Monday, February 27, 2017

Racing Season

I'm a big follower of the motor racing on the telly.

Ok. Actually just a moderate follower. A big follower or an addict would watch all of the racing, I just watch the Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship. Not really enough time for watching more.

That pic just had to be the thumbnail for today. And while I'm thinking of turtles ... this site (at the link) is very dangerous. Do not click if credit cards are close to hand.

And I've been enjoying a game called Motorsport Manager too. I've ... ermmm ... gone past 148 hours in that game already. The current play through is seeing me build the worst team into the best team. I'll farm as many achievements as possible from this play (including the big one of winning the big title) before giving it a rest for a bit and moving on to something different.
Not with that team. That's the Dragon Race Team which just had to be the first team I chose. Graphics are up to the job, although admittedly they don't actually have to do that much.
That's what it looks like in the races as my pair of drivers were destroying all opposition in the middle league. It's a bit tougher for them this season in the top league but they should survive, build, get stronger and win. 3.5 seconds a lap to make up though (that's a lot).

If you're interested in motor racing management sims, I'd heavily recommend this. We've seen a drought of these games since the excellent Grand Prix Manager 1 and 2 from way back. There have been games of the type but they have been universally rubbish. That is until the mobile version of MM came along (I enjoyed this one on iOS) and now this PC version.

I like them. You have to make good decisions in order to win the races. Games should reward good play with good results. It seems pretty consistent with what it does too. And you can build that weak team into a world beater too. (Hire popular drivers, build the HQ up, get good facilities, don't get your parts banned ... make good decisions in the races) The opposition AI isn't dumb, it's actually quite reasonable and I don't think it cheats. It does make bad decisions with weather though which you can shamelessly exploit.

But this post isn't all about games.

The Formula 1 season started up again today with the first day of pre season testing. We won't learn much of consequence until the last test as they're finding out about the new designs and new rules before really pushing the performance. And in the case of two teams, getting let down by reliability issues which really .... shouldn't.

I don't really know who I'll be following this year. Previously it would be McLaren due to their brave choice of going to Honda for powerplants. This has not worked well ... Plus they had the boyish charm of the Jenson Button. With the changes in the off season though, I don't know who McLaren are any more. I still applaud their choice of going for something different for the power plant but ... the guts have been ripped out of the team. Not my team any more.

Mercedes is the boring choice, they've manipulated the rules (why not!) to favour their technically advanced solution. That rule book has been somewhat ripped up this year, it'll be good to see what happens. They also have Lewis Hamilton who has my vote for favourite F1 driver.

Of the other teams ... Red Bull are the most proficient technically but ... the drivers really put me off. Ricciardo with his Shooey is disgusting and an embarrassment to the sport. Verstappen is going to get someone seriously hurt. Ferrari have had a humbling time lately but they're the best competitors. The other Brit in the field, Jolyon Palmer was an embarrassment to his family and British racing drivers with his constant crashing last year. I'm amazed to see him back this year. The other Mercedes powered teams don't really have a chance in my view, the Mercedes car will always be better. That's why I applauded McLaren for going down a different route. The gamble hasn't paid off but it was their best chance of emerging from the herd.

World Endurance champs is something I'll keep watching too. That's these cars :
Not made of Lego though. Must look into seeing if I can turn that car into one of these :
The car on the right, not the spaceship dominating the scene. That's from the forthcoming Mass Effect Andromeda, which is being massively hyped by anyone who has played the previous Mass Effect trilogy which had 3 of the best games I've ever played.

World Endurance Champs is a more compelling sport to watch than Formula 1. There are only two teams at the top now (Porsche and Toyota) but they are incredibly evenly matched. You don't know who's going to win before the race. Compare that to Formula 1 and it was a shock if the Mercedes cars didn't run away from the field. And that even matching is continued down the field to the slower categories that race alongside the fastest LMP1 cars.

I think it's a shame that Formula 1 didn't dip into the supply of massively talented racing drivers from World Endurance Champs, where a bunch of drivers suddenly found themselves redundant after Audi pulled out. Yep. The Audi that used "We're coming home to Le Mans" on their adverts after abandoning the series. Poor show Audi.

