Category Archives: General

Anything that doesn’t really fit anywhere else…

AMD Ryzen post-release thoughts and explanations

amd_ryzen_logo

Ok, I’ve talked about few things regarding AMD Ryzen processors in my last article, I’m going to expand it a bit further with this one, explaining few things that people are concerned over or are raging about, be it justly or unjustly…

Games performance

I kinda forgot about this since Intel was dominating the market for so long, but Youtuber and hardware geek JayZTwoCents reminded me of this. It’s the processor specific optimization of games and why current games perform worse on AMD Ryzen processors even though it clearly has identical IPC (Instructions Per Clock) capability. Partially it’s clock fault because Intel’s quad cores simply come clocked way higher which is favored in games, but mostly, it’s processor specific optimization. Intel pretty much dominated gaming segment for 5 years. That’s eternity in PC segment. And with that, all game studios kinda focused on optimizing games for Intel processors only. Now that AMD is back in the game, things will change again. I don’t expect AMD to dominate the field, but you can be assured they’ll at least get on the same fair level as Intel with upcoming games. Some studios might even optimize current games to better support Ryzen.

Memory (RAM) issues

People complaining about memory issues a lot and complaining how AMD dares to release new platform with such issues, not realizing it’s not AMD’s fault. At least not entirely. Sure, they need to work with motherboard makers to ensure everything is in check with their memory controller inside CPU, but from there on, it’s up to motherboard makers to add RAM profiles, enhance compatibility and deliver all that in form of BIOS updates. Considering AMD Ryzen is an all new architecture with all new memory controller, expecting such monumental release to be problem free is really silly thing to do. When Intel released triple and quad channel boards after years of having dual channels around, they were problematic as well. And they still are today and I know that from first hand experience as I owned both, triple (X58) and now quad channel (X99) setup. With BIOS updates, AMD and motherboard makers will solve compatibility issues when it comes to memory. Also, be aware that if you want absolute compatibility, you have to strictly follow QVL lists provided by board makers. They can only assure rock solid performance and stability with memory modules listed there.

Limited AMD Ryzen overclock capability

I’ve seen quite a lot of people whining how bad AMD overclocks. But all these people are leaving out one super important difference. They are taking overclocking capability of freaking QUAD cores and applying it to EIGHT core processors. That’s not how things work and they never will.

If we look at Intel Core i7 6900k, same core configuration as AMD Ryzen R7 1800X, it also peaks at around 4GHz. Anything over that and you need huge amounts of extra voltage and you’ll also get huge thermal footprint from it because of that. You have to understand it has 4 more physical cores and 8 more threads. This essentially means it’ll require twice as much power and output twice as much heat. It’s not that simple and linear, but for better understanding, that’s what it is. So, you can’t compare a overclocking capability of a freaking quad core to an actual octa core. It would just make no sense.

We can however judge AMD when they release hexa and quad cores. But there is also one more factor. AMD Ryzen was designed on manufacturing process that is called LPP. And LPP stands for Low Power Process. CPU’s designed in such way are bound to be very power efficient, but very stubborn when it comes to high clocks. And that’s the way AMD designed Ryzen. Things may change in the future as they will refine and adapt the manufacturing processes.

Power consumption

I’ve heard about complaints on Amazon about AMD Ryzen power consumption and how it’s clearly not just 95W…

Well, we have to first establish two things. How is TDP (Thermal Design Power) measured and more importantly, where (or more precisely, at which processor clock).

Intel for example measures TDP at processor base clock (which for 6900k is at 3.2GHz). And they measure it as average value and not maximum value. It is yet uncertain how AMD measures it for new Ryzen processors. At least I wasn’t able to find any info on that where Intel clearly states how they measure it on their ARC page.

