Dead Island Blues

I picked up Dead Island in the Steam sale; I’d seen a few videos and it looked interesting, but not enough to pay a high price for. I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t, because the basic idea of the game isn’t bad, but it has a number of horrible flaws.

1. Stuttering. The graphics aren’t hard for my PC to render, but any time I press a key it begins to stutter. What appears to be happening is that it’s unable to handle keyboard auto-repeat, so it turns as it sees they key down, then the key appears to go up, so it stops, and repeats until I release the key. Turning off auto-repeat resolves that… except it comes back any time I press two keys at once, for example when moving forward and strafing. It’s ugly enough to really make playing the game painful.

2. Controls. The controls in general are clunky, and the appearance of meaningless joystick icons demonstrate quite plainly that it’s a bad console port. A joystick icon, by the way, appears to mean ‘randomly wiggle the mouse around until something happens’.

3. Respawning. Zombies seem to reappear only a minute or so after you kill them. I can clear out an area, move on to the next, then when I back into the area I cleared out the zombies reappear. Sometimes I’ve been attacked out of nowhere in an area I just cleared, which I presume is a zombie respawning right on top of me.

4. Weapons. Apparently a weapon is only good for beating two or three zombies to death before it breaks. Now, I must admit, I’ve never beaten anyone to death with a metal pipe, but I can’t help but feel it would last longer than that before breaking.

Players have been complaining about the stutter for over a year, so I can only presume it will never be fixed.

UN Wants to Control the Internet

Anyone who’s ever dealt with telephone systems should know full well why the ITU should be kept a trillion miles away from the Internet.

They made their own attempt to create an Internet with the ATM protocol, which was a complete disaster because it worked just like a telephone call. It’s now almost exclusively used for connecting DSL modems to the telephone company’s Internet backbone, where something that works just like a telephone modem is actually a good idea.

Xubuntu 12.04 ignores background setting

So I’ve upgraded through two Ubuntu versions to 12.04. One problem was that it didn’t remember the desktop background, and while it would be set temporarily when I updated it, the standard Ubuntu background would return after restarting.

Looks like the problem is in /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf, which is setup by default for Unity. Instead, it should say:

[SeatDefaults]
greeter-session=lightdm-gtk-greeter
user-session=xubuntu

Now it all seems to be working correctly again. I presume this is a consequence of upgrading from old versions, and wouldn’t be required for a fresh Xubuntu installation.

Spam Gone Wild

Wow, 419 spam comments posted since I went to bed last night. All ignored, because of the IP ban.

Someone in China is really, really desperate to get their comment on this blog for some reason. I guess their script is screwed and too dumb to realise that it’s blocked from the site so it keeps trying to post.

Farewell To Gnome

So, as I have to upgrade my Ubuntu installation to a version which doesn’t include Gnome 2, it’s farewell to Gnome. I’ve now switched to XFCE, and having spent some time playing with the configuration I’ve ended up with something that looks much like it and has almost all the features I’ve missed from Gnome 2.

Insane Spam

So I see I had 225 Chinese spam comments waiting when I logged in today.

Hint: if you’re going to post lots of spam here, you might want to not do it from a tiny number of IP addresses on the same subnet. They’re now all permanently blocked.

More On WD Drives Freezing Windows

I tried following some of the suggestions around the web. I ran the WD Align program which told me the partitions were correctly aligned, as Windows doesn’t handle 4k sector drives well. I tried turning off write cache flushing, which didn’t really matter as this is a non-essential drive (any games can be downloaded again or reinstalled). I tried turning off write caching completely. I tried running the WD Idle program and setting the disk to idle after five minutes instead of 8 seconds. I ran HD Tune, and that showed sensible data rates and seek times.

None of it worked.

Eventually I copied the programs from the problematic E: disk to the brand-new WD Green 3TB drive I’m using for the D: drive. That took about an hour at around 100MB/second, so the disk is clearly capable of reading lots of data at high speed.

And the games run fine. So it definitely seems to be a problem with this particular disk, which has a slightly different part number to the other one. I’ll make do with one drive for the moment, and replace the other when there’s a good sale on big disks.

WD Green Drives Freeze Windows

So the one issue I’m having with my new PC is that every half hour or so while playing a game it freezes; the computer is still running, but the game stops rendering for perhaps thirty seconds before it recovers. I’ve been watching the task manager and what appears to happen is that the 3TB Western Digital Green drive I installed the games to locks up at 100% activity even though it’s barely doing anything. The Windows disk queue display goes >10 and response times on reads reach five seconds or more.

I initially thought this was because I’d installed the drive to test it as Linux reported errors when it was part of my RAID even though SMART showed no problems. But it looks like many people have seen the same problem with these drives and had to replace them. One person suggested turning off write cache flushing for the drive, which makes some sense, but made no difference.

Guess I’ll be buying a new drive in the not too distant future, and not a WD Green this time. That’s a shame, because I’ve been using them for years on Linux with no problems until recently.