Tag Archives: Technology

Plea for Inquiry: PC versions of Blur and Split/Second NOT optimized

So I decided to send out the following as an e-mail to Kotaku’s tip line in hopes of someone taking a look into it… Continue reading Plea for Inquiry: PC versions of Blur and Split/Second NOT optimized

Minor Upgrade to Byakko and Thoughts over Seiryuu

So my Geforce GTS 250 (512mb GDDR3) has had a bit of a history with overheating for the last week… So I decided to nip the issue in the bud and pick up a Radeon HD 5770 by Asus. Who’d have thought that a change to 1GB of GDDR5 would make a number of changes. To give some of you an idea of how bad the Geforce GTS 250 was overheating… Some days, the system would run about 50C – 60C (122F – 140F) on idle. While gaming, the temps would rocket to 85C – 100C  (185F – 212F) quickly. Sometimes the overheating was so bad it just plain locked up my computer and I’d just have to force it to power down and cool the card off before turning the machine back on. Continue reading Minor Upgrade to Byakko and Thoughts over Seiryuu

Machines and Logic Bombs

Lately I have been debating over 2 cases to upgrade Byakko to… The Cooler Master HAF 932 or a Cooler Master Sniper Black. Cooling is my primary focus as heat dissipation is a primary focus for me as keeping a hot system cool is definitely important. I know I have a Phenom II x4 945 processor upgrade, a Corsair H50 cooling system, a Corsair HX power source, and a Radeon HD 5770 (XXX Edition from XFX) as pending upgrades. Definitely huge upgrades for sure. So keeping cool and functional is definitely vital… Plus I do want to push my gaming to the limits.

The logic bomb of the weekend is the matter of my sister. I have no clue why she thinks I care or am part of the loop with my family… but this weekend she suddenly tells me an aunt of mine died over the weekend and then vanishes. I mean, she’s basically cast me out because I am some sort of loser with no diploma and degree after my name… Which boggles me… Why would a person shoot me dead as an outcast yet then try to socialize to me about matters of a social system I have no shred of care for? It’d be like convicting a person with being a pedophile but a month later telling them to go to a Chuck-e-Cheese and babysit a party full of children. No offense to people who are logically incompetent, but… FOR GODSAKE DECIDE HOW YOU WANT TO OSTRACIZE SOMEONE PROPERLY! I mean, I don’t think it’s hard. You don’t go “I never want to speak to you again, ever!” and then an hour later go “Hey, what up?” It defeats the purpose.

Retrospective: Byakko – Gaming PC

Last night, my roommate Nick came by my room to tell me “I spent a little over a grand, but dude, I am happy with the machine! Does everything I want/need and I love it!” So it got me thinking… How much have I put into Byakko?

I would like to reflect and see how much I have put into my build with the 1 year birthday of Byakko coming soon (4/25/2009). I do want to make mention that my girlfriend has helped build Byakko in her own way as well. So essence, even she has helped build the beast as well.

Let’s rebuild the part list… The prices listed are the original MSRP (aka, what the manufacturer wants you to buy it for) from Amazon. This list does not account for some of the sale prices I nabbed (i.e. – $90 for my 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda) or from components gifted from my loving girlfriend Ebongrey.

$60 – Biostar MCP6P M2+ microATX Mainboard (nVidia nForce 430)
$65 – Student Edition of Windows 7 Professional
$100 – AMD x64 Phenom 9500+ Quad-Core 2.2Ghz processor
$30 – Ultra 450w power source (out of production)
$60 – OCZ ReaperX HPC 4GB DDR2 1066 RAM kit (2x 2GB sticks, discontinued)
$200 – 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda 5,900 RPM SATA 3.0 Hard Drive
$48 – Lite-On DVD+/-RW 24x burner drive
$142 – XFX GeForce GTS 250 512mb GDDR3
$70 – Netgear WG311T Super-G (108 Mbits/sec) Atheros 802.11b/g wireless LAN card
$40 – Thermaltake Wings RS 100 Piano Black case
$200 – Logitech G19 gaming keyboard
$70 – Logitech G500 Laser gaming mouse
$80 – Logitech G13 Advance Gameboard
$65 – Microsoft xbox 360 Wireless Controller + Receiver
$40 – Razer eXactMat Xspeed + eXactRest
$162 – Samsung SyncMaster 2033SW 20″ Wide LCD 16:9 aspect ratio monitor
$60 – Logitech Notebook Premium Headset
$0 – Altec Lansing “Soundworks 4.1” series speakers (discontinued circa 1999)
Grand Total: $1,492 (Actual paid prices and estimated price of parts gifted to me totals roughly $1,200, $292 in savings)

