GW2: Plenty of Problems, But This Ain’t One of ‘Em

MassivelyOP has successfully trolled me into another blog post. This time, it’s regarding the GW2 Skyscale flying mount, wherein it’s patently obvious that no actual firsthand experience was involved at the time of writing.

Yes, I understand that articles are written way in advance. But could you kindly resist from making statements with no basis in reality, then?

Pet peeve: Verifiably wrong things, stated as facts.

“The only way you can actually spend more than a few seconds in the air is if you jump off of something really tall and glide down.”

“Also, there are no flying mounts in GW2. At best they glide. Literally any mount in any MMORPG that flies (i.e. stays in the air indefinitely by design) is superior.”

You know who you are.

skyscale_hover

I’ve been up here for half an hour, sorting through my inventory bags, and then alt-tabbed out to write this blog post.

I dunno about you, but in my book, that certainly seems longer than a few seconds in the air, pretty indefinitely, by design.

Granted, any horizontal X-axis movement is going to lower me steadily, and incrementing the vertical Y-axis without a friendly wall to cling to involves waiting for a minute for Bond of Vigor to cooldown and recharge half of the green flight bar.

At a certain height exceeding the point you took off from, there is also some sort of ceiling where the flight meter is drained very quickly, so that you lower back to maximum hover height, possibly in an attempt to keep you from ascending forever into the skybox to insta-die.

For horizontal gliding and SPEED, once you get the hang of downward diving for acceleration and then climbing back up with mount ability key 2, the griffon is superior. 

For vertical takeoff and landing, fine-grained control in a small area and indefinite HOVERing (40 mins and counting), that’s where you look towards the skyscale.

Honestly, given its specialities, I’m more or less convinced that its main role is to cover one of WoW’s flying mounts’ features – lording it over the hoi polloi by hovering on a gigantic dragon, mount and rider doing their best to block the trading post from view.

And yeah, you can use it as a hybrid springer with finer-scale control, crossed with a slower gliding griffon, just with added infinite hover potential.

skyscale_raising

There have been some criticisms over the whole process of attaining one.

For someone who had been previously all psyched up to finish legendary medium armor, the collections did not really raise massive alarm bells, which might be more an indication of how mentally unbalanced the Achiever portion of my brain can get.

There were some identical go-here, go-there un-clued collections which were of poorer quality. Resorting to a third-party guide to get through those quickly is probably what 95% of players do, me included.

There were some nicer legendary-style collections, themed, with better clues and directions, including visible waypoint markers! which sent players back to old maps to revisit content. I liked those.

There was massive dismay at timegates, of which I personally did not find too onerous. They are pre-set stopping points. Being content to be a couple days behind meant that I made a nice killing selling timegated components for the first two days – grow lamps for 70 and 60 gold on the TP. After the 15% tax, that’s 110g contributed to my legendary medium collection from players who need it now. Sweet.

Anyway, ArenaNet tweaked some of the timegates after reading the feedback, so that’s even better. They’re actually listening and demonstrating it! And communicating! What is this, I don’t even-…

There was a huge histrionic fainting uproar at the revelation that 250 of each LS4 map currency would be needed in a later collection.

My only criticism is that it would have been really nice to know all the requirements before, and not reliant on the first few players to unlock the next collection, just so that each player could plan ahead and make more efficient use of their time.

I get that there’s some drama and excitement and even prestige for the spades/explorers/first-to-gets by keeping some of these secret, but it was a little irritating to know that the previous days could have been better spent.

I’d been somewhat laggard catching up with the LS4 maps, having not been actively playing for much of the time they were released, so I had only about half the currencies needed. That meant a furious altholic hearts-grind for 2-3 days, pulling out some 11+ characters and cycling them through easy hearts to buy 5 currency each for karma.

It’s not something I do on a regular basis for sure, but I found it mildly interesting for the three days to go into super-efficient achiever grind mode. The benefits of having a secondary Achiever function. Fortunately, I was already in the mood for grinding.

If not, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Oh yes, since it’s been two weeks, I assume that most people who cared have at least logged in to check out the first episode.

If not, too bad, you can take this like a teaser image instead. You’ll see this at the very beginning episode anyway.

kralk_scale

I love this. The scale is awesome.

A few more landscape shots of the new map.

newmap_edge

newmap_contrast

P.S. 50 minutes and counting. I guess it’s time to come down now.

skyscale_wallcling

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Minecraft: Regrowth – Couple Steps Forward, Couple Steps Back

I’m not sure what possessed me, but I spent most of the last few nights making the second level of my to-be modern farm looking pretty:

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The stairs down, courtesy of stone bricks stairs and stone brick slabs.

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The second floor with 12 crop beds in various stages of complete.

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The stairs leading down to the next floor, which has barely been dug out yet.

It took a frightening amount of time to decide on nice textures. As in, practically the whole night and then some.

The Chisel mod for Minecraft allows you to make common items like dirt and cobblestone and stone into other blocks with a vast array of textures.

There was a lot of stopping and starting and test-laying of “hrm, is this pretty?” blocks in a row, before I settled on Compressed Cobble-Dirt for the square frame marking the growing areas, and filling in the extra perimeter space with Polished Stone Bricks, lighter in color than regular Stone Bricks.

I actually hit a small watery alcove to the outside in the far corner, and decided not to brick it up entirely. Going to lay in some clear glass eventually and have a window that will let me see if it’s day or night.

The sprinkler system isn’t all the way in yet, but I extended the water tank into this layer and I -think- it will work.

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But then again, what do I know?

My old growing hall has finally hit a snag. Apparently, there is a limit to the horizontal distance that water will travel down these irrigation channels.

I painstakingly made Osmium Seeds the other night, which will eventually produce a metal I need for progressing further into the Mekanism mod. Only to discover that my sprinklers, well, aren’t sprinkling well.

The last sprinkler has a tendency to dry up and not sprinkle. That’s the sprinkler that’s supposed to speed the growth of the Osmium crop.

To make matters worse, checking on the water tank outside revealed that the water was getting sucked out faster than the one poor pump could replace.

I tried a stopgap measure of stacking the wooden tank blocks up to make a bigger water tank, and replacing the piping with a Mekanism pipe with better flow rate (all the better to drown you with, my dear):

2016-05-04_06.50.11.png

I seem to have made matters worse. The water just whooshes out of the water tank now.

Apparently growing some 50+ crop types with two sprinklers per crop goes through a high water volume. Who’d have thunk?

I am now debating with myself if it’s worth making a few more pumps to see if I can refill the water tank fast enough.

The alternative is figuring out whatever clever means of redstone or Buildcraft programming is available in this mod to shut the irrigation channel valve periodically, say, whenever the water tank is empty, so that the pump can fill it, and to open the valve to activate the sprinkler system when the tank is full.

Or it could make my head hurt and I’d say fuck it and use the manual route of accomplishing the same thing. Which is to just flip the lever that is currently next to the irrigation channel valve on and off, whenever I walk by or want to regrow some crops after harvesting. (After all, it is a bit of a waste to have it always-on when I barely harvest any crops most of the time.)

Either way, it’s still not going to solve the issue of reach, though.

So the other solution is to make a secondary water tank somewhere in the middle of the growing hall, and maybe install a pump system to fill -that- tank up. Maybe that’ll take some of the pressure off.

Who knows. The only thing I do know is that it’s going to take more than one night to resolve.

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The really casual bee breeding continues. I extended out the platform to accommodate more Apiaries.

After perplexing myself with one too many hybrid bees, I managed to force myself to sit (or fast-forward) through a few longwinded Youtube tutorial videos.

While I still don’t really have a clue as to the more industrial, automated parts of bee breeding yet, my take home was that if I was going to climb up to more sophisticated bees, I was going to need some hives producing pure stocks of the lower-rung bees.

So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. For every variant of bee currently in my possession, trying to force them to breed true to each other. And then using a few of those spare bees in crossbreeding attempts to get them to the next rung of bee tiers.

It is still not terribly easy going.

Mostly because Princesses and Queens are limited, I think. As far as I can figure out, you have to pull these breeder bees from wild hives, and I’ve depleted every wild hive in a fairly large radius around my base already.

If I want a pure breeding stock of one line, that’s one Princess/Queen dedicated to the job. That means no more Princess/Queen to crossbreed into another line.

Then I have to breed/mutate a new Princess/Queen up to the same level in order to crossbreed beyond…

…unless I’m missing something. Which I could very well be.

Oh well, live and learn.

Blaugust Day 30: Raids… Crap, What Happens to Everything Else? (GW2)

This morning, I woke up with my mind buzzing from a certain amount of worry.

