Archive for January, 2012

Actual fake comment from a spammer who was trying to get past the moderation. Bizarre…

January 31, 2012

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Possible fix for visual issues with ATI 5970 card and Skyrim

January 28, 2012

I installed the new-in-the-box RMA replacement for my HIS ATI 5970 card and had serious and bizarre visual issues with Skyrim. A screenshot is here:

After trying a lot of things, this may be the fix:

The visual glitches may have been fixed by installing the AMD Catalyst 12.2 Preview driver. If you are having Skyrim issues with an ATI 5970 card, the new preview driver is here:

Give it a try. You can always roll it back if it doesn’t work. For me, it made the game playable again.

True and scary story

January 27, 2012

I was overdue for routine lab work and was about to get stuck by a tech. She asked my birth date, which I gave and then mentioned that I am one of the small group of Americans who were born when we had 49 states. I was delivered in the brief windows after Alaska and before Hawaii.

She looked at me and commented, “Yeah, we have like 52 of them now.”

Have we REALLY reached a point in America where someone apparently in their 20’s – who works in the medical industry – is so POORLY EDUCATED in basic civics that they can’t even tell you HOW MANY STATES WE HAVE IN OUR NATION?

Yes, I am afraid we have indeed done so. She wasn’t trying to be funny. I am afraid she really didn’t know.

Now ponder that this clue-deficient person gets to vote in a presidential election. That is the part that is scary.

Quick review of the Rosewill RNX-N180UBE Wireless Adapter

January 23, 2012

I have a problem where the master bedroom in our home is sort of a wireless Internet dead zone. We have a 23″ HDTV in there hooked up to Blu-ray player and wanted to also stream Netflix and other video. I hooked up my Acer Aspire One to the TV to do this, but discovered the terrible wireless connection made streaming (or even web surfing) impractical.

Something had to be done! The family wanted YouTube and Netflix available in the back bedroom!

Then I saw this antenna offered for $19.99 with free shipping on Newegg and the reviews were positive:

So, did it work? Drum-roll please! Let the tension build!

Yeah. It does. I installed the drivers (it has them for Windows 7 64 bit), hooked it up, logged into the secure wireless network — and the signal strength promptly jumped. I fired up Netflix and the grandson is now watching cartoons on it.

The knowledge that I can fix the wireless black hole in the back bedrooms means I can go forward with a compact media center build I was considering. There was no point in doing it unless I could get a boosted signal.

So, bottom line, Rosewill has a $20 piece of hardware (while on sale) that did what it was supposed to do just fine. It like it enough that I will likely get another one for the grandson’s gaming rig for online gaming.

For a mere $20 (it is still on sale) it is an option for others plagued with wireless Internet dead zone problems. Maybe I am just tickled that something made for a computer worked as advertised right out of the box. Please let this become a trend!

EA Tech support is still the worst in the known universe

January 22, 2012

I have had problems I have written about in the blog about EA/Origin’s EPIC FAIL in the tech support area. My experience is that they are a comedy of errors if you try to deal with a support issue. My favorite example is when they tried to apologize for screwing something up by giving me a $20 discount code — but their own website REFUSES to accept it as valid.

Anyhow, my grandson wants a game that EA has available and my discount would pay for it completely. So, I endured another bout of tech support Hell trying to MAKE them HONOR their own discount code. First I had to crawl all over the website to try to find a phone number. I called, navigated the phone menu — and was on hold for at least half an hour listening to elevator music. While waiting on hold I decided to see if my bad experiences with EA (whose support site is here in Austin) were shared by others. Oh, boy, I am NOT alone! Note the absolutely horrible score and user comments here:

Out of a possible score of 200, they are cellar-dwellers at at 28.79, with 241 negative comments and just 17 positive ones.

When I finally got a warm body, they tried to tell me the $20 code no longer was valid at the new Origin website and they could give me a 15% off code as a replacement. I refused it, noting that their email to me stressed the $20 credit had NO EXPIRATION DATE and that a 15% off discount code saved me $3 on a pending $19.99 purchase vs. the $19.99 I would otherwise have saved.

Indeed, here is the actual email from EA from 6/22/10 that I quoted back to them:

Hello James,

Thank you for contacting Electronic Arts.

