Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lower the YouTube video quality on a mobile data connection

When I bought the iPhone 5S a little more than a year ago, I was quite pleased with the LTE performance. Previously with 3G on the iPhone 3GS and 4S, I could hardly stream YouTube videos without frequent buffering. A 5 minute long video would take more than 15 minutes  to playback due to these pauses. Thus the speed boost enjoyed by LTE was a very welcome upgrade for me.

But the situation didn't completely improve with LTE. Softbank was artificially limiting my streaming capabilities. They used to offer unlimited data with 3G probably because they knew it would total up only a couple of GBs even for heavy users. With LTE, I only could go up to 7.5GB before throttling. It’s actually only 7GB, and the extra 500MB was because I signed up for tethering, which was free of charge in the first two years. While 7.5GB was probably a lot, with the speeds observed with LTE, it was hardly adequate. But the biggest pull back was caused by the next limitation: you could only use 1GB in 3 consecutive days before throttling occurred.

Curse you, Softbank!

The YouTube app itself wasn’t helpful either.

Since the LTE speeds were great, it was “intelligently” playing back at HD Quality, which was 720pon the iPhone 5S. That’s would be hundreds of MB for one LinusTechTips video. You could change the resolution only if you were on Wi-Fi. What kind of retarded decision is that? I guess they don't have caps in the US. :-/

Unable to change quality setting

(Click the image to see a higher resolution image)

Needless to say that this was really driving me crazy. Why aren't we allowed to use a lower resolution to save packets? I can understand it if it would adversely affect the streaming performance as people might stupidly select the highest resolution, thinking they knew better. If that's the reason behind it, giving the permission to reduce the resolution would not have affected streaming performance.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Time for a hard drive upgrade?


It was not that long ago that I bought a couple of 3TB HDDs for my desktop PC. Well, it has been only 2 years, as I bought them at the end of 2012 just before visiting my home country, but two years isn't that long. But I am running out of space on them.

6TB should be quite hard to fill, but the issue is, I only have 3TB usable space. One of the drives is used as a backup drive. They are not in a mirrored RAID volume though. Still, the backups are made automatically, using Microsoft SyncToy (click here to find out how). I know, I know. There is a risk of having the backup drive inside the PC, always connected. But I don't have a NAS or an external enclosure to house it. I probably should try to get one.

If you are wondering why my hard drives have been filling up so fast, it is NOT because I had been downloading torrents illegally, but because I bought a Canon 70D DSLR just before my kid was born and I had been taking photos and videos of him in full resolution. Not only the frequency has gone up, but the size of each capture is also quite large compared to the old S95 point and shoot. While I have lost the initial enthusiasm because the rapid growth of the kid has diminished, ironically the size of each capture has actually gone up. This is because even though I started with photos, the kid now moves too quickly for the camera to keep up that I have had to switch to video. When I am capturing videos though, I capture them mostly using the iPhone 5S, but the sizes are still many times that of photos.

So what shall I do?

Logitech Gaming Software startup bug


I have been a Logitech user for many years. The first Logitech component I bought was a headset which was really bad. Then I bought a G15 keyboard from Saman, which I still use and a G5 mouse from another guy whose name I can't recall. I broke the G5 mouse and bought a G500 - many G500 mice to be precise (check here, here and here). Many broke and the one that I have is working fine except for the wear around the area where you would rest the thumb. After that I bought the G602 mouse, my first ever wireless mouse and I am currently using it in my PC, even for gaming. 

That's a bit of history but it has nothing to do with the issue I'm going to describe. Let us get into the rant then, shall we?

My G15 keyboard needs the Logitech Gaming Software for it to function as intended as it doesn't have any onboard memory to store the profiles or operate the LCD on its own. The G602 can get away with it because it has onboard memory and one profile can be flashed onto it. (Again, just one profile, which is quite limiting.)

With Windows 8.1 (but I can swear that I've had the same experience with Windows 7 and 8 too), when you set it to launch at startup from the software itself , it might not start and load the application in the system tray. If that's all that happens, then I'm fine. But that's not only what happens. We get a huge input lag when this happens. It can be as long as a second for each key press. It's unusable. If you check the Task Manager, you'll be able to find a process created by it called “Logitech Gaming Framework” although it does not show up in the System Tray.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The G500 mouse is too noisy?

G500 vs G602
Not to me, but to my wife it appears to be too noisy.
Now that I have a up-to-date gaming PC after the recent purchase of the Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1 card, I had been paying a lot of attention towards lowering the input lag to improve my gaming experience further. While there are few software tweaks that you can perform to lower it, ultimately the wireless-ness of the Logitech G602 Gaming mouse is causing a bottleneck. Wireless mice are and will always be lagging behind wired mice in terms of input lag; there is no getting over it. 
I have my old Logitech G500 mouse which is a wired one, and I wanted to go back to it to see if I would notice a reduction in input lag. Today in the morning, before leaving for work, I wanted to play a couple of Crysis 3 multiplayer games while the others were sleeping. Unfortunately for me, the primary mouse buttons - the left and the right buttons - were noisier than the G602's.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Should I upgrade from my Logitech G15 keyboard?