For a slightly better, yet closely similar configuration from HP right now…
System: HP HPE-180t
Windows 7 Professional
Intel Core i7-920 (2.66GHz quad-core)
1.5TB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive
1GB ATI Radeon HD 4650
LightScribe 16X max. DVD+/-R/RW SuperMulti drive
Wireless-N LAN card
HP 2159m 21.5-inch 16:9 Full HD Widescreen Monitor
Grand Total: $1,424.98

Take note… that with the HP, some of the parts… you don’t know who manufactured them. For all you know, it could be from the reject parts bin from no-name manufacturer. Also… the HP monitor has a 3,000:1 contrast ratio versus my Samsung producing a dynamic 15,000:1 ratio for crisper colors in games, which for a gamer who loves pretty colors or art/production media folks, that’s pretty damn important. Sure, it does have a leg up on some things, but what happens when you want/need to upgrade? Remember the $292 I saved from my build? I now have that to put towards upgrades down the line. What can $292 get me? Let’s observe my options:

Budget: $292 (prices based off of Newegg)
Full refresh build
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition (3.4 GHz quad-core), ASUS M4A78T-E (790GX board), Corsair 750TX (750 watt power supply), Radeon HD 5870, Corsair 4GB (2x 2GB) DDR3 1333 RAM – $770
Completely new build reusing most of my parts, absolute extreme

Processor, budget graphic and power supply upgrade
AMD Phenom II X4 945 Deneb 3.0GHz quad-core, Radeon HD 5770, and a Corsair 750TX – $456
$164 additional needed to budget

Mainboard, power supply, processor upgrade
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition (3.4 GHz quad-core), ASUS M4A78T-E (790GX board), Corsair 750TX (750 watt power supply) – $440
$148 additional needed to budget

Power supply, Nvidia-loyal graphic card upgrade
BFG Tech GeForce GTX 260 OCX MAXCORE 55 896MB GDDR3 (graphics), Corsair 750TX (power supply) – $340
$48 additional needed to budget

Alternate graphic card and power supply upgrade
Radeon HD 5770 + Corsair 750TX – $290
$2 ahead of budget

Processor and power supply upgrade
AMD Phenom II X4 945 Deneb 3.0GHz quad-core and a Corsair 750TX – $286
$6 ahead of budget

As you can see… I can still come very ahead of the HP for value. Should I want to upgrade, I can! I don’t have to worry about things like voiding warranties just because I’d like to bump up performance… Another thing I can do without that fear is replacing the cooling fan for the processor. If the processor fan (in unfortunate circumstances) die and your machine is under warranty… I would assume you’re at the mercy of the manufacturer to mail in your machine, then hope to get it back quickly. For us DIY-builders, we can click off the old fan and bolt up a new one then get right back into things.

For those fearful of putting together a machine, don’t be afraid to! When you can learn how all the parts come together as well as how much you will save and potentially be able to use in upgrades… You’ll be thanking yourself when your machine lasts a little longer with parts you know and trust than the mystery bin parts. It’s almost like being able to make lasagna at home with good cuts of ground beef from the butcher or getting mystery meat from the frozen box version. Just something for you all to think on.

The Best 13 Day Holiday Sale Comes to a Close

As some of you dear friends know… This year, my holiday gift giving theme was “The Gift of Game” because of how important games are in my life as a tool to destress out from my life. The games, of course, would be delivered from the digital Santa Claus of the computer gaming scene: Valve Software’s Steam Store. Some of you got deeply serious games like Borderlands, while some of you a silly game of Zombie Bowl-o-Rama. Though… The thing I wasn’t expecting: to be gifted back. It was really a fun thing as my measly collection of The Half-Life Holiday 2005 box, The Orange Box, Left 4 Dead, and a few random games here and there totaling around 30 games… Some how exploded to a grand total (as of this afternoon) to 85 games. Of course, I also facilitated some of the growth by seeing some of the games being on sale for a wild $1 to cheap ones for $15.