AMD_Ryzen_Power_Chart.jpg

Now, lets take a look at this chart. I’ll focus on two processors to make an example, measured wattages are at wall socket, so understand that (this is not just CPU; this is power draw for whole system). One is Intel Core i7 6700k, a quad core processor with 8 threads (4c/8t configuration) and the other one is AMD Ryzen R7 1800X. The power draw is almost the same, but R7 1800X features twice as many cores and threads. And it’s not just games where it might depend based on actual cores utilization where games usually use just 4. It’s the same in AIDA64 and Handbrake, which both use 100% of all cores. AMD Ryzen has basically done twice as much work on twice as many cores and still delivered same power consumption at the wall socket. This means, regardless of TDP numbers, it’s a pretty damn efficient CPU. It even draws significantly less power than very similarly configured Core i7 6900k. For the number of cores and threads, Ryzen are pretty damn power efficient processors.

The AMD Ryzen paradox

AMD_Ryzen_Logo.png

Yesterday, me and my cousin were looking at the new AMD Ryzen offerings to see what were the options for his PC build. And what I realized about Ryzen is a bit “shocking”. Well, not quite. There is no denying AMD did great with AMD Ryzen. They really pushed IPC (Instructions Per Clock) capability on par with Intel offerings. A lot of people were skeptical about it, but AMD has in fact delivered. And at what price point! Giving users the compute power of most expensive Intel CPU, the Core i7 6900k at a half the price is an offer that’s very hard to refuse. But if you’re a gamer, things change quite a bit…

The gamer factor

There is just one issue with it and that’s the “gamer” factor. If you’re building a gaming system that will 95% of the time run games and the rest of 5% will be browsing and watching movies, there is an issue with AMD Ryzen offerings. At least as things stand now with only R7 1700 and R7 1800 models being available. And that issue is the raw core clock.

AMD Ryzen, all of the currently available don’t clock above 4GHz. Getting it to 4.1GHz 100% stable overclock is a very good achievement, meaning these CPU’s will never be as good as any higher clocked Intel CPU’s, regardless of core count (unless we venture into Core i3 with 2 cores and 4 threads territory).

If you look at the tests, in every single one of them, 6700k and 7700k have an edge in gaming. A quite significant one. They only have 4 cores and 8 threads, but they come at 4.2GHz and 4.5GHz out of the box when boosting. And most of them overclock to at least 4.5GHz base clock easily. At a current cost of 380€ for the 7700k. R7 1700X goes at only around 4GHz and a price tag of 460€. 80€ difference is quite significant and you’re not even having the most optimal gaming setup if you buy R7 1700X.

The aging X99 becomes an alternative

If you look it it differently, the old Core i7 5820k goes for 450€ and 6800k at 470€ respectively). But you can almost be assured it’ll clock up to 4.5GHz rather easily. Yes, X99 motherboards are a bit more expensive at around 200€ if you look at a bit better ones, but you’ll get a 6 core, 12 threads CPU that also clocks high, meaning you’ll not only beat R7 1700X in gaming, but you’ll also beat 7700k when it comes to compute power because you’ll just have more cores and threads. Meaning you’ll kinda get the best of both worlds, but for the price of R7 1700X.

Buyer recommendation

  • Workstation/compute intensive workloads

If you’re aiming at a capable workstation or a PC meant for everything but gaming, AMD Ryzen CPU’s are a formidable competition. At 460€, R7 1700X will beat everything Intel can offer at the moment unless it’s a highly clock dependent single threaded workload. And with R7 1800X, it beats Intel even in the highest end territory with basically half the cost and same performance. If workstation or compute “cluster” is your target system, AMD Ryzen will shine.

  • Blend of intense gaming and regular high compute intensive workloads

If you’re one of those people who love to play games, but they also do some serious work regularly in terms of video encoding, file compression, software 3D rendering, it might be worth checking old Intel LGA2011v3 parts, 5820k and slightly newer 6800k in particular. With capability to overclock relatively high and offer 6 physical cores and 12 threads, they offer a nice blend of gaming and compute capability for a price of R7 1700X. You kinda get best of both worlds with few tiny compromises.

