Occasional drafts

No not the military type, but the writing ones. I occasionally write things to paper or digital document before sharing them, but here on the forums, is more a less free-form. I do jump back and edit with note if something changed heavily from original post.

Congratulations on another Friday. The more recent hubbub about security and computers was the shadowbrokers follow-up leak about some windows exploits, especially the smb file sharing ones. If anything is referenced and more commonly learned from this, I hope that ‘when only some people have access to exploits, they will also be used by others’. Even before these leaks dropped, I fathom other persons than the NSA had access to these exploits. Please keep that in mind when there is an attempt to engineer a backdoor into a protocol. By doing such a thing, it would still be an exploit. Remember that people using this stuff in the wild, don’t tend to share that information freely. That would cut into their market share and prevent them from making lots of money, doing seemingly unknown methods to reach a goal.

Relaxing a little bit, if you enjoy playing Castlevania-type games, I would suggest trying Hollow Knight. It’s a platformer with hand-drawn art and an atmospheric, creepy and interesting world to explore. Between power ups and world exploration, you should have a good time. Especially since some zones are worth re-visiting as you gain new abilities. My friend suggested this one and I am pretty impressed with it. I’m about 4 zones in so far and am around of 11 hours of play.

Jumping back to security stuff… if you don’t have an active patch policy, enforce one asap instead of waiting for approval. I’ve been there and seen the political attempts to defer updates (especially for OS’) but seriously just ask for forgiveness if there is an issue, because you cannot really justify the negligence of letting it slide anymore. Particularly for anything you have with open-facing internet ports and accepted routes in your firewall.

Hopefully you had a happy 4/20 yesterday. Or as I recently learned, Lima bean respect day.

Original 8-bit NES

Backstory here is that I came into ownership of my original NES console from my younger cousins. At first boot I could not load any carts and took to researching the ‘flashing red power light’. Turns out the 72 pin adapter goes bad over time and they tend to need replacement to avoid the flashing red light syndrome.

I picked up a replacement adapter from a local retro video game store, maybe 2 years ago now. To paint a scenario I forgot about the extent of fiddling with carts you have to do, even with the replacement 72-pin installed. Let me pause here to say this is an original NES with the tray system, not the revised top-loader NES. I can get most games booted but it does take a few minutes sometimes to do so. I am actually looking to resolve this by modding my tray and 72-pin with a Blinking Light Win. This device looks to be a fixed position tray with a holder in place for the back of the 72 pin adapter. For you PC build nerds, it looks like ISA card connections on the carts and the inside of the NES.
Here is a replacement guide if you go to replace the 72 pin adapter on an original NES with the OEM-like part.

I will update once I install the Blinking Light Win mod, as I have about a dozen carts and some are especially picky to load.
Jumping back to current tense, my next rival was playing on an HDTV. Luckily I have the original power supply and those coax boxes to get video output and audio. Once you make sure the TV is set to cable and the switch on the back of the console is set to either channel 03 or 04, change to the same channel on your TV and you should have video when booting up a game.
However you will likely see quite a bit of line noise on your screen and the colors will look funky or blurred. Here you have the option of running RCA cables instead of the Coax box from your NES. Yellow is your video and Red is the mono audio. In the case of a Samsung TV, my component video input also works for standard Yellow, Red, White RCA connects, if you plug the Yellow video signal into the Green component input. Doing this will remove the rolling noise from your NES and make playing a much cleaner video experience.

Speaking of HDTVs, if you want to play Lightgun games (Duck Hunt), you are out of luck there. I have seen some cool modifications with external hardware to reproduce the white detection block that the gun looks for to register a hit, but the TL;DR is that HDTVs draw the screen at once, instead of sequentially by pixel for that frame to be detected by the zapper guns, versus CRTs. That linked Hack A Day article is fresh with the solution and hardware used.
As for me, I have a small display that might meet the crt requirement. I have to repair it and try that out.

Over the last week or so, I hooked the NES back up to come to these observations and jot them down. Thanks to a friend who ordered an AVS from RetroUSB, I learned about this console that will output directly over HDMI. Upon checking this out I also put an order in for one. In the mean time, I’m kicking it on original hardware and looking to remedy the great cart loading struggle. I also learned how bad I am at original Mario 1. It comes back to you after a couple hours, but wow games were brutal hard in the 80s and 90s with limited lives, no continue, jump timings and the like.

If you want to go through time reading up on older consoles, have fun on the RetroRGB site. It’s like a library for consoles, how they work and what the modding scene is up to. It’s safe to say, once I have an AVS in my hands, I will share my experience with it. I did read the 1st generation of the AVS had a loose power connection, that should be since fixed in the later iterations. Do note the ordering link is for reservations on the next batch with no solid ship date established.

Welcome back to this NES thread. As of this weekend, I have replaced my 72-pin adapter and OEM cartridge tray with a Blinking Light Win. As linked in the post above, this 72-pin adapter and modified tray replaces the stock one and does in fact, resolve issues with the blinking light issue when you go to load a game. That being said, you just insert the cart, but no longer push down. I ordered direct from the ArcadeWorks site and have a current model that resolved an initial release issue I saw mentioned, about tight cart removal from the tray. For point of reference, this was once a kickstarter project with very good details about the device (at the link).

