Thursday, February 27, 2014

[Rant] Had to buy a USB 3.0 cable that plugs to the motherboard header

USB Cable

(Click on the image to go view the item on eBay)

My Silverstone Raven RV-03 case has two front USB3.0 ports. But there is a catch. Instead of having connectors that would plug into one of the motherboard headers, it has the regular USB male jack. So for you to get them to work, you have to plug them to USB ports on the back of the motherboard. What actually happens is you simply move two ports from the back of the motherboard to the front I/O. Usually they would plug to a motherboard header without wasting your back panel USB ports.

[Rant] Gave up Carbonite because it is too slow

Like I mentioned a while ago, I’m not going to renew my subscription to Carbonite. Why? Because it is too slow to backup data once you pass that 200GB mark. I have another 1.4TB left and that’s going to grow bigger with time.

It would be cheaper to buy a new hard drive and ship it to Sri Lanka with someone.

image

Carbonite Expired

Thus, this is not the off-sight backup service for me.

But I don’t know if there is a service that would work for me. I don’t feel like spending any more money one backup. Heck, I haven’t had any hard drive fail on me. And I do have a local 1-to-1 backup. Maybe I should take that drive out of the PC and make it an external drive. That would protect the data from an accidental hardware failure or security issue such as viruses.

Monday, February 24, 2014

[Rant] Haswell refresh?

We all know how much of a crappy chip Haswell is when it comes to overclocking. (Refer this post about temps and this post about FIVR). All I have managed is a measly 4.3GHz out of my Core i7 4770K. (Refer this post) My old 2600K was capable of 4.5GHz, so the Haswell upgrade hasn’t given me a big boost. It’s still faster but not fast enough.

Intel is releasing Haswell Refresh CPUs soon and already MSI and Asus have claimed that their current boards will support these new CPUs with a bios update. Why this is important is because it seems Intel is going to release a new chipset – the 9 series – along with these new CPUs. That doesn’t sound right though. The 8-series is very strong, and there isn’t anything architecturally new with Haswell Refresh which requires a new chipset. They should do it for Broadwell. This is a weird move if they release 9 series this soon.

Anyways, what's actually new about these CPUs? Are the faster? Are they going to overclock higher? Will the die be soldered to the heat spreader?

From what I can see, they are only bringing a slight clock boost to the existing line up and Iris Pro graphics (perhaps).

[Rant] Wanted to make a mini-ITX rig but...

There are too much comprises to be made to make it a reality.
 
For a long time, I wanted to make a SFF PC. There are so many choices these days. If such was available at the time when I built my rig, I would have gone with a SFF build. But now I have a ATX build. So if I want to build a SFF PC, it would be a conversion, not a build from the scratch. But the thing is, I want to reuse as many components as possible from my current rig.
 
CPU, graphics card, RAM and storage are no problem.
 
Obviously the motherboard and the case have to be replaced.
 
I would really like to use the cooler and the PSU in the SFF build. But most SFF cases and motherboard don't let you house a Silver Arrow Extreme cooler. It seems that the BitFenix Prodigy and the Fractal Node 304 would let you, but it would be nearly impossible to find a motherboard that would let you install it without blocking the PCI-E slot. Most mini-ITX motherboards have weird CPU socket positioning. The only one that might work is the Asus Z87I Pro. I wanted to put a ROG Maximus VI Impact in there as it is the most powerful mini-ITX motherboard out there. It also comes with awesome integrated audio. But it seems the Silver Arrow is just too fat for it. But I don't have any proof attesting or detesting this claim.
 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[Gameplay] Titanfall Beta gameplay videos

With the chores related to the baby, I didn’t have much opportunity to play Titanfall beta but I managed to record 3 gameplay videos. And even then, I could only check out Attrition game mode. Check them out and subscribe to my channel while you are at it.

The beta was live only for a few days. It only became open beta on 17th. By the time I write this post, it is already expired. So I will have to buy the game to on 11th of March when it comes out, to check out the game in full glory.

image

I’m not sure if I would buy it at launch though, because I have a lot of games in Steam and Origin libraries that I haven’t played and they require less of a GPU to play with all the eye-candy turned on. So I won’t miss not having a powerful GPU. Will see how it goes.