Of all my gaming years, I was a “console gamer” as I never could build out a computer gaming rig that could even take the power of games. For that, I paid the price in console games. With console games, it’s rare to find fire sales where a game could be reduced down to almost 90% off. Which in turn meant my money as a student/working-man never went far for my purchases. A couple games for the tune of $80 may only last me barely a month total… When Steam came back in full force with my life back in late May of 2009, it made me proud that Valve took their online product key storage model and added a very worthy and easy to use gaming store. That was about the time I had bought up The Orange Box for PC to get Portal and Team Fortress 2 for the price of $30 (about $6 a game for the package deal). After buying my first ONLINE purchase via Steam, it was just amazing to see that since the inception in 2003 has grown so well polished. It was like the Apple iTunes model but for gaming and with TONS less restrictions. I know some naysayers will bemoan “God, Steam is a TERRIBLE platform!” but at the same time I am also willing to say I have tried some of the other digital store models and they are sub-par and worse with how much the games are locked up. The big advantage with Steam I had noticed once I became more active with buying on Steam was occasionally, they do hold “Mid-Week” and/or “Weekend” deals where games are just blitzed priced to move fast! Probably one of the best moves are the “Free Play” weekends where Steam will pick a game and just declare “Play this all weekend from Friday 11am – Sunday 1pm” (times are in CST) as well as discount the game should you like the free full-version trial.

Then came my first holiday sale on Steam… They started the day before Thanksgiving (US) with a sale that lasted until 11am Black Friday. Then had a sale Black Friday, Saturday, and ended Sunday. During that 5 day sales blitz, some of the games had insane pricing… I managed to snag a few games for an early Christmas delivery for friends of mine, but I lamented that I missed out… Little did I know what Valve was going to drop on us around December 22th. Around 5pm that day (12/22/09), Valve did something I didn’t think was possible, they announced the Steam Holiday sale that would be going on until January 3rd. Thirteen days worth of 24 hour sales and with some standing offers that were good until the end of the sale. Publishers like 2K games, Square-Enix Europe/Former Eidos Interactive, Atari, EA Games, Valve themselves were major players. To also level out the market, indie games (independently made/published games) also got some time to shine from their wonderful values. Sure there were some days I missed out, but… The final round yesterday was great. It was the “encore” sale, 7 of the best 24-hour sales deals would return for one last purchase. However, it makes me sad just knowing I won’t see another big PC gaming sale for a good while.

Thanks Valve for making this a great holiday season for me and my friends. We may have had bleak Christmas holidays, bickered with family, or were just trying to escape for a pleasurable New Years Eve celebration… but your sales for the last 13 days gave some of us something to look forward to when we woke up or got off of work.

(Factoid: As of this moment, per the Steam Calculator with Robin Walker of Valve Software who buys every game on Steam… there are 808 games in the catalog.)

The Zombies Move South! – Left 4 Dead 2 Mini-Review

[SPOILER WARNING] If you do not want to know the ending battle to “Dead Center”… DO NOT READ MY REVIEW!

I like many other gamers awaited for Steam to bless us with the arrival of Left 4 Dead 2 at 11pm CST that would be as specified per the Left 4 Dead/Valve blog’s time of “12am Eastern time”. Well… 11pm hit and there was silence… The forums exploded! Stuff like “Where’s my #$%^#%$ game, people?!” and the like were spewed. I then scanned for a topic with news regarding a delay… then I got one. Some users in the Steam Community forums were in the Official L4D2 group saying that Mike Blas made mention in the L4D2 group chat that the game was delayed due to a last second bug that was causing the game to crash so they were trying to fix it before officially letting it out. So the time kept going until 12:10am CST when Mike Blas in the L4D2 chat made the announcement “L4D2 is officially out!” At this time (12:27am), I am currently decrypting the files at 48% and counting until I can get full access to play it… For me, it’s like being 7 again on Christmas day! The suspense is MURDER~!

