Sparks, explosions, and burning smells. Oh, my!

Well, this has been one relatively unusual and awkward period.

I had started doing the editorial sweep for Project: Ember, got some reorganization done with it, etc. Things have started working, though circumstance hasn’t let me fall into a work-routine.

For those that pay attention to my social media feeds, you might have noticed I was having some technical issues with my computer last week. Those “technical issues,” bloomed into building a new rig. Let me explain.

Last Tuesday night, I noticed a strange tapping-like sound coming from my machine. Not wanting to deal with it, I turned it off and went to bed. I woke up the next day feeling sick (food poisoning) so I didn’t go into work. Upon turning on my machine and attempting to diagnose the sound, I noticed it came from my power supply. Noticing this, I ordered a new supply for Same-Day deliver.

Now before I continue, let me elaborate on a couple things. 1: My old power-supply was a Thermaltake TR2 600W PSU. 2: Same-day shipping, in my region, has a “no later than 8pm (20:00) delivery. 3: I have prior experience with the shipping service, it is not pleasant.

The new supply shipped by Ontrac. After shipping from Amazon’s warehouse that’s no more than roughly two hours away from my home (figuring terrible traffic), it showed up at 8:50pm (20:50). The driver, in typical Ontrac fashion, literally dropped the shipping box on my deck, ran back to his car, and sped off with nary a ringing of the bell.

Wonderful. Thanks again for your continued service, Ontrac!

Anyway, the computer had a hard-shutdown no more than half an hour after the power supply (PSU: Power Supply Unit) was making noises. Luckily, I periodically back-up my music and photos to an external drive, while my project files all save to my dropbox account, so those were all safe. I saved my bookmarks just to be sure, though it was pointless.

After work the next day, I threw in the new PSU and turned it on. Things seemed to be fixed. There was no more crackling noises, the PC hadn’t shut down in a few hours, etc. All’s good, right?

Wrong.

I tried to boot-up a game, which caused the computer to hard-shutdown no more than fifteen minutes later. I tried changing the power cable, surge protectors, etc. Gave it a whirl again with a game, only to fail once more. Re-checked the new PSU the next day just to make sure it was all hooked up right, no cables were loose, etc. Tried it again, ran fine for a few hours, then it failed.

The conclusion I arrived at was either the motherboard or processor was damaged by the short in the Thermaltake PSU, and that nothing was going to bring it back. Even pulled some reviews on the old PSU afterword and saw a proportionally large amount of people having trouble with them as well.

So, yesterday, I went and grabbed a new motherboard, processor, and case after we worked around the house. Last night, we threw it together and built up a new rig (keeping the RAM, video card, new PSU, and hard-drive from the old rig).

Of course, those of you who are computer-savvy will recognize this as grounds for a reformat.

The new machine is up and running (even surviving some time on games, so the issue is fixed), but now begins everything anew. The bookmarks restore-point from Firefox didn’t work, so I am down all of my links. I am staring at three different downloading queues while moving 90 gigs worth of music from my back-up drive to my main while writing this.

Dropbox is up and running, so my project files have been imported from the cloud. Still, it’s going to be more than awhile until I am back up and running at 100%.

During the meantime, I’ve had plenty of time to play Destiny, which I will actually write a My thoughts on… article on later. I also managed to watch Afflicted, which I might jot down some thoughts on as well (short summary: different but enjoyable).

Overall summary: I’m not dead, just out of action for a little bit due to technical problems. Things seem to be fixed and such, but it takes a lot of time for me to get a new rig up to usable levels for me.

Now, because I don’t think I can leave this article without giving some brief reviews, I am going to give some thoughts on some things below.

Thermaltake TR2 600W PSU: I purchased it thinking that it was a better quality PSU at the time, and I needed one in a jiffy to power a new video card. This unit maybe lasted me a year before burning itself up (well ventilated case, no fault there) and basically taking my computer with it. After going back and reading some reviews, I’m not entirely alone in that camp either.

Verdict: I am going to need a lot of strong praise for another Thermaltake product before I buy one again.

Corsair CX 750W Modular PSU: Picked it out due to the wattage and relatively high ratings, though the modular bit was a nice extra. Fit in nice, easy to setup, and more than powers my new machine. Rather quiet too, so not much noise coming from the machine.

Verdict: The jury’s out in regards to longevity, but it seems like a pretty good PSU.

Raidmax Agusta Mid-Tower Case (White): You look up pictures of this thing and you’ll recognize this case is a beast. Two intake fans on the front, three outtake fans on the back and two on the top (with mounting holes on the side-panel for another fan), and an air-channel that runs under the main case and PSU while serving as a hard-drive bay. It’s big, it looks like a decepticon, it pushes air like you wouldn’t believe, and is remarkably quiet.