[Rant] Asus Fan Xpert 2 vs. the dust

When I was deciding on a motherboard for my Haswell rig, one of the things that I looked at was automatic fan controlling capabilities. I has a hardware fan controller bay but it was automatic. And it was a cable hell. Asus boards were on top of that chart with their "mature" Fan Xpert 2 software. So I settled for the Asus Maximus VI Hero motherboard.

Since then I had been using the Fan Xpert 2 software to control the fans of my PC. It currently controls the two CPU fans, 180mm two bottom intakes, 120mm top exhaust and 120mm back intake. (Yes, it's a weird fan setup but that's by Silverstone Raven RV03 case's design).

Anyways, one of the cool feature of this software is that it can completely turn off the case fans when the CPU temps are low enough. (Basically when the CPU is idling.) But it doesn't turn off the CPU fans completely. Must be a safely feature.

I think this feature is causing the dust to pile up inside the case. Basically, when the case fans are not running, the airflow inside the case is governed by the CPU fans and the GPU fans. Since the positive air pressure is not maintained (by making intake fans' CFM > exhaust fans' CFM) this causes air to sneak in from places that you don't want them to sneak in from. Air doesn't just come in alone - it comes with dust. Dust doesn't come in from the holes where intake fans are installed because they are properly filtered. It's the other gaps in the chassis that let the dust in. There is no way to prevent dust from sneaking in through those gaps except for creating a positive air pressure.

So I've changed how the Fan Xpert 2 controls the fan speeds. I don't let the intakes completely come to a halt anymore. I can stop the top exhaust fan completely because it is an exhaust fan.

You can see the fan speed graphs in the following two screenshots. (click on the images for a clearer, larger image)

thumbs1 thumbs2

I should have cleaned the case internals but it is a tedious thing to do. I don't have time nor the motivation. Plus, I don't want to arouse the dust inside the apartment because of the baby. At least now the dust problem will be controlled. I will probably clean up the internals next time I upgrade some component inside the case. But it isn't happening in the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 17, 2014

[Rant] Finally got Titanfall Beta to show up in Origin

If you don’t know what Titanfall is, you should watch the following YouTube channel.

TitanFallGame

Titanfall is the hottest up coming game, which is on track for March 2014 release. The developer, Respawn Entertainment has just released the beta version to a closed set of people. Well, that’s what the original plan was. But now the news is that they are actually releasing it to the general public after all. (You should see it show up in your Origin games list in the next day or two.)

But I was in a hurry and wanted to check it ASAP.

I found out – through a friend – that we could contact Origin customer support and ask them to add it to our games list. It seemed like a sure thing as well.

This is the link you need to use.

http://help.ea.com/uk/contact-us/new/?product=origin

Then click PC, and select “Redeem Your Serial Code in Origin” and hit next. In the next screen, choose Demo/Betas for “Select a topic” and simply tell them that you are waiting for Titanfall Beta to show up in my games, in the next text box. Press next, and you will be taken to a page where you can chat with a support personnel. It will take some time though. I had to wait for an hour. Everyone must be looking to play Titanfall.

After an hour’s wait, the chat session started. This is how it went on.

TitanFall_Beta

(click the above image for a high quality image)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

[Rant] New firmware and eMMC performance update for Asus T100 tablet

This is not a new update, but I only found out about it recently.

A new BIOS update called 223 and something else. It seems that the “something else” part seems to improve the eMMC storage performance, but it needs BIOS 223 to work.

This is what I saw on the Asus Live Update application.

lhwo

I wanted to see if it really improved the eMMC storage performance. So I ran Crystal Disk Mark before installing the updates. These are the scores that I got.

before

[Rant] Got my new internet connection

Yesterday in the evening, I got the router from NTT. There was the actual router, an instruction leaflet, a LAN cable, the power brick for the router and the optical fibre cable inside the package.

Until I received the package, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to plug the optical cable to the router. But when I examined the new router, I figured out – without reading the leaflet – how to install the optical fibre cable. It was just like plugging in the LAN cable – it just had a different socket and a jack.

21Sa8hhOfAL._SL500_AA300_

I had routed the old optical fibre cable along walls and it took me quite a bit of time when I did that the last time. So I figured, it would be great if I could just reuse the same fibre optic cable instead of the new one, such that it would cut down the installation time substantially. Plus, the power cable to the router was also laid along the walls similarly. So I wanted to see if the new router would work with the same power brick and fibre optic cable.