As an added benefit my console is now also Region-Free due to this adapter. I am pausing here to say, before I installed this mod, I dissected all my carts and cleaned them (the connection pins) with 90% isopropyl alcohol and Q-tips. This helped with the most fussy carts, but I certainly still had blinking light issues and some games gave me a fight to load up. I mentioned the region-locking to now be disabled with this device and that is due to bypassing the 10NES (or Checking Integrated Circuit / CIC) chip. According to some research, this device is related to the flashing light issues on the console due to bad connections between the chip in the carts and on the console. I’ll count that as a snarky comment about drm-like devices causing more consumer harm than benefit. Especially over time.

Hopefully that doesn’t read too much like a wall of text. If you want to ignore the description and backstory… the Blinking Light Win is a great modification to your original NES, that does not remove any functionality that you should want or need. Highly recommended. Especially if you want to play NES games without input lag from emulation. That’s why I’m on the original hardware. Now you’re playing with power! (and increased console reliability)

Also this weekend I received a 2nd toy. An Everdrive N8 NES from Krikzz showed up. I can now play ROMs from an SDCard inserted into the top of this cartridge. Thanks to a Smokemonster Rompack, I also was able to enjoy plenty of homebrew and debug applications, as well as hacked roms, fan translations and such.

Starting out, I’ll link the FAQ on their forums and condense my process here.
Grab an SD Card. Since you are dealing with NES, 16 GB or less should be fine. 64 GB can work but it’s overkill for that entire library.
Format your SD Card with the highest block size available. This should help avoid eventual fragmentation. SDFormatter works on Windows and OS X.
Once you format your card, copy all your contents in one batch. (once again relating to avoiding fragmentation)
Most important to be on your SD card, is the extracted contents of OS folder named EDFC. This contains the mappers, and eventual quicksave files (if you turn this on in the device options on your console),
+ MicroSD Cards in an SD Card adapter work fine. This is what I’m doing with a 16 GB PNY card.
Once your files are done copying, dismount your SD card and pop that into your N8. Boot your NES with the Everdrive installed.

Now that you should be running, you will see a directory list. ‘B’ is select; ‘A’ is back / cancel; ‘Select’ is options; ‘Right’ goes to the next page of file list; ‘Left goes to previous page. Pick your game, press B, then press B again to load. Briefly after you should see the game running and be playing glitch and lag free. So far I saw some sprite issues on Castlevania VS (edit: The VS games are mostly not finished yet) but playable, and The Immortal does a weird vertical sync issue. Other than that I tested a few dozen games and saw no issues.

First things I loaded up were the Tools and Service Test Carts from the Smokemonster collection. 240p Test Suite 240pee v0.15 is straight up amazing. Lots of diagnostic options and calibration tools. Slick interface too. Jumping through the other utilities was nice, particularly being able to test for input lag on my button presses and to see how slow I am. The Hacked Rom collection is pretty funny. I got to play Mario 1 with weed coming out instead of mushrooms.

I want to explore the Homebrew folder next, having seen the diagnostic carts section. I might try to join the homebrew nes scene and make some content. So much enjoyment for my NES. Someday I should receive an AVS to play on cleaner color output, but for now I’m still quite enchanted running composite (RCA Red and Yellow connectors) to a Samsung LCD.
Speaking of HDTVs, I turned off most all of the enhancement features of the TV. They made the colors sharper, but the filters were applying weird color variances while playing. I have seen people mentioning ‘Game Mode’ on some TVs also accomplishes the same. You don’t want brightness adjusting to try and optimize your display while playing a game. You might at first, but after platforming for a bit you will wonder what is going on and how to fix it.

In case I didn’t make it clear, the Everdrive N8 is also excellent. Once again, I bought this direct from their site, as to avoid cloned models and shitty bugs.
If you would like some hacked roms to play with, roll on over to RomHacking.net.

Happy 8-bit adventures! :bunny:

Reads and Vault 7

Jolly Friday! Weather has been weird with jumps from 70 F yesterday, down to the 30s and steady but rapidly melting snow today. I recently finished reading The Art of Invisibility (amazon link) by Kevin Mitnick. I found it to be an enjoyable read, with most content being fairly well known, yet the wider applied context was helpful. Most of all, it read like a good story, instead of a technical manual. Even if you aren’t into tech heavily, I think you would find this to be a worthwhile read. The book does a good job of applying security into a rational context, without sounding all ‘tin foil hat conspiracy’.

