Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter 2 (XBOX 360)

- I finally went back and finished this a few weeks ago.
- It's around the same length as graw 1 (8-10 hrs)
- It uses a slightly tweaked version of the same in house engine
- It's plays mostly the same
- The scenarios are about the same
- It felt very much more of the same.
- I thought it started well, day 2 had some interesting things, and just went down hill in day 3 with a very anti-climatic last level/ending.
- I was really blown away by graw1 but graw2 just didn't get me as excited after having played r6 vegas.
- I hear the multiplayer is much improved but I haven't had a chance to try it out yet.

It really is very much more of the same. So if you loved graw1 and want more go pick up graw2.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bioshock (XBOX 360)


- about 4 hrs into it. Playing it nice and slowly trying to explorer everything and search all objects. You get rewarded with quite a few tonics and plasmids. Just killed the second Big Daddy.
- Make sure you use your map often and explorer every grey area.
- save anytime anywhere, change difficulty level at anytime (seems to mostly impact damage given and damage taken). I've been playing it on easy and some medium.
- Near zero death penalty. You just respawn at the nearest vital chamber.
- Context sensitive help system if you want to use it, clear goals, goal arrow marker...with all that you'll never be lost or confused what you are suppose to do next.
- This game is very accessible yet pretty deep with awesome pacing.
- Hack EVERYTHING!!!! Remember electricity and machines don't mix. Get some good hacking tonics to help you out with the harder hacks.
- Ammo starts to get a bit more plentiful in the second level.
- Voice acting is great.
- I actually felt bad about killing the Big Daddy after hearing the little sister ask what's wrong Mr. Bubbles and start crying.
You can harvest(kill) the little sisters for 160 adam or free/cure them but get only 80. I saved before deciding and tried both ways. Yeah I feel too bad killing them so I'm going to go the cure route.
- Subtitles are out of sync with the dialog.
- I can't figure out how to see what tonics I have currently equipped. Can this only be done at a gene bank(which I haven't found one yet)?
- the plasmid powers are a lot of fun.

This is easily my favorite game this year so far. No game has pulled me in like this in a LONG time.
Highly recommended, must buy, must play, must finish.

UPDATE: 9/12/07
- Wow this was an extremely long game for a shooter. If you take your time and explorer every inch of the maps, finding every audio diary, plasmid, and tonic this game can easily take 25-30hrs.
- After the big twist(which wasn't as good as KOTOR and a tad predictable) the game does seem the drag a tad with a bit too much familiarity. Don't get me wrong. Even at it's worst it is better paced than most games out there just not as good as the first 70% of the game.
- I got sloppy on the last level and missed a few audio diaries so I had to go back to get my achievement.
- The ending is ok. It's a bit short and abrupt but not bad. I got the good ending (saved all the little sisters). I went back to a save right before the last little sister and harvested her instead and played through to the end of the game. I still got the same good ending. Apparently you need to harvest a majority of them or something. No big deal I just watched the bad ending on youtube.
- The last boss was pretty easy.
- Watched the 40 min making of. Pretty interesting stuff.

Easily my favorite game so far this year. I rarely finish games this long but this one really is that good.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Lost Planet (XBOX 360)

- I bought this back in January and finally got a chance to play it. Finished in about 10-12 hrs.
- I played on easy because some of the boss fights and there are a lot of them. There is pretty much one at the end of each of the 11 levels. They can be pretty cheap where they keep chaining attacks and repeatedly knock you down where you can't really do anything until you are dead. It's not too terribly frustrating b/c there are plenty of check points. Still I found the game challenging enough even on easy. The end boss wasn't that tough at all. I found one in the middle to be much tougher.
- Graphics are really great: great looking snow, impressive in engine cut scenes, exploding barrels have never looked so good, incredible looking epic bosses.
- There is a in a lot of cut scenes but I found the overall plot kind of dull and bleah. The writing could have been better. Voice acting wasn't too bad. Could have made the characters more engaging and give them a bit of personality.
- 3rd person camera works well most of the time.
- The action is great on foot or especially in a mech errr VS (vital suit). Think starship troopers meets the mechs from Matrix Revolutions. There is a good variety of mechs. Some even transform. The 90 degree quick turn buttons really help while in a mech if I could just remember to use them more often. Anyways, the combat is very solid, and I just love the mech combat (which is mostly what you will do for the later half of the game) with jump jets and quick slides.
- Weapons all feel great especially the mech weapons. The ability to remove them and use them on foot is a great touch. You can also mix and match weapons on the mech while in the field to get just the right mix of weapons you like.
- The whole thermal energy meter ticking down and also used as health regen is a nice new mechanic that fits this game well.
- I only tried multiplayer briefly but seemed fun.
- Props to capcom for making the map packs free for download.

