Bioshock Infinite Workaround For Linux With AMD Processors

| Comments

I’m late to the “Bioshock Infinite is now available on Linux” party. I didn’t notice it until a few days ago when Steam popped up a message telling me that 2K Games was having a big sale. I looked at the list, and there was Bioshock Infinite. Not only was it available for Linux, but it was also 75% off. I decided to grab the “Season Pass Bundle” and give the game a try.

I had to wait almost an hour for the 42-GB game to download. Things went just fine for a while, but the game froze up on me before even getting out of the rowboat. I figured that it might have been a fluke, so I tried again. I believe I made it off the rowboat on my third attempt, but I didn’t get much farther than that.

I tried tweaking all sorts of things. One red herring I encountered was when I switched from my custom 3.19-pf2 kernel to the stock Ubuntu kernel. I probably played that time for nearly an hour. I made it far enough to pick up a gun, then the game froze up again. No matter what I did at this point, I was consistently freezing up near the start of the first gun battle.

When it freezes up like this, the video stops but the music just keeps on playing. I end up having to kill the bioshock.i386 process.

I asked Google, but Google didn’t know

The Internet wasn’t terribly insightful this time. I did get a small clue while browsing r/linuxgaming on Reddit. In the comments on one of the handful of Bioshock Infinite posts, there were three people with a similar problem replying to one another. They all had various multicore AMD processors. My FX-8350 is a Piledriver CPU, and I’ve found forum responses from people with Bulldozer and Phenom chips.

This was enough of a lead to help narrow my search considerably. I found a Steam forum post with a considerable number of people in the same boat. The consensus seemed to be that using taskset to limit Bioshock Infinite to fewer cores either completely works around the problem, or at least reduces the incidence of crashing quite significantly.

I tried using taskset to limit the game to just one core, but the intro videos couldn’t even play smoothly. I ended up limiting the game to two cores, and this seems to be working quite well. My frame rates are a little lower, but the game is definitely playable. I haven’t crashed again, but I haven’t played much more yet, either.

How to use taskset

Using taskset with a Steam game is pretty easy. Open up Steam, and find Bioshock Infinite in your list of games. Right click on Bioshock Infinite and choose “properties.” That will open another window which should contain a button labeled “Set launch options.”

tasket for Bioshock Infinite

When you click that button you will be presented with a small dialog box that contains a single text field. In that field enter taskset -c 0,1 %command%.

Update:

On my FX-8350, cores 0 and 1 are completely different cores. I’ve had more luck using a sibling cores instead with taskset -c 0,4. Cores 4 through 7 are siblings of cores 0 through 3. Sibling cores each have their own integer processing units, but they share a floating point unit and cache.

After upgrading to the new 349.12 beta Nvidia driver, I decided to take a shot at running Bioshock without using taskset to restrict it to two cores. It didn’t go very well. It froze up pretty quickly, and the mouse felt terrible again.

At this point, I can usually play for a couple of hours at a time without any problems. I’m usually the one that decides it is time to stop playing instead of the game, which I think is a big improvement.

The game is still very fragile, though. I’ve noticed that if I “alt-tab” out of the game, it will very likely freeze up on my in the next minute or so. This isn’t as bad as the “multicore freeze.” The game will eventually start moving again, but it will keep freezing at regular intervals.

Unfortunately, the autosave points are way too far apart for this to be of any use.

Errors to watch out for

When the game freezes up, there are usually some NVRM errors in the dmesg output. I don’t see these when I play any other game. I did see some similar errors in Borderlands 2 when using the first beta driver that supported my GTX 970 video card, though.

1
2
3
NVRM: Xid (PCI:0000:01:00): 69, Class Error: ChId 0004, Class 0000b197, Offset 00002044, Data 0000000f, ErrorCode 00000004
NVRM: Xid (PCI:0000:01:00): 31, Ch 0000002e, engmask 00000111, intr 10000000
NVRM: Xid (PCI:0000:01:00): 12, COCOD 00000026 beed9097 0000b197 00000e0c 0b970283

I did experience some particularly annoying NVRM errors with an Xid of 50. Every time one of these errors showed up in dmesg, the “performance level” of my GTX 970 would drop by one level.

1
2
NVRM: Xid (PCI:0000:01:00): 50,  L2 -> L1
NVRM: Xid (PCI:0000:01:00): 50,  L1 -> L0

The first time the error shows up, the “performance level” drops from 3 to 2. Once this happens, I didn’t see the “graphics clock” go above about 700 Mhz. If I kept playing in this crippled state, it would eventually drop to “performance level” 1.

I have not had this problem since using the taskset workaround.

Nvidia Control Panel Performance Level

Every time this happened, I had to reboot to get back to normal. Restarting the X server may be enough to correct the problem, but it doesn’t take much longer to just reboot.

Bioshock Infinite for Linux keeps a log file at ~/.local/share/irrationalgames/bioshockinfinite/eon.txt. Every time I freeze up, I’ll find a line in that log file that starts with “Skipping draw call,” and then a bunch of lines saying “Ignoring motion.”

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
[thread 00000001][I][12207]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000024][W][13336]: Skipping draw call because the draw wouldn't have any effect on any render target, depth stencil or unordered access view, and no occlusion query is being performed.
[thread 00000004][W][20886]: eON_LoadLibraryEx() couldn't load 'atiadlxx.dll', returning NULL!
[thread 00000004][W][20886]: eON_LoadLibraryEx() couldn't load 'atiadlxy.dll', returning NULL!
[thread 00000004][W][20886]: eON_LoadLibraryEx() couldn't load 'atiadlxx.dll', returning NULL!
[thread 00000004][W][20886]: eON_LoadLibraryEx() couldn't load 'atiadlxy.dll', returning NULL!
[thread 00000001][I][21078]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21089]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21102]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21102]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21113]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21124]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21135]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21145]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21176]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21187]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21198]: Ignoring motion
[thread 00000001][I][21208]: Ignoring motion

How is the Bioshock Infinite port?

