Graphics card upgrade: Hello GTX 1080

Almost four years ago(!) I built a small-ish games machine initially exclusively for playing Elite: Dangerous. Since then my PC games diet kind of exploded and more recent releases such as Far Cry 5 have been pushing the limits of my trusty GTX 970, manifesting as regular brief pauses at really inopportune moments during peggie takedowns.

So I turned to Ebay and found a nice new GTX 1080 8GB card. Oh boy, is this thing smooth at ultra settings? Yes. Yes it is. Smoother than Jackson’s and Alien Ant Farm’s criminals combined. Smoother even than Sade’s operator.

Unwrapping it revealed a sizeable card, fronted with two large fans compared to the 970’s three. But aside from being a few mm taller than the 970, it was pretty much the same form factor. Which was a relief because I’d seen a few questions from 1080 buyers asking if they’d fit in a micro-ITX sized case (mine’s a Cooler Master Elite 120) and it seems that some of these cards might be too big.

But the Elite 120 case is a great small form factor box, and although everything’s pretty tightly packed inside once the CPU cooler and drives are mounted and connected, it leaves the gfx card on an outside edge, so it’s not too painful to swap out.

First thing then, disconnect all cables from the box then get the outer shell off, then before doing anything else, attach an anti-static strap. If you don’t have one, make sure you get a good grip of the chassis to make sure you’re earthed.

But seriously, get a strap – they’re only a few pounds and could save you hundreds.

It’s probably sensible to look at your setup and figure out how the extraction of

your old card is going to go before you start pulling at anything.

I figured mine would lift up then the bottom end would come forward and sit on the anti-static foam from the new card’s packaging. Then I’d unplug the power connectors and job done!

And that’s pretty much how it went. Once I’d remembered to undo the locking mechanism on the back (right hand side in this image) of the PCI-E slot. Also make sure to remove the PCI-E connector cover and the Zero Frozr fan sticker!

The extra height of the 1080 made for a bit of coaxing to get it seated properly, and then the power connectors pressed up against the quick-release lever for the DVD drive, which put some unwanted pressure on the card/mobo interface.

Fortunately the lever was quick to remove and replace with regular screws.

So that’s it – a nice simple swap out and, having already had the Geforce software on the machine, as soon as Windows rebooted (initially in a low resolution mode) it got to work detecting the new card and switched back to regular HD.

I’m only running it at 1920 x 1080 so even with full ultra everything enabled in the games I’ve tried so far I’m getting a rock-solid frame rate, only about two thirds of the VRAM are used and those two fans are barely making any noise.

Best of all, no more missed headshots because of dropped fractions of seconds. Awesome.

Bring on Read Dead Redemption 2!


Broken stuff

I’ve shoved this blog from place to place over the years, and along the way some things broke.

Thing is, I don’t think enough people care to warrant going back over everything and patching it up. So yeah, some stuff is broken. Sorry.


Reasons not to be considerate

It’s Christmas eve. Plans are made for the evening and the few days that follow, and I have a Co-wheels car (one of those social enterprise schemes) booked to ease the pain of getting around during times when there is no public transport, and to allow us to take my father-in-law out and about to see some of the local area.


I made the booking a few weeks ago as soon as I knew that a car would be needed. I haven’t had my own for about four years now, thanks in part to schemes like Co-wheels, and also to my current working arrangements.

A few days before Christmas eve I realised I wouldn’t be able to pick it up at 9am as I had originally planned, and rather than leave it sitting there unusable by anyone else I figured I’d delay the pick-up time so that someone else who needs it could use it.

Needless to say when I arrived to pick it up at the later time, the car was nowhere to be seen.

I called Co-wheels to find out where it was and they told me it had been due back at 11:30 that morning. It’s now almost 3.30pm. Eventually, they contact the person who’s using it only to discover that they’re still in London, claim that they had extended their booking until the 27th, and won’t be bringing it back.

Either they’re lying or Co-wheels’ booking system is broken.*

After much searching (and a walk home in the now chilling afternoon air) Co-wheels set me up with another hire starting later that night, and yet another starting on the morning of the 27th (today).

These bookings almost cover the entire period I had wanted the original car for, with the exception of the afternoon of Christmas eve obviously, but better than nothing, so I’m happy enough.

This morning, Sunday 27th December, I dutifully get up early and return the car I’ve got to its parking spot in town. Someone else has it booked from 9:15am, and I get it there at 9:10. Perfect. Except… where’s the other car that’s supposed to be here? Nowhere to be seen. Again.

So that’s two people who either don’t give a f*%# about anybody else using the same scheme as them, or Co-wheels’ booking system is broken.*


Look how easy it should be

Again, I walk home in the cold, and rainy morning, having waited fruitlessly for half an hour to see if my car would turn up. And worse, to discover that the car I returned remained uncollected.

I returned to the car park later this afternoon, at around 3:45pm. My original car looked like it hadn’t moved since I dropped it off, and the other still wasn’t there either.

I was supposed to be collecting my son this morning, so he could have his Christmas visit with us and we had made a few other plans besides, all of which had to be abandoned. And that’s all because I was mindful of other scheme users.

Sadly, now that I’ve lost confidence in the system, I’ll never make that mistake again. And whether it’s due to the pig ignorance of others and the apparent absence of any kind of deterrent to such behaviour or whether it’s Co-wheels’ borked booking system*, it means that sometimes, whether I need the car at that moment or not, I’ll have it booked out and it’ll be inaccessible to anybody else. Which isn’t how a social scheme is supposed to work, nor is it how I really want to have to behave as a scheme member but I can’t risk this much of a cock-up happening again.

