My Adventure with the Asus T91MT Tablet Netbook

October 27, 2010

imageI bought a netbook!

It’s a Tablet PC with a multitouch display AND a stylus for handwriting/precision and it comes preinstalled with Windows 7 Home Premium on it.  Built-in Bluetooth, 802.11n, camera, 2 USB ports, 2 SDcard slots, VGA & Ethernet… and 32GB of storage however it’s a Solid State Drive (SSD) so all accesses are lightning fast.  Windows 7 boots up to the Welcome screen in 20 seconds.

UPGRADING THE RAM
Of course it only comes with 1GB of RAM only which is easily upgradable.  I purchased the following 2GB DIMM from Amazon for $39 which is specifically compatible with the T91MT.

  • AMAZON: Crucial Technology CT25664AC800 2GB 200-pin SODIMM DDR2 PC2-6400 Memory Module ($38.99)
    http://amzn.to/9y7s4V

Turn of the device completely then unscrew the back and replace the 1GB DIMM with the 2GB.  When you first turn on the device, hit F2 until a menu appears asking if you want to go to System Setup.  Allow it to do so and from there you should see that 2GB is registered as system memory.  Hit SAVE & EXIT to allow the system to save it’s recognition of the new 2GB memory module.  Let Windows 7 boot which will

OVERCLOCKING THE PROCESSOR
The processor in this thing is a ATOM Z520 clocked at 1.3Ghz.  This isn’t a very fast processor at all.  It turns out that it’s easily overclockable using a simple tool called SetFSB.

SetFSBSnapshot

  1. Download SetFSB (shareware version), give the author $5 for his time, and get a activation key.  No, this will not work with the freeware version.
  2. Disable SuperHybridEngine.  This requires killing the SystemTray tool by right clicking the “AH” icon and clicking EXIT.  It also requires that you remove the SuperHybridEngine service from running.  The easiest way to do this is to download CCLEANER and go to TOOLS-STARTUP then disable the SuperHybridEngine process.  Finally, set Windows power scheme to Maximum Performance / Always on within Control Panel-Power.
  3. Run SetFSB, select ICS9LPR427CGLF (a little more than half-way down the list), click “Get FSB” button, & play with settings.  Setting the values to 260/760 will net you a CPU frequency of 1585.6Mhz and this generally works.  Hit “Set FSB” to apply the new frequency.  Going higher is at your own risk:  If your device freeze, turn it off immediately by holding down the power switch.  If “Set FSB” is successful in applying the new clock speed, hit the “Capture” button to keep this setting in the future.
  4. Download and run wPrime, post results along with clock speed achieved.

[modified version of instructions taken from http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?id=85738]

You can overclock it up to 1.8GHz with high speed memory installed.  Most memory modules will only allow you to overclock to 1.6Ghz before it starts locking up and getting completely unstable.

DOWNLOAD DRIVERS & BIOS
It’s important to have the most recent BIOS and drivers available.  Fortunately, they’re all located in the same area.

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A dream turned nightmare: Bethesda Softwork’s Fallout: New Vegas on Xbox 360

October 23, 2010

UPDATE 2/2/11:
I take it back.  This game is NOT rock solid but it’s doable.  I’ve had the game lock up on me a dozen times now, but each time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a save done relatively shortly before the lock up.  The lock ups require a complete power cycle on the Xbox 360.

Of course this is insane but this never happened back during Fallout 3.  Really makes me wonder what these dudes at Obsidian were doing while they were busy not testing the game adequately.  Again, I return to the fact that the original Fallout 3 that FO: New Vegas is based on, never had these issues.

—————-

UPDATE 10/28/10:
Well, my bad.  This game has been pretty rock solid throughout with very little issues.  I had one enemy visibly get stuck in a rock and upon dying disappear, meaning I couldn’t collect his loot.  And I had another sequence when I attempted to save and the system froze for 10-15 seconds while I panicked… but then came back and the save apparently took.

Other than these two incidents and the whole “system freezes when you attempt to customize your character”, not much has gone wrong.  I am annoyed by how the list of miscellaneous objects gets REALLY cluttered by playing cards that you find/buy.  It makes navigating an already long list much more difficult.  But whatever.  The game’s been pretty fun so far.

I am a little disappointed that the game didn’t come out of the gate with a really cool playable environment.  In the original Fallout 3, there was Vault 101 and then there was Megaton, both of which were amazing places to freely roam around and visit, with lots of valuable & functional places to enter and engage.  So far FO:LV has NOT done that at all.  In fact, the places I’ve been to around the Goodsprings area and the quests that lead from it are really pretty bland and unappealing.   Primm & Nipton have been areas that are at least sort of interesting but other than that – not much.  I suppose that’s to be expected to some degree since we are in the Mojave desert… but it doesn’t make for fun game play.  I don’t think this is going to get as good reviews as the originao FO3.

