Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Green Computing?




So many websites are going on and on about “Green Computing”. Only today I read an article about how to spec yourself a Green Computer (which I am going to call a GPC from now on to save typing).

Today’s article was about choosing more efficient power supplies, more modern and efficient CPUs and graphics cards. It kind of misses an important point that this only applies to buying totally new kit – it is generally uneconomic to replace your kit with new kit to make energy savings. Besides which you are doing nothing to aid the planet as you’ll be selling that inefficient kit to some other person who will use to create more CO2.

For real GPCs, the key elements to look at (in my opinion are)

PSU – always choose and 80+ rated (energy efficient) PSU but don’t over-spec. So many people buy 600W PSUs because they think they need them. Not many systems do. My two PCs are Core2Duo with two DVD drives, hard disk, graphics card (7600/7900) and 2gb memory and run on 460W and 400W PSUs and that is plenty.

Graphics – do you need a dedicated graphics card? What is the last game you played? I’m actually playing Half Life Source and Red Faction right now – the latter is fine on integrated graphics. Have a look at the power consumption of the graphics card you are considering? I really wish NVidia and AMD/ATI would consider making an energy efficient card (about the power level of a 7600GT which runs most games). Quite frankly I couldn’t give a toss about some SLI behemoth with a fan the size of coffee cup. I want to play normal games at normal resolutions in peace and quiet and without wasting electricity!

CPU – very little beats the Core2Duo for the balance between energy efficiency and power. Undervolting can also reduce power consumption (but my damn IP35 boards from Abit won’t allow it!) and ensuring that EIST and Speedstep (or equivalents) are switched on can help. VIA’s C7 CPUs are efficient but quite frankly slow as hell. If you must go low power then undervolt a C2D or try the Celeron in Intel’s D201GLY2 motherboard. Intel’s forthcoming Silverthorn CPU will be a boost in this area and the newest C2D CPUs (Wolfdale E8200-8400-8500) are much more efficient and lower power consumption than the older C2Ds.

My recommendations to look into (in roughly ascending processor power and power consumption)

Zonbu (as mentioned earlier in this blog)
Intel’s D201GLY2 motherboard in an ITX system
Shuttle’s forthcoming KPC
Any Wolfdale Core2Duo based system with 80+ PSU and integrated graphics.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gaming on the move... Eee Styleee



Well, yes, you CAN play games under Linux but let's face it.. 99% of the best games are Windows (or even DOS) games. So, to use your Eee for games you really should install Windows and it needs to be XP as XP has the driver support. So, off to Eeeuser.com's wiki here for a guide to how to install XP on an Eee. I also recommend a large fast SD card as the Eee's 4gb flash drive isn't really big enough for games and you don't want to wear it out as well.

There is a list of games that have been tested at eeeuser.com so I knew Call of Duty would work but my favourite game had not been tested and when it was tested, it was reported as not working due to DirectX errors. The game, Red Faction, is a favourite as it is set on Mars (an interest of mine) and has a good plotline and was a first game where you could affect the landscape around you. No route to where you want to go? Blast one with explosives. No games supported that sort of thing when Red Faction was launched.

Red Faction also launched on PS2 and on Mac and spawned a sequel which I think was dull and uninteresting - no plot and no innovations. Red Faction 2 is on PC, Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube.

Anyway, onto gaming on the Eee. Call of Duty installs fine but requires editting the config.cfg file to use a custom resolution (800*480). It works well but better if you turn down the lighting effects and clock the Eee at 900mhz using Eeectrl.
Red Faction installs fine but barfs at 640*480 resolution with DirectX errors. It runs at 800*600 but isn't very playable as the screen scrolls whenever you need to access the other part that the Eee cannot display. Not good. I had a quick trip to my favourite Red Faction site, Levels4You and, after searching, posted a request for help with custom resolutions. I was pointed to a Res Hack tool which allowed you to select 320*240 and some other exotic screen resolutions but not 800*480. But viewing the executable file in Notepad showed me that it changes the registry to effect these new resolutions so all that was needed was to enter the resolution I wanted.

Note: when using this hack you should launch the game from the Red Faction launcher, not from RF. exe and also do NOT change or select a different resolution. The screen resolution will be shown as blank but leave it alone. The game runs fine in 800*480 at 900mhz but I get occasional pauses when the action gets going. I suspect it is down to my SD card's speed but basically, playable Red Faction heaven. I'm happy, Red Faction with a MS wireless laptop mouse and Call of Duty too