The Formula 1 will be back testing tomorrow and I'll be curious to see how they do. You want all of the teams to be competitive, to make the races more interesting with the results a genuine surprise. It's been too long since Formula 1 has had that excitement of the random element.

Fingers crossed for excitement from the series !

And some developments coming for us in the road car area too ! The F1 and WEC LMP1s are both hybrid categories now, with motor generators going on brakes and the turbo in F1. The innovation there sees its way into our road cars. I'm not convinced the motor generator in the turbo has a road application, although it does eliminate the turbo lag as well as get a bit of energy recycled back in. The combustion chamber enhancement thing that hit F1 though, that could be handy in a road car.

The F1 and WEC systems are both quite different from the hybrid system in my car though. The race systems supplement the engine and feed a separate gearbox. In my car, the motors are the gearbox.

That's a little too complex for here though !
Hybrid cars with motor generator systems - are the future
Turbochargers with generators - not convinced for the road
Better engine designs - gimme
Smooth driving - love it
Racing - hoping for excitement.

And I'm pondering going to Silverstone for the WEC race this year. Not been yet.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

So a new song happened ...

Not wanting to talk too much about me at the moment ... Cos there's better things to talk about !

(I'll give an update at the end).

I've been rewriting the songs again. Adding it here so a couple of extra people can see it.
This time it's inspired mostly by the lovely Lauren (aka Radderss - see link on the right) who has just started playing the game The Witcher 3. There's a bit of inspiration from Yogs Hannah too, who spotted this from a short play through she did of the same game. You see, there's a non player character in there who has lost something ... She says it in a really broad country type accent. And the country people in this game definitely have something in common with deepest Zummerzet and a little bit of the Devon too.

Yep. She says "Moi Pan" in a way only a local could.

My mind couldn't let it stay at just that though. Nope. There had to be a song. Especially when the lovely Radderss (who just got partnership with Twitch - hurrah !) started singing the Combine Harvester song.

Here it is. And don't click on the Combine Harvester link ... It'll give context and tune for what's coming but ... listening to Wurzels has been known to endanger people's sanity. BEWARE !

The way this one is intended is that it is being sung by the Moi Pan lady, who is brandishing that pan at a rather scared looking but normally ultra tough looking Witcher fella (monster bounty hunter) called Geralt. She gonna get her man if she has to hit him over the head with her pan and drag him back to her house.

A Serenade for Geralt :
You rode your horse Roach through my hayfield last night
(ooh aah ooh aah)
I threw an old pan at the door HEY YOU QUIET
(ooh aah ooh aah)
Now something's telling me
That you're avoiding me
Come on now darling I've got something you need

[Chorus] Cuz I got a brand new fryin' pan
An' I'll fry you some tea
Come on now let's have the fry up
It's gert lush can't you see
I got bacon rashers
An' you got herbs-I see
Now I got a brand new fryin' pan
An' I'll fry you some tea

You make me laugh ha ha

I'll stick by you, I'll give thee all that you need
(moi pan moi pan)
We'll 'ave eggs and bacon
I'm a girl built for speed
(moi pan moi pan)
And you know I'll love you darlin'
So give me your 'and
(moi pan moi pan)
But what I want the most
Is all thy best cards of gwent


Ooaah he's a lovely bit of stuff an' all

For seven long years I've been alone in this place
(moi pan moi pan)
Eat, sleep, in the kitchen, it's a proper disgrace
(moi pan moi pan)
Now if I cleaned it up would you change your mind
(moi pan moi pan)
I'll give up drinking cider and it'll only be tea


Who loves thee Geralt ha

Weren't we a grand couple that last time you danced
Oi wore moi best dress and that fine brasserie
In your new Sunday best with that beard trimmed just right
We had our portrait done, now you have the card

Now I got a brand new fryin' pan
An' I'll fry you some tea
Now that we're both past our fifties I think that you, yes you
Should stop that damn witcherin' and you'll marry me
Cos I got a brand new fryin' pan
An' I'll fry you some tea

Aahh yu're a fine lookin' witcher and I can't wait to get me 'ands on your unicorn !

Haha. I did warn you. I suspect it does need a little context from the game though.

