but I don’t think it’s capable of keeping up with everything the 5960X can generate. I’ll probably look to move my build into a different case in the future, but we’ll see if I can find one large enough to support the cooler.

PSU – SeaSonic 850W

What can I say? SeaSonic makes excellent power supplies and 850 watts is more than enough power for my system.

Gaming System

CPU: Intel i7-4790K

Since this rig is dedicated to gaming I’d normally opt for an i5, but the stock speeds of this i7 were too good to pass up. I’m happy I went this route as I was easily able to overclock the chip to a cool 4.9GHz with zero problems.

Cooler: Swiftech H220-X

Honestly, it took every fiber of my being to purchase this. I had horrible reliability problems with the H220. I had three, THREE separate H220’s die on me in the course of 5 months, and both H220’s that I sold to customers died within a year as well. I decided to ignore my gut and go for an H220-X as the reviews (at least for functioning units…) were so amazing for this cooler. So far it’s been working amazingly, though. Keeps my i7 nice and cool, and I haven’t had any reliability problems with it yet.

Motherboard – ASRock Z97 EXTREME9

This ASRock board has made the top of a few lists for reliability/overclockability. So far so good, everything’s been working fine.

Memory – G.Skill Trident X 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600

Just 16 GB of DDR3 RAM. Nothing special here.

SSD – Samsung 850 Pro Series 256GB

This SSD is BLAZINGly fast. I think I restart my computer in like 15 seconds now, it’s insane.

GPU – 2 x EVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Superclocked ACX 2.0

I want to be able to slaughter games at max settings at 1440p. Two of these bad boys definitely get the job done. I haven’t overclocked them yet, but I’m not sure if I ever need to. These have performed amazingly so far for me, and they’re quiet, too.

Case – Fractal Design Define R5 (Black)

I’ve built so many customer rigs using the R4 that I just had to give the R5 a shot. I absolutely love this case. It’s quiet, I was able to put a smaller fan on the side to keep my GPUs cool, and it seems to have no problem dealing with the heat generated inside the case. I absolutely love this thing.

PSU – SeaSonic 860W

Another SeaSonic PSU. Not much to say here, this provides more than enough power for my system.

Accessories

Microphone – Rode NT1-A

I purchased a pair of these microphones many years ago when I was in college for recording music. I’m using one now for my voice and it seems to work splendidly.

Mixer – Behringer XENYX X1204USB

I needed a mixer that could take sound from both of my systems and output it to a single channel for streaming. I’m also using this mixer to output just my microphone to both systems as well so I’m able to chat with people on Skype on one system and in game on the gaming system.

Headphones – Sennheiser HD598’s

I’ve owned these for 5 years. It will be a sad day when I finally have to part ways with these.

Headphone Amplifier – Fiio E10

Cheap, great quality. I don’t necessarily recommend everyone get an external DAC, but my previous motherboard didn’t have sound and I carried this over. I don’t actively use this as I’m now using my mixer for sound, however.

I’ve seen quite a few threads pop up recommending Fire’s guide as a viable alternative to mine. I’m not going to be long-winded about this, and I’ll break down in a few simple paragraphs why I would avoid using a guide such as this for Skype security.

For reference, here is the guide in question: Fire’s Skype Proxy Guide – DDoS prevent assistance by Fire, TwitchTV Support Administrator

My four important points, reiterated from my own DDoS prevention guide, for any security or tech related solution are as follows:

It should be simple.

  • This means it should be easy to set-up and hard (or impossible) to screw up. Nothing complicated, nothing requiring previous extensive technical knowledge. Just something easy to set up.

It should be elegant.

  • The solution should require as few steps as possible, and omit any extraneous programs or steps that aren’t absolutely necessary.

It should be reliable.

  • Whatever we set up should work the maximum amount of time, conditions permitting.

It should be secure.

  • There shouldn’t be “half-measures” taken to secure yourself, ever. If you’re going to cut corners, don’t bother.

Fire’s Skype Protection guide fails on all four of these points.

  1. You should never route your traffic through an anonymous proxy obtained off of strange lists on the internet. Ever. Period. Don’t do it.

While Skype claims to encrypt all of their traffic, any update or change in the program that breaks this encryption or revokes it will mean you are exposing 100% of your traffic to whoever is controlling that proxy. If that proxy was being controlled by a malicious entity, they could very easily eavesdrop on your conversations, intercept private photographs or videos, or obtain any other info being sent either via files or through conversations with another person on Skype, including audio.

Another possible negative scenario would be a zero-day exploit surfacing that would allow someone sitting on the proxy to send you a false update to your Skype. Things of this nature have occurred on Tor before, a program people use to mask their identity online. If you install malicious software on your computer, anything is on the table insofar as what a user is able to obtain. Passwords saved in your browser that will lead to your e-mail, an e-mail address that will allow you to reset your bank password (unless you use 2-factor authentication), personal files on your computer, etc…etc…This simple program is all that’s required to dump all of the data from your Firefox into a file for someone to go through, without ever triggering a UAC warning.

Do not route traffic through random, insecure proxies.

This clearly violates our secure requirement for our security solution.

  1. Choosing random, anonymous proxies off of a list generated from public proxies means you are never guaranteed good – or even adequate – performance.

If you are streaming, playing a tournament match, scrimming with your team, speaking to your dying mother via Skype, or attempting to match fix with your nefarious e-sports partners, the last thing you want is for your Skype connection to randomly drop. There is absolutely no guarantee that any of these proxies will hold up for any amount of time. You have no assurance that they will allow you to transfer files or any meaningful data across Skype if you need to (though there are admittedly much better mediums for that, such as google drive).

Anonymous proxies on anonymous lists aren’t going to provide any kind of reliable data transfer, so this violates our reliable requirement.

  1. Do not mess with the Windows registry unless you either know exactly what you are doing or you absolutely have to, and absolutely under no circumstance should you be downloading and running sketchy batch/.reg files to modify your registry.

Messing with your windows registry settings can have catastrophic effects on your system. While it’s unlikely that you would ever ruin your computer or prevent its ability to boot by modifying registry settings pertaining to Skype, there’s no reason to modify your registry for our purposes of protecting Skype.

Also, who’s to say that a future update with Skype wouldn’t alter the way Skype searches for a proxy to connect to? In doing so, it runs the risk of completely breaking this registry fix.

I also have a huge problem downloading a .reg file from dropbox that’s going to modify your registry. Who’s to say that the original uploader of this imgur album won’t change the link to a malicious file in the future? Or, say you trust Fire as an administrator to not do that, who’s to say someone won’t gain access to his computer or imgur account and modify the link to point it towards some more malicious code?

You should not be downloading executables or batch/.reg files that modify your registry, especially when the link can be changed at any time to point to a malignant file.

The registry editing section of this anti-DDoS guide violates our elegant clause (because editing the registry is not necessary), our reliable clause (because a future Skype update could break the “fix”) and the security clause (because the link could be changed without a laymen realizing it to something more malicious).

  1. My final issue with this guide is that every time the anonymous and unreliable proxy you’ve chosen dies, you have to repeat steps 4-6 in order to get it working again.

This violates both our elegant and reliable rules, for obvious reasons.

___________________________

It seems that every time my anti-DDoS guide is posted, this imgur album of “an easier solution” seems to pop up. My motivation for writing this article was to steer people clear of using inferior methods of DDoS protection.