Sunday, November 30, 2008

PC Guide : Buying a Pre-Configured PC from dealers or DIY

OK, you are getting your first pc, but you have no idea as to buy a pre-configured pc from dealers such as acer, asus and lenovo or make a pc from your own hands. But let's compare the pros and cons 1st.
Pros of Buying a Pre-Configured PC from dealers :
  • You don't have to give a damn about what components to choose as long the PC suits your budget.
  • You don't have to mess up your hands to assemble your pc
  • You don't need to have knowledge on how to assemble pc
Cons :
  • The price are typically more expensive than same specifications DIY pc.
  • Too many unnecessary software inside your pc.
  • You don't get to choose your components (except for dell, alienware and hp)
As for DIY, the pros are :
  • You get to choose your components, such as cheaper brand graphic card or casings.
  • You can assemble pc ( if you like it).
  • No unnessary software inside when you powered it up for the 1st time.
Cons :
  • Have to assemble your pc (most shop can help you free assemble the pc if you buy all parts from their shop)
Personally, I prefer DIY as I can have more control over the hardware I want. In the end, it's up to you.
If you decided to DIY, you can check my Hardware Rig: November PC Configuration for ideas or guides.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things to do when your hard disk crashed

2 days ago, my sis' computer crashed and wouldn't boot into windows no matter what. I tried using safe mode to get inside and it failed too. I thought maybe some virus got inside so I get my windows xp installation disc to reinstall the OS (mind you, not reformat the whole drive).
After a while, the setup stopped and inform me that the hard drive had errors. Guess it's about time the hard drive died anyway, since it has been in our service for 10 years. But what about the precious files inside? photos, songs, videos? can't i retrieve them? Yes, you can, provided that the files are not located in your damaged sector.
Here are the steps to get back your files:
  1. Get a external hard disk drive or pendrive to store your files
  2. Go to ubuntu, download the latest image file and burn it (using your families' or friends' computer)
  3. Once finished, insert it to your crashed hard disk computer's dvd/cd-drive.
  4. Set the boot priority to cd-rom in BIOS.
  5. When you are inside ubuntu, copy all your important files to your other drive.
  6. Reboot and you are done!
This is how I get back my sis files the cheap way. If you have any other ideas or recommendation, please leave your comments.
If your computer is really really old, you can check out my Hardware Rig: November PC Configuration for making your own new computer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

5 Essential Freewares for Your Computer

Sometimes I compressed some files in 7zip format and my friends can't open it. Also, when their computer starting to crawl like snail they ask me is it virus or something like that. Blah blah blah.
So here I decide to introduce some software for my readers. If you have better recommendation, please leave your comment.

  1. 7-zip : This utilitiy allows you to open multiple format such as RAR, ZIP, 7Z, ISO, GZIP and etc. It also allows you to compressed into 7Z and ZIP format, but I hightly recommend the 7Z format as it is the one of the most efficient compressor (the other being RAR).
  2. Paint.NET : Wanted to do some refinement to your pictures but without the complexity of Adobe Photoshop? Paint.Net have layers function and other effects such as sharpen, red-eye removal and soften. If you are not satisfied with the effect provided, you can download plugins to add more effect. Need some questions answer? Head over to the forum to get guides or help.
  3. Auslogics Disk Defrag : This defrager helps maintain your computer speed by making the files less fragmented. After you use your computer for a while, you might noticed your computer a bit slow. This is because all your files all cluttered together, thus making the harddrive having a hard time finding the pieces of your file.
  4. Google Chrome : If you are tired of Internet Explorer slow rendering speed, you can choose Chrome to browse the web as it has the fastest java rendering speed and open up quite fast too. It has a crash sandbox system, means that you can kill the site that has crash while leaving other sites intact.
  5. Irfanview : The Microsoft's own Picture and Fax Viewer might be good enough for someone, but surely not all. With Irfanview, you can convert picture formats, play movies and sounds(with plugins) while maintaining the open speed.
That's all for now. I still have other software that I wanted to introduce. Till next time~

Monday, November 17, 2008

AMD/ATI Catalyst 8.11 Far Cry 2 Performance Increase

According to the release notes for Catalyst 8.11, for Radeon HD 3000 and 4000-series products, performance increase in Ubisoft's graphically-demanding Far Cry 2 for single-GPU is 3~10 per cent, while multi-GPU CrossFire users can expect to see gains in the region of 8-14 per cent.

