Monday, June 22, 2009

Oh and

Ads. I thought I'd run some ads, and see what happened.


So, uhm.

I bought a SilverStone FM122. They're pretty expensive. And pretty loud also.
It came with a thing to attach it to rheostat, and a rheostat.
So, I attached them.
That's when I found out the fan was noisy.

I was fitting some new Neon to the case over the weekend, when what did I spy, but a switch with the same connector on it, for the neon. Excellent, thought I, a way to switch the fan on and off.
Clearly, Karma was biting me for dropping out of electronics at school.

I ran 12v up the control line, and blew the fan immediately.

Loads of smoke poured out.

I was just glad it wasn't the CPU.

French Military Defeats?

Not sure if you remember the old joke, where you typed 'french military victories' into Google, and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button.
It returns this as the result

Which doesn't work since we rebuilt the results page, but, well, you get the idea.

Anyway, I saw this video, and it made me think of it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Problems with flash sites

An interesting one came through my inbox today.

A site made entirely of flash, with more or less just the embed/object tags on the page was showing as a different site in Google search results.
The reason is that both sites only had the text "This site requires needs flash" as the only indexable content. No other meta data to set them apart, and both referenced a flash file of the same name.
Google assumed they were the same site and stopped serving one, since there wasn't any text to extract from the flash file itself.

Please take note - if you must use Flash, at least include a unique <title> tag.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New cooler

As previously mentioned, my fan had come off in transit, and I just hooked it back in. Which was probably causing some problems.
So, I went and bought a some thermal paste and put it on. I'd let it bed for a few days but it was still showing the results from the previous post.

Last night, I spent a couple of hours reading up on coolers. There are LOADS of great reviews and benchmarks for coolers out there, and far more variety than I had realised. Which naturally means that there are a few companies looking to cash in - there's a lot of crap out there.

So, I went and grabbed a Noctua NH-U12P from Yoyotech on my way home from work. They're not as cheap as online, but coolers can be heavy (this one clocks in at ~800G with the fan attached), so postage from £10 to £15 meant it was cheapest there. I also looked at the Cooler Master V8, OCZ Vendetta 2, OCZ Gladiator Max.
First, I was going to go with the V8. I was checking out the Hyper TX2, but because I'm easily deceived by shiny things, I ended up focused on that. Oh, and the sphere; but the sphere is just for show, not for overclocking. Shame.
Anyway, the V8. Yeah. A few places really rate it, but most find it mid-range. Better than stock, certainly, but still largely for show. It's £50 at, but they're out of stock, and I'm impatient. The next cheapest place was about £75. That's £60 + £15 postage - it seems only do free delivery on it, so it's hardly surprising it's out of stock. If I was going to spend that much, I might as well spend it on something really good.
So, I went back to budget. I thought long and hard about the Gladiator Max. There are very few reviews of coolers running on AM3 boards, and they're big chips. The Gladiator has a massive contact area, which may have worked in its favour. The Vendetta was out stock everywhere I looked. Again with the impatience. I saw the V10 (v8's big brother) but it's stupidly expensive, and massive, and just, well, not for me. Too shiny.
Finally, I checked out the CoolIt Domino ALC, which reports really well from a few reviews. However, one mentioned that it doesn't send a lot of cooling to the motherboard, and can cause instability that way.
I should really have looked at a Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme, but that requires extra fans, and the whole researching fans thing looked to be much effort. Sadly, I had to ditch Xigmatek for the same reason. Which is a shame, because they create things called Thor's Hammer, and Achilles, which *must* be awesome. In fact, Thor's Hammer is one of the best air coolers around.

Ok, back to the Noctua. If the Noctua really doesn't let me push over 4.2GHz (my goal), then I'll look at the problem again, and maybe invest in a top end cooler.
The installation process is either fun or terrifying depending on your point of view. I found it great fun, but it took about an hour, from the first moment I went hunting for a screwdriver, to the moment I realised I hadn't plugged in my graphics card power, because the thing wouldn't POST.
Anyway, it seems to be running fine, but they say the thermal paste can take a while to bed in, so I'll be doing some tests over the weekend, to see what's up.

Adventures in Overclocking

So, as you may have seen in previous posts, I've been having problems with my new rig.
First off, when it arrived, the fan had fallen off in transit.
I'm working with a

  • Phenom II X4 955 BE
  • Gigabyte GA-MA790XT-UD4P.
  • 2x2Gig DDR3 1600 RAM.
  • Gelid Silent Spirit Cooler

Then, it appeared that the BIOS hadn't been updated on the board to support the chip they were selling it with, so the thing was running at 800MHz, instead of 3800MHz.
I downclocked it back to x16 multiplier @ 200Mhz Clock and was seeing a very stable 3200MHz.

