The Fluffshack

Unraveling the world one sock at a time

Movies on my new Samsung UE-40D8000 LED TV

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Movies watched so far on my new Samsung 40D8000 TV:

The Dark Knight
Sanctum (3D)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind 30th aniversary Blue Ray
Inception
The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition from the new 15-disk Blue Ray set)
Tron: Legacy (3D)

Also watched some episodes of Game of Thrones

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First time I saw Inception btw, and it was a bit of a letdown to be honest.
I felt they could have done a lot more with the concept. the coolest stuff they did with only in that little introductory session with the girl, but they actually didn’t use any of that in the actual mission. They could have done far more with warped physics, esher-type perspective mindfucks and more psychological traps. Instead we got a Call-of-Duty-esque snow-commando scene that could have come out of any random James Bond movie. Could have been so much better.

Sanctum was pretty damn good for a low-budget movie (ok so James Cameron produced). Excellent use of 3D effects in a very confined space. A bit melodramatic and predictable, but entertaining.

Tron 3D was cool as usual, but the use of 3D, or should I say lack thereof, was as striking and as disappointing as when I saw it in the cinema. I still cant believe what kind of missed opportunities there where there. The most obvious is when we get the birds-eye views of the structures on the grid, like the light-bike arena. Just no 3D effect at all. The best we got was a kind of foreground-background divide but not much else.

Its proving to be a challenge to set contrast and brightness correctly on the TV. Some of the more advanced calibration guides out there are so complex I hardly know where to start.

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July 25th, 2011 Posted by | Gadgets, Geek | no comments

Broken Hardware Part 4 – fixed! And a little on ARMA II

Well, suffice to say, I managed to fix the problem just a day after my last post. It was Dalrain that suggested the awnser, and after looking up the correct timings from my ram, the instability issues instantly vanished.

IMG_3315 by you.

IMG_3314 by you.

So my mistake was assuming that the default settings of the mainboard, setting everything to auto, would be the most stable situation. As per usual, you need to know what you are doing first and not make any assumptions.

The Fluffgame PC is now back in its corner, and the passively cooled GT9800 that is on loan to me  is still performing well.

IMG_3321_2_3b by you.

I dropped by the shop to see if they had gotten a replacement in for my 295GTX, but they didn’t have it yet. Its very hard to come by.
What really irks me is that I know that the card was perfectly fine now. So my own stupidity has caused me to go without the best possible graphics experience I could have had.

Its especially sour because I have no finished Mass Effect, with graphics quality less than it could have been, and am now stuck into ARMA II, which really taxes the grahpics card with its wonderfull outdoor scenerey and highly detailed balistics effects.

Mass Effect was AWESOME by the way, I mean really friggin awesome. One of the best games I have played in years. The storyline was so good, and the way the action was direction, and the final cutscene and choices where supurply done.  I may replay it but not soon.  Mass Effect 2 is on the way anyhow 😉

ARMA II is the third game by Bohemia Interactive in what was originally their “Operation Flashpoint”  line of games. As per usual the engine is amazingly realistic, and the game works and feels identical to its predecessors. Some people hate the realistically “sluggish” feel of moving around. The engine isn’t as “tight” as a typical FPS, and takes getting used to if you havent played a Bohemia game before

What I friggin LOVE about their games though, is the sense of complete realism these games provide, and the atmosphere is amazing. If you have ever taken a long walk in the countryside, you know the feeling you get. Its quiet and pastoral, you hear the birds in the trees and the rusling of the treest and grass in the wind, Its calm and tranquil, only broken by the occasional car going by on small narrow roads. Rolling hills with forrests on the horizon, birds and insects around.

Get the picture? Good, now imagine 4 M1A2 Battle tanks roaring across that same hill, startling cattle as the come over the horizon. You can actually hear them a lot sooner than you see them crashing through the trees and bushes. In the very far off distance, you can hear gunfire and shelling.

The soundscape of ARMA II is the single most impressive thing, that contributes to the realism. I use my G35 serround sound headphones to get a full experience and its so damnimpressive.

July 11th, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Tech | no comments

Broken Hardware Part 3

IMG_3283 by you.

Things are getting desperate. I am really at my wits end now.

A ray of light appeared when I removed the Creative Labs X-Fi soundcard, and other USB peripherals. The thinking was that if it was a power issue, that might help.

