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.

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.

Achieving goals makes you sad

Below is graphic of the emotional rollercoaster of gamer playing a video game. Lots of anger with brief moments of happiness. At the end, sadness. The sadness at the end didn’t make much sense to me when I first read the article. But then I read this quote from this article.

Kartheiser: With success comes a level of sadness. You think, “I’ll reach this goal, and then I’ll feel a sense of completeness, of wholeness. I’ll feel that I have accomplished something. I will see myself as a worthy man.” And it doesn’t really exist.

Now it makes sense. Playing a game is very equivalent to life’s goals. I wonder if it is best not to have goals, and just be in a constant state of striving.

Dominion

In an attempt to get more players, I am posting this well done review and example play through of Rio Grande’s Dominion. Like the reviewer says, this board/card game is relatively simple for all ages, games are short and lots of fun. I have the base game with all expansions, and looking for a road trip.

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.

Arcade Jamma Project update

My 60-1 Jamma arcade project is essentially done. One problem, I don’t like the joystick. The one installed is an 8-way Happ Ultimate joystick. Too easy to hit the diagonals, so control in these classic arcade games isn’t what it’s supposed to be. Most of the games from the era were built for 4 way joysticks. So I have a 4 way, ball topped joystick on order. That will be swapped in some time next week.

Other than that, looks pretty sweet. Additional modifications will likely be made. For instance, the wheels may come off and replaced with feet. Wheels seem like a good idea, until you get into the heat of battle. These wheels lock, but that isn’t enough.

Also needs a beer holder.

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.

Mutant Storm Reloaded

Mutant Storm Reloaded has been released on Steam. The original Mutant Storm was released way back in 2002. This game pre-dates Geometry Wars (another famous dual-stick game) by about year. It is the first modern dual-stick arcade shooter that I played and liked. The Reloaded version is essentially the same as the original, just updated graphics.  So I was able to pick up where I was in the early aughts when I last played this. I really like the dual stick genre – it is the main style of game I play on the Xbox 360. I go back to Robotron 2084 and Smash TV – the original dual stick games from the 80s.

Because I discovered this game quickly, I was able to make the World Top 10 (number 7 to be exact). I had to snap the picture below to remember this momentous occasion. I suspect I’ll be out of the top 10 before the night is out.