17 April, 2008

Crysis Crisis

Last Christmas, my ever thoughtful Better Half, did her ever vigilant research into the latest computer games to find something that she thought was good and that I'd enjoy. She came up trumps yet again and on Christmas morning I unwrapped Crysis.

Crysis was one of the most eagerly awaited and talked about games last year. It was going to push PCs and their graphics cards to whole new limits. It set a new benchmark in graphics. Great game - IF your PC and graphics card could handle it. Therein lay the problem. My graphics card just didn't have the power that could handle it. The game would have to wait.

Over the past few months I'd have a look at graphics cards. Mostly I'd think they were too expensive and then forget about it again for a few weeks. Every so often, the Better Half, would ask if I'd checked out new graphics cards and that I should get one. This process repeated several times until just over a week ago.

I spotted a very good card (GeForce 8800GT in case you're wondering), and it was on sale. 33% off! It was more than I had planned spending, but it would probably do me for much longer than the card I had been considering. Finally I bit the bullet and ordered the card. As the card was PCI Express, I knew it would need a 6 pin power connector. My power supply didn't have one, so I ordered a converter cable from eBay.

A few days later the card arrives. I opened the box and had a quick read of the instructions, especially the power requirements section. They strongly discouraged the use of the power cable converters. The only think for it was to order a new power supply unit (PSU).

Checked around a few sites. Found a 650w PSU at a reasonable price so I ordered it. I was hopeful that it would arrive before the weekend so I could put in. (Insert your own rant about courier companies here - I'm sure you have one.) I got the PSU on Monday.

Monday evening. Better Half is out visiting. The Yoddler (sort of a yodelling toddler) is asleep. I get to work.

I removed the old graphics card and PSU. Took them outside and cleaned them with an air duster. Took the rest of the PC outside and cleaned it with the air duster. Put in the new PSU. Put in the graphics cards. Connected up all the power cables. Reconnected keyboard, mouse, audio cables, USB cables, network cable and power cable. Then I hoped it would all work first time. Surprise, surprise - it did! I then made some changes to the BIOS settings, and installed the latest drivers etc for the graphics card.

Total time to disassemble and reassemble: About 2 hours.

It was getting late so I figured I'd leave installing Crysis until the next night.

One night later. I got to the PC at 9ish in the evening. I started to try to remove the plastic wrapper from the game box. It didn't want to come off and put up a brave fight before finally relenting. It was so hard to get it off, I figured that would be the hardest part of the game installation.

I popped the DVD in the drive. The autorun program started, and I clicked on install. I chose where I wanted it installed to and let it go to work. It chugged along, copying files from the DVD to PC (as they do) and updating the little progress bar on the way. All went fine until it popped up with an error message saying that the sounds~.pak file was corrupt. Being the friendly sort of error message it offered me some choices - abort, retry or ignore. I chanced retry. It chugged on as before (still updating the progress) and then repeated the error message.

I clicked retry (again). While it was busy, I decided I'd copy the DVD to the hard disk, and then try to install from there when it was done. While that was going on I started surfing a little to see if this was a common problem. Apparently it is.

At this stage the error message had appeared another couple of times. The copying of the DVD to the hard disk was going to take a while (it was estimating over an hour since the install was attempting to run as well). The possible solutions I'd found involved installing from the hard disk (as I was going to try) - or that the memory in the PC might be a little dodgy. Either way, it was now over two hours since I started installing the game, so I left it alone and went to bed.

Software Day 2
In the morning, the error message was there again, but the DVD seemed to had copied. That evening I attempted to install from the hard disk. It proceeded as before and then threw up the same message.

"It has to be the memory then" I thought. I powered down, turned the tower on its side and opened it up. I took out two sticks of memory and powered it back up. I tried opening the offending file from the hard disk using WinRAR. Same error - it said the file was corrupt. I powered it off again, and then retried with each stick of memory individually, with the same result every time. I could only conclude that I was unlucky with buying 4 dodgy sticks of RAM, or else there was something wrong with the DVD itself. I assumed the latter and put all the memory back in and rebooted.

