Sunday, November 30, 2014

Getting Rid of 4-Pin Molex Connectors

As noted when installing a system in the Fractal Arc XL, the fan controller requires a 4-pin molex power connector. As it was the only one required in the system, I needed to plug in an extra cable on the modular PSU purely for the fan controller.

To remove that dependence (and reduce one of the cables floating around inside the case), all that is needed is a SATA-to-Molex power adapter. My local PC shop had one for $6.

SATA in one end

4-pin Molex in the other

Works a treat

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Build Log Followup: Another Gigabyte G1 Gaming

Continuing on from last week's post, while I wanted to track down an MSI GTX970 to try it out, local suppliers were completely out of stock of that card. And then MSY had a 10% off Gigabyte products sale, so...long story short I got a Gigabyte GTX970 G1 Gaming.

The GTX970 G1 Gaming

Couple of points of note for anyone thinking of getting one:

  • The specs say the length is 312mm, but I think this includes both the frame and perhaps a little leeway. I measured 298mm from the inside of the frame to the end, so it might fit in cases where the specs say it shouldn't. Viewer discretion advised.
  • Requires 1x8-pin and 1x6-pin power connectors.
  • I've run it with the Power-Mate Lite for over a week — on the i7-4790K (stock) system the maximum power draw was 316W while gaming.

On the Windows side there were no issues of note compared to the last one I installed, but on Linux it was a different story.

I had a Kubuntu 14.04 install on the same machine with Windows 8.1, which was working perfectly with Intel graphics. After plugging in the GTX970, the Linux install refused to boot. Using "text" or "text nomodeset" override options in grub showed it was hanging at random places during the boot process. Even a live distro off USB failed to get a display. While running off onboard I installed the nvidia-current drivers, which didn't help.

The solution turned out to be installing the latest xorg-edger drivers. The process is described in this forum post by Kade7596, but the brief summary is:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-346

Normally I would run "nvidia-xconfig" after installing the drivers, but the 346 drivers don't seem to include this application any more. Since I'd already run it using the older drivers from the Ubuntu nvidia-current target, I had a default xorg.conf written. Not sure if it was necessary.

After installing nvidia-346 the GTX970 now works.

In closing, the G1 Gaming also glows in the dark...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Build Log: Intel i7-4790K + Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H

Put together a new rig to form a core gaming and test machine.

CPU: Intel i7 4790K Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H RAM: G-Skill Ripjaws 2x8GB 2133MHz SSD: Plextor M5-Pro 256GB (already owned) HDD: Old one ODD: Old one Case: Fractal Design Arc XL PSU: EVGA SuperNova G2 750W

Fractal Design Arc XL

First up is the impression of the case, the Fractal Arc XL, big-brother to the Arc Midi I used last month.

It's a big spacious case, looking very similar to the Midi. The top panel has a couple of extra USB ports.

Also comes with a bucket load of screws and a few cable ties. A few notes on the XL from during and after the build:

  • Just like the Midi, the XL is great to build in. Spacious, good quality all round.
  • The feet on the case come with stoppers that don't slide very well. My machines sit under a desk, and when sliding it in place one of the stoppers came off.
  • The built-in fan controller requires a 4-pin molex power connector. I had to connect a dedicated cable to the PSU purely for the fan controller.
  • The HDD caused the front panel to buzz/vibrate. I had used the rubber anti-vibration rings to install the HDD, but had them done too tight. After loosening them off, the noise went away.
  • The PSU is mounted on rubber stands &emdash; haven't seen that before.
EVGA SuperNova G2 750W

Made by OEM SuperFlower, I got this guy on the back of some really strong reviews at JonnyGuru and TechPowerup.

SuperNova G2 in box, loads of cables

Comes with a lot of cables and velcro cable ties. The modular cabling is nice, but as above with the fan controller, sometimes you need to use "just one more" for that extra little thing you need to connect.

