Category Archives: Troubleshooting

Snake fixes his video card.

Recently, I’ve been noticing increased GPU temperatures on my Radeon 9600 XT courtesy of ATITool and MBM. At idle, the GPU was already up to 140°F. At first, I just shook it off as a fluke or an overcompensation as I wasn’t seeing any real issues or graphical corruption. Looking back, I realize that the reason I hadn’t been seeing any problems was the games I (and Kaylen) had been playing: GTA3 (6 year old game), Alice (7 year old game), and Project64 (based off of 11 year old technology). None of these games even take advantage of some of the three year old technologies on my video card; so it wasn’t being stressed enough to fail.

Then I decided to play Dark Messiah since it’d been out long enough to get passed its initial release stability problems; I never had any problems with the demo version either. But once I got through the training mission, my system just locked up completely. I restarted and checked the BIOS hardware monitors and everything looked acceptable. Suspecting something else, I started playing again with the MBM dashboard open on the secondary monitor. When the system locked again almost immediately, I looked at the dashboard to see an insane 240°F (115°C) for the GPU core temperature–well beyond the boiling point for water. I was surprised to see it get that high before failing.

At this point, I acknowledged that the excessive temperatures reported indicated some cooling problems with the video card. I removed the card from the system so that I could get at the cooling apparatus better; and sure enough, there were some large chunks of dust clogging up several of the fins on the sides. I felt that the amount of dust was even capable of slowing the fan down enough for failure. After cleaning and replacing the card into the motherboard, I booted up and checked the temperatures–still ~140°F at idle. To see if there was any sort of improvement, I tried the “fuzzy spinning cube” stress test of ATITool. It got up to and then leveled out at 219°F, locking after a few minutes. There was still something wrong; however, cleaning the dust chunks out of the heatsink did seem to alleviate some of the heat stagnation.


Testing the fan with a battery after oiling.

I let the system POST and then went into the BIOS so I could poke around in the computer case while it was on. I positioned a mirror and flashlight so I could see the GPU HSF, and as I had expected, the fan was not spinning at all. I took the card out again and moved it to the kitchen table so I could work on it. I removed the HSF from the GPU and then slid the wires out of the fan power connector. I was going to test the fan with some battery power; however I didn’t know what voltage the fan normally took. But I figured 9V was probably a safe bet and easiest to test with. I laid the exposed fan wires on the battery terminals and nothing happened. It was looking like the fan might just be burnt out and I would need to order a replacement, but I had one more trick up my sleeve.


Curiously enough, the chip appears to say Radeon 9570 XT instead of 9600 XT.

As Kaylen looked on in amazement, I removed the sticker on top of the fan to reveal the mechanical access hole. As you may know, a couple drops of household oil into a ball-bearing fan can bring it back to top speed or even quiet it down. So, that’s what I did, followed by manually spinning the blades until the motion felt smooth. As you can probably guess, the fan buzzed right up. While I was at it (and because I had made a mess of what was already there), I replaced the questionable thermal compound that was used previously between the core and the HSF. It was a silver material, but not necessarily comparable to the quality of the Arctic Silver I replaced it with. Kaylen had fun snapping pictures while I did this. You can see them below.

And after I put everything back together, I did get to play Dark Messiah for five hours without any problems. It’s actually a lot better game than some of the reviews made it out to be. It reminds me of a cross between Enclave and Thief 3–the former for the combat style and the latter for the atmosphere. However, I will admit that the overabundance of convenient environmental traps to kick or cut detracts from the realism. But at the same time…fuck it, the game is still fun.

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That’s right it’s a post.

Another semester of college is dwindling down already, providing me with the chance to finally get my thoughts in order enough to post.

I haven’t really made any progress on any projects other than school stuff, so no news there. I’ve mainly just been trying to relax to some good gaming in between the schoolwork. But since finishing Titan Quest, the gaming has been rather ho-hum.

I went back and played Hitman: Contracts, getting Silent Assassin in all the missions. But alas, it made me appreciate the improvements in Blood Money more so.

Now, I’ve just starting working on Stalker but am having mixed feeling about it. First of all, it’s just as buggy as Titan Quest was. I experienced random freezes, stuttering, and save game corruption within the first few hours of play. Thankfully, the Internet provides communities of other irate gamers in the form of forums. I eventually combed through enough search pages that I found a working solution for the most-annoying freezes. Oddly enough, it has to do with the behavior of the OS’s paging algorithm–a hack that shouldn’t be necessary but is because of the half-assed state of the game’s engine. You just change/add two keys to the registry path:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/Session Manager/Memory Management
DWORD PagedPoolSize = FFFFFFFF(hex)
DWORD PoolUsageMaximum = 50(dec)

PoolUsageMaximum is a percentage that controls the aggressiveness of the page swapping (this setting may not even be needed). PagedPoolSize controls whether the OS handles swapping dynamically or just lets the pool fill up to a specific size.

