Category Archives: misc

MS Wheel Mouse Optical Redux (WMO 1.1 & Windows 10 x64)

Back in 2011, I wrote a fairly gushing post about the Microsoft WMO 1.1/1.1a. It’s a great mouse. It really is.

The end of my WMO

Sadly, in late 2016, the venerable WMO gave up the ghost – its death certificate listed a faulty cable. Basically, I’d be playing Overwatch and it’d randomly disconnect, then reconnect. I’m not a technician, so I binned it.

I then bought a Steelseries Rival 100, as I needed a stopgap mouse. The Rival 100 is a decent mouse, but its shape doesn’t agree with me (it’s too narrow), and it’s a touch too heavy for my tastes.

Finding a replacement mouse model

I decided to try and track down a decent WMO replacement. After a bit of a hunt, I couldn’t find anything that’s 100% suitable; some people recommend Zowies like the EC2-A or FK1, and others like the Razer DeathAdder Chroma.

It’s tough to track down accurate information regarding the unpackaged weight of the mouse, too. The WMO weighed in at ~80g, and in my opinion is better for it.

Furthermore, I don’t want a mouse with stupid cloud software (S3 is down? Well, not sure how to load your mouse settings man!), and I’m not really a fan of spending £60 on a mouse in what is essentially a blind purchase. I might love it, but I might hate it.

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Benq XL2411T Monitor Review

Before I review the Benq, it’s worth giving a bit of background about the monitors I’ve owned up till now.

Dell P1110

image

My first ‘serious’ bit of monitor kit was a Dell P1110 21” Trintron ‘Flat Screen’ CRT (it was flat screen in the sense that it wasn’t a fishbowl and the viewable area was only 19.8” – how the advertisers got away with this for so long always mystified me). The P1110 could easily pump out 100hz and beyond at anything below 1600×1200. It was circa ~2002 and I was a poor student, so I picked it up refurbished for a couple of hundred quid, half-expecting to get ripped off or scammed.

Best purchase ever.

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Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti OC–Avoid

This card, amongst various other factory overclocked GTX 560 Tis are causing problems for lots of people.  There are various 560 Ti cards that have the OC postfix which stands for “Overclocked”, but the Gigabyte one seems to be the biggest offender.

tl;dr summary:

Batches of these cards do not run at their advertised speeds with certain DX11 games.  The cards are either stretched beyond their comfort zones, or don’t get enough voltage.

If you have one of the unreliable cards and play the likes of Crysis 2 or Battlefield 3, your game will probably crash with a silent error, or a driver error.

Symptoms

I bought the Gigabyte card purely for the quiet fans, but I’ve found that it cannot and will not run Battlefield 3 without heavy tweaking.  Without the tweaks BF3 will, without fail, inside 3 (three) minutes:

  • (Silently) Crash to the desktop
  • Crash with a BF3 stopped working error
  • Crash with a Windows 7 driver failure (like this)

    bf3_crash

I initially raged against BF3 and called DICE all of the names under the sun as BF games have a history of being horrendously buggy on release (I still crash on loading up for the first time quite a lot so…), but this time around the amount of ranting on forums with BF3 and other DX11 games points to faulty hardware.

‘Fixing’ The Problem

Gigabyte users only.  Either RMA the card and ask for a different model or…

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Good support (for once)

… kinda.  I recently built a new computer and one of the parts I received was faulty.  The heatsink bracket had a missing thread, so it was impossible to screw the brackets together.

I emailed Novatech support, assuming I was in for the full, painful returns rigmarole, but was pleasantly surprised, but also befuddled at the hoop jumping I had to do. 

The good

I described the problem and told them exactly which bracket was unusable (the Zalman CNPS 10X Quiet comes with three mounting brackets for different motherboard types, and only the LGA 1155 bracket was faulty).  I only had to wait to speak on the phone for about 30 seconds of hold music the second time I phoned. 

Most importantly, I received a new bracket in the post the next day, and you can’t say that about most places.

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Valve’s response to being hacked

… was very, very disappointing.  I’m somewhat befuddled by the extremely low key response to the incident. 

