Thursday, October 30, 2008

Computer Completions

Today I put my computer back together hopefully for the last time for a while. I took out a couple of the fans now that I only have one video card. I moved the Antec Spot Cooling fan into the spouse's computer to help cool the MCP. It did drop it about 5C so that's better then nothing. Then I swapped out the Logisys Blue LED for two of the Logisys UV LED's, and put the blue LED in the spouse's case as well. So now we have different colour schemes. The only problem is the UV LED's are not very bright even though I have 3 of them in my case. Guess I need something more UV reflective in there. The spouse's case however is a bright blue glowing demon! Too bad it gets so little use.

I emailed VisionTek and told them the whole sordid story about my dead video card in hopes that they might give me a break and honour the warranty. No such luck. They didn't even bother to reply. They are now on my POO POO list. They could have at least offered to repair it at a reasonable cost.

Even though my computer is working just fine and my games are running extremely well, I am still miffed that I only have one video card. All I can do is wait till the dollar gains some strength and the next wave of overpriced GPU's comes out and HOPE that the 4870's drop back to a reasonable price. I really cannot blow another 400.00 on a card.

The latest disaster around here occurred on Tuesday when the spouse and I returned home from shopping and heard what sounded like hail hitting a window, although it was neither raining or hailing out. The sound was coming from the patio door. The inside pane on the fixed door was cracking into a million little pieces right before our eyes. It was extraordinary to watch even as I felt my wallet screaming in my pocket. I completely expected the pane to "blow out" at any moment so the spouse and I sealed the door up with plastic and duct tape to prevent the glass from shattering all over the dining room. Oddly enough it continued to crack into the middle of the night but the pane is still firmly in place. It looks like frosted glass now. And of course it will be about $600.00 to repair it and we have to wait 3 weeks for the glass. There is no explanation for why it happened but I searched Google and found other people have experienced the same thing. Very weird.

Another reason why there is no video card in my future.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vista Surprises

A client brought me a computer today with a printer installation problem. She told me it was running Vista Ultimate and so it was. On a 1.7 GHz processor with 512 MB of SDRAM. Unbelievable. It was slow but was working just fine. The printer problem was a simple software fix. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to run ANY Vista installation on such little memory.

It was a slow vegetative day today. Played a little, trolled the forums, ordered a Ideazon Merc Stealth Illuminated Keyboard. The spouse will be happy to hear that. I just hope the illumination on it is better then this Logitech G15 and I hope the keys wear better. I may just sell the G15 along with the Belkin Nostromo N52 SpeedPad.

Tomorrow I hope to do a little house cleaning, something I am way behind on, and maybe get out in the workshop and do some organizing out there. Winter is coming and it's home improvement time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Getting Creative

Now that I know it wasn't the Creative Zen that was messing up my computer, but a bum video card, I decided to check this little freebie out. Turns out the thing KICKS ASS! I put a couple of movies on a 8 GB SD card and loaded up some music and I was entertained all weekend. The software converts movie files to a readable proper sized format and it does a very nice job. The picture is crystal clear and the screen is big and bright enough to make viewing comfortable. The sound was perfect crisp stereo with excellent channel separation. The battery life was very impressive, letting me watch a full length movie, listen to an hour of downloaded music, and listen to the radio for almost 4 full hours on one full charge. WOW!

The Zen also handles photos, slide shows, Zen Casts, Audible books, music videos, recorded television, movies, FM radio, links to Outlook Contacts, a task calender, and voice recording. That's a lot of bang for the buck.

I showed the spouse a sample of the movie and that was all it took to be added to the Xmas wish list. However, I managed to completely forget our 9th anniversary on Saturday, so I went to The Source today and bought an 8 GB model to make amends. I think I am forgiven.

I got a Mastercraft Maximum 2 HP Plunge Router, a beautiful card and flowers as my anniversary present and am VERY happy with that. I am such a heel for forgetting!

I just bought a couple of acrylic cases for the Zens on EBay along with a car and electric charger for them. The exchange rate is brutal AGAIN, but that was still the cheapest place to get them. I think these little gadgets are going to get a lot of use.

So if you are in the market for an awesome mp3 player that has more to offer then just music, I strongly suggest checking out the Creative Zen. They are very reasonably priced and come in 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32 GB models. But with the added SD card slot these players can hold infinite amounts of digital entertainment.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

FarCry 2 Hits The PC

It's launch day for FarCry 2 WOOT! I downloaded it on Steam and have been playing on and off all day. It's another great FPS of course but I am a little disappointed in the graphics. It's certainly is not Crysis. Actually it's very far from "realistic" but there is great scenery. My single 4870 is handling it like a charm. All the settings are at VERY HIGH and the fan is only at 35%. Maybe two cards was a waste of money anyway?