Also buzzing around the security sphere is the Vault 7 leaks – Part 01. This archive jumps into some CIA bug exploits and attach methods they have been using. Be wary of coverage sources, namely the Wikileaks twitter account and most every mainstream news outlet. They are jumping into some unqualified headlines. Personally I think rushing to cover the story with inaccurate information, goes to muddy the actual content. I still think this The Register article best covers the leaked content. Going with a TL;DR here, SmartTV microphones can be owned, but this looks to be a local attack to implement. Crypto applications can be circumvented, if you phone itself gets compromised… not the application itself. There has been plenty of back and forth between the security community and mainstream news over that detail between entire phone access and the subsequent access to apps that grants. The potential to control automobiles is a concern that brings up more desire to probe the death of Michael Hastings.
I have some of the Vault 7 files to rifle through myself, as 8000+ files is quite the cache. Some applications such as Notepad++ have already patched against the disclosed vulnerabilities and other companies are scrambling to do the same. Wikileaks appears to be relaying the exploit code to vendors, as they seem to have redacted almost all of the files from release into the wild.

Outside of the computer and security sphere, I picked up the new Zelda: Breath of the Wild game and have played that a little bit. I also continue to draft up some projects I’ve been working on, but mentioning them before being live, is kind of useless 🙂

I also learned that interacting with political twitter is the worst, because people will keep @you about something someone else said, all in effort to get their snarky rebuttals in. I know it is difficult to have a dialog in 140 characters, but if your only response is “You’re wrong and I don’t like your opinion”, your shit is weak and you lack any contribution to the dialog. Complaining without any effort at a workable solution, just helps you reinforce your current stance. Try challenging your opinions against others and see if they stick. It’s a 2-way street, but if you are busy throwing labels @ people, I can assure you, you are accomplishing nothing except the old hug box / circle jerk of hive-minded opinions.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I spent some time this weekend playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I did not pick up a switch, so I am playing the game on Wii U. I wanted to cover some base observations after around 12 hours of play.

You can play on the Wii U tablet, but it is not for touch screen use on things, such as placing map markers.
You can play with a Wii U Pro gamepad, when playing off the TV.
You will see some slowdowns, but the game is still playable and functions without fault.
Touching the touch screen, juggles between playing on the TV or Wii U gamepad LCD. There will be a brief load while it goes between display modes.

The world map exploration is pretty enjoyable. I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but the Skyrim comparisons, break down to the item and weapon inventory system. Side quest and main story documentation is a thing as well, so seeing where you left off is vastly easier than most prior Zelda games. So far I’m having fun. There is quite a bit of exploration and I just broke the surface.

There is some more realism in respect to food gathering and elixir making, so that will factor into your exploration. That’s all I’m going to say at the moment, since my concern was sharing observations of the Wii U edition, since most all review outlets are covering the Switch edition.

March 13th:

I’m actually playing this game. It’s a different leap for a Zelda game for sure, largely due to the inventory system and world map. You will learn real quick when you are in an inappropriate zone, because the enemies will wreck you. Amiibos are helpful to give you more in-game items and the Zelda ones seem directly correlated to getting chests with weapons or armor in them. You will unlock a skill shortly into playing, that will let you pick a spot to activate the Amiibo and items will drop there.

Food crafting is pretty handy, as it will give you some temporary character buffs, in addition to replenishing your hearts. Shrines are mini-dungeons where you mostly do puzzles, but also have some for fights. Random note: I got to see this played @ the NYC Nintendo World location. Wild that they have that giant screen, but on a good note, the Wii U version looks relatively close to the Switch version. Considering those consoles are still hard to find, that’s a nice perk. Granted I’m not too keen on jumping into another Nintendo console just yet.

Saving happens automatically, but you can also save at any time. I mentioned stamina and it comes in most use for evasion, gliding, climbing and extended attacks. Funny thing about the game manual… it does exist but covers just about zero game mechanics. I did pickup the game guide book and it details some of the fight mechanics you will learn in some of the Shine challenges. A few ripostle type counter moves and such to get the solid beats in on those fights.

The world map is pretty huge, imo. I discovered over half of the zone towers. Level design is very heavily layered and diverse with plenty of hills and enclosures to explore. You can also tame wild horses and ride them around, with the option to stable some as your own horse. As you encounter other ranches, you can call your registered horses to that region, as the call range of the whistle is fairly limited.

I saw other people mention this is a significantly different game feel for a Zelda title and I agree. Harder a play but fun to explore. Keep note another change is the weapon system, where most all items lose durability and break. There is a method to repair some items, but typically it means it will break shortly after the worn down message.

Apparently, you can throw damaged items @ Octorocks to swallow and they will spit out your item repaired to full condition

I’ll continue to play through but I have to say I’m glad to have picked this game up. I don’t want to cheapen it with comparisons to other games, but a Skyrim (Item and Quest system), Far Cry (gliding exploration), Dark Souls (Items and challenge difficulty) seem to be pretty accurate. Take note I am only on the 1st Boss (Primal) Dungeon.

March 27th:

I spent the last week on Holiday and beat Ganon on Saturday.

I had quite a good time playing through. Spent plenty of time in the Shines to gather orbs so I could increase my Health and Stamina. The stamina boosting is pretty helpful in combat, evasion and especially climbing. As I was outside Ganon’s fight, I was low on healing items and was getting stomped. So I used amiibos to get cooking items and a little more gear (from the Zelda ones), left the castle, cooked and came back for the win on that fight.