At first, it was just the expected personal problem of wondering how the hell I was going to fit my personal schedule around the concept of raiding in GW2… especially since I’m in the GMT+8 timezone, making essentially all NA and EU guilds verboten, and even OCE guilds start raids about two hours earlier than I can really afford to be present while holding down a job.

Especially since the intent was to make sure said 10-person group undergoes repeated headbanging failure before maybe succeeding, after a great deal of build tweaking and coordination and practice.

That means a relatively regular group is needed, no?

Then I started wondering about how TTS was going to handle the introduction of raids…

The habit has always been for about 90-120 people gather up for Karka Queen, Tequatl and Triple Trouble Wurm. That’s about the most OCE/SEA critical mass that can be pulled at any one point in time.

Would they do the same, then split them up into groups of ten?

But wait, there might be a problem of lack of organized leadership… which means the number of each potential group that can be formed shrinks…

…which means there’s going to be competition for the desired raid spots… and resultant ill-feeling if you don’t make it in… sorta like how the 160th person sulks if they can’t manage to get into a Triple Trouble map… (except that we almost never hit that kind of number with TT, and we’ll definitely exceed that with a ten person raid)

And what if a huge chunk of leaders decide that they are just going to go form their own specialized raid group instead…

…what happens to the inclusivity of the Teq/Triple Wurm schedule?

And then it hit me, and my commenter Athie also drilled down to the root of the problem, WAIT, NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT TRIPLE WURM ANY LONGER.

Why? BECAUSE RAIDS NOW OFFER COMPARATIVELY THE BEST ARMOR IN THE GAME.

Dungeons? Pfft.

Fractals? Fucking Ascended rings, right? And now reduced to one fractal each time. Meh, that’s for casuals.

Triple Trouble Wurm? A lame ass chance at Ascended armor with stats you probably won’t be able to use, and more likely, 5 lousy champion bags and some blues and greens.

EVERYTHING will be shoved aside, and the ALL IMPORTANT GODLY RAID will be placed on a pedestal of awe and desirability.

THAT is going to be a problem. The lack of any other alternative to get one’s mitts on Legendary armor, making raids highly desirable and causing everything else to fall by the wayside and look bad in comparison.

What’s going to happen to our friendly community guilds that welcome any influx of new players cos it means hitting critical mass then?

Torn apart, that’s what. You won’t want new players to learn the complicated raid dance if it sets your group back by weeks. You want the same regular group of 10, period. That forms exclusivity. That forms elitism if that pack of 10 gets all the shiny Legendary armor that no one else can get.

Now I have a sunken pit of dread in my stomach that isn’t going away.

I hope Athie’s right and GW2 makes a dramatic and unpredictable direction swing several months later, because the extrapolation from here is not looking good at all.

Blaugust Day 13: Packrat Problems (GW2)

I always had the impression that I was a hopeless pack rat when it came to all things MMO – or really, anything that has an inventory and allows you to collect stuff (including Diablo-style ARPGs and real life.)

Today, I was logging into my GW2 characters at random, wincing at the messes I was looking at – bags half to three quarters full on actively played characters, filled to the brim on storage alts, an account bank stuffed with account-bound souvenirs of nothing but sentimental value mixed with items that might conceivably be worth something later (maybe), two guild banks full of non-account-bound tradeable commodities that were being kept for the dual reasons of “it might be worth more later” and “what if Anet tweaks something that makes this super-expensive and I want to craft something super-desirable that suddenly requires it?”

As usual, I was telling myself, “you hopeless packrat, you, I don’t even know where to begin…” when it suddenly hit me.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.

It’s not really a -hoarding- problem, is it?

Folks define hoarding as the accumulation of stuff (mostly seen as worthless by other people) to the extent that it starts to impede someone’s quality and standard of living, possibly posing a health hazard, yadda yadda.

Even though I have a lot of GW2 stuff – admittedly, some of it sentimental, in the sense that they were one-off souvenirs:

a) many of the other items are not seen as worthless by other people, and has the potential to go up in value over time

b) and/or I will -really- regret it if I throw them away or sell them now, given Anet’s proven track record of suddenly making valueless items valuable (and vice versa)

c) it’s not that I have run out of virtual space to keep all the stuff – I have two empty character slots, and two of my lowbies are new, have completely empty bags and aren’t presently being used to store anything

No, I don’t have a -packrat- (as in collecting or hoarding) problem per se.

What I have is a severe lack of any organization system, or a good way to find and retrieve any desired item among the amorphous piles of unsorted stuff.