I found some rather disappointing information on the Twin Turbos. I could have plugged them directly into a molex plug instead of using the fan header on the video card. It seems the fan performs much better that way. I don't know for sure that it spins up at power on in that setup, and I am not about to fry my good card to find out. I may experiment with the dead card later on. It would be really sad if that was the case and this whole screw up could have been prevented. Hind sight is always 20/20.

I have to say that I am really thrilled that the one card is still working so flawlessly after all it's been through. I suppose if another 400.00 falls into my lap I might still opt for Crossfire, but I don't see that happening any time soon. And with the loonie taking a beating now, it might be a very long time before there are ANY more computer upgrades. I am glad I built my systems when I did.

The one thing I am SERIOUSLY considering is a GTX 280 for the spouse's computer. That of course does not impress the spouse. And it too will have to wait for a lottery win.

I have to get back to killing things for a bit before bed. I sleep so much better knowing the world is a safer place.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lady Luck Drops In

The video card dilemma got a small boost. I decided to replace the stock coolers with hopes of maybe RMAing the cards. I did the first card and thought what the heck, I would plug it back in and see what happened. Much to my amazement it is working PERFECTLY! I can run all the video stress tests, I can play my games FULL SCREEN and at a pretty decent frame rate I might add. I even got a Vantage score of over 9200! Needless to say I was blown away.

I installed the ATI 8.10 drivers and Catalyst Control Center, and set the fans to 35% and am running at a cool 45C at idle and 57C under maximum load. WOW! It's almost unbelievable.

The downside however is I was not as lucky with the second card. Most of the original thermal material was gone and I made some improvised replacements but I think the card was already toast. I do not get a video signal whatsoever from it. Bummer. Now that the card is obviously been tampered with, there is no hope of an RMA. I am still going after Arctic Cooling, but I don't expect much.

At least my gaming rig is up and running again! I don't think I am going to fork out money for a replacement card unless I see serious issues in my games. I just played FFoW and pulled off more head shots in five minutes then I have ever done! If I do decide to replace the dead card I think I will look seriously at a 4870 x2 only because of the fact there are less heat issues with a single card.

So I am still out about 400.00 but that is somewhat less painful then 700.00. And I still have a usable rig. It is a good day.

Hot Video Spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

My VisionTek video cards are officially DEAD. Sadly, the reason for their demise only became clear as they flashed their final BSOD. They were defeated by HEAT.

After all my praise and high regard for the Arctic Cooling VGA solutions, it turns out they are the culprit in this epic failure. The Twin Turbos suffer from a critical hardware deficiency. They are not programmed to have the fans start when the computer is powered on. In fact they do not start until the OS has actually loaded and whatever utility that controls them (i.e. CCC, Riva-Tuner) has started.

This translates to anytime you are in the BIOS, in Safe Mode, installing the OS, or in a situation where the boot hangs, the fans on these cards are NOT running. Your video card is being cooled by a large and ineffective heat sink. So it is in fact slowly cooking itself to death. Kiss 700.00 goodbye.

Most video card manufacturers do not honour the warranty if you "modify" your video card. So you are pretty much out of luck. I, however, refuse to go down without a fight and at this point I am holding Arctic Cooling responsible for the damages. I don't think they were clear enough when they stated "the fans spin up late". They should have pointed out the fans do not start at all until the OS loads. And that situation pretty much renders these VGA coolers as useless AND dangerous.

I am going to be making a lot of noise in the next little while to anybody who will listen. I doubt AC is going to make good on my loss. But I can't help but wonder how many others are suffering the same aggravation without realizing what the actual cause is. There may be a Class Action Suit in Arctic Cooling's future.

In the meantime, I am out of the gaming scene until I can save enough cash for the repairs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Many Phases of Grief

There seems to be some disagreement on the number of stages of grief. It varies from 4 to 8, depending on how you choose to break it down. But however many there are, one must pass though all of them at some point.

Today I am grieving for the tragic loss of a friend and colleague, who sadly took her own life while struggling through a battle with cancer. I am still in the first stage of shock. The depth and reality of the situation has not had time to sink in yet.

There is no comfort in the numbness of shock, like the word itself, it is harsh and electric and makes your insides tremble like your world is caving in on itself. Nothing makes sense, and all logic and reality is a fog. Everything that was so important yesterday crumbles away meaningless. Life and all it's irony laugh at you from the grave. All we are left with is "Why?"

It's been a tough weekend, with lots of time spent thinking deep provocative thoughts. I wanted a break from my "problems", well I certainly got that. In my deepest moments of sadness I sometimes just wanted my problems back as a distraction. They were so trivial and so much easier to deal with. They did not involve death.

