Friday, 22 November 2013

System Update: TITAN SLI

After the recent price drops both sides have seen, along with the release of the R9 series cards and the 780Ti, there was a wave of people changing up their GPUs.

I managed to snag two Titans in this upgrade bonanza. One is an Asus, the other a Gigabyte.

System looks quite nice now with the glowing green LEDs.

With just an ever so slight bump on the cores, it manage to blast over 21k 3DMark11 score.

I'll be hopefully adding some benchmark FPS tests later on, to perhaps use as a rough point of comparison to when I ran the GTX 680 SLI benchmarks.

Hoping to test games such as WoW, BF4, Crysis 3 and possibly something fairly basic such as Starcraft 2.

Quick specs:
i7 3930K @ 4.2GHz
SLI Titan +100 core (though that never accurately translates)
X79 - UD5
16GB Corsair Vengeance

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Quick System Update - Samsung EVO 740GB

So, I dropped my RAID Crucial M4 drives. For a few reasons, first because I was quickly running out of storage, but also that didn't do my research and for some reason thought I had 4x Intel SATA3 ports on the board. Due to this I'd have to RAID two drives across the SATA3 ports and stick one drive on the SATA2. Due to potential performance limitations of doing this, plus the large amount of space that would be stolen for RAID overheads, I sold the M4s and bought a single Samsung EVO 740GB drive.

A few of you may know this has a feature called RAPID (Real-time Accelerated Processing of I/O Data), which in effect uses your system RAM as a 'cache' of sorts to buffer the SSD read/writes.

The effect of this is shown as you access the same data several times.

For instance, in a speed test, you can get some incredible figures. These were probably helped by the quad channel memory you have in X79 boards too.

Now I have disabled the RAID controller so bootup time through BIOS is a lot quicker, plus the insane speeds of the drive itself are just fantastic!

AMD and nVidia Price Wars - R9 290X and 780 Ti

We've had a few interesting establishments over the last 6 months or so. From the green team we've had the new 700 series cards, some fairly good performance shown there, right the way up to the TITAN, which shows some monster performance and compute power.

Then from the reds we've had the 7950 and 7970, two cards which do a very good job of dominating the price/performance sectors of the market. After some drivers issues I think most of the crossfire stuttering problems should be solved now, higher resolution and multi screens may have small issues though.

Recently however, AMD are pushing their new release of the R9 series. The 280X seems to be selling fairly well at the price point of £220-£280, which is a point at which you will see either the high end nVidia 760 cards or the lower end 770's.

Currently, the 770s edge out the 280X on lower resolutions of 1080p, but the 280X overtakes it in certain games as you start hitting 4K resolutions., though some still play better on the 770.

Their new 'flagship' R9 290X card however has hit mixed reviews. While it does have TITAN/780 rivalling performance, it does seem to get extremely hot. We're talking almost 95 degrees here. I've heard some people use the argument "Ah but you have to watercool it, then it's fine.". Just stop it, watercooling should not be mandatory, even with flagship cards. They should work just perfectly well out of the box (and not be heating my entire room), and function just as any other card would. I feel the performance gain here was not worth the immense heat they put out. I'm not certain if the new cooler design is to be blamed, or just the huge die. We'll see when the non-reference cards arrive.

As the news of these cards hit the masses though, nVidia decided that a blanket price slash on their 700 series cards was in order. The 780 dropped $150, while the 770 lost $70 from its RRP. This can only be good news to the consumers looking for a decent upgrade!

Soon to arrive is nVidia's next bump up, the 780Ti. Rumours are that it will be close/better than TITAN performance with a larger amount of VRAM (good news for me as I need more than 3GB, preferably 4GB with some games nowadays).

I'm hoping it brings a card that will run newer games at good fps on a surround system (5760*1080), while sporting some decent VRAM (4GB+) and hopefully in the £500-£600 price range. Cheaper is obviously better though!

Monday, 24 June 2013

New Desk Build

After a lot of deliberation over what I wanted my new desk to look like I decided to have some large pieces of real wood cut to size. I had a large main section done and a long shelf for the screens along with a smaller end section if the other half wanted to join hers onto it. The wood cost me £240. I spent the weekend waxing and staining it with medium stain. Got the legs from B&Q and they weren't bloody cheap either. £98 for 7 of them! Finally a top shelf from IKEA for my world of warcraft server that my little mage started its life on back in vanilla WoW (the best gaming experience I've ever had in my life I think). Then a few LED strip lights to finish it off.

I'm thinking the server at the top needs a bit more lighting but I'm just not sure what I want to do yet.
I'm so flipping pleased with it though! Took me ages to get it all organised and constructed.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Galaxy S4 (IV) Official Release Specs & Thoughts

So last night we saw the opening ceremony of the Galaxy S4 in New York. I must admit, I wasn't the biggest fan of the ceremony itself, it's was a classic over the top American production with stages within stages and 'pretend' scenes in which they could use situations to demonstrate the abilities of the new S4. 100 marks for effort, not so much for execution. However, at least they tried something new and different which is fair enough.

