SUPER PROUD

This morning the latest game I worked on, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, released their latest update. One of the new features they added was the ability for two people playing on one console to both join an online multiplayer game. For the initial release of the game, we had the ability for two players to play in split-screen but only for local, non-online modes, eg. playing against AI bots. If you and your buddy wanted to play against real humans beings in an online multiplayer match, you were out of luck.

Over the course of about a year, one dude on the team, Ryan, did all the heavy lifting to get this new feature done. Now two people sitting on the couch on the same console can both go online and play against humans at the same time. I cannot overstate how much work this was and how difficult it was at times to solve the problems Ryan encountered. He’s a super smart guy and I’m blown away by his technical aptitude.

Our game is the first Frostbite powered title to have this feature. Frostbite is also the engine that powers Battlefield 1, FIFA 17, and upcoming games like Mass Effect: Andromeda. We all share common technology but we’re the first ones to bring this feature to the public. Going forward, more Frostbite games should also be able to have online multiplayer split-screen as well.

JEBIDIAH ATKINSON

I love it when characters are reoccurring on Saturday Night Live. Yes, there is a chance that the writers will overdo it and run a character into the ground but when it works, it’s so good. One of my favourites over the last few years has been Jebidiah Atkinson. Sadly, now that Taran Killam has left SNL, the character won’t be seen again anytime soon.

WHOOPS

About a month ago I started getting this error message when I booted up my desktop computer at home. The message said, “CPU Fan Error! Press F1 to Resume”. That may seem like an alarming message and it can be. The CPU fan is the one that cools your CPU and if that component overheats, it can degrade the performance of your computer or might even damage it. Depending on the model, CPUs can easily cost hundreds of dollars.

Now I know I installed a new CPU fan less than three years ago, so I know it was an ancient part. Rather than immediately take apart my computer, I indeed did hit F1 where upon entering Windows, I started a program that measured the CPU fan speed and also showed me the current CPU temperature. According to the program, the CPU fan was spinning and at a reasonable speed as well. The CPU wasn’t at all hot and was at normal temperatures. I probably should have investigated more and dug deeper into the source of the error message but I didn’t. I ignored it.

In the subsequent weeks, I had to hit F1 every single time I started my computer to get past that error message. My computer didn’t seem worse for wear nor did I encounter any weird crashes. Well, this weekend I decided I no longer could stand pressing F1 every single time I started my computer. I needed to fix this somehow. I started by removing the panel off the side of my computer so I could look inside. Once this was off, I started my computer. It started booting up and I noticed immediately the CPU fan was not moving at all. That was not good.

I realized that for an undetermined amount of time I’d been relying on the other fans in my computer case to cool the heat sink that was attached to my CPU. I think I got lucky because there’s one fan, from the power supply, directly above the heat sink which was blowing air on it. There’s also another fan, the case fan, about four inches away from the heat sink which draws air out of the case.

Technically, in this particular situation my computer works fine without a CPU fan. One solution would be go into the BIOS and turn off the warning and I’d be done. That leaves a bit of risk and replacing a CPU isn’t expensive or complicated. I decided to err on the side of caution and just get a new fan.

The most difficult part of getting the new fan this weekend was dodging the Black Friday sales crowds. Due to parts availability and convenience, going to Best Buy was the easiest solution for me. Once I got the new fan home though, the replacement went very smoothly. Now once I start up my computer the error message no longer pops up and everything is nice and cool.

If there is a moral to this stupid post, it’s that you should never ignore any warning signs, for anything in life.

LUCKY DAY

Last evening I went to go dump my food waste in the compost bin in the garbage bin. On my way back through the utility corridor to the lobby elevators I noticed something blue and familiar on ground. I went to pick it up and it was what I thought it was, a five-dollar bill. As I took the bill in my hand, I looked back at the security camera that was undoubtedly filming me at that moment. I’m very aware of most of the cameras in the common areas in my apartment building so I basically know when I might be recorded.

I put the five-dollar bill in my pocket and went on my way. Earlier this week I saw a quarter on the ground at work and I didn’t pick it up. It wasn’t worth the effort or time. If it had been a loonie I would have. That’s where I’m at now. In days of yonder, people would have stopped to pick up a penny. Now we don’t even have pennies anymore.

Now this might sound strange but I’m going to e-mail the property manager to see if anyone reports their lost five-dollar bill. What I haven’t told you is that when I found the bill, there was something distinctive about it. I won’t reveal what that was but the person who lost it would definitely know. Most people wouldn’t even bother turning in a five-dollar bill but I guess for better or for worse, I’m not like most people. I’m keeping the money though if no one claims it.

YEAH NO

Very late into the work day an issue popped up on the radar for the area I’m working on. The issue is of a legal nature and those are usually taken quite seriously. Since it was late in the day though, not a lot of other info was coming in so I expected a lot more e-mails to arrive the next day.

I went home and I just happened to log onto my work computer to check something out. It was about 10pm when a meeting request popped up in my Outlook. One of the company lawyers wanted to meet over Skype to discuss the issue I referenced above. I blindly accepted the meeting without looking at the details. I expected the meeting to be quite soon as legal issues don’t really wait to be solved. I went back to what I was doing when I checked meeting that I had just accepted. It was scheduled for 9am the next day. Who sends out a meeting request at 10pm in the evening?

