How Corona Virus and Lockdown Affect Me

I guess everybody has a story about how the current situation affects them. Since I share a few of my thoughts on the Internet and this one also has to do with technology, usually the main topic of my musings, I think this is something worth addressing.

I do not know if it makes any difference, but I will say it anyway for the sake of context. I live in Germany and of all the countries in the world we are in fairly good shape so far. We have had lockdown procedures for a while, but nothing so restricting that forbade leaving the house for anything other than going to work, the doctor or buy groceries. We could go for walks or outdoor sports if we were not meeting with other people. It was social distancing, but not hiding at home.

I work as a software developer at an IT company and my employer, like many others, relaxed the usual home office regulations month after month and basically the whole company started to work from their homes, me included. There are a few that do not like it and rather go to the office – which is safe, I presume, as there is basically no one there. I, on the other hand, prefer working from home and this is where the story of this blog post starts.

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OneDrive Sync On Linux With RCLONE

In my quest to move to Linux as a daily driver it was important for me that I could continue to use Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage. Unsurprisingly, Windows 10 comes bundled with a OneDrive sync client. There is no official Linux support though, so I had to resort to a 3rd party tool. Luckily, there is a very powerful utility called rclone that does almost exactly what I want and I’ll explain how I have it set up to suit my needs.

Spoiler: it’s not as convenient as Microsoft’s sync client, but it has other things going for it.

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The Linux Experiment: One Month Later

It has been roughly a month since I switched from using Windows 10 as my main operating system to Linux. The reasons for that have all been detailed in The Switching Windows to Linux Experiment blog post. Now I will share a few of the experiences I have made during the first month (it’s been that long already) and what I think about how well it is going.

Let me address the elefant in the room first, the distribution. I think that is likely the first question you, the reader, would ask. The short answer is Pop!_OS by System76.

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The Switching Windows to Linux Experiment

(Beware of the many text)

For the longest time I have been a Windows user. My first computer came with Windows 98 SE (ignoring the Amiga before it) and I’ve used Windows as the main operating system for almost all that time since then. There was a brief excursion into the Apple world for about a year or two, but apart from that: Microsoft’s creation. It’s not that I have not tried using Linux, it’s just that for many years my needs could not be easily satisfied by a Linux based operating system. For one, I have always enjoyed PC gaming and I still do. I’ve tried going with a console, but that was one of the worst decisions I had made in 2019. There also was a long period where I had used my computer as a TV, a time where Youtube and all the other streaming services hadn’t existed. And although I had managed to get the TV tuners to somehow work, it was not comparable to the experience on Windows. For my use case, over all those years, Microsoft’s OS simply was the Vulkan choice. But now in 2020, this isn’t the case anymore. Things have changed, including the maturity of Linux as well as my own needs and my views. Therefore, it’s about time that I revisit this topic.

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Benchmark RX 570 vs. RX 5700 XT vs. GTX 1660 Super, Ryzen 2600 OC, 3600MHz RAM

At the end of last year, I was researching GPUs like a madman, trying to find the best option for price and performance and maybe also have some headroom for a future CPU upgrade. My starting point was a Ryzen 5 2600, 16 GB of 3000 MHz CL15 RAM and an AMD RX 570 with 8 GB of VRAM. A very good performance per buck machine in the summer of 2019 for 1080p gaming. It was purpose-built to be cheap with an upgrade path in the near future. However, my inner hardware enthusiast didn’t want to be content. It also didn’t help that the two games I was playing at that time performed rather poorly (which was the games fault, but you take every excuse you can get to buy new stuff).

Putting that aside, I have data of three graphics cards to compare, tested in four games at three different in-game settings – plus a custom one for two games that I used for playing. In addition to that, I have a bit of CPU overclocking as a result of troubleshooting and a RAM upgrade from a 3000 MHz CL15 kit to a 3600 MHz CL17 kit – which is running at 3400 MHz. More wasn’t possible with this motherboard and CPU. This post isn’t about the CPU overclocking though. I did that to see if the 5700 XT was limited by the R5 2600 and would perform better with a faster CPU. Well no surprise there, but as it turned out, the numbers I found were not caused by the CPU. More on that later.

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AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT Stuttering at 1080p

Quick note before I go into any details: I did not find a solution for this problem, unfortunately. I’ll be explaining what happened and show frame time graphs as proof.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get into it. I’m certainly not the only one with this issue. If you employ the search engine of your liking you will find many threads covering that topic (like here and here and here and here and so on). Some managed to get it working, some did not. I’m obviously in the latter category.

What happens? From what I found in my research it seems like the RX 5700 XT GPU aggressively tries to save energy if it is not fully utilized. If you run MSI’s Afterburner or any other monitoring software, then you’ll see the GPU load and frequency being all over the place. In general, this is a good thing – if it does not affect perceived performance. And this is where it fell apart for me.

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Windows Fluent Design – Rendering Bugs?