Aside from the crashing, it seems pretty good. The graphics look great, and my GTX 970 card seems to be able to maintain better than 90 frames per second at 2560x1440 with pretty reasonable settings. I’ll have to go back and tweak those settings now that the game isn’t freezing up on me constantly. I made lots of seemingly random changes just trying to make the game stable!

The controls feel absolutely awful. I seem to have the mouse sensitivity set to about the same speed as I am used to in Team Fortress 2, but it doesn’t feel smooth like Team Fortress 2. A small move of the mouse results in very jarring movements. Bioshock Infinite uses the same engine as Borderlands 2, and I didn’t have this problem there. Hopefully I can steal the relevant bits from my Borderlands configuration files to make myself feel more at home!

Improving the mouse situation

Bioshock Infinite seems to be a little fragile. My mouse didn’t feel smooth because I have the polling frequency set to 1000 Hz. Lowering it to 250 Hz has made a huge improvement. It doesn’t feel like Team Fortress 2, but it feels pretty good now.

I also pilfered my MouseSensitivity setting from my Borderlands 2 configuration files. The mouse sensitivity slider in Bioshock Infinite isn’t very granular. One tiny click of the slider makes my mouse either much too sensitive or not nearly sensitive enough. Copying the setting from another Unreal Engine 3 game neatly sidestepped this particular annoyance.

I hope this information helps you with your problems. If it does, I would definitely like to hear about it. If it doesn’t, I’d like to hear about that, too! Please feel free to leave a comment. Maybe I can try to point you in the right direction!

Craft Coffee - Quasar Coffee

| Comments

I had some trouble this month. I adjusted the roast level of my Craft Coffee subscription down one notch from “Medium-Light Roast” to “Light Roast,” and this is pushing things a bit too far for espresso. I still enjoyed some amazing lattes using the beans from Quasar Coffee this month, but it was a lot more work than it should be, and I pulled a lot of terrible shots.

Craft Coffee - Quasar Coffee

I’ve corrected my mistake and switched my subscription back to “Medium-Light Roast.” Things should be back to normal next month. I am using the other two bags of beans to experiment with other brewing methods that I abandoned long ago—the french press and the Moka Express pot.

Quasar Coffee Roasters, Chicago, IL
Producer Chania Estate
Origin Thika, Kenya
Variety SL28, SL34
Elevation 1,500 Meters
Process Washed
Tart pomegranate acidity and pronounced ruby red grapefruit flavor reveal a lingering vanilla bean essence.

I made some pretty amazing lattes using the beans from Quasar Coffee Roasters, but it did like to get away from me and pull way too fast sometimes. Even the fast shots were still pretty good, though.

I’ve never been able to enjoy grapefruit, but I do have a very distinct and negative memory regarding grapefruit juice. I can’t tell you for certain that this pronounced flavor is indeed similar to a “ruby red grapefruit,” but this Kenyan coffee from Quasar Coffee Roasters has a hint of something that brings back memories of that bottle of grapefruit juice.

The vanilla taste is easy to pick out as well, and it is very nice.

I really enjoyed this coffee, but it was pretty difficult for me to pull a consistent double shot of espresso. The margin of error between a near perfect shot and a 12-second waterfall was really narrow with these beans, but some of those faster pulls of the Quasar Coffee still made some delicious lattes. With most beans, a pull that fast results in a pretty sour latte.

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Repairing an Old, Sagging Recliner

| Comments

For years, I had been saying that I wanted some sort of relaxing, comfortable chair for the corner of my home office. I kept saying that it should be a “reading chair.” I’m not entirely sure what that should be, but I quickly figured out that it would need to be a recliner of some sort.

Lane Recliner

I’ve been shopping around for several years. Yes, years. Nothing I found seemed worth the time, the effort, or the money. I didn’t expect to sit in it very often. I just wanted a place to occasionally read, and I wanted something to point at the television connected to the arcade cabinet. I couldn’t justify the money to buy a quality recliner, and all the cheap recliners I tried were rather uncomfortable.

Craigslist is a lot of work

Late last year, I pulled the back seats out of the minivan and started searching Craigslist for a suitable recliner. I don’t like using Craigslist. Finding what I want isn’t always easy, and communicating with the sellers is often strange or confusing. After two months of on and off searching, I finally saw something I wanted.

The Tag From The Lane Recliner

It was an older Lane recliner listed for $100. It is a big, brown “leather” rocking recliner that was manufactured in 2007. I’ve since learned that they still sell this model. It is part of Lane’s Summerlin line of furniture, and I have seen it listed for $900, but I assume you can haggle on that price.

Amazon seems to have an absolutely gigantic version of my recliner, the Snuggler Recliner by Lane. My tape measure says that that monstrosity is 12 inches wider than my old Lane Recliner. I doubt that it could fit in my already cramped office!

The Lane recliner isn’t perfect

It appears to be in pretty good condition, but the couple that sold it to me were very insistent about me sitting in the chair before I paid for it. It was obvious that the seat cushion was sagging quite a bit, but I told them this was fine. I didn’t expect to sit in it very often.

I was wrong about that. I sat in the chair every single day, and the sagging was starting to bother me. It was alright when I first sat down, but if you wiggled around a bit you’d end up with a 2x4 bumping against your back. I decided to flip the chair over to investigate.

One of the five springs was gone

The missing spring was very obvious when I flipped the chair over. Once I saw the problem, it also became obvious that the sagging seat was leaning to one side. This ended up being really easy to fix. I was able to buy a replacement spring from Amazon for around $13.