Out of box

Mounting it was painless. As noted above the XL has rubber mounts for the PSU to sit up on.

I can only assume this is for a little extra airflow to the PSU fan.

SuperNova G2 mounted. Mind the gap

Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H

I kinda knew that while this was a solid board, it had a potential issue at stock speeds with an unlocked chip like the 4790K. Thought I'd give it a go anyway.

Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H

It's a nice looking board with lots of features. Only thing of note really is that it was somewhat thinner than I expected. It felt no different to other cheaper boards like the H97 line, whereas I've heard it claimed in the past that the PCB on expensive Z boards is thicker. Didn't seem to be the case, but then I didn't pull out any of my older (cheap) boards to do a direct comparison. The board is plenty strong enough though.

Update 21/11/2014:Should note there is an issue with the UD5H and the 4790K at stock settings — details at this thread.

Initial Build/Setup

Putting it together, it was a nice case to use with plenty of cable routing options. Finished product looks fairly neat even without tying any of the cables down.

Obviously there are two big omissions from this initial setup:

  • It's using the stock cooler. I've got an aftermarket cooler to put on, but my plan was to test out the stock cooler with the 4790K and UD5H. Will document later.
  • There's no GPU. That's still to come. I was trying to track down an MSI GTX970, but they're pretty difficult to come by. Instead will probably get my hands on the Gigabyte G1 Gaming. :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

White-on-blue Theme for Vim

If you want to make vim look like the old white-on-blue of WordPerfect (and frankly, who doesn't?), you can apply these changes to a colour file.

I started with desert.vim (usually in a directory like /usr/share/vim/vim74/colors), copied to ~/.vim/colors and made the following changes:

26,27c24 < ""hi Normal guifg=White guibg=grey20 < hi Normal guifg=grey90 guibg=#061c34 --- > hi Normal guifg=White guibg=grey20 48,49c45 < ""hi SpecialKey guifg=yellowgreen < hi SpecialKey guifg=darkblue --- > hi SpecialKey guifg=yellowgreen 73d68 < hi SpellBad guisp=darkred

There are probably more changes that could (should?) be made, but that gets the primary effect.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Updated Conky Config

Made a few little tinkering updates to the previous conky config (thanks for the CPU graph tip JB).

Rather than try and paste the .conkyrc file in here (which is difficult to copy/paste and doesn't fit properly in this blogger template), I'll just link to it in my repo: https://bitbucket.org/ashonit/config/src/2c99ecffce6140874d3408b8eb413c377da86abb/.conkyrc?at=default

Install lm-sensors and run sensors-detect in order to get CPU temps to show.

The most difficult thing I've found is getting fan readings, since hwmon was removed from the Ubuntu repos, there doesn't seem to be a replacement. I haven't been able to find a reliable way to query the file-system for current RPM values either -- if anyone knows, please let me know!

Screenshot of the latest setup:

Monday, October 20, 2014

nVidia Tearing Fix in Kubuntu 14.04

Finally got around to revisiting this issue. Last time I tried I black screened the system, but with the TTY consoles successfully in operation that isn't so much of a risk.

Seems the following fix from AskUbuntu (thanks Barafu!) solves the problem. The solution is almost identical to the fix I used for 13.04, but adds an extra line to /etc/profile:

export __GL_YIELD="USLEEP" export __GL_THREADED_OPTIMIZATIONS=1

Not sure why I got the black screen, it may have been something unrelated, as this worked perfectly on two differed Kubuntu+nVidia systems.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Build Log Addendum: Gigabyte GTX970 G1 Gaming

Update on last week's build log: managed to pick up a Gigabyte GTX970 G1 Gaming for the machine.

The Gigabyte GTX970 G1 Gaming

Installing the card went without issue. It proved to be a nice, quiet card after installing the nVidia drivers (fans were noisy at first boot -- probably as expected -- until the proper driver was installed).