As an avid listener of Windows Weekly I often hear discussions between Paul Thurrott, Mary Joe Foley and Leo Laporte about Microsoft’s Fluent Design. Microsoft continues to evolve the visual language of Windows and thus it’s a regular topic on one of my favorite podcasts. I’ve been noticing it here and there myself, mainly in system dialogs, but I’ve never really paid any attention because none of the applications I use on a regular basis make use of it – and currently I’m rather happy about that fact. Just recently though, I was struck by one effect in particular and that was the spark that got this blog post going. To be honest, in most cases where I notice these Fluent Design elements I think of them as rendering bugs. Like sometimes in games, when the graphics driver is not yet optimized, or a badly programmed game engine draws odd pictures sometimes, flaws in an otherwise normal picture. I have a few examples to show to you.

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I could really bite myself in the butt right now

Somehow, I managed to lose the Intel mounting bracket and standoffs for my Corsair H100i v2 liquid cooler. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I sold them together with the Intel motherboard when I switched to AMD Ryzen. Yes, you read that correctly.

Sold. With. Motherboard.

I can’t find that stuff anywhere in all the packaging that I always keep around until I throw away or sell the hardware. So that’s the only logical conclusion says Mr. Spock.Read More »

NVIDIA GTX 970 vs GTX 1080

As mentioned in the Overclocking the Core i5 post a while back, my graphics card was limiting higher performance outputs, especially since it had to render games in 2560×1440. I hinted at an additional post dedicated to overclocking the GPU and this is it in some ways. I did overclock the GPU, but shortly after I also replaced it with a Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1080. Nevertheless, for comparison, I will include the overclocked results based on the custom graphics settings from the last post and also compare it to the 1080 using default game presets. This way you can easily compare with your own rig. I had hoped I could also include Ryzen tests, but unfortunately Corsair’s AM4 mounting kit for the watercooler is still travelling around the world. So, there’ll be another performance related article (hopefully) soon. That one will compare the overclocked i5 with the GTX 1080 to a Ryzen 1700X with the 1080. Not only in games, but also in encoding.Read More »

Overclocking Intel Core i5 6600K to 4.2 GHz

The Skylake i5 is the 6th generation Core micro-architecture that has a lot of gaming power by default, especially the K series of CPUs. But, with only 4 cores and no hyper-threading, they are just not the right fit for some scenarios, especially video encoding. So, other than buying a new CPU (and board and maybe even RAM – as intriguing as it sounds), what can you do to get more performance? Overclock it! That’s what the K stands for, right? OverKlocK.Read More »

Ergonomic Workplace / Gaming Mouse & Keyboard

Until a couple of months ago my main focus on buying input devices for computers was based on performance and price. I mean, in general that is how one goes about spending money, right? Check the spec sheet and see if it’s worth it. That’s how I always buy my things. I make up my mind that I need something and then I visit my preferred retailer websites and compare the prices. At my home desktop I am a bit more demanding than at work where I simply used (past tense) what came with the computer, but ergonomics never played a role. Boy has that changed.
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Windows 10: First Impressions (Preview Build 10041)

While I was grooming my unicorn on Crazy-Talk Island I read on the Internet about a thing called Windows 10. Curious as I am, I went out to watch the huge presentation on Jan, 21 where Microsoft officially unveiled the mobile version of Windows 10 and the cool hardware stuff. There’s also a very nice set of videos by Scott Hanselman on YouTube that show the changes from version to version.

Actually I’m very much aware of Windows 10 since the beginning, as a developer I’d be crazy not to, so I registered as a Windows Insider yesterday and downloaded the technical preview build 10041. Here’s a summary of my first impressions.
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Windows 8.1: One Year Later – I Get It Now

Windows 8 wasn’t all too well received, hardly a secret if you follow the tech press, neither by customers nor by businesses. There are a few folks who like it but they are, like those Windows Phone enthusiasts (that really do exist), a very minor minority (without report).

*Ahem*

About a year ago, I started using Windows 8.1 as my main operating system (which I’ve written about a few months later). Before, it was just a necessity to get the Soundblaster audio card to work. However, going through the same positional-sound problem again after upgrading from 8.0 to 8.1, I’m sure using Windows 8 fixed the problem by accident. Creative’s drivers are just a bulk load of crap, as they’ve always been. Had I not had the iMac as a work computer at that time, I’m not sure I would’ve installed Windows 8 instead of 7, but rather gotten rid of the Soundblaster Z. If you’ve read the post about the sound card, you know I was one of the many people that had an axe to grind with this OS.
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NVIDIA GTX 970 vs. AMD HD 7870 vs. NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti

My gaming PC is about two years old now (read this and this for more information) and although I didn’t really have any serious, permanent performance issues in games, I felt that it was about time to change something.

Here’s a short review and benchmark comparison of NVIDIA’s latest GTX 970 vs. the AMD Radeon HD 7870 (quite a mouthful) that I had installed before. The latter also had to show what it can do compared to an older NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti.
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