You can continue to play after beating Ganon, but you will need to warp out of the castle to continue on your adventures. I’d have to check my play time but I think I got about 60 hours in. I tend to take my time and did plenty of exploration around the world map. I did decide to pickup the season pass for the extra content… so at some point there will be more story to play once the DLC kicks in.

There were a couple of Shines that relied on the tilt mechanism and felt a little wonky, but I managed to complete those. Random tidbit for anyone who likes to use an external speaker from the Wii U Gamepad. It will output audio over the 3.5mm port, even when not playing in tablet mode. I had an external speaker playing game audio, since I was playing on a LCD without audio output.

Sept 26th:

I am replaying this on the Switch console. Being able to play on my lunch break is pretty awesome. Then I can come home and plug my Switch into the dock and play on the TV. I really enjoyed this game and am glad to be playing it again. Aiming arrows with the Joy-Con is really satisfying for aim control. I am talking correlation to VR with touch controllers good.

The DLC is now active for this game, in respect to the 1st pack of 2 from the $20 DLC pass. I only did a couple of the missions so far. It turns out my Amiibos are helpful to get equipment and crafting items. If you wondered when the timer resets, it looks to be midnight on your console / local time. I have a few Zelda amiibos that give treasure chests as well. I was pretty hyped about the Wolf Link companion and lottery for Epona you can get.

I am able to better juggle my stats and boost perks with food recipes. Be sure to take pictures of items once you unlock your tablet abilities in-game, so you can use the radar to find items in a pinch. I like to call this game Legend of Skyrim largely based on the equipment and inventory system but the exploration also adds to that title. The game world is very enjoyable to explore and has tons of things tucked into it’s details. I have always been a Zelda series dork, but I am completely on-board with this being one of the best games made. It’s fun and immersive. It’s easy to find yourself staying up pretty late because you wanted to clear a dungeon / divine beast.

I either play with the Joy-cons detached but installed in the battery grip addons, or joy-cons in the comfort grip. I did not pickup a Pro Switch gamepad yet. On the go, I play with the Joy-Cons docked to the console, holding it like a new-school Gamegear. I can say the 3 hour playtime estimate on battery is pretty accurate. Playing in bed is quite nice too.

I mentioned the Wii U gamepad in the above post from my 1st playthru. I can tell it will be easier to rotate for some temples, since my view will not be bound to needing rotated since the detached Joy-Con would be your gyro instead of the whole Wii U tablet. Audio always works right off the Switch display and when docked, I run headphones or speakers from my external display, since that is getting the video and audio from the HDMI connection.

If you get the chance and have funds to pickup a Switch, I say it’s worth it. The game selection is still kind of light, but between now and the end of the year, some big games are coming to the console. Less of a draw for some if you already played them on PC, but stuff like bow aiming in Skyrim with the tilt gyro is a good control mechanism. Playing on the go and being able to have a little LAN device that is light and low profile, is interesting as well. I added some Switch specific stuff, but BotW is a great game, none the less.

Oct 5th:

I have 11 heart containers and 3 of the 4 guardian temples cleared. I’m going to check my Wii U playthru but I don’t think I got the Master Sword on that 1st playthru due to the 13 base hearts requirement. In my 1st play I pumped into stamina more heavily, as on the Switch, I used food items to supplement my stamina and hearts for boss fights. I didn’t clear many of the shrines of the goddess until the 2nd guardian was cleared. Then I started putting my upgrades into heart containers.

I unlocked all the scout towers on both versions and on this playthru have been finding lots of the treasure chests under water via the magnesis rune. I have done a couple of the DLC item quests but still have plenty to explore. The 2nd DLC will also drop here in the winter. I picked up the Pro controller and do agree that it’s quite comfortable to use over longer sessions than the Joy-Cons. I also have had some nice outdoor sessions in local parks over my lunch break. Speaking of breaks, I might fire up Cave Story+ over lunch today to give myself a break from doing another 8 shrines, to then grab the master sword.

I wrapped up beating Ganon around the end of October. I still load up to enjoy post-game content and clear some quests. I have also been doing shrines to max my stamina bar so I’m ready for the 2nd batch of DLC this Winter. I love this game and the switch mobility is top notch.

Steelseries Sensei Wireless mouse

Welcome to another hardware thread. This installment is about the Sensei Wireless mouse from Steelseries. I have been using a Diablo 3 mouse modeled from the Sensei wired mouse for a few years now. Considering I have also used Razer mice before, but did not like how heavy or high they seemed to arch, I went with the Sensei Wireless for my laptop.

You can use this mouse wired as well, but a thing to keep in mind is that you need to have the charging base plugged in, because that is the wireless receiver for the mouse. There is no direct bluetooth or other connection methods, short of using the charging base for wireless, or directly plugging the charge cable into the mouse for wired mode. So if you are traveling you need to bring the base and cable, or run the mouse wired.