Please be informed that you do need to purchase the 800 points as there is no an option to purchase specific or concerned points.

Additionally, as a valued player, we would like to offer a small token of our appreciation in the form of a $20 off discount offer “DISCOUNT CODE DELETED” for the EA Store! This discount code does not have an expiration date, and can be redeemed for any future purchase on

If there is anything else we can help you with please let me know.

Thank you,

(Support agent name deleted)
EA Online Support.

Anyhow, back to the current situation: I mentioned that my next steps might be forwarding this dispute onto the Texas Attorney General as a possible consumer fraud item. The tech support guy (who I stress was quite polite) couldn’t talk about anything involving legal stuff, so I decided not to put him the middle of it.

Anyhow, we left things with me asking it be escalated to Level 3 tech support and the request was granted. Who knows where it will go from here. My prior dealings with EA don’t give me much confidence, but maybe a blog post documenting my ordeal will get their attention.

I also note that a long-standing dispute with EA involving Battlefield Heroes items that we bought has apparently simply vanished from their system entirely. Maybe I will need to make another whack at recovering the items we bought while I have their attention, as that is still a sore point.

(We had a BH account with some premium items bought for it. A hacker got into the account and bought a bunch of other stuff with our debit card information. EA froze the BH account and, to their credit, worked with our bank on getting the bogus charges backed out. The problem is that we also lost the premium items we bought for the deleted account. Repeated attempts to get EA to address the matter were in vain. I can post the emails showing our attempts to get it resolved.)

Oh, if you need to reach EA tech support by phone, let me save you a lot of hunting around on their difficult to navigate website: 1-866-543-5435 from 7am-9pm CST (7 days a week)

The epic tech support fails I have suffered with EA/Origin are one reason why I stick with Steam as my strong preference for downloadable games. Steam’s tech support isn’t perfect, but the few times I have needed them they were, by comparison, a joy to deal with and they actually fixed my problems. Gabe Newell and Valve seem to understand customer service!

Review of the motherboard in my media center & gaming rig for the living room

January 16, 2012

If you are looking at a high-end AMD CPU build (like a new Bulldozer), then seriously consider an Asus Sabertooth 990FX as the motherboard. So far, we have had nothing but favorable impressions of it after using one in a project. Everything just plain “worked” right out of the box and it has been stable as a brick.

The review on the website is here:

Wierd bug in Skyrim and the fix: missing right mouse button.

January 16, 2012

This may be a one-of-a-kind bug that was rooted in an an unplanned shutdown while in the game. Basically, the game “forgot” I had a right mouse button. All commands that you could do with a right mouse button were gone, from blocking to casting with the left hand. After much rooting around, I concluded that whatever the game used to document key re-mappings had been corrupted somehow. I search the Skyrim folders and found a file that had been modified that day called: ControlMap_Custom.txt and deleted it. When I reload the game I was back to the default keyboard/mouse mappings. I was then able to enter in my few keyboard changes to favor my preferred keys for crouching and sprinting.

So, if you get something REALLY strange going on with your keyboard/mouse configs, it is something to try. For safety, you can always simply move the suspect file to another folder or rename it instead of deleting it.

Again, it is likely that the unplanned shutdown of the gaming rig is the root of the corrupted file.

Article on on a customer service debacle regarding a failed HIS ATI 5970 card

January 15, 2012

Read this before settling on a high-end video card purchase. Customer service matters if you ever have problems with a piece of hardware down the road.

Shameless plug for a stop-motion movie my young granddaughter directed

January 13, 2012

Can you handle the terror of “Curse of the Dino-Zombies!”

Be afraid, be VERY afraid! Will the heroic Steve the Bear be able to save us all? Watch and see!

Hey, it isn’t bad for a nine year-old…

Kindle Fire video review by up on YouTube

January 13, 2012

I am partnered on a hardware/software/tech review site at:

They recently put up a pretty in-depth set of reviews for the Kindle Fire. If you are thinking about buying one and want so see a hands-on shakedown of the device, here are links:

Again, I am a partner in the site because I liked their consumer-oriented review policies. They DON’T suck up to vendors and will thrash a product if they feel it deserves it.