—————–
UPDATE 10/23/10:
Alright.  I’ve played the game pretty much all day… and having just come back from Las Vegas myself after a speaking gig at a banking convention, I have to admit:  I haven’t run into any major issues since getting past the character creation issue.  This game, despite my initial rage & aggravation, is wonderfully crafted with a flow so reminiscent of the original Fallout 3, it feels like Fallout: West Coast.

3 things I love:  Fallout, Xbox 360, and Las Vegas… all in a single package.  Yeah, my wife is gonna be a Fallout widow again for certain.  DragonAge?  You’re gonna have to take a backseat for another 6-9 months, assuming the DLC for F:LV is as good as that for F3.

In the meantime, check out this interview with Wayne Newton – yes, THAT Wayne Newton – that plays the Radio Las Vegas DJ on your PipBoy 2000.

VIDEO:  http://www.hotbloodedgaming.com/2010/10/14/watch-wayne-newton-talk-about-the-strip-in-fallout-new-vegas-video/

—————–
ORIGINAL POST:
imageYeah, that title may be a little dramatic but it really does represent my feelings about Fallout: New Vegas, the new game release by Bethesda Softworks.

Let me be clear:  I ADORED FALLOUT 3.  Possibly more than any other Xbox 360 I’ve ever played… and that includes the Halos, Bioshocks, Mass Effects, Half Lifes, Crackdowns, Star Wars Force Unleashed, CODs, Borderlands, Grand Theft Autos, etc. and I’ve played them ALL.  I’m simply not that much of a multiplayer gamer so long-running single player games like Fallout 3 often have me reveling in delight.  But none have captivated me in the same way as Fallout 3.

So you can only imagine how much I was anticipating Fallout: New Vegas!

THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS
I booted the game.  A big patch is required to download.  Fair enough.  I let it patch and reboot the game.  The opening sequence is a bit long and belabored considering all it is for the most part are stills, but I don’t mind that much.  Upon selecting “new game”, there’s a cut scene introducing one to the New Vegas mythos & environment… then the beginning of a character creation sequence where you determine the look of your character.

Upon changing the “race” of my character to Asian… the game suddenly freezes.  Nothing works, not even the Xbox 360 guide button.  I have to stand up and power off my Xbox 360 –not that big a deal mind you, but something I haven’t had to do in a VERY long time.  Not even in beta tests of pre-released games like Halo 3 that I’ve had the opportunity to participate in.  No bother… maybe it was just a temporary glitch.

I reboot and start again.  Again, long intro sequence.  There’s apparently no autosave yet, so again, I start a “new game”.  I hit the character creation sequence and change the race:  Again, the game freezes/locks up requiring a complete reboot.  5 minutes into the gameplay and this thing locks up?  This is getting annoying.

3rd time’s the charm right?  I boot up, new game, hit character creation… locked up.  F#CK.  Time and time again, any attempt to create a character results in a total lock up.  I spend 2 hours trying to get past this sequence and finally give up and go to sleep.

THE NEXT MORNING…
I boot the Xbox 360 up again… game intro, new game… but this time before I even get to the character creation sequence the cut scene with the ‘doctor’ right before character creation freezes.

OMFG.  This is getting worse by the minute.

I power off the Xbox 360 and eject the game.  I try the game on my 2nd Xbox 360 – yes, I have several 360’s in my home – and I get the exact same freeze during character creation.  This is clearly an reproducible issue – one that Obsidian/Bethesda/whoever never bothered to test.

SUCCESS… I THINK?
I finally return to Xbox 360 #1 and try something:  I run though the game until character creation… THEN QUICKLY SKIP THROUGH IT ACCEPTING EVERY DEFAULT ASPECT.  (Caucasian, random face, etc.)

BAM.  I’m in. 

The only problem now is, I don’t trust this game as far as I can throw it.  Fallout 3 was near perfect for me.  It never FAILED or locked up like this.  Sure, there were some glitches here and there, but never anything this catastrophic.  I’ve now read about folks that have lost their autosaved games… folks that have had to revert to previous saves… etc.  Who wants to invest 6 months of exploration in a game that could very well nuke all your work?

PARTING WORDS
Bethesda… I adore your work.  I’ve defended the Gamebryo engine as being the least important part of Fallout 3 and preached from the top of the mountain the value of great story telling and immersive dialogue. And I realize that Obsidian did the work on this 2nd release…

…but ultimately y’all are the one’s responsible for the game’s quality as it’s published.  Simple two words:  EPIC FAIL.  You have an opportunity to redeem yourselves over the next month or so with a persistent stream of patches and I really hope that you get it right, because this initial impression was VERY disappointing and tainted my view of you as the Gods of first person sandbox gaming.  (You guys dropped in my mind to TakeTwo’s level… which is good company to be in, but I thought you were much better than them.)

