Environmental

Mongolia on brink of world’s greatest resource boom.

A life without electricity? Not particularly likely but it is interesting to see people looking at alternatives to running everything with the electron.

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Interesting

Mining for gold and other metal in a Guatemala dump. The river washes away the lighter rubbish leaving the more valuable metals in the river bed. More pictures Posted in Interesting | Tagged , | Comments Off on Interesting

Technology

Lytro, a consumer level plenoptic camera.

The idea is that rather than focus the shot and then take a picture, the picture taken with a Lytro holds all the information needed to focus the image at any given point in post-processing. I think. So no more blurry shots?! Which could prove very handy as I have some lovely photos I took which looked fine at the time on the camera but turned out to be a little out of focus once I put them on the PC. Still, some new technology from Adobe .

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‘Fixing’ an Asus HD5770

It seems all I ever blog about in detail lately are stories about my computer. Still, this could be vaguely useful information for someone so I thought I may as well tell the tale.

HD5770 graphics card

It was a few months back that I purchased my new Asus EAH5770 CUcore graphics card from a seller on eBay (but brand new). So when Homeworld 2 kept locking up straight after launching the game with what appeared to be a few graphics artifacts I became a little worried. I had an old NVivia 7900GS that started doing similar things a few years back due to the memory on it dying and as this was an eBay purchase I couldn’t send it back for a replacement like I had that card.

So I started a little online research and a little testing of the card itself using Furmark. The testing soon showed the card got very hot, very quickly (I stopped running the test when temperatures hit 90+ degrees celsius) and the research showed I wasn’t alone in this. Like the guy in this thread I decided the first thing to do was remove the cover over the heatsink fan (which as you can see in the image above is quite substantial). Holding my hand close to the fan certainly didn’t give me the impression that it was shifting much air so it seemed a reasonable step to try and remove any obstructions. Of course removing that involved taking the whole heatsink off and I wasn’t too surprised to find a load of thermal paste in a ridge around the GPU but virtual none on it.

I could have re-spread the paste back to where it should have been but as I had some leftover Arctic Silver lying about I instead cleaned the old paste and put a nice fresh coat of the AS in it’s place. Everything went back together and running Furmark again showed a good 10-15 degree temperature dropped.

Next I downloaded MSI Afterburner, a useful tool for monitoring the health of your graphics card, overclocking it’s settings and most importantly to me, creating a custom profile for managing GPU fan speed. Whilst using that I noticed that the core voltage of the GPU seemed a little high at 1.25V. My research had showed me that the stock voltage for a HD5770 chip was 1.125V. As the card wasn’t overclocked by default I could see no reason for it being this high – and again research showed me I wasn’t the only one with this as the default voltage. So using Afterburner I undervolted the card down to 1.125V. Ran a few tests and it seems perfectly stable and temperatures are much better now.

So for anyone that has this card or is thinking about picking one up (and it is a really good card), keep a few things in my.

1. Remove the fan cover.
2. Check the thermal paste and re-apply if need be.
3. Check the voltage and undervolt (or correct to the proper value to be more precise) if need be.
4. The AMD website may say it needs at least a 450W power supply but I run mine quite happily from an old 380W Seasonic PSU with no problems.

As for my original problem with running Homeword 2, I’m still not sure if that was down to the graphics card or more likely as it seems now, the game just not being very compatible with Windows 7 x64. It stopped doing it whatever the problem was and hasn’t crashed since.

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Upgrade time

I’d been contemplating a few upgrades to my PC for quite some time and one of the central things to the upgrade my CPU. Whilst my trusty Core 2 Duo had served me well for almost 5 years (and still is in my new HTPC build), seeing it running at 100% the whole time I played newer games suggested I needed something with a little more ‘oooomph’ in it. My needs are not great so I decided a triple-core chip from AMD would be both cheap and adequate. Having had some success in the past, I also decided to hunt for it on eBay…

As is often the case with these things I didn’t have much luck for a while. I looked for both a Phenom II X3 720 and various Athlon X3 chips – even spreading out into some of the lower end Athlon II quad-core processors. Whilst they went quite cheaply when I was simply information gathering to see what price people were paying, they went for at least £10 more when I ever bid on them.