Putting the spring in place was slightly more difficult than I had anticipated. The hooks were still in place on the chair, but stretching the spring was a more complicated endeavor than you would expect.

I have no idea what I’m doing

The first thing I tried to do was muscle the spring into place with my bare hands. I thought I was doing a pretty good job at first, but once the spring was stretched to within about ¼” of the hooks the chair started lifting off of the ground! I tried holding the chair down with my foot, but it was no use. I just couldn’t get the spring into place.

I ended up using a pry bar to stretch the spring into place. Then it was just a matter of using my other hand do guide the end of the spring over the hook.

One Of These Springs Is Not Like The Other

The new spring was a HUGE improvement. It made it feel like a completely different chair. This created a new problem, though. The new spring is stiffer than the four old springs. The difference wasn’t as drastic as having a missing spring, but I knew it was there.

It was Christmas time at this point, so I decided that I would wait until after the holidays to order another spring. I thought about replacing all the springs, and I still might, but the two outer springs seem to have a kind of curve to them. I’m not entirely sure if replacing them would work out well.

I need more patience

I got bored one night during the holidays, and the uneven springs were bothering me. I didn’t have another replacement spring, and they aren’t available with Amazon Prime shipping. I did have an idea, though, and I thought it was a good one.

The springs follow a repeating S-shape, and I decided to try stretching the opposite spring tighter by one notch. It worked surprisingly well. The seat feels very evened out now!

A flaw in my repairs

At this point, I flew up to my home-town. I bragged to all my friends about what an amazing job I did fixing up this recliner, and I told them about all the things I learned in the process.

A couple weeks after all this bragging, I flew back here and returned to my home office. After a few days of sitting in my chair, I noticed that it wasn’t as comfortable as I thought it should be. The back edge of the seat was sagging a bit, and it was getting stuck under the frame of the seat back.

If I pull the back of the seat cushion up and out from under the back, then everything is fine. At least until you sit in the chair three or four more times. Then you have to repeat it.

This was easy enough to fix. All I did was pull the remaining springs one notch tighter. I don’t know if it is perfect, but it is working out quite nicely.

The Springs In The Seat Back Of The Recliner

There are similar, but weaker springs in the seat back. I also ended up pulling one of those springs tighter by one notch. That made the lumbar support a bit more stout, and now my lower back never ends up sagging into the frame.

Was it worth the effort?

I think it was definitely worth the effort. At the very least, I saved a couple of hundred dollars compared to the brand-new chairs I was looking at, and this chair is much better for me. Most of the new chairs that I looked at were too small for me.

With this Lane recliner, I don’t have to slouch to lean on the armrests, like I do with many recliners. The arms are also far enough apart that I can easily fit my elbows in between them, which is much more comfortable when using my laptop.

I am surprised how often I actually use the recliner here in my home office. Had I known that, and had I known how much I like this particular model, I would have gladly paid the $900 for a brand-new Lane recliner. I would have never figured this out, though, if I hadn’t bought this used model, so I think I made the right choice.

The repairs were easy enough, but I did spend a lot more time that I should have tinkering with the various springs. That is partly because I enjoy tinkering, and partly because I wanted to make sure I had accurate enough information for this blog post.

If your recliner is sagging like this, I’d definitely say that it is worth flipping it over and taking a look at the springs!

Craft Coffee - Rising Star Coffee

| Comments

I received a box from Craft Coffee about a month ago, and I already wrote about two of the coffees in that box. One of those three coffees was Ethiopian, so I decided to save that bag for last.

Craft Coffee - Rising Star Coffee

I don’t think I’ve ever met an Ethiopian coffee that I didn’t enjoy, and this bag of coffee from Rising Star Coffee is no exception. This Ethiopian Sidama might be every bit as delicious as the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe I had from modcup last year.

Rising Star Coffee, Cleveland, OH
Producer Korate
Origin Sidama, Ethiopia
Variety Various Varietals
Elevation 1,600-2,000 Meters
Process Washed
With notes of blueberry and sweet spices, this coffee has citrusy qualities and an awesome layer of chocolaty flavors.

This coffee from Rising Star Coffee is excellent. I had my double shots of espresso tuned in pretty quickly, and I have been making some lattes that rival the very best that I’ve ever made.

It has that fruity flavor that I’ve come to expect from Ethiopian coffees, and it is very smooth and delicious. If the shot pulls even just a little too fast, I am left with a bitter aftertaste. It has been better if I err on the slow side, though, because even the slowest shots that I’ve pulled have been delicious—not even the least bit sour.

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

zsh-dwim: Simple chmod and chattr Transforms Are Too Simple

| Comments

Late last year, my friends and I were playing quite a bit of Borderlands 2. If you only have a finite amount of time, multiplayer Borderlands 2 involves a bit of cheating. Instead of farming the same items over and over again for all your friends every time you level up, it is much easier to just duplicate the items.

Duplicating items is very easy, and it involves switching your profile.bin file back and forth between read-write and read-only. That involves a lot of alternating chmod -w and chmod +w` commands. I must have done this hundreds of times before realizing that this would be an excellent fit for zsh-dwim!

What should zsh-dwim do with chmod?

This is a much harder question to answer than I had anticipated. I ended up choosing the most simple option—just flipping the state of the plus and minus signs. I had some other ideas, but I couldn’t decide what was actually appropriate.

I thought about making zsh-dwim check the current permissions of the files on the command line. Then it might just be a simple matter of setting the permission options on the command line to match the inverse of the actual permissions of the file. This seemed like an excellent idea at first, but the more I thought about it, the more complicated things became.

What if there are multiple files on the command line? What if the permissions on all of those files don’t match? What is the correct assumption to make in this case? Should zsh-dwim just check the first file? I don’t know if there is a good choice to make here.