  • Gaming

As things stand at the moment without the R5 and R3 offerings, if you’re 100% dedicated gamer, going with Core i7 7700k seems to be the only logical decision at the moment. As much as I absolutely love what AMD achieved with AMD Ryzen compared to how bland Bulldozer CPU’s were, it’s just no match for raw core clock offered by 7700k. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still be very much able to play all games using maximum settings without issues, but you just won’t be getting 100% optimal gaming performance from it. The future of heavily multi-threaded games is still very uncertain so it’s hard to predict how Ryzen R7 CPU’s will fare in the future.

  • Gaming on a budged

If you’re a pure gamer at heart, but you’re wallet doesn’t allow you to go bananas on high performance  PC components, I think waiting for AMD Ryzen R5 and R3 is a good plan. You can read below why I think so.

The future

AMD_Ryzen_Processors_List.png

Now, if we look at the AMD Ryzen list of CPU’s that are still not released, but are planned, the most interesting gamer CPU will in fact not be R7 1700X as initially anticipated, but rather R5 1600X, R5 1400X and to my surprise, even R3 1200X. They are all clocked relatively high, they all come with 4+ physical cores as standard (opposed to Intel Core i3 with only 2 cores) and if there aren’t other limiting factors within the core design, they should be capable of overclocking higher. You’ll be less limited thermally and fewer core CPU’s have always overclocked higher in general. And at those price points, even if I include USD to EUR conversion and VAT, I think they’ll be pretty darn competitive.

In fact, the best looking gaming AMD Ryzen CPU seems to be R5 1400X. Out of all lower end models, it’s clocked the highest, meaning it’ll perform the best in current games and it still comes with 4 cores and 8 threads. It’ll be an affordable pocket rocket.

Verdict

What AMD did with their latest Ryzen CPU is nothing short of amazing. Great CPU for hard to beat price. But there are quite few very significant factors that you have to consider before buying/assembling new system at the moment. At first I also thought we’ll just throw R7 1700X into system for my cousin and call it a day, but in the end, it turned out things aren’t that simple. His configuration will fall into the “Gaming” category above and it’s actually really hard to decide. Should I use R7 1700X and risk high performance decline over time if games don’t go heavy multi-threaded in the near future or should I go with 7700k and risk heavy performance decline if games in fact do go heavy multi-threaded. I actually still don’t have a clear cut answer for this, but think we’re either leaning towards 7700k or waiting for R5 1400X. Which sorts of backs up my findings and explanations above.

 

Computer freezing with black screen on game exit

I’ve first experienced this with game LIMBO and couldn’t figure it out until today when it happened in Tower Wars game again. And the symptoms were too peculiar to be a coincidence.

Symptoms:

When you exit the game, screen remains black. No mouse or keyboard input seems to do anything as no amount of Ctrl+Esc, Alt+Tab, Alt+F4 did anything. If you had music player playing in the background via music player, music will continue playing (meaning system didn’t actually freeze).

Affected devices and games:

  • NVIDIA GeForce graphic card (GTX 980 in my case)
  • LIMBO (tested game)
  • Tower Wars (tested game)

Offending component/setting(s):

FreezingGamesOnExit.png

Solution:

Change the “Preferred refresh rate” from “Highest available” to “Application-controlled” in NVIDIA Control Panel.

The reason I’ve always changed this to “Highest available” was because I have a 144Hz monitor and I want everything to run at such high refresh. Apparently, with games that enforce own refresh rate (which isn’t 144Hz, but 60Hz instead), this somehow conflicts and causes this lockup with black screen.

I now have a Patreon page!