How about me ? Rough week. I had the pizza on the Tuesday night which hit me far worse than usual. I was actually ill ... that hasn't happened for a while. Only slightly ill but still ill. So ... no sleep plus feeling decidely ropey from the after effects.

That's pretty much passed now but my outsides went backwards too. I'll be wearing more of the bandages tomorrow and it's been handy having an extra day off this weekend.

It's not as bad as that seems though, at least my body is attempting to heal up now even if it's just all two steps forward, a step to the side and a leap backwards sometimes. Just gotta manage the damage until it all goes away. It is healing, just very slowly.

That's enough from me though. If you're reading this on Sunday, check out that stream while it's still on !

Monday, February 13, 2017

Time for another weekend ?


Lots of driving over the weekend. So much so, that I actually had to refill the petrol in the car that I picked up on Friday.
I don't have those. Yet.

Let's see ... pick up the car on Friday, back to Bristol and chill out for a bit (while checking out as many systems on board as possible). Wait 30 minutes on hold to Esure* to update the insurance before the chill out and then head up norf to go see the mum and dad.

(I will not be insuring with them again this year, an automated attempt at a survey plus that long wait is putting paid to that)

No Ben this time around. Definitely missing the old fella, especially with the little sounds that happen around houses. Are they house noises ? Or are they the little click and clack of paw claws on the ground. Things like that remind of what's missing. But it was the old fella's time to leave, he'd lost all of his energy and was having to take himself off for sleeps after only a couple of minutes of activity. Mum and dad were saying he'd lost all interest in walks and food. If they have lost all interest in life and they are obviously in pain, that's the time to let our furry friends go.

To other things !

It's always good to see the mum and dad, plus also good to see the sister and the Double D boys. Only one of them this weekend as we met up for munchies yesterday. I think Saturday's munchies were better.
I do apologise if my vegetarian readers had to take themselves off somewhere on seeing that :-). It was tastier than it looks and a bit bigger than expected too. All good steak too with none of the gristle that often mars steak. It's from a farm shop place near Sleaford, will give you the name if you want it. I'm currently munching on a bon bon from there.

I may have a bon bon addiction problem.

Oh and that wine was very tasty too. That's another potential addiction problem that I'm going to try and steer well clear of. I've found myself thinking about having the wine at home. I'm usually teetotal or close to it. I will not drink if I'll be driving soon. I don't drink at home because it would be a bad habit to get into. But it does taste good.

No. I'll stay with the diet coke/pepsi and irn bru, plus water.

I don't tend to talk about the family too much here (it's behind the privacy wall) but they're still doing pretty good. Dad's getting stronger after problems last year and the mum is healthy too.

How did the car do in its first weekend ?

It's as if they listed all of the criticisms of the Mk1 and fixed them for the Mk2, although there are a couple of features missing (beyond the different spec list) that I'd have liked to see retained. A couple ? I can think of one at the moment (in a bit).

The thing I look for most in a car is how it goes around corners. The CT was on rails, the last IS, not really so much. It's as if you had to drag it around corners, it was far more comfortable on the motorways than it was whizzing around the corners. The latest one is much better. There are a couple of corners near where the parents live that I treat kind of like reference corners. They're fast, sweeping bends and they'll test how good the road holding is. As in, they're tighter than motorway or most major road bends, so you're kinda hanging on when you take them at 70mph. Or 60. The new IS didn't really notice the main two, whereas the old one was asking me to slow down.

I was a bit sad that my own personal Eau Rouge corner (it's on the Spa Grand Prix circuit, a very fast sequence in a dip where the suspension compresses as you take the corner) was blocked by numpties turning off the road at that point. Boo hiss and no fun to them.

Sat nav is different - it's an odd one to advise people to have in a car but if it's free and comes as part of an infotainment system, then hopefully it's a good one. The mouse thingy of the last car has gone, replaced by a dial. I preferred the mouse thingy. The sat nav has got a mode back where it shows a big graphic on motorway exits and major roundabouts. I really like that and it seemed to have disappeared from the last car (I think I enabled a setting that disabled the big graphic).

New seats !