There are other interesting options besides checking out the current permissions of the files on the command line. It might be interesting to have zsh-dwim toggle one +/- sign each time you press the key. If zsh-dwim could maintain a bit more state information, they could flip in a nice, predictable order.

This would probably work out alright if there were only two + or - signs on the command line. Any more than that, and the number of key presses required to reach the state you’re looking for could get pretty high.

Should zsh-dwim be stateful?

I am tempted to add some state information to zsh-dwim. It would be neat to even be able to better cycle through a sequence of related transforms. I want to be able to just hit a single key and have zsh-dwim just “do what I mean.” I don’t really want to be banging on the key over and over again, and I most definitely don’t want to be stuck cycling through any extra useless transforms while looking for the right one.

These new transforms may be a little too simple, but they are handy enough as they are, and I think they’re good enough for now.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m interested in hearing you opinion!

3D Printed Monitor Bracket

| Comments

I’ve been working on my biggest, most complicated OpenSCAD part since November. It is a cover to hide the cables coming out of the back of my monitor stand. It feels like a long time to be working on the same print, but I did print out a very successful version of this part back in November. The teeth that were meant to hold it in place worked better than I had anticipated, but my measurements were off by about 4 mm.

A Cable Cover For My Monitor Stand

It fit well enough, and I left it on there for about a month. Unfortunately, I knew that it was wrong, so I had to correct the model and print another copy. I was printing the updated part over the weekend, but I had a slipping Y-axis during the first half of the print.

Keep an eye on your belts

I actually noticed the Y-axis belt vibrating around during the print. This belt was one of my biggest problems in the first weeks of owning my Prusa i3 printer. It is just a little too long, and I can’t really get in there to shorten the belt properly without taking the build plate completely apart.

A Failed 3D Print

My quick solution was to use the spring from a clothespin as a belt tensioner. It worked very well, but I suspect that the spring has been constantly loosening. I tried to find a way to put tension on the belt while the printer was running, but that wasn’t an easy task. It is hard to make out in the pictures, but I can see how much smoother it is during the section where I was able to add some temporary tension.

After the failed print, I was able to tighten that spring back up. There were two other problems. It was getting too late in the day to start another eight-hour print, and my spool of ABS filament is running low. I don’t know if there is enough material left for such a large object.

A Successful Print

Not wanting to end the day on a failed print, I decided to design something simple.

From zero to printing in less than 45 minutes

I decided to print a pair of brackets to hold my monitors in place. The monitor stand does an excellent job, but the frames of the monitors are made of thin sheet metal. They flex quite a bit if you push on them.

The Final Bracket Design

I used my handy angle finder to figure out precisely what angle my monitors are sitting at in relation to each other, and I went to work designing a simple bracket in OpenSCAD. I don’t mean to brag, but I am really impressed with how quickly this process moved along. I was able to clear off the printer, correct the tension on the belt, design the new brackets, and start printing them in less than 45 minutes.

The first set of brackets

The first set of brackets did the job, but they weren’t perfect. The top bracket was a few mm too wide, and it was hitting a bulge in the back of the monitors. I also didn’t know that the power connector for the backlight is in the bottom corner of the monitor, so the bottom bracket wasn’t going to fit over that.

A Huge Gap With The First Set Of Brackets

Thankfully, ABS is very east to cut. I just clipped everything down so the brackets would fit, and they did a most excellent job. If I wiggle one monitor around now, they both wiggle in unison. And best of all, they don’t squeak if they rub up against each other!

There was another small issue. The little wedge on the inside of the bracket was keeping the monitors from touching. Clipping some of that wedge out improved things a bit, but the monitors could still only get so close together. At this point, they were roughly 0.1mm apart. That is quite close, but I wanted to improve on that.

The updated set of brackets

Updating the bracket model was easy. I lowered the value of my length variable by a few mm. I also made the length of channel that’s carved out of the bracket a few tenths of a mm longer. This made that troublesome wedge a bit smaller and got it out of the way.

There's No Gap With The Final Set Of Brackets

The first set of brackets were identical, but now I needed to leave room for the power connector on one of the brackets. Duplicating the brackets was simple enough. I just moved the bracket into a module—OpenSCAD calls their functions “modules.”

That made it very easy to create a pair of brackets, and to carve a section out of one to make room for the power connector.

They work great—I just wish I didn’t have to look at them

My monitors have never been this close together, and they have never been this stable. I have wished for a setup this solid since I bought my first pair of LCD monitors back in 2001.

I just don’t like the way they look. I like the bare, clean look of the metal frames of my debezeled monitors. I don’t like ruining that with a pair of black plastic bricks. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can have my cake and eat it too.

Both Iterations Of Monitor Bracket

The only other reasonable solutions that I can come up with involve hiding some sort of brackets behind the monitors and attaching them with some sort of adhesive. That would be less than ideal. I like being able to easily move my monitors around. It makes them easier to clean, and it makes it easier to access the connectors and wiring.

I think that I am going to keep using them. This final set of brackets is keeping my monitors ridiculously close together. I can’t even fit my 0.04mm feeler gauge between them. For reference, a dollar bill is around 0.1mm thick.

They’ve been in place for almost a week, and my QX2710 monitors haven’t budged. The brackets are doing a great job of making up for the flimsiness of the monitors’ sheet metal.

Craft Coffee - Perc Coffee and Vigilante Coffee

| Comments

My Craft Coffee experience is changing a bit this year. Last April, my friend Brian bought me a six-month subscription to Craft Coffee. He knows I enjoy coffee, and he knows that I set a blogging goal for myself. He thought that having some coffee show up once a month would get me something extra to write about each month.