In GTD terms, I’ve only collected, but I’ve barely processed any of it, nor thought about any way to systematically organize the things I want to keep, and certainly I don’t regularly -review- my inventory AT ALL.

Sadly, better defining the problem or seeing it from a new perspective doesn’t immediately lead to any magic solutions.

I did drool a little after Googling up a third party add-on for LOTRO that apparently allowed the player to look at the inventories of all their alts in-game, and search them by keyword, listing how many quantities were on which character. Wrong game, alas.

GW2 apparently has an inventory API out, but bleh, frankly, the thought of letting a third party website have an authorization token to look at my account inventory makes me more than a little nervous, so that’s not a great solution either.

It may end up being a case of old-fashioned Excel to keep track of the 17 of 19 character slots… (yeah, I’m not sure how that happened either. What can I say, I’m an altholic, and it’s nearly been three years) though I’ve also been browsing some home inventory programs for general ideas on how I’m going to handle this.

I also bit the bullet and logged in every one of them, to take a screenshot of their inventories and do an initial “obvious junk” cleanup.

Hopefully, it will sort of provide me with a brief overview of the entire scope of the task that lies before me… Maybe.

I suspect part of the problem is that it’s very difficult to sort anything if my account bank is completely stuffed and thus posing a bottleneck to transfer items from one character to another.

So that’s something that needs to be addressed too. *sighs*

I have this feeling that I will need to print out everything onto sheets of paper to draw little arrows and circles to group “like” items togther, before I can even begin to grasp how I can best get this organized…

… that or cut and pasting in a paint program or something.

Somehow.

Here, this sort of contains the problem.
Here, this kind of encapsulates the problem. One thing’s pretty obvious. Too much dragonite. Need to get Princess chomping more of those.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, P for Perplexed, S for Stumped, and the number 13.

Nope, I’ve Got No Issues With “Comfortable”

You see, I just spent 18 hours of the last Saturday, literally every waking moment not devoted to food or personal hygiene, seated in front of a computer…

… not having ANY fun at all.

Because the darned thing was malfunctioning, and all leisure activities had to be put aside, with troubleshooting the sudden new priority.

At that point, I would have traded a good many things to get back to my simple regular non-stressful routine of dabbling around doing dailies in a “comfortable” game, in a comfortable chair.

The trouble began Friday night, when I logged in for my usual Teq and Wurm runs.

GW2 was freezing on me.

As in, a complete hang with mouse cursor frozen, inability to ctrl+alt+delete and the only way to get out of it was a hard reset.

The hell.

This was, of course, not good for any semblance of normal blood pressure since rebooting would -obviously- mean I fall out of the correct megaserver map instance and have to try my luck spam taxing back in.

Before long, I stopped worrying about even getting into the correct map, because I was consistently triggering a freeze every time I opened Teamspeak alongside GW2 and switched into a channel with people talking.

?!!??!?!

This was fine yesterday, and the day before that, and the months before that!

I’d changed nothing with my computer between yesterday and today!

Utterly bamboozled, I decided that maybe I was straining the RAM on my computer by having multiple programs open at once and gave up Teamspeak as a lost cause for the night (which didn’t bode well for any future fun with TTS until I could figure out the issue) and just sat in Sparkfly Fen on a pug Teq map brooding on possible causes and solutions.

10 minutes in, the system froze again.

WTF?

Hard reset, retreated from the crowded map, sat in Lion’s Arch to get some crafting and TPing done – some secondary productive activity anyway, though I really wanted to be killing Wurm – while trying to see if the problem still persisted.

I bought a mass of sigils from the TP for a little experiment, and the “Take All” triggered a freeze.

Fuck.

Hard reset again, log in, try not to do anything more strenuous than stick stuff, jigsaw-puzzle like, into the Mystic Forge.

30-45 minutes into this, freeze yet again.

YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.

Completely unable to enjoy any aspect of the game in a normal fashion, I ended up giving GW2 up as a lost cause for what remained of the night (not very much) and started basic troubleshooting.

Maybe it was a memory issue? The Resource Monitor did seem to indicate that having both GW2 and TS running was exhausting the “Free” memory, but there was still a lot of blue-colored “Standby” memory remaining – I’d already switched to Win 7 64-bit to combat the problem…

…maybe I was running out of swapfile? I was admittedly a little low on the free HDD space, so I ended up on a mass transfer-data-to-external-hard-disk deletion spree.