Visibility

On logging into the steam client this evening, there is no mention of the breach.  I’ve seen a few people on the forum disagreeing with my assertion, so I can only assume their announcements strategy is bugged or flawed.  I have announcements turned off, but in this case, the announcement should be prominently displayed.  Being told you may have had your credit card / password details stolen is not something I ever want to opt-out of.

There is no mention on the steam website.

There is no mention on the steam forums except for a tiny security announcement across the top of each individual forum.  It is tucked away out of sight – it’s not splashed across the main index or anything of that ilk.  I was asked to change my password when I tried to log in; that is all.  No reason was provided as to why I had to do this, either before or after.

Finally, I didn’t receive an email about it. Emails were only sent to those registered on the forums. 

Breached

A company’s security is only as strong as its weakest link, and once inside a machine, it is hard to say where an attack started and ended — particularly when you take human factors into account.  Not to be mean to Gabe, but Gabe’s HL2 fan site forum account was hacked years ago and they found his password was “gaben”.  Nobody is perfect, even when they’re taking preventative measures.

Even if the machine is totally isolated from the rest of Valve’s network, all it takes is one sloppy admin to re-use a password elsewhere, and you have major problems. 

History tells us that companies often cling to information when something goes wrong, and that what is eventually admitted (either due to information control in the early moments of the investigation, ignorance or both) can be far worse than the initial assessment.  In a situation like this, I believe that the only safe thing to do is to warn all of your customers about the potential breach so that they can take preventative measures.

Furthermore, as it happens, I do have a forum account, but it was tied to an old email address.  Who’s to say that my steam account username & password don’t match my forum username & password?  It is a common thing to do (note: I didn’t, but it wasn’t far off as, like most people, I am forgetful and a touch disorganised).

In my opinion, there should be a general email going out to all steam customers via their login emails, plus unavoidable notifications on the steam client, website & forums.

So how did I find out?  http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/ was the messenger for me, not Valve itself.  Perhaps I am the exception, but I somehow doubt it.

MS Wheel Mouse Optical (WMO 1.1)

I’m an addict

As a first person shooter (FPS) addict, I play a fair amount shitload of games.  I racked up a god-awful number of hours in Team Fortress Classic (I would conservatively estimate over 3000, on account of the fact I played it on and off for several years), 1400+ of Battlefield 2 and now 1000+ of Left 4 Dead.  I average ~1 hour a day.  I like to tell myself it’s a small time sink and I’m not wasting my life.

In that time I’ve gone through countless mice, mouse pads and a few desks, too.  If you waste spend an inordinately large amount of time doing something, it’s worth making sure that your time-wasting is enjoyable as possible.  I recently bought a new mouse.  Here is some highly interesting* discourse for mouse enthusiasts. 

This post covers choosing a mouse, setting it up and then rejoicing in shooting pixels more accurately.

Everyone else: I am warning you.  Look away now.

*may not be true

Caveat Emptor

I’ve been gleefully using MX5xx series mice for the best part of a decade.  The MX518 is a fine, spangly beast.  It draws admiring glances from neighbours and also dazzles helicopter pilots with its vajazzled charms.  It looks a bit like this:

An MX518, yesterday.

image

However, I recently stumbled across the ‘feature’ the MX518 has that’s commonly referred to as “angle snapping”, “prediction” or “correction”.  What is angle snapping?  Well, at the hardware or driver level, if your movements stay under some arbitrary threshold, the mouse input is subtly altered to keep your ‘lines’ straight. 

Here’s the effect in action.  A common test is to draw some horizontal and vertical lines in MS Paint.  Notice that my MX518-created lines are eerily straight for large sections.  If you’re pixel aiming at someone’s head with a rifle, this is not helpful.

mouse_lines

Note: This is a feature that is found in several mice, including gaming mice.  In some cases (such as the Logitech G series and the Razer Death Adder), you can disable the “feature” using the driver.  As that bloke off Art Attack used to say, “Try it yourself.”

Time for a Change

The MX518 I use at work (I have two) recently had a wheely bad fault and, having discovered the most-likely-non-issue that is angle snapping, I decided to unnecessarily obsess over it and buy something else. 

Because that will make me a Quake Live Pro, of course… (oh and sometimes it’s fun to change things)

Smile

Things to be aware of

Before I delve into specifics, here’s some guidelines for purchasing a new gaming mouse. 