There was one issue though. I didn’t know how to remove the existing one from the old router. The new router is a bit different to the old one. There weren’t any screws on it. It seemed that there was a sliding door like thing, but it would not come off at first. But after trying several orientations of sliding, a door came off revealing the actual port. After that, it was a simple pull of the jack to disconnect the cable.

Then I plugged the old fibre optic cable and the power plug to the new router and it worked! My internet worked. (Since I received my username/password from OCN several days before, I had already setup the connection inside my Wi-Fi router.) Now that everything was working fine, I decided to reuse the old stuff with the new router.

IMG_0712IMG_0713

But there was one issue. I was supposed to send the old router back to NTT. I should have done that a while back, but I kept delaying till I got the new connection as it would make installation easier if I had something to refer to. They actually wanted me to send back the accessories as well. So I decided to bundle the accessories I got with the new router – basically the fibre optic cable and the power brick of the router – with the old one and send back to NTT.

Today I sent it back to them. I already had the envelop that I got from them. All I had to do was to put the router and stuff in the envelop, paste the sticker which had the sender/recipient details and ask the courier – in this case Japan Post – to come and pick it up.

[Rant] Got the new internet connection confirmed

main

A couple of days ago, I came home from work and went to take a shower. Like always, I took my iPhone with me, as I listen to podcasts while taking a shower. Otherwise I would feel all alone in there. Anyways, since I didn’t buy 2 year Apple Care protection with my iPhone 5S, I always put the phone in a seal bag so that moisture doesn’t sneak into the phone.

Anyways, while I was half way into the shower, I got a phone call. I figured it could be from NTT, so I answered. Yes, it was a girl from NTT. She told me that they received the fax I sent them the other day. But there was a little problem. I wrote down my wife’s name in short – just the first name and the surname. But since the ID had her full name, they were confused. Seriously? These Japanese people are like robots.

But that’s not the issue. They said the photo of the ID was not that clear enough to make out the full name of her. So I had to read it out one letter by letter. I mean, I was in the middle of a shower and I was feeling cold.

Once that was done, she asked me many questions. If I wanted to sign up for fixed line telephone; if I wanted to use their antivirus scanning; if I wanted to sign up for IPTV etc. etc. I said no to all of them. One of the reason why I bought the connection through Kakaku.com was because I didn’t have to sign up for those bloated services.

Finally we set up a date for them to activate the internet connection and send me their router. If you read my earlier post, I opted to setup everything on my own. It shouldn’t be that hard because I could refer to the current installation when installing the new router. That said, I wasn’t hoping to send the current equipment before I got the new ones. We decided that they should send me the router on Friday evening.

The girl further told me that I would get mail with the instructions on how to connect to the internet – from OCN as well as from NTT.

And, that was it. Finally after about 20 minutes, I was finally able to resume my shower.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

[Rant] Sent my first ever fax message!

In the previous post I mentioned that I applied for a new internet connection through kakaku.com. I was supposed to get a phone call from NTT confirming the connection. I was a bit skeptical about the whole thing as I gave them my phone number but applied for the internet connection under my wife’s name.

On the last Sunday afternoon, my phone rang and I answered. It was a girl from NTT. She wanted me to confirm the details of my wife as I applied under her name. She wanted me to fax them a copy of her ID, together with her name, contact number and a reference number which was provided by the girl on the other side. She said, once they confirm the details, I will get another call from NTT discussing the date of set up.

I had not sent a fax in my life before. But luckily, these convenience stores such as Family Mart and Seven Eleven provide - self service - this service. And, there is a Seven Eleven right in front of my apartment. 

cvs_01cvs_02

So I went there, with my wife's ID, a pen and the piece of paper on which I wrote down the fax number and the reference number. I checked the menu of the multi-purpose printer. Sure enough, there was a menu item called Fax. Since I had to write down stuff on the fax itself, I first had to take a photocopy of my wife's ID. The price per photocopy is JPY10. Then I wrote the necessary information on it. Then I went into the Fax menu, and faxed it. 

It wasn’t that hard to figure out. I first had to enter the fax number of the recipient. Then I had to choose the quality and paper size. Then I had to place the sheet on the scanner. Then I had to put JPY50. Finally it was time to send. It would also give me a receipt showing me the way the message would be seen by the recipient.

