Nick Threat – Pirate

I pirated a Twitter account today. Pro-tip: Don’t use someone elses email when creating a Twitter account… or any account for that matter. All I had to do was request a password reset to my email address, and the account was mine. I renamed it and changed the avatar and header images. The account hadn’t been used in over a year, so I wasn’t totally evil… just partially evil. You can see it here – @NickThreat

Computer Project Time

One of my New Years Resolutions should be to blog more. That’s not going to happen. Sorry. There is a distinct possibility this will be the last blog post of the year.

Belch.

I purchased a 960 GB solid state drive (SSD) for my gaming computer. The goal was to load up Windows 7 on this thing, transfer the games over from the old SSD, then convert it to a “Steam Box”.

The SSD arrived about 10 days ago. I attempted to install Windows onto this drive. After 9 hours of churning away, I declared the SSD defective, and went through the return process with Amazon.

The 2nd SSD arrived 3 days ago. This time the install of Windows 7 took less than 30 minutes. Yay! A working drive. While installing the extra drivers and patches, I started to dink around with the old SSD. It started to act flaky, then finally quit all together. So I had to transfer my games from my laptop via my LAN network… a much slower process.

Next day after the transfer, I attempted to fix one of the fans. A couple of wires came loose and I soldered them back on. Unfortunately, I did it wrong. When I turned on the computer with the fan connected, smoke poured out. Fortunately only the case fan controller got fried, the rest of the computer was fine.

After the fan mishap, it was on to configuring this computer so it was Steam Box. Here are the steps that I took (using this guide).

1) Configure Windows to boot-up without a Windows log in. No windows username/password needed.
2) Set up Steam (Valves Game/Application distribution software) in “Big Picture” mode.
3) Change the default shell from “explorer.exe” to “steam.exe”. What this means is the computer will not boot to the Windows desktop, but will go directly to Steam.
4) Changed the logon screen so it doesn’t look like Windows. I chose a black screen that looks like it has the portal eye looking at you. Also got rid of the “easy access” and “shutdown” buttons from this screen.
5) Changed the initial Windows boot screen to the Steam piston logo.

This took a little bit over an hour to do. Now this lovely gaming PC boots directly to Steam, with all its treasures of time wasters. Steam also lets you link to games that aren’t in the Steam catalog. World of Tanks is one of these, the game I am playing most right now.

One more project is to install an alternate dock that will let you call up other applications, like a web browser or a music player. RocketDock looks like a really good fit for this kind of set up.

I am going to do more tweaking, then perhaps make a video of the final product. I am sure you are all anxious to see that.

Additional Notes:

1) That broken SSD is two  years old, and is still covered by a 3 year warranty. So it looks good that I’ll get a replacement. Which is good… this old one is a half terabyte and not cheap to replace. You would think that with the lack of moving parts, SSDs would be more reliable. Not really the case.
2 ) I will get a new case fan. I could just de-solder and swap the wires then solder them back on, but my trust of this fan is very low.
3) I didn’t go linux or SteamOS because I have an AMD graphics card (7850 HD), and there isn’t good support for those cards yet. Also most of the games I play aren’t supported in Linux. Hopefully soon.

Nice to know someone is looking after me

Me: Hi this is me.

Phone guy with strong India accent: Hello sir, I am calling about the problem with the computer.

Me: Oh, thank you for calling. I didn’t know I had a problem.

Phone guy with strong India accent:  Are you the owner of the computer?

Me: That would be correct.

Phone guy with strong India accent:  Are you the owner of the computer?

Me: Umm, SURE!

[click]

Another Ebay Auction

I am placing my HIS Radeon 6950 HD video card on ebay for sale. It has been firmware upgraded to a 6970 HD.

This was in the wood case computer. The original goal was to swap in a Nvidia 660 or 670 card when they come out in a month or so. Having second thoughts on that. This computer is hooked up to one of my LED projectors that is only capable of 720p/1080i resolution. You don’t need much of a video card to drive pixels to that kind of display. I put in a Radeon 4670 HD as a place holder. That card may be enough for this kind of set up and may become permanent.

We’ll see where my head is at in a month when the new cards come out. You will know my emotions will have gotten the best of me if I get a new card. I am one of the kings of rationalizing frivolous geek purchases.

Ubuntu retry

Trying the latest release of Ubuntu (Precise Pangolin, 12.04 LTS). Not happy with it still. The problems this time around are 1) Suspend doesn’t work. 2) CIFS mounts are buggy. 3) Mouse doesn’t work correctly after boot up.

I suspend the machine, the fans stop and the screen goes black as expected. I hit the power to button to bring the system back, the fans fire up, but nothing after that. Screen remains black. Have to do a hard reset.

My NAS is hooked up to a windows box. I set up fstab to mount this windows share – that works well. I can’t stream videos properly. About once every 30 seconds, the video stops for a couple seconds. If I copy the video over into the linux filesystem, works fine.

I reach desktop after a fresh boot, and the mouse is able to select things in the side menu. Start any app, and my mouse can no longer select things. I hit ctrl-alt-del to log-off. Then log back in, and things are fine after that.

The one thing that did impress me is wifi hook-up. I have had all sorts of problems connecting to wifi with previous versions. With 12.04, connecting to my wifi router was really easy.

I am getting used to the Unity desktop. Although I suspect my mouse problems are related Unity. My main gripe is Unity is poor on discovery. It took a lot of exploring to figure out how to get a terminal up, for example. Then more exploring to figure out how to bring up multiple terminals.

But the above problems are show-stoppers that I don’t have the patience to debug. I will try the latest Mint distro when that comes out in about a month.

Visual Pinball

I downloaded Visual Pinball about 3 or 4 years ago. I attempted to install it back then, and failed. I made another attempt today and succeeded. I have no idea what the difference is between now and then. But anyway, I have emulated pinball goodness on my Mame PC setup. Watch the video for more of a visual explanation.

I don’t understand “black edition” video cards.

I purchased a HIS 7850 HD video card that was set to the AMD reference specs. XFX released a “black edition” of the 7850. The only difference I can see is that they have overclocked the graphics core (from 860 to 975 MHz) and the memory timings (from 1200 to 1250 MHZ). The Tech Report benchmarked the black edition cards and were underwhelmed. I just overclocked my stock card to the black edition timings, and I received a nice 10% bump on the Alien vs Predator benchmark (from 38 to 42 fps).

I don’t have much respect for XFX and other companies that sell these pre-overclocked cards. They are just taking advantage of the naivety of their customers.

In other news, the new AMD drivers have finally fixed the display problems in Rage. After installing the 12.3 Catalyst drivers and running Rage on my new card, I was able to play the game without tearing or artifacts. How long did this take?

New Video Card

I installed my newly arrived 7850 HD video card, replacing the 5770 HD. I made a video of the momentous occasion. I am experimenting with monetizing this video through Google. Please view while I await my truckload of internet money.