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Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

Too much of a good thing

Posted by briandh on March 28, 2007

I’ve been exceptionally quiet since getting my new machine and finally getting it set up correctly.

The reason is simple – I’ve been doing exactly what I said I would with my new machine – playing games.

I first spent more than a month playing nothing but Oblivion – no, not all day and all night, I do have a life outside computer games. Not much of a life, true, but it is there if you look hard enough. After this I thought that I needed a change, I hadn’t finished Oblivion but went looking for something else to occupy my time.

I came across a (UK only) legitimate game download site called Metaboli. For a small monthly fee you have access to a growing set of over 100 games – 140 if you opt for the more expensive option. You download and play the games from their site and there is no limit on how many games you can play or for how long – as long as you keep up the monthly payments.

The games themselves are mainstream games, not made-for-budget ones. They are adding new games all the time and these will generally be recent games perhaps just past the full flush of retail sales (so only a few months old in some cases). They have even scooped a couple of games before retail release – Darkstar One was the most recent one.

You do have to be online to play and you can usually play online games as normal. About the only technical limitation is that game mods will not work in most cases.

The way the pricing works seems very fair to me. There are two options – “The Essential Collection” contains currently 114 games and costs about £7 a month, “The Ultimate Collection” costs £13 per month but has around 147 games. Each week they usually add 1 new game to the Ultimate Collection and 1 game from the Ultimate Collection becomes available on th Essential Collection. So eventually all the games come down to the Essential collection.

If you are like me and can never play all the games you want then the cheaper option works well. By the time I work my way through the ones I want from the cheap list there will be some new ones already waiting in the wings.

Most games have proper PDF manuals, a few are missing and the quality of some is not brilliant (photo-copy quality rather than proper PDF’s).

I have been using it now for about 10 weeks and I’d say it is excellent value for money no matter how you add it up – provided you use it. And I have been using it – hence the “Too much of a good thing”.

So far I have gone through four complete games:

  • Syberia
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
  • Still Life

clocked up several hours in a few others:

  • The Bards Tale
  • Beyond Good and Evil
  • Perimeter
  • Syberia II
  • XIII
  • Dungeon Seige

and dabbled in about a dozen more.

The dabbling is great, you can play games you wouldn’t think of buying normally to see if you might like them after all.

Oh, and Oblivion? Yeh it is great, and I will finish it – just after …

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Posted in computer, computers, download, game, games, hands-on, Oblivion, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

HDR broken at 6xAA on X1950XTX Crossfire in Oblivion?

Posted by briandh on December 27, 2006

Update: 16 Jan 07 – downloaded latest Catalyst Drivers and this problem has been resolved – also noticed performance gains in this and other games

I know that earlier versions of the ATI Catalyst drivers did not allow anti-aliasing and HDR at the same time in Oblivion on the X1950XTX cards. Actually it is only by forcing the settings in Catalyst that it is now possible at all.

However, I have come across a slight glitch when you move from 4xAA to 6xAA and then on to 8xAA.

See the following shots and pay attention to 2 things:

  1. The lighting bloom around the edge of the sword at 6xAA just does not exist.
  2. There is an overal fogginess to the entire scene at 6xAA.

First, here is the 4xAA shot:

Oblivion X1950XTX Crossfire 4xAAOblivion X1950XTX Crossfire 4xAA Hosted on Zooomr

Next the 6xAA:

Oblivion X1950XTX Crossfire 6xAAOblivion X1950XTX Crossfire 6xAA Hosted on Zooomr

Finally the 8xAA:

Oblivion X1950XTX Crossfire 8xAAOblivion X1950XTX Crossfire 8xAA Hosted on Zooomr

I should point out that the 4x and 6x shots were with temporal anti-aliasing turn on although it actually makes no difference to the effect. Also, AF was at 8x with HQ turned ON and all other settings were at ON/Max – with max settings in Oblivion too.

The interesting thing is that between 6x and 8x is the point at which the second card kicks in and starts doing its thing with boosting AA.

With everything else almost maxed out 8xAA slows things down just a fraction too much, so I’m sticking with 4x as I can’t really tell the difference during the game anyway.

Posted in ATI, computer, computers, Crossfire, hands-on, Oblivion, problems, X1950XTX | 9 Comments »

23% Performance Boost – No overclocking

Posted by briandh on December 24, 2006

It has taken a while but I have finally got this system nailed, Oblivion is running like a dream my 3DMark06 score has jump from 8686 to 10686 and I am one happy bunny. I also managed to claw back 600Mb+ of system RAM that was swallowed up (still 1.4Gb missing in action).

I haven’t even had to overclock a single component.

How was this masterful feat accomplished? Simple – just don’t trust a PC manufacturer to be able to set up a system optimally.

Since I have been working and playing with PC’s for more than 20 years, I am not afraid to get my hands dirty and wade into the BIOS – I’ve even been known (shock-horror) to open the case now and then. Those that don’t have the experience or confidence to do this could be wasting a significant amount of their systems true capabilities.

