Nvidia 8800GT Overheating

06 April 2008

As I mentioned briefly in this post I’ve been extremely disappointed in my new Foxconn Nvidia 8800gt. By default it would overheat enough to kill itself, locking up the whole computer. I tried to install Nvidia’s nTune software only to find it caused my computer to permanently reboot, forcing me to do a full reinstall of Windows. The second time around I installed Rivatuner and saw temperatures hit 95 degrees celcius and higher before the computer locked up. Wow. Equally amazing is the fact that the fan duty cycle (% of max speed) never budged from 30%.

The first step which let me start playing games on my 8800gt was to setup a custom automatic fan speed rule. I used the following settings:

  • Duty cycle min: 30
  • Duty cycle max: 100
  • T min: 56
  • T range: 16
  • T operating 110
  • T low limit 0
  • T high limit: 100

The GPU temperatures were still higher than I was really comfortable with, but at least I could use my $200 paper weight.

I kept searching the interwebs and found this forum thread detailing the reapplication of GPU thermal compound to improve temperatures. After a full afternoon of leveling tailoring on my mage I was bored enough to give it a shot. Here are the pictures:

Disassembling GPU
Gunky GPU Clean GPU
New thermal compound Happy PC

Before thermal compound reapplication: 65 degrees, 44% duty cycle
After thermal compound reapplication: 65 degrees, 30% duty cycle

So by taking off some screws and applying a tiny bit of thermal compound I was able to drop my fan duty cycle (and thus noise level) to the minimum. Before I tweaked my Rivatuner settings to those listed up top, my old settings had dropped my cpu temperature to 58 degrees. That’s the first I’ve seen this card go under 60 without jacking the duty cycle up to max. All said it’s a success, although from the sound of it others have cards even worse off than mine was.

My New Shuttle SFF Gaming PC

25 March 2008

Somehow I convinced myself I needed a new gaming PC. Whenever I think about buying a new PC I think about buying a dirt cheap Dell or barebones. But then reality kicks in and I find that I’m far too picky for that.

Here are the primary requirements for my new system:

  • Quiet
  • Small (SFF preferably)
  • RAID-0
  • Gaming (mid/high range video card and processor)
  • Windows XP (I’ll pass on the scam that is Vista-only DirectX 10 for now)

    This is the newegg wishlist I ended up buying.

    And the actual components I went with:

  • Shuttle SN68PTG5 (nForce 630a/7050PV chipset)
  • Foxconn 8800GT-512OC660
  • AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 45W Brisbane (low-wattage)
  • CORSAIR XMS2 2GB
  • 2 x Seagate 200GB Hard disk

    I already had 2 Seagate 200gb harddrives (which I was using in RAID-1), so the total price was right around $700. Prices have come down since my purchase in February 2008. I also bought a Foxconn 8800gt as it was cheaper and not out-of-stock at the time.


    The biggest reason I keep saying I’m going to get a Dell is for reliability and ease of setup. I would gladly pay a small difference in a price to save the days of headaches and RMAs typical of trying to mash together PC components with Windows. Unfortunately, Dell only offers RAID in its high-end computers, and doesn’t offer any SFF PCs with room for a graphics card. Shuttle lets you build-your-own, but the same $700 computer in the wishlist costs double ($1400+) when they build it for you. I braced myself, hit the “Buy” button on Newegg, and prepared for the worst.


    As expected, I hit a LOT of snags setting this thing up. Here is a “brief” list of my main problems and the solutions I found:

    1. The bios didn’t support 8800gt without being flashed. After much fussing with the graphics card and onboard-video, and failed attempts to flash the bios from a windows boot cd, I ended up doing a full install of XP just to flash the bios and install the video card. (this is with full knowledge I would have to reinstall again once I got RAID-0 working)

    2. XP can’t install to a RAID-0 array without slipstreaming drivers into a xp boot disk. I found nLite to be the standard easiest-to-use 3rd party software for installing Windows XP on modern computers. Note that if you aren’t using a RAID array, most modern bioses have an IDE-compatibility mode that works around XP’s failings.

    3. nLite, as the standard and “easiest to use” solution for slipstreaming RAID drivers into Windows, still required insane voodoo and artistic interpretation of some wall-of-text forum post. I went through at least half a dozen coasters before getting the nLite CD to boot at all, let alone with the correct drivers. This was an extremely time consuming process, easily the biggest time sink of the whole project. The solution had something to do with slipstreaming two raid drivers as textmode and a third as pnp, whatever the hell that means.

    4. The onboard audio drivers didn’t work. I reinstalled them several times before finding an unrecognized device in device manager. I removed the unrecognized device, THEN reinstalled the drivers, and it finally worked.

    5. Windows thought audio was working, but no sound would come out! After much searching I happened upon a deep sub-menu of the audio drivers which made me realize it was set to turn off the speakers if headphones were plugged in. I leave my headphones plugged in all the time in my current system, so never considered this might be default functionality. So really sound was working the whole time, the software had intentionally turned off my speaker output.

    6. After setting everything up, I disassembled the entire computer to swap GPU molex power connectors. The internets “strongly recommend” pulling a molex from two different power supply rails for dual-molex GPUs.

    7. I clicked on “fan speed” in the Nvidia control panel. This told me to download the Ntune app to from Nvidia. In the meantime I was installing other software updates, etc. Several hours later I figured out that Ntune was the reason my computer was now constantly rebooting within seconds of booting. I didn’t figure this out until I did another full install with careful reboots between each driver install and software update.

    8. Finally, after 3 reinstalls, 1 weekend, and 3 week nights (but who’s counting…) I started playing games. The first night they all ran fine. The second night, the computer would “crash” (video stopped working) after a few minutes in-game. I tracked this down to the 8800gt incredibly bad default fan speed settings – ie: it would overheat instead of taking the fan above 30%. The only way to solve this? More intense voodoo with difficult-to-use 3rd party software. This time, Rivatuner.

    9. Using Rivatuner comes down to 2 primary options. The first is to manually create speed steps (eg. 40%, 60%, 80%, 100%) in 4 different menus and link them all together. The second step (which I chose) is to change some random variable in a list of hundreds to “3”, so that you can edit the “automatic fan control” settings. These settings consist of 6 or so variables that basically make no sense. Every time I thought I had figured them out, I tested them, and found that they definitely do not work in any sane way. In the end I fudged and tested until I found sufficiently aggressive fan control settings to keep my 8800gt from blowing itself up.


      End result, it works! Pix below! Thinking back to all these ridiculous issues – it probably would have been worth paying Shuttle to do it for me.

      Shuttle SFF Kawaii Kitty UpgradeSFF to Mid-Tower Comparison

  • Leftover Cables Wreath

    08 December 2007

    Last weekend we were cleaning out my parents’ attic and my old bedroom. The closet had become the haven for all the old, deprecated, and excess cables I had built up since high school. Instead of just throwing them away, my wife had the great idea to weave them into a Christmas wreath. We also had one keyboard to throw away, which invited the challenge of spelling as many holiday sayings as possible in l33t speak.

    Cord Wreath

    Team Fortress 2 Dedicated Server on Linux

    04 November 2007

    Here are the best links I could find for configuring a Team Fortress 2 dedicated server:

    http://www.mydirthill.com/node/1

    http://forums.srcds.com/viewtopic/5264

    http://www.srcds.com/db/engine.php?subaction=showfull&id=1098643920&archive=

    The mydirthill.com link is simple and straightforward, with the exception that you need to know the configuration step is referring to creating a orangebox/tf/cfg/server.cfg file. The forum.srcds.com has a comprehensive list of all available server configuration settings.

    That said, we now have our own TF2 server up at tf.pipboy.org. Hopefully we’ll get a regular game going at least once a week.

    Update: So much for that. Our cheap dedicated server’s ~2ghz celeron couldn’t fit 7 people in a tf2 game without dying. Back to the pubs…

    A Brief Guide to Persistent Irssi Under Screen

    02 September 2007

    For years I ran IRC under Linux and Windows using XChat. My desktop was on and online 24/7, making it a practical means of lurking in my favorite channels. Eventually I bought a laptop and moved into a small apartment with my computer droning loudly inches from my bed. Keeping my desktop on overnight was no longer practical. I found myself wanting to connect to IRC from my laptop while at home, at work, in the living room, and everywhere in between. For a laptop thats frequently asleep and traveling, lurking in IRC channels is impossible. I needed to run IRC from the one computer that was still always on – my Linux server.

    Irssi is a Linux command line IRC client. Command line may sound antiquated, but IRC is a text-based protocol, making a GUI relatively pointless. Screen is a nifty app for managing and persisting bash login shells. Combining these programs lets you lurk in IRC and connect to that IRC instance from anywhere. This combination does for IRC what Webmail did for e-mail. The only catch is that you need SSH access to a Linux server. Here are the basics to get you started:

    1. Install Screen and Irssi – This is going to depend on your distribution, but chances are both are available in the default repository.

    2. Run Irssi – Run Irssi by typing `irssi` at the command line. Next type `/connect irc.freenode.net` to connect to a server. On Gate.com the default IRC ports are blocked, so try `/connect irc.freenode.net:8000`.

    Join a few channels – `/join #linux`, `/join #gaim`. To get around you can hit ctrl+p and ctrl+n to go to the previous and next window. Window #1 is always the server messages. There are several other ways to get around in Irssi – if you’d rather jump straight to a window for instance, alt+0 through alt+9 should work.

    To close a window you can type `/q` or `/wc`. `wc` is short for “window close”, `/q` is short for “query”, and closes a window when no message is entered.

    3. Configure Irssi – Now setup Irssi to automatically connect to your favorite network and channels. These example commands will automatically connect to Freenode on Irssi startup, identify yourself to nickserv, join #gaim, and enable logging:

    /SET nick mynickname
    /SET alternate_nick mynickname_
    /SERVER ADD -auto -network freenode irc.freenode.net 8000
    /NETWORK ADD -autosendcmd “/^msg nickserv ident pass;wait -freenode 2000”
    /CHANNEL ADD -auto #gaim freenode

    Here are a few more commands to change the timestamp and enable logging. This adds seconds to the timestamps, changes the logging directory to be hidden (by adding a dot in front of it), and turns logging on.

    /SET timestamp_format %H:%M:%S
    /SET autolog_path ~/irclogs/$tag/$0.log
    /SET autolog ON

    Now one last command to save all the changes. Then exit, and re-run Irssi and see if it connects to your network and channels as expected, and creates the logs where you expect it to:

    /save
    /exit

    4. Run Irssi Within a Screen – Now that you have Irssi working, let’s add Screen into the mix:

    # screen
    # irssi

    You can “disconnect” from the screen by typing ctrl+a, then ‘d’. Reconnect to your screen by typing `screen -r` at the command line.

    Normally irssi would close when your ssh window closes, or your laptop falls asleep and the ssh connection times out. With screen, programs continue running in the background no matter what. Exit your SSH session, then connect back to the server, and you’ll find `screen -r` will bring your IRC window back to the foreground. Because it was running the whole time, the history of chatting while you were disconnected is right there.

    Here’s a small tip – if you intend to keep track of all goings-on in a channel, you can hit ‘pageup’ in that channel before disconnecting from Screen. Now instead of having to scroll up when you reconnect to your screen to see what happened while you were gone, your window is still sitting where you left it. You can scroll down through the chatlog until you catch up.

    5. Documentation – Both Screen and Irssi are complex programs with much more extensive capabilities beyond what I covered here. Screen and Irssi both have their own methods of splitting windows within one terminal, for instance. Much like Irssi can go back and forth between channel windows, Screen also allows you to go back and forth between running screens. If you can imagine it, it’s probably already included in the programs. Here are some links to get started learning more about Screen and Irssi:

    An Extensive Screen Tutorial at Gentoo
    An Irssi+Screen Tutorial
    The Official Irssi Startup Guide
    Further Irssi Documentation

    Using Rsync to Backup Filevault From Mac to Windows

    16 May 2007

    Rsync is a great tool that’s been around on unix forever. It lets you synchronize directories locally or over a network, copying only the pieces that have changed.

    A neat trick for backing up Mac OS X to Windows is using Windows Sharing. Once you connect to a Windows share, the share shows up on your local filesystem in /Volumes. If your share is named “Backups” it will show up as /Volumes/Backups for instance.