By 12:40 (after file unlocking and decryption) I would be able to get my game on… I decided to take a leisurely pace on single player Easy mode and grab some pretty screenshots for you all in a nice 1600 x 900 size image to boot, because you all deserve the best! I know my buddy Mobius from Clan Avalanche had requested me to screen capture my first kill with the baseball bat, which I have done, but there’s so much more! Do feel free to give the gallery a gander! The “movie” in question is the “Dead Center” movie.

I will say one thing for sure… If you initially had problems with the demo, like I did, the final copy works PERFECT! I had an odd sound issue where there was a constant buzzing or hissing which is not present on the game. I actually applaud Valve for delaying the game to ensure a smooth release…

Now, gameplay…

With the melee weapons, they are actually pretty fun! If you pre-ordered, the baseball bat is available to you immediately on the “load-out” table. You get your basic selection of gear at load-out… So a melee weapon(s), hand-gun (should you change your mind on melee), secondary weapons (machine pistol/shotgun), and first aid kits. The melee provides a fun element that even books like The Zombie Survival Guide mention “Blades don’t need reloading“. I got to witness this first hand with the katana or as the game characters call it a “ninja sword”. You can hack up swaths of zombies but you have to be careful and time the slashes right or the hordes will claw at you. Of the fun melee weapons, the chain saw is more of a psychotic spree good for the swarms. I will provide the disclaimer that the chainsaw does run out of fuel and if you’re trying to do the achievement of an entire game without using guns… The game will auto drop the empty chainsaw and instead give you a hand gun! As far as the guns go, the selection was pretty good in “Dead Center”! I personally loved the AK-47 and the FN-SCAR for your secondary guns. For primary guns, the option for the semi-automatic Magnum with its excellent stopping power was impressive. It really put the stopping power of the pistol from the original Left 4 Dead game to shame. The weapons can be “modded” so to speak as you can pick up laser sights for sharper accuracy and incendiary ammunition. The balance for the weapons is quite appropriate… Power guns will have killer recoil, but immense power. Your classic grenade items are back, in addition to the Boomer bile! The Boomer Bile being hilarious as when you smash it against a Tank, you not only get the achievement “Septic Tank”, you get to see the ravenous horde devour the tank~!

The enemies are a remix of the old but with some of the newer special infected such as: The Jockey, Spitter, Haz-Mat Zombie, Charger. The newer infected to take a strategy of breaking up your lines. This makes it vital for you and your friends to stick together or you will get pwned! The revision of AI Director 2.0 is rather good! If you dawdle around, the hordes do come out to play! The zombies also are more attentive to the strategy of trying to overrun you by surrounding you when you’re separated or with your comrades to boot. Smarter zombies make for a bit more challenging game play, that is GREAT to have!

However, should you get turned into a zombie silver-screen dinner… Your friends can rescue your corpse provided one of you in the team has a defibrilator! This and the adrenaline pen are new additions to the game… The adrenaline pen is really great for things like rushes to hit a switch, as it gives you a small bump in health and for a short duration, any actions performed (melee, switch activation, etc) are sped up. The addition to the new health items brings about a tactical aspect of gameplay as you have to decide with friends who will be carrying a defibrillator, adrenaline, pills, or first aid kits. This is one challenge I rather like!

The last bit is incorporating aspects of the scavenger mode to the in-game story… At the end of “Dead Center”, you find out that a modded stock car is on a pedestal but it needs gas before you can escape! So you have to find 8 gas cans, fill it up, while battling out the hordes and special infected. I could see stuff like this being hectic fun with good friends online! I will share my tactic… For the gas cans on the second floor… throw them down to the first as it will make life a little easier for you.

I haven’t gotten to try multiplayer campaign, Realism mode, and versus modes yet… But if I get to within the next 48 hours, expect another mini-review! For now… I leave you to enjoy the picture gallery!

If you want my official verdict on this game: 9/10 as the only thing that bothers me is how the AI for the teammates can be rather sluggish. It’s worth the $50 or if you were lucky to pre-order it $45!