PatreonOrange.png

I’ve been writing stuff here, creating tweaks and tools, guides, help and all sorts of other stuff for years and I’ve been doing this without ever asking for anything in return. It’s just something I like to do in my free time. And I intend to keep it this way, but people are still asking me if I have any page where they could donate something. So, I’ve decided to make one…

PayPal is not an option because they don’t make payouts to bank accounts for non-US residents and that’s a big no-no. So, I went with Patreon instead which does. It’s a bit different, but if things go well, maybe I’ll be able to support various projects I run more thoroughly, buy proper domain instead of free one that I currently use and also post a lot more often. I literally have no expectations and I don’t have anything special on Patreon in terms of rewards and stuff at the moment. I don’t even understand it perfectly yet and since I don’t have any Patrons yet (obviously), I really have no idea how things will work or how they should work…

If you want to support me financially, visit my Patreon page with a Donate/Support Me button above in the blog navigation bar or by clicking here. Whatever amount you decide to pledge, I greatly appreciate it!

Cybereason RansomFree Anti-Ransomware

We all know ransomware is on the rise and it’s one of the most annoying types of attack in recent years. I mean, in the past systems got infested with various junk that was hard to clean, but essentially, you could always just start over by reinstalling Windows. Ransomware changed that, because it attacks stuff that’s irreplaceable. User files like documents and photos. You can’t just stat over by reinstalling Windows.

Now, the only 100% protection is backup of your data, but reality is, it’s really annoying to constantly make backups by hand and if you have it automated, we’ve already seen malware and ransomware which ruins your backups as well. So, I personally prefer prevention, rather than remedy or backups to the whole thing.

There are various tools and protection systems of which some can be found here. One tool however stands out a bit, for two reasons mostly and that’s because it’s free and provides very high generic protection against known and unknown ransomware and they are continuously improving it. It is called…

Cybereason RansomFree

Like anything, nothing is ever 100%. But if you can dramatically decrease the chances of getting hit by ransomware, I’m sure anyone would take it. It’s like with real vaccines. There is always small chance it still won’t be effective against one specific strain of flu, but if it can protect you from 95% of it, wouldn’t you take the “chance”?

I’ve made a test of it recently and you can see for yourself how effective it is.

When out of several strains only 3 types got past RansomFree defenses, I’d say that’s pretty damn good or something that’s free and consumes nearly no resources.

And today I’ve even received news about new version 2.1.1 which also addresses the mentioned issues of not protecting non-system partitions as well as potential other improvements thanks to our tests that showed the flaws. If they can figure out Petya strain, that would be also awesome. But they are already doing a good job as it is and I can only recommend this software to everyone who value their personal files.

DOWNLOAD

https://ransomfree.cybereason.com

Samsung, fix broken Magician SSD software SATA detection!

BrokenSamsungMagician.png

I don’t know when it happened, I’ve spotted it few days ago when I made a Windows 10 refresh and had to reinstall software, including Samsung Magician. And spotted this nonsense where it fails to detect SATA interface as well as its mode (AHCI). I have no clue if this affects anything (like RAPID Mode), but it sure is silly. And from the looks of it, it has been around for a while after Googling about it. Apparently since Anniversary update, I just somehow haven’t noticed this.

Seriously Samsung, if it’s really since Anniversary update for Windows 10, that’s several months already. Don’t be lazy and fix this crap!

Web of Trust (WOT) privacy scandal

I’m a bit surprised there is nearly no news surrounding this in English news, especially on tech sites, considering the scale and amount of users of WOT that aren’t limited to German market only.

Researchers of German NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk or Northern German Broadcasting) found out that WOT browser add-on was (and as things stand now, still is) gathering user data beyond what they were promising, ranging beyond only visited websites, they are gathering entire user history from browser, usernames, e-mails and more and selling it to 3rd parties. And they are doing this in such sloppy way external researchers were able to identify individuals by accessing open resources from WOT without even illegally (via hack) accessing their servers. You can apparently do it without any of that!

What’s even worse, after researchers asked developers of WOT about these things, all they got back was… silence, pretty much. Just a very vague reply that you can read here. When someone, instead of being open about the issue veils in silence, that’s a sign that something is going on. And nothing good will come from that.