That has worked out quite well. I have enjoyed recieving coffee each month, and it has been a lot of fun writing about all the coffee that shows up. I decided to include my little referral code in each blog post. I didn’t really think anyone would use it, but people are using it. At first they were using it often enough that my subscription was slowly being extended, but now it is being used quite a few times each month. It is now being used at a rate beyond which I can drink enough free coffee.

Three Bags of Coffee from Craft Coffee

The wonderful people at Craft Coffee have helped me increase my order from one 12-oz bag every month up to three 12-oz bags each month. This is probably more coffee than I can manage to drink in four weeks, but it should make my writing a bit more interesting.

Being transparent about all of this free coffee

I’m trying to rewrite the “referral code” blurb at the end of these blog posts. I’m not doing a very good job. This is probably because I am a terrible salesman, and I don’t even want to be a salesman.

Even if no one was using my referral code, I would have paid to extend my Craft Coffee subscription. I still believe that Craft Coffee is a very good value, and the coffee that they send me is much better than anything I have managed to find locally.

Perc Coffee, Savannah, GA
Producer Finca Bella Vista
Origin Santa Ana, El Salvadore
Variety Various Varietals
Elevation 1,450-1,750 Meters
Process Washed
Only a perfect combination of favorable soil, high altitude and sub-tropical climate can produce this creamy cup with notes of orange and brown sugar. Enjoy.

There were three bags of coffee waiting for me when I returned home, and the first thing I did was read Craft Coffee’s notes on each bag. Making a choice as to which bag of coffee to open first was an easy choice. Just read that description. How can I not immediately try the one with the words “only a perfect combination” in the notes. They’re even telling me to “enjoy!”

A Bag of Perc Coffee from Craft Coffee

My first Perc Coffee latte was a little disappointing. This happens to me quite a bit, though, and my recent travels have made me a bit rusty. I’ve been adjusting the grind, and I ended up with an amazingly delicious latte by the third or fourth try.

These beans are roasted slightly darker than I’m used to, but they’re still lighter than what most people probably use in their espresso machines. It doesn’t have huge, easily identified flavors like the amazing strawberry taste of the Yirgacheffe beans from Slate Coffee Roasters. It doesn’t have that amazing peanut buttery smell of the coffee from modcup.

It doesn’t need to have these things. It is just a delicious cup of coffee. I’ve been doing my best to tune in the perfect espresso shot of Perc Coffee for my lattes, and no matter where I land, they’re all delicious. I’ve had a few very short pulls that were close to 1-oz, and I thought for sure they’d be terrible—I was wrong. They were different, but they were still delicious.

With most beans, I usually settle in at pulling a shot that is probably on the ristretto side—about ¼-oz short of a full double shot in about 22 seconds. Usually if I go any farther or longer than that, my latte ends up a little bitter. I purposely pulled a more proper shot near the end of the bag of Perc Coffee. It very nearly filled my 2-oz demitasse cup in about 27 seconds, and it made for another delicious latte.

Vigilante Coffee, Washington, DC
Producer Cabrera Farm
Origin Huila, Colombia
Variety Caturra
Elevation 1,500-1,750 Meters
Process Washed
Clean, sweet and juicy with notes of chocolate and hazelnut, this cup has a velvety mouthfeel and a lingering finish.

Nutella. These lattes that I’m making with the beans from Vigilante Coffee definitely make me think of Nutella. It isn’t as sweet as Nutella, even though I use quite a bit of sugar—it definitely makes me imagine what a coffee-flavored Nutella might taste like.

I’ve had some trouble tuning in the Vigilante Coffee. I am following my usual process for a new bag of coffee. I take a partially wild guess as to the initial grinder setting, and I pull a double shot. I’m usually pretty close, and I am able to move the microadjustment lever to the correct position in about two or three tries.

Vigilante Coffee from Craft Coffee

The Vigilante Coffee has been mocking me the entire time. I’ve pulled about a half-dozen nearly identical ristrettos. I’ve moved the microadjustment lever up three clicks before each new shot, and the volume just doesn’t increase for me. I’m used to the difference between an OK shot and a good shot being only two clicks, so this has been very surprising.

I finally managed to get a longer shot, but it pulled way too fast. The last three clicks took me from a ristretto to a waterfall! It took longer than I would have liked to get here, but I’m now tuned in right around where I want to be.

I’m definitely not complaining, though. Those very ristretto shots all made delicious lattes, and the more dialed in the shots get, the more balanced the coffee from Vigilante Coffee tastes! Delicious coffee often makes up for my rookie mistakes!

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Craft Coffee - Revel Coffee Roasters - Part 2

| Comments

Things are a little different this time. I was up in Scranton visiting and helping out my parents for about two weeks. The timing of the trip wasn’t very well planned, and I didn’t have any delicious coffee to take with me. I stopped at our local Central Market here in Plano, and I picked up a bag of Java Pura’s Ethiopia Sidamo beans to take with me.

This is the first time that I’ve been without my Rancilio Silvia since it arrived, and going back to the old Mr. Coffee espresso machine at my parents’ house was quite a learning experience!

Craft Coffee - Revel Coffee Roasters

The Java Pura beans were almost completely unusable to me with the Mr. Coffee ECMP50 espresso machine. I tried tuning things in as best as I could, but every latte I made was bitter. I had to do something, so I ordered an extra bag of coffee from Craft Coffee. I chose a bag of Yirgacheffe from Revel Coffee Roasters.

I received a bag from Revel Coffee Roasters in October, and I enjoyed it, so I figured that I should give their Yirgacheffe a shot. I almost always enjoy Yirgacheffe.

Revel Coffee Roasters, Billings, MT
Producer Smallholder Farms
Origin Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
Variety Heirloom
Elevation 1,800-2,000 Meters
Process Washed
A soothing bouquet of lavender prepares the palette for a coffee boasting the sweetness of honey with a light citrus acidity and flavors of stone fruit.

