Archive for November 2012

I picked up Dead Island in the Steam sale; I’d seen a few videos and it looked interesting, but not enough to pay a high price for. I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t, because the basic idea of the game isn’t bad, but it has a number of horrible flaws.

1. Stuttering. The graphics aren’t hard for my PC to render, but any time I press a key it begins to stutter. What appears to be happening is that it’s unable to handle keyboard auto-repeat, so it turns as it sees they key down, then the key appears to go up, so it stops, and repeats until I release the key. Turning off auto-repeat resolves that… except it comes back any time I press two keys at once, for example when moving forward and strafing. It’s ugly enough to really make playing the game painful.

2. Controls. The controls in general are clunky, and the appearance of meaningless joystick icons demonstrate quite plainly that it’s a bad console port. A joystick icon, by the way, appears to mean ‘randomly wiggle the mouse around until something happens’.

3. Respawning. Zombies seem to reappear only a minute or so after you kill them. I can clear out an area, move on to the next, then when I back into the area I cleared out the zombies reappear. Sometimes I’ve been attacked out of nowhere in an area I just cleared, which I presume is a zombie respawning right on top of me.

4. Weapons. Apparently a weapon is only good for beating two or three zombies to death before it breaks. Now, I must admit, I’ve never beaten anyone to death with a metal pipe, but I can’t help but feel it would last longer than that before breaking.

Players have been complaining about the stutter for over a year, so I can only presume it will never be fixed.

So I’ve upgraded through two Ubuntu versions to 12.04. One problem was that it didn’t remember the desktop background, and while it would be set temporarily when I updated it, the standard Ubuntu background would return after restarting.

Looks like the problem is in /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf, which is setup by default for Unity. Instead, it should say:


Now it all seems to be working correctly again. I presume this is a consequence of upgrading from old versions, and wouldn’t be required for a fresh Xubuntu installation.

Wow, 419 spam comments posted since I went to bed last night. All ignored, because of the IP ban.

Someone in China is really, really desperate to get their comment on this blog for some reason. I guess their script is screwed and too dumb to realise that it’s blocked from the site so it keeps trying to post.

So, as I have to upgrade my Ubuntu installation to a version which doesn’t include Gnome 2, it’s farewell to Gnome. I’ve now switched to XFCE, and having spent some time playing with the configuration I’ve ended up with something that looks much like it and has almost all the features I’ve missed from Gnome 2.

So I see I had 225 Chinese spam comments waiting when I logged in today.

Hint: if you’re going to post lots of spam here, you might want to not do it from a tiny number of IP addresses on the same subnet. They’re now all permanently blocked.

Just realised that Createspace are doing their deal for free copies of NaNoWriMo books again this year, so there’s a good incentive to get mine finished!

Cool, XBMC is now available on Android as a Beta release. It’s running on my Asus Transformer TF300 and plays SD video OK but struggles with HD as there’s no hardware acceleration yet.

Ton of issues they’ll have to resolve, but it works as a music player and is the best way I’ve yet found to play SD videos over the LAN.

Get pre-release installers from here:

I tried following some of the suggestions around the web. I ran the WD Align program which told me the partitions were correctly aligned, as Windows doesn’t handle 4k sector drives well. I tried turning off write cache flushing, which didn’t really matter as this is a non-essential drive (any games can be downloaded again or reinstalled). I tried turning off write caching completely. I tried running the WD Idle program and setting the disk to idle after five minutes instead of 8 seconds. I ran HD Tune, and that showed sensible data rates and seek times.

None of it worked.

Eventually I copied the programs from the problematic E: disk to the brand-new WD Green 3TB drive I’m using for the D: drive. That took about an hour at around 100MB/second, so the disk is clearly capable of reading lots of data at high speed.

And the games run fine. So it definitely seems to be a problem with this particular disk, which has a slightly different part number to the other one. I’ll make do with one drive for the moment, and replace the other when there’s a good sale on big disks.

So the one issue I’m having with my new PC is that every half hour or so while playing a game it freezes; the computer is still running, but the game stops rendering for perhaps thirty seconds before it recovers. I’ve been watching the task manager and what appears to happen is that the 3TB Western Digital Green drive I installed the games to locks up at 100% activity even though it’s barely doing anything. The Windows disk queue display goes >10 and response times on reads reach five seconds or more.

I initially thought this was because I’d installed the drive to test it as Linux reported errors when it was part of my RAID even though SMART showed no problems. But it looks like many people have seen the same problem with these drives and had to replace them. One person suggested turning off write cache flushing for the drive, which makes some sense, but made no difference.

Guess I’ll be buying a new drive in the not too distant future, and not a WD Green this time. That’s a shame, because I’ve been using them for years on Linux with no problems until recently.

Well, it’s up and running and I get about 60fps in Guild Wars 2 at 1920×1080 with almost all settings maxed. The most impressive part is that it’s so quiet. The old Windows PC it’s replacing had a Pentium-4 and Geforce 7800 and you could hear it in the next room when it was running. This one has an i7 3770 and Geforce GTX 660 and with it under the desk the loudest noise when playing games is the click of the keys on the keyboard. I’m almost worried that one of the fans isn’t working correctly, but the air coming out the back is barely above room temperature.

So there you are with a big pile of new computer parts. You slap the motherboard in your new Zalman Z9 case (which isn’t a bad design and is cheap), you carefully insert the CPU and attach the heatsink and fan, you insert some RAM, connect the cables and finally turn it on.

And nothing happens.

There’s the green standby light on the motherboard, but the fans don’t spin and the CPU doesn’t boot.

Oh my God, I screwed up when inserting the CPU and bent some pins. That’s $500 for a new CPU and new motherboard.

Except the PSU fan isn’t spinning either. The PSU is doing nothing, so it can’t even have tried to boot the CPU.

Is it the motherboard? Or the PSU?

Actually, it’s neither. Someone forgot to connect your power switch. I’m dismantling my old Windows PC as I build the new one (some of the PCI cards will move across, if nothing else), so I was able to attach the power switch cable from the old case to the new motherboard. And lo! It booted fine.

The solution is to remove the front panel from the case. You’ll see two cables dangling down from the power switch and two cables dangling down from the case. Clip the connectors together and suddenly you’ll have a working computer.

Anyway, I now have the CPU booting to the BIOS with half the RAM installed. Tomorrow, or over the weekend, I’ll install the disks and GPU and Windows.