Low and behold, there was an improvement. The crashing continued, but was no longer resulting in permanent screen corruption as my previous pics show. Basicly in Mass Effect, the graphics freeze, as usual, but after an alt-ctrl-delete, the game and the graphics will pop back in a playable state.The crashes are also less frequent, and its sometimes possible to play for half an hour or more, without it crashing once.  However, when it does freeze, the freezing seems to come in waves, where the game will freeze every minute or so for period, before becoming more or less playable again for a while.   It doesn’t matter what i do in game though. I just leave it and it will crash eventually, with the characters standing around idely.

Grand Theft auto, on the other hand, still gives corruption, again, only after a while sometimes, but no longer the pixel mess. It will corrupt the textures in game, then freeze, then crash out to the desktop. GTA is more consistent in crashing that Mass Effect though, at this point.

Stuff I have tried since the last post:

– Took the PC appart and running on the table.  More or less excludes shorting with the case.
– Memtest86, turned up nothing (remember hte memory is suspect because its one of the few common components across the old and the new hardware)
– Removed 3 of the 4 RAM, no effect
– Replaced the Keyboard and Mouse with a different keyboard and mouse, no effect
– Reconnected the old PSU, no effect

IMG_3285 by you.

I have been going over how the PSU stuff is suppose to work, still thinking its a power issue.
The new 800watt PSU I got (Gigabyte Odin Pro) is a very good PSU, good reviews, and is know to deliver well on the voltage and amps. It has 4 separate dedicated +12v “rails”, two of which can deliver 28amps, more than enough for this setup.   Now I have been running Speedfan, and besides measuring temperature, it can give a readout on Voltage.

IMG_3272 by you.

Now here is the worrying part. It shows 11.35v on the 12v readout. Way too little. However, the BIOS itself, when I boot into it, is telling me the 12v is at 12.04, which is spot on. I did read that software indications of voltage are unreliable. Regardless, I reconnected the old 650watt no-name PSU, and its giving me the same readout in Speedfan, and in the BIOS slightly higher, 12.152v

IMG_3313 by you.

The whole thing still smells of a power issue. The way people on forums seem to have described power-related issues seems spot on with what I am having here. But it may just be confirmation bias of course.

There are 2 approaches I can take at this point. The first is to reinstall Windows, in this case Vista, again. I cant be sure Windows 7 is not at least a part of the problem, even though I doubt it because the problems started on Vista originally. I need to get my hands on a version with a valid key, but I think I know where, my original key didnt seem to work anymore as you know. I think I know where.

IMG_3310 by you.

The other path is to continue digging into the power issue. I have seen several forum examples of people that had similar instability, that they managed to solve by upping the voltage of components ever so slightly. The CPU and/or the RAM for example. I may try this, there are certain margins that we can play in safely. I am not convinced either PSU is not performing well, but to really confirm it, I would need a multi-meter, which I dont have. I may buy one, its generally usefull to have around anyway.

IMG_3311 by you.

I still have not heard back from the shop about my 295 card. I am assuming they have not recieved a replacement yet. I will call them tomorrow.  I may explain this whole thing to them, but I suspect they will give me the usual shopping list of things I have already tried.

And the very last thing I want to do is bring the parts round to them to have a look at. Its a logistical nightmare.

June 29th, 2009 Posted by | Angry, Gadgets, Tech | 3 comments

A fist full of broken hardware

The last 4 days have been nightmarish. As in, the worst kind of hardware upgrade nightmare.

IMG_3187 by you.

It started early last week, when I started getting serious issues playing Mass effect. The graphics driver would suddenly crash and reset, causing an interruption and minimizing the game. Windows would restart the driver, generate a popup, and then I could keep playing.
This started to get progressively worse, as after the first crash, the in-game graphics would slowly start to corrupt. Textures would start to go missing, geometric shapes would start to get out of sync, and lighting effects would go haywire. Tried the newest Nvidia drivers, no effect.

IMG_3195 by you.
The 8800 even failed in dos mode.

IMG_3196 by you.
My old card, the 8800GTX
Now I was already considering getting a better card, as I was not impressed by the performance of Mass Effect, and my Nvidia 8800GTX was getting on a bit, now over 2 years old.
So I went out and got myself the new Nvidia 295, which is basicly a duel-core version of a 260.
Its the most powerful card on the market today.
I also saw that the quad-core Intel 775’s where down to some nice prices, so I also pickup up the 3Ghz version, the q9650. I knew my mainboard, the Asus Striker Extreme, should be able to use it.