So, to overclocking.

I'm using Windows 7, release 7100, 64 bit. Almost every report I've read said that 32 bit windows allows much greater overclocks.
Also, benchmarking takes TIME. You'll need to run a new setup for at least 3 hours to make sure they're stable.
Fortunately (or not), problems tend to appear in minutes.

Useful Links
There are a few things I've learnt about this, and a few great articles out there for the beginner.
Overclocking Basics,2267.html

Monitoring tools:
CPU-Z, Hardware Monitor, Core Temp, Speedfan, GPU-Z
Core temp creates log files, allowing you to see what happened after a crash, or if you were AFK, but all are pretty essential (and free).

All CPU memter

Benchmarking tools:
3dMark Vantage (I bought it - it's pretty awesome, but there's a free version too).

Just overclock me, damnit.
The thing that becomes immediately obvious is that there's no silver bullet for this stuff. No one setting will work for everyone.
That being said, if you want a very simple overclock, whack the multiplier up to x18 if you have a stock cooler.
You'll see very stable performance at 3600MHz, without changing anything else.
To do this, hit enter when your computer boots, and go into MIT -> then just change the multiplier value.

The basics - before you start.
There's a huge amount of reading to do, though. Where do you even begin?
Well, it seems one of the big advantages of the Black Edition Phenoms is that they come 'unlocked'. This means you can ramp up the multiplier in the BIOS to get easy overclocks.
However, before we even do that, you want to optimise your memory. Mine runs at 8x, dual channel. So, 8 * 200 = 1600MHz.
Easy enough. I upped the VDimm (DDR3) voltage to 1.8v, which Corsair recommend for their RAM. I also adjusted the timings manually in the BIOS.
You'll need to find the settings for your RAM, and do the same.

The basics - AMD Overdrive
Many people use AMD Overdrive. I can't get this to run, despite claimed support from AMD for both Windows 7 and the motherboard. Others may see different levels of success. My particular error message was that it couldn't start the service, due to the path not being found. Oh well.
You may have more luck. It's available over at AMD.

Using the BIOS.
Fortunately, all the serious sites didn't really use AMD overdrive, preferring the scary route of the BIOS.
I won't lie. Poking around in your BIOS can be daunting, and if you get something wrong, you can nuke components.
Overclocking (or attempting to) will void your warranty. However, as long as you make small changes each time, you should never run into problems.

So, to access the BIOS, you need to push as your computer's booting, ideally when it's searching for the IDE drives, or when the splash screen tells you to.
Once in there, you want to enter into the MIT section. Most things should be set on auto.

The first thing you want to do is disable AMD Cool'n'Quiet.
Then, you can get going.

My first overclock
The default for the 955 is a multiplire (CPU Clock Ratio) x16, with a clock speed (CPU Frequency) of 200MHz. So, simple maths, 200x16 = 3200.
You'll want to download CPU-Z, which lets you monitor how quickly your processor is actually running.
You may find you need to flash the BIOS on your motherboard, if CPU-Z is reporting 800MHz for your chip.
So, change the CPU Clock Ration to 'x18'. This will take you to 3600.
Then push escape, f10, enter. This will return to the menu, save the bios and reboot.
Next time your computer comes up, it'll be running at 3.6Ghz, which should be stable at stock voltage.

Now, break out your stability test (prime95, for example) and run it for 15 mins. It should kick the bejesus out of your processor. I am running the CPU Meter gadget for Windows vista/7, which shows a very basic bar graph for CPU utilisation. It's sufficient for my needs. You may want to shop around.

If everything is stable after 15 mins on this low overclock, you should be in business.
Now, reboot, enter BIOS, and knock the multiplier up one click, to x18.5. This should give a 3700 operating speed.
Let it boot into windows, and see what happens. Run the stability test.

Wait for it to crash. At least, it crashed on mine. So, the next thing is to go back into the BIOS, and up the VCore voltage.
This is the number you can see on CPU-Z and a number of other tools, which should be around 1.3 at stock (possibly 1.35).
You want to bump this up .05V, and then boot to windows. Re-run the stability tests.

If anything crashes, go back and up the voltage again. I got stable results for x18.5 at 1.425V.

Then, once you have stable results for x18.5, go and change again to x19.
Personally, at this point, I had to up the voltage to 1.52 to get it to boot at all.
This meant that my cooler couldn't cool things quickly enough at all, and we hit 64C in a few seconds.
I stopped the tests and decided it wasn't wise to continue.
If I could have made the chip run at lower voltages, I might have been in with a chance, but it falied miserably at any lower voltage.