Now that I have finally bought myself a new graphics card and SLI is also a bust, I think I am going to go upgrade-less for the foreseeable future. Well, if I have to, I can upgrade the keyboard, but a good keyboard is hard to find and are expensive! I never thought I'd have to spend in excess of $100 for a keyboard to get a good one! How the times have changed!!!

Wait... now why do I need to upgrade the keyboard?

One, because I want to switch to a mechanical keyboard, but only because everyone says that they are great. To be honest, I have never used a mechanical keyboard in my life, hence I uncertain if I would fall in love with one or not. I've seen people claim that they do prefer certain mechanical key switches over others, which makes me wonder, choosing the right keyboard is going to be a hectic task. But then again, it is not possible for me to go and try them out one by one; not because there aren't any showrooms around, but because my wife would not be entertained by that idea. But I should give it a shot the next time we visit Kawasaki. Biccamera should have few for me to try out. That's how I chose the Logitech Z623 speakers when I bought them to replace the Corsair SP2200s, that crackled like crazy.

Is that the only reason to get a new keyboard?

No. I believe I have written about this a while back, but there is a defect in my keyboard. The LShift + I and LCtrl + I key combinations don't register as inputs. Since the "I" key works fine with the RShift and RCtrl keys, I have been able to tolerate this so far. However I run into this inconvenience whenever I am writing a blog post. So, if I want to pile up the reasons to upgrade the keyboard, I definitely would count this as one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My 4th Gigabyte graphics card is here – the GTX 970 Gaming G1



So here it is. The Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1 graphics card that I replaced the MSI GTX 970 Gaming graphics cards with.

Even though many people were claiming it to be quite long, when you compare it with the MSI card, it is not THAT long. Maybe a couple of centimeters, which is not that much. But look at the width of it. It is quite narrower than the MSI. With the Twin Frozr V cooler, MSI has tried to make a cooler that would cool exceptionally while being ultra quiet at the same time hence have gone with just two low RPM 100mm (read: large) fans. Gigabyte, with their new Windforce cooler that they claim can handle a load of 600W, has gone with pure cooling power with three fans which run at a rather high fan speed but smaller in size. Having three fans and running them at a higher speed don't make it massively louder than the MSI, but the difference is noticeable. Funny thing is that the total fan area is slightly larger with the MSI despite its inferior cooling performance. I suppose the heat-sink design of the Windforce 600W cooler is much thought out, as it comes out at the top in every review.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Returned the MSI GTX 970 Gaming card(s) and switched to?

MSI GTX 970 Gaming bad

The two MSI GTX 970 Gaming cards that I have in my possession are both defective. So, I have to send them back to Amazon. That means, I need a new graphics card. I can ask Amazon to send back another MSI GTX 970 Gaming card, or I can return what I have for a full refund and settle for another card.

Which route should I choose?

If I am going for SLI, I now know that the non-blower type cards are not the way to go in my small case. (Read this post for more details.) So I can use this as the opportunity to switch to cards with blower style coolers. Unfortunately, still there aren't anything with the NVTTM reference cooler and the blower style ones available are pathetic in terms of both noise and cooling. On the other hand, I can go for a couple of reference GTX 980s, as they have the NVTTM cooler, instead. The only issue is the price, which is substantially higher (50% plus) than that of a pair of GTX 970s for just 10-15% more performance gains.

But there is good news.

The gaming experience I observed with SLI was really bad (read this post to read all about it), and I might not go SLI after all. Well, it is not really a good news because SLI is the most economical approach to upgrade down the road. (Read this post to learn how I came to that conclusion.) But it makes my decision an easier one to make. If I am not going for SLI, I don't have to get blowers, therefore I don't have to spend a fortune on GTX 980s. However, since I am going with just one card, I should go for the fastest single GPU card (overclocked, that is) that I can possibly find, which is a non-reference GTX 980 card. Contradicting requirements!

An overclocked GTX 970 cannot match an overclocked GTX 980, even when the GTX 970 is a great clocker and a GTX 980 is a much poorer one.

However, the GTX 980 is just too expensive and I cannot make up my mind to buy that over the GTX 970. So it is still going to be a GTX 970.

Which GTX 970 then?