I liked WOT a lot, because it was good resource to identify unknown websites and what experience others had with it. I’m not aware of any other service that has such level of user involvement in user rating and commenting of webpages. But as things stand now, I recommend users to at least block all public views of their ratings in WOT profile. What they’ve transferred to the 3rd party has already been done, but I think blocking will prevent cross-linking of users to the data. Also make sure to delete all cookies in browser under name “mywot” and quite frankly, deleting your WOT profile at this point wouldn’t be a bad idea either considering all the weird things going on around this service.

I now prefer avast! rating add-on (avast! Online Security) which comes with avast! Antivirus which I already use. Chrome users can even install it separately via Chrome Store even without avast! Antivirus. There is no commenting, but it has extra features like tracking blocking and the fact that avast! as company is very open about their product. When there were privacy concerns about it, they instantly provided answers to any questions by users. They also in detail explained how their rating and resource sharing system works and you can even opt out sharing of properly anonymized data with 3rd parties.

More links, mostly in German with greater details. Use Google Translate to read them.

In depth information from the researcher who uncovered all this:

https://www.kuketz-blog.de/wot-addon-wie-ein-browser-addon-seine-nutzer-ausspaeht/

Think whatever you want, but something fishy is going on and I’m not going to stand around as the smell spreads. Until developers come clean, this thing should not be on any computer.

I’ll keep you posted how things develop in the following days or weeks…

SnailDriver, super fast driver updater

Yeah yeah, I know that is a general belief that these driver updaters are garbage and that they always break stuff. Well, sometimes you have an unrecognized device listed and you can’t figure out which one it is. For such situations, these tools are excellent. Or you’re just one of those freaks like me who just wants all drivers fully updated.

I’ve posted Iobit Driver Booster in the past, but I think this one is even better, easier to use and with less clutter in the interface. Found it today by pure coincidence while I was browsing for some other tools.

It’s called SnailDriver and it’s a small, but very fast and minimalistic driver updater.

SnailDriver.png

I’ve tested it on 3 systems, 1x AMD based and 2x Intel based and it worked pretty damn well. Updated all drivers super fast and with ease and while there were minor issues with the app, they weren’t show stopping problems. It’s a new app, it’ll get fixed soon for sure.

Few minor issues:

  • Intel SST Audio Device driver causes audio device on Windows tablets (HP X2, ACER Iconia W4) inoperable. Had to rollback the driver manually (not an issue with SnailDriver as I’ve experienced it before).
  • System Restore points don’t get created reliably despite this setting being enabled in SnailDriver. I recommend making it manually just to be sure.
  • Sometimes you have to repeat scans to find new drivers that require updating. Not a huge issue, but should be checked.

Give it a try, it’s pretty good and can come in handy quite often 🙂

Official webpage:

http://snailsuite.com

Installing old Lexmark printer drivers on latest Windows

There is a bit of an issue with Lexmark and existing (older) printers because Lexmark left the consumer market of ink-jet printers and is thus not providing new drivers anymore. Which means you have to use Windows 7 or Windows 8 drivers on newer versions of Windows like latest Windows 10 Anniversary (Redstone). Trying to install it normal way just won’t work, so you have to do several additional steps to make it work.

First, download the latest Lexmark drivers for your device:

http://support.lexmark.com/drivers

Right-click on the downloaded installer and select Properties. Go to Compatibility tab and select Run this program in compatibility mode and select same Windows version as the driver was designed for. In my case, it was Windows 8 for my rather old Lexmark X3650.

Lexmark_Compatibility.png

In the past, it used to work even without this step, but with Windows 10 Redstone, this isn’t the case anymore. At least for me that is…

Temporarily disable Windows driver signing check

This step is critical, otherwise the installation of driver will fail since it is not designed for the latest Windows.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Hold Shift key and click Restart button that you’d otherwise use to simply restart the computer (holding Shift key will open a special recovery menu).
  • Select Troubleshoot
  • Select Advanced options
  • Select Startup Settings
  • Click Restart
  • Press F7 key on keyboard to select Disable driver signature enforcement

System will restart and start in a mode with driver signature check disabled just for this session. After you restart the system again, this feature will automatically turn itself back on again!

