Monday, May 07, 2007

Video card goes bad....then goes good?

Bought my desktop machine about a year ago, to the day. The video card has started misbehaving, causing certain pixels in the display to just stay one off-color, and to leave trails on any window that gets dragged across them. See these for reference:

Screenshot 1

Screenshot 2

I made those patterns by just dragging the windows around across the bad pixels, and the longer the computer was on, the more pixels started doing it. At one point, as many as 40 were wigging out, in turquoise, a pinkish-red, and yellow. I thought I was screwed and would have to return my video card, or replace it outright.


As one not content to just take the easy (and expensive) solution, I spent today screwing around with the computer, trying to make damn sure what the problem was before dropping potentially another $250-300 on a piece of hardware that might be fixable.

I tried switching cables. Same thing. Changed monitors. Same thing. Tried another computer on both monitors, found no bad pixels in the monitors themselves. Thus, it MUST be the video card or the motherboard at large.

Sometime during that tinkering, I got a blue screen of death (BSOD), and my computer magically restarted itself. Later, I fired up Google Earth to look something up and POW it froze.

I reached for the scalpel (i.e., screwdriver) and started taking Betsy apart. Opened the case, pulled out the video card and sound card, moved the sound card down to the bottom-most slot to hopefully give the video card more room to breathe (those things run hella hot). I tried this once before without luck, but this time the comp recognized the sound card okay and just had to reinstall the sound drivers.

I took a good look at the video card for any signs of breakdown, or smells of smoke from overheating. It looked fine, save for a few flecks of dust here and there, so I sprayed it with compressed air. Then removed the heat sink and fan from the card to see if any clues lie inside there. Nope, so I screwed that back together.

Perhaps the card wasn't seated properly in the slot on the motherboard. I situated it, fired the machine back up, and nothing had improved.

Next big idea was to take a room fan and point it straight into the case (with the side still off) to push all that mofoing heat out and see if the heat trapped in there made a diff. Strangely enough, the bad pixels started disappearing.

I let it vent for a few minutes, then fired up World of Warcraft (the last trigger for a catastrophic unplanned restart). No problems. Turned on the frame counter and it was staying solid at around 60 frames per second.

Switched back to Windows Explorer and dragged the window around the screen to see how many bad pixels we had. I only saw one or two.

Back to WoW for about another 10 minutes. Kept the fan blowing. Toggled back to WE. Down to one bad pixel, and barely at that.

I shut the fan off and kept playing WoW to see if the number of pixels would go back up. It did not. In fact, the one bad one seemed to taper off and barely be there at all.

An hour later, with the case back sealed up and everything running as it should, I no longer have any bad pixels on my screen, and have had no crashes.

Say it with me, folks. "What. The. Fuck."

So apparently all I needed to do was move the sound card away from the video card so it could vent better. Let this be a lesson to you. I just saved myself $250.

You never know what tomorrow will bring, though, so I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Being Poor

John Scalzi nailed this one. I remember living some of these things when I was a kid, but mom hid many more of them from us. Read on:

Appreciate what you have. I know I certainly do.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


David Jaffe is head honcho at Incognito Studios, a second-party company in the Sony Computer Entertainment umbrella that makes PlayStation stuff. Incog used to be SingleTrac, responsible for some great stuff on the PS1 and PS2, including Warhawk and the better Twisted Metal games.

So now he's releasing a downloadable game for the PS3 that costs $10, has 4 levels, and is essentially an online version of the fun modes from Smuggler's Run on the PS2, Loot Grab and....whatever the other mode was called. In any case, you drive like mad to pick up an item, then try to carry it to a drop off point, all the while dodging your opponents who can steal the item by simply running into you.

This was fun in Smuggler's Run. It's the reason I still own the game. I could probably understand some people buying the thing he's pushing here (called Calling All Cars). However, one lousy review from GameSpot got him talking and re-analyzing what goes into a game review. Nevermind that most of the other reviews of it have been good. Hell, one of my friends didn't think 300 was a very good movie, despite the majority of people thinking it rocked. Who am I more likely to listen to, one guy or dozens of others?

In any case, I don't care that he questions the review process, stating that maybe it needs to be more clearly defined, have better market disclosure and analysis in the review body, or that smaller downloadable games should be rated on a different scale--and thus, different criteria--than major retail releases. He can think what he wants, he can blog his concerns.

What bothered me was that he--as a respected member of the gaming industry, figurehead for good game development, and someone with reasonable influence in the industry--stooped to say things like the following:

"...before any of you cowards who don't post your real fucking names tell me that I should stop crying, here's a big, juicy: 'GO FUCK YOUR MOTHER UP HER JIGGLY ASS TWAT' for you. Go ahead: Take it; that's right, it's just for you! So take it and shove it up your ass there real good!

"Why is that such a sign of weakness to some of you pricks? I swear I don't know. But either way, I can live with you asshats if you can live with me."

"TO THE LAME ASS WEBSITE THAT SHALL GO UNNAMED (ed: Fuck you, guys. Go fuck yourselves. What other developer makes a fucking change to a game when a review (IGN's in this case) has a good, valid point and is willing to open the fucking code up at the risk of more bugs to make the game better? Amazing.But hey, you guys are great, you guys rock. I hope Kotaku fucking puts your ass out of business, wanna be fucktards. And if you were actual journalists you would have read the motherfucking quote I posted on NEOGAF where I said because of the two bugs we needed to fix (not because I was afraid of the bargin bin) we had a window of opp. to fix the magnet problem. fucking assholes."

First amendment, free speech, yadda yadda. I'm fine with him saying what he feels. What kind of appalls me is that someone I respected a few hours ago has acted like such a forum troll/goon. Name-calling, excessive profanity, and then calling out the very people he's acting like for being degenerates. Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear) would never do this. Shigeru Miyamoto (Super Mario) would never do this. Hell, I wouldn't expect this level of behavior from Howard Stern. He even admits it's a pissing contest by kicking off that last rant with "I gotta get off a final parting shot before I go."

Grow the hell up.

Add yet another reason to why I won't be supporting Sony's gaming biz for a long, LONG time, and me being a guy who owns three PS1s and two PS2s. In a way, I'm hoping Sony chastizes him for acting out like this. Chris Hecker, one of the devs behind the upcoming life-sim game Spore, recently bashed the Nintendo Wii publicly, and recanted the next day. I wasn't there, but I suspect the rest of his team said "WTF?" and asked him to change his tune before their next game gets completely ignored.