Month: January 2013


Another interview from Dutch TV. According to uploader Captain Jos, this is from a show called Kippevel on VARA TV in 1988, and the interviewer is Jan Douwe Kroeske.

The Last Post

Just in case you're concerned by that title: no, I'm not doing something drastic and shutting down the blog; The Last Post is the title of the article I'm linking, via The interview was conducted in July of 1991, but wasn't published until 2004, in Mojo.

Frank hits a few of his usual topics -- business, mostly, with a little talk about his work on the Synclavier, and politics at home and abroad. In discussing the Czech Republic's first steps into capitalism, he advocates for government funding for the arts. It's always interesting reading Zappa's thoughts on economics; he was pretty fiscally conservative but certainly didn't buy into the Republican/Libertarian notion that the government is no damn good for anything and everything should be left up to the private sector.

nVidia BSoD Fix?

Well, after a year and a half, I think I've finally got the constant BSoD's I get when playing a game with my nVidia GTX 570 fixed.

First, I bit the bullet and used MSI Afterburner to underclock it to 650 MHz. I may not need to keep it that low, but I still got lockups with 690.

I also added a registry key. Via Mike's Technology and Finance Blog, you can set a key at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\GraphicsDrivers called TdrLevel.

One of the complaints with Windows (or really any other operating system) is that the screen freezes from time to time. If the screen freezes for more than a few seconds, users are likely to hard reset the machine that they are working on. This seems natural, but in this case the system is still responsive. The graphics processing unit (GPU) is busy processing something (possibly a game, 3D render, or even Windows Aero) and is not actively refreshing the screen.

In Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 SP1 Microsoft introduced a feature to help catch and correct this behavior using a feature called "Timeout Detection and Recovery (TDR)." The TDR feature works to identify whether the graphics processor is hung (the default timeout is 2 seconds), and if it is, it prepares to reset the graphics processor and the relevant part of the graphics stack. During this process, it tells the driver not to access the hardware or memory and gives it a short time for currently running threads to leave the driver. If the threads do not leave within the timeout, then the system bug checks with 0x116 VIDEO_TDR_FAILURE. The system can also bug check with VIDEO_TDR_FAILURE if a number of TDR events occur in a short period of time (the default is 5 TDRs in 1 minute). If the TDR is successful, then the user may receive a bubble that says "Display driver stopped responding and has recovered."

TdrLevel should be a REG_DWORD. I set it to 0, to disable checking for TDR entirely.

I'm not sure if that helped or not; I think the underclocking was the more important step (as when I set TdrLevel to 0 but didn't underclock, I still got a lockup). But TDR certainly sounds like something that matches my symptoms, as the lockups usually occur with graphical and audio sputtering -- indeed, sometimes I don't get a blue screen at all, the game just sputters to the point of unusability and the system becomes unresponsive.

At any rate, I'm cautiously optimistic; it looks like I've finally got this thing under control and can actually play games under Windows without constant crashes. I didn't notice any performance hit, either, but then again it's not like I'm trying to run Crysis 2. Walking Dead works fine with its settings maxed out, but you don't need a GTX 570 for that.

Now if I could only get OSX running stably with a 64-bit kernel.

Robot Hell

Still haven't received my unemployment pay for the week I reported (accurately) that I worked and earned zero dollars. The status of the claim still says that it was unpaid due to earnings.

As I mailed the documentation on Wednesday the 9th, DES should have received it a week ago today. So I decided I needed to follow up.

The DES contact page lists a number for a Client Advocate -- "Contact the Client Advocate if you have a complaint about an Unemployment Insurance related matter or the service you received." That sounds right.

So I called the number. And, surprise, it's just a damn computer switchboard.

Thank you for calling, visit our website; you can file your claim there. To talk about a claim, press 1; for other questions, press 2; to repeat, press 3.

Welcome. You can file your claim on our website. If you have a question about your card, call JP Morgan Chase. (Different voice at different volume:) To continue in English, press 1.

(Tangentially: It's a pity "I shouldn't have to press 1 for English" is the battlecry of ignorant racists, because it's actually a legitimate UI complaint. The most common option should be the default and shouldn't require user intervention. The switchboards that do it as "For English, stay on the line; para español, oprima número uno" have the right idea. Not because of any ignorant "Yer in Amurika; speak English" notions, but simple demographics -- if I were calling a business in Guadalupe, the reverse would be true and UI design would dictate that Spanish be the default option and, yes, as a member of a minority, I should have to press 1 for English.

All that said: pressing 1 for English is not that big a fucking deal, and I've already spent more time talking about it than the subject deserves.)

To file a claim, press 1, or file via our website, where you can file your claim. (Several other options, routinely switching voices and volumes.)

Lengthy legal disclaimer.

Enter your SSN.

You have entered blah-blah-blah; if this is correct, press 1.

Enter your PIN.

You must speak to a customer service representative. Please wait while your call is being transferred.

I am sorry, we are experiencing a high volume of calls. Please try your call again later. Thank you.

And then -- it hangs up.

No hold, no voicemail. Just 4 minutes of navigating fucking prompts, only to be hung up on.

This, right here? It's why people fucking hate government bureaucracies.

