Monday, December 31, 2012

ASPHALT 7 - finally getting into some serious gaming on the iPhone

I have a pretty good gaming rig at home so I never really bothered gaming on the iPhone (that's the only console like device I have still I get a tablet next year). Besides, why play games on a 3.5" screen when I have a 27" screen with million times the horse-power to run AAA grade games with full blown graphics? Not to mention - keyboard and mouse FTW!

Few days ago, I managed to get ASPHALT 7 for free when there was a holiday deal. That's great and all, but I never played the game much back then. I played like one race to see how it felt. It felt bad! Controlling the car using the motion sensors was hard work.

But as life goes on, unexpected things happen. Now I am back in Sri Lanka at my parents' place and I don't have my PC with me. We don't have WIFI either, so I have to use the old desktop PC at home. Even Connectify doesn't work properly; PC freezes after a while.

So I gave another shot at ASPHALT 7. After a few last place finishes, I began to get hold of controlling. But I was still frequently hitting the wall and incoming traffic. There is a race mode called "paint job" where you have to finish the race within a given time but if you scratch the body, you get a penalty. That's the hardest game mode. The motion controls aren't very responsive. However,  once I got used to drifting - hit the brake and turn - handling became much easier. Still, paint job mode is pretty hard.

I drained the battery of the phone 3 or 4 times from 100% playing the game. The phone gets pretty hot when running it. There is some stuttering at times - maybe it needs the iPhone 5 for best experience.

Now I have finished 6 cups. The races are getting difficult with each new cup. I'm currently stuck at Cup 7.  But I skipped it and started playing Cup 8 so that I can find some cash to do some upgrades to the car. (By the time I post this, the results would have changed.)

Either way, most probably I will be able to complete the game before I head back to Japan. The only problem I have at the moment is the battery running out frequently.

Too bad I wish I could post some game-play videos like I do with PC gaming.

Edit:
Since this post, my flight back to Japan got delayed by a week and I managed to finish the game (single player championship) with all gold medals except one race which I could only manage a silver. 



Logitech Gaming Software version 8.40 - a unified experience

Finally Logitech has done something logical. I have the G15 Gaming Keyboard and the G500 Gaming Mouse which needed separate software for each - namely the Logitech Gaming Software and Logitech SetPoint. Finally, they have brought them together in the version 8.40 release of Logitech Gaming Software. Happiness! Why they took this long is the question. 

If you had taken a peek at Windows 8's Task Manager's Startup section, both Logitech Gaming Software and Logitech SetPoint were classified as startup apps that take too much time. I wonder if this is still the case with this new Driver/Software. I hope it is better now. 


















You can download the Logitech Gaming Software v8.40 from this link

Sunday, December 30, 2012

How to enable TRIM for SSDs in RAID-0 on Intel 6-series (P67, Z68) chipsets

Few months back Intel announced that they were finally bringing TRIM support for SSDs in RAID setups (specifically RAID-0). But that support came with one limitation. Only the 7-series boards were supported. That means Z77, H77 and so on. People with old P67, Z68 boards were left behind. 

Technically, there was no reason why 6-series boards could not support it, but they had the old RAID ROM (firmware) which were not supported. Of course the manufacturers could release BIOS (UEFI) updates with the new RAID ROM, but we all know that would never happen. They want to sell their new boards. Why support the last generation? 

Even though the RAID ROM is bundled with the BIOS (UEFI) files, it is a separate thing. You can hack the BIOS file and modify the RAID ROM potion of it with the new ROM.

Some guy at Overclock.net forums has posted such modified BIOS files for Gigabyte, ASRock, MSI and Asus boards (click on the link to access them).  If you are using SSDs in RAID-0, give it a shot. If your particular board is not listed, you can upload the BIOS file and ask him to modify it. 

Here's the link to the forum thread. LINK

You of course will have to install the correct Intel Rapid Storage Technology drivers to get it to work. Everything you need to know is posted in the first post of the above thread.

I don't really have a reason to update to the new RAID ROM because I have given up on RAID-0. But I would just update it for the hell of it - when I get back home. That's me. ;)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Which SSD to get? The SSD dilemma continues (part2)

If you didn't see the part one of this, read about it over here

I had almost made up my mind to buy the Samsung 840 250GB SSD, when a new offer came up on Sofmap.com. They are selling the 500GB model fora "mere" JPY27,800. Sure, it is a little bit more expensive that two 250GB drives, especially when the 250GB drive comes with 2% points.