So too bad for everyone else from now on.


*Update: Co-wheels called to explain that they’re investigating the member(s) involved and that their booking system is working properly. So it really does look like it’s all down to the extreme selfishness of others.

What's in a name?

This is quite interesting (grabbed from

Pinner Name Meaning
English and North German: occupational name for a maker of pins or pegs (or alternatively, in the case of the German name, a metonymic occupational name for a shoemaker), a derivative of Pinn, with the addition of the agent suffix -er.English: occupational name for a maker or user of combs, Anglo-Norman French peigner, an agent derivative of peigne ‘comb’.English: habitational name from Pinner, now part of northwest London, which derives its name from Old English pinn ‘pin’, ‘peg’ + ora ‘slope’, ‘ridge’, describing a projecting hill spur.Jewish (Ashkenazic): habitational name for someone from Pinne (Polish Pniewy) near Poznan.German: habitational name for someone from a place called Pinnan or Pinne.

Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press



MSI Z87I Fail

MSI-Z871MoboHaving built a new gaming PC for Elite:Dangerous, and fitted it into the C-64 box, things were going well. But then the wheels fell off.

As yet I don’t know exactly what happened but here’s a rundown of events (as accurately recalled as possible);

  1. Day 1 – Install Windows 7.1 downloaded from a genuine Microsoft site.
  2. Install all the MSI drivers and utility software that shipped with the Z87I.
  3. Install Elite:Dangerous (the early preview build released for beta premium backers).
  4. Play E:D for about 20 minutes. Stop, restart system and check CPU temp. Looks fine (about 40°C, default max before thermal protection shutdown is 70°C).
  5. Shutdown the PC and let Windows install 113 updates.
  6. Day 2 – Boot up again and start up E:D.
  7. Play E:D for about 10 minutes – system crashed.
  8. Try to restart but refused to boot. Keeps powering on and then off again endlessly.
  9. Power off and wait 20-30 minutes.
  10. Power on again. Boots ok.
  11. Play E:D for about 2 hours.
  12. Shut down – and install more Windows updates.
  13. Day 3 – boot up, remove MSI-bundled Norton and replace with AVG antivirus. Everything ok.
  14. Day 4 – Install a Saitek X52 joystick (throttle and joystick set). Can only use throttle as cable missing from throttle to joystick.
  15. Everything’s working well for about 30 minutes then a hard crash – blue screen and system dump locks at about 30%
  16. The boot up problem is back – the board powers on and off about three or four times before eventually restarting.
  17. Re-launch E:D and everything seems to be ok.
  18. Day 5 – install new cable to connect joystick to throttle controller. Launch E:D. As soon as the joystick is used the game crashes. This is repeatable at least twice.
  19. Reboot. Again the powering on and off thing returns but it eventually restarts.
  20. Load up the joystick calibration application everything is fine until the joystick is moved, then another hard crash, BSOD.
  21. Now the reboot problem is back and it takes many on/off cycles until it comes back stating that all settings have beed reset to defaults.
  22. Re-install Saitek drivers and retry calibration. Hard crash, BSOD etc.
  23. Now the boot-up problem is back and system won’t restart.
  24. Perform a BIOS reset via the pushbutton on the back of the system. Reboots eventually after more on/off cycles and can enter the settings menus. Everything looks ok there – all default settings are in place (these haven’t been changed at any time along the way).
  25. Reboot again. On/off cycling happens endlessly.
  26. Power off. Clear CMOS using the jumper on the mainboard this time. Power on. Endless on/off cycling.
  27. Remove power.
  28. Remove memory modules and USB devices. Now back to bare board operation with the exception of the HDMI connector for the monitor.
  29. Replace one memory module. System boots. Shut down.
  30. Replace second memory module. System boots. Shut down.
  31. Replace USB keyboard. System boots. Shut down.
  32. Start up. System sounds like it boots, but no display.
  33. Restart several times, same behaviour. Shut down.
  34. Clear CMOS again. Restart.
  35. Again, sounds like it starts but no display. Shut down.
  36. Power on. System dead. No LEDs, no fan activity nothing.
  37. Disconnect everything except CPU. Wait a while. Clear CMOS. Reconnect all the things. Power on. Nothing.
  38. Cry a little.


Things I learned in an hour today

1. Marcus Chown ( ) is cool.
2. The entire human race would fit into the volume of a sugar cube if all the empty space in our atoms were removed.
3. Slime mould has 13 sexes. I think it was 13. Lots more than two anyway.
4. There’s a DNA sequence common to every living cell.
5. Time passes more slowly the closer you get to a strong gravitational force.
6. If the nuclei of a mosquito’s atoms were forced together by removing all its electrons, the energy release would be equivalent to a global extinction-level event. (No mosquitos were harmed during the revelation of this fact).
7. The sun has been imaged at night. Through the planet. Using nutrinos.
8. Sex doesn’t make sense. In terms of energy efficiency. Or reliability.
9. If the sun were made of bananas, it’d make little difference.
10. RNA used to do everything before DNA showed up.
11. Rockets are steam powered.
12. Babies are rocket powered.
13. There’s yet another book I have to buy: What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff
14. The difference that made humans win out over neanderthals? Sewing!
15. We’re doomed. In about a billion years.