Overall highly recommended especially at the new low price of $30.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

NYKO Blu Wave IR Remote (PS3)

- Picked it up for $20 shipped from newegg:
- IR dongle is nice and small
- Still works by emulating a ps2 controller through usb. This means no PS button and no ability to turn the ps3 on/off.
- Also has the same drawback where if you leave the dongle plugged in, you turn on the ps3 with your wireless ps3 six axis controller, your six axis is controller #2 and your IR dongle/remote becomes controller #1. I find this quite annoying. Anybody know of a work around besides leaving the IR dongle unplugged when booting the ps3 to play games? UPDATE: If you hit the PS button you can reassign your real controller as controller #1. The assignment seems to stick between standby/on power cycles (sometimes...still seems a bit inconsistent).
- Programming into the Harmony remote is a snap. The learn function works just fine (no need for RAW mode).
- Nicely labeled buttons on the remote makes learning on the harmony that much easier.
- A much cleaner/nicer solution than the usb -> ps2 adapter + ps2 ir remote dongle. But it basically accomplishes the exact same thing.

Sony NEEDS to update the firmware to allow 3rd party usb IR dongles to have full access to the blu-ray player and power on/off capabilities so a proper IR remote can be created. This will do for now but it's far from perfect. It's times like these I really hate Sony. Amazing how by them cutting corners just to save a few bucks on an IR receiver has caused so much frustration.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Razer Pro Tone m100 Headphones

- $15 + $5 shipping from
- These are the first in ear headphones I've used. It comes with 3 sizes (very easy to swap out the the different sizes). I like the medium size which is the default size installed.
- It really blocks out all outside noise. It's like wearing ear plugs so sounds you make (like your jaw, teeth, breathing) seem amplified. It's fine but it takes a bit of getting use to.
- Comfort seems pretty good and they fit well and don't move once you get them into your ear.
- Sound is quite a bit better than the cheap sony ones I usually use. There is a lot more bass. I tested it with some mp3's on my rio forge.
- Nice carrying case and the jet set adapter is worth a few bucks right there.

Overall a great value at $20. I'm sure there are better headphones out there but probably not at $20.


My XFX 7900GT was having issues recently. After going through support I was able to get a replacement 8600GTS since they didn't have any 7900GT's in stock.

So I just got my replacement card. It came in a brand new sealed retail box.
They didn't just send me any old 8600 gts. They sent me their fastest oc version right out of the box:

gpu clock: 730mhz vs stock 675mhz
memory: 2.26ghz vs stock 2.0 ghz
streaming processors: 1595mhz vs stock 1450mhz

It currently runs around $230.