But now I am in dilemma. Should I get the 500GB model now? Or should I get the 250GB model now and upgrade to the 500GB model when the prices half - hopefully in a year. Let's look at the pros and cons of each buy. 

Pros of getting the 500GB model

  1. The raw drive would be a tad faster than the 250GB model when it comes to writes. Read speeds seem to be same. 
  2. The drive would retain the original performance almost the entire period of usage because more the empty space available in the drive, lesser the chances of finding an untrimmed cell area for future writes.
  3. It lasts longer than the 250GB model, but I doubt I would use it for more than 3 years, so it is not exactly a pro. (at 10GB writes per day, 250GB should last about 7 years. 500GB should last about 14 years.)
  4. Obviously, I can install more stuff on it. I can even run virtual machines off the SSD. I can keep the hiberfile.sys so that I can use Fast Start in Windows 8. I don't have to worry about moving stuff here and there to free up space


Cons of getting the 500GB model
  1. Price. Even though it is the cheapest drive around, it is a big investment.
  2. I would not be able to ditch that drive in a year or so when faster drives come around. What if 500GB drives that are faster than this drive and also cheaper (or even same price as the aggregate of 250GB now and 500GB then) drives come around? I would not be able to upgrade because I have invested a lot of money into this drive. Sure, I can keep both drives. 
Obviously, the # of pros out-number the # of cons, but do they out-weight the cons? Right now, it seems I'm sitting on the fence. Maybe I should flip-a-coin and see.

P.S. 
There is another reason why I probably should buy the 500GB drive right now. The pricing seems to be based on the old exchange rate which was favorable for JPY. The new Japanese government is trying to drop the value of JPY so that they can increase their export volume. So the next batch of drives would be expensive. Also this is the holiday season. Next month, the prices would be higher once more. So maybe I should use these good times to get the 500GB drive. But you know how my luck goes. The prices would drop as soon as I buy either.

P.P.S

Guess what just happened? I tossed the coin and it said that I should go for the 500GB model.


But, I bought the 250GB model. I just couldn't make up my mind to spend that much money on a drive. I would not be utilising all that space - not for another year at least - so spending money on something that I would not use is wasting money.

Anyways, the drive has been shipped, but since I am not at home they must have left a delivery notice at home. I am going to ask them to redeliver it on Monday at around 4PM - that's my ETA at apartment. Hehe

Thursday, December 27, 2012

SLTNet ADSL speeds have improved: Dec 2012 Experience

So, I am back in SL. I do miss a lot of things in Japan. My PC, for example, is irreplaceable. So is the internet connection. At home (SL), we have a 512k unlimited package. Browsing on it is dirt slow, but it felt better than the last time. But still, 512k is 512k.

Right now I am writing this from my wife's place and they have the 8M 25GB connection known as the "SLT Web Family". It's pretty sweet for browsing. It would be million times (exaggerated of course) slower than the one I have back in Japan when it comes to downloading stuff, but for a cheap Rs.1490 price, it is sweet. I don't have any problem browsing the internet with it. Pages load -amazingly- very fast. YouTube doesn't run into buffering even at 720p and sometimes even at 1080p. That's crazy. 

Finally, there is some hope. I don't have to worry about the internet when I come back to SL.


The only issue I have is the 25GB download limit. There are ones with higher limitation points, but they are pretty expensive. 25GB one is pretty much the best bang for the buck package. Just imagine downloading games with the size of 10GB or more with a 25GB limit? Yikes! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

New entertainment system of Sri Lankan airlines

Yesterday we flew back to Sri Lanka by a Sri Lankan Airlines flight and I was pleasantly surprised by the entertainment system when I got to my seat. I really hated the old entertainment system. I always carried the movies, music and podcasts on the iPhone. But the last time I tried using the phone, I was asked not to - even in Airplane mode. Now they announce it before taking off. (anyways I took few movies on the laptop.)

First, the interface is completely new and looks modern. The old one looked as if it was developed in early 1990's.


User guide










Saturday, December 22, 2012

Samsung Spinpoint F3 7200RPM HD103SJ 1TB drives in RAID-0 Benchmarks

Recently I purchased a Toshiba DT01ACA300 3TB drive to replace my old RAID-0 volume. Yes, you read it right. I replaced a high performance storage solution with a single drive solution. I did it for couple of things.