Besides that nuance, this mouse performs awesome. I primarily use it in wireless mode while playing Final Fantasy XIV or doing general UX stuff. Clicks are smooth and the cursor is responsive. DPI goes crazy-high, but for my uses @ 1080p, I tend to run it around 5000 DPI or so. Charge life says about 20 hours, but I tend to base it when not in use. I have yet to have the mouse die on me in respect to battery life. I did have one night where it would not reconnect, but I think I had the base too close to the mouse.

In respect to usage, I use it on my desk with a mousepad, or on the bed with a pad as well. Even on the cushion it works well. As i mentioned the weight, 115 g, 0.253 lbs is what it comes in at. Compared to many mice and reviews, this is a sweet spot, as to not feel heavy or a burden to move around over time. I considered the newer Steelseries mice but the little LCD and significantly heavier weight were a turn-off. The charging base is probably around 2 lbs, so if you are traveling often, you might want to just use it wired instead of schlepping the charging base around too.

Lights. You can change the LED colors of the charging base, mouse logo and scroll wheel. Similar to the Diablo 3 / Sensei model mice, you have side-buttons you can program to custom keys. My favorite button is the DPI switch button under the scroll wheel. I tend to keep it in high mode, but being able to change back to 1800 or so DPI is a nice bind to have on the fly.

I really enjoy this mouse and started out with my most relevant complaint, the charging base. If there was a little usb dongle for wifi use like a logitech device, that’d be nice for travel. Other than that, well worth the $100 price I got it for on their website.

I considered a Razer mouse to go with the laptop, but I had the MMO mouse before and found it heavy and the side button bar kind of clunky. I have had the Diablo 3 Steelseries mouse since Diablo 3 released and have put many clicks into it. It continues to work to this day on my desktop. That’s the main reason I went with this wireless sensei. It takes a beating and keeps on rolling, while also feeling smooth and durable.

Razer Blade 1060 GTX (late 2016)

Howdy and thanks for reading this thread about a Razer Blade (late 2016) with a Nvidia 1060 GTX video card. I have been playing with this over the weekend, as I did research and found this to be the best bet for what I was looking for. Both by performance and laptop size. I went with the 512 GB FHQ model.

Starting off, Yes you can install Linux on here and it will run pretty well, granted I spent most of the weekend in Windows, running benchmarks and checking out multimedia and games. I got Ubuntu 16.04.1 on a 40 GB partition that I carved out of the 512 GB SSD M.2 Drive. To do that, I loaded up a Live USB of Ubuntu, ran gparted on the Windows partition and had it cut 40 GB into a new partition. Installed Ubuntu onto that. Best part being, GRUB and the Windows boot loader can co-exist. You may want to jump in the bios and change your default boot device, once the install is finished.

Temperature wise the GPU was hitting 179 F. While not great for temps in a desktop, this is passable for me as the games continued to run smoothly. You will absolutely hear the fans increase in noise and speed when playing any intensive games. That being said, I do feel the laptop is basically silent when not in a game.

I mentioned getting the FHD (1080p) model display over the QHD+ one. FHD is a matte finish, the brightness is higher than the QHD, and honestly the 1060 GTX will not be able to run max settings smoothly on newer games like Watch Dogs 2, or even to an extent GTA V, unless you scale down some of the advanced video fluff. Point being there, QHD resolution is going to be really daunting on the video card. I also feel 1080p on this 14″ LCD is hard to read sitting back on the couch, especially without my glasses on. So you would be even more crunched @ 3200 x 1800 (QHD+). QHD comes with a glass cover instead of a matte finish and also is + $300 to the purchase price. So I got to avoid my reflection and light bouncing, while also saving some loot.

Performance:

  • Fire Strike (3D Mark) scores over 9000. 9264 actually. You can check the details from the run on the Futuremark site.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: I can play this @ 1080p with maximum settings with a smooth 60 FPS. You will want to use the system and character config options to scale up the UX, as I did playing from the couch.
  • Doom 2016: 1080p with maximum settings is smooth and looks great.
  • GTA V: Ultra settings will get you some dips into the 40 FPS range. Tweaking some of the more expensive graphic options, will get you to or close to, a smooth 60 FPS.
  • Watch Dogs 2: My configuration from the desktop with a 980 GTX, got me into the 30 FPS range. I heard some forum chatter about this game and 1000 series cards having extra performance hits. I was able to change some of the detail settings back to High, and I got closer to 60 FPS. Even on my desktop though, driving will get you some dips into 50 and some 40 FPS ranges.

Summing this up, the 1060 GTX in this laptop is certainly slower than the desktop 980 GTX in my desktop. While the laptop card has 6 GB of VRAM, the processing power of the 980 GTX and it’s 4 GB VRAM is superior. Saying that, I’m comparing a video card integrated into a 14″ laptop weighing less than 5 lbs, to a full sized desktop GPU. Performance was relatively close. I will throw some benchmarks versus the laptop to my desktop, below.