Installing the driver

Firstly, make sure you don’t have printer connected with USB cable to your PC. Yes, this is not a typo. Lexmark requires driver installation prior physical connection, otherwise you’ll experience problems.

After you have disabled Driver signature enforcement and made sure it’s not connected to PC with USB cable, you can start the installer with compatibility mode already applied to it (as shown above). Follow the instructions of the installer.

Lexmark_Installation.png

It is possible there will be an error message during driver installation, but you can just dismiss it, it’ll still work just fine.

You may also get popup like this (example from Windows 8.x):

Lexmark_UnsignedDriver.png

Don’t worry, this is normal since we have disabled driver signature enforcement. Confirm the installation of the driver. If you do not do this, printer won’t work!

When driver installation is complete, Lexmark driver installer will ask you to connect printer with USB cable to your PC. Do so and wait for a moment for it to recognize it.

Setting printer as default device

It is possible that driver won’t set your newly installed Lexmark printer as your default printing device.

Go to Start and then Settings. Select Devices button, select the Lexmark printer and click Manage button. Select Set as default. That’s it.

Finishing installation

We’ve finished everything already, just make sure to restart your system in order to re-activate Driver Signature Enforcement feature. It is really not recommended to run system this way other than for such specific tasks as installation of trusted but old driver.

Final word

I have an old Lexmark X3650 that I use for making copies and printing using just black cartridge, because I just don’t need color printing. And I was this close of throwing the damn thing through the window because it kept on failing to install the driver, but then I gave it one more try and then I figured it out with the compatibility step. Would be a shame since it’s scanning stuff really nicely, printing stuff nicely as well and I’m using its card reader as general purpose SD card reader. So, despite the age, it’s actually a really nice device with quite cheap cartridges. It would really be a shame throwing it away. So, I’m kinda happy that I’m this determined for certain things and I got it working again. I hope this guide will help you get your Lexmark printer working again even on latest Windows. 🙂

Equalizer settings for rich sound

In the past I’ve made a special equalizer preset for super deep bass and people seem to like it quite a lot.

And here is a new preset I’ve been perfecting and testing for almost a year now and I think it’s ready for the public. I call it “Delta” preset because of the very peculiar symmetrical shape. And it comes in two flavors, Normal and Lite. See the dB (Decibel) values on the equalizer images so you can adjust it the same. The examples are for 10 step equalizers, you’ll have to condense it down on your own for 8 or less step equalizers.

Preset designed and tested on Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z with Altec Lansing MX5021 2.1 speakers. The EQ preset can be combined with other features like Crystalizer (found on Sound Blaster Z), but was in general designed to replace that on its own, making it more universal across devices that don’t have features like Crystalizer.

Delta Normal

EQ_Preset_DeltaNormal.png

Normal preset enriches the sound quite significantly and you’ll hear sounds you didn’t even think are there. It really brings details to life. Due to quite high mid range segment, it may create slight artifacts on some configurations of soundcards and speakers. You can recognize it as noise similar to “wah” effect being applied to vocals and sounds. If it’s bothering you too much, decrease the 500Hz and 1K Hz sliders a bit, preferably with same level.

Delta Lite

EQ_Preset_DeltaLite.png

As the name suggests, this is the same design as Normal preset, just with significantly lower boost values. It’s a more subtle effect that still slightly enriches the sound, but doesn’t go all out crazy. Shouldn’t create any audio artifacts.

Beyond Delta?

Now that you know the recipe, you can adjust the intensity of the effect on your own. In general both lower and upper frequency extremes should align with the mid range (in the middle). Then you adjust the curve between all three points. You can of course do it at different angles depending on your taste.

Enjoy 🙂