Lightroom 4 experience

Sodding time is the issue, once again. And a bunch of different things that keeps me busy. Basically it’s my PC that I use for editing pictures and developing photos that soaked a lot of time recently. I abandoned my AMD Phenom 965 and switched to my old Intel Q9550. Main reason for this was the overclockability of the Intel CPU. The 965 is also a fine CPU to overclock, but the only platform I could give is a AMD 770 or 790 chipset. Bummer! One can overclock with the boards I’ve got, but the CPU clock is static. And I don’t want to waste the majority of my salary for the utilities.

So, I rebuilt my PC that I usually use for work and the more serious things. It’s overclocked at 3.86GHz with an air cooler and everything looks save. Temperature and stability are within limits. And most importantly, the overall performance has increased as well. Working with Lightroom became much smoother. One of my main issues was developing with the two-monitor setup. I use one monitor for the main-view and the other one is for comparison view and cropping.

Additionally do I have to mention, I was running on Lightroom 4.0 for the last few weeks and I had performance issues on both systems, Intel and AMD. Nevertheless, the Intel system felt smoother, thanks to a much higher clock rate. I upgraded Lightroom to version 4.1RC2 and Adobe has done a brilliant job. Some slight improvement on the UI and several new featues, but most importantly, Lightroom performs much better with two monitors. As far as I’d experienced, it’s even with Lightroom 3, but there’s still room left to get it even smoother.

Claustrophobia in space

Nobody wants to read good stories, because today’s sensationalism demands it. We want to get shocked. We want to get disgusted. We want to be entertained the hard way. So here’s to you, a terrible, shocking, disgusting and yet entertaining story of mine. No, it’s not. I’ve just got a slight cold and that’s it for today with the weird crap of sensational news.

I’ve recently started playing “Mass Effect 3” right after I’ve reached lvl30 with my Shephard in “Mass Effect 2”. I bought some DLC that I’ve found worth playing for “Mass Effect 2” and finished a lot of side missions and assignments, because I simply wasn’t in the mood to do a second play through. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine and brilliant game, but the story telling in “Mass Effect 2” wasn’t that impressing as it was in its predecessor. For me personally did it include too much fighting and less talking. And good dialogues are the essence that make a RPG top notch.

I’ve got almost three hours played in “Mass Effect 3” and till now I find, that this last episode of this trilogy goes the into the right direction. A meet again with various characters from “Mass Effect 1” and hopefully some characters from part two as well. The crew you’ve got in “Mass Effect 2” was, for my personal taste, a little bit too pale. The whole game was basically a collecting of crew members. Getting them loyal in the loyal missions and finally kicking a reaper’s ass. Period. The plot in the first part of this trilogy was much, much better.

Talking about plots, besides “Mass Effect” did I start playing “Alan Wake” on my media centre PC. I had a first glance of this game years ago on the Xbox 360, which was quite nice. Nowadays, on the PC with all the technical improvements that were made, is the game still impressive and draws an awesome, claustrophobic and scary atmosphere. It’s like some of the best Stephen King novels gathering in this game just to face you with all your inner fears almost forgotten. But why is it always that you run out of ammo and things so quickly? It was an issue that also drove me mad in games like “Silent Hill” and everything similar.

Currently, it’s more the “Mass Effect” that intrigues me and after that, I suppose, I’m going to continue with Mr Wake and clear his fog of amnesia.

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.

What’s happening…?

A short update of what happened and is actually happening right now. First of, I was off to the countryside, the forest to be exact and got a little rest. I’ve been there with my parents and my grand-mother and it was a weekend with simply doing nothing. I took the time to take some pictures of some flowers and the nearby lake. And I also tried to clean my tent, with tiny success.

On the next weekend I’ll be off for a small festival that is going on pretty nearby and I’m going to see bands like Sodom, Vader and the Excrementory Grindfuckers. I haven’t been to a festival for years now and I’m totally longing for that. It’s a very small festival, but my experience tells, this is going to be one hell of a show. Maybe, but just maybe, I’ll do some headbanging. It also depends on my level of alcohol consumption.

Games, I play Tropico 3 and some Crysis 1+2. More Crysis 1 because of the summer I feel more like jungle jungle than city jungle. One side effect of Tropico 3 is, that the music in this game is very intriguing and as soon as my girl-friend enters the room it affects me to dance some merenge or salsa or whatever these latin american dances are called like. Embarrassing, but hey… I’m also a little ashamed that the three year old Crysis 1 still manages it, to bring my system down on its knees. Kudos for that Crytek.