Benchmark wise, you can peep the Fire Strike comparison between my desktop 980 GTX system and the Razer Blade 1060. Saving you a click, the 1060 GTX scores @ 9264 while the 980 GTX scores @ 10921.

I will add some more benchmark scores in the next post. I have to be in front of the machine to check the log results.
I think it’s pretty apparent that I am happy with this purchase and the performance of this laptop. Let me confirm that I am happy with this purchase and love this device. It looks like a black Macbook, that happens to run Windows and Linux, while also having some quality, fast components in it. That being said, I got mine for just under $2000 (USD)

I did start by looking at laptops in a local Microsoft store to see what price, performance and form factor options were on the market. I used to travel for work and had a quite nice Sony Vaio laptop. This is the 1st high-performance laptop I ever bought with my own funds. Looking at the other models in-store, they either had weak video cards, or were of the Asus tier laptops, that honestly looked really crappy with all the big plastic cases and odd curvature. I didn’t want a laptop that looked like a malformed lego and weighed 10 lbs. I would say Razer is owning that market segment, for anyone wanting a fast, light weight and smooth looking laptop.

Continuing my researching, I took for Razer support forums, reddit and some review sites. Review sites are good for some insight but can gloss over some big issues. Especially if they are getting a review model, instead of a consumer production model. I started with deciding between QHD or a FHD display. That actually led me to read some folks who had an older model QHD+ but decided to go with FHD both for less pixels on a 14″ LCD, and the increased visibility from a matte finish.
The wireless card that comes in the laptop is a Killer Wireless-AC 1535 card that some reddit users noted, kind of sucks. I did run the Killer wifi briefly, but since I have a wired cable by the couch, I used a Plugable USB-C / Thunderbolt LAN NIC dongle. Using the Killer in FFXIV, I was getting some in-game lag. Also doing some ping tests on local devices, I saw quite a few 50 ms+ replies. Switching out the Killer for the Intel reduced the amount of high ping replies. YMMV, but for $25 and the use of a T5 screwbit, it’s a fairly simple replacement. As the linked reddit page notes, I also went with that Intel 8260 wifi card.

Speaking of the wired connection, it’s super fast. I was steady steam downloading, network transferring and the laptop didn’t slow up at all. My internet connection was being worked but the internal network and this wired adapter kept up without fault.

The Chroma keyboard is quite nice. Quality typing experience and the lighting effects are really enjoyable. I use the starlight pattern most of the time, unless I’m playing an MMO in the dark. Dark playing with a fixed color is really nice. If you press the ‘Function’ key, your F1 to F12 will be the only lit keys to use the multimedia functions. However the icons for the brightness, track skip, volume, etc will not light up. Because the smallness of those indicators and the main letters, I figure the light bleed would be too intense. Speaking of intense, if you pick a white-based color, you might see some blur reading the keys at night in a dark room, because they are so bright. Disclaimer / reminder that I wear glasses. Still a factor with my glasses on. In the Razer application you can juggle your lighting options for the keyboard, pick a color or pattern, and adjust the brightness of the keyboard illumination. Have fun messing with the ripple effects and other keyboard light presets.

Oh yeah. You will have 3x USB 3 standard ports, 1x USB-c connection, and 1x HDMI connection on the laptop. In addition you have the power brick connector on your left and the kensington mount on the right side. In respect to battery life, I haven’t done any benchmarks yet. If you are playing games, I would just keep it plugged into the wall, as that is exactly what I was doing. By the way, here is the laptop product page. I will get some game benchmarks and comparisons later in this thread.

Benchmark of the battery gave me about 2 hours before I was on the hunt for a charger. If you happen to travel to co-locations and work on a server rack, you may want to get a PDU to 3 pin adapter so you can charge up on extended sessions. Here is a usage breakdown of battery life.

9:25 – Laptop boot. Chilling Idle
9:34 – 97 % battery. 100% brightness.
9:38 – Chrome – emergencyfm music streaming started.
9:40 – 93 %
9:53 – 87 %
10:08 – 79 %
10:13 – 76 %
10:16 – Nmap installer. 74 %
10:19 – Scan Local Lan 73 %
10:20 – Completed sn scan. 72 % Lan
10:22 – Starting intense scan. 71 %
10:37 – Scan active. 62 %
11:05 – Scan nearly finished. 46 %
11:19 – 37 %
(Went to remote site)
Ran web browser to configure devices. Battery below 20 % in about 20 more minutes. Condensing that list of times, I was in the critical low battery around 2.5 hours.

Let me step back here, I forgot to detail machine specs.