The tasting notes are problematic for me with this bag of coffee because I have no idea what a stone fruit tastes like. In fact, I had to look it up on Wikipedia!

With the old Mr. Coffee Machine

The Yirgacheffe beans from Revel Coffee were a much-welcomed improvement. After a slew of half-finished lattes, it was nice to finally make one that I wanted to finish!

I won’t say that they were GOOD lattes, though. Not compared to what I’ve been making with my Rancilio Silvia. There were no offensive bitter or sour flavors, but the Mr. Coffee espresso machine made a very bland latte. On the plus side, though, it was very easy to consistently reproduce that same mediocre latte.

With the Rancilio Silvia

I only managed to go through more than half of my 12-oz bag of Revel Coffee Roaster beans before I flew home to Plano. This is exciting for me, because it is the first time that I get to compare my old Mr. Coffee espresso machine experience directly to my new Rancilio Silvia.

My skills with Rancilio Silvia have been slowly improving over the last six months. I didn’t have a clear memory of what the Mr. Coffee lattes tasted like. I didn’t know if Miss Silvia was really worth her price tag—she costs almost ten times as much as my old Mr. Coffee machine!

I can say that Miss Silvia is worth every penny. There is absolutely no comparison between two machines. It was a very welcomed improvement coming home to my Rancilio Silvia.

I didn’t have enough Revel Coffee beans to tune in the perfect latte, but I think I came pretty close.

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Craft Coffee - December 2014

| Comments

There was a slight problem with my shipment from Craft Coffee this month. I’m pretty certain that I was the cause of the problem. I ended up receiving three 4-oz sampler packs this month. This made pulling shots for lattes more complicated this month, but also much more interesting!

Coava Coffee Roasters, Portland, OR
Producer The Pacas Family
Origin Lomas de San Marcelino, El Salvador
Variety Bourbon, Pacas
Elevation 1,400-1,600 Meters
Process Washed
Pleasant red grape acidity reveals notes of buckwheat and toasted oats before ending with tannic blood orange stweetness.

I had a lot of trouble with the beans for Coava Coffee. I could pick up hints of all sorts of nice flavors, but nearly every shot I pulled had a bitter aftertaste. Nearly every shot, but not the last one.

I’m usually happiest when I pull a ristretto. My favorite shots almost always end up being about 1.5 ounce double shots pulled in about 22 seconds. I was still aiming for this with the Coava Coffee beans, and this was a mistake. The best shot I pulled was a full 2-oz shot.

If I had more than 4 ounces of this coffee, I am certain that I would have made quite a few more delicious lattes.

Onyx Coffee Lab, Fayettevill, AR
Producer New Kiriti Farmers Coop
Origin Murang’a, Kenya
Variety SL-28
Elevation 2,000 Meters
Process Washed
A soft maraschino cherry acidity complements flavors of dried mango and smooth brazil nut before culminating in a fragrant finish of lemon oil and peppercorn.

This was the second coffee I tried this month, and I did a much better job with this one. I choked up my Rancilio Silvia pretty good on my first attempt, but my second try was pretty much spot on. I don’t believe I pulled a bad shot after that first one.

There’s definitely a fruity component to the taste. I don’t know that I would have identified it as dried mango. I won’t dispute it, but it may just be the power of suggestion making me believe it

This is a very nutty coffee. I don’t think I could compare the flavor to brazil nuts, but that might only be because I don’t care for brazil nuts, so I haven’t had any in years.

I am quite pleased with the coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab, and I would be happy to drink it again, and I would love to see what it could be with a little more tuning.

Magpie Coffee Roasters, Reno, NV
Producer Gondo Cooperative
Origin Murang’a, Kenya
Variety SL-28, SL-34
Elevation 1,650 Meters
Process Washed
A juicy tangerine acidity pairs perfectly with rich kumquat and sour cherry notes balanced by hints of lilac.

I had a bit more luck with the beans from Magpie Coffee. The grinder setting that I was using for the Onyx Coffee Lab beans was a great starting point, so my first latte was delicious.

This Kenyan coffee from Magpie Coffee seems much smoother than Kenyan coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab, but the fruity flavors are much less pronounced. It is a delicious coffee, and I could certainly drink it every day. It just isn’t very exciting.

I don’t think I can choose a clear “winner” between these two Kenyan coffees.

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Overclocking My QNIX QX2710 Monitors to 120 Hz With X.Org and Linux

| Comments

I don’t enjoy writing step-by-step guides. This will definitely not be that sort of guide, but this post should contain everything you need to get your QNIX QX2710 monitor running at 96 or 120 Hz under Linux with any relatively recent Nvidia card.

Running at 96 Hz was easy. The VESA mode generated by cvt for 2560x1440 at 96 Hz worked just fine. I had a lot more trouble finding a modeline that would work at 120 Hz. I ended up finding a screenshot of someone’s working 120 Hz settings on Windows, and I did my best to convert those numbers into something X.Org could use.

If you’re like me, you’re in search of that modeline. Here it is.

1
Modeline       "2560x1440_120"      459.86 2560 2608 2640 2652  1440 1441 1444 1445 +hsync +vsync 

Now that he is gone, we’ll talk some more why you might want to overclock your monitor and figure out just what that modeline is for.

Why is 120 Hz better than 60 Hz?

More is better, right? Maybe. Overclocking your monitor isn’t going to make any significant difference if you aren’t playing games. I’m staring at my Emacs window while writing this post, and there is no way that I can tell you if this monitor is overclocked. The difference is strikingly obvious as soon as you move the mouse in a first-person shooter.