IMG_3186 by you.

On Thursday I swapped out the Nvidia cards, and had a good night of play on the new 295. But it was obvious how much of a bottleneck the CPU was now.
The next night, I swapped out the CPU. However, imagine my suprise when the Quad core didnt play nice at all. The PC would not boot at all with it in there. Under the assumption it was lack of having the correct microcode for the new CPU, I downloaded the last BIOS file, and flashed it with the EZ-Flash tool in the Bios.
That was the last time my Striker Extreme ever booted.
I am clueless about what went wrong. It was the correct Bios file, and a perfectly normal and supported means of flashing.

So Saterday I went back to the shop, and got myself an Asus P5Q Deluxe mainboard.
After putting it all back together again, I let the original Vista installation boot up.
It actually dealt with all the changes quite well.
Tried mass effect, and while it ran very smoothly now, as expected, within minutes I got pretty bad texture and vexel corruption. So not exactly the same problem as with the old card, but quite similar.
Supreme Commander ran smoothly and without any corruption, but would suddenly crash out without warning.
I ran into an additional problem with Vista. Because i had changed so many bits of hardware, it now said i needed to re-activate it. But when I tried this, it said the key was already in use. Rather strange, considering this was a volume-license key and already in use by my laptop and several other computers i am aware of. Volume license keys should be able to be used multiple times.

IMG_3164 by you.
New card: the Nvidia 295GTX duel core

IMG_3188 by you.New board: The Asus P5Q Deluxe

By this point, I was suspecting the driver-instability, if that is indeed what it was, may well be down to windows. Coupled with the activation issue, I decided to take the opertunity and install Windows 7, RC build 1700. Once this was installed, I went about getting the games back on. Mass effect needed to be re-downloaded, so I gave GTAIV a try. This was on the default drivers supplied with Windows 7.
Much to my disappointment, I got severe texture and shading corruption again, similair to what i had in Mass effect.

IMG_3193 by you.

I have tried various combination’s of drivers now, but the largest difference has been when I have turned off multi-core rendering in the Nvidia control panel. The problems are there clearly with just 1 core, but with 2 cores on GTA crashes almost immediately. I tried some Left 4 Dead, which crashed on 2 cores, but ran reasonably well on 1 core. Most distressingly, is that sometimes when it crashes, for example in Supreme Commander, it shows a bad-pixel pattern over the screen, not just in 3D, but also on the 2D Windows desktop.

IMG_3191 by you.


Supreme Commander with pixel snow inside the game, and even on Windows desktop

Mass effect goes crazy with duel cores on, vexel nightmare. With just a single core on for rendering, it only(!) freezes every 5 minutes.
So I am more or less out of ideas. My suspicion is that my new card is as broken as my old card. And the old card is very broken, as even in the boot screen it showed vertical red lines across the screen, probably indicating fried memory or something else bad.
We already threw out the original box of the 295, but its got a 3 year warranty, so I should be able to get it repaired, or get a replacement. I am hoping for the latter.

Maybe I will think of something else to try tomorrow, but it looks like i will be going back to the shop soon.

June 14th, 2009 Posted by | Angry, Gadgets, Tech | 2 comments

Things sound harder better faster stronger

Yesterday saw the arrival of my long awaited Logitech G35 Headset.


(click here if you cant see the video above)

Day 10 by you.

I am quite happy with it. I have only tried 1 game with it so far, but the spacial 7.1  sound is good. Later today I will give some DVD’s a try. The most impressive is the overal quality for music. The base is very good and the sound seperation is excellent. I can hear detail in my favorite songs I never noticed before.

Also in the gadget department, is the most awesome Android app I have found so far:


(click here if you cant see the video above)

May 28th, 2009 Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Geek, Tech, Video | no comments

WordPress 2 go – wp2go android app

Yup, here a post from my g1 phone, using wp2go

April 21st, 2009 Posted by | Gadgets | no comments

My new sysadmin blog goes live! http://thefluffyadmin.net

I have long wanted to get away from geekswithblogs.net, where my sysadmin blog had always been hosted. Today a relaunch that blog as http://thefluffyadmin.net

It already contains a post on my new job, that I started last week, so go take a look!

ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 06 22.48 by you.

