Current changes

A few weeks ago I started upgrading and changing several things on my media centre PC. Most importantly, I’ve exchanged the mainboard and the RAM. Another component that’s changed was the graphics card. I switched from a common GeForce GTX 560ti to a GeForce GTX 560ti 448.

The “old” graphics card was a SuperClocked version by EVGA, which had a lot of power but the EVGA Classified Edition of the GeForce 560ti 448 was too intriguing to be resisted to. The EVGA CE uses six power phases and is more a 570 than a 560. The big issue with the 570 is the lack power phases – four instead of five. One of my previous 570 cards died due to this fact during an overclocking session and a slight voltage increase.

I also exchanged the chassis, which looks much more elegant than the old chassis I’ve used and is a little quieter. The only noisy thing that is currently inside is the graphics card, but the cooling components will be exchanged in the very nearby future.

The CPU that was once working in my work PC wandered into the media centre giving me much more core horse power. The CPU is now overclocked but does not cause too much heat, thanks to a stock voltage.

After setting up the system and installing all the things I actually need (tons of games and XBMC) I’m very satisfied with the final result. Everything feels much smoother and the overall gamin performance has increased a lot. The only thing that bothers me currently is the noise level of the system during gaming sessions. But like I said, this is going to be solved.

The reason why I actually did those changes to the system was mainly the new Batman video game. And my plan worked perfectly well. The game’s now finished and I did not notice any weird performance issues, except the rumble with the Joker and his henchmen and the Catwoman fight in the strong room. Those were more PhysX related and my dedicated 9800GT had a little struggle with these fights.

Whatever the case, I’ve finally got a “debugged” system where everything finally works, which was not the case on the old system. For instance, ‘L.A. Noire’ did not even start. XBMC is working smoothly and I had no issues with exporting and importing the media library data.

Whatever the case

To be honest, nothing special was actually happening during the last days and this post is only to proof that I’m still alive. Well, some things did happen apparently. One thing that’s really important, my bike is finally fixed and repaired. I personally changed the tires and the rest was done in a repair shop. Brakes are working fine again, the gears can be shifted again and the suspension is now a little harder. I already did a couple of trips in and around my hometown. I’m a big fan of these trips at dusk, driving through the parks, along the river and nothing but windy noises in my ears and a couple of jogging people running by. This much more enjoyment than the gym, which I’m gonna visit again this week. At least two times is the plan. Actually, thinking of the gym brings a lot of boredom into my mind. But according to the digits popping up on the scale, I guess, well, it’s time to take this path again.

I’ve done the complete opposite of being a sports dude, I was even more a couch potatoe enjoying lots and lots of movie I always wanted to see and that are stored on my media centre for such a long time. Besides this I was involved in a few BBQs that were “celebrated” by some friends of mine. The first rays of the sun after a long cold winter are always an undisputed sign to do a BBQ. ALWAYS!

BBQ

Even though it’s nearly two weeks ago, I was off to London over a stretched weekend. All in all, it was a fine trip, if I’d brought the correct pair of shoes with me. I finally had to find out that both pairs that I brought along are not “sightseeing compatible”

You can also say, they were simply too small at this particular point. After giving them the stress test of walking London for like four days, they DO fit. Another pr0blem was, I’m actually having 20kg overweight which does not bring up any comfort when it comes to walk around the whole day and explore a metropolis like London in Chucks All Stars that are like new and half a size too small. Nowadays, they fit perfectly and finally made an agreement with my feet. I guess, I’ll revisit this city when my weight is on a healthier level and I also got the correct pair of shoes with me.

Talking about couch potatoe and overweight, I already made every pre-order for all the interesting games coming up this first half of the year. I recently finished “Bulletstorm”, which was also ‘Game of the week’ (Link)¬†here in this blog. I also started playing “Amnesia” which scared me to death and gave me the creeps. This game is really scary. It’s meant to be scary, it’s not that the game quality is scary, but give it a try on your own. Next game in queue is “Homefront”, but I actually do not expect that much of it. And, most importantly, “Portal 2” is coming out next week and, hell, I’m so excited about this game. The predecessor was so brilliant, but unfortunately way too short, and I’ve got high expectations for “Portal 2”

That’s it for the moment, some stuff about photography and of course the HTPC is coming up within the next seven days and I guess I’ll also be able to do another “Game of the week”.

They have issues too though

X-Mas is over and I’m nearly finished with the changed to my PCs where I once again meet a point where I get confronted with a disturbing problem on my gaming system. It does not start everytime I want it to start. When I go by and move the waterpump a little bit the system goes and starts. Another time it’s just a touch somewhere in the case or near the motherboard. I’m not sure till now what the exact problem is but it’s not the power supply unit, it works perfectly. There’s some kind of interference and I don’t know where it is. Hopefully it’s nothing serious so that I don’t have to do a major replacement to the system which will cost me around 650EUR right now.