Interestingly, despite the Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 specs saying it only has 290mm clearance for GPUs with the HDD cage installed, the Gigabyte GTX970 just fit (was a squeeze, but I could get it in). So obviously there is some leeway in Fractal Design's specs for this case.

Completed build. This is without the HDD cage -- I left it out in the end for better airflow

To test it out I ran through Unigine Heaven again. At 1920x1080 Ultra 0xAA, it scored 2627 (average FPS: 104.3, min FPS: 29.3, max FPS: 205.3). At Ultra 8xAA, it scored 1786 (average FPS: 70.9, min FPS: 8.8, max FPS: 137.6). A little better than the 10 FPS average of the onboard graphics.

Running through Hitman: Absolution in-game benchmark (random game I had available on Steam) it scored Average FPS: 60.2, Min FPS: 50.5, Max FPS: 72.0.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Build Log: Fractal Midi R2, i5 4590+H97

Putting together a new machine for a friend. This is its story...

First up, the list of parts used:

CPU: Intel i5 4590 CPU cooler: Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo Motherboard: Gigabyte H97-D3H RAM: G-Skill Ares 2x4GB 1600MHz SSD: Plextor M5S 256GB HDD: Seagate 2TB 7200RPM ODD: Lite-on DVD-RW Case: Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 PSU: Antec True Power Classic 550W

The usual suspects

Initial reaction to the Fractal Define Arc Midi R2 is that for a mid-sized case, it's...big. At least, it's very wide. Good for big CPU coolers if needed (180mm of clearance).

The Fractal Design Arc Midi R2

The case has some nice features, including an in-built fan controller for up to three fans. The switch for fan speed levels is built into the front of the case. Switching between the speeds after completing the machine, at 12V the fans audible but not too noisy, while down at 5V they're barely audible at all.

Arc Midi R2 front panel connectors, including fan controller switch

The R2 comes with a bunch of screws, cable ties and risers as you would expect. Below is the inside of the case with both side panels removed. If there was a blemish with this case, it was that one of the side panel screws felt slightly cross-threaded when first undone. Very minor in the scheme of things, hardly worth even saying, but I liked everything else about the case :)

On to the rest of the components. CPU is the i5-4590, motherboard is the Gigabyte H97-D3H. Both solid mid-range options for a non-OC machine.

The Gigabyte H97-D3H

I've heard people say that when installing an Intel CPU for the first time, they get a bit scared by the sounds that the lever used to hold the CPU in place can make. It can make creaking sounds, but this is normal in my experience. It is applying a fair bit of force, since it needs to keep the CPU absolutely stationary in its socket.

The i5-4590 in place in the motherboard

Next I installed the RAM and cooler. I did this outside of the case, but that turned out to make accessing the top left of the motherboard awkward when screwing it in place (fat fingers!). Putting the motherboard in first and then mounting the cooler (there is a cutaway behind the motherboard that lets you do this) would have been easier. And while this is a non-overclocking machine — and so the stock cooler would have sufficed — for a little extra quietness I got the aftermarket cooler.

Motherboard with RAM and cooler installed

Adding the other components to the case was fairly straightforward. The drive bays all have rubber sound-reducing grommets to screw hard drives into, and mount points for SSDs. Cable management was an absolute breeze in this. I think I only used two of the cable ties that came in the box, the rest more or less managed itself. I'm far from great at cable management, but this case made it really easy.

The finished product...almost

The picture above is the complete machine, minus the graphics card, which I'm waiting on for stock. Intending on a GTX970, hopefully an MSI model so it will fit without needing to remove the top HDD cage. The loose cable at the bottom of the case is the PCIe power connector for the GPU. I'll post an update when the GPU is in. Currently the machine gets about 10FPS on the Unigine Heaven benchmark the poor dear. I'm sure a GPU will help out a little there.