It has to be the fastest GTX 970...when overclocked...with a reasonable price tag.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Is SLI really worth it? Gaming experience with two GTX 970 cards in SLI


In the previous post, I described my experience with MSI GTX 970 Gaming cards running in SLI in the confines of the tiny Silverstone SG09 case. I only talked about the temperatures of the cards in that post and I have concluded that it is a bad idea to get non-reference cards in that case. This might be applicable to all Micro-ATX setups unless the case has expansion slots and the motherboard has the 2nd PCI-E x16 slot right at the bottom, giving the cards at least one free PCI-E slot in between them.

Now, let's forget about that horrible experience for a moment. What about SLI as a function? Is it any better than Crossfire, which I had a horrible experience with about 3 years ago.

I could test 4 games in the short time with SLI.

  • Crysis 3 (multiplayer)
  • Alien Isolation
  • FarCry 4
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

The former two worked reasonably well. There weren't any observed micro-stuttering, although in Crysis there were couple of pauses which I had not observed so far with a single GPU, and both occasions I got killed.

Friday, November 28, 2014

MSI GTX 970 Gaming cards in SLI in a MICRO-ATX case


I should confess: I didn't buy a second GTX 970. But as of writing this article, I have two GTX 970 Gaming cards in possession. The second card is a replacement for the first card. I actually went ahead with RMAing the first one as it exhibited some coil whining. Although it is not as heavy as some of the other reports as I've already mentioned in a previous post, I did not want it to develop to a utter irritation. So I decided to play safe.

So, I informed Amazon that I am going ahead with the replacement. They sent me a second card and asked me to ship the old one back to them before a deadline which is quite far away. Being the opportunist that I am, I thought of making full use of this. 

A little bit of background for the late-comers

When I shrunk my old ATX PC to MICRO-ATX and not MINI-ITX, I wanted to keep my options of going for a Multi-GPU setup open. When NVIDIA launched the GTX 900 series cards with minuscule power draw compared to what it was replacing as well as the competition, that became almost a reality...well, at least a feasible option. When I assessed the way I should go about upgrading the graphics subsystem in the future, SLI appeared economically leaps and bounds ahead of going with a single GPU high-end card. So, SLI is happening people; just the budget needs to be passed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GTX 970 cards and coil whining

gtx 970There are many reports of coil whine with GTX 970 cards than ever before. These coils are in the power delivery and regulation circuitry. When the components are pushed hard, they start to vibrate to a level it is audible, especially if they are not high grade components. But it is weird that this is happening with cards as power efficient as GTX 970s, because there are many cards that draw more than 100W more power but without claims of coil whine.

When I bought my MSI GTX 970 Gaming graphics card, I hoped that it would be free of coil whine too. This is because it is using a custom PCB with very high quality components. Alas, there is coil whine. It is not very distracting or pronounced, however it is there...again, not all the time but at very random occasions; not even when it is under very high load either.

I tried capturing it on audio but it was extremely difficult to capture anything useful because of the noise from the other fans inside the case. However I found a video posted by someone on YouTube demonstrating coil whine on his Asus Strix card but that was way extreme compared to my case. I don't hear that level of coil whine. One might even call mine as having no coil whine at all. But I still hear it and it is a extremely distracting when it is there. Plus, I didn't pay for it in the first place. In fact, I paid more not to have it. Plus, there are people claiming that the little hum that their cards originally put out eventually became an irritation as they decided to stick even when the card was loaded properly. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tried out Strawberry Kitkat for the first time

2014-11-12 15.06.54This is not the typical tech related post that you would see on my blog.

Almost every day, I have a snack at work during the afternoon. It is usually a some sort of bun or a packet of potato chips. Today I wanted to try out something new.

I went to the Familymart near the office - which is a convenient store here in Japan - in search for that special snack. There are two Familymarts near the office and I went to the newer one that was put up no more than a couple of weeks ago. There I saw Strawberry flavoured Kitkat and I wanted to see how they tasted. I love chocolates, but I avoid eating them at work because they are bad for teeth. But today I wanted to make an exception.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jail-broke my iPhone 5S running iOS 8.1 using Pangu

CaptureIt's been only a couple of months since iOS 8 has been released to the public and we already have a fully functional jail-break! At first, there were a lot of steps that needed to get it to work but Pangu, the tool that's used to jail-break, has been getting updated frequently and now it is as simply as clicking a button. That meant my wait was over; it was time for me to try it out on my iPhone 5S.
Note: At the time of jail-breaking my phone, the version of Pangu out for the public was 1.1 but as of this moment, the tool has been updated to version 1.2.1. You should get the most recent version which would have most bugs ironed out.
I followed the steps mentioned in this YouTube tutorial posted by EverythingApplePro and it came out fine.
Video courtesy EverythingApplePro

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why do these small flash drives exist?

Recently I bought two new 16GB USB flash drives. They were bought for a special purpose: to use as install media for Windows.

So, why would I need two drives?

Simple. There is Windows 8.1 and there is Windows 10 Technical Preview. Yes, I did install Windows 10 TP on my main PC, but I'll discuss about that in another post.