1. More capacity. I had 2TB, now I have 3TB.

2. Safety of data. Two drives in RAID-0 doubles the chances of something going wrong. Well, that’s if you look purely at the hardware faults. You can even corrupt the RAID volume.

3. Less power consumption. Single drive is better than two drives.

Anyways, the old drives were top of the line couple of years ago and two of them RAID-0 still can do a wonderful job. Here’s some benchmarks of the empty RAID-0 volume.

CrystalDiskMark

2012-12-13_07-44-05

HD Tune Pro 5

2012-12-13_07-33-59

Compared to the Toshiba’s scores, these were scoring substantially higher. But weirdly, I am not really noticing the difference in performance.

BTW, if interested, here’s the single drive performance.

CrystalDiskMark

2012-12-13_19-07-25

HD Tune Pro 5

2012-12-13_19-11-32

Friday, December 21, 2012

The revamped data backup plan – with Carbonite

With the recent upgrades to the storage setup (here and here), I have started considering backing up my important data (heck, they are all “important”) very seriously. I cannot afford to lose my photos and documents. I even am paranoid about the photos that I made several SkyDrive accounts to upload the photos takes on trips in Japan. Besides, the doom’s day is just around the corner. LOL
 
Anyways…
 
There is a commonly accepted rule when it comes to backing up your important files. It’s called the 3-2-1 rule.
 

The 3-2-1 rule

This is what the rule suggests.

  • You should keep 3 copies of any important file (a primary and two backups)
  • You should have the files on 2 different media types (such as hard drive and optical media), to protect against different types of hazards.
  • 1 copy should be stored offsite (or at least offline.)

 

Is it feasible?

Currently, my backup plan is not ideal. It’s just built on convenience, rather than the safety of the data.

I don’t like optical media. It would need more than 250 DVDs to backup my entire hard drive (just the data that’s available now). It’s just not practical – not even close. Only solution is to use hard drives. So, I have a 2nd hard drive just for backing up the data on the main data drive, which is pretty much in sleep to reduce wear and tear (and power consumption, but that talk is for this topic).
 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Backing up data using Microsoft SyncToy

When I upgraded my hard drive setup recently, I promised myself that I would start doing proper backing up of my data. Backing up is not new to me, but it wasn’t automatic. I had to do it manually. There were times when I went on for months without backing up the data. But this time it is going to be different.

Basically, there are only 4 folders I have to backup. Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos. Everything is inside of those folders. I had been using Microsoft SyncToy for backups, and I’m going to continue using it. It is simple and lightweight.

This is the first of the two part guide of backing up with SyncToy. We will only be looking at how to backup using SyncToy “manually”. In the 2nd article, we will talk about how to automate it so that you can simply “set it and forget it”.

This is the main window of SyncToy application. Looks neat and simple right?

image

How you backup using SyncToy is easy. You bundle the source folder and destination folder into a folder pair, and you specify how they should sync between each other, and that’s it. After that, you click on the folder pair (you have to name each folder pair btw) and click run. It will first check for changes and then will sync the two folders in that pair.

Deleting files in C:\Program Files\NVIDIA Corporation\Installer2

I just don’t understand these installers. They are such space eaters. One of those is nVidia graphics driver.

When you run the driver installer, it would first ask a place to extract the files in the installer. Usually it is a folder inside C:\nVidia. After you install it, you can always delete that folder without any adverse effects. (Do that if you want to save some space. In fact, you can automate it using this trick.)

Now, there is another folder that doesn’t seem to do anything but hold some temporary files of previous installs.

C:\Program Files\NVIDIA Corporation\Installer2

Here’s the list of files/folder currently in that folder on my PC.

image

I checked that folder in my PC, and found it to be over 500MB in size. That’s a sizeable amount of space on a small SSD. I searched around, and it seems that it is OK to delete that folder.

image

Being adventurous when it comes to things like these, I deleted the contents in that folder. Time will tell if that is a bad thing. I will post back if something goes wrong because of it. If not, it means nothing mention-worthy happened, and it is pretty safe to delete that folder. =]

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Which SSD to get? Samsung 840 Pro or OCZ Vector? Or something not thathighend?

Edit:
Since then I have bought the Samsung 840 Series 250GB SSD because it was the cheapest drive I could find and it indeed is fast enough for everything I want it for. Head HERE for some benchmarks folks.