Besides all this, I’m on the noise hunt and I try to eliminate every disturbing noise that comes from any PC I own. I just silenced one PC with a noise absorber kit by Be Quiet! and it will be quieter if the fans would work correctly or let us say, if they were not so bloody dirty. Well, I freed them off the dust but I guess it was a bit too late and now I have to replace them. It’s very hard these days to get 80mm fans with red LEDs that are declared silent cause everyone switched to 120mm or bigger. The backplane in my gaming system will be replaced by a much quieter one too because I wasn’t able to completely disable the fan without getting an alarm noise and I didn’t wanted to rip the speaker off because of the “you’ll never know”-factor. Maybe it’s the backplane that causes the starting issue (well, NO!!!).

The HDD cases in my media center (which is capable for gaming too right now) are getting completely removed to and will be simply replaced by some uncoupling units. Two hits with one strike, I get rid of the 40mm fans and the hard drives are getting a little bit more “softened” in the case. By the way, the media center is the best working system at the moment without any issues. Like I said, the gaming PC has starting problems and the inter PC seems unstable to me, which leads me to final point.

I am going to say goodbye to Fedora and Linux on this system because I switch back to Windows. It still remains a system for internet but also for audio production and some picture editing. It comes in pretty handy because two monitors are plugged to this system and these two things are handled pretty good if you have a second monitor. It’s a kind of sad that I’ll soon will have no Linux machine but unfortunately is Linux not able to fulfill my needs. Combined with the stability problems it’s the best choice to get back to Windows.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I have so much hardware lying around that a fourth system is coming up which will be a pure dedicated gameserver and guess what, it’s going to be a Linux system. Till now do I not have any specific plans on that but it will come and hopefully will it come together with a LAN in spring 2011.

For those of you who expect to read some more things about my photography hobby can I tell, that there’s pretty soon something new to say about it because I ordered some fine new stuff for my camera. But more about these things will be here to read later in another post. I’m sorry for posting so much about my PCs and hardware and stuff these days but it’s a cold and extremely snowy winter here in Germany and this is like the perfect time for me to get a few jobs done in these cases.

We’re reaching multimedia, baby!

After being away in beautiful France for nearly two and recharging my batteries and simply staying away from everything that looks like complex work on a machine simply called computer I built up my new media center after getting back home. And of course catching enough sleep. The hardware moved from my old ‘I-don’t-know-the-exact-name’ case to a Thermaltake¬†Element S VK60001W2Z case which is much quieter than the one before and can hold much more hard drives. On the final stage the case will hold nine hard drives with an overall capacity of something around 4 – 5 TB.

The media center was built for two things. First it’s a simple media center for listening to music, watching movies and pictures or simply surfing the web. Got it? Yap… Secondly does this PC replace a game console. Thanks to the fact that Xbox 360 controllers also work on Windows very well I can play a lot of games while lying on the couch. Well, of course I will I use other game controllers as well because I’m gaming nerd I have special controllers for every game genre.

For gaming I use Windows 7 Pro 64bit as operating system and for the whole multimedia thing my choice fell on Linux Mint because it’s pretty lightweight, got a great multimedia performance and I just like the overall file handling under linux because I can arrange a variety of disks much more comfortable.

The hardware itself is not very luxurious but will fit the matters. It’s an AMD 9550 CPU built on a Gigabyte DDR2 motherboard stuffed with 4GB RAM. The graphics accelerator is a Gainward 9800GT and the sound will be put out through a cool SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium. By now there’s only stereo output because I don’t have a surround speaker system but this will follow within the next two or three month. I am going to stuff the machine with multimedia content within the next days and then I will finally see how it works and give it a review right here in this blog.

New media experience

I bought me a new TV a few weeks ago and yesterday was the first day where I integrated my unused but very powerful third PC into the whole multimedia system. By now there is no OS installed but in the near future I am going to install Windows 7 and Fedora on this PC. Windows 7 will be a kind of gaming console replacement system (DMC4 on a 40″ TV will kick ass) and the parallel installed Fedora will be the media center and “internet-machine”. I have chosen Fedora because the overall performance of the system is way better than Windows 7 and I don’t like the MC which is integrated into Windows 7 very much.

Actually I am not very sure about running two systems on a media center but the file handling sharing options are much easier than they are on Windows. Like I said Windows 7 will only be there for gaming, such as a nice Street Fighter IV session or a competition in Pro Evolution Soccer and Fedora will be the movie master. Another thing I am not sure about for the moment is, which media center software I should use under Fedora, mythTV or moovida, or if I should completely leave it and just use VLC or SMPlayer and customize the GUI of Fedora in that way that it is minimal but ultra functional.

One thing that is really annoying and disturbing is that the case, where the whole hardware is installed, is pretty loud and noisy. I am going to fix this in the nearby future by simply moving to another case that uses less but bigger fans and includes more 3.5″ slots. By now I have a lot of cooling boxes built in to the case for my hard drives but all these 40mm fans do too much noise so you’re not able to watch a movie in a friendly and silent environment. Well, well… there’s still a lot to do, but there’s no hurdle that cannot be taken…