Thermal Management Challenge aka Why I Haven’t Been Blogging Lately

Regular readers (all ten of them? am I being optimistic?) might have noticed a sudden textual silence from this tiny corner of the interwebs.

The family and I are *crosses fingers* still doing fine, still sheltering from the pandemic, still getting needles in arms as soon as we can get them, and hope to stay that way, god(s) and fate and whatever-you-believe-in willing.

No, the main trouble has been the lack of regular maintenance causing random things to fall apart around the house and a general reluctance to invite in outsider repairmen to breach the Covid “bubble” unless it’s a true emergency.

Especially since our local government has been leaning towards the more laissez-faire end of the scale lately to bolster those who have been suffering economically and mental health-wise. Which is all very well and understandable, but our personal situation is that we’ve more potentially vulnerable persons in our household than average, so we’re being more careful than most. So it goes.

One of the latest machine casualties has been the air conditioner in the room housing my PC.

This has been tragic from a temperature management standpoint.

The local outdoors temperature is a toasty average 30-32°C (86-90°F) most days. Humidity runs in the 60s-90s. The equatorial sun blazes down on surrounding concrete walls, which then cheerfully radiate excess heat into the night time hours, causing descriptions of weather and environment to veer away from lovely phrases like “pleasant and balmy” and into “sweltering muggy swamp” territory.

Now, I know that in theory, PCs ought to be able to manage just fine at 60°C and below. For all my fretting, PC temps have only been hovering at 40-59°C regardless… Still, it’s about 10 degrees higher than it normally runs, when in an actually climate-controlled, air-conditioned room. And my PC is seven years old and not getting any younger. AND I need this PC for work-from-home purposes.

NOT TO MENTION, THE AMOUNT OF HEAT GENERATED BY A 49″ MONITOR PLUS A CPU RUNNING AT 42°C AND A GPU RUNNING AT 59°C TURNS THE ROOM FROM “REASONABLY BEARABLE, WITH A FAN DIRECTLY AIMED AT OCCUPANTS” INTO “SAUNA, DO NOT PASS GO.”

Suffice to say, it has been a lot more comfortable for both peace of mind and peace of body to have the PC on, only when needed, for a couple hours at most, preferably at night when ambient temperature drops a few degrees, and not running anything graphically intensive.

I’m sure we’ll eventually get a repairman in, preferably when more family members have been boostered up, but eh, this recent omicron variant news hasn’t done anyone any favors. So it goes. More weeks of this.

The good news is that this has induced some variety into one’s leisure/gaming habits. The portability of the Nintendo Switch and iPad means the ability to retreat to cooler areas of the home, even rooms where the last air conditioners are still functioning (and being conserved like a precious resource.)

Library ebooks are a thing. Youtube on a smart TV is a decent substitute for what usually is playing on one side of the screen while I game on another.

I even got the old Playstation 4 running (last played, 2018) and realized that I might actually get to enjoy some games I’ve been putting off for ages, like Death Stranding. The original hope was to play them in PC form, on a a brand new spankin’ PC, but well, graphics chip shortage and all, we know how those kind of plans have gone this past year. A PS4 version of Death Stranding now… isn’t that old news? And aren’t old games discounted?!

We’ll see. I found a pretty amazing deal from a local online platform this last Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, from a vendor that kinda looks legit (as in, officially from the Sony Store), but it did literally say “one copy remaining.” So all manner of things could go wrong, from “oh, we didn’t mean to post it at that price” to “we’re out of stock and can’t find that last copy” to “there is a copy, but the disc is scratched and we can’t replace it so here, have a refund instead.” At which point, I’ll be back to square one on a lack of Death Stranding, but eh, there’s always another sale and another discount. Especially with December on the way.

The one exception to the “let’s not stress the poor, aging PC” rule has been a quick three day push for No Man’s Sky, Expedition 1 Redux.

I bought NMS at the start of November, having a sudden whimsical impulse to fly around in a spaceship sight-seeing and resource-harvesting. It fulfilled that impulse quite respectably. I was making slow and steady progress, 1-2 hours on sporadic cooler nights, before sweat pouring from my brow encouraged me to retreat and let the PC dissipate heat somewhere where I wasn’t.

The most monochromatic planet I’ve seen… so far

Then at the end of November, came the announcement that No Man Sky’s was re-releasing something called Expeditions, for those that missed them. Seeing as I’d only joined this spacefaring cohort at the beginning of the month, I’d definitely missed those.