To the original post then...

OK. Now that I have replaced the hard drives (link and link), it is the phase 2 of my plan. It's time to replace my Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD.
 
Why replace the current SSD?
 
1. Number one reason is that I have to give someone a cheap SSD and instead of buying a smaller (probably used) SSD, I can give mine away. For someone getting his first SSD, 120GB is a big deal. Besides, I have maintained this SSD very well. Since the resale value of a second hand SSD is pretty low, I'm taking this chance to refresh a new toy.
 
2. I will soon have JPY 10,000 worth points from sofmap.com by trading in my old HDDs , so I'd like to use them on a new toy. I don't have to use then right now though.
 
3. I have had instances where 120GB is just not enough. I've managed to avoid unpleasant scenarios but it won't hurt to have more space. The only problem I have is that there is a very good chance that the prices would come down in the next year. I might be able to buy 512GB for the same amount of money I spend today on a 256GB high-end SSD like the Samsung 840 Pro. That's a chance I have to take. Maybe this single point will hold me off from buying an SSD right now.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Changing Disk Controller mode from RAID to AHCI in Windows 8

Since I got rid of my RAID-0 setup, it was time to change the SATA controller from RAID to AHCI so that I do not see the darn RAID BIOS thingy every time I start the PC. Of course I didn’t want to reinstall Windows just for that. But you cannot simply change the SATA controller mode to AHCI from RAID. If you do so, Windows will not boot. But there is always a workaround.

Here are the steps.

Note: the steps are a bit different in Windows 7.

1. I already had Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver installed, so I uninstalled it from control panel and just rebooted back to Windows. (I didn’t touch the BIOS settings [yet.)

2. Then I went to Registry Editor (Run > regedit) and opened the following key.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\storahci\startoverride

3. On the right pane I doubled clicked on the “0” setting and changed the value to 0 from 3.

2012-12-14_18-57-59

4. Then I exited Registry Editor and rebooted and went straight into BIOS.

5. From BIOS, I changed the storage controller mode to AHCI and rebooted.

Voila! No more RAID BIOS screens. =]

The new Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB WD30EZRX-00DC0B0 1TB per Platter hard drive benchmarks

In the previous post, I posted some benchmark figures of the Toshiba DT01ACA300 drive which I purchased as the "everyday drive". It replaced my old RAID-0 setup, which was still faster at sequential reads but maybe not so fast for random reads and multiple queues.
 
Since I was replacing my 2TB RAID-0 array with a 3TB drive, I had to buy a 3TB drive for backup as well. Up until now, I was using the Samsung HD204UI Eco Green drive, which served me well. But like I said, it was just (really? just?) a 2TB drive and I had to buy a 3TB backup drive.
 
Samsung drives have served me well in the past - I have had 7 drives iirc (160GB, 250GB x 2, 500GB, 1TB x 3, 2TB) and only one of the 250GB drives still remain in the PC back at home. Everything else was sold when upgrading the drives. (I don't like cluttering.) But as of today, Samsung unfortunately does not exist in the hard drive market anymore. They sold their hard drive business to Seagate.
 
Currently the best drives for backup and low power applications is the Western Digital Green drive series. They come at 5400RPM rotational speed, and are quite slow compared to the 7200RPM drives...until they released the 1TB/platter drive few weeks ago. This was just great timing for me. I jumped up and grabbed one of those babies from Sofmap. I had a few points which I could use, so the total amount I had to pay for the drive was just JPY9,520. That's about $113. It's in fact cheaper than even in the USA. =]
 
Anyways, here are some benchmarks. Just for the sake of comparison, the benchmarks were done on an Intel SATA2 port of the Intel controller on my ASRock Z68 Extreme4 board. Tests were done on the empty drive in Windows 8 x64.
 
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64
 
2012-12-13_20-46-35
HD Tune Pro 5
 
2012-12-13_20-50-49
 
If you compare these figures with the ones I posted about the Toshiba drive, you'd see they are quite slow. But it doesn't matter. I value reliability, less potential wear and tear and low power consumption when it comes to a drive that would have the sole purpose of holding the backups. I would not use it for anything else.

