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Hardware Updates – Headphones, Video Cards, and Connectivity October 10, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
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11 comments

A while back I wrote a post looking for recommendations for several real world things.

I haven’t gone with a new video editing package as yet, but I haven’t had the yen to do much in the way of new videos recently in any case.

I did, however, make headway with the other items on the list.  So it is review time I suppose.

This is a long block of text and not very gaming related, so I am going to put it behind a cut.

If you are not interested in a discussion of my experiences with headsets, video cards, and internet connectivity options, you are excused from going further.

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ASUS EAH4850 Matrix March 2, 2009

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
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5 comments

I needed a video card, and I needed one in a hurry.

Over the years I have upgraded my video card many times.  I always keep the old card handy just in case something goes wrong with the new one.  I like to have a fall-back position.

However, I was in a bind this time around.  My current system is PCI-Express and all my old video cards are AGP.  There was no fall-back position. And while the 8800GT was still operating in a minimal functionality mode, so at least I could do something on my computer, all video functions were set to “Slow & Painful.”

I did some quick research over at Tom’s Hardware.  They had their “Best Graphics Card for the Money” feature updated for February 09.  At my price target was the ATi 4850 based video card with 512MB or RAM.  It offered performance on par with my old card and was a design that had been on the market for a while, so should be stable.

But which version of the ATi 4850 to select?

I hunted around a bit, looking for the model with the best cooling arrangement.  I just wanted the card to last.

Finally I found a review over on Firing Squad that had potential.  The high-end ASUS version of the ATi 4850, the EAH4850 Matrix looked to be just about the thing I was after.  A quick visit to ZipZoomFly.com and it was ordered and on its way to me.

Friday the package arrived.

I opened the shipping box and picked up the contents.

I removed the black sleeve from the black box.  I opened up the black box and began to go through the black cardboard inserts.  Inside of the biggest black insert was a static bag held close with black tape.  Inside the bag was a video card built on a black PCB, covered with black integrated circuits on one side and a large black housing for a cooling system on the other, in the middle of which was a large black fan.  Once installed, little black lights labeled in black on a black background lit up black to indicate the black video card was now operational.

Okay, except for the last sentence, everything in that last paragraph was true.  ASUS has a black theme going on with this card.  This is truly Hotblack Desiato’s Video Card.

The card itself is a double-wide.  You need to open two covers on the backplane of your computer case, one for the video connectors and one for the heatsink exhaust.  That doesn’t bother me, but some people may resent the space it takes up.  Somewhere over the last 10 years I stopped needing to populate every last slot on the motherboard.

And how does it run?

With my in-game video settings left over from the 8800GT, things feel about the same.  Of course, I spent most of the weekend playing EVE Online or World of Warcraft, neither of which really taxes a video card.  But I did go run around in Lord of the Rings Online for a bit, and things felt about the same there.

As for heat, the ASUS iTracker application that comes with the card let me keep an eye on that.  I used it to change the cooling settings to be somewhat more aggressive in spinning up the fan on the card.

The fan itself is reasonably quiet.  I can hear it quite clearly when it comes on, but it isn’t loud and it just joins the chorus of fan noises that eminate from the computer case under my desk.

We shall see how the card operates in the long term, but for now I am back up and running.

8800GT Failure February 25, 2009

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
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Earlier this week I noticed that video on my computer was behaving oddly.  Strange artifacts now and again, things I would have attributed 20 years ago to problems with video memory.

Then last night when I poked my nose into Lord of the Rings Online, that was enough to push the card over the edge into failure mode.  All 3D operations appear to have ceased.  The card, thankfully, has fallen back to some minimal operation state, so I can still do things like type angry blog posts (without pictures), but everything is very slow on the screen.

Are you old enough to remember when scrolling text in a large Word document was a stress test for a video card?  Yeah, I’m operating with that level of video support now.  Scrolling down the page on my blog is a test of my patience.

The card, my second 8800GT after the first one failed almost a year back (also while playing LOTRO) has not given me a lot of faith in nVidia for the moment.

So for my next video card, just in time to be my birthday present I suppose, I think I will jump back to the ATi side of the video world with a 4850 based card.

But no Lord of the Rings Online for a while, not until I get the card replaced.  At least I can update my EVE Online skill training on our iMac.  Go CCP and Mac OSX support!

Return to Middle-earth April 21, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
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Friday night marked the return of at least some of the WoW instance group to Lord of the Rings Online.

It was unplanned, but after my wife went to bed early (she stretched out on the bed for a minute and then the sandman crept up and mugged her… it was a long week for her) I decided to just log into LOTRO for a few minutes, just to look around.