Temperatures of the CPU and GPU were all normal, so that couldn’t be it either…

Then with a sinking feeling in my chest, I suspected I had a real problem when the mouse cursor froze up on the desktop with nothing more strenuous open than Windows Explorer and Firefox (plus regular startup programs.)

Maybe it wasn’t a GW2 specific issue after all.

There was more disk space free on both drives than had ever existed in the past month, the pagefile had plenty of room to play with…

I shut the computer off for the night because I was tired of hard resetting (and worried about how much strain it was putting on my ancient PC)  and just overall tired and sleepy, and was rather hoping to wake up in the morning and find that it was all a bad dream and that everything would be back to normal in the morning.

It wasn’t.

I got on to GW2 just fine, gingerly stepping into LA, expecting a freeze any minute now.

It didn’t come, so I logged onto Mumble in preparation for WvW reset. As I switched into the guild’s channel, I heard our comm say someone invite Jeromai to a group…and then yep, the computer froze.

Well, shit.

Cue hard reset. Cue all the attendant stress and obligation that comes from having social networks and connections and expectations online – though fortunately, this was pre-battle and not like, a dc in the middle of a raid or something where your not-being-functional could cause an immediate wipe of a mass of people counting on you.

Went through the slooow loading Windows, loading GW2 process and finally logged in, to explain why the party invite and I was just sitting there unresponsive (and probably greyed out and offline) and then backed out of any WvW reset parties to grimly face a morning’s worth of troubleshooting.

Little did I know.

Sure enough, just sitting there in LA and switching into a Mumble channel where folks were talking produced fairly consistent freezing. It wasn’t -just- Teamspeak. It seemed to be all VOIP.

Goddamn it, was I doomed to a future in-game life with no contact with the VOIP-using player subset?

Hell, I didn’t even need to be running in GW2. Just sitting in Mumble could cause the freezes. (Silver lining, WvW reset goes for over three hours, so there’s lots of time to find channels where people are talking to stress test my system while troubleshooting…)

Googling up “computer freezes” in relation to VOIP presented a whole smorgasbord of possibilities:

  • There was something apparently called DPC latency, which had an impact on whether computers could handle real-time data streams, and may be the cause of audio-drop outs and a couple seconds of freezing. (Except my freezing was a LOT worse than a couple seconds.)
  • My RAM could be failing.
  • My hard disk drives could failing.
  • My power supply could be failing, and so on.

(None of the above were particularly incredible possibilities, since my computer IS 7+ years old by now, with all the hardware inside likely way past their warranties.

These were all not fun possibilities to consider. The RAM failing wouldn’t have been a matter of just going out to buy new ones to slot in.

It’s DDR2 RAM – who sells DDR2 RAM these days?  My mobo is too old for DDR3 RAM. I’d have to switch the motherboard, which meant the CPU as well, which meant pretty much embarking on the whole new computer adventure at a time when my budget still can’t really deal with an SGD $2000 purchase. Besides, new computer would mean reinstalling Windows and all the programs, a day of intensive effort I never look forward to.

A hard disk failing would mean potential data loss, having to copy over stuff from the last not-terribly-recent backup, more reinstallation of stuff, and oh, cracking open the case to swap in a new one. Still not fun.

A new power supply would cost about double the price of a hard disk or two sticks of RAM, and still involve an opened case and lots and lots of rewiring and computer surgery.)

  • Or it could be a virus.
  • Or maybe… could it be some kind of driver or IRQ conflict?

Cudgeling the memory suddenly revealed that I -had- changed one thing between yesterday and the day before that.

I’d absent-mindedly plugged in my phone to transfer some photos, and this was apparently the first time I’d done so with my new-ish Windows 7 operating system, because it did its usual automatic “installing drivers” schtick.

They weren’t the ‘official’ drivers from some CD loaded with plenty of branded bloatware, just whatever Windows 7 had decided of its own accord was worthwhile to use. It had worked for the purposes of transferring pictures… but had Windows 7 been too clever and rearranged something it shouldn’t have?

  • Or it could be the anti-virus itself getting too smart of its own good.

I’d been running Avast antivirus, with its multiple shields, and I couldn’t help but notice in the stats provided that its File System Shield seemed to be scanning a lot of files, at roughly the same time I was having all the freezing problems. Coincidence?

So many possible angles. No real clue of where to start.

Suffice to say, there was a lot of scanning.