Which drives did I buy?

Since these were not going to be used often, speed was secondary. Price was more important. Which 8GB drives were definitely cheaper, the 16GB ones weren't overly expensive.

I did not research much because it wasn't a big deal. I ended up ordering a couple of SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0 16GB drives. Since SanDisk is a reputed brand, I didn't think I would run Into much trouble.

As usual, I ordered them from Amazon although  Amazon wasn't directly selling. It was some other 3rd party but it did not bother me as everything is taken care by Amazon. Unfortunately, these flash drives weren't available at the time of ordering, thus I had to wait a few more days to actually get the hands on them.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My GTX 970 card is here


After almost 2.5 years, I have a new graphics card in my rig. So much have happened during those 2.5 years, but the disappointing thing is that i wouldn't be even seeing a two-fold increase in raw FPS. Hence SLI would have been the better option of my current card wasn't a 2.5 slot card and the PSU, which is a 650W one, had more headroom.

Anyways, this was the 2nd best choice since the cheaper R9 290/290x cards were generating too much heat and noise. Even if I managed to install get away with a

The card that I chose was the MSI GTX 970 Gaming and I bought it from Amazon, paying almost $80 more than the U.S. price. That's the way it has to be. This includes a 8% tax as well. I actually managed to sell my old card on Rakuten Auctions for around $150, which isn't amazing but isn't too bad either. If I sold it to a shop for cash, I wouldn't even get $100. So it was a win-win deal for me.

I couldn't install the card until late that day. This is because the three of us went to paid a visit to the Ikuta Rose Garden in the afternoon and on the way we did some shopping as well. After returning home, I had to help my wife cook dinner as well. While I finished doing my part and my wife put the baby to sleep, I got into business.

Installing the card at first was not problematic. It slid into the PCI-E slot without any trouble. I sneaked in the thermal probe, which plugs into the T_SENSOR port on the motherboard, between two fins of the heat sink and this is the temperature reading that controls the speed of the front (or side) intake fan. The 6-pin power cables were rotated 180°, so when I turned them around, they protruded out more than before because they were not used to bending in that direction. When I tried closing the case, these cables pushed against the front intake fan, however because of the integrated fan grill, the cables weren't coming in contact with the blades of the fan. It was very thoughtful of Silverstone really. I also checked whether the other two fan slots were blocked but it appeared they were clear and it would be possible to install two more fans when I buy the second card. Phew!

I will write about my experiences with the card in the follow up posts. Due to family life, my playtime is very limited nowadays, thus will take a while to learn about all the issues surrounding the new purchase.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Upgraded from GTX 670 to GTX 970

MSI 970 Gaming

Previously I assessed my chances of ending up with an SLI setup and the chances came up as extremely positive. SLI requires that I get cards with blower style coolers. However, when I looked around for reviews and asked others' opinion, I found out that very few people would recommend them. I've mentioned it before as well, but the reason behind this view is that there aren't any GTX 970 cards out at the moment that come equipped with the NVTTM reference cooler because it isn't economical to produce them. This cooler is amazing but the ones that AIB partners are putting in their GTX 970s are pretty much the same as the ones that came with GTX 670 cards, which were terrible.

Those coolers are terrible in two areas. Firstly, they run very loud at higher fan speeds because the fan is small and have to work hard to push the air through the heat sinks towards to back of the card and out of it. Secondly, they don't cool really well because it is a single small fan and the cooler has small intake vents.

I can live with higher temps but I cannot tolerate noise. Noisy computers are ones that are not well thought out and properly built. I don't want to end up with such a PC. I can wear headphones while I play games and be numb to the high fan noise but I cannot say same about my wife and kid. I only get a chance to play games when the kid is sleeping so the last thing I need is the noise of the video card waking him up. 

So I decided to get a card a decent cooler that ran quiet. That meant getting  a card with an open-air type cooler. I will have issues when I go for SLI, but I hope that adding more exhaust fans will rectify the thermal issues. I can add two fans on the side panel and Silverstone recommends adding them too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Assessing the chances of ending up with SLI


One of the reasons why I downsized only to the MicroATX form factor is because I wanted to keep room for expansion. But too much option is no better as well, because I'm having a hard time picking a graphics card to upgrade from GTX 670 to.

Establishing whether or not I would go for SLI would make all the difference. If I go with SLI, I need to get the Palit GTX 970 with blower style cooler. Else I can settle for the quieter and better built MSI Gaming 4G which has an open air style cooler.

Why would I need SLI? Would the power of a single GTX 970 be inadequate at 1440p?

I currently game at 1440p with my GTX  670. I don't play a lot of games - it's true - and so far I haven't seen any major issues. Of course I cannot run all of the games at ultra quality settings - both because of the GPU not having enough horse-power as well as lack of frame buffer.