But once in I was hailed by Skronk and Ula who were also getting reacquainted with the game. They were in the North Downs around Nan Amlug. Since I was near Trestlebridge, I hopped on my new mount and headed out to play with them. Our group consisted of Skronk’s captain, Ula’s minstrel, and my guardian, Nomu.

We picked up some quests from the area and went out hunting.

High points of being in LOTRO again.

Graphics – Wow, I had forgotten how beautiful Middle-earth can be in LOTRO

Appearance Tab – There is not one, but two appearance tabs in LOTRO, so you can have two outfits on hand. You can see in the picture above Nomu is wearing a bucket hat in his appearance tab in anticipation of the upcoming fishing hobby.

Ambient Sound – Out in the fields the ambient sounds were quite amazing, some of the best I recall hearing in an MMO.

The Founder’s Horse – While not as swift as the mounts that can be purchase at level 35, they are both free and faster than walking, which makes travel in the game much easier. All three of us are founders, so we were all able to ride.

General – Skills seem to have been tweaked since we last played together. While still very rusty, we were able to work as a team fairly effectively.

All in all we had a good time. I think we all need some warming up in the game, both to get used to some of its quirks (the UI just is not as responsive as WoW’s) and to come up to speed with all the changes that have come into the game since we last played in the fall of 2007.

I will have to keep an eye on a couple things though.

The first is money. Theoretically Nomu should be able to buy a better horse at level 35. However the price, 4 gold and a couple hundred silver, seems way beyond what he will have been able to save by that point. Quest rewards and vendor items off of mobs seem to be barely keeping ahead of the repair bill after an evening in the field. I hope I don’t have to start working the auction house just to start making money.

And the other is my video card. I would like to avoid any further video card issues, so I have been turning the fans up and watching the temperature on the 8800GT.

Still, the green fields of Middle-earth seemed very welcoming.

LOTRO is Go! April 18, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, Lord of the Rings Online.
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11 comments

The replacement 8800GT arrived from Velocity Micro yesterday afternoon. So after a quick swap I was able to try the new card out.

The first thing I did was run the nVidia stability test which would cause the old card to crash within 30 seconds, regardless of card temperature.

The new card ran through a 10 minute pass without issue.

Then I brought up LOTRO, got out my hunter, and played for a little over an hour.

No issues their either. Plus, my hunter hit level 24. Only one more level until he gets his first horse.

So I am all set to play Lord of the Rings Online again.

And a good thing too.

Within the instance group there has been some renewed interest in LOTRO.

Skronk (Potshot) has been back in the game a bit.

Ula has shown some interest in coming back to play now that housing is available.

And I have had the urge to go back for a while now, which is why I have been griping about my video card issue.

And that urge increased when I read that one of the new Book 13 features is fishing!

Fishing!

For no good reason I end up fishing in almost every MMO I play. (There is no fishing in EVE Online… but mining is pretty much the moral equivalent.)

I like that Turbine has declared fishing a “hobby” as opposed to a profession. Although you can cook your fish and eat them if you have the right profession, the true spirit that seems to be in play here is titles and such, always a strong point in LOTRO.

So look for me on the shores of Nen Harn, fishing pole in hand, some day soon.

RMA Part Has Been Shipped April 11, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Hardware, Lord of the Rings Online.
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6 comments

Well, at least Velocity Mirco is taking care of me. I received a note from them this morning with that line.

And, unlike my experiences last year with the x1950 card, I don’t have to send them my card first, then wait around for them to finish. Thank you VM!

In a case of “One screenshot is worth 1,000 minutes on hold,” my LOTRO screen artifacts picture seemed to be enough, along with a short description I submitted to Velocity Micro via their online support page, for them to RMA the card.

So, if LOTRO locking up and making your screen look like this:

LOTRO goes belly up again

feel free to borrow my screen shot.

Of course, I only got to the point of asking them for support after I had exhausted all other paths (so you see, my behavior in EVE is part of my flawed personality) I could think of with my system. Now I have to undo some of those as EVE has started abending on me at random points while I am mining or fighting.

Life in the fast lane I guess.

But at least I might be able to get LOTRO up an stable in time for the 1 year anniversary of it going live.

My LOTRO Video Crash April 6, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, Lord of the Rings Online.
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41 comments

I have yet to find anything in the official forums that matches the problem I am seeing (or that helps in any way). I did manage to grab a screen shot just as I LOTRO was locking up on me yet again. This is what I get after being in game for a few minutes.

LOTRO goes belly up again

It seems to be accelerated by my going into town, but it happens eventually out in the field as well. The colors vary, but the net result is the same, the game locks up and I have to restart my system to do anything.

Is anybody else having a similar issue?

[addendum: This turned out to be a faulty 8800 GT video card, with follow on posts here and here.]