Saturday, November 19, 2011

L.A. Noire PC Lag Fix

Are you suffering from extremely low frame rates on L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition (PC)? well it seems to be a known issue and there is a fix for it, which may or may not work for you but it certainly did for me.

Step 1: Open up the game launcher and select 'Options'.

Step 2: In the Command Line type in "-str" with out the "".

Step 3: Save and launch the game.

This should give you better frame rates, at lease playable rates. as per the game readme file the above procedure enables a single threaded renderer, which may improve performance or compatibility on some systems.

L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition - PC (Review)

Another one of Rockstar Games console ports to the PC - L.A.Noire the Complete Edition is a great game barring a few niggles that probably come from porting the game from a console to the PC. Rockstar seem to have made this a habit of releasing games for consoles and then porting them. Read on for my detailed review of the game.

Plot (Rating 5/5)
This has to be the games biggest strength and selling point. This game seems to have pioneered a concept that I hope many follow. The story is centered around the crime scene in the post war 40's Los Angeles, you play detective Cole Phelps a war veteran who has joined the LAPD, as he investigates crimes from car theft to gruesome murders. I'll keep it at that for now since i don't want to leave spoilers for those looking to play the game, but rest assured this is one plot that will leave you thinking about its events for a while after you turn in your badge.

Gameplay (Rating 4.5/5)
The game throws you right into the action from the word go, the tutorial is nicely integrated into the early story, with the hand holding you get in the early investigations. But you find yourself quite alone in the later cases, having to dig through loads of clues, and risking putting the wrong person behind bars.
A large part of the investigation is the interrogations you need to do on suspects and witnesses, each with their own set of personal issues and facts to hide, during these interrogations you get a few options allowing you to decide if it is the truth, doubt or lie, the rest of the investigations are done by looking for clues at suspect homes or crime scenes, this adds a sense of realism and the locations have load of irrelevant junk and clues you may or may not find that will form part of how successful you may or may not be.
In game driving is excellent, and the hundreds of licensed cars are modeled to perfection, adding to the 1940's feel. The game is quite engrossing and keeps you interested till the end like a top rated Hollywood thriller unfolding with you at the lead role controlling every event.

Graphics (Rating 3/5)
This is the game's weakest spot, as far at the PC version goes, and it needs a tweak in the launcher options to work better (which I will cover in my next post). The game suffers from occasional lag and out of sync speech, bit still quite bearable and the games pro's out weigh its cons in the performance. However the developers have done a great job in the facial expressions of the characters. (which form part of your decision making during an investigation) the attention to detail in the facial expressions is worth mentioning.

Audio (Rating 5/5)
The dynamic soundtrack is well knit into the story line and adds to the experience, voice acting is top notch, and feels like a top rated Hollywood flick.

Summary (Overall Rating 4/5)
If you have access to a console I'd recommend it over the PC version, however if not this is still well worth the time and money, it does have allot to keep you interested. This is not your typical GTA but it brings something new to the table which should form a new genre in itself. The game has a very tight story line, which is largely influenced by decisions you make, it will certainly go in my library of classics.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gaming Lag Fix..

For a few months my once ‘high end’ gaming laptop the Asus G50-x5 has been annoying me with serious lag spikes while gaming, this would occur 8-10mis after starting a game and last for about 4-5mins with frame rates dropping as low as 4-5fps, this made most games unplayable. For a while I thought it’s probably time for it to hang in the gloves and look for an upgrade, until I realized that the games that worked earlier without a hiccup were now unplayable. After some googling and upgrading my display drivers (with no luck) I realized I needed to open it up and clean its innards.

Turns out the heat-sink was clogged with dust (practically mud!!), living in Mumbai can have that effect, no matter how clean you keep it and besides this laptop is almost 3 years old now, so a good flush of its guts was much needed. I have opened it up in the past for the occasional cleaning, but never specifically looked for the heat-sink vents, which as I learnt is what matters most. With the vents to the heat sink blocked the laptop would circulate the hot air inside the case, which should otherwise flow out the sides.

If you are facing the same issues read on, for guide on how to go about the task. Thankfully my laptop allows easy access to the fan without having to take the whole thing apart. This guide is based on the steps for an Asus G50 "Republic of Gamers" Laptop.

What you need: - the right sized screwdrivers (Phillips), acetone, thermal compound(for the gpu/cpu), compressed air for cleaning.

Steps: -
  1. Remove the battery and unscrew the large cover from the bottom of the laptop. Revealing the HDD, RAM, Fan, etc.
  2. Gently unplug the fan and unscrew the 6 screws on the fan/heatsink (i.e. 4 on the CPU and 2 on the GPU)
  3. Turn the fan/heatsink over and unscrew the 3 screws on the fan and separate it from the heatsink.
  4. Now blow the compressed air or through the blocked fins of the heat sink, use a brush or a needle if required.
  5. Once all clean attach the fan back to the heatsink with the 3 screws (step 3).
  6. Clean the points of the heatsink that comes in contact with the CPU and GPU. By clean I mean remove all the earlier / factory applied thermal compound / heat sink paste using acetone.
  7. Now apply the new thermal compound, (all you need is a drop about 2-3mm in diameter) on the CPU and GPU.
  8. Put back the fan/heatsink and the 6 screws removed in step 2.
  9. Plug the fan back, put back the back cover, battery and power on!
You should immediately notice your laptop running cooler and games are now playable again.
Hope you find this useful, don’t blame me if you mess up though, however there isn’t much that can be done wrong, it’s just basic cleaning. 

Do write in if you have any further questions. Until then I’ll be solving crime on L.A.Noire.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flashing Cyanogen on your rooted HTC Desire

So if you have followed the one-click root process to root your HTC Desire, here's the next step from there.

Now that you have root access what are you going to do about it! Well, you flash a ROM of your choice. I chose Cyanogen which is supposed to be one of the best ones, and with a not so complicated process.

Here's everything you will need:

  • Download the latest version of Cyanogen. I'm using 7.1.
  • Download Google Apps (This is optional, I did not need this. I manually downloaded the google apps)

Pre-Flash Process:

  • Connect your phone to the computer.
  • Mount as Disk Drive.
  • Find your phone as an extra drive under 'My Computer', open it up and place both the .zip files in your SD Card. Remember both these file names!
  • Turn your phone off. Unplug from computer.

Flash Process:

  • Hold your phone's power key & volume down key at the same time, until the screen comes on. It should load into what is called the Bootloader. (You will know you are on this screen if you see 3 android bots at the bottom on skate boards)
  • You have to use the volume keys to navigate and the power button to select
  • Select Bootloader > Recovery. You should now be led to a black screen with green text.
  • Now use the trackball to make selections. Not the buttons.
  • Select 'Backup & Restore' - this will create a nandroid
  • Next select 'Wipe Data/Factory Reset'
  • Next Select 'Wipe Cache Partition'
  • After this is done, select 'Install Zip from sd card'. Scroll down to the .zip file that has CM7 and select it. Let that flash. You should see a screen that has a box, an arrow coming out of it with the android robot next to it. It should have a progress bar at the bottom.
  • If any time during this process your screen hangs, press the power & volume up button. It should go back to the previous screen. Make sure all your selections on the black screen with green text is done with the trackball.
  • After this is done, do the same for the Google Apps if you have that file.
  • Once you are done flashing your ROM, press the back key & select reboot.

Your phone will now load into Cyanogen 7.1 with Android 2.3.7 which is Gingerbread!

The first start up may take awhile, don't panic. In a few seconds (which will seem like forever), you will see a blue android bot, skating across your screen. Say Hi! He is the Cyanogen Android robot! :)

Doubts/Queries : in the comments section. I will be happy to answer them.

Post Dedication: This post goes out to a 16 year old boy named Stephen, who is only 16 but knows everything there is to know about android phones. He was online the whole time, helping me out as I got stuck. Follow him on @stephnd on twitter! :)

Rooting the HTC Desire

After a year of enjoying my HTC Desire as it came, I finally gathered the courage to root it. You need not just courage but enough reason to root your phone. It is a stressful, exciting process leaving you very hungry! :P

My Reasons to root are as follows:
1. Battery life
2. Low Memory Problems
3. No Gingerbread update from Desire.
4. Wanted more apps on my phone.
5. A year old phone. I could either now change it or root it and make it brand new.
6. Also, My phone turns a year old on Oct 29th, & what better present could I give it, than a completely new look? :P

With my reasons in place to root and the courage I needed to go ahead, I finally decided that October 26th, 2011 would be the day I would choose to root my phone.

I chose the easy one click root method by unrEVOked. This root program was orginally developed for the HTC Evo but can be used for quite a few other HTC phones as well.

Pre-Root Process:

  • Click on the link above. select your phone model and let that download and install into your computer.

  • Install the hboot drivers, using these instructions. After you finish the process, hit the power button till you reach the first screen and select reboot, which should restart your phone. (Note: This step voids the warranty)

  • unrEVOked should be downloaded by now, make sure you install it some place you remember.

  • Make sure HTC Sync is uninstalled on your computer.

Root Process:

  • Open reflash.exe (unrEVOked), with your phone plugged in to the computer. Ensure that HTC Sync is uninstalled without which the root will be unsuccessful.

  • When unrEVOked detects your phone, it will prompt you, before it starts the root, click okay and the root should begin.

  • unrEVOked will prompt you when the root is complete. You can check this by going into Menu and checking if you have SuperUser rights. If you do, your phone is successfully rooted. (Note: There is a chance you may have to try this a few times till it succeeds. I had to about 5 times. But if it still ain't successful, try a factory reset and then root. If you don't want to do a factory reset, ping me in the comments with your dropbox ID and I will share with you another version of unrEVOked that worked for me)

Congratulations! Your HTC Desire is now rooted. Your phone can now be restarted and used with the bonus of root permissions!

Next Step - Flashing a ROM of your choice and moving up to Gingerbread.

Disclaimer: If you are choosing to follow this process of rooting and my recos, I am in no way responsible for any damage caused to your phone.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My first Android - the Google Nexus S

Its been a week since I got my first Android device - the Samsung Google Nexus S (Thanks to Nats for the early Birthday present), and I'm entirely loving the phone. The clean Google experience is just how Android is meant to be, and the ability to customize any and everything on the phone is simply amazing.

Coming from a Nokia E71 this device is quite a step up in terms of usability and features, this is truly worth the upgrade in every possible way and in my opinion the Google Nexus S is the best Android device considering the Price to Value ratio. At just under Rs.20k, this is definitely the Android device to beat.

From my early experience with the device (1 week thus far). the only con I could come up with is the battery life, and the only reason its a con is since I'm coming from a Nokia E71, that said the battery life still seams to be better compared to other Android devices out there, The other thing i noticed the phone is that with alot of activity the phone requires a restart or a flush of the ram every couple of days, or you start to notice occasional stutter, especially if you use alot of home screen widgets.

In terms of Pro's, I think value for money is right up there, along with clean android (i.e. no touch wiz, sense, blur, timescape and what not) experience. Apart from HTC Sense, i dont think any manufacturer has reason to be proud of their "Android Skin", and for those of you who feel getting a Nexus S misses out on some of the cool widgets that Sense offers, Try a custom launcher with some cool scrollable widgets, you'll find loads of them on the Android Market.

Its hard to imagine how much better a device could get (but thats what I said 3 years ago when i got my E71), few reviews say it should have a dual core chip, what for I ask? what can you do with the dual core that this cant apart from the full HD recording. I dont think the dual cores have enough use as yet and it doesn't make sense buying a Galaxy S2 when the applications to take advantage of the dual core power are still yet to come.

Well this device is only available in the SLCD form in India officially, and that's what I got. Personally i quite like LCD which is quite bright and the blacks are quite decent, may be a little more heavy on the battery but not enough to have me worried. For those of you wondering about getting cases for the i9023 version of the Nexus S, since its a bit thicker than the i9020, try out the Momax ones. I got a Momax case for a about Rs. 200, in Irla, Mumbai, It wasnt a perfect fit at first but a week later, it seems to have stretched to fit perfectly. Will post some pics shortly.

Look out for a review in the coming weeks, since i think its a bit early to put a detailed user review at the moment. But the early impressions are extremely positive, with it more than exceeding my expectations from my first Android device.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Desire(ing) Gingerbread?

Barely a year after its launch, the HTC Desire is struggling to keep up, HTC officially announced yesterday that it wouldn't be able to update the HTC Desire to the latest version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, due to it not having enough onboard memory to handle HTC Sense and Gingerbread together.

They have seemed to have backtracked and their latest update does say that they will still offer Gingerbread, probably fearing the uprising all over Twitter and Facebook by disappointed HTC Desire owners who've been waiting Gingerbread patiently and not rooted their devices. Well HTC we'll believe it when it comes. I certainly think it is a strong case for Google to step in and set down some ground rules for manufacturers using Android.

This isn't the first time HTC's last gen flagship device has been left out in the cold. Earlier this year HTC announced that their latest version of Sense would not be supported on their older models which weren't even a year old at the time. I certainly won't be recommending any HTC devices to anyone anytime soon.