I have seat heaters again. I'd missed these, they're great on cold winter days, especially if you have a bad back. The comments from the weekend were that the seats were much improved, although I suspect that revamped rear suspension has something to do with that. When I travelled in the back of a car, it was quite disconcerting in some cars as you felt like you were sliding more than the car.

Drive by wire - apart from steering, the hybrids are drive by wire. You have the throttle and brake but these are linked to electronics rather than the carburettors or air intakes or brake cylinders of conventional cars. This has got better too, I used to avoid using Normal driving mode in town because the car would kangaroo hop into traffic lights as the drive by wire got confused as to whether it should be using mechanical brake or electronic brake. That's gone now, all sorted.

I can't think of much more ! Oh - Radar cruise control - bit weird but very nice. Lane Departure Warning System - nice for motorways, nasty for town (because it tries to steer you back into the parked cars you are crossing to lane to avoid).

I did take it out again today up to Cheltenham and back (I was a numpty on Friday and forgot one of the keys) but was too tired to want to stick around. I had thought about sitting in the cinema in Cheltenham with a bucket of popcorn but nothing suitable on at the right time. Oh well.

Promising films at the moment - Lego Batman : YES, The Great Wall - looking forward to it, John Wick 2 - interesting and I think there are a couple more too.

Chill out time for me now though. Back to work tomorrow and my brain still feels fried.

One last thought though ... the name.

Every car needs a name. Potentials at the moment are :

Ivy - because the Grey Ghost had the Voice of Moobot and Ivy took over from Moobot.
Kirk - because the last car made me think of Benedict Cumberbatch's character in Star Trek Into Darkness with the quote "Because I'm better", with the "better" sounding like he was spitting venom. Well, Kirk beat the "better" guy in every way ! So Kirk is a potential name.

Ahhh ... I think I got it.
There was an American aircraft carrier in World War 2 called USS Enterprise, nicknamed the Grey Ghost. It gave its name to a certain starship commanded by Mr James T Kirk ... and the starship that replaced it was NCC 1701 Alpha.

Grey Ghost 2 may well be called : Alpha.

Wotcha think ?

Sunday, February 05, 2017

I have free bubble wrap

This is a good day. (See title).
Yep. Graphics card came wrapped in the bubble wrap. Lots of it. Like ... enough to keep me amused for a WHOLE DAY ! Perhaps.

I have been testing it out too. It's probably quite sad that one of the first things I really noticed was that the Anti Aliasing (the smoothing out of lines) is far better on the new card ... Oh and it was as smooth, possibly smoother than the last one. Can't really notice that as I don't think Elite was tough enough on the last card to max it out, so a more powerful card has an even easier time.
Cue gratuitous shot of a Pretty Space Ship passing by a purple star. Actually a brown dwarf but they show up as violet due to the light emissions of the star going off the blue end of the spectrum.

What's this about anti-aliasing ? This may go a bit too techie but bear with me, I'll hopefully quickly explain some of the mystery around how the graphics people make things look good. Check out Screenie 1 :
(you may want to Click for Bigger on these !) That's with anti-aliasing turned on. What is it ? It's a graphical method of smoothing out straight lines so they don't look too jagged. This is SMAA (Subpixel Morthological Anti Aliasing). I don't really know what the difference is with the various types of Anti-aliasing except that they all to some degree hurt the performance that you see. The graphics card gets too busy smoothing everything out leading to lower frame rates and jumpiness of what you see.

Here is me doing the trip to another station with Anti-aliasing turned off :
The thing to look for is the orange line in the middle. In the game, it shows the orbital path of what you're heading towards and at distances like this, it approximates out to a straight line. Perfect for demonstrating this anti aliasing thing.

How about a closer look ?
If you click for bigger on that, it'll show how the line is smoothed out by adding in extra pixels of the same colour which steadily fade to background. That's zoomed in 5x from the original, although I suspect scaling in web browsers will damage some of the demonstration.
On that one, the line just steps at the appropriate point.

It's enough of an effect for a knowledgeable eye to spot it and the SMAA didn't seem to hurt the frame rate much. Saying that though, one reason why I got the 1440p monitor with more pixels is that if the pixels are smaller, you can turn antialiasing off for better performance and not notice the jaggies too much. Although saying that, the performance is hurt by the graphics card needing to push more pixels around.