The issue is that I'm very sensitive to frame-rate. Since the Korean PLS panel that I own can ru at 96Hz refresh rate, I would ideally want to run all games at 96Hz or more. That's not attainable with a single GTX 970 in most of the titles at 1440p. Two cards might be able to do it, however even then some games would not be tamed so easily.

But you are not making sense!

Wait...what? - whoever that is in my head - have a point.

Like I said in a previous post, I would not be going for SLI right from the beginning due to financial complexities. But if that is the case, I would have to do with just one card for a foreseeable future. That means, the argument about sensitivity to FPS is just an excuse to tip the balance towards getting SLI. If sensitivity to FPS was a significant issue, I would have to forget about the financials and go for SLI right from the beginning. Get it?

Monday, October 20, 2014

GTX 970 cards with blower style coolers - no good?


I am just about to dump my hard earned money into a new graphics card so naturally I want to get the most out of it. Performance-per-dollar and performance-per-wattage wise there is no better card currently available than the GTX 970 which is substantially faster than the GTX 670 that I currently own. So, I am quite fixed on the GTX 970, but there is a complication.

Since I have a small case with a positive air pressure design philosophy, I have to get a card that exhausts the hot air out of the case, instead of one that dumps hot air straight back in to the case. That means, I need to get a card that comes equipped with a blower style cooler. It might not be that critical for a single GPU configuration, because these cards do not put out a lot of heat, however SLI is a bit of a problem. Even though there is no chance of SLI at the moment, I want to keep that option available.

Not only that, with my motherboard, there is no free slots between them if I install two cards, therefore the top card will run extremely hot as it suffocates for fresh air. This would not be an issue with cards with blower style coolers as the cool air is sucked in from the front of the card, not top of the card (or the bottom when installed in the case), and there is an intake fan that directly feeds cool air from that direction.

OK, so a card or two with a blower style cooler it is.

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple either.  As of this moment, there are no GTX 970s available with a reference cooler design. NVidia and AMD usually use blower style coolers as reference, but for the 970, NVidia has let Add-In-Board (AIB) Partners come up with their own solution. There were images of a GTX 970 carrying the same cooler as the reference GTX 980, the NVTTM cooler, but that was never released to the public. But they might come out in the future.

So, the GTX 970 is no go?

Not necessarily. Having no reference design does not mean that there aren't any GTX 970 cards with blower style coolers. Palit, PNY, Gainward, Galaxy, MSI and EVGA have released such cards. However, people who have analysed the cooler design claim that most of these coolers are identical to what the reference GTX 670 which was utter crap. For the noise figures of the PNY design, refer to this review. The PNY, Palit and Gainward seem to have the same design. Some say that the cooler on the EVGA card is much worse, but again, we do not have any solid figures. There is no information available on the MSI's cooler design as the cards aren't available in countries that really matter.

Bottom line?

I will have to reassess the chances of me going with SLI. If SLI is in the horizon, I'll settle for the Palit; else will get either the Galaxy EXOC or MSI Gaming 4G.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finalizing the CPU overclock


Apparently, CPUs also seem to have a burn-in time as well - or at least Haswell does. Despite being capable of running at a respectable 4.6GHz, my Intel Core i7 4790K CPU managed to crash the system with a BSOD on last Friday while transcoding a video. It was a BSOD 124 which suggests the Vcore needed to be raised a notch, however as it was already reaching the limits of the Noctua NH-U12S cooler’s cooling capacity, I defaulted. There were instances where the CPU core temps would touch 90C while using Handbrake at those settings. That is terrible.

Hence, I decided to drop the multiplier one notch and settle with a clock speed of 4.5GHz. 4.5GHz could absolutely be considered subpar when it comes to Devil's Canyon which many believed would reach 5GHz effortlessly. At least in my case, temperature issues are unavoidable due to the size of the chassis.

Lowering the multiplier allowed me to reduce the Vcore from 1.26V (which was inadequate to begin with) to 1.21V. Even though the reduction seems miniscule, it resulted in a massive 10C drop in temps while running Handbrake! That’s Haswell for you.


While I care less about extending the lifespan of the CPU as I am a frequent upgrader, the ability to run the fans lower resulted in a vastly comprehensible reduction in fan noise. Despite the reviewers saying that the NH-U12S is dead silent, I could easily hear it at full fan speed, perhaps because the case was much closer to ear. However, the biggest improvement came from the speed drop of the main intake fan, the 180mm Silverstone Air Penetrator fan which is installed on top of the case.

The onboard fan controller on my Asus Maximus VII Gene board, which I use to power up the fans and control them, has one issue. It would make the fans rotate at their maximum speed once the CPU temperature (not the core temperature which is about 10C more) exceeds 75C, which I believe is in place as a safeguard. There is no way to bypass this limitation unless you use low-noise adapters. At full speed, the 180mm air penetrator is noticeably loud though, it is intolerable as a high-pitched noise. I am in the opinion that noise is indicative of quality of a PC build.