As a software publisher myself, I understand how hard it is to get things right at launch, but locking up on something as basic as the introductory character creation demonstrates to me that your testers really didn’t do a very good job.  I worked as a Software Test Engineer for many years and I know how hard the job is, but there’s got to be contractors that do regression testing for areas that people don’t want to repeatedly test between releases and it’s clear no regression testing was done for character creation… and that’s just bad process – it really is.

Whatever happened to simply beta testing?  If you did do a beta test… who the hell were your beta testers?  Was a it a group of rabid, undisciplined chimps?  Because they didn’t do a very good job for you.

After many months of waiting, I’m just very disappointed, Bethesda.  But this entry will remain editable and I hope to update it with better news in the upcoming months.

 


Things that have surprised me about the 3rd gen Kindle (Part 2)

October 10, 2010

imageSo this is the continuing saga of the things I’ve discovered that are interesting about the Kindle that the average person probably has no idea about because they don’t really talk a about these things openly. 

Y’kind of have to dig through the docs to see some of this stuff so instead, I’m writing about the stuff that I personally would have never been able to find out about the device had I not gone out and bought one.   Some of it is good… some of it is bad.  But all of it is hopefully helpful to someone that is curious a bout the device’s capabilities and the policies Amazon has on it.

  1. Microphone
    There’s a microphone on the Kindle.  It’s on there… but it’s totally unused.  I assume some future firmware update will enable it to work with things and make it a recording device orBut as of right now, despite no one knowing it’s there, it’s on there but totally useless.  I wonder what they’re waiting for:  It’s not like a recorder would  be all that difficult to write.
  2. Visible as a USB-connected hard drive
    While this might not seem like a surprising thing, considering the difficulty with which many Media Player devices handle USB I/O – iPod & Zune for example – I was surprised to find that the Kindle is just USB storage to my Windows 7 computer.  It makes copying media files, documents and PDF files for reading/playback on the device simple and easy.And since it has Audible playback capability, I can really see using this as my “all-literature-all-the-time” device.  Periodicals, eBooks & audiobooks – all on one device.  And speaking of periodicals…
  3. Autodelivered periodicals & magazine
    It was never my intention to subscribe to the likes of the Los Angeles Times.  I actually don’t like the paper much and think their writers are liberal-biased hacks that mostly originate from USC’s School of Journalism mainly because of USC’s nepotistic network of elbow-rubbing employers & prospective graduates.[ks – The aforementioned paragraph was written in jest and designed to see if a certain individual was reading this post.  Although, it’s true that I don’t really like the LA Times Kindle edition – see below.]

    But dammit, if it’s not easy to LOVE the fact that the newspaper is automatically delivered to my device in the morning for me to read with my coffee.  There’s no paper to go get on the porch.  There’s no worry about missing sections or the paper getting wet when it rains.  There’s no paper piling up waiting to be taken downstairs for recycling.  It’s just there.  And you can bookmark it, have it read to you via the Kindle’s text-to-speech thingy, etc.  Good stuff.

    Now there are TWO big complaints however.  One is that some lame subscriptions like the LA Times don’t include ANY photos of pictures whatsoever however they charge you more than the actual paper subscription price for the Kindle delivery.  And the second is that cost.  The price of a Kindle subscription is TWICE that of paper delivery if you use your typical coupons and discounts.  No such discounts exist for the Kindle version which sucks. 

  4. imageBlogs Delivered to your Kindle…
    …but only the ones they support…
    …for a fee.
    Yeah… this was a classic moment where I transitioned from “OMG! How cool is that?!” to  “What. The. F-ck.”The Kindle is capable of receiving blog/website content and it looks like they simply scrape the RSS.  Alright, that’s cool.  I’m thinking that I can read my OPML list of RSS feeds on my Kindle with its highly readable, easy-on-the-eyes screen and have it auto-delivered, just like my Windows Phone does using Ilium Software’s RSS reader, Newsbreak.

    Oh, but not so fast.  You can only read blogs they publish off of Amazon.com.  I sh-t you not.  They only let you subscribe to well-known blogs listed at: http://www.amazon.com/Blogs-Kindle-Sports-Industry-Internet-Technology/b?node=401358011

    Yeah, okay.   So that blows.  But still, it’s a cool feature.  I mean, I read TechCrunch.  And Ars Technica.  And crap like that that are in fact published on the Amazon list above.  So why not take advantage of the feature, right?