I have imported ALL the posts from my old site, so now I have a complete collection of my IT career since 2004.

April 6th, 2009 Posted by | Geek, Tech | no comments

Android XMPP/Jabber xep-0045 support, and the Talkonaut team on why Android sucks

Talkonaut is a pretty cool XMPP/Jabber application for mobile platforms. Its based around a paid Googletalk-to-Voip gateway service developed by Evgeny Korolenko and Ruslan Zalata called Gtalk-to-Voip

I have been using Talkonaut for some time for its Multi-IM support, it will connect not only to Gtalk and other generic Jabber services, but also MSN. This was of course very useful.

Now recently, I have been using a new and in-development chat system called Bindpoint, and have been hanging out in the chat channel dedicated to the Wowcast podcast, on that system. (this is the chat windows you see in my sidebar on the blog, though I correct to it via the Pidgin client).

Recently, the start-up behind Bindpoint, AOEware, created a Jabber bridge. I immediately starting looking for Jabber clients that supported the xep-0045 extensions to Jabber, which is what the Jabber chat-room function is built around, if people so choose to implement it.

Talkonaut is one of the few, if not only mobile client that I am currently aware of, that supports these extensions, and thus supports multi-user Jabber chat rooms.

For a short time, I very happily used Talkonaut in this way, to chat with my friends in the Wowcast Bindpoint channel, on my old HTC Universal Windows mobile 5-based phone.

However, as you know, I recently got myself a G1, which has the Android OS on it.

Now there are a few Jabber clients out there for Android, most notably the built-in IM application that is there mainly to support Gtalk, but also the Meebo multi-IM client is popular. However, Meebo does not support multi-user Jabber chat rooms.

In fact, I have not been able to find a single decent Android multi-IM or Jabber client, that supports the xep-oo45 extentions, at all!

So I decided to mail the Talkonaut team, to see if they had an Android version of their client in development (hoping perhaps, to get into a private beta or some such). I exchanged a few very interesting emails with Ruslan Zalata, and they are reposted below with permission:

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Hello Robert,
Thanks for using Talkonaut. Unfortunetly Androind is very crappy platform based on Java which prohibits low-lever audio access (no full-duplex), and has no audio codecs. This means, we are unable to implement our main feature – VoIP calling, hence we cannot make any profit from this platform. So, until Google “fixes” these issues, we won’t start porting Talkonaut to Android. Hope you understand our position.

Me and some other guys already addressed these voip related questions on Android devepolment forum, there followed no response from Google. I believe they do afraid of mobile carriers who treat voip as a death pill to their business, and that is really true :-). So, in near fure we don’t expect voip possibilities on Android.
What’s more amazing is that Google removed XMPP/Jabber from basic setup of Android by request form T-Mobile. Seems carriers develop same attitude towards IM messegers as they are “stealing” SMS profit from them.

As for iPhone, i think it’s bit better platform, because of:
1. It is based on real BSD Unix (Darwin), but not Java machine running under Linux like in Android.
2. It was cracked (jail-broken) and you can install any application which can have access to any device feature, including hardware codecs, low-level duplex audio, low-level networking, etc.
We are currently working on version of Talkonaut for jail-broken iPhones both 1.0 and 2.0.
Standard (not jail-broken) iPhone is same sort of crap as Android – they are both fascist systems made to tie up users to some certain set of services/companies. One more platform in this row is BREW from Qualcomm.
In this regards, Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile are two independent platforms which will be first choise for developers in near future. Besides, they are well spread, well documented and have a large scale of third-party libraries developed for them aready.
Regards,
Ruslan.

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I was impressed by Ruslan’s honesty and I can completely understand their reasons for not pursuing Android at this time.

What I find discouraging is how Google seems to have, in this example, again bowed to the Mobile carriers. The Android OS is suppose to be an open one, and I thought that would mean there would be more or less no restrictions on what could be developed for it.

I also saw that the same limitation is to blame for the lack of any home-brewed video recorders for the G1 (explained here), a seriously lacking feature, as unforgivable to my mind as the Iphone’s lack of copy-paste or background applications.

So despite the openness of the platform, we are still depending on Google and whatever concessions they made with their mobile partners.

In the meantime, I am still looking for an Android client with xep-0045 Jabber support, so I can chat with my Bindpoint friends on the go.

March 2nd, 2009 Posted by | Gadgets, Geek, Tech | 7 comments