I didn’t expect the difference to be so drastic. There is definitely a lot of opinion and personal preference involved here, and I have a lot of opinions about this. Too many to fit in a couple of paragraphs. I plan on writing more about this, but I will summarize my feelings.

I don’t ever want to play games at 60 Hz ever again. I have been playing a lot of Borderlands 2 lately, and the Linux port seems to be pretty poorly optimized. I’m often dropping well under 60 frames per second, but there are rare occasions when Borderlands 2 pushes more than 120 frames per second. Those occasions are very obvious, and the game feels so much better.

My machine usually runs closer to 200 frames per second when playing Team Fortress 2, and I have to say that the difference between 60 to 70 frames per second in Borderlands 2 and the full 120 frames per second in Team Fortress 2 is simply amazing. Team Fortress 2 feels so buttery smooth.

Do you have to reach 120 Hz?

Definitely not. It sounds like the vast majority of QNIX QX2710 monitors are able to reach at last 96 Hz. That is a huge upgrade, both mathematically and subjectively. A 40% increase in frame rate is definitely a significant improvement.

Forget about the math, though. From a completely subjective standpoint, I can see a huge difference between 60 Hz and 96 Hz when playing a first-person shooter. I’m certain that I could tell the difference between the two in a blind test. I’m not so sure that I could tell the difference between 96 Hz and 120 Hz.

If your monitor makes it to 120 Hz, I say go for it! If it only makes it to 96 Hz, don’t be disappointed. It is still a huge upgrade, and you’re probably not missing out on much.

Hardware requirements – the monitor

This will only work with the dual-link DVI model QNIX QX2710. The newer “TRUE10” version of the QX2710 with HDMI and DisplayPort connections will not work. The “TRUE10” is known to only be capable of running at about 60 Hz.

These settings may very well work with other inexpensive 1440p Korean LCD monitors, like the Yamakasi Catleap. I only have access to some QNIX QX2710 monitors and a single QX2700, so I can’t verify whether these settings work on other monitors. If these settings do work for you on another monitor, I would definitely be interested in hearing about it.

Hardware requirements – the video card and drivers

I wish I had more data for this section. The only video cards that I have available with dual-link DVI ports are Nvidia cards. These timings may or may not work with AMD or Intel video cards.

I do know that my old Nvidia GTX 460 card was too old and didn’t have the bandwidth to support much more than 60 Hz at 2560x1440. The pixel clock needs to run at nearly 460 MHz to push enough pixels to update every pixel 120 times per second at 2560x1440, and the older Nvidia cards can only run at 330 MHz.

My new Nvidia GTX 970 doesn’t have this limitation. In fact, any Nvidia card with a dual-link DVI port in the 500 series family or newer should have no problem reaching 120 Hz. There are some Nvidia cards since the introduction of the 500 series that are limited to a 400 MHz pixel clock by the driver.

This limitation can be removed from Nvidia’s proprietary driver using the nvlinpatch tool. In fact, if I am understanding the situation correctly, only the 500 series cards require this patch. I don’t have enough Nvidia cards at my disposal to verify this.

I should also mention that I am using the proprietary driver from Nvidia, and I have not tested any of this with the Nouveau driver.

DVI cables

The Internet often recommends that you use high-quality, heavy-gauge DVI cables. I am doing the opposite. I had no trouble reaching 120 Hz using the cables that came with the QX2710 monitors, and I am now using inexpensive 10-foot dual-link DVI cables.

You mileage may vary. If you have trouble, you can try better cables. It is also probably best to use the shortest possible cables. It is much easier to move a clean signal 3 inches than 3 feet. I thought that the 10-foot cables would be long enough for my setup, and they are, but only just barely!

I’m using up about three feet of cable just to traverse the length of the monitor stand. Cable management would be more comfortable if I had ordered longer cables, but I have no idea if longer cables would manage to support 120 Hz.

Tripp Lite 10’ Dual-Link DVI Cable at Amazon

What are the chances of success?

The general consensus around the Internet is that nearly every QNIX QX2710 monitor will overclock to at least 96 Hz, and that the vast majority will have no problem running at 120 Hz. My verifiable sample size is much smaller, but it seems to agree closely enough with what the Internet believes.

I have a pair of QX2710 monitors, and both of them have been running at 120 Hz for several months without any issues. My friend Brian also owns a pair of QX2710 monitors. One of his QX2710 monitors runs well at 120 Hz. The second monitor will not run at 120 Hz, so he is running it at 96 Hz. I do not believe he has tried any frequencies in between.

In our limited quantity of monitors, that is a success rate of at least 75%. I feel that 96 Hz is a huge upgrade over 60 Hz, so I don’t consider that a failure. That is, of course, only my opinion!

Are there any risks?

There are always risks when running hardware beyond its published limits. In this case, though, the risks seems very minimal. I have no good way to quantify the risk to the monitors, but the risk to the video card is quite minimal.

If you are using an older video card with a pixel clock limited to 400 Mhz, you will have to push it out of spec by about 15%. However, any video card that claims to support 4K resolutions will already have a pixel clock running at significantly higher speeds.

The information I have about the monitors is much less concrete. I do know that overclocking the QX2710 is pretty common, and I have yet to find any horror stories about monitors failing due to overclocking.

Also, my monitors are debezeled, so I can actually touch the metal casing on the back. They are barely warm to the touch. In fact, the box containing the controller board is significantly cooler than the area contain the backlight. I am not worried about my monitors in the least.

Enough already! How do I overlock my QX2710?!

All you need to do is add the correct modelines to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and tell Xorg to use them. It is quite simple.

