Mind the gap

It’s a new bloody year and the old one, system wise, ended terribly. I wanted to use the weekend to do some changes on my media centre and I got stuck right at that point, where I wanted to put the motherboard inside the chassis.

The motherboard itself fit, but I wasn’t able to connect all the SATA plugs because there’s simply not enough room for them. One slope and the lack of holes where you actually need them refused to let me rebuild my media centre. We’re talking about an issue with the size of almost a quarter inch.

Without a doubt, replacement for the chassis was needed. To be honest, I wasn’t very satisfied with the chassis since buying it. The fan system was rubbish and too noisy. Too much plastic and not enough room inside. Which is now again to be proven as correct.

I ordered an anidées AI-6 chassis, which looks very plain and elegant. It’s a solid build with more metal elements and less plastic. I’ve also got a USB3.0 connector includes and the cable management looks even more logical. The fans aren’t to be seen at first glance. Mainly hidden but air can get in and outside through well designed vents.

Whatever the case (!), I’m looking forward to get this chassis as soon as possible to rebuild my media centre. I also go by and do a complete new setup of the Windows system, which hopefully will not waste too much time.

Of RipJaws and Eden

Previously, I’ve told you guys about my GeForce upgrade on my media centre. The performance boost was, well, kind of okay, but at last I felt it was time for an overall upgrade on the system. I’ ve got this AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition in my PC that I usually use for some work on photos and on the other hand it’s simply a machine I use to manage my mails, websites and these kind of things.

It finally turns out that the processor plugged into this machine gets a little bored so I’ll do an exchange and my AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition moves from my media centre to this working machine. Both system still run on the AMD 7xx chipset and the media centre will now get the upgrade to the AMD 990FX chipset in form of an Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD7 board.

I’ll put 16GB DDR3 12800 G.Skill RipJaw modules on this system, so that I finally do not have to suffer on a memory bottleneck. I personally think that this is a good foundation for my EVGA GeForce GTX 560ti 448 Cores Classified. I was able to get a performance increase on games like “Batman Arkham City” but the overall system performance became pretty bad during the last year and a half so it’s time to make an upgrade and most importantly get a fresh and new installment of Windows 7.

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I’ve exchanged graphics and sound card drivers a lot in the past and I also had to struggle with several hardware and software issues that also caused new bugs, if you know what I’m saying.

Anyhow, I don’t expect a performance boost of 200 per cent but I’m certain that the overall system performance and feel of smoothness will increase and a lot of crashes and bugs will get fixed with this new setup.

In preparation for this did I also give the new XBMC version (called “Eden”) a try, which is currently out as a beta release. I was a little disappointed. I did a fresh installment and imported my old library to get everything as clean as I could. The movie library did not work as expected. I was missing movie posters. I wasn’t able to get movie information. The new skin itself is not a thing I’m going to be friend with because all the items are drawn much smaller and it looks like as if there’s something missing on the GUI.

I also tried several video add-ons and most of them did not work properly as well. To summarize, this is still a beta version and it does not represent the final product, but I will wait for a long time until I’ll finally do the update from “Dharma” to “Eden”. I’m fine and comfortable with my current media centre software. So why changing a good and running system?

I hope I can get everything done within the next 5-7 days and I’ll keep you informed.

A prig with the rig

In a rush and packed with a lot of experience from the previous installation I went on by the day before and re-installed my new gaming rig. It’s now a setup I actually like and what fits my quality standards. I hate PCs that include a driver farm or orphans from previous and malfunctioning drivers, like I had on the setup before. What I did before was to install everything automated from the DVD that came with the motherboard and a lot of drivers and software has been beta. Updating and upgrading was a real pain in the ass. After this whole procedure I had more failures than before.

Whatsoever, this first installment was for testing purposes only and it wasn’t intended to be for eternity. I’m now having the system with all the drivers I actually needed. The version numbers I wanted. And the hardware tools are functional. The only bug I actually had, was to be found in the Windows Game Explorer. I have to add, that I use the Vista Game Explorer Editor to get all my games correctly listed in the Windows Game Explorer. First games that I install, besides Steam, is the Blizzard bundle, like StarCraft, WarCraft, Diablo etc.