That terrible boring activity of watching a progress bar creep slowly up percent by percent while listening to your hard disk spin away, hoping not to hear any funny sounds or see any errors pop up on screen.

There were a lot of freezes mid-scan attempts. It is not a fun thing to attempt to surf to Malwarebytes’ website and have the computer freeze on you. VIRUS? TROJAN? ROOTKIT? are all things that go through your mind.

The second attempt post umpteenth hard reset worked… so maybe not…

DPC latency checker or watching resource monitor was consistently triggering a freeze about a minute or two into watching the info display.

There were scans of the hard disks for functionality. Seemed ok.

There was writing MemTest to a CD to boot from so that the RAM could be checked. Seemed ok.

There was lunch sometime between scans and brooding, barely tasted.

If anything, it’d gotten worse.

I was only getting into normal mode Windows for about 2-3 minutes before the whole system would freeze, which isn’t much diagnostics time at all.

The one saving grace was that safe mode Windows (with networking even) seemed to work fine… and was even pretty stable.

No freezes there.

So it -probably- wasn’t a major hardware issue, was the afternoon’s conclusion.

What was intensely weird was that taking out all the startup programs and services using msconfig in safe-mode, and then starting up normal mode with that very selective startup of absolutely nothing worth mentioning… was still producing freezes.

There was a battery of virus scans in safe mode, all coming up negative.

Seeing those results, I uninstalled Avast to see if that would help the problem any. Still no go. Still plenty of freezing in normal mode.

In the evening, I took a break in safe-mode to make some backups of my recent data (like screenshots!)… just in case it really was a failing hard disk, I’d regret it if I had time to salvage stuff and didn’t, after all.

NO FREEZES IN SAFE-MODE. FOR THE HOURS IT TOOK TO TRANSFER GIGABYTES WORTH OF STUFF.

WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON.

During the enforced break, I discussed the whole perplexing issue with a friend, and we started leaning towards the possibility of a driver conflict and/or IRQ conflict.

It was weirdly suspicious, I told him, that the IRQs for safe mode and normal mode were differently assigned. My Creative X-Fi soundcard was sitting on IRQ 3 on safe mode, and IRQ 20 on normal. A bunch of various USB hubs on the mobo were seemingly chaotically arranged and sharing IRQs on normal, but looked a little more organized on safe mode. My graphics card had a negative IRQ on normal mode – was that usual? Sadly, I didn’t know, since you know, one never bothers to look at these things when the computer’s running smoothly. Did I really scramble something by plugging in my phone and letting Windows 7 have its way with things?

Annoyingly, there appeared to be no easy way to manually re-assign IRQs with Windows 7. The operating systems have gotten too smart to allow that kind of thing.

The conclusion reached was that it was time to crack open the case and try to isolate the problem from there.

Urgh.

Did I mention the dust in the case?

And that I’ve lately figured out that I have a dust allergy from a) developing a seriously runny nose and congested lungs from inhaling dust thrown up in the air and b) symptoms subsiding when I swallow an antihistamine pill?

If things were normal, I could have been just happily mining for iron and platinum ore instead, I thought mournfully, as I opened the screws and tried not to inhale.

Or static discharge anything into valuable components. (There’s one plus for living in a country with high humidity. Not many static shocks here, if you don’t spend your days rubbing across carpeted flooring.)

Swapped and reseated the RAM. Turned the main power back on. Booted up. Still freezes. No go.

Turned the main power off. Removed the soundcard. Booted up.

No freezing. Or at least… for five minutes and counting, which is about double the improvement already.

Crap. Really?

Googling up “Creative X-Fi” and “freezing” brought up an inordinate number of hits, especially in relation to Windows 7 and 8 and driver issues, and plenty of complaints about Creative being slow-ass sons-of-bitches who don’t update drivers quickly, or write competent ones to begin with, and that folks were having freezes that required hard resets to get out of in virtually every game you could name.

It was officially night, and one had finally narrowed down the possibilities to the probable culprit.

It made a certain kind of sense, it had been two voice programs triggering audio issues, after all, before things escalated to freezing any time it felt like it.

But but… it’d been acting fine for the months since I’d switched to Windows 7, and installed all the official drivers (last updated Feb 2014, for Windows 8) from the sad little page labeled with “End of Service Life.”

And I really really liked the sound my X-Fi produces. On-board sound just isn’t in the same league, by far.

Further study revealed that the motherboard had a second PCI slot. Friend suggested swapping in the soundcard into that one instead.

Did so.

