Thursday, December 14, 2006

Peter Boyle, RIP

Peter Boyle died two nights ago from heart disease and cancer.
The first time I saw him was when my main man Spaghetti and I went to see Young Frankenstein in Rudder Auditorium at Texas A&M. I thought the show was pretty funny until the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene with Dr. Frankenstein and the monster.


I could not stop laughing...loudly. Apparently my uncontrollable laughter carried over through the next couple of scenes and people were turning in their seats to see what's happening.

The story goes that during filming, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle didn't know what the monster would say, and Peter came out with the garbled response on the first take. Awesome.

He'll be missed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

VRay for SketchUp

I downloaded the beta for the VRay rendering plugin for SketchUp. Below you will see the result of just loading and a one-click render.

I haven't had a chance to fiddle with materials at all, and the shadows are from SketchUp's shadow configuration. Rendering was pretty quick, but this is a simple scene of one of my printers. The blob on the top left is the beta version watermark.

VRay is a high-end renderer, and this is good news for SketchUp fans. There are definitely some competing renderers that are used heavily by the SketchUp community, but it's a good sign that SketchUp is taken seriously enough for a renderer of this caliber.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Creative Fatal1ty mouse "review"

Here is a write-up I was asked to do for our gaming group about the Fatal1ty gaming mouse from Creative:

Day Zero with Fatal1ty mouse:

Is this just some coked-up competitor to the double-awful Razor mouse, or an actual contender for the Logitech G5 gaming mouse throne (my opinion)? Only time will tell, but here are my initial thoughts…more of an OOBE tonight, with gaming details coming this weekend.

  • Box: I missed the "Open Here" sign and was trying to slide the middle part out to the side leaving the outer ring intact (similar to our printer "Wrap" ID language). Finally I stumbled upon the hinged part and noticed the magnets. I like this a lot, and one of the only other places I've seen hidden magnet closures like this is on Asian DVDs (some mid- to high-end collector's editions). Very nice!
  • Mouse: Okay, Mr. Wendel has definitely made more money than I have playing videogames. I'm okay with that. This mouse is a little poseur-tastic, though. If I eat this mouse, will I gain more of Fatal1ty's powers? I think I'm against the idea of a celebrity mouse, but I wouldn't buy a Jonathan Ive monitor either.
  • Finish: I really like the textured button 1 and button 2 - good feel. I like but don't love the rubberized sides. My thumb slides around on it a little too easily. I hate the glossy black button 3 and wrap-around detail. This will scuff, attract fingerprints and eventually transition to dull black.
  • Buttons: Button 1 and 2 have nice solid clicks. Depression of scroll wheel feels and sounds good. Scrolling of scroll wheel sounds and feels cheap. Button 3 click is lame and dissatisfying. It's a hollow sound unlike all the other buttons. It sounds and feels cheap and suggests that it will be the first point of failure.
  • Weights: Nice design for swapping weights quickly. Easier and faster than the Logitech G5. Lame implementation of retention mechanism - the fit isn't tight so moving the mouse causes the weight column to move, producing a clicking, something-in-my-mouse-is-loose sound.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A brief fling with Vista

We've been working with Vista a lot over the last few weeks for benchmarking and application compatibility, and I've really liked what I've seen. I recently decide to install it on a home test system.

It's a pretty nice system - XPS 700, E6700 2.67GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB 667 DDR2 RAM, two 7800GTX graphics cards in SLI mode, RAID 0 striped 10k rpm drives, XP Media Center Edition, 2007FPW 20" wide aspect ratio flat panel. I was worried about the RAID driver and the graphics driver, as this is also a gaming and 3D content creation machine.

I ran a few benchmarks that I knew I could duplicate in Vista. Well, basically one benchmark - Quake 4 timedemo001. At 1680x1050, graphics maxed, 2X Anti-Aliasing resulted in ~120fps+, 4XAA ~80fps, 8XAA ~50fps (numbers from memory, but close).

The DVD RTM version of Vista Ultimate installed flawlessly and everything was supported out of the, uh, bangs. I did an upgrade to my XP MCE installation as I didn't want to reinstall Quake 4 and SketchUp, and I also wanted to see how that worked. It looked like it had a generic Nvidia graphics driver, but my resolution was supported.

The Windows Experience Index was 5.4 (lowest score was for memory), while graphics got a 5.9. WEI uses the lowest score as the base, not an average of the subsystem scores.

I ran Quake 4 timedemo001 again at 2XAA and got...~17fps. One-seven. Wilco Tango Foxtrot? Ah, the integrated driver on the Vista DVD must be software rendering only! Good thing I downloaded our latest gold driver for the 7800GTX. A few minutes later...looping bluescreen with restarts! Oh, snap!

Okay, maybe upgrading the XP wasn't the best thing to do. I entered Safe Mode and rolled back the driver...back to semi-goodness. I went to and downloaded the latest beta Vista drivers, yadda yadda yadda, ~56fps at 2XAA on Quake 4. Not great. I tried to whip out a quick SketchUp model to see how that performance was...and SketchUp became hung. Very nice.

Reinstalling Vista, I chose to blow away the hard drive and clean-install Vista. Still no problems with the installation, and it didn't need the F6 for the RAID drivers anymore. I didn't look into this, but I'm pretty certain the disc contained them, like a slipstreamed XP CD would. Integrated Nvidia drivers gave me the same awful performance. Loaded our gold drivers...looping bluescreen again.

I almost gave up the ghost, but I reinstalled Vista one more time and downloaded the Nvidia beta drivers. Still limping through Quake 4, and then I realized something! My graphics cards were still in SLI mode (with the bridge still in place), but I never told Vista that I wanted to enable SLI! That's where my performance bottleneck must be, right?

Fifteen minutes of scouring Vista for strangely placed graphics options led to nothing, so I went back to and looked at the driver details. Hmm...these are only good for RC2. I don't think that will make a difference though. A few more minutes of deep diving. Uh oh. SLI mode is not supported yet in any Nvidia driver. Plus, the drivers seem to be mostly proofs of concept, with performance taking a backseat to compatibility in Vista.

So I am faced with some options. Downgrade to a single graphics card and use Vista, but not at its highest levels of performance, or roll back to XP Media Center Edition and use SLI mode at peak performance (for my hardware).

While I really want to play with Vista more, I decided to go back to XP MCE. There are still some games I want to play, plus I want to use SketchUp, and I want to explore the Media Center aspects of the OS.

In a few days I'm getting on the corporate early adopter program for Vista at work, on my main machine, so I'll be able to kick Vista's tires on a daily basis.