Just because I'm unemployed doesn't mean I don't have better shit to do than fuck around on the phone for 4 minutes to get hung up on.

(8 minutes, actually, because I tried again a little later, partly in the hopes of getting someone this time and partly to make sure I got all the details right for this post.)

So I guess I'll submit a comment on the website? I don't think this qualifies as an Appeal of a Determination of Deputy, because there's nothing under "Determinations" on my claim page. I think this is a Written Protest. And although I've already sent a letter, I'm wondering if they're going to make me send another, and hoping I won't pass a deadline and miss my window.

Hey guys, unemployment is really pretty terrible. I do not recommend it.

Guess I should submit more auditions -- which I'd have probably already started on if I weren't busy fucking around with DES.

This time I'll focus on projects that offer hourly rates and bypass this issue altogether.

And after a few hours of that, maybe I'll get a chance to go for a bike ride. We've had a couple weeks of weather that was pretty damn chilly for Phoenix metro, and now we're back up above 70 -- it's a nice day out and a shame to be cooped up indoors.

Dedicating It Right Back

Artisan News Service has a piece on Dweezil accepting a Grammy in 2009, for Best Rock Instrumental for Peaches en Regalia. Embedding is disabled.

The video ends with a plug for Zappa Plays Zappa's then-upcoming Phoenix show on February 26, 2009 -- I was at that one.

More Triple-Boot Trouble

Getting Chameleon to run properly on my Mac Pro 1,1 continues to elude me. I've followed all the steps on the Netkas forum precisely, except that I made a smaller boot partition (because 1GB is just silly and I assumed that was only required because that's the smallest that OSX's Disk Utility will allow). I guess the next thing to try is swap in another hard drive and give it a 1GB boot partition and see if that works -- and then I guess I can start asking questions on the forum because I'm just about stumped.

Meantime, when I've got a helper card in I can boot OSX from EFI but not from GRUB -- meaning I can't boot it 64-bit. Windows definitely seems more crash-prone when the helper card is in and DirectX is running. If I pop the helper card out, I can boot OSX from GRUB (either 32- or 64-bit) but it's unstable as hell that way and a significant number of programs just hang when I try to run them; for some reason I can't boot OSX from EFI without the helper card. (Even if I hold Option at boot, arrow over the correct number of spaces, and hit Enter to boot from the OSX drive, it doesn't.)

There are other bootloaders designed for OSX but none of them seem to be as well-documented for use on genuine Apple hardware as Chameleon.

It's a pain in the ass, is what it is. This is an impressive damn machine, but I sure can't see buying another Mac anytime soon.


Finnish National TV interview, 1974. Some good anecdotes about the early days -- the one about the Mothers' name is oft-told, but there's some other stuff here I hadn't heard him tell quite that way elsewhere.

The Walking Dead: The Game: Initial Impressions

Some friends got me Telltale Games' The Walking Dead for Christmas. Today I finally got around to firing it up.

And it immediately bluescreened.

As I've mentioned before, I've got serious fucking problems with the GTX 570 in my Mac Pro. Could be a voltage issue -- still trying to figure it out. But I get a fuck of a lot of BSoD's when I'm gaming. Never could get past the opening cinematic of Bioshock. At this point I actually keep my DS or PSP handy so I have a game to play while I'm waiting for Windows to reboot so I can try to play my game again. (Today it was Dragon Quest 6.)

Anyway. I suffered through four more bluescreens over the course of the next few hours, but the play in-between all the bluescreening was pretty sweet.

I like the cel-shaded art style. The art credits in the intro are Art Director Derek Sakai, Lead Animator Peter Tsaykel, and Lead Cinematic Animator Eric Parsons -- no sign of Charlie Adlard's name, but they've done a damn solid job of reproducing his style. They also prove that you don't need a realistic art style for a good, scary Walking Dead game -- they opt instead for thick black lines, big expressive eyes, and the occasional "ink-splatter" shading. I've spoken about simple, iconic images in video games before, and this is a damn fine example. I've never seen a game that looks quite like it, even in Telltale's recent oeuvre.

Some spoilers follow -- mostly simple, early-in-the-game ones.

The choice to give Lee a leg injury right at the beginning of the game is a clever one -- the first two zombie encounters are intense. Lee limps and stumbles and fumbles; his hands shake and he drops the shell he's trying to load into the shotgun -- the point-and-click adventure genre is not known for its pulse-pounding action, but Telltale shows it can be done. A hard time limit and impending horrible death make even clicking on icons and repeatedly pressing keys tense. (Bill Amend made a similar point in Fox Trot some two decades back but I can't find the strip offhand. Myst with velociraptors; you have to solve the puzzles quickly.)

I do find that it gets a little too cute with the cameos -- Lee runs into both Hershel and Glenn? Separately, before the two of them ever meet? That's a bit much.

(There's also a Lilly, but the lettercol in the latest issue of the comic Word-of-Gods it that she's not the same Lilly from the comic and spinoff novel.)

But on the whole I'm really quite impressed with it so far. It's a smartly-made game; well-written, well-crafted, well-animated, well-acted. And I'm just getting started -- I'm looking forward to seeing the long-term consequences of my split-second decisions.