PC Specs

Mainboard:  Asus Maximus Formula
An intel x38 chip with DDR2 rather than DDR3. Solid so far. Some people have complained about the abundance of copper, and there is a shit ton, but I kind of like it. It had some issues with the Wolfdale, but more on that later.
RAM: Mushkin 4GB kit
It doesn’t have fancy spreaders or super-fast speed but solid numbers and price just under $100 for 4 gigs (2gb x 2gb) was hard to pass up.
CPU: Intel E8400 Intel E6750
Here is where my problems were. I really wanted a Wolfdale. 45nm, lots of overhead for OC, solid benchmarks, large cache size all around a solid chip with some impressive numbers. It installed fine and worked great. For a bit. Then I started getting weird temperature readings. 100 degrees Celsius weird. A quick search revealed tons of problems with temperature readings; though none officially recognized by intel. Thinking maybe the stock cooler was at fault I ordered an after market model, the Zalman 9500A. It arrived nice and quick.  Unfortunately, when I attempted to install it, I realized that the aforementioned copper heatsinks on the mobo didn’t allow for the screwless installation; there just wasn’t enough room. With my warranty period rapidly expiring I did what any sane man would do…I sent both the chip and the fan back. The fan I could get a refund on, the chip could be replaced. Unfortunately, do to stock constraints, I couldn’t get a new 8400. So, as New Egg’s return policy states, they refunded me the price.  With no E8400 I decided to stick to the old 65nm models. Rather than go quad-core I went with the sub-$200 E6750 instead. It is slightly slower than the E8400 but has mature bios support and solid temperature readings. Within the next year I’ll probably replace it, I can only hope that the 45nm quad-cores are a little more solid.
Graphics: eVGA nVidia 8800 GTS (g92/512 mb)
The new smaller G92 is a little cooler and a little faster than the earlier version of the 8800. A great piece of hardware. Unfortunately it seems that the fan never revs up passed 30%.  A bit of registry hacking thanks to rivatuner and it’s up to about 60% and keeping things nice and cool.
Power: OCZ GameXstream 700w
Despite the utterly ridiculous name this is a solid piece of hardware. Cool, quiet and with a nifty blue LED.
Storage: Samsung 20X SATA DVD Burner and Seagate 750GB Hard Drive
Got a decent deal on two OEM models here. Will probably pick up an additional HD for storage as I continue to transfer my music CDs and maybe-kinda-sorta so I can dual boot with Ubuntu. The Samsung drive is fast a pretty damn sweet, not too much else to say about it. Compared to my old computer, with its ginormous IDE ribbon, SATA everything is like a dream come true.
Cooling: ZALMAN 9700 NT Fan
If my case weren’t a full-tower this thing would cause trouble. 1250 RPM in silent mode is pretty damn quiet, managed with QFAN things get even quieter while my processor stays nice and cool. It has *gasp* screws to secure it too the mobo. Easy enough but I must have downed too much caffeine when I installed cause it took me quite a few tries.
Case: Coolermaster Stacker RC-832
In all honesty I think I should have gone with the Cosmos. It does appear to be slightly sexier and have sweet cable management behind the mobo. Oh well. Most of the problems with this case were created by me. First my retarded ass managed to pull one of the internal wires for the top USB ports, oops. A quick forum search found instructions for getting to top casing off. Easy enough. Unless Satan himself had screwed your case together. One perfectly round screw head later I resign myself to -2 usb ports and a not-so-bright power button. Last but not least my neanderthal brain could not manage to wrap itself around the side panel removal/replacement until far too late. I’m sure I knocked some sort of integral sound-damping metal clip off the panel track since the case is now prone to occasional metallic rattle. Annoying, but barely noticeable during gaming and things are still quieter than the airplane like whine of my old computer.
OS:Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Vista has its problems but they run towards the annoying rather than the system-breaking. Vista 64 is solid enough, the only real problem is driver signing. Microsoft, in the money-grubbing tradition, requires Microsoft signed drivers for programs to work. What this means is that a lot of smaller, free, independently developed programs just won’t work. Ugh. Part of why I want to dual boot Ubuntu.  64-bit operating systems are the only ones that recognize memory configurations over 3gb so if you want tons of ram there really isn’t any other way to go and, if you want DX10, you need Vista.  Yay Microsoft!
Comments:
Over eagerness was part of my problem here. I put things together as they came rather than all at once on a free day. Things work good now though there is some fine tuning to do. With no AA and 1680×1050 I get a little over 10k in 3dMark 06, with 2x AA I’m in the solid 9k range. Crysis runs well at the same resolution with all settings on high, some reduction on post-processing effects should clear up the few minor hiccups that exist. TF2 runs as smooth as it ever did, damn but that Source engine is versatile. Speaking of Valve they made the switch to my new PC damn easy. Download Steam, sign into my account, pick the games I own and wander off while they download. Sure it took a while over a DSL connection; but still simple. Files went easy over WiFi and my iTunes library went on my iPod. Anyway, I’m sure there will be more benchmarks in the future, and more problems, but for now things are running quiet, cool, and fast.
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Review: Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez

Automatic DetectiveAutomatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez, Tor/Forge 2008.

If you like detective fiction, sci-fi, and robots, whether together, apart, or in any combination stop reading this review and find a copy of this book.

Mack Megaton is a death dealing robot. At least, he should have been. Instead he developed the free will “glitch.” Now he drives a cab in the “technopia” of Empire City. A tarnished city of technological wonders, or not-quite wonders, full of mutants, robots and you average joes. Mack is just a ‘bot trying to earn his living, that is, until his neighbors go missing and he takes it on himself to find them.

What follows is an almost textbook detective story. A cleverly written, frequently humorous, slightly smirking detective story but familiar none-the-less. While one might want to compare this to the recently reviewed Majestrum I think it is more similar to Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. Both Mack and Kovacs have similar approaches to detective work, leaving a wake of destruction when they pass, but despite his metal body it is Mack that has the lighter touch. Far more humorous than any of Morgan’s work, and lacking the bleak amoral themes present in the Kovacs’ stories, the Automatic Detective, revels in the ridiculousness of its setting and takes both cliches of the sci-fi genre (robots, talking monkeys, and mutants) and detective fiction and, in some strange, glorious combination of the two, makes them feel new again.

Megaton is the robotic heir to Marlowe mixed with the cold reasoning of Sam Spade. Unabashedly pulpy The Automatic Detective is a damned fine read and I can only hope we see more of Megaton and his world in the future. Final Grade: a solid A.

P.S.: If robots aren’t your thing there is a talking gorilla. Bonus!

Back….

Been slacking a bit lately.  I finally got my new computer up and running so I’ve been a bit distracted (Crysis…..so pretty) but I do have a number of things coming down the pipeline.

  • A review of the Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez. and some comments on the first Repairman Jack novel.
  • Full specs on my computer and some commentary on my own stupidity
  • Some EA tech support bitching
  • Pics and comments on the Bang Camaro show I went to almost a month ago

So folks, keep your eyes on the skies. Updates soon. I promise.

Marvel at this trifecta- Comcs 2/13

Nova Annual #1 Abnett and Alves
I bought this expecting a cheap filler story retelling the original of Nova. What I got instead was a cool story that opens the next act of Nova’s cosmic journey to find a solution to the Phalanx dilemma and rid himself of the technophage virus. Nova has been a consistently enjoyable title with top notch art and quality writing. Richard Rider and his evolution, from C level hero to badass intergalactic hero, over the course of Annihilation was not only fun, but believable as well. Pick up this issue to get a short glimpse of Nova’s origins and use it as a stepping stone to jump onto his monthly. Great stuff.
Captain Marvel #3 Reed and Weeks
What I initially thought was a cheap publicity stunt to bring back an old character has turned out to be an interesting story about a man’s quest for identity. While it lacks the header above the title this ties into Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” event and is perhaps the most interesting, and revealing, book so far. You really feel for the Captain as he struggles to find a place in this future, when he knows that to return to his own time means his death. This is title I original had no hope for that has turned into a deeper read than I could have ever imagined. Check it out.
X-Factor #28 David and Raimondi
Getting us caught up with the mutant (plus 1 human) miscreants of X-Factor after the events of Messiah Complex we get to spend some time with each of our characters. Siryn is pregnant with Jaimie’s babie. Rictor is feeling as lost and useless as ever. Guido is as affable as ever. Rahne is leaving for X-Force. M is as bitchy as ever (she even destroys an iPhone!). That brings us to Jaimie, and Jaimie is lost. Somehow, despite being a bit annoying, Miss Layla Miller became a rock centering X-Factor’s, and Jaimie’s, world. With her missing in a harsh future, Jaimie is hurt, angry, and uncertain of where to go and what to do. Peter David has a real handle on these characters and of the three “Divided We Stand” titles so far this one is, by far, the best. This is a “superhero” book, of sorts, but falls far from the typical mark. You should be reading this title. Pick up the old trades and start in on the monthly.