There’ll be some bigger changes in my life coming in September, approved subscribers will get some details on this particular situation in another private post.

The game of the week is off and missing, I know. As soon as I got little bit more into indie gaming again, I’ll give another recommendation.

 

PS: I’m looking for some nice headphones at the moment and I focused several models made by AKG, anything you would recommend? Or maybe a totally different manufacturer?

Barely finished… but almost

Normally, when I work on a PC and build it from the ground up, it takes like two hours to nearly half a day. Since I’ve started with rebuilding, cleaning, repairing and upgrading my gaming rig, six days have passed. The intention actually is to make it as good as possible. I don’t want no hidden rubbish areas in my chassis and most importantly no dust. Old builds of my PC always included weird cable constellations and packed cable  trees in narrow corner. I tried to avoid things like this in this very build.

It takes a lot – and I mean a looot of time – to get all things arranged as one can possibly can. The mainboard alone was put around 6 – 8 times in the chassis. Main problem with the board was the backplate that was using too much space and could cause short-circuits. I finally found a good solution using less space and definitely not responsible for eventually upcoming short-circuits.

Another point is, well, it’s this kind of fetish of mine. I always use to put as much components in my PCs as possible. My working rig is somehow different, but mostly every PC I own is always packed. And by saying packed, I mean packed.

As you may know, the PC uses water cooling. Until now you can only find a water block on the CPU and a couple of tubes wandering through the chassis. The water pump is already installed, too. This time I decided to put the pump a little differently inside to gain a little bit more space inside. Additionally did I put some foam around the pump to minimize vibrations going on to the frame of the chassis causing noises. I also have plenty of room to do some quick maintenances in the case of an incident.

My new graphics card is going to be delivered this day’s afternoon and I’ll probably go to finish this PC by today’s evening. I was very lucky to get a 64GB SSD pretty cheap that I’m able to use ISRT immediately. I hope that it’s going to work with an previously set up RAID0, the storage solution that I always use for my system- and games partitions.

Anyhow, I’m pretty excited and nervous today and hopefully everything is getting well. I haven’t been working on a PC for such a long time before I finally started it and hopefully it’s going to be a good harbringer.

The curse of sleep

I feel so terribly bad today. It was set that I have to go to the gym today and continue training but I simply haven’t made it out of my warm, sheltering bed. I’m not sure where this tiredness actually comes from, but it’s horrible. I can never get enough sleep and I’m that kind of a guy that sleeps no longer than six hours a night, except for the weekend.

I was thinking about going to the gym this very afternoon, but I know how it’s going to be. The place will be packed as hell and all the exercise machines will be blocked by fat and ugly housewives pushing 5kg weights. I’ll try to make it out of my bed tomorrow and hit the road to training. Once again, I don’t feel very well with my whole condition. I feel fat and rusty and like I lost the last spark of power in my muscles. It has to be changed and it will be changed.

striped stockings

What else happened. Well, I’ve silenced my HTPC once again a litte bit more. I added a resistor to the fan located on the side of the chassis and I also exchanged the graphics card. Right now I’m using a Geforce GTX 560 Ti which is much quieter than the Geforce GTX 460 and offers much more power. A lot of frame rates are locked at the magic 60 mark. I’m not sure if I’m going to sell the old card our if I just put it in my fourth PC that is just standing around without any particular function.

Besides all this, well, I was off to Berlin last weekend without anything exciting to mention. It was just my father birthday that needed some celebration so I went there and celebrated. I was not going out or anything like that. I feel like I could need a night of partying again with all its benefits. Maybe somewhere in the future.

My media centre – A field report

It’s been nearly 9 month since living with a media centre PC in my living room and it has become a regular part of my daily life. The balance between the simple watching of TV broadcasts and the common use of a PC, like surfing the internet, playing games has changed. Nowadays I do watch more and more content that is streamed and published via the internet and old school TV makes only a minor part in my daily life. The point actually is, that I don’t have the time nor the will to watch specific contents on TV at a special time and nor do I have the will to spend like half an hour to setup the HDD recorder that I don’t miss a show on TV. This is old-fashioned in my opinion, especially by regarding the fact that if I use the media centre I can watch whatever I want and what I subscriped to at any time I want. If I watch TV I’m bound to a fixed schedule and like I previously said, I’m not going to waste my rare free time to TV programs.