Update: Addendum for the GPU installation.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dungeon Defenders on 64-bit Ubuntu Variants

A while back I found using the ia32-libs package was a way to get Dungeon Defenders going on 64-bit Linux, but that package went away. Here's the process I went through to get Dungeon Defenders working on Xubuntu 14.04.

Graphics Setup

First in general: install graphics drivers. For nVidia this is basically:

apt-get install nvidia-current
nvidia-xconfig

For AMD the process is a little more fraught with danger, I found this process works well with 14.04 though:

apt-get install fglrx-updates fglrx-amdcccle-updates
aticonfig --initial

Then reboot. After, if using AMD, run amdcccle and set the "tear free" option to enabled.

Game Setup

Since ia32-libs is deprecated, I went through and manually found all the packages. Here's the summary that should hopefully include everything needed to run the game:

apt-get install libglu1-mesa:i386 lib32stdc++6 \       libxext6:i386 libasound2:i386 libpulse0:i386 \       libxcursor1:i386 libxinerama1:i386 libxi6:i386 \       libxrandr2:i386 libxss1:i386 libxxf86vm1:i386

Then, before you run DD for the first time, edit the file DefaultDunDef.ini in UDKGame/Config/ and remove "_Valentines2013" from the GameplayLevel parameters, so that they only say "LobbyLevel.UDK". This will prevent the bug when you start the game it goes straight back to the menu.

(After using it as a test application for a fresh machine, I want to go back and play the game from a clean start. After the débâcle that is Dungeon Defenders Eternity, the original game feels much more...fun :(. )

Sunday, September 21, 2014

BeagleBone Black Setup and Thoughts

The BeagleBone Black is a tiny "computer on a board" similar to a Raspberry Pi. I bought on an experiment to see what I could do with it.

The BeagleBone Black

Parts and Cost

Element14 stock the BeagleBone in Australia, so I bought it through them and the following other parts needed for the setup:

  • The BBB itself ($70)
  • 5V-3A DC power pack ($22, Jaycar)
  • Partlist 4 port USB hub ($4, MSY)
  • Cablelist Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable ($8, MSY)
  • D-Link Dub-104 4-Port USB 2.0 Powered Hub ($20, Mwave)
  • Netgear WNA 3100M USB wifi ($10, MSY)

Other items that I had available to complete the setup:

  • 8GB micro SD card
  • USB mouse/keyboard
  • Monitor (1680x1050)
Initial Setup and Run

The BeagleBone wiki says to start off by connecting the BBB to a computer with the USB cable. So I plugged it in and it dutifully lit up.

Browsing to http://192.168.7.2 showed me the BeagleBone 101 screen, which was a good sign.

Then I plugged in the 5V power adapter, micro-HDMI cable, keyboard to the USB port and network cable to the RJ45. Booted into the default desktop (a Debian distro running LXDE by the looks).

Set up with everything plugged in (no attempt at neatness made)

Next I tried the unpowered hub and hit the first issue: the single USB host port on the Bone doesn't have enough juice to run more than one device, which I'd kind of expected but hoped I might avoid. Hence the need to end up with a more expensive powered hub in order to run more than one USB device. Not a big deal, but when you consider that the BBB costs a lot more than the Raspberry Pi, which now comes with 4 USB ports (!), it's somewhat disappointing.

The desktop was usable but you definitely notice it's slower than a full-powered desktop computer. There are also occasional glitches, such as the print screen application blacking out particular some applications. I feel it's more suited to a low-powered always-on server type of application than for regular interactive use.

Screenshot taken from the BBB shows some applications are "blacked out"

Current TODOs:

  • Get the Netgear 3100M working. Firmware didn't appear to be included in the distro, need to track it down and install it.
  • Install the 8GB micro-SD card and make sure it works.
  • Find a permanent use for the thing. :)
Conclusion

So while it's a nifty little computer, I feel that it's definitely lacking when compared to the Pi. A friend has a Cubietruck, which has the nice feature of a host SATA port. Again, BBB comes up short in the price/feature matrix.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fix Missing TTY Terminal with nVidia GPU

So I had this long-running problem where as soon as I installed the drivers for an nVidia GPU, I'd lose the terminals (normally accessed by Ctrl-Alt-F1, Ctrl-Alt-F2, etc). The processes were still running, but nothing was visible. This was particularly annoying if I did anything to trash the desktop environment --- couldn't get access to a terminal to fix things.