Aborting Mission Mike-Whiskey-2, Considering Bravo-Foxtrot Bravo-Charlie 2 Mission

This week was the blockbuster release of Modern Warfare 2 for XBOX 360 and PS3 (Tuesday) then Thursday midnight for PC folks via Steam. The game has no doubt made headlines everywhere… From the number of copies sold to even things like the controversial undercover American agent working for the Russian Ultranationalist terrorist killing innocent American civilians in an airport… However, I will admit, the console release is rather good! It does the console features well, for consoles of course… However the PC folks (like me) got ripped off as did the PC player community…

There are threads like this one from the Call of Duty Boards titled: More IW Thievery (Link) If you don’t want to read or see the screens… Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: IW runs a map-making competition for e-cred for new maps… Apparently community members threw tons of maps, winner announced and e-cred given… Fast-forward to now, community member Zeroy gets MW2 and finds community maps were added and NO credit given to community developers.

Then you have this amazing breakdown I found on Amazon from a guy named Nathan Risto

Here is a break down of the differences between Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Take notice that almost everything is a downgrade for a higher price.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Networking: Client/Server
Avg Ping: 25-40ms
Console Commands: Yes
Lean: Yes
Custom Maps: Yes
Number of Players: up to 64
Competitive Mods: Yes
Mod Tools: Yes
Ability to Record: Yes
Kick/Ban Hackers Immediately: Yes
Profiles Saved Online: No
Manually Select Server to Join: Yes
Control Bad Language: Yes
0 ping Advantage for Host: No
Lan Play: Yes
Free Demo: Yes
Price: $50

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2

Networking: Peer 2 Peer (downgrade)
Avg Ping: 100ms+ (downgrade)
Console Commands: No (downgrade)
Lean: No (downgrade)
Custom Maps: No (downgrade)
Number of Players: up to 18 (downgrade)
Competitive Mods: No (downgrade)
Mod Tools: No (downgrade)
Ability to Record: No (downgrade)
Kick/Ban Hackers Immediately: No (downgrade)
Profiles Saved Online: Yes
Manually Select Server to Join: No (downgrade)
Control Bad Language: No (downgrade)
0 ping Advantage for Host: Yes (downgrade)
Lan Play: Yes
Free Demo: No (downgrade)
Price: $60 (downgrade)

For me as a PC player and part time server admin… Running my own server is quite fun! I can make a private practice ground for my “n00b” friends to piss around and learn game mechanics… Then there’s stuff like being able to manually boot/ban griefers that some admins like to have, which is very important on family servers when you have clowns yelling stuff like “You %@#$!#$% noob! #$%#ing come back and fight me like the little gay bitch you are!!!” and not understanding some parents do not want their children exposed to coarse language like that on a server. The PC community developer tools are no longer available to users and we basically got a glorified console version port with only the options to play with a keyboard and mouse and resolution tweaks.

I for one am disappointed… I do confess, when I have my “realistic combat” thirst come up Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare hit the spot quick. However, I think the invitation that DICE/EA has offered in the form of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has enticed me. The prospect of a huge battlefield, epic battles not limited to 9 vs 9, and dedicated servers is enough to have me look at it and probably consider it. The pre-order is plenty enticing to boot: 6 load-out perks and and 3 guns! The PS3 beta is LIVE while the PC beta is due in December… The game won’t be out sadly until March 2nd, 2010, but the footage from the PS3 beta looks really good!

To fill the void… I have Dragon Age Origins and Left 4 Dead 2 for the time being…

[Editorial] Apple’s VP of Marketing is in a Spatial Field Barrier… Ugh…

So on reading through blogs and on [H]ardOCP I saw an article linked about Apple’s VP of Marketing is seeing Windows 7 as a chance to herd up frustrated Windows users (link here). The guy is pining for frustrated Windows users to just decided to hop on over to their grassy knolls to the cult of Mac rather than just buy a $100 copy of Windows 7. I would like quote the CNet News article:

“We think a lot of folks will look at that as the straw that broke the camels back,” Croll said. “People are tired of the headaches with Windows and this is another great excuse for people to check out the Mac.”