Tomorrow I have appointments and clients and the world will keep turning and my "problems" will be waiting for me. The grief will follow me like a ghostly shadow. A subtle reminder about what really is a "problem" and how we too often fail to recognize the real problems of real people who disappear in a heartbeat. Perhaps in grief we can find a way to change that.

Rest in peace Heather. You are truly missed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back to Work, CAN'T WAIT!

I am SO VERY HAPPY I am going back to work tomorrow. Right now all I want to do is go Incredible Hulk on all my computers. There are the video issues on my gaming rig, and my laptop absolutely refuses to install Windows SP3. I have tried every fix known, conventional and unconventional but it does NOT want to cooperate. The spouse's computer has decided to run in low gear, taking FOREVER to boot and then just taking FOREVER to load programs. I haven't even really tried to fix it yet. I can't get beyond my desk it seems.

So yes, work will be a WELCOME break. I am going to take all my woodworking magazines and not think ANYTHING related to computers for TWO whole days. Maybe this permanent headache I seem to have developed will go away.

Of course the headaches will be back next week. I have two client computers to deal with Monday and Tuesday. Then I will have to return to these nightmares. A vacation FAR AWAY from all these machines is what I REALLY need.

OK I am done ranting. I am going to go play Text Twist or Solitaire or Mine Sweeper. Hopefully they will actually be able to run on this POS!

I Just Wanna Cry

The video card saga is almost at an end. I have all but given up on these things. Today I wanted to try something and made a small change in the BIOS and lost the PCI-E slots completely. I had to go out and buy a PCI video card just so I could boot back into the BIOS to fix things. This is getting crazy. Then I bought and tried to run 3DMark Vantage and it will not even run on this system as long as I have Crossfire enabled. Both the cards work fine by themselves, but that's not what I am after.

My very last attempt to recoup the glory of these cards is to put the stock coolers back on and see if they work like they did in the beginning. The after market coolers should not be the issue but I really am out of options now. If that doesn't work then I will be selling them and looking at a 4870 x2. Of course this is easier said then done because I can't seem to find thermal pads anywhere and they are necessary to put the stock coolers back on. Should be interesting trying to get the heat sinks off after using that industrial thermal adhesive.

So it was pretty much another wasted day trying to get my computer to actually WORK. It's 1:30 a.m. and I am no farther ahead then when I turned my computer on this morning. I HATE these kinds of days!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Catching Up

It's been a couple of days of "reload" and I am not really happy. I am getting lots of little bugs, probably my fault for not formatting and doing a clean install, but I was trying to save some files that I could have easily saved another way. Shortcuts do NOT pay. I am going ahead anyway but I smell a "clean" install in the near future. What a PITA!

I finally got the spouse's computer reloaded too but I have a sneaky feeling that somewhere in the process I lost a whole lot of files. Hopefully I will be the only one who notices them missing. NOT BLOODY LIKELY. There will be an "I told you so!" coming.

I got one of those bargain Acer computers from The Source for a client and I like it. It is NOT a high end gaming machine, but it will do photos, videos, and daily computing just fine. Of course it came loaded with the usual "crapware" and useless "trialware" but I cleaned all that up. It is absolutely silent. Something we are not used to around here with all the massive cooling going on in these gaming machines and the media centre. I think the client will be VERY pleased. I love deals even when they are not for me.

The Creative Zen is still an issue. I haven't figured out what format I have to put the movies in to be able to watch them. I thought it was AVI or MP4 but they don't work. I will NOT plug it into my machine again so I am going to have to keep looking.

Yes the election is over and now that we are through wasting time and money I will give you my latest political rant as posted on the EVGA forum:

As a fellow Canuck I am disappointed in the election also. Right back where we started, maybe worse. Harper did a great job masking the recession we are into. Another factory closure was announced in my home town the day of the election. Dion is and always was a joke, and he really needs to step down. Heck I would have voted for Bob Rae before Dion. Looks like Justin Trudeau is our Great White Northern hope, but I doubt he can or even wants to fill daddy's shoes. And yes Canadians really did not have a "good" choice in this election. It was lose lose. Perhaps if all those "lazy" Canucks had voted we could at least have a minority NDP government just to mess things up for a bit. Jack Layton doesn't seem like a really bad guy. But can he run a country? What's Harper going to do when he can't hold Bush's hand anymore?

That's the way *I* see it anyway.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cold Turkey

Well I had the "ULTIMATE" meltdown. Yes my Vista Ultimate 64 installation absolutely puked and I had to reinstall. There is NOTHING I hate more then that. I lost almost everything important like MY GAME SAVES. Starting from scratch AGAIN. GRRRRR!

I do know what caused this catastrophic meltdown. It was my new "FREE" Creative Zen. Every time I connected it to my computer I had trouble rebooting, and this time it was an absolute no go. Now I KNOW why they are giving them away.