Laser Mice Suck

Firstly, steer well clear of Laser Mice — their tracking sucks. They’re expensive. Even people who are endorsed by these brands don’t use these mice – laser has not yet caught up with the best optical has to offer, so don’t be fooled by the notion that newer is better.

DPI is overrated

All of this DPI nonsense seems to have little to do with mouse performance and tracking characteristics. All a higher DPI count seems to do is multiply your sensitivity by a factor using hardware and/or a mouse driver (much the same as turning up your sensitivity in windows and/or ingame).

Older mice with lower DPI can potentially track better than newer laser mice with 5600000000000 bajillion DPI.  In short, it’s largely a marketing gimmick.

Most of the professional quake players use 400 or 800 DPI coupled with a low sensitivity, so why would you ever need a 5600 DPI mouse?  Answers on a postcard.

Mouse Drivers Aren’t Always Needed

If your mouse is perfectly serviceable without installing drivers, try the mouse both with and without the drivers.  I’ve had mice that worked well both with and without.  I used the setpoint drivers for my MX518 solely to turn off the silly DPI switching buttons, but I’m not using any drivers with my new mouse.

Kill Windows Mouse Acceleration

Like Poison Sockets, Windows Mouse Acceleration is a hazard to your health.  It’s terrible.  Switch it off using the CPL mouse fix.  This version works with Windows 7 64 bit – I can’t guarantee anything else, but there’s another version that works with XP floating around.

Mouse acceleration means that physical distance you move the mouse isn’t the sole factor for your aiming.  If you use it, it should be a conscious decision, not something foisted upon you by windows in a ham-fisted fashion. 

If you insist on using mouse acceleration, either use the driver settings for your mouse or, even better, set up acceleration using in-game settings (newish half life and quake-based engine games offer customisable acceleration settings).

Negative Acceleration

Even with today’s space-age technology and fretful nerdery, mouse tracking is not yet perfect.

Most optical gaming mice on the market today can handle extreme speeds without losing their minds (as in, it’s almost humanly impossible to totally totally baffle the sensor while furiously turning around).  However, if you play with a low sensitivity and use a large mouse mat (I’m talking at least > 20cm of mouse movement to turn 360 degrees) there is the possibility of suffering from negative acceleration. 

Negative acceleration occurs when the sensor continues to recognise input, but cannot accurately track the distance covered.  The faster you move the mouse, the less distance is registered.  This manifests itself in fast movements (such as flicking the mouse to turn around) not turning you as much as if you’d performed the movement slowly. 

The optimum mouse setting is one where physically moving the mouse the same distance maps to the same logical game input.  Negative acceleration erodes this consistency.

The ESRreality MouseScore offers the clearest explanation.

It should be noted that, but for all the worst offenders, this is only a concern for low sensitivity gamers, and certain mice have workarounds available (such as increasing the USB polling rate via Windows). 

The Contenders

After researching the pitfalls, I did a cursory bit of reading around and discovered that roughly half of the best competitive Quake Live players use (or used) one of the following (crappy-looking) mice:

None of these mice is billed as a gaming mouse and they’re all dirt cheap.  Bizarrely, Microsoft don’t really talk up this fact or try to cash in.  They’re like a trio of unassuming murderers living next door.  Strange.

All 3 feature the same optical sensor.  The differences are just the shape and the available buttons.  The WMO is ambidextrous; the IMO is the same shape but has some extra side buttons.  The IME 3.0 is also a very similar shape, but is right-handed and has the extra buttons.  Gamers tend to favour the WMO or the IME 3.0

The negatives of each of these are all similar.  Firstly, without altering the USB polling rate, the sensor performs worse than the likes of the Death Adder.  Secondly, the wheel has a mind of its own.  Slamming the mouse down can force a button press.  For this reason, many players unbind the wheel and mouse 3 and rely on keyboard binds.

You can find the WMO or IMO for £8 to £15 and the IME 3.0 for £20.

The rest of the mice like the Death Adder all have strong reviews, but furtively slither into the £40+ price bracket.  As a Scottish miser, £40+ is a lot of clams for a pointy thing, so I baulked at the prospect.