After installing these games I opened the WGE to scan for new games. The only game that got updated was StarCraft, WarCraft and Diablo II was abandoned with an ugly icon. I then tried to use the VGEE, it found StarCraft and was set up correctly. I restarted VGEE and when I tried to edit some more games I was welcomed by an error message and all the previously added games were deleted from list.

I’ll make it short, the only way to fix this very issue was to uninstall them. Check out the WGE for errors. Additionally did I go to the registry entry of the WGE and assured that there is nothing left from previous game installations. I also deleted the link files that were left in my user profile. I then re-installed the games that were causing these errors. I opened the WGE to let him scan for new games. After that I went to the registry entries of WGE and deleted the entries that were added for the new games. I also found one empty entry that was removed, too. Link files in the WGE section created in my user profile were deleted again. Et voilá, I was able to open VGEE and getting update information on games without errors our devastating my WGE list.

I’m pretty sure that there are more games out there causing errors like these and most likely they will be caused due to this empty entry key in the registry. It sure will be a good decision to backup WGE’s registry keys AND soft links before actually editing the WGE with VGEE. I first found this issue after having installed around 60 games and this made me more than just angry.

It works!

I’m so happy. I’m sooo happy. After days of working on my new PC yesterday was the day where it was time to turn it on and see if it actually works. And it worked and still works. I mentioned previously that I had some serious problems with the water block that might additionally have caused a short-circuit on the system, but I was able to solve it.

I was expecting a children’s disease here and there while setting up the whole system, but it wasn’t the huge hurdle I was expecting. I had some tiny problems with the RAM. With completely full stacked RAM slots and without X.M.P. enabled the motherboard simply wouldn’t start and was caught in a boot loop. There was one system freeze on the very first installment of Windows 7, which could finally be solved by updating to a newer BIOS version. ISRT is not working at the moment. When I go by and enable RAID XHD the system denies to boot. It is not even able to boot a Windows 7 DVD or anything else. I’m pretty sure that this is just a BIOS related issue that is going to be fixed by Gigabyte within the next couple of weeks.

As you may know, I’m a benchmark addict and I just couldn’t hold to do a little 3D Mark 11 from the scratch. I gained around 6,600 points without any tweaks and tuning, which is around 700 points more than I my old system. Man, I’m so excited to finally overclock the CPU and even the graphics card. Till now the whole system is pretty basic. I spent a lot of time in doing some quick researches on drivers and utilities used on this board. ISRT was the only one that actually needed an update to give a software response. Anyhow, it’s not working in hardware so I decided to use this drive for ReadyBoost at the moment.

For the time being I’m going to restore my Steam library and install the most common program to get me back to track. I guess after get a little bit more into the whole infrastructure of the board and learning about its little bugs I’ll do a couple of benchmarks.

Slightly getting back to basics

There’s something wrong in the state of Denmark… not that I know, but I just wanted to start the post with a sentence that does not start with “I was blabla…”

Actually, I’m a little pissed by myself because I simply don’t feel like I should. No, I’m sick in any kinda way, but it’s my whole condition that bothers me. I’ve got a hell too much weight hanging on my bones, I’m once again unsatisfied with my job and I haven’t found the time to actually follow up some of my hobbies. But first things first. The whole weight thing is going to change, definately. I just ordered new tires and flexible tubes for my bicycle to get mobile again, because I’m so nerved of walking. Getting me back on the road also means that I personally will get a little bit more “sportish”. I just love to cruise around with my bike around the city without any specific destination. Most importantly, I’m going to grab my photo camera to catch some fine moments while being on the road. I miss shooting with my and even though I don’t have the real talent to be a great photographer I’ll keep on doing this, because this is giving the relaxation I actually need in my daily life.

Over the last couple of days and weeks I had to struggle with lots of system and hardware crashes at home (that’s the curse of having so many PCs) that I had to fix that I had a massive lack of free time actually. First it was my gaming system that died while upgrading to Windows 7 SP1. I fixed this issue to about 90 per cent. After having solved this particular problem, the raid system in my HTPC started having issues as well and one hard drive wasn’t running as stable as I would like it to be. I replaced the hard drives, cloned the whole system, rescued the data and installed a fresh, new system which isn’t finished yet already. I’m not in a hurry with that one and I’m not going to stress me with that one. As long as the XBMC is running, everything is fine.

Bicyclet

There’s a trip to London coming up within the next two weeks and right after that I’ll restart doing early sessions at the gym again. I’m stressed and nerved and bothered with the packed gym right after work and I’m sure to gain much more when I’ll go to gym pretty early. I’ll also change my nutrition as well and get back to the healthy way of life. To get the facts straight, I’m going back the roots of my personal straight edge project. It’s clear for me, that I don’t want to live the way how I live at the moment because it’s simply not good for me. I’m doing fine when it comes to points like stamina but I completely fail meanwhile due to things like pure strength.

Anyhow, it’s curious to see how everything goes down the drain when my bike’s broke. It’s always the same, the tires burst and I gain pounds and pounds and pounds. There seems to be some kind of an invisible band between me and my bike. Like it was between Elliot and E.T. in the movie of the same title. If my bike’s doing well, I’m doing well. If my bike’s getting sick, I’m doing sick.

Till my short vacation I’ll keep my gym schedule as it is now and I’ll do some slight changes to my nutrition. The tough break is going to be right after the vacation which leads me back to no sweets and candy. I’ll also reduce the amount of coffee per day, which is now at an average of four to five huge cups a day. I’ll also reduce the consumption of Diet Coke for one simple reason, Diet Coke causes hunger and hunger finally leads me to eating and eating causes weight. Well, there are tons of things that will change all with this one particular goal to get back to a healthier nutrition, but one the other hand I’m not going to live like monk in a monastery. I still want to get a little bit of fun out of life.

PS: If you want to ask about the pic in this post, well, I just thought “Sex Sells”

For the rare time being

The last couple of days has been very busy for me, not that I had too many “private projects” but some too intense of time. First things first, my gaming system got crashed during the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 update process and I wasn’t able to revive it any way. I had to reinstall everthing, had to setup a lot of applications and so on. Good thing about this, the system can now be rebooted again without getting a raid failure, which was one big issue with the previous setup. I’m nearly finished with the system, like 90 per cent, and I only have to restore most of my games profiles. Actually, this whole thing wasted a lot of time on my last weekend and is also responsible for missing, once again, the game of the week feature here in this blog.

Besides all this were I still in modifying and hacking my Motorola Backflip cellphone. I now managed to install Android 2.2 aka Froyo including multitouch, which isn’t a stock feature of the phone, and I also installed an unlocked kernel that I’m able to overclock and also underclock it. The phone now runs with a stock Android, without any Motorola software features, and it’s, compared to the default Android 1.5, as fast as hell. I’m testing the battery at the moment to see, if my also also increased the lifetime of this particular part of the phone. It’s such a hilarious feel to finally have features on my cellphone that aren’t supposed to be there actually. And most importantly, for my subjective estimation, the phone has now a status, where I would say, that one can use it instead of just getting angry about it.

Android

Far from all this nerdish stuff did I come back to a more healthier living style without all this unhealthy, calory rich and fat food. I also visit the gym from time to time and as expected, it’s giving me a boost in many ways. Say whatever you want, after a fine session in the gym, you feel refreshed and the essence of life creeps back to your bones and you feel recharged. I mentioned it in one of my previous posts, I don’t want to exaggerate anything at the moment and I want to keep it on a level where I still have fun with all this too. Getting into a boot camp like training plan as I had it once before is not my intention, even though I can say, that this was fun too. Anyhow, I’m losing weight, I start feeling better now and hopefully my cardio will increase once again. There’s no particular muscle training on the schedule right now, I just want to sustain my back and belly muscles at the moment to get a strong centre for future training plans.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found any time for photography or any creative stuff in that kind of way. I also haven’t managed to get a little bit more into the whole Photoshop/Lightroom thing that was actually on my schedule for this year’s beginning. Saying that there was no time is not totally correct, I actually wasn’t in the mood to do anything like this. Maybe later, when my bike is fixed and I’ll be able to get out a little bit more often and most importantly further away.

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.

