Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why do these things excite me so much?

There are a few factors the can really influence the performance of your internet browsing experience. Some of them we can’t influence, like those porn torrents, yeah no one can stop them. I know they’re not yours! It’s all for someone else, your roommate/brother/niece/cat is really into this or particular kind of rare German stuff. And hey!? It’s all good right? Of course it is, but whatever happens no one can mess with the porn torrents!

But the good news is there are some factors that you can control. I’m talking about DNS.

We all know a DNS lookup occurs every time we do pretty much anything online. (Yes that’s an over-simplification but just go with it… it’ll be worth it ;) So it makes sense that if we can improve the performance of our DNS we’ll improve the overall web browsing experience.

That’s where Name Bench comes in.

It’s pretty cool. It benchmarks your DNS! Give it a crack and see if it suggests a different DNS server. If it doesn’t at least you’ll know you’re already getting the fastest possible name resolution AND get some interesting info to boot!

I know I was surprised when I was advised that TPG’s DNS servers were 26% faster than my own ISPs. Yup I was surprised BUT I did change my DHCP settings to give these new servers a crack. Didn’t really notice a difference, but at least I KNOW I’ve spent some time optimising my DNS resolutions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Existential Crysis

You know that moment when you become certain it’s time for a PC upgrade? Well if you do, you may find this familiar territory. If you don’t this may be enlightening. Either way I hope to entertain you, gentle reader, with a tale of woe and existential crisis!

This story centres on Crysis 2. “Ah ha!” I hear the gamers among you proclaim. “He’s going to complain about poor performance forcing him to upgrade, just like the rest of us when the first Crysis launched!”

Good guess, but you’re wrong. This has nothing to do with performance.

My beast handled everything the new fangled Cryengine could throw at it, to start with.

Being a graphics junkie my standard operating procedure when experiencing a new game is to set everything to stupid high settings the run the game until I loose my patience with poor frame rates.

In this case I was pleased that everything ran pretty well and I was able to experience the first few levels of Crysis 2 at my chosen “stupid high” detail levels. My rig is built for stuff like this I smugly think to myself, my raided SSDs performing admirably reducing load times and getting me into the action faster. Then before I know it I’m lost in the excitement, blasting the Cell security forces that currently have Manhattan under martial law. Then the aliens turn up and it’s truly engaging. It’s all good clean fun with that hint of self satisfaction that comes along with being a PC hardware enthusiast, running the latest game at stupid high settings and not feeling the need to adjust any of said stupid high settings. Ahh good times.

About 20 minutes in I did notice some loud fan noise. But all up it’s just nicey wicey smoothie woothie. (I know this techno babble needs to stop right!?)

So playing playing playing. I eventually got to a stage where I needed to sneak through a Cell checkpoint, which is guarded by a bunch of guys (no problem) and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (requires concentration).

So I switched to stealth mode, killed all the guys, then found a good position to snipe the gunner in the APC.

BAM take him out with a clean headshot.

Unfortunately I forgot the golden rule of staying alive as a sniper… You absolutely must relocate after you take your shot. My rookie error had revealed my position to the gunner INSIDE the APC.

The turret turns ominously to face my position...

Oh shit I think, mashing Q to switch my nano-suit to armoured mode. I glance at my energy and realise all that stealth action had depleted my suits power supply, so I’m feeling decidedly squishy when the APC fires.



I find myself looking at a blank screen in a silent room. My PC had powered off! Not a BSOD. Not a baldy configured sleep timer. PC. Just. Powered. Off!

That APC gunner blasted me so hard he shut my PC down!

I’m guessing there was some pretty graphical effect about to be displayed as a result of my total annihilation, which was the final straw for my poor power supply. Rather than keep going and risk meltdown it’s just given up and stopped supplying me with power.

I booted my PC up again an all was good. But, out of sympathy for my hardware, I've not loaded the game again. If his primitive AI routines were capable of it that gunner would be feeling pretty smug right now. He managed to defend his checkpoint from an entirely different dimension!

It’s an interesting experience to be engaged in mortal combat only find yourself sitting in a suddenly dark and silent room, defeated by an entity via a glitch in wholly separate reality. A reality said entity couldn’t even hope to comprehend. Even if he were programmed to “hope”, or be aware of any “reality” (his or mine), or even to be aware of himself as an “entity” rather than what “he” is, a collection of matrices, algorithms and subroutines, it’s just not possible for to him to understand how utterly he defeated me. Obviously in his victory he also utterly annihilated himself and his entire reality, but frankly that irony does little to console me.

So when I find myself thinking;

That APC gunner might be safe for now… But when my new power supply arrives… I’m finding myself a rocket launcher and I’m putting a rocket right through his window into his existentially challenged bastard face!

Now, that’s what I call motivation to upgrade my PC!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Service Packs Attack!

Installed Windows 7 SP1? Good for you, you're keeping your shit up to date! (3xU combo!!)

Noticed that your machine won't wake from sleep? Yeah? It has to be powered on, like with the power button, and then whinges that Windows was not properly shutdown! But I put you to sleep you little shit!

So you start troubleshooting, right? Have a dig around in POWERCFG, thanks to your old mate Ben you got access to a sweet how to. Nope nothing there.

Better see this for yourself aye? So you set the sleep timer to 1 minute and wait...

Ahhhh there she goes off to sleep as she should... Isn't she cute as she's going to sleep.. Then, BAM! BSOD!

I bet that's what happened for you! That's why you're here (or you got my email telling you to come read my blog) well let me help out here, because I can.

Basically if you are totally leet OR want to be massively attractive to the opposite sex you'll be booting your OS from some kind of RAID. Well there's your problem!

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 has introduced a bug that causes this issue. Basically if a machine is booted from a “SCSI Miniport driver" it will BSOD when it is put to sleep. 

Good news though there is a fix.

Happy patching you RAID loving nerds!