OK, now that I have bought all the HDDs for my new HDD setup, I have to pray that they don't go kaput. That's the problem with the hard drives. They can die easily as a new born, but if they get passed that initial uncertain period, they will most probably work without any issues for a long time. In that sense, my Samsung drives were very reliable, because they had passed their uncertain period. These two drives just started their life. I will have to be watchful for the next few months. At least, now I don't have a RAID-0 array to worry about.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Toshiba DT01ACA300 3TB 7200RPM 1TB per platter drive benchmarks

I ordered the Toshiba DT01ACA300 3TB 1TB/platter drive from Dospara for JPY10,770 and I received it the next day as expected. Even though I was busy with helping out a friend with few things, I didn’t forget to run a couple of benchmarks on the drive before I went to bed. I also ordered the latest iteration of Western Digital Green drive as my backup drive from Sofmap, but as usual, they failed to deliver within the next day. I’ll have to benchmark it tonight.

I will post a comparison between all the 4 drives (5 setups including the RAID-0 setup) later. But for now, I will have to settle with just these.

BTW, just for the sake of comparison, the benchmarks were done on a SATA2 port of the Intel controller on my ASRock Z68 Extreme4 board. Eventually I will move it to a SATA3 port, but I doubt I will see a difference in performance. Tests were done on the empty drive in Windows 8 x64.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64

2012-12-12_23-41-41

HD Tune Pro 5

2012-12-12_23-55-40

Forgot to mention one thing though. Even though this is a Toshiba drive, the OEM is Hitachi. The drive name shown in the HD Tune Pro screenshot is the OEM model number. There is one alarming thing about that model number. It ends with 640. That most likely means the platter density. Even though Toshiba says that the DT01ACAxxxx drives have a density of 1TB/platter, Hitachi doesn't make a 1TB/platter drive that is larger that 1TB. Weird stuff. Anyways, as per this article, the Toshiba is about 30MBps faster than a Hitachi.


Cheers

Monday, December 10, 2012

Need for Speed Most Wanted 2012 game play videos recorded using MSI AfterBurner

It was about time I played a new car racing game. I actually heartily followed only one such series – Need for Speed. Even though they lost their path midway, they have brought back the style of play we used to love. The Need for Speed Most Wanted was the best in the series and I really loved the couple of Underground games.

Need for Speed Most Wanted (2012) is their latest title. They maybe going with the same name to show that they are back on track. Unlike the old times, I didn’t try to get hold of the game right on the first day and finish it off in one or two days. I’m old now, I take things slow. :P

But anyways, after playing for about a week, I managed to finish the single player mode. My driving skills are bad. I hit the posts and cars too often. There is something about handling the car though. Handling is still not as natural (or maybe it’s the other way) as the pre-Pro Street titles were. I guess that the physics engine underneath is still based on the one that came with Pro Street. It’s not that hard, but it is not that smooth either. (Arcade vs. Simulation? Is Most Wanted 2012 a simulation?)

One thing I should say is that this game needs pretty heft specs if you want to use the ultra settings. It actually utilizes both the CPU and the GPU resources as much as it can. If you have a deficiency in either end, you will notice it. I didn’t have much trouble with my PC though. ;)

Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2012 tested with 12 CPUs
Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2012 tested with 14 video cards

Here’s my 22 video YouTube playlist. =)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thinking of replacing the drive setup

I currently have the following drive setup in my PC.

  • OS/Application (including games):
    • Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD
  • Data/Work:
    • 2x Samsung HD103SJ 1TB 7200RPM drives in RAID-0
  • Backup:
    • Samsung HD204UI 2TB 5400RPM drive

I was thinking about replacing all of them with larger drives which might even give better performance (especially, random access performance). Not to mention, the RAID-0 setup is twice as probable to go kaput than a single drive setup.

I have the following drives in mind.

  • OS/Application (including games):
    • Samsung 830 series 256GB SSD
  • Data/Work:
    • Toshiba DT01ACA300 3TB 7200RPM 1TB/platter drive or
    • Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB 7200RPM 1TB/platter drive
  • Backup:
    • Western Digital Green WD30EZRX-1TBP 3TB 5400RPM 1TB/platter drive

Saturday, December 8, 2012

GeForce Experience to optimize graphics settings for your hardware

nVidia released a service called Geforce Experience which suggests the best graphics settings to use with each game according to the specs of your PC. It’s a cool service, because you don’t have to experiment with each individual setting to get that balance between performance and quality.