- I ran into a weird issue. After using driver cleaner (latest .net version) and then installing the latest drivers I couldn't open the nvidia control panel. Doing step one here fixed it for me:
- dual link dvi (2560x1600)
- HDCP!!!
- It fit better in my case than the 7900gt it replaced. I think the card is actually either a bit shorter or the pcie power plug is better positioned.
- under heavy load temps got up to 81c (a bit hotter than the 77c on the 7900gt). Idle is 60c
- a few benches (under xp 162.18 drivers. I'll try vista next):

7900gt + athlon 64 3000 venice oc 2.4ghz vs 8600gts + opteron 170 oc 2.5ghz
01: 27270 30451
03: 17996 18627
05: 8580 11647
06: 4316 5701

1600X1200 doom 3:
95 85.6
158.49 171.54

For the most part I got a slight boost in performance. But I did pick up dx10 and shader 4.0 (though I'm guessing it will be pretty slow)
- No difference with my css bot stutter problem. gw runs fine now with AA turned off (no glitches between warp points). Briefly tried quake 4 which ran fine. Ubunto 7.04 live cd ran fine (7900gt gave me the mess of diagonal line garbage before so you can't see anything).
- dual monitor support works great and analog works on both ports.
- came with a free copy of Company of Heroes. I'll have to give the dx10 patch a try.

Overall I'm pretty happy with this "free" upgrade. The hdcp and better video decoder chip for HD playback will work great when this box becomes my main htpc.

Vista Ultimate 32bit test
- Installed latest drivers and latest powerdvd ultra with hd-dvd and blu-ray support.
- Played bourne identity and matrix revolution hd-dvd as a test. Under vista with hardware acceleration cpu utilization was right around 30%. Under winxp (where purevideo hd isn't supported....yet) I was getting closer to 45-50% utilization. So yeah it makes a good bit of difference.
- There are some beta nvidia drivers for xp that is suppose to enable purevideo hd under xp (but I'll wait for the final release):
- My results were pretty close to this:

Call of Juarez dx10 benchmark:;7725194;/fileinfo.html
5.1 min
15.9 max
10.1 avg
msaa X2
shadow low

dropping rez to 1024:

I also tried the dx10 version of the Lost Planet demo over steam. At 1280 I was getting around an avg of 28fps.

Company of heroes at automatic settings unless otherwise noted:

1024X768 1600X1200 dx9 800x600 HQ 1280x960 dx9
avg 49.5 32.4 46.9 27.7 40.3 57.2
max 51.6 61.6 61.8 59.5 62.0 62.5
min 27.9 15.1 2.9 10.7 20.9 3.9

UPDATE: 8/20/07
Tried out the Bioshock PC demo under vista 32bit and dx10

opening scene without touching the mouse (basically facing the tail of the plane with lots of water and fire).
Latest registered version of Fraps with dx10 support.
default settings of everything on except force global lighting, all sliders to high. NO AA.
audio had no impact on framerate (stereo vs 5.1, reverb, eax)

latest released drivers 162.22
1024 1152 1280 1600
dx10 30 26 24 16
dx9 35 26 18

latest beta drivers 163.44
in the release notes:
* Improved compatibility for Bioshock.
dx10 34 28 25 16
dx9 37

everything off(pretty ugly)
win xp latest released drivers
41 32 19

went back and ran it on my 40" hdtv at 1360X786 under xp. Got 33 fps on the opening scene. Running around it felt at least as smooth as the 360.

sweet spot for me I guess is 1280X960 with everything on which is quite playable but nowhere near as smooth as the 360.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Logitech z5300e 5.1 THX speakers

Here is an older review I did back in 2005. Anyways amazon now has them for $90 after $40 MIR.

- I picked some up at amazon:
They were $150 - $30 rebate = $120. Rebate has already ended.
- This is the second to the top of the line (z5500) 5.1 speakers. The big difference is wired remote, "only" 280w rms, no dd or dts decoding, a lot cheaper. This is pretty much only for computer use and accepts 6 analog inputs (2 each on the 3 1/8 mini jacks). Don't get this for home theater or game console use.
- No standard speaker mounts so for my rear stands I had to get kind of creative with zip ties. Wires are attached to the speaker and terminate into standard RCA phono plugs. Still pretty easy to buy extension cables but not as easy as bare wire. The little feet are easy to remove if you need to cram the satellites into small spaces.
- sounds really good. I tried some music, freeway scene in matrix reloaded, counter strike source, and doom 3. I really like how at lower volumes it properly balances the sub woofer. On other speakers in those conditions all you would hear is the sub and pretty much nothing else. Plenty loud enough with no distortion cranked up. Completely silent(no hiss) when there is no sound. I'm using this with nforce2 soundstorm. I'll be moving to an Audigy 2zs when I build my new pc.
- good controls to let you adjust center, sub, and fade (front vs rear).

Overall, I think these are a very good value at $120.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Boot from USB Key Drive and U3 info

I finally got this all working.
- make sure you enable it in the bios (and the boot order is correct - as in usb device before hard drive)
- not all usb key drives work. I found this out first hand
I tried almost every method and finally got one to work. In my case it was method 2 first utility. The link is dead but I found a mirror:
- format a floppy, check create ms-dos startup disk
- I used a 1gb sd card in a reader as my "boot device"
- Run the hp utility and pick the drive letter where your usb key drive is (or in my case a reader with a SD card in it). Choose create a dos startup disk, using dos system files at location and choose your A: drive.
- This also worked with a win98se boot cd I had created (hmm except mt170 crashes under win98se vs winMe which is what xp format creates). Just make sure to copy all files from your boot disk to your usb device (do NOT overwrite existing files on the usb device). The only part that fails is the extraction of extra dos commands to the ramdrive since it is looking for drive a:. What you can do is just extract EBD.sys right on your usb device that way the commands are always available. Another alternative is to edit the SETRAMD.BAT. Remove a:\ from a:\findramd. You might also want to edit the autoexec.bat and change the path command so it reads like this:
path=%RAMD%:\;c:\;%CDROM%:\. remove system,hidden,read only attributes from
- To boot I used a tiny iomega usb sd card reader device (warning: it seems to only support max 1gb sd cards for some reason well at least with the one SD brand I tested it with. I probably need to do some more testing). So basically I can create different bootable images just by swapping out SD cards. Way Cool!
- Next I D/L
Download - Pre-Compiled EXE file for USB Key (Pure DOS)
Drop the exe on the sd card and now I can run memtest from my bootable sd card!

All this because I was too lazy to swap out my extra battery on my laptop with the optical drive to run the bootable iso of memtest.

I recently picked up one of these:

- usually onsale for $40 no rebate (picked it up at Circuit City but seen it at Best Buy too)
- very good performance read and write
- readyboost
- tiny. I love the retractable usb connector.
- U3 support:
- Installation of u3 apps is a snap using the built in tiny tray app/launcher. Many are free.
The firefox for u3 works really well. Great performance. Part of the reason is it creates some temporary files when u3 starts and then cleans itself up after you eject.
You can examine this behavior if you look at this directory:
C:\Documents and Settings\youruserid\Application Data\U3
So I can confirm it really does do a good job of cleaning itself up completely upon a proper eject of the media.
- For no u3 apps (say maybe you found something at that isn't u3 supported yet) you can still create your own shortcut in the u3 launcher using this:
To extract icons use this:
- I've tried several other u3 apps like filezilla, irfanview, and even open office. They all work great. I tried gwfreaks and vlc which are not u3 apps but the shortcut creator worked just fine.
- Some other sites: (never tried this)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Buffalo WHR-G125 Router and DD-WRT
latest firmware:
specifically the 7/30/2007 standard
- fyi the buffalo whr-g125 is onsale this week at Circuit City for $25 after MIR.
- I picked one up today and flashed the latest ddwrt. It was really easy using tftp. It worked the first time. The whole process takes just a few minutes. DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Supposedly after the initial flash, you can do future upgrade flashes using the web interface.
- Wow talk about a lot of options to play with. Performance has been at least equal to my old netgear wgr614.
- Just a warning Qos seems a bit buggy still. I think it works but once you enabled it there is no way to disable it. Even though you apply changes with disabled, once you reboot the router it's enabled again. According to the wiki you sacrifice 15% of your max speed for Qos. So I was getting 8mbs down before enabling qos. After enabling qos and entering the recommended 15% less than max values I was down to around 7mbps. I decided to disable qos and I was still stuck around 7mbps. The work around is either restore factory defaults or luckily I had backed up the nvram settings before messing with qos so I was able to just restore that file and all was good again. Still Qos is a pretty nifty feature:
- Ok after the nvram restore I ran into another bug. The wireless wasn't working and the option to broadcast ssid vansihed. After going through the wireless setup tabs and applying each one things were back to normal. I used IE this time too instead of firefox but I don't think that made a difference. Yeah this firmware is still beta but I'm sure they'll work out the kinks.
- Works great with the 360 with uPnP enabled showing full open NAT on the xbox live test.