A quick rundown of the new hardware features present in Galaxy S4:

CPU: Octa core 1.6Ghz Exynos/Quad Core 1.9Ghz Qualcomm (market dependent)
Display: 5 inch SUPER AMOLED display at 1920x1080 441ppi (Gorilla Glass 3)
Memory: 2GB RAM
Internal Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB with expandable micro SD slot for card
Cameras: 13MP rear, 2MP front
Mobile: GSM/EDGE/3G/4G technology, Wifi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Sensors/Connections: NFC/InfraRed/MHL2/Temperature/Humidity
Physical measurements: 130 grams, 7.9mm thin, Thin Bezel
Battery: 2600mAh

Software Additions:

Operating System: Android 4.2.2 - Jelly Bean (No mention of Key Lime, however one would assume it will receive the update when available)
S Translate: A neat feature that holds 9 languages and can translate between them, it can process text-to-speech and speech-to-text and can apparently be used without data charges!
S Voice Drive: When the phone is running on bluetooth it will accept voice commands without the need for touching the device itself!
AirView: You can 'hover' your fingers over the screen to expand certain items (an image on a web page for isntance), along with using hand gestures to scroll the screen/answer calls etc.
Smart Pause: The S4 can tell when you look away from it, pausing whatever media you are currently watching. It resumes when you look back at the screen again.

Camera Functions:
Dual Shot - can activate both front and rear cameras simultaneously to enable everyone to be in the picture, the same applies to video calls, you can show both cameras at once.
Eraser - if you are taking a picture and someone inadvertently walks across the image, the eraser tool will snap multiple times to enable you to 'remove' said person/object from the end image.
Drama Shot - Does almost the opposite of Eraser, takes many shots in quick succession but will keep the image store from each picture, thus you could show a horse in many stages of its jump, for instance.
Sound & Shot - Allows tagging of a voice memo/message to each image.

In all, you may not think there are many fantastic hardware additions over the Galaxy S3. The screen being promoted to a full 1920*1080 resolution (same as an HD monitor/TV) is a step in the right direction. Going to 5 inch I'm not so sure I am a huge fan of. I'm not really sure where the mobile market is trying to go right now, it seems screens are getting bigger and bigger but they're only 2 inches from a small tablet now (not counting the Note, I don't even know what that is). In the past it was always, 'Who can make the smallest phone?', it seems now to be going the other way now. But I guess if everyone is doing this, you can't really blame one manufacturer for it, they are only following the trend.

Aside from the screen, the camera addition is a decent one, making that standard 'step' to the next level. The same applies to the CPU, either a 1.6Ghz 8 core unit or an almost 2Ghz (1.9) 4 core unit will ship with the S4. To power these units it also contains a 2600mAh battery, around 25% higher capacity than the one in the S3. That screen will drain quite some juice though so it does need it. I can imagine battery levels to be fairly similar, perhaps with a possibility of it having a slightly longer life.

It's nice to have things like a temperature sensor and a humidity sensor but whether they will get used in day to day life is another question. The same applies to the InfraRed sensor, will people use it to control their TV's? I'm not sure, only time will tell.

In all, it's most definitely a worthy upgrade from the Galaxy S2, however a lot of S3 owners have been feeling like the biggest difference is the software and that they will be shunned to the side without any of the updates themselves, but it still seems like it has enough features for the upgrade.

I'll give the phone a 9/10 as it's not quite as much as it was hyped up to be, but it's most certainly one of, if not the, leader in the Android/worldwide smartphone market at the moment.


Images courtesy/copyright of Samsung

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

SimCity: Top or Flop?


The dust has (almost) settled after a somewhat troubled SimCity launch. Those who have purchased are just about able to play without interruption now, 8 days after the official release.

The launch was plagued with server connection problems, effectively meaning that due to the 'always online' nature of the game, nobody was able to play it! In the rare case that someone was able to get onto a server and create a city, it appeared that once the connection to the server was dropped for longer than 10 minutes, their progress was lost.

EA continued to add servers to their armoury until they finally reached almost double the amount that SimCity originally launched with. A seemingly grave miscalculation was made regarding the sheer number of users that would attempt to login. Either that or they'd written inefficient server side code which was bottlenecking their systems.

The sales of the game was pulled briefly from Amazon's stores stating that EA was struggling to cope with the number of users attempting to play. EA have attempted an apology by stating everyone would registered before March 18th would receive a 'free game' from their portfolio. What this means we don't quite know just yet (personally I'd love Crysis 3).