Since I work traditional video game developer hours, if I had not been checking my e-mails I would have missed the meeting entirely since I would have been asleep. I don’t really get to work until around 10am. I briefly thought about just getting to work by 9am but I didn’t want to get up at least an hour earlier than usual. I finally decided since it was a Skype meeting, I’d just connect from home using VOIP through the Skype app on my phone. I’ll also log into my work computer via remote desktop just in case I need to reference documents or code during the meeting.

I look forward to speaking to everyone while I’m still in my PJs.

NO MORE WAFFLING

I have complained about the stupid fake fireplace in my apartment for probably six years now. I hate that thing. I hate craning my neck to watch my TV and I especially hate it when I try to play video games in the living room. For years I’ve complained about it but laziness and general inertia prevented me from getting off my ass and doing something about it. Well, today that changed. I was in the company library this afternoon, looking to take out a PS4 game to test drive my new PS4 Pro console. Part of me really wanted to see how great PS4 games played on the new and more powerful console but another part of me dreaded having to contort myself to look at the TV. I had just spent a few hundred dollars on this new toy and I didn’t want to use it because of that damn fireplace.

This week I will be contacting at least two contractors to get a quote on removing that pain in my ass. It won’t be a simple job. The fireplace is attached to the wall, so it’s most likely going to leave a huge hole in the dry wall. The power outlet and the network connections are also six feet off the ground, so those also need to moved down which means electrical and wiring work is also required. They also installed the carpet around the fake fireplace, so when it gets removed, I’ll also have a large uncarpeted patch in my living room. The fireplace also contains an electrical insert which is the only heating source in the living room. If I get rid of that, there’s no way to hear the living room. I don’t care though. If someone came in and got rid of the fireplace, moved the outlets down, patched up the drywall and left it unpainted and with that missing patch of carpet I’d be overjoyed. I’ll deal with those issues later.

I am super excited to get this going and spend thousands of dollars on my first home reno project.

QUICK REPAIRS

Last week I wrote a post about how I was going to trade-in my Xbox 360 for $50 as credit towards the purchase of a new PS4 Pro.

On Wednesday evening, before going to bed, I decided I’d fire up my Xbox 360 to delete any of my personal info from the console and also apply any updates that were required so it’d be all ready for the trade-in. It’d been years since I last turned it on but it everything was still plugged in. I hit the power button, turned on the TV, and waited for the 360 to boot up. I saw about a second of the dashboard appear on my TV before the 360 abruptly shut down. I looked over and there were two flashing red lights on the console. While not great, at least it wasn’t the infamous three flashing red lights, also known as the “red ring of death“. I turned it off and then turned it back on again, a problem solving technique used across the globe. It immediately went to two flashing read lights again. I tried this about five more times with no change in outcome.

I did some digging on the Internet and it turns out two flashing red lights means something is overheated. The Xbox 360 was able to tell me it was the CPU that was overheating. I could hear the fans working so that wasn’t the cause of the problem. A little more Internet research revealed that old Xbox 360 consoles, especially ones like mine that are now about ten years old, suffered from dried up thermal paste. This paste is a filler material between microchips that get really hot and the heat sinks that try to cool said microchips. Essentially, electronics designers stick a hunk of metal against CPUs and GPUs to draw the heat off them through conduction. The heat is then dissipated away through the hunk of metal. The thermal paste is used to fill in any tiny air gaps that might exist between the hunk of metal and the microchip. Air acts as an insulator so it will trap the heat in. This paste can dry out after years and the chip will get too hot to operate.

Luckily, I had a tube of thermal paste on hand from when I upgraded my CPU in my desktop. The problem was I didn’t know how to take apart my Xbox 360 properly to get at the right parts. I spent the whole next evening watching YouTube videos of how to disassemble an Xbox 360 without breaking anything. It was quite time consuming finding the right videos to show me what I needed to know. I also would have been screwed had I not had a set of proper screwdriver bits including Torx ones.

It took all of Thursday evening to pull apart the entire console, revealing the motherboard and the heat sinks. If you’re curious, it was this video that probably the most helpful in showing me how to take it all apart. I probably would not have been able to do this unless I had such instructions.

I spent all of Friday evening cleaning up the remnants of the original thermal paste on the heat sinks. Microsoft used this terrible paste that became quite sticky, so it was really difficult to clean off. Once I got enough of it off, I applied new paste and put the heat sinks back and re-assembled the console.

As I plugged everything back in, I was half expecting it to die again but to my great surprise, it turned on and there were no errors. Just to make sure, I played skate 2 for about two hours in a daze of nostalgia. I hadn’t played it in years and many fond memories came flooding back.

Happy that my repair job had succeeded, I packed up the console in its original box, ready for trade-in. On Saturday, I went to EB Games where I was able to get the $50 and I bought a PS4 Pro, thus ending this long saga.

CONAN EXPERIENCES VR

It turns out that I didn’t get a second cold so I’m just dealing with my original cold. Stuff is still coming out my nose and I’m still coughing. What a relief.

Anyways, Conan recently experienced YouTube’s current vision of VR. Of course it got sexual.

UGH, AGAIN?

Earlier this week, I wrote about how I got sick last week and how my nose is still runny and I still have a bit of a cough. This cold is refuses to go away as I battle these lingering symptoms, including my voice which sounds like I’m all stuffed up and congested.

Well, typical of my usual lucky self, I came home this evening and noticed my throat was feeling a bit funny. It felt like that little tickle you feel right before you get a full blown sore throat. It seems incredulous but I believe I am catching another cold while in the process of still being ill from my previous cold.

Why does this stuff happen to me?