Well worth the $25 (about the cheapest bridge out there if you plan to use it that way).

UPDATE: 6/3/08
So v24 is finally out!
- I rebooted the router, loaded up v24 std generic using the web interface, and then another reboot.
- Everything seemed to work fine. The new Bandwidth monitor and traffic graphs are great.

- I decided to give QoS another try. I have to say this final version of v24 seem quite bug free.
So here is how I tested. I pinged the maxpc/pcgamer tf2 server.
Baseline (no internet traffic):
Pinging with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from bytes=32 time=70ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=59ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=64ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=66ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=60ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=59ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=58ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=58ms TTL=115

Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent = 28, Received = 28, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 57ms, Maximum = 84ms, Average = 60ms

QoS OFF - fully saturated internet download:
Pinging with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from bytes=32 time=314ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=283ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=222ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=324ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=287ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=274ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=265ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=252ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=263ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=289ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=305ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=249ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=270ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=323ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=222ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=228ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=309ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=292ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=309ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=317ms TTL=115

Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent = 46, Received = 45, Lost = 1 (2% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 169ms, Maximum = 324ms, Average = 266ms

Qos ON - fully saturated internet download
Pinging with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from bytes=32 time=86ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=58ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=85ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=61ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=68ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=64ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=65ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=58ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=59ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=61ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=70ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=59ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=61ms TTL=115
Reply from bytes=32 time=63ms TTL=115

Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent = 44, Received = 44, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 58ms, Maximum = 102ms, Average = 64ms

Without QoS ping jumped an avg 206ms!!!!
With Qos ON ping only increased by 4ms!!!!
- You can feel it too while just surfing. Everything is just so much more responsive. Youtube and hulu videos streamed perfectly. I can see my DL speeds drop down to around 3mbps while streaming video which means QoS is doing its job!
- I used 80% values (for my DSL connection I get around 5.4/540 max so I used values 4.3/400). So the only drawback is my download speed maxes out around 4.3mbps which I can live with. I think the trade off is well worth it.

Hands down dd-wrt v24 firmware is amazing. I can't imagine using any other factory firmware after using dd-wrt. In fact I wanted to buy another router just as backup but unfortunately it seems the WHR-G125 is discontinued. I might pick up the LINKSYS WRT54GL as an alternative since it's stupid easy to flash with dd-wrt:

UPDATE: 06/04/08
I ran some more numbers trying different down/up limits to see impact on ping. My real world down/up is around 5400/540.

I changed up to 500

5200 - 136ms
5000 - 76ms
4800 - 70ms
4600 - 66ms
4300 - 64ms

So it seems the most efficient range would be between 4600 - 5000. Anything higher and ping starts to go way up. Now it's just a trade off on how much bandwidth you wish to utilize vs what is an acceptable ping.

I'm trying out 4800 for now. I've tested hd 720p content and you do have to buffer a bit longer or else it can't keep up with the streaming and the video starts to stutter.

I also tried TCP Vegas (without QoS) and it didn't seem to help pings at all. So I'm leaving tcp vegas off and QoS on. . This is more due to the fact the video stream bitrate is higher than 5mbps and with QoS I'm limiting it to 4.8mbps.

UPDATE: 8/5/08
v24 sp1 has been released. I power cycled the router, installed v24 sp1 through the web interface, and let it reboot. It seems to work fine.

UPDATE: 10/10/08
I did something really stupid and fried my poor buffalo router. I've since replaced it with a Linksys WRT301N with dd-wrt on it.