Some games have a million individual setting that you can tweak, and finding the right balance will be quite a tedious task. Most people will just play with the default settings, and this is far from optimal settings for his/her PC. If you are not using the optimal settings according to your hardware, you are wasting money. Think of a person having a GTX680 playing a game with just the medium settings when the game can be played smoothly at ultra settings.

There have been few games that set optimal settings on their own but it was not always optimal, in that they couldn’t know anything about the hardware that came out after the game was released. Sure, they can push out updates to that “engine” every once in a while, but why would they do something that wouldn’t give them anything in return, right?

Anyways, you can download the tool from here.

http://www.geforce.com/drivers/geforce-experience

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Prime95 with AVX support for Stress Testing your Sandybridge or IvyBridge CPU

I discovered this recently. I’ve been using Prime 95 without AVX support for all this time. Prime 95 with AVX support is the bomb. Just compare the temperature difference between the following screenshots.

Note: Small FFT stress test was run for 5 minutes.

Without AVX (v26.6)
2012-12-02_13-11-03

Should I just get the iPad Mini and put an end to this tablet misery?

Softbank Japan announced today that they were starting selling the iPad Mini and iPad Retina from 30th of November. Like usual, I paid them a visit. I had tried the iPad 3rd generation previously and felt it to be really heavy if you hold it for too long. Hence I wanted to see how the Mini felt in the hands. On paper, it doesn't even weigh half as much as the regular model, so the weight loss will be very much noticeable and welcome. (Note: The iPad Mini weighs less than even the Nexus 7)
 
And it is...very, very light indeed. I think this is the ideal size to a portable tablet. The small size comes with another advantage. You don't have to strain your fingers while reaching for the keys when typing. Still, it is not as easy as on a phone, but I guess it is because I'm not used to the form factor yet so I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. However, you cannot hold it and type with just one hand. But that should be obvious. It is hard work even on a big screen (4.5-inch plus) Android phone, so it should be impossible on the iPad Mini with much larger screen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

AMD HD7000 series graphics cards: from top dog to under dog then to top dog once again!

There is no official announcement of when the next generation graphics cards from AMD are coming out, but it's been almost a year since they released the HD7000 series. One would expect that the new cards to hit the market in early next year. When AMD released HD7000 series cards, the top of the line cards managed to excel the nVidia's top of the line cards by a fa. For that reason, AMD enjoyed high profits because they could sell the high-end cards at a price never seen before. The HD7970 was originally sold at $549 and HD7950 at $449. But such high price didn't stop people from buying those cards. Those cards were intended for enthusiasts and they would pay anything to own the cutting edge stuff.

There was one problem with the HD7900 series cards though. They did not widen the gap as much as people originally expected. The GTX580 was still competitive in the high-end segment. Only the HD7970 was faster. HD7950 was only slightly faster. Sometimes performing on par.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Things you can do to lower the power consumption of your PC.

If you are someone who keeps your PC running 24/7 for whatever reason, you should be concerned about how much power the PC is drawing. A PC that runs 24/7 will definitely show its presence in your monthly power bill. A typical PC would draw about 60W at idle but a high-end, all-purpose PC would draw like 100W or even more. That's when doing nothing at all. And that too, without the monitor being turned on.

You could build a pretty power efficient, but very capable PC if you did some research at the time of building it. You don’t really have to spend much money either. Only choosing the components carefully will suffice.

For example,
  • buying a PSU that suits your PC, instead of going overkill
  • buying a mini-ITX or micro-ATX motherboard instead of going overboard with and ATX motherboard with all the features you can possibly get
  • buying 2 sticks of low voltage RAM instead of 4 sticks of regular RAM
etc...

But not all hope is lost. There are still a few things you can do to lower your PCs power consumption.

Building a low power 24/7 server + gaming rig from the scratch.

If you are one of those people who want to run your high-end gaming PC as a home server as well, then you should be concerned about the power draw of the PC. In the previous blog post, I discussed about things that you can do to lower the power consumption of your existing PC. Since you have already bought the hardware, most of them were software tweaks.

But if you have not yet bought the hardware, we can do a much better job. You can of course apply the same software tweaks to this build as well. I thought the previous article was too long, so I will try to be brief on this one. (But alas, I managed to make it even longer. Sorry for that.)