Yadda yadda long story short, booted up, well, hey, still no freeze… checking the IRQs showed it had reassigned itself to 19 instead of 20… maybe that helped?

Friend headed off, celebratorily triumphant, thinking we’d licked the problem.

I sat down to some well-deserved and much-delayed GW2 dailies… when the computer froze again.

SERIOUSLY. FUCK THIS.

Suffice to say that I essentially skipped dinner, and went through many permutations of safe-mode and normal-mode, doing everything I could to first disable Creative X-Fi (which resulted in stability long enough to finish GW2 dailies, giving me at least some stress reduction in that department) and then wiping clean every trace of Creative drivers and programs and registry traces that may have been producing conflicts with each other and other drivers (Driver Sweeper was pretty useful) and then crossing my fingers and reinstalling cleanly the official ones again.

(I would have gone to the unofficial ones next if the official ones failed. I was pretty much operating on a whole “If this… then that” systematic list by that time.)

There were the odd occasional scares between reboots when Windows failed to detect the soundcard at all, then detected the soundcard and installed its own version of an appropriate driver (dated 2011, no idea where it found those) which ironically seemed to work, but of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to try for the 2014 ones, then it couldn’t detect the soundcard again, and then only detected the soundcard partially (playback was missing, but the microphone inputs were there, what?) and so on and so forth.

Eventually, one install seemed to take.

When I screwed the cover back on and righted the case, the most godawful noise started buzzing out of the box. It sounded like a dying jet engine in severe distress. A whining spinning sort of propeller noise with plenty of death rattle in it.

DEAR GOD ALMIGHTY, IS THAT A HARD DISK DYING, OR IS IT ONLY THE FRONT FAN?

Both hard disks and the fan were in the same place, so it was rather difficult to isolate the sound. Whatever it was, it sounded like it was going to tear itself apart any second now.

There was much hasty shutting down, powering off, and un-righting of the computer case back to the horizontal. Reverse those things to boot back up, but nope, even with the case flat, that noise was still unhappily going at it.

Much listening. Much gingerly touching the hard disks with the power on and that godawful noise to check for vibrations, hoping not to zap myself.

It’s the fan, I told myself. It’s probably the fan. All that movement of the case maybe jostled a wire and got it rubbing against the fan blades… or a chunk of dust fell into it and now it’s misbalanced and complaining like a very pissed off mistreated centrifuge.

Well, there’s no way I can operate the computer with that noise.

I had to get at the fan. How am I going to get at the fan with two hard disks in the way? So the front panel came off, with much struggle, and way too much fucking dust.

I guess I forgot to clean that part of it, though I vacuum the rest of the insides once in a blue moon. (It’s a see-through Cooler Master case, one tends to go for the visible stuff and forget the rest.)

It’s the middle of the night, no one sells cans of compressed air at this hour and I didn’t want to drive out and interrupt the troubleshooting process any further anyway. So enter much lugging in of the modest-power vacuum cleaner and much careful hoovering away at the fan, without touching anything (fortunately, static is still not the major issue it is in temperate countries) and without sending the fan spinning too much, which might create unwanted dynamo effects and electricity generated in the wrong places.

Powered back on. Blissful comparative silence. It was the fan after all, and it was now thankfully behaving.

Undergo everything in reverse once again. Move vacuum out of room. Replace cover. Right computer. Boot up. Cross fingers. Load Windows. Still no freeze. So far so good.

I had supper at midnight and went to bed shortly after. Not a great recipe for avoiding acid reflux, I assure you.

The next morning was a case of gingerly tiptoeing around the system, testing out listening to voice programs alone and in conjunction with GW2, getting the startup programs re-enabled and testing if GW2 and VOIP would still work, and finally reinstalling a new antivirus program (gone over to Avira now, not sure if Avast really was being too smart for its own good, but the insistent ‘feature’ ads were getting to me regardless.)

I’m still getting a mild case of audio crackles and pops when someone speaks too loudly over VOIP, but I think I can live with that over freezes for now.

I’ll troubleshoot that ANOTHER time.

Really, sometimes it takes a crisis to appreciate what you had and took for granted.

I’ll happily play with my “boring” and comfortable GW2 that apparently lacks content in relation to other MMOs and attend a daily Teq and Wurm, being actually able to hear VOIP communication, and go from node to node harvesting stuff any day over Saturday’s 18 hour troubleshooting marathon. ANY DAY. ANY TIME.

IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE.