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the new machine

The new computer’s finally assembled. I’d have put together some kind of assembly guide, except there’s so little point. In assembling a computer, all you have to do is fit together the pieces. They’re color coded and uniquely shaped, so it’s a good bet that if a part can be inserted into another without forcing, that’s where it’s meant to me.

There were two interesting bits. The first was that the SSD is a 2.5″ drive and didn’t come with an adapter for a 3.5″ bay. I resolved that by mounting it to one side of the bottommost slot of the 5.25″ bay and using a folded piece of cardboard to apply positive pressure to the rest. It’s tiny enough that I expect that arrangement to remain secure indefinitely. The other hiccup was that for some reason the case’s Power On LED connector was wired differently than the motherboard’s supply; five minutes shifting breakers fixed that.

Altogether, it’s a nice machine. The picture below doesn’t do justice to the sense of spaciousness the new monitor gives; it’s got the same pixel pitch as the old one but twice* as many pixels.

The graphics card came with a racing game: Dirt 2. It’s surprisingly fun; the last racer I owned was maybe 15 years ago and they were still working on fidelity and physics issues. This one is carefully and lovingly modeled. Perhaps the most impressive trick I saw was a gradual accumulation of grime after racing in muddy conditions: I never once caught it applying a decal, so the effect was astonishingly organic.

Of course, since the arrow keys are not designed for subtle analog inputs, I drive like a drunken monkey. All the other drivers in the game plot graceful paths around the fastest lines of the track while I skid unpredictably around. Thanks to the “casual” difficulty setting, though, I somehow still win frequently enough to enjoy the game.

This isn’t the only game I’ve installed, set to the maximum visual effects, and then carefully inspected for any sort of stutter. So far, I’ve been delighted to fail to produce any in-game slowdowns in any game so far without doing something ridiculous**. Still, I bought the components of this machine to work well when overclocked, so overclock it I will. I’m going to hold off on that for now, though. For the moment, it’s more fun to just enjoy the new capabilities and the remarkable quickness of everything.

* OK, 1.87 times. Details!

** I did manage to produce some pretty bad stuttering in Mirror’s Edge by telling it to emulate a hardware physics card and render correctly the physics of every particle. Then I went around smashing windows. That’s not exactly a fair thing to do to an unsuspecting machine, though, particularly when the physics card emulator doesn’t know enough to take advantage of any processor cores other than the one the game’s running on.

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Comment by Explodicle Ubuntu Linux Mozilla Firefox 3.0.17
2010-01-16 13:13:50

The computer looks pretty slick.

One thing I found from playing way too much Need for Speed on my computer back in the day is that you’ll eventually get used to using a digital input by learning to tap and release the keys in very short increments, like a primitive control system. So instead of turning a wheel 30% to the right for a second, you’ll depress the right arrow key for about 30% of that second. As time goes on your taps get shorter and the control approaches analog quality.

Comment by coriolinus Windows NT Mozilla Firefox 3.5.7
2010-01-26 03:58:00

Thanks! Trying that technique makes my simulated driving a little better, but I’ve got a long distance to go before I can beat the computer in a fair contest, let alone a human competitor.

Comment by Rourke Mac OS X Mozilla Firefox 3.5.3 Subscribed to comments via email
2010-01-18 22:10:50

A minor note: I see you have Mirror’s Edge. I’ve heard of that game but never seen it played (no less played it). How is it, in your opinion?

A rather more important note: You must’ve heard about the earthquake in Haiti. I strongly suggest you donate $10 to the American Red Cross. You can give a donation by texting HAITI to 90999, which deducts $10 from your cell phone bill (but not automatically; you have to text YES to 90999 afterwards to confirm).

Comment by coriolinus Windows NT Mozilla Firefox 3.5.7
2010-01-21 09:26:20

You are perilously close to engaging the spam filter.

Mirror’s edge is engaging and delivers an intermittently exhilarating experience, but the level design is too often linear and discouraging of free exploration.


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