Please note that I would not be talking about peripheral devices. There is too much to cover and that is way out of scope for this article. I would not even cover displays, because the main target of this article is to build a PC that would also serve as a server while consuming least power doing so - which means, you can simply turn off the display when you do not need it. Further, I would not talk about the chassis either, because it doesn't directly affect power consumption of the PC.


CPU

Buy an Intel IvyBridge CPU. Since we are building a gaming PC, it would be beneficial to buy an unlocked CPU so that you can overclock it. Depending on what you wanna do with your PC, you can either buy the Core i5 3570K or the Core i7 3770K. If gaming is the soul purpose, then go with the i5. If you do some video editing, transcoding and rendering, the Core i7 would be the better choice. "AMD" and "low power consumption" don't go well together these days - (no) thanks to Bulldozer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nokia Here maps are terrible if you live in Japan.

Nokia finally released their Here Maps app for the iOS. I wanted to see if it would give better results than the Nokia Maps web app. But no, it is the same. There is hardly any difference. 

It’s not really the problem. The problem is, Nokia has nothing to offer to the Japanese. There is hardly anything on the map. Searching doesn’t show up any results except for big cities like Tokyo. When I searched for Nakanoshima (the town where I live), it would bring up Nakashima which is hundreds of miles away. Should I even say anything about directions when you cannot even search a single location? :/
No wonder none of the Windows Phones from Nokia comes to Japan through official carriers. That must be why iPhone and Android phones are pretty popular here.

Here’s an example. I checked to see how each mapping app (Nokia Here, Google Maps, Bing Maps) on the iOS would show up where I lived. Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to test Apple’s mapping app because I haven’t upgraded to iOS6. (Maybe in the future, if I can make up my mind to buy an iPad Mini.)

Nokia maps:
IMG_1007
That’s horrible! I don’t see anything. It’s like living in a dessert.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I want a tablet but I do not know what to get :-(

I have been holding out till they released Windows 8 to decide on which tablet to buy. I really like having Windows 8 as the operating system because it would make switching between the Desktop PC and the Tablet seamless. All the other tablet OSes have a compromised OS - and the manufacturers admit that too. But they say that it is for the best user experience.
 

The problems with the current tablets

 
Let's look at a few of those examples where the current line of Tablets do badly.
  • I know that Flash is not great, but all of the live cricket streams are using players that a built on the flash player and I cannot just continue watching a cricket match on the bed on any of the tablets out there.
  • You cannot simply plug in your flash drive and read the contents of it straight from the tablet. Everything out there requires you to have a separate PC for doing just that.

Let me give you an example.

Couple of weeks ago, we went to see the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise. There were discount coupons for foreigners, where you have to download the coupon, print it out and hand show at the ticket counter for a JPY500 worth of discount from each ticket. We usually print documents from the Convenient Store close by. It costs only JPY10 per print. Anyways, I copied the PDF file (which I saved from Google Chrome) to the flash drive and was planning to take the print out on the way. When I inserted the pen drive, it could not detect the PDF file. Somehow it had gotten corrupted. We were already late for the train. I had to run all the way back to the apartment, copy a working PDF file and come back to take the print out. If I had a tablet with me, I didn't have to go all the way back the apartment to do that. I could have simply copied it from the Tablet.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Apple’s 2012 iMac vs. DIY PCs. Are iMacs really that expensive?

Apple just introduced their latest line of iMac desktops. They are elegant looking for sure, even thinner than the previous generation, but they come with the hefty price. The base price of the 27” model is priced at $1,999. Remember, this is the base model. It would cost a lot if you go up in the ladder.

Price is not the only problem with the iMac. The slim design comes with limitations. You cannot put components in the highest end of the performance spectrum due to thermal limitations. How can you dissipate all that heat from it? Even if you had the money, you cannot build a monster with an overclocked 6 core CPU, 3 or 4 graphics card,over 10TB of storage and 3 displays (that you can game on). It just isn’t possible. So, even if you take the pricing away, PCs have their applications that no Mac can serve. They can simply extend further and further beyond what an Apple desktop PC can.

Now, let’s come to our topic for today.

Ever wondered how much it would cost you to make a PC with the same config or ever wondered what you could build for the same price? Then read along.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Finding the fastest DNS server for your internet connection

Ever wondered if you could speed up your address translation performance by using the fastest DNS server for YOUR internet connection? Stop wondering, because there is a tool for that.