I don't believe it, so I decided to try it on my system. You can find the Far Cry 2 benchmark tools in your Far Cry 2 directory, for example : "C:\Program Files\Ubisoft\Far Cry 2\bin\"
My Setup:
  • Core 2 Duo E6300 @ 2.33GHz
  • Gigabyte GA-965p-DS3
  • 2GB Kingston Value RAM DDR2 667MHz
  • Gecube Radeon HD 3850 256MB GDDR3 @ Core 730MHz/RAM 2016MHz
  • Seagate 250GB SATA
  • Cooler Master Real Power 450W
  • Windows XP SP3
  • Catalyst V8.10
  • Catalyst V8.11
My Benchmark Settings:
  1. Run 1 : Demo(Ranch Small), 1440x900 (75Hz), D3D9, Fixed Time Step(No), Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(None), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Optimal), Vegetation(Very High), Shading(Very High), Terrain(Very High), Geometry(Very High), Post FX(High), Texture(Very High), Shadow(Very High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High)
  2. Run 2 : Demo(Ranch Medium), 1440x900 (75Hz), D3D9, Fixed Time Step(No), Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(None), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Optimal), Vegetation(Very High), Shading(Very High), Terrain(Very High), Geometry(Very High), Post FX(High), Texture(Very High), Shadow(Very High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High)
  3. Run 3 : Demo(Ranch Long), 1440x900 (75Hz), D3D9, Fixed Time Step(No), Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(None), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Optimal), Vegetation(Very High), Shading(Very High), Terrain(Very High), Geometry(Very High), Post FX(High), Texture(Very High), Shadow(Very High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High)
I ran it 3 times each run to make it more accurate. And here are the average results for Catalyst v8.10:

As for Catalyst v8.11 :

To calculate the percentage increase, take [(Average Framerate for 8.11/Average Framerate for 8.10)-1] X 100%.
For Run 1, the performance increase is 5.52%.
For Run 2, the performance increase is 6.67%.
For Run 3, the performance increase is 6.93%.

I guess the claim is true after all, so be a wise person a download the new Catalyst v8.11 now~

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dual-Core vs Quad-Core : The More The Better?

With the advancement of computer hardware, quad-core prices has dropped down to a level that can compete with dual-core cpu (central processing unit). The quad-core cpu that are commonly known are AMD Phenom X4, Intel Core 2 Quad and the newer Intel Core i7, while dual-core cpuhave AMD Athlon X2, Intel Core 2 Duo and Intel Pentium Dual-core. There are also tri-core cpu that manufactured by AMD call AMD Phenom X3.

When dual-core cpu was released, the hardware advertisers claimed that you can do more things in one time without bogging youe whole system down. That is true, as you can open a anti-virus scanner while surfing the web or playing games while converting movies. Now, software programmers have devised a way to make program multithreaded for dual-core or more, that is, make the program to utilize 2 cores instead of 1. This causes the software to compete for the cores, which also causes the system to bog down.

The arrival of quad-core saves the day, making software that utilizes 2-cores to run smoothly. However, at the same price point, quad-core cpu have lower GHz count compared to their dual-core siblings. Thus, it may seem that quad-core cpu sometimes outmatched by dual-core cpu when using dual-core multithread software. In software that optimizes quad-core cpu, they can beat the dual-core cpu by 50% or more.

Benchmark software such as PCmark or 3Dmark always shows that quad-core cpu obtains higher score than dual-core cpu. Thus we can safely conclude that in the same price point, quad-core should always be your choice.

Power consumption, on the other hand, is in dual-core favor. Those wishing to make a silent home-theater pc are better off with dual-core as they are more silent and less power hungry. Those wishing for performance are wise to choose quad-core cpu to make use of all it's cores.

In the end, if you wish to assemble a computer now, you are better off with quad-core as they are the future. The more is better afterall and you can do more in less time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November PC Configuration

This time, I decided to make both RM 3k and RM 2k pc configuration. After configuring a pc for my friend, a revelation hit me that not all people can afford 3k also. With hardware prices down:
  • 2k pc can play games at 1440*900 or 1280*1024 resolution with medium to high settings.
  • 3k pc can play games at 1680*1050 with medium to high settings
So.......let's start with 2k pc :
  • CPU: AMD Athlon X2 5200+ (2.7GHz) - RM 225
  • RAM: Kingston Value RAM DDR2 800MHz 2GB *2 - RM 170
  • Motherboard: Palit AA-780GA - RM 225
  • Hard Drive:Western Digital 320GB SATA - RM 165
  • GPU: Forsa 9800GT 512MB - RM 410
  • Optical Drive: LG DVDRW SATA - RM 70
  • Monitor: Benq 17" G700AD - RM 405
  • Casing: Cooler Master Elite 340 - RM 125
  • PSU: Cooler Master Extreme Power 460W - RM 170
  • Keyboard+Mouse: Logitech G1 Gaming Desktop - RM 89
  • Speaker: Logitech R5 2.0 - RM 49
Total : RM 2103

Now, let's see the 3k pc configuration:
  • CPU: AMD Phenom X4 9550 2.2GHz - RM 490
  • RAM: Kingston Value RAM 2GB DDR2 800MHz * 2 - RM170
  • HDD: Western Digital 640GB SATA - RM 235
  • Motherboard: Palit AA-780GA - RM 225
  • Graphic Card: Palit HD4850 SUPER 512MB DDR3 - RM550
  • Optical Drive: LG DVDRW SATA - RM70
  • Monitor: Benq 22" LCD (T221W) - RM 615
  • Speaker: Edifier M1350 2.1 - RM 80
  • PSU: HEC Ace power 480W - RM290
  • Casing: Cooler Master Elite 340- RM 125
  • Keyboard+Mouse: Logitech G1 Gaming Desktop - RM 89
Total : RM 2939

That's it. Hope the guide helps you make your pc.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Notebook vs Netbook : performance or portability?

Notebook or netbook ? what's the difference between them? which is more suitable for my daily life?

Notebook, or laptop, is a portable computer that normally have :
  • Screen size : 12 Inch and up
  • Processor : Intel Pentium Dual-Core,Core 2 Duo or AMD Turion X2
  • Graphics : Integrated or External Graphic Card, from Intel GMA x3100 to AMD Mobility HD 3870X2
  • Weight : 1.9kg and up
Netbook, a smaller variant of notebook, 1st poineered by Asus with their release of Asus Eee PC 700,and now laptop companies such as Acer and MSI released their own netbooks (Acer aspire one and MSI wind respectively), have :
  • Screen size : 12 Inch max
  • Processor : VIA C7 1.2GHz, Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz or AMD Geode 800MHz
  • Graphics : Integrated Graphic Card, mostly Intel GMA 900 or 950
  • Weight : 1.1kg and below
1st, let's compare the screen size. With notebook screen size normally hovers around 14.1 to 15.4 inch, you can have a good movie viewing pleasure and don't have to squint your eyes just to see some text. With screen size 12 inch and lower, you might have a hard time typing documents in your netbook.

2nd, the processor. It is a very important part or consideration because it process the website content. The faster the processor, the faster the page loads. If you normally surf around the YouTube (which is heavy in javascript and flash) then you will know that loading that website takes longer than sites such as wikipedia or forums. With a slow processor, you browser might suddenly hangs if you opened too much tabs. The netbook cpu can't even handle 1080p movie and it will shutter all the way till the end. You can read more about the Intel Atom cpu here.
3rd, the graphic card. If your primary concern is playing games, you can skip the netbook altogether as their graphic are really really lame. Some claim that they install World of Warcraft inside their netbook, but with lame graphic card and small screen, how are you ever gonna enjoy playing that game. On the other hand, notebook have better graphic card than netbook even in the low-end section. They can handle World of Warcraft and other older games easily without breaking a sweat literally.

4th, the weight. This is where the netbook really shines. With their low weight (and small screen), they are truly fit the definition of portability. Thier weight are almost half of the notebook weight, which is a good thing if you're not into bodybuilding. Coupled with their power adapter, the max weight might be only 1.5kg. 

In the end, it all boils down to you. Which one you prefer the most. If you like to play games or watch movies, notebook is the way to go. If you surf the web more often and type short documents, netbook is you choice. Be warned that netbook keyboard is really small and not suitable for long-term typing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Core i7 have been Released!!

Core i7 (codenamed Nehalem) has been released! It combines quad-core with Hyper-threading and SSE4.2 for better multimedia editing. Be warned that Core i7 requires both new motherboard with Intel X58 chipset and DDR3 RAM. It uses tri-channel memory controller for greater memory bandwidth, so remember to get slot in 3 RAM modules rather than 2.
Below are the websites for the Core i7 review:

To know more about the Core i7 architecture, click here.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Intel vs AMD : Clearing Up The Myth

Let's say you are given 2 options :
A. Intel Pentium Dual-Core E2180 (2.0 GHz) + Biostar P35D2-A7 (total price: RM525)
B. AMD Athlon X2 5200+ (2.7 GHz) + Biostar TA780G M2+ (total price: RM495)

If you choose option A because you heard people say that Intel rules and AMD sucks, then you are half right. The reason is that Intel really rules......IN THE HIGH-END(RM 600++) section, while AMD sucks because they can't compete in the high-end. But that does not mean that in the low-end(RM200~350), AMD still sucks.

Option A and B, both their performance are almost equivalent (see this, the 5200+ and E6420 you see are 2.6GHz and 2.13GHz respectively, try to gauge the performance yourself). But the difference is the motherboard. While both MB(motherboard) are almost the same price, the AMD MB sports extra features, like an integrated graphics card and smaller chipset die (55nm - means less power consumption).

Not to mention that AMD MB can support next-gen cpu while Intel cannot. Intel likes to change their chipset cpu support every year, so the Intel MB you bought this year might not be compatible with the cpu that released next year.

So it all boils down to choices, whether you prefer AMD or Intel.

Remember, this post is for the non-overclock, average guy. If you are an overclocker, stop telling people to buy Intel cpu because they overclock better, NOT all people understand or want to take the risk of overclocking.