A brief read suggested that they were basically seasonal special content, where you could unlock rewards. Ah. We’re quite familiar with those. We play GW2, Warframe, Path of Exile and a whole lot of other games with that kind of thing.

These Redux Expeditions were on a two-week time interval, which, to be honest, is my favorite time scale for such seasonal content. Just short enough to kick you in the butt and conquer procrastination and not overstay their welcome, and long enough to not stress out too much if you can’t play for a couple days. As long as all the goals and milestones are scaled for most people to reasonably complete in a week of normal play, then with one extra week’s worth of leeway, it’s Goldilocks just right for me.

Fortunately, the goals for this expedition 1 redux were indeed scaled just right. It felt fairly similar to GW2 achievement tab chasing. Go for easy unlocks on day 1, plan the next sequence of actions to unlock more moderate goals over the subsequent days, clean up on the hardest goals at the end. All in, I got it done in 3-4 days of relatively more hardcore, obsessed play (albeit with periods of surrender to let the PC cool down when it crashed on contact with freighter battles, et. al.)

Huzzah, achievement get!

I’m not 100% convinced that this is a fun way to play No Man’s Sky – I preferred the more relaxed solo pace I was playing at – but I did get a sort of accelerated overview to aspects of No Man’s Sky I hadn’t yet come across in my solo game.

Unlike Aywren, I’m not especially impressed by the intrusion of other players into my peaceful little corner of the galaxy. Particularly when their naming conventions are things like “DarthKiddo’s Planet” and “HA I RENAMED THIS FIRST SO YOU CAN’T.” They make the garbled syllables generated by the base game look good. I’ll take Geistc XVII any day.

Everyone starts at the same point in an expedition game. The starting planet was an Icebound Planet called Keignto Anzai. It sounds fun in theory, have all players begin in a shared space, but y’know, you get the MMO problem, players who don’t know how to roleplay (aka ALL OF THEM) break immersion (in the lore, headcannon sense of the word.)

Then again, when everyone’s starting planet contains interesting fauna like this hopping around… why bother?

I did eventually jump through a black hole, which tossed me some 1 million light years away in goodness-knows-what direction, and a couple more random hyperspace jumps brought me to some pristine undiscovered systems that no one had ventured to yet. There, I got the rest of my goals done in peace and quiet, and set up some tiny bases to bookmark the area, only venturing back to the more littered lands for the Rendezvous Point goals (and boy, were they littered with communication stations, whose only purpose was to state XYZPERSON WAS HERE.)

I’m a little bit nervous to pop back into my solo game now, since installing some patch for Win 7 systems that allowed No Man’s Sky to connect to their discovery servers and get the expedition running. Will my previous systems still be there and untouched, or will I discover to my horror that someone else has been to this part of town and named them all some kind of verbal graffiti? There’s always getting into my spaceship and flying off someplace else, but I’m not sure I can take the dismay. We’ll see.

The PC is always threatening to overheat and there’s always a lot of non-PC things I could be doing instead – especially since I went a bit crazy this Black Friday topping up on discounted iPad, Switch and PS4 games. I can always put it off for later.

We Interrupt This Program… Due to Technical Issues…

Surprising as it may seem, this round of blog silence isn’t exactly due to it being Slacktember after Blaugust (well, maybe, just a little) but mostly due to a sudden and urgent need to diagnose an intermittently disconnecting Internet connection.

For the last couple of days, the connection has taken it upon itself to cheerfully break for the space of 1-2 seconds, before reconnecting, at frequent yet irregular intervals ranging from pretty durned often in the space of a half-hour to once every hour or two.

In essence, it appears artfully calculated to drive me up the wall as it’ll give me problems when playing games and then promptly vanish (but not entirely) while trying to troubleshoot and nail down the culprit.

Needless to say, the past week’s GW2 game time has been less than satisfactory since disconnecting for two seconds is long enough to break the client’s connection and cause me to fall off maps – including organised Triple Trouble and Teq maps -, not to mention somewhat aggravating to dc from a fractal run and then relog and zone back in dead and be forced to beg your party to get out of combat for a sec so that you can respawn and rejoin them.

Ditto Trove, because it’s really annoying to lag with awful ping prior to a dc while mid-fight with a boss and realize that the boss is going to sucker punch you into next Tuesday while your latency is in the 1000ms-3000ms range (that extra digit is not a typo, mind you) or be midway through a challenge and dc right off the map, knowing you’ll log back in and the group doing the challenge is miles away and/or you’ve lost enough time reconnecting to make the challenge impossible to complete before the time limit is up.

So the past few days have been filled with a series of swapping between the Intel and Killer NIC ethernet adapters on my computer, deinstalling and updating drivers, deactivating antiviruses with real-time protection, going into safe mode with networking and physically changing various LAN cables in a colossal attempt to determine the root cause of the intermittent disconnections.

Fortunately, before I got to the stage of trying to unroll meters-long ethernet cable to directly connect my computer to the cable modem, I ended back down a previously researched avenue of overheating routers causing intermittent internet.

This has been a point of contention between me and another family member; said family member maintaining that the router’s position in the house is perfectly fine and that it is at a perfectly acceptable temperature, while I lightly touch the top of the router and point out that the surface feels just a bit shy of a boiled kettle of water that has cooled down sufficiently to touch, but not sufficiently that the water inside can be considered “lukewarm” yet.

Since the poor abused router has already been moved out of a shoe closet some time ago (after one of those little familial wars regarding optimal router temperatures conflicting with aesthetics), there are, unfortunately, limitations to where it can be moved. (Basically, it’s not.)

Its current home is in one corner of a room that is only intermittently air-conditioned (depending on if a family member is inside or no.)

Now, if you consider that our ambient air temperature in this tropical country can reach up to 33°C, as opposed to that of a temperate country usual temperature ranges when it’s not in the middle of summer, and that the router is essentially sitting in a pocket of still air in the corner of the room, and that it has to deal with a network where every family member has a desktop or laptop PC, a cell phone that connects wirelessly and several tablet devices, a smart TV and a small, personal NAS, well…

It’s unfortunate that I lack an easy way to objectively measure the temperature of whatever is going on inside the router. Nothing like evidence to solidly win a family argument, eh? Ha.

Short of starting a screaming match by absconding with a fan that is not “supposed” to be placed in an unsightly position, aka aimed directly at the router, I hit upon making off with a less used device – a bargain-priced laptop cooler belonging to another family member less likely to make a fuss, and sliding that under the router.

It’s not the best cooler out there, I’m sure, but at least it’s actively cooled and has a fan that can (sort of) move a little air around.

After a day, I note that the router is noticeably cooler, having dropped to a temperature that can now be considered “lukewarm” by touch.

Best of all, since doing that, I haven’t had a single dropped connection (*touch wood*) and only one heart-stopping incident of horrible ping during a GW2 Mordrem invasion event… which amazingly managed to hold the connection through about five seconds of lag, something that would have previously been impossible, I’m sure.

Hopefully, my guess as to the source of the problem was the right guess, and this state of affairs continues…  (Note to self: Buy a better laptop cooler, if so.)

As for the Mordrem invasion in GW2, the current hooha around rewards strikes me as a little bit of an overreaction to an event that seems cobbled together for just a little fun with veterans and newbies…

…but then I have to admit that my judgment is a little colored by actually receiving a reward the first time (aka not bugged) and then opening the Scarlet’s box/bag/thing to receive an Enameled Jungle dye – which I unfortunately wasn’t daring enough to sell for 64 gold at the time. Ah well. (I used it, after logging in the next day and seeing prices had fallen to 30 odd gold.)

…plus not actually needing any of the higher priced rewards/skins, that would require an insane amount of bloom grinding. (Minis? Check. Toxic skins? Already bought with gems. Scarlet skins? Bought with gems. Thoughtless potions and what not? Already taking up room in my inventory from the last time around.)

I intend to attend an event or two a day over this weekend and be fine with whatever I get from that.

Personally, I suspect that the costs are meant to be high enough to not devalue the rewards – because, you know, some of those skins were worth $5 USD when I bought them the first go around… while I have no issues with letting other people enjoy them after I’ve already had the opportunity to use them, and applaud them also being alternatively available through in-game earning, I would feel a little bit of cost/effort disparity if people could just attend one invasion and then voila, buy up all the skins just like that.

Possibly, some of the stress is from it being such a time-limited event.

I’d personally have no issues if the event just continued on to October 23, and then people who wanted all the stuff could slowly and steadily earn them until the expansion launched. (Bonus: cheaper dyes and minis, yay!)

Well, whatever, we’ll see whatever Anet adjusts next and go with that.

Such is the advantage of having all the stuff I want already. *phew*