Then, for some reason, I figured I'd try and open the file with WinRAR from the DVD. It worked. I copied the file (again) from the DVD to PC and reran the installation. It got further and then gave the same message but for a different file. I tried opening that file from the DVD with WinRAR and it succeeded. I decided to give the installation one more go from the DVD, and it worked. All the way, no problems. No tries. Just a simple, normal install.

Inconclusive Conclusion
The only difference between that install and the first ones was that the tower was on it's side, and not upright. This means that the DVD was spinning on its side instead of lying flat. Of course, that shouldn't make it difference, but I assume it could have. I didn't uninstall and reinstall to test it.

All in all it probably took over 5 hours to just get the game installed. On the plus side, that's still faster than installing Windows 95 from floppies!

08 April, 2008

Technology Drives Amok

Funny how things go. Hadn't read a casual blog about a GPS in ages, then when I'm going to wrote one, Grandad does one, and Michele posts a cartoon on one. Loads of room on the bandwagon so I'll post anyway.

I was going to family party the other night. Since I was planning on having a beverage or two, I arranged to stay at my aunt's house and travel with them to the party. Her hubby, UncleM, has a humongous Land Rover and all it's bells and whistles have bells and whistles.

UncleM and myself head to the car (it's a bit like saying an aircraft carrier is a boat) and he tells me to get in the front. In the dashboard is fairly large screen with the names of lots of radio stations on it. He touches a button on it, marked TV, and RTE1 comes on. "Not a bad picture" he remarks, as AuntyM struggles to heave herself up the considerable height into the back of the car. We pull off, the picture disappears for safety reasons, so he changes it back to the radio.

On route to the party we are to pick up CousinP. Going through the city centre, UncleM is playing tour guide and showing me the sites, obviously taking the mick as I've know the place since I was a kid.

From the back of the car we hear "Take such and such a road" as AuntyM gives directions to CousinP's house.

We're stopped at traffic lights. "Have you seen the Sat Nav?" askes UncleM. He hits another button and a map is displayed on the screen.

"In 200 metres turn left" says Sat Nav. "I don't know where's it's going. Can't remember what it's set to" says UncleM. "She's got a lovely voice. I've asked her out but she ignores me" he says.

"Go straight to the end of this road" says AuntyM.
"In 400 metres turn right" says Sat Nav.
Uncle Mike turns left.
"Where are you going?" says AuntyM.
"In 200 metres turn left" says Sat Nav.
Uncle Mike turns right, onto a narrow little road, which has just enough room for one normal sized car at a time. He navigates the road and finally arrives to CousinP's house, Sat Nav all the while giving different directions to some unknown location.

"I must read the manual on it" remarks UncleM, while CousinP is trying to figure out an elegant and appropriate lady-of-her-age manner to negotiate the climb into the back.

As we start to leave the housing estate CousinP says "Turn left here and go to the end of the road".
"Turn left" agrees Sat Nav.
"Why didn't you turn left?" questions AuntyM as UncleM goes straight across the intersection.

"In 400 metres turn left" says Sat Nav.
"That's right" remarks CousinP. "What's that voice?" she asks.

"That's the Sat Nav" says AuntyM. "Turn left at the lights".

UncleM turns right and heads to the next roundabout while receiving helpful comments like "See you've gone backwards to go forwards".
"At the roundabout take the third exit" barks the Sat Nav.
"That Sat Nav is a little loud" says CousinP.
"It is loud" says AuntM.

"I don't know how to shut her up" says UncleM.

I presumed he was talking about the Sat Nav, but I might have been wrong.

Oh, we did make it to the party.

01 April, 2008

The Signs Were There...

I was watching Match Of The Day 2 the other night when the highlights of Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle came on. Spurs were playing at home, and despite going ahead in the first half, they crumbled and lost 4-1.

Spurs have already qualified to play in Europe next season, for the UEFA cup. They won't qualify for the Champions League, and they won't get relegated. They really don't have anything to play for and seemed to be concentrating on just getting to the end of the season and then enjoying their summer holidays. The signs were there for all to see.

The commentator on the game was interviewing the assistant manager afterwards. He'd seen the signs and put it to the assistant. He denied this was the case. He mustn't have seen the signs...

Edit: check the advertising SIGNS