Speaking of Newegg, they were quite concerned with my review on Resellerratings.com. My only beef was that they weren't located IN Canada. A customer service rep CALLED me today to assure me that they are indeed going to open a brick and mortar Canadian warehouse. These things just take time. That's GREAT! I am really glad to hear that. And they were nice enough to give me a couple of other "perks" to assure me that customer satisfaction is #1. Well, Creative Zen issues aside, I would say my view of Newegg has changed to a more positive angle. They ARE listening and THAT'S impressive.

Now it's back to re-installing EVERYTHING on my computer. I have a TON of other work to do, now all on hold of course. GRRRRRRR.

If you are in the market for a cheap (as in inexpensive) new computer or second computer for the kids, don't miss this deal at TheSource.ca:
ACER M1200-E1520B DESKTOP PC - $299.00 (249.00 after 50.00 MIR)
It's a good deal for a little powerhouse. I am not keen on the 250W power supply or the 1GB of Memory, but you can use the 50.00 rebate to upgrade both. Other than that it's a good deal. It's only available till October 22 so hurry!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Happy? Thanksgiving

So I am still plagued by video problems. I can play if I either run the game in a window or turn off CrossFire. Either of those conditions and the games run fine. If I try to play in full screen mode I get artifacts, but I CAN play in full screen mode with Crossfire turned off and the effects on normal. Basically I am NOT winning this video card war.

I still haven't got around to fixing the mod on the second card yet. Sometime next week I imagine I will have some time. Mostly I have been very busy celebrating my birthday and I am way too old for all that celebration is what I am finding out. Time to just chill a bit.

I got my Creative Zen MP3 player from Newegg and it's pretty cool. I have ordered some SD cards so I can load up movies to watch - well wherever I want. I also got some other ear buds as I have very tiny ear canals and can't wear most ear buds. These ones are by Phillips and actually go right inside the ear. Much better for me.

I also ordered another Seagate 500GB 7200.11 hard drive because NCIX had them on sale for a ridiculously low price of 56.00. It's hard to justify NOT having a good backup drive at that price. The spouse wouldn't agree. I can only hope the Purolator guy comes when I am home alone.

Today I was busy cooking cabbage rolls for tomorrow, we are having Thanksgiving at the "mother-in-law's" house tomorrow. I get along alright with MOST of my in-laws. I just don't usually stay long.

I have been playing Frontlines: Fuel of War and it's alright. It's just tough in windowed mode because it keeps switching out of the game on me even with the game button on the G15 enabled. I don't get it. So I do a LOT of dying. Gears of War is getting some game time as well. Really great graphics in that game.

So even though it's been a while between posts, nothing much is happening. Just the usual video headaches, and then Vista would not boot today, it just kept restarting. Some driver problems - go figure. I finally got that sorted out.

FarCry 2 comes out October 22 and of course I have already pre-purchased my copy on Steam. Hopefully I will get FFOW finished by then. Maybe even GoW too. Oh wait - the "TO-DO" list is still looming somewhere.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Growing Pains

My birthday is coming up soon and there have been some time honoured celebrations. Unfortunately I am NOT as young as I used to be and these have taken their toll on me. I am looking forward to going to work this week for a rest. Needless to say I have seen very little of my computer the last few days. I tried playing some games tonight, but I am actually getting motion sickness. UGH!

But I did get a nice surprise from Newegg. It seems they are sending me a free Creative Zen 2 GB MP3/MP4 player for being one of the first beta users of their new Canadian site. SWEET! I have never really been interested in a MP3 player, but if it's free what the heck! It looks like a reasonably decent one too. Might be useful for entertainment at work.

Speaking of which I am working 3 days this week so I probably won't fix my video card till next week. There are more birthday events planned and Thanksgiving is coming up so it will be a busy week for me. But right now all I need is a good night's sleep!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vista, Bad Vista

Today was a heart attack waiting to happen. I was trying to fix a client's computer and hooked the drive up to my computer to try to recover the data. I had to change permissions on the drive to access it and that's when Vista lost it's mind. It copied all my files and documents to the client drive and basically totally messed things up. It took a couple of hours and a couple of system restores to get everything back to normal. I can only HOPE I got all my information off the client's drive. I may have to check that out one more time.

So on that note I just discovered a use for the spouse's old computer. It will now become the computer I use to fix other people's stuff. I was almost sure I was going to have to reformat my ASUS gaming system after that meltdown today. OMFG I do NOT want to have to go through THAT!

Other then that I got nothing accomplished today. I have to work tomorrow and then the weekend is all booked up with a wood show and my "surprise" birthday party. Looks like I won't get to fixing the video card till late next week sometime as I am working Monday through Wednesday as well.

Working through the week is a good excuse to use my evenings for gaming:)