    The problem is when you try to use rsync to backup your home directory. If your home directory is encrypted with filevault, rsync will spin and die on the /Users/.username and /Users/.localized files.

    I first tried using the –exclude option to rsync to get around these files, but for some reason didn’t have any success. However, backing up the individual /Users directories works fine!

    Here is the script I’ve been using. Find the /Volumes directory that your Windows mount is showing up as, and drop it in the script along with your username. The first time you backup, be sure to connect with an ethernet cable. The wireless network is too slow to transfer gigs of data in a reasonable timeframe.


    !/bin/bash
    SOURCE=/Users/username
    DESTINATION=/Volumes/SHARE
    MINIMIZE="--modify-window=3"
    rsync -auv --delete $MINIMIZE $SOURCE $DESTINATION

    Paste this script into a file, say “backup.sh”, and run it with “./backup.sh” at the command line. Make sure your share is mounted or you’ll start backing up your users directory to the same hard drive its already on, and quickly run out of space!

    Jeremiah’s AGP Problem

    16 May 2007

    My friend Jeremiah bought a brand new video card. He put it in, and the computer would no longer display any video. He took it out, put his old card back in…still no video. However, the onboard video still worked. Weird stuff. How could his new video card have broken his ability to use video cards?

    Click on this picture to zoom in, and look very closely inside the dude’s head, where his body and mustache would be pointing if they were perhaps originally an arrow before they grew a head, legs, arms, and hair.

    Jeremiah’s agp slot

    Yep, it’s missing a copper connector! Not only that, but the copper connector was bent down and crammed into the bottom of the agp slot. This is how we noticed it in the first place – the glint of silver in the bottom of the agp slot.

    Jeremiah’s copper connector

    That little connector means my friend had to replace his motherboard – the least fun component to replace in a computer.

    Upgrade to Feisty, Nvidia module wouldn’t load (fixed!)

    16 May 2007

    I originally posted this on ubuntuforums:
    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=419208

    I wasted several hours researching and debugging an Nvidia problem preventing the ‘nvidia’ driver from loading. I eventually fixed it, but not having seen the problem listed elsewhere, wanted to share the details here.

    On the first reboot after running the upgrade from Edgy Eft, gdm failed to start and gave me a blue screen of death, with the option to view detailed log messages about the failure. There was something in the message about “Incorrect kernel version for nvidia module” (as best I can remember). This was my first clue, but I took it in the wrong direction.

    I spent the next couple hours installing, purging, reinstalling, purging, the various Nvidia-glx-new, Nvidia-glx-legacy, and Nvidia-glx modules. It wasn’t until I started trying to compile the downloaded drivers from Nvidia’s site that I finally figured out what was going on.

    By chance I ran the command `uname -r` and realized that even though the 2.6.20-15 kernel was installed, my Grub confiuration had not been updated, and was still booting by default into the 2.6.17- kernel. So step 1 was to manually select the 2.6.20-15 kernel boot option in Grub.

    This got me back to the original “Incorrect version/API” error message. After some trial and error I found that the nvidia-glx module was compiled against an older kernel or Xorg version. The nvidia-glx driver version is 1.0-9631. After remove-purging nvidia-glx and instead installing nvidia-glx-new, I found this driver, version 1.0-9755, was a match for the version/API that was causing a problem.

    So I restarted gdm, and sure enough, my same old Edgy xorg.conf worked fine and X started up with Twinview enabled and everything!

    So to summarize…
    If X fails to start after upgrading to Feisty Fawn, check what kernel you’re running with `uname -r`. If it’s 2.6.20-15, make sure you’ve got nvidia-glx-new installed, as opposed to nvidia-glx. If you’re not on kernel 2.6.20-15, check your grub configuration or boot options, cause as best I can tell you *should* be on 2.6.20-15 if you’ve upgraded to Feisty.

    First post!

    07 February 2007

    After helping my wife start out with a home-grown blog solution, she quickly outgrew it and demanded more. Rather than spend my nights reinventing the wheel, I decided to give WordPress a try. It seems to have all the features we want, with the flexibility to mod with custom php and style sheets. So sure…why not. Gives me more time to spend instigating the red robot rebellion.