So there it is. 4.5GHz; an underwhelming overclock especially when the CPU would automatically boost to 4.2GHz is thermals are not restrictive.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Error 0x80070013–0x20005 while trying to install Windows 10 Technical Preview on the Asus T100 Tablet

I downloaded the 32bit ISO and ran the setup from within Windows after mounting the ISO on Explorer. But I got an error and it reverted to the old installation (refer to the last image in the album). I am unsure what went wrong; I could not find any references to this error code.

I am not sure if this is accurate, but while searching the internet for similar instances I came across a post by someone stating the minimum system requirements for Windows 10 TP.

1 GHz processor with SSE2 support, NX and PXE
1 GB (32-bit) and 2 GB (64-bit) RAM
16 GB (32-bit) and 20 GB (64-bit) disk space for a clean installation
80 GB (32-bit) and 130 GB (64-bit) disk space for the upgrade
GPU-compatible with DirectX 9

I definitely do not have 80GB space in here. This tablet has a measly 32GB eMMC storage device. Guess I have to do a clean install then. The recovery functionality needs to be sorted out first.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Be watchful if you have a GeForce card–it might not be entering low power mode

Today I received a chat message from a friend, linking me to a forum post where a MSI GTX 970 card owner was complaining about the high idle temps of his new graphics card. It is a known fact that MSI decided not to spin the fan on Twin Frozr V cooler until the GPU temps exceeded 65C, just like the cooler on Asus Strix cards.

As soon as I read the post, I knew what the problem was. It was a driver issue. I have observed the exact same thing before, where the GPU and memory clocks would not drop below the base values at idle. The last time I resolved this issue by cleaning up the drivers using Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU for short) and reinstalling the newest drivers. Well, they were exactly the same version as I had installed – so there was not bug with the driver, if you installing it fresh.

I was worried that my Palit GTX 670 would be acting the same way, thus I opened up GPU-Z and went into the sensors tab hoping to check what clocks the GPU was running at. I am afraid to say that the clocks were running at base clocks – or the overclocked base clocks.

Here is what was shown on GPU-Z


I am thankful to the guy who brought this issue to my attention because I would have paid a huge power bill being unaware of this issue. By the way, this happened once, and I ended up paying about JPY 2,000 more for electricity.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The plan to upgrade the graphics card


Now that NVidia has released their latest graphics cards, the GTX 970 and GTX 980, it is time to analyse which GPU I should upgrade to, from my aging GTX 670.

It is almost definitely going to be the GTX 970 because it is priced extremely aggressively compared to competition (i.e. AMD Radeon R9 290) and does not need a nuclear reactor to power up. The GTX 980 is also power efficient, in fact even more than the GTX 970 for some unexplainable reason, but the price is absurd. It should have been priced below $500. $449 perhaps.

There is also another advantage of going with the GTX 970. With it, there is a possibility of adding a second card for SLI without a need for the change of the 650W PSU that I currently own. Even when the GTX 970 is overclocked, I doubt it would draw in excess of 200W, hence two cards will consume less than 400W. With my Core i7 4790K overclocked to 4.6GHz, which would max out at 130W on a really stressful work load (though not Prime 95), that would give sufficient breathing room for the other components.

Perhaps it is possible to power up two GTX 980s with 650W PSU, and there are apparently people who do with just a 600W PSU, but there is the issue of shedding down $1100 for graphics cards. Two GTX 970s would set you back at $700, which is still way out of many peoples' budgets, including me, hence the chances of going SLI is very slim.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Haswell-E is here


Haswell-E finally hit the market on August 29 and the whole review sites went crazy. It was about time Intel refreshed its enthusiast platform, as it was catering the enthusiast community with technology from 3-4 years ago.

Intel made a few changes to the product line this time, compared to the previous two. Some are for the better, some are for the worse.

Goods and bads of Haswell-E

The merits of Haswell-E are the following.
  1. Release of the first consumer grade 8-core CPU from Intel
  2. The baseline model being a 6-core CPU instead of 4-core, but costing only a fraction above the 4790K CPU
  3. 10 native SATA 6Gbps ports
  4. Quad Channel DDR4 support
  5. Lots of native USB 3.0 ports
  6. 10Gbps M.2 support
On the other hand, we have the following deal-breakers.
  1. You have to shed $1000 to get those 8-cores
  2. The baseline model lacks full PCI-E support (28-lanes vs. 40-lanes in the other two SKUs)
  3. DDR4 is pretty expensive at the moment
  4. The boards are fairly more expensive and the Micro ATX board options are limited. (You can confidently claim that Mini-ITX won't be a reality this time either)
  5. Needs a cooler that can handle a lot of TDP, such a dual tower air cooler or an AI 240mm rad. Custom water cooling is recommended for people who are willing to shed a grand on the Octa-core model and overclock
  6. Large variation in overclockability just like the mainstream Haswell variants