In my particular case there were several factors which contributed to the boost. I did not keep track of specifically how much each one influenced the final result, sorry, but they included:

  1. I needed a BIOS update. This gave me my memory back by allowing me to turn off the option which was attempting to be helpful by remapping my memory above 4Gb thus leaving space for the PCI bus to use the bit in between. Unfortunately I was not using a 64bit operating system so the bit above 4Gb vanished. Now I lose a large chunk to PCI but get some of it back. If and when I switch to 64bit I can turn it back on.
  2. I turned off every physical device that I was not using via the BIOS. The motherboard comes with about 4 networks and I use none, plus an on-board sound card and a couple of other things. Speeds up the boot time and claws back a fraction of the above memory. Might reduce overlapping / conflicting IRQ’s and boost performance a wee bit too.
  3. I researched the part number for my RAM chips and found the optimal timings and set them explcitly in the BIOS. For some reasson the auto-cofig in the BIOS was not getting these right. Note that I am not overclocking these – just setting them up as per the manufacturers specifications. I believe that this was the largest factor in my performance boost.

I did play around with some other settings, none of which had any significant impact and so were returned to their default settings.

I’m off to play some more super-smooth Oblivion …

[Added]

… and it is super smooth. An easy 40fps out in the grassy open with all settings almost maxed out and at 1600×1200, HDR, 2x AA, 8x HQ AF.

I ran some Half Life 2 benchmarks (the HardwareOC ones – not just the stress tests) and I have to max out absolutely everything (HDR, 14x AA, 16x HQ AF) to get the frame rate to drop just below 60fps in Lost Coast. All other tests are well into the silly figures.

[Even more added]

I have spent parts of tonight (when not wrapping presents) running more tests.  The net effect of my changes are far more than I had originally thought.  I must have cleared a major system bottleneck.  Half Life 2 and every game I have tried that pre-dates it now runs easily with maximum AA & AF settings at frames rates usually easily exceeding 60fps.  This is far more than the 23% suggested by the raw 3DMark06 score – based on previous tests.  The whole system also feels much more responsive.  I’m downloading th x3-reunion demo and we will see how that fares.

Posted in ATI, BIOS, computer, computers, Crossfire, games, hands-on, Oblivion, overclocking, problems, X1950XTX | 2 Comments »

Disillusioned by a horse’s ass in Oblivion

Posted by briandh on December 21, 2006

Note: I have resolved this issue – see “23% Performance Boost – no overclocking

If you have read any of my previous posts you might know that I have bought myself a nice new kick-ass computer. This, and the fact that I have been busy with other “real life” stuff, has been why I have not posted anything for a while. What time I have had to play with my new computer has been dedicated to doing just that – playing with it. Not posting blogs, not uploading images to Zooomr, just setting up and playing with my new toy.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in ATI, computer, computers, Crossfire, game, games, hands-on, Oblivion, Uncategorized, whinge, X1950XTX | 3 Comments »

Panic!

Posted by briandh on November 26, 2006

You are lucky I am able to post this – everything went pear-shaped yesterday afternoon.

I had almost completed transferring everything from my old machine to my new machine, installed most of the software [read: games] I was likely to “need”. Tidied up the start menu, moved the swap file over to the second drive and defragged the hard drive.

Everything was working perfectly – I had even resolved most of the remaining issues.

  • the ViewSonic monitor not detecting the signal was simply a matter of selecting the preferred source from its on-screen menus.
  • it had a nasty habit of restarting itself after a shutdown – tracked that down to a combination of the OneClick main protector and a BIOS setting for restarting after a power failure. Just set the BIOS to go to the last mode it was in rather than ON.
  • I’m getting used to the new keyboard and mouse – a new mouse pad helped the mouse which was sticking on my desk.

I was getting ridiculous frame rates from my favourite games and I was happy.

Then all hell broke loose. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in computer, computers, frustration, hands-on, moan, problems, toys | Leave a Comment »

It is here!

Posted by briandh on November 23, 2006

I am going to try to keep this short as I want to play games!

My new machine finally arrived at lunch-time on Tuesday. Since I paid for a Saturday delivery I should really try and claim back the additional delivery charge – even although they were probably trying to be helpful with it being so late. It was just luck that my wife was in to accept delivery – she’d only got in 15 minutes earlier.

So I took the afternoon off to go home and get it set up …

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in computer, computers, games, hands-on, shopping, toys, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

New Toy

Posted by briandh on November 12, 2006

I’ve been very quiet recently, both here on my blog and on my Zooomr collection. The problem is that my home PC is finally dying – it resets itself every now and then. It was a relatively cheap PC-World box bought as an emergency stop-gap when its predecessor died spectacularly over three yeas ago. Starting about two-and-a-half years ago I’ve been promising myself a new machine – and this time it was going to be a “real” machine.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in complain, computer, computers, frustration, problems, shopping, toys, whinge | Leave a Comment »