My xorg.conf file
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
# nvidia-xconfig: X configuration file generated by nvidia-xconfig
# nvidia-xconfig:  version 1.0  (buildmeister@builder58)  Fri Mar 12 02:12:40 PST 2010

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     "Layout0"
    Screen      0  "Screen0"
EndSection

Section "Files"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Monitor0"
    VendorName     "QNIX"
    ModelName      "QX2710"

    Modeline       "2560x1440"          312.25 2560 2752 3024 3488  1440 1443 1448 1493 -hsync +vsync
    Modeline       "2560x1440_60"       312.25 2560 2752 3024 3488  1440 1443 1448 1493 -hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_75"       397.25 2560 2760 3040 3520  1440 1443 1448 1506 -hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_85"       454.75 2560 2768 3048 3536  1440 1443 1448 1514 -hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_96"       400.00 2560 2608 2640 2744  1440 1443 1448 1512 +hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_99"       400.00 2560 2608 2640 2720  1440 1443 1448 1481 +hsync +vsync
#   Modeline       "2560x1440_110"      453.89 2560 2608 2640 2720  1440 1443 1448 1445 +hsync +vsync 
    Modeline       "2560x1440_120"      459.86 2560 2608 2640 2652  1440 1441 1444 1445 +hsync +vsync

    Option         "DPMS"
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "Device0"
    Driver         "nvidia"
    VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
    Option         "NoLogo"              # How is this not the default?! 
EndSection

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Screen0"
    Device         "Device0"
    Monitor        "Monitor0"
    DefaultDepth    24
    SubSection     "Display"
        Depth       24
        Modes "2560x1440_120"
    EndSubSection

    Option "NoBandWidthTest" "true"
    Option "IgnoreEDIDChecksum" "DFP"
    Option "UseEDID" "False"
    Option "UseEDIDDPI" "False"
    Option "UseEDIDFreqs" "False"
    Option "ExactModeTimingsDVI" "True"
    Option "ModeValidation" "NoVertRefreshCheck, NoHorizSyncCheck, NoDFPNativeResolutionCheck, NoMaxSizeCheck, NoMaxPClkCheck, NoEDIDModes"

## Single monitor metamodes
#
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_60 +0 +0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_96 +0 +0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_99 +0 +0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_120 +0 +0"

## Dual monitor metamodes
#
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_60 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_60 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_96 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_96 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_99 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_96 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
     Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_120 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_120 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
EndSection

You can probably use my configuration file after making some very minor edits. I’ve included modelines for several difference refresh rates between 60 and 120 Hz. All of them work with my hardware. I was unable to find a working 110 Hz modeline, but I didn’t try very hard. If you have a 110 Hz modeline that works, I would love to test it out and include it in the list.

I have quite a few “metamodes” commented out at the bottom of my xorg.conf file. This is how you tell the Nvidia driver how to configure your displays. I have a set of “metamodes” in there for both single and dual monitor setups. You may be able to uncomment the one you want to use, and it may just work.

There is a very good chance that my “metamodes” aren’t configured to use the correct video port for your setup. On my GTX 970 card, “DFP-0” is the first DVI port and “DFP-4” is the second DVI port. This varies from one card to the next, and you can easily identify the ports using the Nvidia control panel.

It doesn’t look right! Everything is dim!

When you run a monitor at a higher frequency, the output tends to be quite a bit dimmer. Smarter and more expensive monitors are probably correcting for this on their own. Since we are more frugal, we have to adjust for this on our own. It is a very simple matter. All you have to do is change your color profile.

There are dozens of color profiles available on the big QNIX forum thread. I spent a lot of time trying out various profiles. More time than was really necessary. I am a bit of a dope, and I had forgotten that I can also use the buttons on the monitor to turn the brightness up!

I’m sure that you’re aware that the QX2710 is a very bright monitor, and I’ve had the brightness set to one of the lowest settings ever since they arrived. Most of the color profiles have notes that say something like, “calibrated with the brightness set 8 clicks up from the lowest setting,” or something very similar. Bumping up the brightness made most of the color profiles look much better.

I didn’t do a good job keeping track of which profile I pilfered from the forum. I have several color profiles sitting in my home directory, but I have given them my own names. I have no idea what their original names were. I will make them all available for download.

Applying one of the color profiles is as simple as passing the file to the xcalib utility:

1
2
wonko@zaphod:~$ xcalib /home/wonko/.xcalib-qnix-120-6500k                     1
wonko@zaphod:~$

Verifying that everything works

The first thing that will make your success apparent is that your display will be dimmer, but that doesn’t really tell you just how successful you were. Our QNIX QX2710 monitors have no on-screen display to tell us what mode they are running in, either. Thankfully, the Nvidia control panel will tell exactly how it is driving your monitor.

I didn’t even need to play any games to visually verify that 120 Hz is smoother than 60 Hz. All I had to do was drag a small window around the screen at a brisk pace. The difference is very obvious.

How can you really verify that everything is working

I have read that our QX2710 monitors may skip frames if you overclock them too far. There are websites and utilities that can help you verify this. The website does not support vsync Linux, and the only program I could find to run locally was for Windows. I had no trouble running the Windows executable under Wine, and it seemed to be working just fine.

All you have to do is run the test program and photograph the screen with a good camera with a nice, fast shutter speed. I don’t have one of those cameras. My best camera just captures a blur of consecutive bars blurring together.

I’m not worried about passing the test. Games look significantly smoother at 96 Hz, and they sure seem smoother yet at 120 Hz. In this case, I am much more interested in the results of the so-called “butt dyno” than the results of a test. If it looks better to you, that’s all that counts!

Conclusion

It was most definitely worth the small amount of effort getting these QNIX QX2710 monitors running at 120 Hz. I didn’t buy these monitors to overclock them, but I already have them, so I may as well get the most out of them. Now that I have overclocked, I don’t ever want to play a game at 60 Hz ever again.

Have you overclocked your monitor, or do you have a fast 144 Hz monitor? Leave a comment and let everyone know what you think!