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Using the T_SENSOR on Asus Maximus VII Gene board


One of the new features introduced by Asus with the new round of motherboards for the mainstream Intel CPUs was the ability to incorporate thermal readings of a user installable thermal probe for its monitoring and fan controlling software. Not all motherboard supports it and not all of them came with the thermal probe even if supported. Only the highest end boards came with the probes. Despite my Maximus VII Gene board being the highest end Micro ATX board made for this platform by Asus (or any other vendor for that matter), it didn’t came with the probe. Sadness, but at least it indeed supported this feature.

When I was moving the system from the ATX case to the Micro ATX case the other day (read all about it here), I came across an extra thermal probe that came bundled with the old Scythe fan controller that I had been using a while back. I had already sold the fan controller via Rakuten Auctions (because I moved from it to the Fan Xpert software on Asus boards) without bundling it up. Well, there is nothing I could do about it now, but I wanted to see if that particular probe was compatible with the motherboard.

And, it was!

Now, temperature of which component should it sense? I thought about the temps cooling plan of the case, and there was only one obvious candidate. The video card. The side intake towards the front of the case was simply pumping fresh air in for the video card. It doesn’t have to run at all, if the video card is idle. So I figured that I could control the fan speed of that fan according to the video card’s temperature. The top intake and the rear exhaust were directly associated with the CPU anyways.

Friday, August 22, 2014

RMAed the Logitech Z623 speaker set and got a new one


Almost 2 years ago, I bought the Logitech Z623 speaker set to replace the Corsair SP2200 speakers that developed a crackling issue in the subwoofer (read “RMAing Corsair SP2200 speakers in Japan” and “From crackling Corsair SP2200 speakers to Logitech (Logicool) Z623 speakers”). I bought it from Amazon because they had it for the cheapest offer. It cost me a little under $90 although it should have cost me about $130 if I bought it directly from Logitech as that was the MSRP.

However there was one issue with this particular set. Many of the end users were complaining about a defect with the power button. The speakers would turn on and off on its own at random times.

Not everybody was having this problem so I thought I might get lucky. Even if the problem developed in mine, I would not have a problem with RMAing as Logitech’s customer support is superb. After about one year of usage, the problem developed on my set as well. It was not irritating at first as it would only appear - if at all - at the time of powering up the speakers. But eventually it got worse up to the degree where it would lose power while watching a movie even.

My first Noctua product - the NH-U12S CPU cooler


The Decision

As I sent back the Silverstone HE-01 cooler due to erratic vibration issues (read about it here), after a lot of thought I decided to buy the reasonably new Noctua NH-U12S, single tower cooler. Although this is a very small cooler compared to all of the high-end coolers out there, even compared to the HE-01, it seemed to perform exceptionally well on reviews. I had the Noctua NH-D14, Thermalright Silver Arrow IB-E, Bequiet Dark Rock 3 and Bequiet Shadow Rock Slim in my mind as well. But in the end, I went with the NH-U12S because it would give me peace of mind when looking to buy a new GPU as all of the above seemed to have clearance issues if the GPU had a backplate on it. All of those seemed to have a problem with the clearance with the too most PCI-E slot in the motherboard.

The NH-U12S has two advantages over the HE-01 that I had.

  • Like I said, it's much smaller that means there will be ample clearance between the video card and the heat-sink. There were clearance issues with the HE-01 where I had to insulate the fan clip using tape because it touched the back of the graphics card.
  • While the HE-01 had to rev the fan at 2000RPM to get to its maximum cooling performance, this does it just with a silent-optimized, 120mm 1500RPM fan. A lot of reviewers seemed to praise the Noctua cooler because of its noise to performance ratio.


The purchasing

Unfortunately I could only find two stores (Oliospec and PC-Ones) carrying the product and both of them asked an unreasonable price for it. On top of that, I had to pay shipping as well. It kind of disheartened me because I was so used to buying stuff with free shipping from Amazon and some of the other well known PC stores such as Sofmap, Tsukumo and Dospara. However, as I was all set on that cooler I decided to go ahead with the purchase despite the price.  Obviously I went with the store that offered it at the cheapest accumulative price.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sent back the Silverstone HE01 cooler


A few days ago I bought the Silverstone Heligon HE-01 cooler to replace the Antec  Kuhler  620 closed-loop water cooling unit that I had it my rig temporarily. The cooler performed well at first, but then its fan went bad. I ordered a replacement for the cooler. That fan worked fine. Or at least, it could run at full 2000RPM as advertised.

