14 December 2005 in General | Comments (2)

I thought I’d keep to my “jumping from one technology aspect to another” theme today and bring up something I was reading about months ago. I don’t actually do very much with Linux, I’ve played with it a wee bit and it’s alright but I don’t really find it a compelling alternative to Windows. As some people know, I’m very much a UI junkie, loving every time bit of eye candy that comes my way.

Some linux folks (related to the Gnome project I believe) have been working a project called Luminocity. It appears to add a whole bunch of UI goodies that are so unnecessary it’s great. They’ve basically implemented a physics model into the window manager to do some effects like Wobbly Windows (when you drag them they “sway” like they’re being dragged around). There is a lot more to it than this (OpenGL alpha blending, workspace switching etc).

If you’re keen on linux to any degree this is kinda interesting to see.

This blog is primarily about the Microsoft world but from time to time I’ll post something like this just because I think it’s cool.

– JD

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 285 user reviews.

28 November 2005 in General | Comments (2)

A few months back I got around to buying an nVidia 6800 graphics card. It is a reasonably performant card and should have all the bells and whistles to ensure most games run pretty well. I started off using it without any problems – mostly on older games that hadn’t run too smoothly on my old Radeon 9600 card (Sim City 4 etc).

However, over time I started trying some of the newer games like FarCry, Serious Sam II, Age of Empires 3. I was totally unimpressed at the problems that cropped up. Games like FarCry would run well for maybe 10 minutes and then start to get artifacts and become unplayable. Even more modern games like Age Of Empires 3 would actually hard lock my machine before I could even get into the game. Considering how much I paid for the card I was really unhappy.

My real challenge was that I don’t want to try and return the card and not be able to prove it’s broken – as it does work for most older games.

First off I tried the obvious – different versions of drivers. What I found when I tried to upgrade to the newest version drivers was that my system hard-locked as soon as windows loaded. Not such a good thing. Some reading showed that the latest drivers have serious issues…. with dual core systems – which I don’t have. So I went back to some older drivers so I could at least use Windows.

So I guessed that perhaps the card was overheating. I used the tools that came with my card to check the temperature, it sat around 40 degrees celcius and would go up to around 55 once games were cranking. From what I read this wasn’t too bad for a modern graphics card.

My next theory was that it could be a power issue. These modern surfboard sized graphics cards have their own molex connector to really suck the power down. The monitoring tool that came with the card reported voltages looked about right. They did fluctuate slightly when games ran. The problems continued even when I unplugged all unneeded components (DVD drive, second harddisk etc).

So I went and acquired a new computer case – a reasonably nice Thermaltake case with a lot more cooling and a beefed up power supply (430W). The voltages still varied slightly but I I can now rule that out as being the issue. Also the card now runs about another 5 degrees cooler which is great. Unfortunately the problems persisted.

After a while I started to think about what the games that failed had in common. My older games ran fine. So I figured that most newer games utilise pixel shaders. They’re a fancy new way of programmatically getting the graphics card to do some cool rendering (it’s what makes fancy new graphics so fancy I guess you could say). There is a lot happening in this space and it’s not going to go away. As a side note we’re now up to Shader Model 3.0 (SM 3.0) – according to nVidia my card should support everything up to and including 3.0.

Sure enough, in some of these games I can downgrade the version of the shaders used (or turn them off completely). Doing so makes the games run a lot better – no artifacts or hard locking. My next challenge was getting some hard proof that the card had defective shaders. After doing some hunting on Google I discovered a cool application from Microsoft called Display Compatibility Test Kit (DCT). DCT is the application that hardware vendors can use to test their hardware to ensure that it meets WHQL requirements. 107MB later and it was downloaded onto my machine.

A word of warning for anybody looking to run DCT – If you run all the tests included in the DCT application it can take around 36 hours to complete the testing!

I dug around and found the tests relating to pixel shaders, kicked them off and went to bed. I’ve attached this picture showing what happened (the normal windows logo means it ran successfully, the ones with a red cross are ones that failed). My understanding is that my card should have passed all of these.

DCT Shader Fail

I thought I had found some concrete proof of problems. Unfortunately things get a whole lot more murky when I realised that despite nVidia getting WHQL certified by Microsoft their newest cards actually fail the DCT tests (which they are supposed to pass). I still believe that my results are based on damaged pipelines – I actually got up at one point in the night and checked on it (yes – I’m that much of a geek :-) ) and watched some of the tests, sure enough, on the ones that failed they actually show the same corruption (mostly red dots).

If anybody out there actually feels like going to the great length of downloading DCT and running the shader tests on their 6800 and showing me how they faired I’d be pretty stoked :-) At this point I’m going to go old school and just take some digital photos of my computer with the corruption and hope that it will be enough to get a new card. I don’t think they would have too many problems with me getting a replacement but on the off chance I get somebody who wants to actually test it a lot to prove the fault I want to be armed with all the facts I can.

- JD

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 252 user reviews.

25 November 2005 in General | Comments (0)

Rowena and I usually exchange gifts for Christmas around the start of December each year as it’s our anniversary (of going out, we’re not married for those who don’t know us :-) ). It seems we both quite like gifts, both giving and receiving, as each year it seems to creep in a bit earlier.

This year Rowena wowed me with an awesome 60GB iPod Video. It’s one of the sexiest gadgets I’ve ever seen. Really cool – I haven’t owned an iPod anything before so this is a great dive into the pool. The screen has really nice colour and quality – it makes it easy for watching things on.

As the first tool in my toolbox for making the iPod video really easy to use is the ImToo iPod Movie Converter. This tool takes in just about any format video you have and converts it really quickly to an iPod Video. You can configure a few settings – enough to make it easy to pick up. It doesn’t rip directly from DVD but with some free tools out there you can rip it to another format to convert. This is software that just works.

So this weekend I’ll spend some time finding out about how the iPod works – I’m really stoked :-)

- JD

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 217 user reviews.

26 October 2005 in General | Comments (0)

OK, I went on holiday a couple of weeks ago and have been pretty bad at writing for my blog.

Thankfully Rowena has done a great entry on her blog about our trip (saves me some typing!). Check it out here: click here.

I had a great time, and was really pleased that Rowena got me to go because of how much I enjoyed it. We had fantastic food, mostly fantastic weather and a fantastic time.

I’ll probably get hassled for just pirating Rowena’s material :-)

- JD

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 251 user reviews.

28 July 2005 in General | Comments (0)

This is just a bit of a geek thought.

What would happen if you installed a new copy of Windows to C:\Recycler\ ?

– JD

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 215 user reviews.

13 May 2005 in Events & General | Comments (0)

This week started with me being in Palmerston North to watch Rowena and a lot of my friends graduate. I chose a 3 year degree rather than a 4 year one and had graduated last year. It was quite nice to attend this year and just get to enjoy in the achievements of people that I knew. I was the official photographer so I don’t have many photos that have me in them but I did manage a couple.

Here is one with Rowena:

Rowena Joe and John-Daniel Trask at Rowena's Graduation

And one with James (a fellow Intergenite):

James Story and John-Daniel Trask at Jame's Graduation

It was a great start to the week.

- JD

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 220 user reviews.

6 January 2005 in General | Comments (10)

I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and put some proper effort into trying to slim down. I’ve been inspired by talking to a few people who have trimmed down and it also helps that one of my flatmates is a gym instructor :-)

I started before Christmas (bad choice – I know) and yet still managed to lose around 1.5 – 2Kg in just over a week. I’m not quite sure how I managed that much since I did eat a lot of chocolates. I did make sure I cut the skin off my turkey and chicken, didn’t eat roast veges and also (this will shock some, sit down) switched to drinking diet coke.

I’d been listening to some banter between some people at work last year and one guy mentioned how he hated the taste of dient coke as well but that it was only when he first had it. He reckoned that if you stick to it for a week or two that you begin to love it. Sure enough, it does work. This is despite my literally almost throwing up after drinking my first can!

Since returning to Wellington I’ve lost another kilo or so and have engaged a more active lifestyle. I’ve been going on runs, cycling, working out more with my weight set etc. Now I just need to keep the ball rolling througout the year.

- JD

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 150 user reviews.

24 December 2004 in General | Comments (0)

It must be that time of year again – I can’t stop myself from playing Phil Collins songs as loud as my computer can blast it. I don’t know what is wrong with me! I just abolsutely love listening to Phil at Christmas! I think it might have been the Christmas before last when I dragged Rowena around just to play part of some song that I thought was great – she didn’t seem too impressed!

I wonder if anyone else does weird things around this time of year that they don’t normally do?

– JD

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 269 user reviews.