Tall ships (porthole)

Computer specs

The first part of the long-overdue computer rebuild posts!

Back in May, I finally brought my desktop kicking and screaming into the current decade. Nyx was originally built (as Khaos) in 2007 and the core of it has changed very little over the years - there's been a few incremental upgrades here and there, but it still ran the same Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor that it started out with. It's held up surprisingly well over the years and still had enough grunt for daily use and light gaming, but the time has finally come to replace it... (pleaseremove has noted that I keep old hardware going for much longer than anyone should)

For reference, the original core of Khaos was:

Motherboard: ASUS P5K-E WiFi (Intel P35 chipset)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (G0 stepping)
RAM: 2x Corsair 2GB DDR2 XMS2-6400C4 TwinX kits (4GB overall across 4 sticks)
GPU: Inno3D GeForce 8800 GT
HDDs: 2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB SATA-II

There's a story behind the set of parts: I picked the Q6600 because it was the CPU to get at the time and managed to get the lower-power stepping, the motherboard because it had three PCI slots and I had three cards I wanted to use (TV card, SCSI card (for a film scanner), IDE card (the motherboard only had a single IDE channel and I had older drives I wanted to include)), and the GPU solely because it was the only single-slot two-output one on the market. It was only much later that I realised I'd unexpectedly picked a top-tier GPU - when the 8800 GT was released, it outperformed everything bar nVidia's crazy expensive flagship and did so for under £200 in a mere 125W TDP. Looking back at reviews, the general consensus was it instantly obsoleted everything else on the market.

Anyway, by the time Nyx (renamed after upgrading from Windows XP to 7) was decommissioned the major components were:

Motherboard: ASUS P5K-E WiFi (Intel P35 chipset)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (G0 stepping)
RAM: 1x Corsair 2GB DDR2 XMS2-6400C4 TwinX kit, plus 2x generic 2GB DDR2 (6GB overall across 4 sticks)
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW
SSD: Plextor PX-256 M5S 256GB SATA-III
HDDs: 3x Toshiba PC P300 3TB SATA-III

The GPU upgrade came about because the 8800 GT finally failed, and by this point I'd removed the IDE HDDs and corresponding IDE card and could fit a two-slot card. Not that I had much choice - the GPU market had entirely settled on twin-slot coolers for anything halfway decent even if they weren't always necessary - and after a bit of research I picked a GeForce GTX 950 as sitting in the sweet spot for performance. It does look rather silly with an enormous twin-fan heatsink on it as it's only rated for 90W TDP. The SSD was bought after the speed wars of early SATA drives had died down and was one of the first that could saturate a SATA-III bus all day long without cheating with compression. And the HDDs... well, the original drives had been upgraded to a pair of 2TB drives, and then one of those failed so I replaced all the myriad HDDs in the system with a ridiculous 9TB of storage.

Finally, it's time for the new system! The core of the build consists of:

Motherboard: ASUS TUF Gaming X570-Pro
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
RAM: Crucial Ballistix 3600 CL16 2x16GB (32GB overall across 2 sticks)
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW
Primary SSD: WD Black SN850 1TB
Secondary SSDs: 2x WD Blue 1TB

Unlike the original build I had fewer criteria when building it: AMD Zen 3 architecture (because by pretty much any metric they stomp current Intel CPUs), X570 chipset, and onboard 802.11ax 2x2 WiFi. The TUF Gaming seemed like a sensible choice - higher end boards seemed to me to result in diminishing returns and one trick of the TUF Gaming is there's few constraints on which combination of slots can be used. RAM was picked at the highest clock speed that Ryzen CPUs can reliably run 1:1 with and this particular set is lower latency than most. For storage, I had originally planned on getting a Samsung NVMe drive but by the time I finally went for the upgrade the new WD Black had appeared to flatten everything in benchmarks. GPU aside (reused from Nyx), this is not a slow computer.

And while I was putting the final specification together, I decided to treat myself. You might have noticed there's no HDDs in the list - yup, I went pure SSD for this build as my network is fast enough to use the NAS for bulk storage. I also picked a Noctua NH-C14S CPU heatsink (which easily handles the 140W power draw of a fully loaded Ryzen 9) and as the final treat I swapped out all the case fans for a set of Noctua NF-A8's. The result is when idle, the new computer is silent, and even under full load it's quieter than Nyx ever was.
Tall ships (porthole)

Skyward Sword HD: for SCIENCE!

One thing I've noticed from playing through Skyward Sword HD is how... underwhelming the skyward strike appears, at least to begin with. It takes a fair bit of time to charge and does very little damage.

To be fair, last time I played Skyward Sword (7 years ago!) it was in Hero Mode because it was my second playthrough on my original save, and in that mode you start out with the fully powered skyward strike which one-shots everything up to the first mini-boss.

Anyway, after finding that even Deku Babas were hard to kill with skyward strikes I decided to apply SCIENCE to it. While I can't compare against the Hero Mode version (my Wii refuses to read my original Skyward Sword disc), in Skyward Sword HD I'd just reached the first upgrade for the sword, which lets me do a before and after comparison. I just need a willing volunteer...



Oh hai Quadro Baba, do you want to take part in some research?



I don't think Quadro Baba liked taking part in the research 😅

Several volunteersvictims later, I have my answers. To splat a Quadro Baba with the basic Goddess Sword takes 3 slashes or stabs, or 6 skyward strikes or skyward slabs, and charging a skyward strike takes 30 frames or 1 second (counting how long it takes the 'spark' to travel down the sword blade).

And after conquering the Ancient Cistern and finding yet more Quadro Babas to contribute towards my research, the shiny new Goddess Longsword now slices through a Quadro Baba in 2 slashes, one stab (critical hit?) or 3 skyward slashes or skyward stabs. Nice! It still takes the same 30 frames to charge up though, but the upgrade has doubled my attack power overall making skyward strikes more useful, even if they're still less powerful than just wading in and whaling on baddies with the sword.
Tall ships (porthole)

E3 WOT WOT!

There's quite a few games in the Nintendo Direct, so here's what caught my eye...


Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania: I'd completely forgotten about this series! I'm tempted to dig out Super Monkey Ball 2 and give Monkey Dogfight a few rounds...

Mario Party Superstars: This could be a good one for pasta night - my sister and I borrowed one of the GC-era Mario Party games from a friend years back and spent many afternoons playing through it.

Metroid Dread: I claim that Metroid games are really horror games in platform form, as anyone who's been ambushed by a Metroid will know well. There's an excellent moment in the first Metroid Prime where you first discover a Metroid (fortunately trapped in a containment tank), scan it to be told that it's a Really Scary Thing... at which point the Metroid smashes its way out of the containment tank and noms your face off. Prime 3 turned that up to eleven by having you walk through a whole corridor full of Metroids-in-tanks, only to have to let them all out at the end of it...

WarioWare Get It Together: This looks every bit as bonkers as the original Wii version!

Tony Hawk Pro Skater: Wow, now this is a blast from the past!

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope: What.

Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity DLC: Want! I've actually completed the base game (well... I've not done all difficulty modes, but I have completed all challenges) which is a first for me with the Hyrule Warriors series - the challenges in the previous ones felt very repetitive and geared towards hardcore Dynasty Warriors players, while in Age of Calamity they were more varied, and in particular don't have impossible-to-achieve-but-required-to-unlock A ranks.

Skyward Sword HD: I've been umming and ahhing over this one - on the one hand, Zelda, on the other hand, I do have Skyward Sword already. But I have also picked up Twilight Princess HD and Wind Waker HD over the years... and it looks like they've tweaked the motion controls (which when they worked were amazing, though were also an absolute pain at times). And come to think of it, last time I tried it my Wii couldn't read the Skyward Sword disc either.

Zelda Game & Watch: Oooh, shiny! Again, between my sister and I we've already got multiple versions of just about every Zelda game (including the three on this)... but it's so shiny...

Breath of the Wild 2: So... some sort of Skyward Sword / Breath of the Wild / Twilight Princess (remember the city in the sky dungeon?) crossover with zombie Ganondorf? WANT!

(Bonus extra not in the Nintendo Direct) The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles: Interesting! It's been a while since the last Ace Attorney game...
Tall ships (porthole)

The highly inaccurate guide to the Eurovision Song Contest 2021!

Yes! It's that time of year again, and this time it's Eurovision for reals!

For a change we don't open with a reprise of the reigning champion, but instead we've got a parade of the contestants set to a fairly catchy dance track - and to the surprise of the UK's resident snarkmeister Graham Norton, the hosts sing!

This year's country intro theme: wireframe huts showcasing the Netherlands! They've picked some very eclectic locations... Cyprus got a set of grain bins. Russia has spherical 70's "modern housing". Greece gets an observatory. Spain... a giant sandpit? And San Marino get to showcase a UFO-esque building? The Netherlands has some weird architecture.

1. Cyprus: Very red.
2. Albania: Smoke! More smoke! ALL THE SMOKE!
3. Israel: A sort of punk Tron/Blade Runner theme? And wow, that high note at the end.
4. Belgium: We'll play your backing track if we must. Very moody.
5. Russia: Help I'm trapped in a giant dress! Very powerful message - it reminded me of Björk's Declare Independence.
6. Malta: All the jazz hands!
7. Portugal: Interesting - this did not go how I expected. Not quite as good as their epic win though.
8. Serbia: Very Eurovisiony - they've even got the obligatory key change at the end.

Interlude: We shall ask previous winners the important question of where do they keep their trophies... and how often they clean it?

9. United Kingdom: I'm rather disappointed that the giant trumpets didn't actually do anything.
10. Greece: Dance dance dance! We even have literal dancing clothes (with one of the more innovative uses of greenscreen)!
11. Switzerland: This feels like modern art in music form. Quite catchy.
12. Iceland: Eurovision, in space..., in the eighties? Complete with keytars of all things.
13. Spain: Nonono, this is how you do Eurovision in space.
14. Moldova: We're trapped in a maze of wireframe cubes.
15. Germany: What. I mean, there's a decent message in that song... and there's also a dancing hand.
16. Finland: Angry Eurovision! Nice guitar-fu.

Interlude: let's ambush the commentators!

17. Bulgaria: Wow. Simple, and yet so emotional.
18. Lithuania: The disco made me do it!
19. Ukraine: So we've got a Tron/Narnia crossover... with a goth Queen Jadis?
20. France: Wow. This was an angry ballad.
21. Azerbaijan: We've discovered... fire!
22. Norway: Angels and demons!
23. The Netherlands: Nice.
24. Italy: Meh.
25. Sweden: All the flashing lights!
26. San Marino: Catchy, and completely bonkers!

And that's the lot! I'm torn between Russia, Finland, Bulgaria and France as a favourite, Greece know how to use a greenscreen, Israel and Ukraine are competing for the best Tron crossover, and Iceland are stuck in the eighties.

Interval act 1: If you pick the right tram... everyone will start spontaneously dancing! Next stop: Eurovision!

Interval act 2: How to Eurovision! Remember, it's just chaos, we're Europe, we're used to it 🤣

Interval act 3: What happens if you get the Eurovision taxi!

Interval act 4: Trolls! I still maintain Lordi are the ultimate Eurovision winner - at the time it was such an unexpected entry, and they shattered the then record for most points scored.

Interval act 5: Awww.

Interval act... 6? Okay, a mini-act for the countdown! I'm slightly disappointed that they didn't go with Europe's (yes, that is what the band is called) The Final Countdown.

On to the results, and the traditional "This is $capital calling" live linkups for the jury votes. And Poland's presenter is wearing a zebra costume? With gloves? Moving on... props to Austria for the Equality slogan. And here in the UK we've tried to one-up Portugal with a what is this madness outfit. Aww, Greece's presenter is only ten! Moldova have decided to deliver their results via saxophone? Iceland want to award their 12 points to Jaja Ding Dong? Wtf happened to Sweden's presenter?

So Switzerland have won the jury vote, while unfortunately the UK has thoroughly lost with the traditional nul points from the jury votes. I think this was another year where we had a merely an OK entry. And wow, we didn't get any point from the phone vote either? Harsh, dude.

This is unusual - four countries have received no televoting points, and the points being handed out are surprisingly low (fourteen are <100) given past years. Lithuania is the first to break the 100 point mark, and Finland to get past 200 (and first place for now). With eight to go, Ukraine have jumped to first place for now - but I reckon someone could get ~400 points from a public vote. Iceland have just scraped into first with four left. Now it's Italy with three left, but I reckon any of the three left plus Italy could win.

And the winner is... Italy, looking completely overwhelmed by their win!
  • Current Music
    Eurovosion Song Contest 2021
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Tall ships (porthole)

New shiny toy!

The Nyx replacement build has been in the planning for a long time. It was originally pencilled in for late 2019, and looking at my notes would have likely been a Ryzen 7 3800X build. It got deferred several times, at first because before I upgrade Nyx I want to put together a Kodi system on my Raspberry Pi (because Microsoft killed off Windows Media Center). Then because AMD announced a slightly shinier Zen 2 processor and I wanted to see if the 3800XT was worth it (reviews suggest not really). Then because I had to sort out the NAS replacement (because Firefox killed off TLS 1.0 support). Then because AMD announced even shinier Zen 3 processors and the entire computing world went bonkers over them.

I had all but settled on buying a lowly Ryzen 5 3600X as a stop-gap solution until Zen 3 was stocked again - and while the Ryzen 7's have been available for a while, what I really wanted was a Ryzen 9 5900X and those had only just started to trickle back onto the market at silly prices (£800? No thanks!). So I was gradually finalising the spec and was probably going to buy a 3600X in the next couple of weeks... then pleaseremove messaged me yesterday morning with news of a surprise stock update at an only slightly silly price. One quick order later, and this appeared today (on a Sunday, no less!)...



Now I just need to order the rest of the parts! My challenge is to build a system that outperforms pleaseremove's new monstrosity in at least one PerformanceTest category (and probably only in one - I reckon disk is the only one I've got a chance at given what's in his system!).

pleaseremove: I need commission... That's two 5900x's I have sold scan this morning
Alfa MiTo

Achievement unlocked: jump-starting my car!

Headed out to sainsbury's just now - or tried to, only to discover that my car's battery had run down over the past week and just did not want to turn over the engine.

I suspect it's a combination of very little driving, the recent cold snap, a 6 year old battery... and putting a decent amount of air into the spare tyre last weekend (I've probably not checked it since last year).

Fortunately a neighbour had a set of jumper leads, and even more fortunately this is the neighbour who's parked next to my car! Wiring up the leads was a bit of a challenge as the engine bay of a modern car is basically all plastic and we struggled to find a chunk of bare metal that was in reach of the negative lead and the crocodile clips would actually hold onto... but we found a bracket on the side of the engine, my neighbour gave his car a bit of revs, and mine reluctantly decided that yes, it would actually start the engine.

Once mine actually started it ran nicely, so I carried on to Fareham sainsbury's via Emsworth to put a bit of juice back into the battery - which seems to have worked, as when heading back home afterwards it started happily (my backup plan if I was stuck there was to call the AA).

Driving along the M27 in low gear (to recharge the battery) is a bit disconcerting with the extra revs and power. I normally climb the hill past Portsmouth in 6th gear, but drop a gear or two and the extra power means MiTo will happily keep going past 70mph if I let it!
  • Current Mood
    accomplished accomplished
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Tall ships (porthole)

Pancakes!

Since people have been prodding me for an update, here's a pancake-themed one (as everyone's blogging about pancakes today!).

Unlike in the linked blog, I made crepe-style ones following a Delia Smith recipe I stumbled across years ago. It's nice and simple, and halving the ingredients works well and made about 4-and-a-half pancakes in a large frying pan.

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  • Current Music
    Mattias Häggström Gerdt - Death to the King [THE ANSWER - Armored Core Tribute Album -]
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Tall ships (porthole)

More upgrades!

For about a year and a half now I've been planning an upgrade to my desktop, Nyx. It currently runs a Core 2 Quad Q6600 so an upgrade is a little overdue...

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  • Current Music
    Hillsong UNITED - Light Will Shine [Aftermath]
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