I'll try not to be too harsh on EA/Maxis here. In essence, the game isn't bad. It does very much feel like you are playing your standard city sim. A few things they seemed to either miss out or execute badly were the following:

Individual Zoning - You no longer control your zoning by creating three separate sub-zones, instead your sims decide, based on surroundings, which areas are suitable for higher development and/or wealth. You can have high density but low wealth areas with large apartments, for instance.

Water Pipes/Power Lines - There are none! So long as you are connected up to a road, your city with be provided with your utilities. I would have liked to see perhaps an option to turn this on/off for a new city, to at least enable you to decide whether you wanted to be an all out anal city planner.

City Size - They should have named this SimVillage, as that's honestly what it feels like at times. It's nowhere near to the scale of SimCity4, for instance. Allegedly they wanted 'every PC' to be able to play it. I call them out on that though. Word on the street is that EA will charge you more for a DLC so you can build 'larger cities'. I can hardly say I didn't expect it from them.

Unit pathing - Cars with always take the shortest route, period. They really will. You can create a long winding highway, yet they will still be adamant on taking the dirt road to work. An incredibly irritating situation as you have to make sure your city can cope with it! My advice would be to work towards public transport as soon as you can!!

Offline play! - You flat out can't play this game offline, forget creating cities on those long flights over the Atlantic, it's not going to happen. The game must be connected to EA's servers at all times, if it detects a drop in connection for over 10 minutes, it will close down and you will lose your progress. The fact that you can carry on playing for 10 minutes without interruption almost proves that the game can quite suitably function in offline mode. Rumours are that it can actually be played as an offline game, EA just won't allow it.

So, what have they added, you might ask?

Online play! - You are able to create your cities within regions (which can hold up to 16 or so 'city' grids within them). What this means is that friends can create cities next to yours, allowing for sharing of resources, public services, utilities. This can be handy if you are just creating a new city and need power or fire truck support on the cheap.

Depth of play - I won't go into the details too much, but there seems to be a large amount more depth to the game with regards to building types and progress paths. You can advance various cities within a region to work towards 'Great Works' goals, for instance a large solar array to provide power to the cities in the region.


I'm not 100% happy with the game as it stands, perhaps that will change in futures patches. That is of course assuming EA bother to actually patch it! (Can you sense the sour taste that's been left in my mouth?) I would really like to forgive them for it, but I'm not sure what it would take for me to do that. It's not just me they would have to appease either, the majority of the gaming community was in outrage.

Taking that aside, the game itself isn't so bad, make the cities larger, give me offline play (perhaps allow syncing to servers and claiming city grids when connected, for instance, to allow for them to retain their 'multiplayer' aspect they keep harping on about) and I'd be happy with it.

Pushing the anger from the server issues slightly aside and thinking with a clear head, I'll give it a 7.5/10, not quite a Top, not quite a Flop. I'm not sure whether they will keep it updated or pull through with their promises but only time will tell. I will say one thing though, I'm glad I only paid £25 for my version.


Edit: Since writing the article another news report has come to light, showing the use of SimCity offline. To say I'm disappointed in EA/Maxis is an understatement.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

TP-Link TL-WA901ND v2 problems, now with added DD WRT

We purchased two of these devices for our offices a short while back, however, after setting one up on our private network and the other for external users, we discovered the one we used internally would drop out every now and again.

Sometimes, it would stop displaying the wireless SSID altogether, sometimes it would stop displaying it to new clients, yet clients that were already connected could still use the network, sometimes it would flat out deny any new connections to the network an IP. It would also display more than one of the problems at the same time. All could be resolved for around 12 hours by restarting the device.

We never had any more than 15 devices connected at any one time to our internal one, at 1 or 2 at most to the external one. I tried swapping the settings on them so we were now connecting to the other device instead for internal use, to no avail. Whichever one we connected the most clients to, would always drop out, despite running the latest firmware from TP Link.

How this issue hasn't been resolved yet I don't know.

(Image is copyright of DD-WRT)

Seeing as we rarely used the external device, I decided to have a play around with it so I flashed the custom firmware from DD WRT onto the spare access point.

To start with I wasn't able to access the GUI. To get into it, I connected to the wireless network 'dd-wrt' that it broadcasts,and within command prompt, had to set a neighbor on the wireless connection.

Open 'cmd' as admin.
Type: arp -a
Then: netsh -c "interface ipv4"
Then: set neighbots "Wireless Network Connection 1" "" "A0:F3:C1:81:XX:XX"

You must replace the 'wireless network connection' with the name of your connection - check the network and sharing centre for this. Also check the bottom of your access point for the correct MAC address and replace the "A0:F3:..." etc with your one.

Then: exit
Then type 'arp -a' again to check if the MAC address is assigned to that particular IP.

If you can connect to through your web browser, then your work is done! If not, you may need to restart the access point and as soon as the network is picked up by your computer, quickly connect and hit refresh on the webpage - you have to be quick to get in!!