Another, and in my opinion, very important point that the media centre has become so popular for me is, that the content it offers is mainly customized to my needs and interests. As you may know, I’m a gamer and I love to watch broadcasts with videogame content, so I watch like GameTrailers.com, GiantBomb or GameSpot contents any time I want. If I’m more in the mood to get a little relaxation and enjoy earth’s beauty I lay back and watch the marvellous shows of Earth-Touch.com. I’ve also got tons of subscriptions on Youtube, mainly gaming content but also channels with subjects like sports, news , photography or simply comedy. As you can see, I’ve got this large variety of things to watch at any time I want, I’m near the point to think about cancelling my cable provider subscribtion because it makes barely sense.

Besides simple watching of different contents the media centre also offers another ability to serve me well, it’s a gaming platform. I had to make a compromise between ultra silent media centre PC and gaming PC. This PC serves in both ways and is not as quiet as a media centre usually used to be, but this doesn’t really matter, because while watching movies or anything else like this, you can barely here the PC and it’s not as disturbingly load as a regular gaming PC. This case, where the hardware was built in, is a silent case and I also avoided the use of unnessecary fans the gain a low noise level and I’m pretty happy with the final result. I can’t deny that there’s still some room for tweaking the system to gain a little less noise, but it’s fine the way it is.

Anyhow, the media centre is a well balanced and efficient gaming PC as well and I use this PC very often for some relaxed gaming sessions. I used to play a lot of games that are played console style (with a gamepad) on the media centre PC and left the FPS and RPG to my main game system. It’s way more fun to play a soccer or a basketball game on the couch watching the stuff on a giant TV instead of seeing this on a small 24inch PC monitor. It also fulfills some social aspects because I personally play much more games with friends visiting me as I’ve done before by just having the “normal, regular” gaming PC. Another important point for me is, I don’t have to waste money on an expensive console, even though I would like to have a PS3.

As a final conclusion can I say, that the media centre was a good investment. Ordinary TV becomes less and less important for me and like I said, I’m near the point cancelling my cable provider subscription. I gain more information in a much smaller space of time and most importantly information that I actually need instead of getting tons and tons of crap information, e.g. celebrity stuff. Some of my “gaming habits” have changed too because I’m more willing to play “casual games” like sports games and games regularly played with a gamepad. Yap, I like the media centre, everyone should have one.

20 years of id Software

Today’s the day where we gamer’s have to bow down and pay some respect to one of the best software studios that we’ve got the last two decades, it’s “id Software”. Today’s the day where “id Software” celebrates its 20th birthday. When it comes to push gaming technology to a bleeding edge limit “id Software” always had the leading role. The game engines John Carmack created and developed are absolute masterpieces and it does not matter if we talk about “Commander Keen”, “Doom” or “Quake”. They set the marks everybody else has to compete with. They have never been great story tellers in games, but what they did and still do, they take the gameplay to a level where everybody can handle it with fun and without any unnecessary complexity. It’s truely like John Carmack said, “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.” When you look back in time their games were more like tech-demos put in a tiny game shell. Especially “Quake III Arena” was one of these games, there’s no story, just a few maps, a couple of opponents and that’s it, and this concept survived for years. Now, twelve years later “Quake III Arena” is still alive in the online remake “Quake Live”. The id Tech 3 engine that was used for “Quake III Arena” is one of the most popular game engines so far, if not to say THE most popular. “American McGee’s Alice”, “Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.²”, “Return to Castle Wolfenstein”, “Medal of Honor:Allied Assault” and sequels, are just a few of the famous branches based on id Tech 3.

I personally had millions, no, billions, no, bazillion hours of fun with games by “id Software”, it started for me with “Commander Keen” way back in 1992 (it was actually released in 1991, but 1992 was the years where I switched from the C64 to a PC). Then I played “Wolfenstein 3D” and “Spear of Destiny”, which was actually forbidden for a young kid like me and after these games I had the first LAN experiences with “Doom”, mainly in 1on1 deathmatch. 1,000,000,000 frags later a “Quake” came and me and my friends heard of these crazy people doing the whole aiming with a mouse and we started playing FPS that style. Those people still stuck to cursor keys and pic up and down keys were just the victims of us. I actually skipped “Quake II” right on its release, for one simple reason, I wasn’t gaming (— SHOCK —). I finished “Quake II” sometime in 1999, but I never played the multiplayer, because as you might know, 1999 was the birth year of “Quake III Arena”. Q]|[A also lead to a new era of how to handle your game. Lots of people started to tweak their game to gain highest rate of frames per second, they started overclocking their PCs, modded their PCs, tweaked their internet connection to get the best ping and more and more people played in clans, esports was going to become drastically bigger and more and more important to the whole gaming industry. There sure were tendencies in this direction in the nineties, but it was nothing of importance and just a sideshow.

