Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of the Best 2014

At the end of 2014, I would like to take the inventory of things I consider to be the best in their class:

Restaurants:
  1. Mama's Fish House, Maui, Hawaii 
  2. Manresa, Los Gatos 
  3. The Plumed Horse, Saratoga 
  4. Weinstube Baldreit, Baden-Baden, Germany 
  5. Solbar, Calistoga 
  6. La Foret, San Jose 

Dishes:


Spa

  1. Friedrichsbad Therme, Baden-Baden, Germany 
  2. Caracalla Therme, Baden-Baden, Germany 

Rock Concert
  1. Elton John's Made in England Tour, Tacoma Dome, Washington on 9/9/1995 
  2. Leonard Cohen, HP Pavilion, San Jose 
  3. The Eagles, History, HP Pavilion, San Jose 

Rock Albums (2014)
  1. Lana Del Ray Ultraviolence
  2. Eric Clapton: The Breeze - An Appreciation of JJ Cale 
  3. Pink Floyd: The Endless River
  4. Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour 
  5. John Newman: Tribute 

Musical
  1. Chicago, Albemarle of London, London, UK 6/1/2000 
  2. Cabaret
  3. Anything Goes
  4. Grease 
  5. Monty Python's Spamalot

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Winter Concert at Dartmouth Middle School

The Dartmouth Middle School Band (in which Alex plays trumpet in Beginning Band) presented a Winter Concert in December of 2014.




The Beginning Band, in which Alex plays trumpet, played 3 holiday tunes:

Beginning Band

For a group that never played an instrument, they sounded better than I expected.

It was a packed auditorium that also showed off the skills of the Color Guard.




Saturday, December 13, 2014

Haswell, We Have a Problem

After seeing graphics performance problems with my Office PC, I decided to upgrade it's graphics card from the Zotac GTX 570 Amp! to the MSI GTX 970 Gaming. In preparation to do so, I moved the LSI MegaRaid SAS 9260-8i raid card from PCIe 2.0 x16 slot to another slot. Doing so, however, broke something on my Asus P8Z68-V Pro motherboard and my PCIe 2.0 x16 slot no longer functioned. The graphics card no longer worked in its original slot.

I decided that to fix this issue, I would have to buy a replacement motherboard - but the Asus P8Z68-V Pro motherboard was out of production and no longer available.

I decided to replace the motherboard and the processor  (all new Intel desktop processors use socket 1150 or 2011) and I decided to stay on budget and get an 1150 compatible motherboard.

My first attempt to rebuild used an Asus Z97-Pro and a Intel i7-4790K (4.0 GHz Haswell) CPU in my Antec Titan 550 case. I reused the memory (DDR3-1600) and power supply from my earlier build (along with all the drives). During the install phase, I was able to boot Windows 8.1 Pro x64, but when I installed the MSI GTX 970 Gaming video card, I got no video on DisplayPort. I ended up trying to use onboard video but noticed a lot of noise on the video signal (kind of like snow). In addition, after the computer was idle for some time, it would shut down, but would give me an error during boot time. I could not understand what was happening. Was the motherboard at fault? Was the Intel processor damaged? I updated the BIOS on the motherboard and re-installed Windows but the result was the same.
I decided to try a different motherboard and returned the Asus Z97-Pro to Newegg. I purchased a new Z97 Sabertooth Mark 2 from Fry's. With the new motherboard, I saw the same problem that plagued me earlier - namely, the noise on the video, and the weird shutdown. I was almost ready to give up. I decided to try a new power supply just in case. In researching new power supplies, I realized that some supplies advertised to be Haswell compatible. Apparently, the new Intel Haswell processors have a couple of new low power states C6 and C7. Many power supplies do not handle these states correctly.  My CoolerMaster Silent Pro 800 Gold was listed as compatible, but I was not so sure.

I decided to buy a new Power Supply anyway and ordered an EVGA 850 G2 supply that advertised Haswell compatibility. I also ordered a new computer cases, as my Antec Titan was hard to work in. The new case - a Fractal Define R5 - was much easier to work in, with excellent access for hard disks and great cable routing. I installed the Cooler Master 212 Plus cooler on the Z97 Sabertooth Motherboard and power it all on.

I saw the noise on the video again (could it be the processor)? When I installed the MSI GTX 970 graphics card, I got not video. I decided to update the board's BIOS to the latest version, to make sure that it was not the problem. After flashing the BIOS and hooking up the DVI cable instead of the display port, video worked. After that, I installed the rest of my cards (Xonar Essence STX, LSI MegaRaid) and installed Windows 8.1 Pro x64 on the Samsung 840 SSD.

Installing Windows 8.1 Pro from USB is much faster than from DVD. To enable fast peformance on the LSI MegaRaid, I setup the PCIe 2.0 x16 slot in x4 mode (instead of x1 default). This disables some onboard USB 3.0 but it helps in raid array performance.

Bottom line, if you are not aware of the Intel Haswell C6/C7 states, installing a new Intel Haswell processor could be quite painful (due to the constant need to do Windows recovery).

My complete system is as follows: