Tag Archives: Half-Life 2

Lessons in Overclocking

As I mentioned in my last post a week ago, I had a hunch that the CPU was the source of all my locking issues in games. Originally, I suspected the clock was too high at ~100Mhz over stock, 2158 (166*13) @ 2262 (174*13). However, while researching Athlon XP’s on Wikipedia, I noticed that none of the Thoroughbred’s were set above 1.65 Volts, yet I had mine set to 1.70 Volts for years. I can’t recall now why I set the core voltage up .05v; it could have been that my original overclock demanded it for stability, there was a perceived need for increased voltage for better stability, or just my own ignorance at the time. It seems reasonable that the voltage is responsible partly, if not completely, for the instability. Increasing the voltage is often necessary to maintain higher clock rates, but they also add to the watts of thermal energy the CPU puts out (increasing the likelihood of overheating). It is also my speculation that increased voltage puts more demand on the capacitors that regulate the CPU power, potentially causing over-voltage failure, and it just so happens that I noticed a couple slightly burst capacitors recently (as seen in the photos below)–wondering if there’s a correlation.

Since I still couldn’t be sure if the problem was the core voltage or not, I was planning a battery of tests the day after Christmas to find a suitable CPU clock. I’d recently realized that my chipset and memory were both rated for a 200Mhz front-side bus, but I had been keeping it close to the CPU’s default of 166. Luckily, I got my 2700+ a couple months before AMD started locking the multiplier by default; therefore, I would be able to drop the multiplier and raise the FSB, roughly maintaining the CPU clock while increasing the memory bandwidth. I was hoping this strategy would allow me to lower the CPU clock as much as necessary and make up the performance with increased bandwidth. The only unknown factor was possible increased CPU latency due to the lower multiplier.

I spent five or more hours running through my test battery, which consisted of Sandra 2005 CPU Arithmetic, CPU Multimedia, and Memory Bandwidth tests; some or all of 3DMark 2005’s game and CPU tests; and the Half-Life 2 benchmark (which apparently is only available through Counter-Strike: Source now). 3DMark’s GPU tests were understandably unhelpful, except later on when I discovered that the Firefly test was extremely memory-intensive. As I tried to find the maximum stable FSB clock, this test proved most helpful. Half-Life 2 showed little responsiveness to the increased memory bandwidth and was only slightly more affected by the CPU clock, even when the video card wasn’t the bottleneck. Sandra’s tests were the most consistently telling of raw performance. As expected, memory bandwidth scaled quite linearly with increased FSB clock. And although the multimedia benchmark was mostly useless, the arithmetic benchmark showed slight performance degradation due to a lower CPU multiplier; but in the end, it was much more affected by CPU clock speed.

Tnews250he benchmarking sequence I took was to decrease the multiplier by .5 each time and then bring the FSB up until the CPU clock was about 2200Mhz. However, when I reached 11*200, I noticed that HL2 and the 3DMark were exhibiting strange crashing. I tried lowering the FSB until I brought these crashes under control (~190Mhz). However, at 11.5*190, the CPU clock was too low, so I raised the multiplier to 12 and set the FSB to 186Mhz for a comfortable 2232Mhz. This has proved to be very stable over the last week, so my next move is to bump up the FSB to 188, which would bring the CPU clock to nearly the same as it has been for the last few years and ultimately show that the core voltage was the problem all along. All these tests were run with a core voltage of 1.65v (stock).

The only problem with using a multiplier of 12 instead of 13, is that most programs identify my CPU as a 2400+ instead of 2700+. But really, it’s more like a 3200+ in terms of performance.

I’ve been enjoying my new stability by playing through Half-Life 2 Episodes 1 and 2 in the last week. Yes, episode 2 was that good that I wanted to play it again. It was much easier to appreciate the game without random locking and with commentaries turned on. I was surprised how often Valve mentioned changing the game in response to the actions of playtesters. This seems like something more developers should pay better attention to.

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A Special Happy, Fun-Time Holiday Post

As is customary for an after semester post, I will say how the semester was a bitch and report my grades. Well, it was a bitch, and I didn’t get anything below a C, so woot. The biggest bitch part was a recommendation report for an BS required English course; unfortunately, it was a group project and I chose a topic that my group was completely incapable of working on: parallel computing. Although a couple sections are missing, the paper is in a refined enough state that I’ve decided to post it here. I’m now a self-taught expert on parallelism, at least.

On my final exam day, CNET Download.com finally got around to approving my submission of Cursor Lock 2.0. It got a couple hundred downloads in the first few days alone, but has since slowed down to about 20 downloads a day. Of course, I never really expected it to be a hot, must-have app; it’s more of an awesome, there when you need it app.

