May 2009 Archives

In my previous post, I explained that I'd decided to dump the NVIDIA nForce 680i chipset due to the frustrating reliability problems I had been experiencing. I purchased a new Intel X48 Express based board instead - a Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 to be precise.

The motherboard change went fairly smoothly. The only hardware issue is that I had to bend one of the aluminium fins on my Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro CPU heatsink/fan in order for it to fit around the motherboard's own heatsink over the chipset. Also, the cooler now slightly blocks one of the memory slots, but this isn't a problem at the moment as I can use slots 2 and 4 and still get dual channel interleaved memory speed. I may have to modify the fan a little more if I add more memory in future, but 4 GiB is plenty for the time being.

After the hardware setup the machine booted fine and I had my Windows 7 RC DVD ready to reinstall (backing everything up before starting any of this of course). Just for kicks, I decided to let the existing Windows 7 RC install try to boot to see how far it got. Rather than crash and burn as I expected, it instead booted into VGA mode, spent a minute or so installing drivers, rebooted and then the machine was fully functional (aside from the damned Abit AirPace wireless card I had to install manually AGAIN - I'll write a how-to post about this in future as quite a few people are arriving at my site via searches for this). I've used the machine in this state for a few days now and it seems to be rock steady.

I don't know quite how Windows 7 managed this trick - Windows Vista 64 certainly didn't do it when I changed motherboards last time (from one 680i to another very similar board) and I had to reinstall from scratch. Is there anything Windows 7 cannot do? Assuming I don't run into problems with this, I'm planning on leaving this install in place until Windows 7 final is released.

My home PC has been using an nForce 680i SLI motherboard since I built it in 2007. In fact it has used two due to reliability issues.

The first board, an abit IN9 32X-MAX Wi-Fi (which incidentally was the source of the Airpace wireless card I've had driver trouble with) was rock solid until we went on holiday to Australia last October and on return it simply refused to power up at all. A little light on the motherboard claimed that the power supply for the CPU wasn't connected, but trying two different power supplies didn't bring it back to life. I sent it back to Scan for a warranty replacement (after spending ages trying to persuade them that the board was actually broken and I wasn't just being stupid), who then spent several weeks before sending me a replacement.

The abit board wasn't available so instead I received an EVGA nForce 680i SLI (this board is no longer produced now so I can't provide a direct link on their site).

This board has utterly infuriated me. I'm convinced it wasn't new when they sent it to me as there was dust build up on the chipset heatsink, but mostly what's annoying me is that it has been a fairly unstable board. I've tried two different BIOS updates, all kinds of different settings and drivers for various components and every trick I can find on the internet, but nothing seems to make this board settle down. It's utterly inconsistent too, sometimes it will work fine for hours, other times it will last only a few minutes before a BSOD, random reboot or a lock up. Looking at the minidumps that Windows saves when it endures a BSOD show no recurring pattern, so I can only assume it is a hardware problem.

So, I've decided to dump the nForce for the time being and buy a cheap Intel X48 Express based board which hopefully will be rock steady. I bought it from eBuyer rather than Scan after the way they treated me over the RMA of the first board. I was half tempted to upgrade to a Core i7 processor, but buying a new CPU and DDR 3 memory as well as a top of the line motherboard was going to cost silly money that I can't afford at the moment.

Here's hoping I finally get a stable PC at the end of this - it's 'pooter building time tomorrow evening!

Star Trek

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In a change from my usual reviews, I'm not going to avoid spoilers in this one, so read on only if you don't want to know what happens in the film as there are some big plot points ahead. You have been warned!

I've been a fan of Star Trek since The Next Generation first graced our screens in the late 1980s. The quality has varied over the years, but most Trek has been watchable apart from the frankly awful Star Trek: Nemesis.

So the new Star Trek film has recently arrived to much hype, and I did find it surprisingly good - perhaps not so surprising given it was made by Bad Robot, the team behind the excellent Lost and Cloverfield. The new flick is the best Trek film since First Contact, but it is also utterly infuriating (like Lost sometimes).

I think the most annoying thing for me was that this was billed as a reboot of the franchise - a clean break to tell new stories with the same characters. This would have been fine, but instead they felt it necessary to write in the old Spock (presumably to keep the die hard fans happy), so it became a clich�d "person travels back in time, changes some key event and creates a parallel universe" story, which is indicative of lazy writing to me.

There was also some very dodgy and inconsistent physics involved. A black hole was able to safely transport both the Romulan ship and old Spock's ship back in time, but destroyed the planet Vulcan and then destroyed the same Romulan ship at the end of the film.

Another unexplained oddity is the redesign of the Romulans themselves. In the older series they were very similar in appearance to Vulcans (which fitted in with their shared ancestry), but with ridge on the forehead and bridge of the nose. In the new film they're all bald and covered in tattoos. Also the ship design has radically changed. Far from the iconic birdlike green ships of the past, the Romulans now seem to fly around in metallic black spiky ships that looks like a strange cross between a Borg ship and a Shadow vessel from Babylon 5. If the film had been a pure reboot this wouldn't have mattered, but because of the nature of the "alternate universe" type story, this Romulan ship ought to have been from the Trek universe we're all familiar with.

Transporter technology seems to be capable of a lot longer range than in the past. Previously in Star Trek it has never been possible to transport from much further than from orbit to a planet's surface, or between ships within visible distance. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual quotes transporter range at approximately 40,000km (from memory - I'll check when I get the chance). However, here in the new film is is somehow possible to transport from a planet to the Enterprise travelling at warp some unknown but huge distance away, and also from Titan's orbit to a ship orbiting Earth.

Regardless of all this, it is still a good film that's worth seeing. Funny and fun is a hard thing to pull off in an action film, but this manages to press all the right buttons if you can switch off your "WTF?" response.

I've had my G1 for a few weeks now. I first wrote about it just after I got it and now I've had some time to get used to it.

Also, it was recently updated to Android 1.5 and I've had a few days to play with the new features and UI improvements therein.

The Good

  • Google Sky Map - This is similar to the Google Sky website, except it uses the compass built into the phone to adjust the view in real time depending on where you point it. If you want to know where a particular star, planet, constellation, galaxy or other stellar object is, you simply search for it and it'll show you which direction to look in. Beautifully simple and wonderfully executed. It's also a cool thing to show off to people, especially jealous iPhone owners.
  • Video Recording - another thing the iPhone can't do. It works, but it's not particularly great quality. I haven't tried the integrated YouTube uploading, but then I don't upload videos to YouTube regardless.
  • UI Improvements in Android 1.5 - The contact and email updates are very welcome and certainly streamline things, making the phone that little bit more usable.

The Bad

  • Battery life - This phone chews through a battery charge quite quickly. At first I had auto sync turned on, but quickly turned it off when it ran the battery down from full charge overnight (it apparently checks email every five minutes, which is a bit excessive for a mobile device). Now I sync email manually, have wi-fi off and the screen brightness as low as it will go, though the battery still only lasts three days or so.
  • Contact syncing - This seems to be totally broken. I synced my contacts, thinking it would back them up online, but actually it deleted lots of contacts and reverted my phone's contact files to a much earlier state. Grrrr!!! That's the last time I do that!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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