Game of the week #1/2011 – Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light

So now, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for the very first “Game of the week” post and it starts with a really tough decision that I had to make, a neck and neck if you want. If I want I could have done three games in one single post, but there’s only per week and after a strong battle with me, myself and I the winner is “Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light”

As you may know, the Tomb Raider franchise is at its end for years now and it was a tough job for every game developing studio to create a new Tomb Raider that the gamer will find attractive. For me personally the last three games “Anniversary”, “Legend” and “Underworld” are good games, but that’s it, good and nothing special. Something nice to entertain but nothing remarkable at all though. The Lara Croft franchise is different, the whole gameplay is different, you play in isometric viewpoint instead of third-person for example. The whole presentation is up to date and does not feel like a three years behind game like the Tomb Raider franchise, where the presentation was okay but nothing that gave a total blast. The basic idea of “The Guardian of Light” is pretty much the same to “Tomb Raider”, you walk through some ancient ruins, capture some artifacts, fight some evil guys and solve riddles with levers and buttons. “The Guardian of Light” puts more attention and love for detail into the riddles, there’s also a fine usage of realistic physics in the game which makes the game up-to-date and the riddles itself more fun.

Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light

The game has one j0ker card that kicks it directly in the front row of the game with the highest fun factor – the co-op mode. When you play the single player mode you start the game in front of a temple, and a Maya warrior named Totec tells you about the dangers inside, gives you his weapon and the adventure starts without him. In co-op mode another player can play Totec and both, Lara and Totec, have to work together to get through the very well designed levels. Totec mainly uses his shield for blocking attacks or pushing Lara to higher located levels and Lara has got a grappling hook to swing around or Totec can use a tightrope to reach some places that are barely reachable. I only played the local co-op with a friend of mine by using the Xbox controller for Windows and I can say nothing about the online mode, but I would say that it’s necessary to have direct voice communication when you play the game in co-op for the first time, because some riddles demand it.

The game itself is very well balanced, the riddles need some brainpower but they never get frustating. The ingame fights are claiming but not too tough, the dodge ability will soon become your best friend if there’s enough room to dodge off some range attacks. There are a lot of challenges and achievements to unlock in the game that will give a long time motivation to play the game or even to replay it for several times. “Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light” for PC is only available on Steam and costs around 14,99EUR. That’s a fair price for a game that is able to catch you for a long time. For more information about the story just follow the links the below.

Links:

Official Website

Wikipedia entry

UPDATE

Today’s morning did I find out, that there’s a new DLC for “Lara Croft and The Guardian Light” available. You can join the game with Kane & Lynch of the same titled game. This DLC is for free, you can also buy another one with figures from “The Legacy of Kain” games.

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.

Reporting for duty

Nothing really special happened within the last few days except some nerdy things. The holy equipment for my paladin in WoW is nearly completely epic and I look forward to my first instances as a holy paladin though I have no idea how it actually works because I am a tank since level 25 or something. Probably will I use some non-hero instances to learn before I kick the real shit (yap, yap, yap… the overheal will shine over my healing failures). On the other hand I am busy in WoW with some crafting things that I left on the way while hardcore leveling my paladin. Damn, I hate it when a game turns to a work like thing. I used to start a priest and a warrior for some twinking. The priest plays a little bit lame in low level but the warrior totally rocks and I guess I will play it more often from time to time.

Besides all this were I working on my media center again and it’s in a kind of RC state now. Windows 7 was by far the better choice compared to Linux Mint, though Linux has had a fine performance but due to some screen tearing issues and the complexity that comes into play when using a dual-boot system as a media center, it had to leave the hall. The media center choice itself fell on XBMC. The Windows Media Center is a kind of a rude joke from Microsoft which is absolutely useless in all kinds of ways. The third choice was Moovida but I finally missed some customization features so I switched to XBMC which is more complex in the beginning but very easy to use in the end. I finally made to import all my TV shows correctly to the media library and my movies were found and tagged as well. It’s pretty easy to use and it looks great. I use the standard theme but I guess I’ll give some of the other themes a try in the future.

If you’ll ask yourself what’s up in project “Straight Edge 2.0” can I tell that I follow every rule except the sports rule. Unfortunately. I don’t know when I will do some sport again, probably next week or if everything works perfectly well this week, maybe this weekend. Gladfully am I stuck on a weight around 97kg and it does not increase (Yeah!). So, that’s it for now…