Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chennai Metrozone Mini Panoramas

Just a couple of pano shots of the Ozone's Metrozone project from our block:

Update (2014-04-09):
A view out our balcony

Friday, June 01, 2012

Holy Routers, Batman!

Behold, the router worthy of the Dark Knight himself! This is my mini-review of my new router: the Asus RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 router.

Asus RT-N66U Router
Asus RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router
This is my first "costly" router and I feel that I have invested in a very good product. My previous modem-cum-router cost me about Rs.2000 and was good for what I required from a router at the time. Now that I've bought a PS3 which lives next to the TV in the living room and everyone in my household has a wifi-enabled Android phone, my old router could not quench the wireless-content thirst of every device in the house effectively (or, at all).

I like my new Asus RT-N66U router for the following attributes:
- Excellent range: This is the main reason that I bought this router for. With my old Netgear, I was lucky if I got even a weak signal near my TV (just 15 meters away from the router). But with the RT-N66U, I get 100% signal strength anywhere in my house even with all kitchen equipments running. Impressive! I knew this router had a good range even before I ordered it and I am glad I was not let down.
- User Friendly: You don't need to connect to the router wired to configure it initially. The UI is simple and configurable. I was able to connect to the Internet in a matter of minutes after unpacking the router.
- Upgradable: The router is DD-WRT/Tomato compatible so power users can choose to upgrade the firmware if they want to. Even the router's antennae are easily upgradable, if you wish to increase its already great wireless coverage. I will probably end-up upgrading both after a few months.
- Great Features: The router can act as a VPN server, a Printer server (with a USB Printer), 3G/WiMax Server (with USB 3G/WiMax modem), Samba/FTP server (for USB drive files) and more. I have yet to use any of these features and I am excited because this is the first router that I've used that has USB ports!

Negative Points: Except for it being a tad costly, I can think of nothing negative about this router. Maybe once I start to care about throughput at a distance, I may have something to moan about. But so far, nothing.

Bottom Line: I am loving my new router. If you are looking for more than the basic level of network connectivity and have the budget for this router, just go for it.

Kudos to Flipkart for listing this router with the cheapest price I've seen for this router in India and also for the fast and extra safe shipping of this item.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Scratching the Chronic Itch.

It's been 3 full years since my last PC upgrade. Now, my rig is by no means weak in terms of computational or gaming performance. It can compute Bitcoin hashes at a decent rate of 500 MHashes/second  and can run most games at native resolution (1920x1200) with most of the eye-candy on. But running "most games" with "most setting" maxed-out is, while tolerable, is not acceptable and certainly not becoming of a PC that I own, if I say so myself (and I do).

I could quote more such excuses to justify my scratching the "upgrade itch", but I'll spare my readers of that (you're welcome!). Rather than quote the failures of my current system to cope with my demands, this time around, I am actually upgrading to fulfill some of my desires.

For example, I've been wanting to use Solid State Drives (SSDs) since they came out couple of years ago. Now that the cost of the SSD drives have started to slowly fall, I want some of them solid-state goodness in my computer, now! At the time of my last upgrade, the WD Velociraptor drive had much better performance/price ratio with the added bonus of extra storage space at the same price point as a small SSD. But now, I could go with a cheaper-yet-performant SSD for the OS and a couple of Hybrid drives (or, SSHD) in Raid-0 for programs and games. I will finally see fast boot-up, hibernation-resume and game load times!

Another thing that I've wanted to try is water/liquid cooling the core components of my PC. Now, I won't be running high-overclocks on my CPU/GPU(s) to justify a move to liquid cooling, but I DO bench my PC components at least for a few months after purchase. I had a not-too-bad kinda standing in HWBOT with my current rig, way back when.
But even this is not a compelling reason to switch to water cooling as I won't benchmark my system after the first month or so. The water pump will be an added power drain on the system of around 8W to 20W. But, this is more of a fulfillment of a long-standing desire and learning experience than a "need".

I have not committed on a specific configuration now as I am going to wait a month or two to let some new products get released and also due to some personal situations right now (involving project deadline and planning to move to a new apartment). So, without further ado, here's what I am thinking of getting:

  • Core:
    • Intel Core i7-3770K Quad-Core Ivy Bridge CPU
    • ASUS Maximus V GENE mATX Motherboard
    • 16 GB (4 x 4GB) 1866MHz CL9 RAM
    • ASUS Nvdia GTX 690
  • Drives:
    • OS Drive: Samsung 830-Series 128GB SSD
    • Programs/Games Drive:  2x Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB SSHD in Raid-0 with 64GB Intel SRT Cache SSD
    • Three more 1TB HDD for Installers, Music and Downloads.
  • Case:
    • CoolerMaster HAF X (or, similar)
    • Seasonic SS-860XP PSU
  • Cooling:
    • Custom Water Cooling Loop for CPU and GPU (Parts still undecided).

 So many brands, so many choices, so many compromises...

Friday, April 06, 2012

Mouse Operation.

Logitech G9 repair:

When my Logitech G9 mouse started to "mis-click", I thought that it was time once again to replace a mouse. Again.
The problem presented itself as a rare double-click when a single-click was intended. But later, the frequency of these rare occasions went up and it had become a habit of the mouse to randomly double-click or even triple-click, and drag-and-drop operations could not be successfully completed half the time.