From “Apple sees Windows 7 as an Opportunity to Sell Macs” on CNet News by Jim Dalrymple

This logic is a bit flawed in my mind from an economic standpoint in my mind, because of the fact that Brian Croll assumes every computer owner that is frustrated with the notion of upgrading to Windows 7 will have to do MAJOR upgrades to use it. On top of that he keeps mentioning the idea of users frustrated with the Windows experience and hope they will consider the Mac experience.

Disclaimer: Before I go on, I will make the disclaimer that I hate all operating systems equally as much as I love their foibles. I do own a Linux laptop, a G4 Mac Mini, and Windows 7 Release Candidate desktop machine before anyone wants to make accusations of favoritism.

Point #1: Money is hard to find – A home upgrade is easier than buying a new Mac.
His point that people will get aggravated with the process of upgrading the OS. I do agree, the agony of Windows XP users migrating to Windows 7 will be one that will be a bit vexing, because it does require a full wipe. That can be seen in this chart posted by Walt Mossberg on his blog here. But at the same right the Apple guide just mentions in migrating from Windows to Mac mentions migrating files, not complete system settings… In layman’s terms: It’s like the aftermath of a FULL WIPE! Most folks have a means to archive of files like DVD burners, external hard drives, or (now) network storage devices… so this puts Mac migration right in the same ground of a Windows user doing a full wipe. That’s frustrating no matter how you see it. Most home users considering the Mac migration will probably be eyeing either a MacBook, MacBook Pro, or an iMac. That’s a starting price range of $1,000 – $1,300 before applicable taxes. On the Windows side of things MOST old 32-bit technologies are still supported in Windows 7. This sadly was not the same for G4 Mac users when Snow Leopard came out, so the high and mighty “Windows users will have to make major upgrades to get Windows 7” argument is not quite valid. The basic message that G4 users got was “Want the new OS update? BUY A NEW SYSTEM!” so that argument is back in fair game. The entry price for a Windows 7 32-bit Home upgrade is $100 and various online communities have reported the “Use the upgrade disc for a full install” trick still works. So in hard economic times, $100 and maybe using/borrowing an external hard drive versus shelling $1,000+ and still using/borrowing an external hard drive… I think being economical takes precedance to a foolish impulsive need of some ridiculous need to escape a “user experience“.

Point #2: Users tend to use what they use at work
This is a point that the Linux folks mention a lot of. This is also their rallying cry to push for Linux use in the home: get more Linux machines in the workplace then you will have more people considering it for home use. Apply this concept to Windows in the workplace or academic field… Lots of campuses get better volume discounts on Windows machine versus the Mac discounts. The proof of that is seen in the price of several Dell workstation versus an iMac suite. Also the myth of “Apple machines are just better at any art related tasks” is essentially null and moot because the software exists in the realms of both Windows and OS X versions. Then you also have fields where you don’t have Apple OS X equivalents. If the market share were a little more in favor of Apple, I could see the desire of a change of environment with an equally balanced ecosystem of software for both Windows and Mac. However when you have market research showing that close to 85% of people who own Macs also own Windows PC’s (as seen in this PC World article), the grip of Windows isn’t letting up. The rationale that people at home use what they use at work also is to the respect of compatibility. It’s always a pain to the typical end user to try to force compatibility but also it is much easier not to fight against what the work place endorses. Sure there are also things like Citrix or Virtual PC clients, but usually those require that the IT dept of a corporation to get linked up.

In the end, Windows 7 will still be hot. Those who are willing to upgrade will. I think the correct market Brian Croll is targeting are those who have $1,000 to blow on a PC and want something new and shiny. The logic of the Windows XP users being targeted is fair, but he seems to have disregarded one important fact: the size of their wallets.

[Featured Review] InvisibleShield for the iPhone 3GS – Sponsored by InvisibleSkinz.com

Thank You Note
Before I begin, I’d like to personally thank Jake from InvisibleSkinz.com for providing me one of these lovely iPhone covers. I would also like to thank him for being the first vendor to approach me for a product review and giving me a shot at promoting his business!

Click the jump to read more!

Continue reading [Featured Review] InvisibleShield for the iPhone 3GS – Sponsored by InvisibleSkinz.com