Turns out the solution though is pretty simple: modify the file /etc/default/grub so that instead of saying "quiet splash" it says "nomodeset" (make a copy of your original grub file first to be safe):

#GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash" GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="nomodeset"

Then run sudo update-grub. Upon reboot, the TTYs will be visible again. Spews out the entire boot log to the screen as well, but that wasn't really a concern at all for me.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quick review: Comsol 3.5mm Audio Splitter

I bought one of these Comsol 3.5mm Splitters from Officeworks recently. Hoped it would duplicate an audio output to use on two devices, but it turned out to approximately halve the output level and muddied it up considerably (bass in particular sounded terrible). My fault for not researching first, but it is a little annoying that the advertisement or specs contain nothing to suggest how limited the device is.

In the scale of audiophile-ness, I'm a long way down the ladder, so if I can tell it's bad then it's must be really bad. (Maybe I was expecting too much?)

Do not recommend one of these at all.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Random Rant: Samsung Galaxy S2 -> S3 "Upgrades"

There are a couple of things that really bug me about the Samsung Galaxy S3 compared to the S2.

The first is the USB connectivity to Linux computers. With the S2 you could treat the phone as a standard USB device and read/write files from it with no problems. With the S3 Samsung appear to have removed that simple USB connectivity in favour of MTP, which is problematic with Linux and frankly a giant pain in the arse, requiring installation of various tools that are a bit flaky and don't work as well as a standard file browser. Definitely a downgrade, for no reason that I can see.

The other is the lack of FM radio tuner in the phone. Perhaps it's not commonly used these days, I don't know, but I used it, and found it quite handy when out and about to plug in the radio.

I upgraded got the phone via a plan, and because it was an incremental update from the same brand, I didn't think to check closely as to what the downgrades were (because why would you deliberately annoy your customers by removing stuff that worked really well and was useful?).

More fool me.

Although they sound trivial, little changes like those make the new version far less functional for me. Wondering whether I'll actually get another Samsung phone...I have a feeling competitors are probably no better. ":/

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Getting rid of mscorefonts

While installing the kubuntu-restricted-extras package, I accidentally allowed the installation of ttf-mscorefonts-installer. This kind of uglified up all my browser fonts, so to remove them I ran:

sudo apt-get purge ttf-mscorefonts-installer

Solution was based on this answer at askubuntu.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Compiling Godot from Source on Kubuntu

Hearing about the release of cross-platform, open-source gaming engine Godot, I thought I'd give it a go. After getting the source from github, I hit a "what do I do now" moment? There didn't seem to be anything to run, and I couldn't find any docs that explained what to do.

Perhaps obviously in hindsight, I could have gone to the "compiling from source" page and followed that, but for whatever reason I didn't find it, so here's the process I took to get up and running (using Kubuntu 13.04):

  • There is a makefile in the root of the source code. I tried "make all", but it fell over with the error: /bin/sh: 1: scons: not found.
  • Tried installing scons (sudo apt-get install scons).
  • Make then failed with: scons: *** Do not know how to make File target `bin/godot'
  • Web search led to a Godot forum post that defined the other dependencies that are needed:
  • apt-get install scons pkg-config libx11-dev libxcursor-dev \ build-essential libasound2-dev libfreetype6-dev \ libgl1-mesa-dev libglu-dev

  • Now: $ make all
  • Should get "scons: done building targets".
  • run "bin/godot", this should open the Project Manager.
  • Continue to follow the Godot tutorials.