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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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January 9, 2007 7:38 AM

Ink-stained geeks go head-to-head

Posted by Brier Dudley

LAS VEGAS -- My 13 minutes of CES fame came last night when I raced against a group of other journalists to see who could assemble a new PC the fastest.

It was the 10th annual "Build your own PC Race" for charity held by TigerDirect, a Miami-based online computer and electronics store. The PCs are donated to charities, and $10,000 is donated to a charity selected by the winner.

The competition was tough -- most of the 30 or so contestants were from specialty tech publications like PC Magazine, PC Gamer and Hardware Geeks. It seemed as though they had all built lots of PCs, and someone said one of the guys worked at Intel for a decade.

I've poked around inside PCs but had never built one before last night. After seeing the pile of components, screws and cables I had to work with, I thought I'd be there until the janitor came to sweep the room.

Mostly I wanted to hold my own against the other newspaper guys, particularly Dean Takahashi from the San Jose Mercury News. Unfortunately Dean didn't show up and I ended up next to PC World's Steve Bass, a celebrity of the event who had been in the contest eight or nine times before.

Steve came in fourth, and the race was won for a second year in a row by Charlie Demerjian from, who finished in 6 minutes, 47 seconds.

I finished -- by assembling the system, booting it up and connecting wirelessly to the electronic finish line -- in 13 minutes, 34 seconds, placing 18th.

I wasted a minute or two trying to get it to boot up because I had accidently pulled out the cooling fan power cord plug and it wouldn't start until one of the TigerDirect guys pointed that out, but I was never a contender for top 10.

The system -- with a 64-bit, dual-core AMD processor, 1 gigabyte of memory, a 256 meg graphics card, a wireless card and a DVD burner -- will go to Seattle's Atlantic Street Center after it's checked out by techies at TigerDirect's parent company, Systemax.

TigerDirect got its PR and I realized how easy it is to build a system from scratch, although it helped that all the components were pre-selected and the power supply was already in the case.

It was actually easier to build than some of the Ikea furniture I've assembled in the past.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.