Now it was time for me to wait to hear from NTT again, about a date toe setup the equipment.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

[Rant] Applied for a new internet connection

Capture

Finally it was time for me to renew my internet connection. I disconnected my old connection on 31st of January. The internet connection that I had been using had a contract period of 2 years. The contract would automatically renew unless you disconnect it in the month after the two year period.

So why would you want to disconnect the internet connection?

Simple answer is "discounts".

When you buy a new connection, you get various discounts. When you buy it from different places, you get different discounts. Some give you money back discounts. Some discounts your monthly bill. Some let you buy an electronic article and they would deduct a substantial amount of money from the price of it. The amount of discount is also different from place to place.

I bought the MacBook Air with the discount I got when I bought my first internet connection. That was from Yodobashi. The size of discount amounted to ¥35,000 back then. But this time I decided that I needed more than ¥35,000.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

[Article] Using SwiftKey "app" on the iPhone 5S

ios7-keyboard-psd

Apple doesn't let you replace the default keyboard on iOS devices. That is a big bummer. While the keyboard's auto correction has improved in the last few iterations of the OS, there are still ways to improve the accuracy and typing speed of these virtual keyboards. The issue with stock iOS virtual keyboard is that there is no feedback from the keys. You are just hitting different places of the screen. But I'm sure, with time you can improve on your typing even with the default keyboard - as I have.

When I bought my first touch screen device, the Samsung Omnia i900 running Windows Mobile 6.0, I had trouble typing quickly. Well, I've never been good with the keyboards on my old phones either. Maybe that was because I didn't have a girlfriend to frequently send SMS to. With the Omnia, there was haptic feedback to give you some kind of feedback when typing. But it wasn't good. I felt the keyboard was laggy with it enabled so I always disabled it.

That was when I watched a video on Swype, a new keyboard that worked by swiping on top of the keys, instead of hitting them. You didn't have to swipe perfectly on top of the letters nor had to be very accurate with the order of the letters. It was truly "intelligent". You could insert new words by going them in. Luckily, there was a compatible port for the Omnia. Not an official one though. I installed it and was impressed with it. Very impressed!!!

But I got rid of the Omnia before I came to Japan and switched the iPhone. IPhone 3GS was my first iPhone. Then the iPhone 4S and now the iPhone 5S. So I had been using the stock iPhone keyboard since 2010. But if you could Jailbreak your iPhone, there is a version of Swype (but it's just a mockup and not very functional) on Cydia store.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

[Rant] Finally AMD Mantle performance numbers in Battlefield 4 releases

MantleBenefits_575px

Yesterday DICE, the developer of Battlefield 4 game, released a huge patch. The game had all sorts of stability issues for many months and the patch was supposed to address all of them. I’m sure those bug fixes are important to some people, but what I was interested in was one particular addition. AMD Mantle support. I think a lot of people were worried that DICE will delay the Mantle update until the bugs were sorted out. So it was a pleasant surprise for me.

But unfortunately, the Mantle update for the game alone didn’t suffice. AMD needed to release a driver with Mantle support as well. I didn’t know that the current driver didn’t have support for Mantle yet.

The thing is, AMD had a working beta driver, but there seemed to be a problem with the installer that they had to delay the release a bit. So far the review sites have received the driver and have tested the performance boost which Mantle gives. But the general public will hopefully receive the drive soon. AMD Catalyst 14.1 Beta is what you want to get. The support will be limited to the R9 290x, 290, 260x and Kaveri APUs initially. The support for the rest of the cards will arrive later on.

Mantle surely delivers a boost, but unfortunately, if you have a fast CPU, you won’t notice a big boost. What Mantle does is, it lowers the CPU overhead in the 3D rendering software pipeline. So, faster the CPU is, less of a problem that overhead will cause.

So, how much of a boost would you see with Mantle? For the actual numbers, check out Anandtech’s article here.

But what matters the most is the following graph issued by AMD.

AMD_Perf_Data_575px

It makes one wonder, if Mantle was created not to give AMD graphics cards an advantage over NVidia graphics cards, but to bring AMD CPUs to up to the same level as Intel CPUs in games. The issue with AMD CPUs is that their single threaded performance sucks compared to Intel’s. But when it comes to multi threaded performance, their FX 8000 series CPUs (8320, 8350 etc) are competitive with Intel’s quad core CPUs – even the ones that support Hyper Threading. Plus, since Mantle is going to become a standard eventually – not just limited to AMD graphics cards – it is aimed at AMD CPUs rather than AMD GPUs.

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