To be able to properly setup the device on your network, you must fill in all the correct values, otherwise you may not be able to connect again.

Setup - Basic Setup:
WAN Connection Type - Disabled
Network Setup - Router IP - all of your network information goes in here, your local IP address is the one you want to connect to your access point on (remember this so you can connect back to the interface in the future!!), subnet mask should be taken from your main router and is normally, gateway is the IP address of your main router and if you have a local DNS server, enter it in the box as well.
Tick the 'Assign WAN Port to Switch'
Enable your DHCP server for the AP and input your correct network details

Setup - MAC Address Clone
Make sure this is disabled

Setup - Advanced Router:
Make sure Operating Mode is set to your preferred type, we have ours as a Gateway

Wireless - Basic Settings:
Enter all of your setings in here, wireless mode is AP for us, the channel/bandwidth settings and your preferred broadcast SSID.

Wireless - Wireless Security:
Ensure you enter a password in here, otherwise you will have an open network that anyone can join. We use WPA2 Personal Mixed with AES algorithms.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Great Discounts With CDKeyNexus

Hi guys, I've been in touch with the guys over at and have agreed a coupon discount code for all readers.

It will work with all purchases and give you 5% off their already fantastic prices for games!

It's quite simple, all you need to do is type this coupon discount code into their checkout:


They will email you the game serial key after you make your purchase to add to the relevant platform, Origin, Steam, Uplay and so on! Fear not if the purchase is not in your currency, especially if you use PayPal, it will convert it at a decent rate for you!

They've got some great prices on the new SimCity, Tomb Raider, Heart of the Swarm and Crysis 3 games and are always more than happy to answer any questions you have for them!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4: Information Imminent!

Samsung has been fairly good at keeping quiet on this one, however rumour has it that there will be an announcement on March 14th 2013 to showcase their new flagship mobile phone handset - the Galaxy S4 (S IV).

At the moment there is too much information to speculate on, however I'm certain we will see the now-standard 'upgrades' when manufacturers push their new flagships out, such as a higher res camera, higher ppi (pixel density) plus possibly larger screen and a much smoother and more enjoyable user experience in the form of a faster processor.

The Galaxy S3 base specs are as follows: Display: Super AMOLED Screen - 720 x 1280 pixels (4.8inch) at 306ppi, CPU: 1.4GHz Quad Core Cortex A9, Camera: 8MP

If we take the above and extrapolate along with taking some of the circulating rumours in, we could expect the S4 to come with a 1080p 5inch 441ppi display while sporting an Octa Core Exynos chip (with split cores) but also potential for a Snapdragon. The highest bets are currently on the 5440 Exynos Quad Core though, as it has been floating around for a few months now and is much faster than the previous chip. It seems it is all up in the air at the moment due to potential manufacturing issues. We've also heard that samsung have worked on getting the physical size of their flash memory down to enable them to produce thinner phones, this may be something we end up seeing in the new S4. The S3 sported an 8MP camera however we've heard there may be a 10MP on the upcoming S4, that's quite something for a mobile handset!

Monday, 11 February 2013

X79-UD5 IRST TRIM with RAID0 SSDs in Windows 7

Hi all, just a quick update, to cut a long story short - I developed a problem on booting up since I swapped some drives around.

I swapped the 1TB out and in place put in a 500GB WD drive, setup a RAID0 with the two other 500GB drives and put the 1TB in my new server/HTPC (update to come on this) for remote backup from my main setup.

The problem was my boot times rocketed from around 15 seconds to 1 minute 20 seconds at points. It was a little frustrating especially as I'm running the two RAID0 256GB M4 SSDs. Eventually after a day of working on/reinstalling the OS/swapping drives about, I discovered it was the Marvell drivers having a paddy as, to create the RAID, I'd moved my optical drive onto the Marvell controller. On boot it was hanging for 60s just trying to initialise the DVD drive. Had to create custom event views for it to try and track it all down.

In the process, however, I discovered that on the X79-UD5's new BIOS, there is an option to switch around the Intel Controller's mode. I was presented with two options, either RSTe, or IRST. Now we all know that the new 7 series chipsets support RAID TRIM, however X79 is on the 6 series and was not supported.

Knowing that previously I'd been using RSTe (enterprise version) drivers, I had a dig around and found that if I switched the OROM (option rom) to IRST, I could install the standard version of Intel Rapid Storage Technology. I'm currently running version, which, after a little checking, is now issuing and executing TRIM commands on the RAID0 M4s!

So - hopefully the rest of the motherboard manufacturers will, at some point, be issuing updates to allow this OROM to be switchable, especially as us enthusiasts on X79 won't like to be left out of such luxuries as TRIM, especially considering we are more likely than others to be running RAID SSDs!