I did the sane thing first; that of sending in a warranty support request to Logitech. But while waiting for their response, I read up on this issue, which turned out to be more common among Logitech mice owners. The usual suspect when the clicks start mis-behaving was the micro-switch, or the "clicker", that interprets the clicks. This is also the component that produces the distinctive "click" sound when engaged.

More specifically, the minute, springy copper part of the micro-switch was the culprit. It appears that this copper clicker conducts current to convey a click, and once it starts losing some of its springiness, it does not make a continuous contact which results in multiple-clicks instead of a single-click. Ultimately, it may cease to detect or effect any clicks to that button.

So, the (DIY) solution then, was to open up the micro-switch, take-out the small copper piece, re-shape it to be more springy, re-jig it back into place and close the micro-switch. It was simple enough in theory but without experience in handling tiny, springy metallic parts without losing it or squishing it requires the right tools, steady hands and tons of patience.

Opening up the mouse was pretty easy. I spent about 15 minutes trying to open the small micro-switch though. Once open, getting out the copper part and re-shaping it was easy enough. The hard part was re-seating this newly bent copper part back into the micro-switch. I spent nearly an hour doing this. Every time I almost had it seated, it would either spring out of its position or just fall into the crevices of the mouse's circuit board.

I was clearly missing a special tool or technique to perform this simple and delicate task.
Fortunately, an article over at [] had a simple but crucial advice on just this operation. Once done, my mouse clicks just as it should. Although now the click sound is a bit more muffled than it was before, I quite like the quite muted clicks. Now I am back to clicking-and-dragging like it's nobody's business.

Friday, March 02, 2012

AMD UVD and the mysterious underclocking

I have known for a few months now that the first core in my MSI ATi Radeon 5970 card under-clocks itself to 400MHz core and 900MHz memory after resuming from a hybrid sleep. The issue disappears once I restart the computer, but that defeats the advantages of hibernating/resuming.

Normally, I wouldn't have noticed this under-clocking issue but I run one instance-each of a Bitcoin mining and the first instance of the two always runs at a reduced MHashes per second (~130MH/s for core 1 vs ~250MH/s of core 2). I have put away the task of diagnosing the cause of this strange malady afflicting only one of the two cores of my video card to some time in the future.

Well, that future is now and here's how I resolved the issue (well, sort-of):

At first, I thought that I could force the clocks via the Catalyst Control Center's AMD Overdrive section. But even after manually setting the clocks to 750MHz core and 1050MHz memory, the first core's clock speeds were stuck at 400MHz Core and 900MHz memory, no matter if there was a game running or not. The second core accepted the new clocks just fine.
Not to be deterred, I installed Radeon BIOS Editor (RBE) and tried to set the core clocks in the BIOS of the video card directly. It was when I was going through RBE's information rich interface that I noticed that there were multiple clock speed modes (which I already know) and among them was the infamous 400MHz/900MHz combination. This mode was exclusively being used by a PowerPlay (ATi's power saving technology) state called "UVD", which, of course, is ATi's GPU accelerated video decoding technology.

The problem then was obvious, given that no video (DXVA or otherwise) was being viewed; the video card's driver, for whatever reason, thought that it needed to put one of the cores in video decoding mode (UVD)when coming out of hibernation.

Seeing how performing a computer reboot clears the issue, it was as if the driver was getting confused when the computer is resuming from hibernation and needed to be reset for it to put the video card in the correct mode. That's the equivalent of slapping someone awake when they are groggy and confused. So now my task was to find an application that will reset the video card mode whenever I wanted to.

I found such a functionality in the application AMD GPU Clock Tool. Though the main utility of the application is that of changing the clock speed of AMD GPUs, apparently, it also has some hidden functionality. And one such functionality is that of resetting the video card mode, which is what I wanted. To accomplish this, I just need to call the application with the "restore" flag/option.

"C:\Program Files (x86)\AMD GPU Clock Tool\AMDGPUClockTool.exe" -restore

Now, my video card clocks are back to what it should be for each mode. I just need to remember to click on the AGCT's shortcut icon once I resume my computer from hybrid sleep.
Until AMD fixes this issue in their future driver release, I have to resort to this manual method of patching-up the issue.
Hope this post helps someone looking for an answer to this issue.

For reference, here are the clocks for a stock ATi Radeon card:
Idle (2d low) Clocks:
GPU: 157MHz
RAM: 300MHz

2d Medium Clocks:
GPU: 550MHz
RAM: 1000MHz

3d Clocks (High):
GPU: 725MHz
RAM: 1000MHz

UVD mode:
GPU: 400MHz
RAM: 900MHz

And finally, the RBE interface that helped me heaps:

Friday, December 23, 2011

White Samsung Galaxy S2

White Samsung Galaxy S2 by MyXP
White Samsung Galaxy S2, a photo by MyXP on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
My second mobile phone ever next to my first mobile phone ever (Motorola Rokr E6).
Adios, my long time amigo. I'll miss you and your little quirks.
Hello, SGS2.