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (Skylake)
  • 512 GB M.2 SSD. Samsung PM951 model MZVLV512CJH.
  • 1080p LCD @ 60 Hz
  • 16 GB DDR4 RAM
  • Nvidia 1060 GTX (6 GB VRAM) on driver 376.33
  • Wireless Killer AC is what it shipped with. I replaced this with an Intel 8260 Dual-Band Wireless card.
  • Ports: 1x USB-c, 1x HDMI, 3x USB 3, 1x Headphone / Mic input combo jack, Power charger input, Kensington security lock mount

Cooling is controller by 2 fans on the bottom of the unit. They are your air inlets, as the exhaust is behind the top of the keyboard. Under the display you will see some vent holes with a grill on them. It’s in the join between the bottom of the laptop and the display. You may also see dust collect on the bottom of the monitor, as I did cleaning up the apartment and playing FFXIV. If you want to clean the fans and open up the bottom of the laptop, you will need a T5 screwdriver to remove the 8 or so screws. Bottom plate removes similar to a dell laptop (or most kinds, to be honest).

Heavensward Final Fantasy XIV Benchmark on Maximum settings in DirectX 11 for 1080p scores in over 10334 with a Extremely High rating. Game plays crystal smooth @ 60 FPS in actual server gameplay, questing and dungeons. Run the benchmark a 2nd time to be sure, as I had some other stuff open and it game me a score in the 8900 threshold. Also of note, alt-tabbing to check a web browser does not cause any significant performance drops.

Glitch warning. If you hook up to an external display, you may see slower gaming performance, as it seems to try and use the Intel HD 530 GPU on the processor. I saw this testing the HDMI port, running the FFXIV Benchmark and seeing my normal score of 10516, dropping to 8900. I rebooted and had got back into the 10000 score threshold. I can confirm this by running a benchmark with an external display hooked up and getting a lower score, then unhooking the hdmi cable (without a reboot) and re-running the benchmark to get a score in the 10000+ range.
Be warned that I had to switch to GPU-Z for thermal monitoring, as HWMonitor started showing the Intel 530, since I hooked up an external display. This resolved and HWMonitor is showing both cards, thermals for the Nvidia 1060.

In respect to fan noise at idle, I can hear them if I’m in a silent room. Confirmed that this morning before I left. However it’s pretty rare I’m in a quiet room and even so I didn’t find the noise to be bothersome. Keep in mind I’ve spent some time in server closets and have a desktop server at home in my bedroom. YMMV. I know people call this laptop a Mac Killer, but have had complaints about noise from the fans at low load.

In respect to keyboard usage and interaction, this laptop works great. 1080p desktop resolution allows me to control consoles clearly, the keyboard feels nice and responsive, while the touchpad does work, I prefer to use a trackball or mouse instead of hovering a hand over the touchpad. I cannot think of an instance where my hands accidentally moved the mouse cursor when typing, so that is a large benefit for me, as I have this issue fairly often on most other laptops.

Temperature wise rundowns over load are as follows:
CPU: Max 89 C / 192 F – Idle 45 C / 111 F with a low of 37 C / 98 F
GPU: Max 82 C / 179 F – Idle 46 C / 114 F with a low of 42 C / 107 F
SSD: Max 58 C / 136 F – Idle 38 C / 100 F with a low of 35 C / 95 F

Additional benchmarks continue in the linked thread here.

Watch Dogs 2

I’m going to play on PC so I have a wait until the 29th. Xbox One and PS4 released on the 15th. There are some bugs and stuff I wanted to start by mentioning.

Some TVs do not display the whole screen and cut off the HUD. I will link to the Known issues thread on the Ubisoft forums.
To condense the issue, it can be resolved if you can set your TV to Pixel mode / 1 to 1 / Disable Overscan. Similar to when I hook my PC up to a Samsung TV and it cuts off some of the desktop, along the bottom. Most games have the ‘Resize display’ option in their settings to handle this (for other TVs that do not handle these display options). Many users are hoping to see this option, especially for TVs without the Pixel mode options.

Multiplayer Co-Op works for 2 people (+1 and you) The drop-in multiplayer versus modes are disabled due to lag and sync issues, like car speed being glitched.
Also, some console installs are not working for single player due to timeout issues with the Ubisoft servers. You can set your console to Offline mode to let you play single player, but as a result, you would not be able to play co-op.

I’m reading around the forum to see any other game issues, but so far those are the big ones. If you want to see other game related info, the Reddit Watch Dogs is active with posts about the 2nd game. Be careful to avoid spoilers if that bugs you, granted those threads seem to be tagged as such.

I ordered the Gold Edition (DLC and Season Pass) with the (Physical real world item) Wrench Jr Robot. The Robot came today, so I will throw 6x AA batteries and play with that tonight. You control it over bluetooth with a mobile phone app, either for Android or iOS.

Promo items
On Twitch Prime, you can get an unlock code for in-game outfits and car skins.  If you have an Amazon Prime account, Twitch Prime is included, you would need to link your Amazon to the Prime account though.

  • To break this down, once you link the Prime services, you should see ‘Prime Loot’ with a Watch Dogs 2 Item.
  • It will give you a code, that you can redeem on the Watch Dogs 2 Ubisoft Twitch promo site.
  • Entering this code from the Twitch Loot page, you will get a UPlay code. This actually unlocks the in-game item.

