If you are a follower of modded and custom built PCs you should have run across the name DarthBeavis by now. DarthBeavis, or Richard Surroz as seen on his driver's license, is an extremely talented and popular case modder and custom system builder. You will frequently see his systems featured in the most prominent booths at the biggest PC and gaming shows.
Meet DarthBeavis and the Project: Hail to the King rig.
We detailed one of his most recent builds here a few weeks back, the Starcraft themed Queen of Blades system which was featured in the Nvidia booth at PAX East 2013. You need to get to a show and see some of his work in person, pictures do not do justice to the level of detail.
The Queen of Blades!
DarthBeavis has been around the PC modding scene for a long time now and we recently had a great conversation with him. He gave us some excellent insights on how he got into modding and why. He also told us about some of his favorite mods and included some good advice for up and coming modders and builders.
Here's a short bio for DarthBeavis. He's taken an interesting road.
"I have been modding since around 1997 but I was a go-to guy for fixing personal computers since the early 1990s when I was a deputy sheriff (word processors just came in and I happened to have a knack for trouble-shooting problems). In the late 1990s I went back to school which resulted in my entering a new 'career' as a software engineer. I wrote software that controlled robotics in paper mills for several years then quit to be a stay-at-home Dad. During that time at home I started my own company, Out of the Box Mods. My company did custom projects for companies like Intel, ATI, ASUS, Crucial, and NVIDIA. Currently I do custom projects and work events for NVIDIA. I also returned to school (yet again) to get my masters degree in education. Besides working on modding projects, I also am a lead instructor for the Network Systems Administration at an ITT campus."
Of course, that bit of information left us wanting more so we put forth 11 questions for DarthBeavis. We initially started with 10 questions but like those on all good systems, our knobs go to 11.
1. Q: What was your first “real” modded or custom built system?
A: My first custom build was a silly air-cooled build in a kitty cat case. The system was AMD-based with an AMD 1 ghz Thunderbird CPU. It had a Matrox Millenium or Mystique GPU with a Canopus Pure 3d accelerator (3DFX). I upgraded it to the first NVIDIA 256 Geforce card. I think the system had 1 gig of ram.
The Kitty mod.
2. Q: What got you into modding?
A: My first 'case mod' to that case was to drill air intake holes. After that, the first heavy modding I did was to an Alienware ALX I bought in 2004 or 2005. That was my first water-cooled system. The stock water-cooling really was horrible so I spent time upgrading it. My first upgrade was to add Danger Den full coverage blocks to the NVIDIA 6800s (two in SLI). I also went full n00b and used Thermaltake coolers on the HDD and RAM (those really bad coolers that used bags of coolant - so easy to pierce and leak).
The modded Alienware system.
3. Q: What is your favorite mod or custom build you have ever done?
A: My favorite mod (I think everyone's favorite mod of mine as well) will always be Autopsy. That project is the one that moved me from amateur to professional modder (NVIDIA picked me up as a modder after that project then everything kicked into high gear). Autopsy has seen many many shows, has been in the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry over a Summer, and of course was on the cover of CPU Magazine. I will NEVER get rid of it but will continue to rebuild in it as long as it lasts.
An autopsy is typically a bad thing but not in this "case".
4. Q: What is your favorite mod ever by someone else?
A: My favorite modder of all time is Brian 'Boddaker' Carter. Everything he does is golden but I would say Trident is my fav. Next I would say ANYTHING by Bill Owen and of course the killer desk by Peter Brands that launched the Red Harbinger line.
Here's the cover of CPU Magazine featuring Neptune's Trident by Boddaker.
5. Q: You are well known for promoting the modding community and encouraging new modders. What is the most common mistake you see beginning modders and builders making?
A: I don't think of what beginners do as mistakes I just think of the less successful efforts as being learning experiences.
6. Q: What advice would you give to a person setting out on their first truly modded or custom built system?
A: Plan, plan, plan. Take your time, enjoy the process. And POST WORKLOGS and become part of the community. Then, when you have developed skills, GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY!
7. Q: What are the essential skills you would suggest that a beginning modder focus on developing?
A: I recommend first focusing on wire management skills which would include PSU sleeving. Clean wire management can greatly improve airflow which allows you to over-clock and improve the lifespan of your components. It also allows you to personalize the aesthetics of your system. For more information on wire management please read an article in the June issue of CPU Magazine's Modding Masters section (I contributed to the article).
Note: Richard has contributed several articles to CPU magazine for April, June, July 2013. April was acrylic modding, June was wire management, and July was watercooling.
8. Q: What are the top tools that a beginning modder really needs before starting their first project.
A: A good screw driver socket set, quality sleeving tools (check out http://lutro0-customs.com/) , and of course a Dremel.
A grinder is a really good option too if you are going to do some serious work. Pro tip from DarthBeavis, wear a respirator and safety goggles too!
9. Q: Do you prefer your modded rigs to run at stock speeds or do you want them OCd?
A: I believe in combining aesthetics and performance so I always use high end hardware and over-clock as best as I can (my partner is a world-record over-clocker - we do LN2 over-clocking demonstrations at events).
10. Q: What is your favorite Corsair product?
A: My favorite product must be the Air Series fans (I love the colored rings, the ability to choose a fan based on the performance required, and how silent they are). I love the Corsair link as well though I need more lights to use it in the Queen of Blades ;) Hint Hint!
The Air Series Fans with custom color rings.
11. Q: Let's talk about 1 personal thing about you that is not PC related. I know you are ex-military, a former deputy sheriff, you just got a really cool promotion at work and you find time to be a Crossfit guy. What is your favorite WOD?
A: If I want short and sweet I like Fran (pull-ups and thrusters) but recently I survived the hero WOD Murph so that is one of my top ones. Any WOD with hot Crossfit girls (especially my wife) is a good one though ;)
We'd like to thank Richard for his time and for his efforts in supporting the modding and building community. Be sure to check out Richard's blog page. It's loaded with great stuff.