For my next programming project, I’m looking into finally doing a Trillian log converter, which I first mentioned this time last year. Trillian’s native bastardized XML format does not scale well (the more you chat with someone, the longer it takes to access their log) and can only be read with the built-in log viewer. I think that any features which necessitated the use of a proprietary log format over HTML format are of questionable value. I’m sure I can replicate all of the most important features in simple, universal HTML format: bookmarks, search (via Google Desktop Search or something similar), calendar (from splitting into different files by date), and masking different message types (through some delicious CSS and JS). It has the added benefit of extensibility, too; I plan on giving all the page elements their own class, so users can change log formatting to suit their preferences.


Duber the pet monkey from Siberia says hello.

I’ve only written a specification outline for the program so far. Mostly, I’ve just been relaxing to some gaming. The AOE3 expansion, Asian Dynasties, has renewed my interest in Age of Empires. I skipped the War Chief expansion because, frankly, I’m tired of fucking Indians. But the added map locations, high-level home city cards, and civs of Asian Dynasties is just what the game needed. Although China’s unit training differences are too odd for me to handle, Japan has really killer unit upgrade cards plus powerful units already that compliment my turtling style.

Of course, I had to play Portal and Half-Life 2: Episode 2 also. Portal was so fun that I finished it in one sitting 😕 –it was a truimph. Episode 2 was also pretty good; there are some really intense firefights and well-crafted environments. However, as with Fortress Forever, locking issues started creeping up again. Lowering the sound acceleration in dxdiag seemed to make some difference in the time it took to lock, but ultimately they were still completely random. Monitoring component temperatures showed that the CPU temperature was a little high (but still nowhere near the 140F I reached over summer), so I cleaned the HSF out again. That further decreased the frequency of locks, but alas the problem remained with Source Engine games. My latest hunch is that the CPU is just getting tired of the overclock of 100Mhz (2.15 to 2.25Ghz) I imposed years ago. So I’ve been lowering that by half with nVidia’s old nForce2 system utility before playing. So far, results have been promising.

As for games that don’t lock my system up, Kaylen and I finally reached 100% completion in both Lego Star Wars games during her recent visit. It’s clear that the second game is by far superior, but going back and playing the first game from the newer trilogy was still kickass lego fun. Next year: Lego Indiana Jones. Oh, hell yes.


Lego Star Wars


Stud fountain with 3840x score multiplier and Santa disguises.

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playing games and stuff

I haven’t had as much time to work on the site and apps and such as I’d planned because I was given Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 for Christmas. The former I just finished yesterday after an unexpected and rather uninspired ending. I have much criticism of HL2 and it just doesn’t deserve the 98% from PCG and unpresidented 11/10 from MaxPC. First off, my biggest gripe is Steam. It works on the assumption that you will only be playing games from Valve and have a broadband connection. It’s also a huge annoyance for its new piracy measures. Not only did I have to copy everything from 5 discs, but I then had to sign up for Steam, decrypt the entire 4GB of data, download critical parts of the engine, and then download the latest update. Five hours later, I actually got to load HL2. It takes a while to load, and I’m afflicted with some kind of bug that causes the game to hang while loading after roughly 15 to 20 loads (quickloads and new area loads). It also wasn’t that fun of a game. After the first few hours of “woah, check out this engine!”, the gameplay gets rather unexciting. There’s nothing you haven’t seen before. It only looks better. Then there’s only half the number of weapons that HL had, a weak plot, and unclear mission objectives. I had the feeling a number of times that I was just wandering through the linear maze of a level and shooting things without a purpose. However, there are a few isolated cool scenes in the game. One being the Tremors/Starship Troopers “Ant Lions” chapter. Some of the squad stuff was also fun. While HL2 may look absolutely stunning, it plays rather lame.

I just installed Doom 3 today. I was initially put off by the fact that Doom 3 doesn’t like to run when Daemon is installed. I immediately went for a NoCD that fixed it right up. These game developers and publishers are going too far with the piracy protection. It’s almost a pain to be legit these days. That aside, Doom 3 is quite impressive. It sure did scare the shit out of me when the accident happened and the guy right next to me became a zombie. However technologically advanced, it still feels reminiscent of Doom.

And because you never have too many screenshots:

Now for the real news. LOL. 😉 I fixed the email script and there’s a new major beta release of the RoN Script Maker. It now comes in two flavors: Full Version and Lite Version. The difference being that Full has an installer/uninstaller, makes start menu shortcuts, and installs necessary redistributables (hard ass word to spell and type).

So that’s the news. 8)

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