The Clock Speed
Next, we revert all the settings back to standard.
What? Why? I hear you scream.
Well, now we've pushed the limits of the multiplier, we want to see how much we can overclock the clock speed.
This means that the multiplier will still be x16, but by moving the 200 value, we can still an increase.

This works in exactly the same way.
First, up the Clock Speed value to, say, 210, Then reboot, and run some tests.
At 210, with a x16 multiplier, you're running at 3360MHz.
Please note, this will also increase the speed of your RAM, HT Link and NB frequency.
If your RAM is now operating over its recommended settings, scale back the multiplier. It's always better to be a bit low than a bit high.

I'm still at the very early stages of this process, but I seem to have a stable build on a clock speed 230 at 1.425V, and I want to push it further.

Current thoughts
There are lots and lots of great guides out there, and many many documents filled with scary acronyms.
This is one of the best
but it's pretty hardcore.

I'll update tomorrow with my new findings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Whaddya know?

Good article about cooling. Seems the bottom of the GTX is where the air is sucked in, and it's pushed out of the side and back.
I should blow some smoke in or something.

This is almost it, I guess.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gaming Rigs, V


Windows 7 RC Build 7100.
AMD Phenom X4 955 Black Edition.
Gigabyte MAXT970-UD4P (F4G BIOS) AM3 socket.

You need to update to the latest BIOS to get this chip to run properly. There are instructions on a previous post.

Quick synopsis: Just download the latest bios from Create a small (25meg) FAT partition on your disk, unzip download, get the files and stick them in the partition. Reboot, and hit 'f9' at boot screen, to enter QFlash. Select load, find it, wait, and boom, you're done. DO NOT SWITCH OFF during this process. I recommend reading the previous post for full details, though. Flashing BIOS can cause problems if you're not prepared. It's not scary, just important to read the instructions.

Note that Windows 7 has some nice disk management tools, so you can easily create a FAT partition to hold a BIOS for flashing. It just lets you shrink an active partition. This may be in Vista too, but I never used it.

Also, Gigabyte makes it really really hard to get wrong - they have a dual bios feature that lets you roll back if something goes wrong.

The fan had fallen off in transit, as I may have mentioned. This meant I needed to clean the old crap off chip and fan and put some new thermal paste on it. This is really easy. There are plenty of guides on the internet. Here's a video from a nerdy teenager.

The chip's stable at 3700. VCore 1.425.
Everything else stock.
I'm playing with the idea of increasing the northbridge to 2400 or so, to see if I can take chip up 3800. Right now, it crashes even with the voltage up to 1.525, and I'm loathe to take it any further.
Over at, a couple of really helpful guys have suggested the following settings:

3.8,HTT 200,NB frequency 2600mhz,HT link speed 2400mhz,vcore 1.45v,CPU/NB voltage 1.30v,NB voltage 1.28-1.30v,SB 1.20v.

If you can decode that ; )

The GTX 295 is overclocked to 684/1119/1380.
It runs 3dbenchmark at ~P22k, which is good, although with PhysX on. I need to re-run with it not on.

Drivers, 186.08, just come out (2 days ago, beta).
Overclocked, for Crysis, I get some pretty good benches - 1900x1200, 8xAA, VeryHigh -> 33FPS.
Empire Total War runs with max settings with no problems at all.

Crysis, though (that actual game, not the benchmark) crashes out with the card overclocked.

I've been leaving Speedfan and HWMonitor running in the background. These are both awesome tools. GPU-Z and CPU-Z are also very helpful, so you should grab them too.

Anyway, it seems to be running pretty hot.
I've just ordered a PCI fan cooler, so I'll see if that drops the speed any.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gaming Rigs, IV.

So, I finally worked out what it was.
In case someone needs to find this, I'm going to list the problem parts.

Gigabyte MAXT790-UD4P
Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition (BE)

The BIOS wasn't updated to deal with the chip, and it was stuck at 800MHz.
I upgraded to the latest version, downloaded from Which is pretty weak, considering I bought it from a shop that claimed to have pre-overclocked it. Took me a couple of weeks to diagnose.

There's a great guide here:

It shows you everything you need to know. Read it carefully, and you'll have no problems.
Word of advice - write down your settings before updating - it wipes them.

Now I just need to update the BIOS to overclock it again, because I failed miserably to write them down.
The fan had also fallen off in transit, so I need to put some new thermal paste on it.

I'll let you know how it goes