Nathan Mates's .plan ArchivesPlan Archives from May 1999.
[visi.com] Login name: nathan In real life: Nathan Mates Directory: /home/nathan Shell: /bin/tcsh Plan:Job: Network Programmer, Battlezone 2, developed by Pandemic Studios http://www.pandemicstudios.com , published by Activision http://www.activision.com [Note: in this, I am *NOT* speaking officially for either of those, I'm only speaking for myself.]
NOT the kind of news I want out of my computers at home-- the monitor on my main computer (MAG MXP17F) is flaking out and/or dead. Big suck; I didn't want to be buying a new monitor for a while. But, gather 'round the campfire, folks, and let me tell you about my bad experiences with these MAGs at home:
I bought a MAG MXP17F as part of the computer I bought for myself back in the summer of '95. The MAG had pretty good reviews, and this one could push 1600x1200x75Hz (or more). Seemed good. But, the damn thing is the absolutely LARGEST 17" monitor I've ever come across outside of production TV monitors. It weighs in at 65+ pounds, is roughly 19" from front to back, 17" across in front and about 14.5" side to side. That's not the problem. Getting one that was functional was.
In the first 6 months I owned that MAG MXP17F(while I was still at Caltech), I had to send the first one I got back for repairs twice before they replaced it with another of the same model. That first replacement lasted a total of about 4 hours in my care-- I got it in the morning, used it for a little bit, and turned it off while I went to some classes for about 2 hours. When I came back from classes and turned it on, I smelled smoke, and the entire picture was a nice vertical line down the middle of the screen. Lemme just say that the customer service representative probably had to use a fire extinguisher on their telephone after that-- I was NOT happy.
A *SECOND* replacement later, and I had a MAG MXP17F that "worked"-- for about 3.5 years now. Until this afternoon. I came home from watching _The Mummy_ [totally cheezy, but actually kinda fun], and turned it on. Well, lemme just say that the horizontal size was kinda broked-- the vertical was the right size for the picture, but everything was double-wide. Thinking it might be a Win98 problem, I rebooted. That was the last I've seen out of it-- I get a nice black screen, even when booting a 3.5" to DOS and making sure the video card's ok. [Have crappy 14" monitor here with major pincushioning even in 640x480 (and don't even think about anything more than 800x600), and that did better than the MAG.]
If displaying an 80x25 DOS screen, the little LCD panel at the bottom identifies it as 640x400x70Hz, which is correct, but I can hear a bit of clicking (maybe 2/3 to 3/4 of a second apart) if I listen near the top of the monitor, as if a relay's clicking in and out. Still, the picture is pure black, as if it was unconnected. So, does this sound like any commonly fixable problem to someone with monitor repair experience (not that any would be reading this plan, I bet)? [I'll ask around at work tomorrow for monitor repair shops in the area, but if you know of any in the Santa Monica or LA Westside area, drop me a line.]
So, I might be out shopping for a new 17" monitor soon. [Was hoping to buy a 19" in a few months and move the MAG to my primarly Linux box. No such luck, it seems.] Time to start trolling for well-recommended 17" monitors, it seems-- drop me a line if you've got one. I dislike (though not intensely) the 2 horizontal lines on a Trinitron, so I may rule out things based on that.
And, on a similar tale of monitor woe, my main linux box is using a 15" Dell Ultrascan I rescued from the junkheap at my last job. It appears to have some cold solder joints or general cable looseness in back, as the red and blue channels flicker in and out occasionally. If I wiggle the cable in back, I can get it ok for a while. I've got a soldering iron and enough skills to be dangerous with it-- does this sound like a quick fix, or something far more serious?
Just a reminder: the above tale of bad experience with computer hardware (mentioned by name) is on *MY* *PERSONAL* *SYSTEM* *AT* *HOME*. It's hardware I bought on my own dime well before I was employed by Pandemic, and this hardware has never been anywhere near Pandemic. This doesn't concern BZ2 at all, and I mean it.
[About an hour later... silly init and bash weren't exactly statically linked, and chasing down dependencies took a little bit of time. Almost working fine now, which is pretty damn good for a few hours worth of work; just need to make a promptless boot 3.5" disk. I'm half leaning towards gutting archenland and loneislands (386 and 486 at home) by yanking the power to their working HDs (i.e. less noise/power used), and going fully NFS'd only, but both only have 8MB RAM, and I'm kinda wary they'd want to swap eventually and bomb out.]
[And system at home still messed up. Tried new parallel printer cable, and the ABIT BH6 MB doesn't want to print to my deskjet. As noted below, it knows when it's printing to an 'off' printer, and Win98 can detect that there's a printer out there to prompt me for a driver disk, but doesn't print anything. Same printer and cable work fine off another of my systems, so it's time to get a crash course in Samba and park that printer on one of my linux boxen with a working parallel port.]
Starting about a week ago, my Win98 system at home refused to speak to the printer, so I've been trying to get it working since... so time to ask for some help. I've stripped my system down to a minimal config to isolate problems, which is:
System: Selfbuilt (3 months ago) ABIT BH6 MB + PII-350, 128MB RAM
Video board: Creative Labs TNT
Printer: HP Deskjet 682C (parallel)
Serial Kbd, 3.5" Floppy Drive, Parallel cables connected, nothing else.
Latest BIOSs on MB and video board, booting to a Win98 formatted 3.5" floppy
This printer and cable have been tested on another box, and seemed to work fine, so I'm suspecting the parallel port of the BH6 is at fault. I'm booting to DOS 7.1 (Win98) off the floppy, and doing a "DIR >LPT1", which seems to run immediately, but the connection light on the printer never flashes, and pushing the FF button has no results. I've tried setting the parallel port to SPP, ECP, and ECP+EPP, and none of those work.
[And, some further datapoints... I've tried setting LPT1 over to IRQ5, no change. And if I do the "DIR >LPT1" with the printer connected but powered off, I get a "write fault error writing device LPT1; Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail" error as if it's correctly noticing there's a non-connection problem. However, powering back the printer doesn't make anything happen for subsequent print jobs.]
Also, this afternoon, our company prez (Josh Resnick) came by with a very nice thing: ticket for May 19th, 1PM at the movie theater about a mile north of work. I shouldn't have to say what movie this is for, or that I work for a very cool company. :)
Since last Wednesday evening (5/5/99), our T1 internet access to work at Pandemic has not been operational. This is why website updates (hosted elsewhere, but uploaded from us) have been nonexistant, and participation by others at Pandemic who don't have a good connection at home have drastically fallen off. [I have cable modem at home.] All emails to *@pandemicstudios.com are also not getting through, so please don't expect immediate responses at the moment. (My personal email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, is still quite functional)
Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
Oh, and while these numbers are in NO WAY final, according to Intel's VTune profiler on a release build playing our 'benchmark' mission, a bit less than 50% of CPU time is spent in BZ2. Roughly 10% of CPU time is in DirectX, and 40-45% of CPU time in the driver for the video board. Sorry, I'll get in trouble if I mention system specs, but this is my main machine at work, and is close to top of the line HW. [It woulda been essentially top of the line 5 months ago, if you want some hints.] Thus, optimized drivers for whatever 3D card you have are gonna help out a LOT.
And, on the home front, I picked up Rollercoaster Tycoon this week. Man is that an addictive game-- I was up until 2AM last night playing it, and that was only because I'm still painting myself into corners on the second scenario. I'll get better at this thing, I swear! :)