Yep. Some fun was had earlier in moving my big ship around to another space station looking for materials for a Community Goal. There will be a bonus for taking enough material there which will buy more guns for the Cutter. Or it will go towards another Python for bouncing around the galaxy trading rare goods.

How do the actual objects in the game look ? I've shown the inside of the stations before and they look pretty spectacular. But while I know most of the Why for how images like this next one appear on screen, the wannabe space pilot in me still sees it as a miracle and something pretty darn Awesome.
I did notice some artifacts coming in though where the system was cheating a bit to keep up with frame rates. There is a grid, known in game as the Toaster Rack, out in front of the letterbox entryway to the stations which wasn't doing quite as well on the antialiasing thing. But that station looks pretty amazing doesn't it ?

Here's something else that looks awesome as well :
Bit too dark perhaps. I may have to investigate the reshade mods that are available for Elite.

But for now ... may the new graphics card last a lot longer than the last one.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Hardware Failure can be Traumatic


There I was, looking for a quiet healing weekend and ...
Oh dear.

It's another sudden hardware failure ! Well, perhaps not sudden because the temperature gauge and graphics processor monitor app I have has been falsely reporting for a week or so now. I thought that was just a driver but ...

There I am, finishing off the latest season in my Motorsport Manager game and suddenly ... the screen freezes. The game was still going because I could hear the car engines rising and falling in tone. I could alt+tab back into Windows but not do much more than that. Restart the game and the next attempt leads to a black screen ... That one needed a reboot to recover from.

And corruption on the screen. Quite nasty corruption actually, more than the simple dot pattern from when my last graphics card broke.

So that's Problem One - a catastrophic failure of something crucial in the graphics card. Only one thing to do there ... upgrade. I'd rather not do that at the moment cos that new car is kinda expensive ...

But this isn't the end of the hardware traumas ...

My computer is based off an Intel Sandy Bridge processor which has a graphics chip included for free. So I should be able to hook up the machine to the monitor that way.

Yes. And no.

You see, my new monitor is a bit too good. It's a cracking monitor actually but it demands a lot of what is sending it the pictures. I needed an HDMI lead to make it work on my old graphics card. It's very picky about DVI leads.

Problem Two - no picture appearing on monitor. PC continually rebooting. I think something had gone really badly wrong on that graphics card.

So out comes the old graphics card and the monitor gets plugged into the socket on the motherboard (for the graphics chip on that Sandy Bridge processor). Black screen again. In goes my old graphics cards (yep, cos I put the broken one in first ... derp) and .... black screen.

So I have a brainwave ... Let's try my old monitor !

Phew. Pictures appearing on a screen again, just not the right screen.

To fast forward a bit (and past another derp), I now have a working machine again in a temporary mode until the next graphics card appears on Sunday. It's an nVidia 1060 card, I'm definitely not going back to AMD any time soon. In hindsight, it was an optimistic pick because I've had a bunch of AMD/ATI cards break on me in the past as well.

I actually have two monitors hooked up at the moment, as my new one refuses to work unless the other one is plugged in as well. That'll resolve itself on Sunday with the new card. My other monitor is on the sofa as it won't fit on my desk with the other monitor.

Yep. Not ideal but at least I'll be able to watch videos and things tomorrow. I think it'll be a bad idea to try gaming, as those games are still set to run in 1440p, which is beyond what the cables can handle.

Tis a late post cos this has actually taken me maybe 5 hours to fix with all the diagnosing, multiple issues and incompatibilities. Getting the 1440p monitor was still a good idea though. It's an excellent screen and I've appreciated the clarity and the pixels when I do the image editing stuff.

But hopefully the rest of the weekend will go easier ... Did I mention that the keyboard got confused too and needed to be plugged into my laptop to wake it up again ? It was refusing to talk to the desktop for a while.

I'm actually posting this while listening to a video. Need some chill out time before I attempt sleep ...

PS The other derp was me making the fit a bit too temporary. As in not putting in the screw that fixes the graphics card in place ... and then pushing the card out of the socket with the monitor leads. Oops.