But as this is a PWM fan, the motherboard would change the fan speed with respect to the CPU temps. I kept it at "Standard" fan speed profile in Asus UEFI. When the CPU wasn't stressed, it was reasonably quiet but still nowhere as quiet as I would have liked. Then I had to think about the CPU temps too. My 4790K CPU would run extremely hot even while doing a not-so-extreme h.264 transcode.

After I bought the cooler, the PC underwent a significant change. I got a new case for the PC and it was substantially smaller than the old case which allowed me to move it to the top of the desk. While the fan noise was OK when the case was located under the desk, it was intolerable  once moved into the new location. This made me lower the fan speed setting to "Silent" profile for the day to day tasks. Now the fan speed would have a wider range of speeds. It would still reach full speed if the temps exceeded 75C (there is no way to override this behaviour) and now there was a bigger chance of that happening because the low fan speed causes temps to be reasonably high even at low loads.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Just one thing left to complete the SFF build - and it is a new GPU


My Small Form Factor build it almost done. In fact, I can even stop right there. But the PC does not look properly balanced because the GPU in it is two years old where as most of the other components are less than a couple of months old. That mean, you can anticipate a GPU upgrade happening anytime soon. But "how soon" would depend mainly on the prices of GPUs. I do not get to play games often these days, hence I do not want to spend a lot of money on it.

The original plan

My original plan was to wait for the NVidia GeForce GTX 870. Of course that is still the plan, however knowing how hard the vendors will go at milking the pockets of the early adopters here in Japan, it makes me wonder if I would actually be able to afford one of those babies this year. It would take at least 6 months to drop below a sanity margin. At least, that is what happened with the Radeon R9 290 series non-reference cards.

I presume these cards will be very power efficient if the GTX 750 Ti card which was released as the first generation Maxwell was any indication. If NVidia sticks with the same architecture, which they surely will, there is nothing that would stop me from populating my little rig with two of them. Oops. I guess there is. Money! Still, having so much power housed inside such an abysmal case would be pretty bad ass. I know, I know. I am not a proponent of multi GPU setups (read this post), but at least SLI seems to be sufficiently polished.

The GTX800 series cards are rumored to come out next month. It could just be a paper launch and the actual availability would be pushed into October. But at least, I would not need to wait for a long time. I might have to come back to this discussion in a couple of months.

I would expect a GTX 870 to be faster than a GTX 780, as was the case with the GTX 580 vs. GTX 670. But I cannot say for sure if this would be recur. Some of the rumours suggest that the GTX 870 might not be as fast as the GTX 780 after all. If such is true, I might have to step up to the GTX 880 which should be faster than the GTX 780, if its name has to mean anything.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Installation Experience SG09

The finished system

My new case, the Silverstone SG09 arrived on Saturday, August 2. I was too busy in the weekend that I could not play with it until late Sunday night. Actually, it was almost near midnight when I opened the packaging to see what is was like.

I did not plan to transfer all the components to the new case on the same day. But that is what actually happened. I had to all of the work in the kitchen otherwise the baby would have woken up to the noise.

Starting of the transfer of components

I first removed all the components that has to go in the new case, and placed them on the floor. Then I put the old case aside and brought the new case in.

Removal of the side panels was not painful despite having 6 screws to deal with. This case has a weird side panel setup. One of the side panels is actually half a panel and the other one is one and a half of a panel, plus the top area. I am not sure why they went with this design. I would not call this an elegant way to fix whatever design problem they originally had. But this could be the optimal fix because the newer SG10 case carries the identical design philosophy.

Installation of the PSU

At the first glance, I felt that the PSU was the one that should go in. (You will see that this was not the way to do it.) It does not mount itself onto the case. First a drawer like cage had to be removed from the case and the PSU had to be installed onto this cage. After that, you have to insert the unit into the PSU mounting hole. It actually went in quite smoothly.

Bought my new case for the SFF build

Now that I have finally found a buyer for my old case, it was now time to search for a good deal on a small case. I had been getting ready to buy one particular case: the Silverstone Sugo SG10. It is just the perfect case for the job; very small but supports Micro ATX boards and decent sized CPU coolers. I actually had bought all of the parts that I planned to put inside it and had been using them inside the old case until now.
  • The CPU cooler is the Silverstone HE01 which is a perfect fit for this case. (link to article)
  • The motherboard is the Maximus VII Gene which is pretty much the highest end Micro ATX board you can buy. (link to article)
  • The PSU is a 80Plus Gold rated Corsair HX650 which is modular and a modular PSU is essential to be used with this case. (link to article)

The case was the last piece of the puzzle. And that last piece is just a matter of finding a store that sold it at a reasonable price. (Well, it is not the absolute last piece, because I want to buy at least a GXT 870 when they come out to replace my aging GTX 670.)

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