As you can see, “id Software” not just only influenced the coding and the designing style of games, they also created a new kind of community and a brand new way of how to compete with each other, in another kind of sport, the electronic sport. There’s a reason why the most popular gamer’s communication net on IRC is called the “QuakeNet”. Although they lost I little of their undisputed leading role, with competitors like “Crytek” and “Epic Games”, “id Software” still sets the standards and every new product is a blast and I am very sure that this company, as long as whizz-kid Carmack develops, will be able to survive another 20 years, and I’ll be an grey haired old man and look back on a great chapter in gaming evolution.

Game of the week #2/2011 – DeathSpank – Orphans of Justice

This weeks game of the week is something special, a game created by a living legend. It’s “DeathSpank” by game designer Ron Gilbert. You might remember this name  from the legendary “Monkey Island” one and two, the good old “Maniac Mansion”, the ingenious “Zak McKracken” or the amazing “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade”. This man created so many great games why shouldn’t “DeathSpank” be as good as the previous games? Well, first of all, “DeathSpank” is obviously a great game, with the typcial sense of humor that you can expect from Ron Gilbert and the design is something really special, but it can’t follow in the footsteps of the previously mentioned games.

DeathSpank - Orphans of Justice

In “DeathSpank” you play the homonymous hero DeathSpank who is looking for an artifact simply called “The Artifact” for his entired life. DeathSpank finds the artifact during the game, but it gets stolen by the henchmen of a guy called “Lord von Prong”. You might have already guessed what comes next, yes, DeathSpank has to get the artifact back and has to defeat the evil Lord von Prong. The game itself is a simple hack and slash RPG with a focus on a good told story. The character customisation is mainly done by getting new items that improve your attributes and by chosing cards on each level increase that improve thing like melee/range damage or the speed of the character. You don’t have to think too much and that is good because this game is perfect after a long exhausting day when you feel like getting easy entertainment but you still want a nice story to be told.

I played this game with mouse and keyboard first but I personally find that playing with an Xbox 360 controller is much easier and faster to handle. You also don’t have to switch between two weapon sets when you play with the Xbox 360 controller and moving the character feels more ‘logical’. The combats are not too easy and not too tough and if you ever come to a situation where you find it too hard or easy you can chose a different combat difficulty. The co-op mode in this game is, let us say, okay but it’s not what you want to play the whole time because the second player soon starts to feel like the fifth wheel of the wagon. The second character can’t loot or improve his skills and equipment, he’s just walking beside DeathSpank, does some damage and heals from time to time. Besides these minor issues “DeathSpank” is a game where you can’t do anything wrong if you like hack and slash RPGs, loved games like “Diablo” or “Torchlight” and if you feel comfortable with the sense of humour from games like “On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness”. There’s a reason why this game is finally the “Game of the week”, so go and get it or you will be spanked.

Links:

Official website

WikiPedia entry

A BITS too complicated

Though I didn’t want write so much about computers, software and all hardware related stuff, I have to write something related to these topics anyway. What happened is the following, I’m still in a progress of, let us say, upgrading with no mercy. As you might know, I replaced a lot of my graphics cards, silenced a few of my PCs (the media centre is still left). I also had some weird problems with my gaming system that just didn’t want to start, finally it was just an empty battery and a new one rescued me from paying another 600 Euro to fix this PC. This PC welcomed me with a new problem, Windows Update and Windows Live do not work any more under the gaming OS (yes, it’s dual-boot with an “editing OS”, too). The problem is pretty complicated and I haven’t found a real solution for that, it’s that BITS is no longer to found in the service menu. It’s just lost – disappeared. After some checking I came to the conclusion that some of the needed files for this service are corrupt and the hash differs, too. It’s barely possible to replace the files without going deeper into the crypts and vault of the Windows system itself and I made a decision. DELETE.

I wanted to get rid of the “editing OS” anyway and the whole dual-boot sucked, because it simply takes too much space and the maintenance is too intense in time. Before I go by and start a complicated software surgery, I simply format the whole RAID and install a complete, new, fresh system for gaming only. The editing one moved to “internet PC” because this one will soon (actually today) be upgraded with a new six-core CPU which is going to kick ass. I’m not sure if I should install a small 32bit OS, too. The thing is, that I’ve found a lot of games (well, three to be exact) with a stupid copy protection that I wanted to play again, that do no longer work under Windows 7 64bit, just because of this stupid protection. I already did a backup of my complete Steam game collection so that it will not take too long to “rebuild the game library”. Right now there are around 180 listed in the Windows Game Explorer and a few additional ones in Steam, too. That’s a kind of a lot of work.