Verdict: I am loving this behemoth next to my desk.

Ontrac Shipping: If I find out something I ordered shipped by Ontrac, I know a few things. 1: It’s not arriving close to on-time. 2: I’ll be lucky to get any notification when (or even if) it shows up. 3: The box and contents inside are likely not going to be in fair condition. The people at Ontrac do not care in the slightest for your shipment. After complaining on twitter about their service, I came to find out there’s even an entire account dedicated to nothing but anti-Ontrac posts (@Offtrac) If you ship items by them, you are doing all parties involved a disservice.

Verdict: My UPS service here is good and reliable, my Fedex isn’t so great, but I would bow at the feet of both these companies and sing their praises in comparison to Ontrac.

Thoughts on the PS4 (Round 1).

So yesterday, Sony decided to unveil the new Playstation 4 to the world. In a way, I’m a little surprised they decided to develop a new system.

In another way, I’m a bit disappointed.

To preface, I am primarily a PC gamer, though I also own a 360, PS3, and a Wii U. I own hundreds of titles across my consoles, and I’d hate to even attempt to count my PC titles. My current rig is a mid-to-high end machine that was built for about $600 total, and is only really tested by a select few titles.

Now, the key differences between the PS3 and its new brother, hardware performance aside? Being able to share your games, media, ect, to your friends and across the network. Being able to stream yourself playing by your profile, potentially have your friends take control of your game to help you or hinder you.

Even the nice (yes, actually quite nice) feature of being able to stream-play a game as you download it. Plus, they’re hoping to be able to extend more of their cross-platform play between the PS4 and the Vita.

Oh, and not be able to play any PS3, PS2, PS1, or PSN title you previously purchased, on your new PS4 by any means. Yup, no backwards compatibility or emulation of any kind.

Plus, there’s also that Kinect’ish light bar … thing that goes underneath your TV. This is in addition to the Move and Sony’s new Dualshock 4. The DS4 itself has even been revised to have a touch-pad in the middle of the controller (between the sticks). Because, you know, that won’t be inconvenient to actually touch.

Then we have the actually hardware architecture. For the good news, it’s a PC design. Built with the x86 chipset in mind, rather than the Cell, it enables easier designing and programming of games, as well as easier ports to other systems (and the PC). It also has 8GB of GDDR5, a surprising leap in quantity which should hopefully help eliminate some programming issues developers had.

For the graphics processor, we don’t know much actually. All that has been said, as far as my knowledge extends, is that it uses a PC GPU processor, but they don’t specify any equivalent or actual specs of the chipset. We do know that it is, at the very least, compatible with the Unreal Engine 4, which is a definite step up.

What we don’t know, however, is quite a lot. We don’t know what it will cost, exactly when it will be available, even exactly what the processor or graphics processor chipsets are or are equivalent to, ect. Hell, we don’t even know what the system looks like.

To add a bit of insult to injury, we know for certain that it won’t be backwards compatible with any previous Playstation systems. Their current design concept is to let users re-purchase their games digitally and stream them over their Cloud service, but even that is only a possibility, something they are not holding to for launch.

For me, this isn’t enough to justify a purchase. The only feature that really grabs me is being able to play a game as it downloads, but that’s it. I play most of my titles on PC, with only things like Crysis 3 and Witcher 2 actually taking my system to task. The only way Sony (or even Microsoft’s Durango for that matter) to get me to really dig at me to buy a new system is under 2 possibilities.

1: They design the system so far ahead of my PC, both physically and financially, that it just isn’t cost-effective for me to upgrade my rig.

2: They have the systems priced low enough that it just doesn’t make sense for someone like me to not have them.

The problem with these possibilities, however, is that they likely aren’t going to happen. The current generation of systems range from $200-$400 USD, depending on what you get, and they are old hardware by today’s standards. To replace them with improved designs isn’t going to be cheap, yet will likely be rather inexpensive to get comparable hardware on my PC.

In reality, I just don’t think that it will be worth the money for me, as a gamer who isn’t interested in gimmicky things like light bars and motion controls, to upgrade to the new systems. I like being able to sit down, turn on a game, and just play comfortably (in my chair with either a gamepad or a keyboard and mouse).

Now I could be wrong. The PS4 and/or Durango might come out and utterly blow us all away and make the Glorious PC Master Race bow down in envy at an affordable price point. I just don’t see it happening any time soon.