Eccentricities of a Platform and Net Neutrality

Once again coming my way via Rock Paper Shotgun is this amusing blog entry from PC Gamer’s Craig Pearson.  Anyone who has played an FPS on a PC knows the phenomenon and most have accepted it at face value.  Not Mr. Pearson though.  So join him as he delves the dark underbelly of online gaming in a quest to understand the hearts and minds of those strange creatures who sit alone on servers across FPSland.

Also, internet users, might take note that a new Net Neutrality Bill has surfaced. The bill seems to be a solid bit of work aimed at actually helping us (the consumers) and looking to providing us (the internet users) a viable avenue of complaint and action.  From the proposal itself:

The importance of the broadband market place to citizens, communities, and commerce warrants a thorough inquiry to obtain input and ideas for a variety of broadband policies that will promote openness, competition, innovation, and affordable, ubiquitous broadband service for all individuals in the United States.

The bill goes on to discuss amendments to the Communications Act of 1934 to protect the posterity and virility of the internet as a free and open forum for the exchange of ideas by “adopting and enforcing baseline protections to guard against unreasonable discriminatory favoritism for, or degradation of, content by network operators based upon its source, ownership, or destination on the Internet.” The bill doesn’t stop there, it goes on to call for an examination of current and recent practices of broadband providers with regards to anything ranging from spam protection (“unsolicited commercial electronic mail,”), packet handling and traffic handling (“practices by which network providers manage or prioritize network traffic”) to further policies increasing consumer rights within the ‘net (“potential of policies promoting openness in spectrum allocation…through protection from unreasonable interference by network owners of an open marketplace for speech and commerce in content, applications, and services”). The bill manages to go even further, calling for “Broadband Summits” that, to my untrained eyes, amount to a federally backed campaign to promote and examine the use of broadband in a fair and decent manner in a way not only transparent to the public but through which they can participate in further legislation.

The bill, in my opinion, isn’t so much a means to an end as it is an opportunity for further change. Is that change necessarily for the better? I can’t honestly say. But I can say that I think no change at all is worse.

Unholy Alliance

Coming my via Rock, Paper, Shotgun and coming their way via Mercury News is the ominous heralding of an epic alliance between hardware giants and cash whores Microsoft, Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD (plus more).  Their sworn duty?   To safeguard justice and prosperity in all of PC Gaming Land.

How dangerously barren is the PC market?  Well according to the above Rock, Paper, Shotgun it’s down by 6% year over year.  But from the Mercurary News article comes this little gem:

The numbers don’t include ad revenue associated with online gaming Web sites, which offer “casual” games such as Poker or Scrabble to a wider set of game players.

They also don’t include revenue from monthly subscriptions to virtual worlds known as “massively multiplayer online” games, or MMOs.

And this:

…the NPD numbers don’t include digital distribution, or sales of games downloaded to computers directly from Web sites such as Valve’s Steam.

Other writers have written more eloquently than myself on the dangerous situation in the gaming retail market.  Gamespot’s bloated revenues, thanks to sales of used games, and the lack of consumer protection for video game buyers are only the largest facets of using traditional methods of statistical tracking in a market that is on the bleeding edge of technology.

None of this is to say that PC Gaming is dead.  Creativity and enthusiasm for the platform is abundant and I can only hope that this Axis of Power in the PC gaming world uses its monetary and physical clout to encourage new and exciting ways to improve the market and level the playing field.  In truth, what I see happening is that same clout being used to enforce draconian and limiting factors that cut out the little man while Microsoft and its brethren feast off the tasty morsels of our hopes and dreams.

Now if you excuse me I’ll be ignoring this bull and enjoying a little Steam.

A Note: Current Reads and RJ’s Wheel of Time

Both my current reads are going to take me a little longer than usual.  Wolfe’s Shadow and Claw is a re-read inspired by a series of posts by Dylanfanatic of wotmania’s Other Fantasy message board.  I’ve been a lurker on the wotmania boards for some time a DF is a real smart guy and his in depth reading of Wolfe’s fiction made be feel like a bit of a schlep.