Kind of silly, but the rundown is you get the 1st code from logging into Twitch with a Prime account, Redeem it, then use this code to get the Promo code from Ubisoft promo page. Use the Ubisoft code to unlock on your Uplay (PC), PSN (PS4) or XBL (Xbox One) code to give you the content on that console.

Source: FTB Threads

Fidel Castro

I want to keep this short but felt the need to post a thread about Fidel Castro having died on Friday 2016-11-25.  Over the years I learned more about the Cuban Revolution and how Castro promises to have a people-elect government became usurped by him taking power.  The backstory of Che and his role, followed by the end of Che, being abandoned in a cell to die, alluded to, for being against the Castro push to ignore the vote of Cuban people to vote for the next ruler.

As I mentioned here and other places, I always felt the embargo was odd and never made sense.  Particularly for the Bay of Pigs excuse that had long since been proven a farce.  Either way, let me attach a meme to the thread for the sake of political satire.

CastrolLulz.jpg

Source: FTB Threads

PS4 Controller PC Use

I mentioned borrowing a PS4 and thanks to playing Watch Dogs 2, I decided to grab a Dualshock 4 pad for PC use.

You can use an existing Bluetooth Radio but I decided to go with the official adapter.  You will only be able to connect 1 gamepad per bluetooth radio / USB stick.  The Official USB Wireless Adaptor has  a push in Sync to Bluetooth option and this is a nice physical option, versus setting bluetooth to connect / pairing mode, in your OS software settings.

The USB device is listed as CUH-ZWA1U with a part number of: 3001729 (roughly about $25 USD).
The Gamepad goes for about $60 USD and ships with an internal rechargeable battery pack.

This will work on OS X or a Windows machine.  You can confirm the buttons by going into Control Panel | Devices and Printers.  Confirming that your DualShock 4 pad buttons register in the diagnostic tools there.  If you need some help over using Steam to update your dongle driver, check this TechRadar guide for DS4.

Pretty easy and no diabolical 3rd party driver needed, as was the case with Dual Shock 3 controllers being used on PC.

Jumping back to my PS4 use, the headphone port on the gamepad is really nice.  Especially since my TV does not have a headphone out port, I can put some headphones on and plug into the gamepad.  I am still checking if you can control the advanced options like Light Color and Brightness for the gamepad on PC, that you can do on the PS4.

Personal opinion, I prefer the analog sticks being next to one another, instead of the offset Xbox approach.  I was also considering an Xbox One controller, but for that and the accessories (like rechargeable battery and cable) being extra money, I went with a DualShock 4.
Here is the link from the documentation for the adapter, linked to the Sony product page.

Source: FTB Threads

Play a Game? (Game tracker)

Almost October 2012 rename thread. Using this for quick blurbs on currently playing or played games, since threads being made on anything is kinda silly (at least on my end). I will make or edit main game threads on GG or Quit playing for good pit.

This is my personal mockup list of games I have an interest in picking up, or finding information about once they release. Please feel free to add you suggestions and personal Wish List Choices. Posted Image

I made a backloggery account and here is my backlog. I’ll try to keep this Topic reasonably updated, so I know what is still on my Radar to score. Posted Image

 

 

PC Games

    [*]Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 – Q4 2013?
    [*]GTA V – ???
    [*]Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs – ??? 2013
    [*]Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land – Unknown
    [*]The Dark Eye: Demonicon
    [*]Shadowgate 25th Anniversary – Please don’t ruin this. – TBA 2012
    [*]Guillermo Del Toro’s InSane – 2013 ??? I think canceled.
    Already Out Considerations
    [*]Borderlands 2 – September 18, 2012
    [/list]

 

 

PS3 Games

    [*]Final Fantasy XIV Online (PS3) – With far more caution and observation the PC version gets massive fixes and content.
    [*]GTA V – 2013-09-17 (PC preference for me)
    [*]- Already Out –
    [*]Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – Winter 2012
    [*]Uncharted 3 – 2011/11/11
    [/list]

 

360 Games

    [*]Nothing on current radar.  I left platform.
    [/list]

 

 

Downloadable Games

    [*]Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment (XBL / PSN title)
    [*]Nobi Nobi Boy

     

    [/list]

 

 

3DS Games

    [*]Etrian Odyssey IV – 2013/02/26. Demo up on 2013/02/07
    [*]The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past sequel.  Holiday 2013?
    [*]Pokemon X and Y – Oct 2013
    [/list]

 

 

DS Games

    [*]- Already Out Considerations
    [*]The Last Window: The Secret of Cape West – Sequel to Hotel Dusk 215.
    [*]Korg KORG DS-10 Plus – Keyboard Synth with DSi features to do 4-track recordings. Posted Image
    [*]Contact
    [*]Scurge: Hive | This sounds fairly .hack-ish, I love new-age dungeon crawlers. Posted Image
    [/list]

 

 

Wii Games

Peep this NeoGAF DS Game recommendation thread. Lots of info for your hunting. :yar:

Also, here are links to the IGN Game Release Trackers:
PC
Xbox 360
PS3
3DS
PSP
Wii
DS
Ps2

Source: FTB Threads