With a little bit of specification creep sneaking in – and because I’d been at it for about 6 weeks and was starting to get a little impatient – I finally went for a Phenom II X4 840. The price was £62.20 but with cashback from TopCashBack that came down to a smidge under sixty quid. Not bad as it was also brand new and boxed. I know most people would not consider eBay as a first destination when hunting for new PC kit but quite a few bargains can be found for those will to look.

Performance
So far it’s performed perfectly although I’ve not had much call to really tax it. Half of the games I play don’t even seem to have muti-core support but at least the fairly high clock speed of 3.2GHz allows even those games to run quite smoothly on the one core.

Overclocking
I’ve not really spent much time seeing how far I can take the chip but a very limited attempt at overclocking in the BIOS had it at 3.55GHz. It’ll probably go higher if I try. The thing is I run several different Windows 7 installs from this machine – a straight installed gaming PC and a couple of other Windows 7 desktops running directly from VHD files, one of which I use for general web surfing (I keep that one locked down and protected). So whilst it would be good to have my gaming desktop running overclocked (sometimes), I’d prefer my internet browsing desktop to run at a much more sedate pace. With that in mind I opted to use the ASRock OC Tuner software. This allows me to overclock after Windows starts up and apply different settings edpending on what I’m booting in to. It doesn’t work as well as using the BIOS but I still managed to get a modest overclock of 150 MHz when booting to my gaming desktop. I went the opposite way with my internet desktop, underclocking it down to 2.6GHz and also lowering the voltage.

Power Consumption
I was quite surprised to find that my new PC build actually used about 20W less power than my old one but that includes a new motherboard and two new sticks of RAM. The CPU itself seems fairly efficient even though it’s rated at 95W TDP whilst my old Intel chip was 65W. It probably helps that the CPU speed drops to 800MHz when not in use and I find I’m only using 79W (total system draw) when surfing the internet or watching DVDs. Underclocking/Undervolting also means it runs about 5W lower than normal even when the CPU is working harder. It’s not much but helps keep things running cool and efficiently.

All in all, I’m pretty happy. Hopefully this build will last me another 5 years.

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Games

The Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle. A selection of multi-platform, DRM free games to download. Pay what you want and also decide how much goes to charity. I’ve not done it yet but might. Not sure the games are the type I’d play – must have been years since I last played a platformer – but could take a punt for the sake of charity.

If you miss it this time around I’m sure it will be back so keep an eye out. This is the second time (at least) I’ve seen it done.

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In the news

Well the sentiment is not really a big surprise but the honesty is.

Trader tells BBC news he doesn’t care if the economy is fixed, just out to make money, dreams of another recession.

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Bargain

If you’ve not got proper insulation in your loft then check out this deal from B&Q. Only cost me £12 to get enough to do my loft – or at least I think I have enough to do the whole lot. Wish there had been room in the car for an extra roll to be on the safe side but hey-ho.

Sells out fairly quickly but the offer usually comes around again a few months later if you keep an eye out.

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Interesting

The history of Mahna Mahna.

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Movies

I’ve not been to the cinema much recently as I couldn’t find much that really made we want to spend ten quid and make an evening of it. The new Conan movie is one that was a little tempting but after a slightly disappointing visit to watch Solomon Kane (another Robert E Howard creation) a couple of years back I wasn’t sure.

Then I read this review and think i just have to go watch it now. The fact that it sounds like it pulls heavily from – and references – the source material is brilliant.

“If you want to see the new Conan the Barbarian, go in prepared to not get Academy Award winning dialog or a story that will go down as legend. What you will get is the closest adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s classic Conan world with a near-perfect realization of the character by Jason Momoa on top of generous helpings of blood, gore, and nudity.”

Now that sounds like a Conan movie based on the books. Basic plot, lots of killing stuff and a wench or two.

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