Check out his posts on Shadow of the Torturer, Claw of the Conciliator, Sword of the Lictor, and Citadel of the Autarch for some fantastic insight into to these lesser known (by the world at large, at least) literary classics. I also recommend this essay (pointed out by DF) by Neil Gaiman called “How to Read Gene Wolfe.” Or, if Gene Wolfe isn’t you cup of tea, at the least check out OF Blog of the Fallen for a mature look at new and classic “genre” fiction.

The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden is more of a lyrical fantasy, in a similar prose style to Patricia A McKillip.  The way the story works, as smaller oral tales told within an over-arching background tale (like 1001 Nights), I can go at a slower pace.  I have yet to decide if the simile heavy prose is something I can stomach to make it to the second book.

On another note I’ve, *sigh*, started a re-read of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.  Re-read isn’t exactly the right word since I picked up the unabridged audiobook version of Eye of the World and might end up doing the same for the rest.  Anyway to keep with my wotmania theme I would likely to highly recommend this chapter-by-chapter read through of the book.  Hopefully it will continue with the rest of the series.  This thread, summarizing Sanderson’s (the man chosen to finish the series) comments on re-reading the series is also worth looking into as one returns to “Randland.”

More Free Sh*t!

Since I’ve been talking about free things a bit today I figured I’d mention that “The Purloined Letter” is free over at Project Gutenberg in both text and audio versions.  There is also a crapload of free public domain books there other than the Poe stuff.  Project Gutenberg has a handy “Bookshelf” feature that groups books by subject or genre.  For examle the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Folklore shelves are certainly worth a look.

Though not as simple in its formats you might also try the Million Book Project.  Most titles are more of a scholarly bent, and span a more dynamic linguistic range, but worth a look none-the-less.  You’ll need LizardTech’s djvu plugin (PDF’s cooler, slightly aloof younger brother).

Reviews: Majestrum, “My Own Kind of Freedom”

Majestrum, Matthew Hughes.  Night Shade Books, 2007.

Hengis Hapthorne, a character Hughes developed in short fiction form, is a Holmesian detective in a fantastical world on a cusp of a radical change from science and reason to magic and wonder.  Hapthorne himself is a forerunner of this change,  his integrator (assistant) has changed into a cat-like creature (a familiar) and his intuitive self has become a full fledged individual often at odds with the reason and deductive analysis Hapthorne is used. These events occurred prior to the start of Majestrum so we the readers, like Hapthorne himself, are left to adjust to his constant battle with the changes within himself and the world around him.

Hughes crafts an original tale in an innovative world that is couched in a familiar form. Unfortunately some of that form borrows a little too much from Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” for my liking.  I admit this is as much a matter of taste as anything, I prefer the noir-detective and kinetic action over the more cerebral contemplation of the Holmes’ out there, but the often unexplained logistic leaps are an element of this type of detective fiction I do not particularly like.  That being said I must admit that Hughes does a magnificent job of emulating the model of early detective fiction.

Hughes infuses Hapthorne with a dry wit that I found particularly enjoyable and a number of odd quirks that brought a smile as I read.  In particular Hapthorne’s fascination with food, never commented on, is perhaps my favorite.  Story wise some of the connections between Hapthorne’s cases, while you know they have to be there, are impossible to grasp before they are revealed (again a failing of form, in my opinion, rather than on Hughes writing ability) but overall the whirlwind tour across worlds and to exotic locales is a joy to read.  The ending again returns to this anti-hermeneutic Holmesian formula removing the reader from participation in the story.

Overall Majestrum was a light, enjoyable read that fans of dry humor and Sherlock Holmes will enjoy.  While I am more a fan of detectives of a more kinetic bent, Marlowe and Spade, Dresden and Kovacs (if you want to call Kovacs a detective) for the more genre-inclined, I give Majestrum a solid B thanks to the originality of the world and interesting multi-faceted character Hughes has created in Hapthorne and his entourage.

Click below for my review of Brust’s Firefly novel, “My Own Kind of Freedom.”

Continue reading “Reviews: Majestrum, “My Own Kind of Freedom””

Free Sh*t!!!

Tor Books, purveyors of fine fantasy and sci-fi, have started a newsletter program.  So what?  You ask.  Who hasn’t?  Wellllllllll….Tor is offering a link to download free books in their newsletter; one a week to be precise.  Free stuff is pretty awesome and the first two titles, Sanderson’s Mistborn and Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, are titles that have met with some acclaim.  Worth signing up for?  I think so.  Head on over here and give it a try.

 Update: And, while I’m at, you might try some free Blacklibrary titles, the novels set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer Universe. Thanks to Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review for that link.