Anyways, the gameplay itself is…interesting. At first, it felt like playing Morrowind, but that soon faded as the story drove the game into a more linear style than expected. The game world is not contiguous or load-free, but rather a collection of areas connected together by teleport points. In other words, it’s no Oblivion. It plays more like a perversion of Far Cry than anything else. The few RPG elements almost seem tacked on and only include inventories, looting stashes, and augmenting with passive artifacts. It’s definitely no Deus Ex, either. What it does have are some pretty intense and frequent fire-fights. They actually happen too often, because areas are quickly refilled with mutants and bandits. It’s a real chore to clean out an area on your way to somewhere and then clean it out again on your way back. And there’s no quick travel. I’m unsure I’ll continue playing, because this game is just too in need of polish.

I’ve had a more enjoyable time pwning the shit out of my girlfriend in LieroX 😛 . There are so many weapons in the various mods to try out that it never gets stale. Our favorite right now is the Warhammer weapons mod. It has great effects and good balancing with a wide assortment of weapon types. If you’re unfamiliar with the original Liero, it was basically a side-scroller deathmatch not unlike the popular Worms series (sans the turn-taking). LieroX is just an amped up incarnation with full-color destructible levels, player skins, weapon packs, and Windows and networking support.

And my last bit of news is the conversion of my How-To Deus Column into a plaintext document available on GameFAQs. So my much slaved over guide is finally getting all the hits it deserves. I will, of course, continue to update the original column, as it is easier to maintain in HTML than a heavily-formatted text file.

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Image Browser, CoH Mapping, Titan Quest

I spent most of spring break drinking on the beach, and then I had sex with a fugly, fat chick cause I was drunk and thought she was hot. No wait, that was probably you. I actually spent most of my spring break coding an image browser in PHP.

It can mostly just read the files in the directory and match up thumbnails to full images. But it tries to link up images to entries in a database for extended information, like description and hits. Directories are a little more involved, requiring a full traversal of subdirectories for random thumbnails; but the product of those thumbs in my cunning folder graphic table is way snazzy. It also has the usual sorting and page selection options. The link in the nav frame goes directly to the Photo Album directory, but it’s possible to navigate up to the image root and view all my images. The only thing left to do on the image browser is keyword searches, which wouldn’t be too hard, but I’ve been engaged in other projects lately.

For one, I recently started making a map for Company of Heroes set in an interesting locale, Longwood University’s campus. It came to me in a dream (the result of too much school and CoH, probably). I saw myself commanding a German force comprised of some friends against the entire rest of the student body. I’m only roughly 10% into the project, but it should be rather interesting, whether it’s playable or not. It’s already obvious Brock Commons will be the major chokepoint of the map. A couple 88s could defend the whole thing, causing the Allies to find a way through the various buildings to flank.

But for the last couple weeks, I’ve mostly been playing Titan Quest. It’s pretty much just a Diablo clone, albeit many enhancements. I think I actually prefer TQ because of its familar story elements (Greek mythology anyone?) and less dreary atmosphere.

I had to overcome several problems to really get into TQ, though. First of all, it crashes all the time for me, even when patched. The solution I found was to just use a NoCD patched executable. This makes sense because the patched exe disables the shoddy Securom code–stuff that the developers can’t fix but are forced to include. Another problem was that my extra mouse buttons would often lag for several seconds. As one can imagine, this is really annoying and can sometimes put my character’s life in danger. I eventually noticed that Titan Quest really doesn’t like to share the CPU with other apps. Thus, the simple fix is to set its process priority to below normal. Lastly, the game doesn’t lock the mouse into the game window. But, of course, my CursorLock program easily fixed that.

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This is what god looks like.


I’ve been having some issues with the laptop since I’ve gotten it. I attribute most of the problems to my lack of networking and laptop knowledge, and the rest to XP being a prick. Today, I fixed three issues that were plaguing the laptop.

First, I tackled the issue of constant CPU speed limitations. Being that the laptop has an Athlon 64 Mobile, it uses the “PowerNow” feature to change the multiplier and necessary voltage of the proc in order to save power. It’s supposed to go from 800Mhz (400×2) to 2200Mhz (400×5.5). However, it would stay locked at 800Mhz, plugged in or not. I had installed the PowerNow drivers twice before without it affecting anything really (once from the included driver CD and once from AMD). Then, I’m looking back today and see there’s a new version on AMD’s site here, I uninstalled the last PowerNow driver (at the prompting of the new driver), restarted, installed the new driver, restarted. Then I open this neat “dashboard” utility (also available from previous link) to check the CPU speed and to my surprise, it reacts dynamically like it should have all along. Then, I start checking out the “Power Schemes”, the most incomprehensible settings in all of Windows XP. Apparently, the power schemes actually affect more then just when to enter power saving modes as set below. They also affect how the CPU speed is set for PowerNow (and probably Intel’s equivalent). See the table at Tom’s Hardware Guide. The only problem now is that when on battery, the CPU always stays at 800Mhz. This is an ongoing issue, though.

Problem two involved the fact that ABS bundled a version of the ATI Catalyst Mobility drivers that is almost a year old now. They provide no newer drivers on their site for the Radeon Mobility 9700 than the bundled one, which was something like 4.6. I go looking for an answer/solution again. This led me to a solution rather quickly. I found this page. It is a tool to modify the driver inf files of the new Catalysts so that their mobile brethren can use them. It worked flawless. I was surprised to see that the Mobility-only “PowerPlay” feature was still available in the ATI control panel, too. The new drivers didn’t necessarily fix anything, since I haven’t run any games newer than JK2 on the laptop yet. I can foresee installing CS: Source and UT2004 sometime soon, though.

The final problem has been fucking with me for at least a couple weeks. My post at EE explains it best, but basically I wanted to be able to have all my drives mapped between the two computers (Laptop and Desktop; SerpentMobile and Serpent) with password protection. But I still wanted to have my shared files available for when other computers are hooked up to my network. The first problem was getting the drives mapped on both. I actually want to outline the whole process in a short column because I’m sure others out there would want to do this. I can’t be the only person with a fully/highly functional laptop and desktop and a need to connect them seemlessly. With the mapped drives, they are almost one big computer. I can sit on the bed with a patch of Cat5 running to the switch and watch Family Guy and chat. Serpent acts as the file server and router. Anyways, the answer was found searching Usenet groups on Google (it searches all those wonderful Microsoft forums, sometimes more useful than searching the web because everyone posting has a problem) which led to this. Two installs of XP Pro only a month apart, how could one have Guests denied in an obscure Group Policy setting? Crazy shit.

I actually stood up and did a dance when I saw the second image on my screen. The cat enjoyed that.

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When Hard Drives Go Shitty: An XP Story

Around Saturday night, I was playing the Sims (don’t laugh! this game is crack) and copying music from my Seagate slave to the Sims’ stations directory on the Maxtor master. Then I noticed an odd stutter to the music in SCMPX, but I thought it was only because I had the game open currently. Still, it was odd, as SCMPX always runs with an above normal process priority (as dictated by my 1337 ShellMPX app). So, I go back to the Sims and it locks cold almost instantaneously. I restart XP and then the Sims has no sound whatsoever. And whenever I open an app on the Maxtor, SCMPX would stutter and it almost never skips, let alone stutter like that. 😕 By watching Task Manager, I could see that there was 100% CPU usage going down when there was disk I/O occuring. But no programs, even explorer.exe were using the CPU hardly at all. On Monday, I started assuming something was seriously fucked up, so I installed HD Tach, a great HDD benchmark that you can pick up here, and ran it on both drives. Here’s what I came up with:

These results were very disturbing, as you can probably tell. :( They showed the possibility for a total hard drive fault, given that the Seagate was unaffected yet the Maxtor was. To try to rule that out, I did a complete scan of the Maxtor, updated my 4in1 drivers (which are now in an executable form and called “Hyperion”…go figure), updated my SBLive driver package (which now comes with a hardware EQ and compressor…sweeeet), and did a factory recertification test. I thought that if a driver got corrupted, this would set it straight. But, it was still pulling 100% CPU and only 4MB/s in HD Tach. So, I slept on it and then decided at school to rule out a hardware fault by transplating the Maxtor in my sister’s new rig. I did, and it worked fine, luckily. When I went to put the Maxtor back in my rig, I reversed its bay position with the Seagate so I wouldn’t have to use my funky IDE cable voodoo anymore. Then as a final hope before having to reinstall XP, I scoured the XP newsgroups looking for someone with a similar problem. After about an hour, I came across a thread where the dude talked about having slow HDD performance and the answer posted was to reinstall the Primary IDE Channel. So, I Win+Break to Device Manager, look at the Primary IDE and sure enough, device 0 was listed as PIO Mode 1 (which tops out at 5MB/s and uses the CPU instead of the chipset/itself to handle transfers) instead of DMA Mode 3 (theoretical 66MB/s max). So I killed the Primary IDE Channel, restart (taking 1min 9sec), install it again, restart (taking 52sec), and everything is fine and dandy:

This compressor sounds really cool on rock songs, but is a little too problematic for most NIN songs, except for The Becoming. The more disturbing The Becoming, the better 😉 .

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