    Again, a showstopper:  Each blog COSTS MONEY monthly to get on your Kindle.  TechCrunch for instance costs $1.99/mo to get on your Kindle.  Slashdot is $1.99/mo.  Ars Technica is .99/mo. etc.   All to receive content that is otherwise FREELY AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET.  And it doesn’t matter if you get this stuff over WiFi or over Whispernet/3G:  You’re gonna get charged.  Uh… that’s just DUMB.  No thanks, Amazon.

  5. Device-to-device synchronization to share booknotes/highlights
    This is again an interesting feature.  Basically you can synchronize booknotes and highlights between two different Kindles over Whispernet/WiFi by synching with the cloud and then replicating those notes down to other Kindles. So let’s say you want to collaborate on a book report.  Or you want to share your thoughts with another reader before they read the book themselves on their Kindle.  Or maybe you all belong to a book club.  This is a great way to share thoughts about a book amongst multiple people.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage/sync?ie=UTF8&ref_=kinw_myk_sl_01

Things that have surprised me about the 3rd gen Kindle (Part 1)

October 9, 2010

imageI just bought a Kindle.  And for the most part, I like the experience.  I also like geeking out on new crap like this so I suppose it would make sense that I’d be excited about a a new gadget seeing that I haven’t had any new gadgets in a long time. 

THE READER THAT’S VIEWABLE IN DAYLIGHT… BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Amazon likes to evangelize the fact that the screen is clearly viewable in daylight.  And they’re absolutely right:  The screen is virtually the same experience as reading paper.  As a matter of fact, when I first opened the box, I’ll admit I’d never seen a 3rd gen Kindle and thought the pictures on the screen were an actual “peel away sticker”:  It’s THAT legible.

But I’ve found that the Kindle has a lot of interesting surprises that aren’t advertised – some bad, but most good.  They may be obvious to some but I wasn’t aware of them before having bought the Kindle. 

So here’s the 1st part of my list of “Things that have surprised me about the 3rd gen Kindle”:

  1. Document conversion & delivery via eMail 
    Again, I didn’t know about this but each Kindle is given it’s own private email address.  (With restrictions on who mail is accepted from)  Mailing documents to this email address will automatically get the document onto your Kindle in a Kindle-readable format.  If it requires conversion so that it’s in a format that the Kindle can understand, it will do so so that it is viewable on your device. (.DOC, .XLS, .PPT all need to be converted, PDFs do not)
  2. $CHARGES$ for document delivery of Whispernet/3G
    This was a BIG surprise:  If your device receives a document over Whispernet (3G Cellular connection) Amazon will charge you’re a service fee at 15 cents per MB for the document.  If the device receives the document over 802.11b WiFi however, there is no charge.

    By default, every device will receive documents over Whispernet for charges up to $2.50 per document.  You can see how this would add up if you’re not careful and let the document get transferred over 3G.  There is no feature that restricts document delivery to just using free WiFi-based delivery, thus eliminating the possibility of getting charged. 

    PRO TIP:  If you go into the following link and set the maximum monetary charge allowable for documents delivered to your Kindle to $0.00, you can effectively prevent documents from ever being sent over Whispernet, while still allowing your Kindle to receive documents over WiFi for free.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200505520&#fees

  3. Automatic dictionary definitions
    Perhaps I never paid attention but if you move your cursor in front of any given word, the word’s definition appears at the bottom of the screen care of the Oxford Dictionary, or any other dictionary you ‘plug in’ to your Kindle.  (It comes with two dictionaries by default.)

    Color me surprised, but this could make the Kindle the greatest learning tool ever for kids K-12.  I used to carry around a 100,000 word electronic dictionary when I was younger just to help me learn vocabulary when I didn’t know the definition of a word.  Now… it’s automatic.  Fantastic.

  4. Games & applications 
    I haven’t seen a LOT of these but the Kindle actually supports independent apps that Amazon sells on their web site and delivers via Whispernet just like a purchased eBook.  Here’s a list of some of the one’s I’ve downloaded to my Kindle.
  5. Post book quotes & links to pages via Facebook/Twitter
    If you set up your Facebook account or your Twitter account, Kindle will automatically post your bookmarks or specifically highlighted content to Facebook/Twitter.  If it’s a book, it will even point users to the part in the book ONLINE that the quote is taken from or the page you’ve bookmarked.

    For people who read the same book at the same time, that’s pretty f’ing neat.  The level of reading collaboration that this provides is cool because while it might not be useful for you if you’re not reading a book with someone else (or know others that are interested in the book you’re reading)…

    …this is REALLY important for kids doing school work.  Imagine reading a book that a class of 40 other kids are reading and being able to tweet to your school mates specific paragraphs for others to note.  I remember breezing through books and missing huge chunks of information that other’s with better comprehension might have gotten.