It’s called DNS Benchmark. It is a free tool developed by Gibson Research Corporation. You can download it from here. (BTW, like all other tools from Steve, this is so tiny for all the things it can do. He is an efficient programmer.)

image

I guess there is no point in me explaining everything all over again, when Steve Gibson has explained everything clearly on his website. Check it out, run the benchmark and see.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Zephyr – the ultimate gesture based multitasking for your jailbroken iPhone

I had known about this Jailbreak tweak for a while but the price of it held me back. It is US$4.99 in the Cydia store (BigBoss repository). But I finally gave in and bought it.

Double clicking the Home Button to activate the app switcher is sometimes a pain. By default, you have to press the Home Button twice to activate the app switcher but the OS does not always register it as two button presses. More often than not, it would regard it as a single press and you are taken back to the Home Screen. 

Further, the phone responds to the double presses slowly. At least, it is too slow for me. Maybe not for the average Joe though. I am very sensitive to the slightest delays BTW. Zephyr fixes both these problems.
Here’s a small video showing it in action.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Oh bummer! The iPhone 4S USB cable is damaged.


The day before yesterday I found out that the USB cable of my iPhone 4S (which I never unplug from the PC) was damaged near the 30 pin connector end. It must be due to bending, but it wasn't bent as much as the iPhone 3GS cable used to. And it is still working fine. Apple's quality must be going down.

I wonder if they will replace the cable if I take it to the Apple Store. I mean, I have Apple Care+ too. But it is working fine at the moment. But I won't contact them until it stops working. Besides, I have my wife's cable for the time being.

IMG_0801 
Note: I wonder if ZAGG has a replacement cable that is protected by their InvisibleShield, just like the ZAGG SmartBuds that I am using.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nitrous JavaScript engine for all apps–Jailbreak tweak

None of the 3rd party browsers on the iPhone are as snappy as Mobile Safari, because Apple is keeping the 3rd party browsers from using their in-house built vastly superior Nitro JavaScript Engine. Google recently released Chrome for iOS but it wasn’t as snappy as the desktop counterpart due to this reason. Mobile Safari was miles ahead of Chrome browser when it came to JavaScript performance.

But now there is a tweak to get Nitro JavaScript Engine working on 3rd party apps as well. Of course, you have to Jailbreak your iDevice first. It is called Nitrous and is available in Cydia’s BigBoss repo at $0.99
The first builds let us choose the apps you want to enable the tweak for individually. There were problems with that implementation. Now the developer simply enables it for all or disables it for all (excluding Safari I hope).

IMG_0787. IMG_0788

The difference is very noticeable. I checked the performance in SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark 0.91.

Diskeeper’s I-FAAST Technology in action

 
My data drive is used mainly for storage (music, pictures, videos), but I also use it to hold temporary, but large files – generated from downloads, video recordings, importing photos from the camera etc. There is no point keeping the files that are hardly accessed in the fastest area of the drive. The speed only matters to those temporary files. That’s where i-FAAST feature of Diskeeper comes in to play.
 
Diskeeper is a Defragmenting tool. They actually make the default defragmenter in Windows. It has a nifty little feature called i-FAAST. What it does is, it optimizes the placement of the files according to their access patterns. The files that are accessed frequently will be moved to the front of the drive, and the files that are hardly accessed will be moved to the end of the drive.
 
If you need to read more about this feature, go to this link. 
I monitored the status of the drive over a period.
 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Google Nexus 7 finally available for purchase in Japan

Finally, Google Nexus 7 is available in Japan. Only the 16GB one though. Not the cheap 8GB model. But that's good. Because the 8GB model does not have enough space for a tablet.

It is priced at JPY19,980. (it is $249.99 in USA if I am not mistaken.) You also get a JPY2,000 worth of Google Play Store credits.

The method of payment is via Google Wallet. You have to add your credit card into your Google Wallet for it to work. It is pretty much the same as using PayPal. Let's just say this is Google's PayPal equivalent. They say it will take 3-5 days for it to arrive at the doorstep. I miss one day shipping service of Amazon. I wonder if Amazon are selling it as well. Maybe not. (Well, they are and it is way more expensive.) They have their own Tablet and ironically it is not available in their store. :/

Google Nexus 7 Tablet
Buy Nexus 7 from Google Play Store

(You can click the above banner to buy it from here.)
 
But the grand question is, should I buy one?
 
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