Anyway, I chose…

The Wheel Mouse Optical 1.1

After drinking in the details posted in various nerd forums, I plumped for the WMO 1.1 at £14.99 from Maplins (product code: D66-00074) ordered via Amazon. 

As far as I can tell, there’s no problem with stock or versions. If you get one that was manufactured in the last 90 years, it ought to be a version with the sensor that’s good for gaming.

The WMO 1.1

image

My first port of call was to uninstall my old logitech setpoint mouse drivers.  I then plugged in the new mouse and cancelled the intellipoint driver installation process.  There’s no need to install drivers for this mouse, so it’s one less thing to worry about.

Next, I installed the CPL mouse fix to remove windows mouse acceleration.

Finally, to minimise the chances of encountering negative acceleration, I overclocked my USB polling rate to 500hz.  This was quite fiddly to do, but beyond a few reboots and Avira complaining about phantom viruses, it wasn’t a big deal.

Overclocking the USB polling rate increases the ‘perfect control’ region from 1 m/s up to 1.5 m/s, so unless you really throw it around with a miniscule sensitivity, negative acceleration shouldn’t be a concern. 

A quick test showed everything was in order.

Desk and Mousepad

As an avid PC headbanger, I’ve always favoured large desks.  In fact, I don’t understand why many PC owners fret over mice and monitors but often overlook the cornerstone of the PC experience: The desk and the chair.

I’m using a Influx Curva 1200 Right-Handed Wave Desk coupled with a Steelseries QcK+ mouse pad.  Both are fantastic products.  The Curva is solidly constructed, is a perfect height and affords me plenty of room.

I’ve got a 24” + 20” monitor dual screen setup, and there’s still room for a 45cm mouse mat and a few other bits and pieces.  At £150 it’s not a budget buy, but given how much I use my PC, I think it’s well worth it.

image + image

Regarding the size of the mousepad: I used to think anything over 30 cm was overkill, but having a 45 cm pad makes a large difference.  It covers such a large part of my desk that I no longer have to worry about positioning the pad – it’s everywhere, so I can get comfy.  A decade ago, my TFC clanmates used to constantly mock me for my OCD style mouse mat positioning.  The words still ring in my ears.  I cried sometimes, but no longer. 

Compared to the standard size QcK, it also affords me the luxury of using a lower mouse sensitivity. 

Sensitivity

I’m an arm player in that I use my forearm to move the mouse as opposed to my wrist/fingers.  I used to be a high sensitivity wrist/fingers player when I had a small desk.  I prefer using my arm; it’s more precise and I suffer from fewer PC-related mousing strains.

One sweep across the entire pad turns about 400 degrees (so probably about ~40cm for a 360 degree turn).  Because of its weight, this was slightly cumbersome with the MX518. The WMO is much lighter and glides easily.

Generally speaking, the lower your mouse sensitivity, the more precise you can be for picking out enemies.  A low mouse sensitivity is not a panacea, nor will it make you, me or anyone else a PRO GAMER!1, but I’ve switched around over the years and I keep gravitating towards lower and lower sensitivities. 

Also, once you’re familiar with a game, the need to sharply turn around often abates as you react less and predict more. 

Testing and Conclusion

I’m impressed with the WMO.  For £14.99 and a bit of tinkering, it’s a great mouse and, with my settings, the tracking seems to be borderline flawless.

It’s definitely not as grippy as the MX5XX series so if you’re a sweaty git, you may find it becomes slippery due to the lack of a rubbery finish.  Thankfully, I don’t sweat at all when sitting at the PC so this is not an issue for me. 

Also, the shape is perfectly fine; I prefer the shape of the MX5XX but this is better than adequate.  Everyone will have their own preferences when it comes to shape.

The tracking is borderline flawless and its lightness means it glides much more easily than other more tubby mice.

The only real downsides I’ve encountered were the phantom clicking mouse wheel issue and having to mess around with USB polling rates.  If you can live with these two issues, then I’d strongly recommend trying it out.  For £15, you won’t do much better.

Yes, I am a nerd.

Additional References

Fragtality’s epic gaming mice guide

British Telecom: SIM codes

tl;dr summary

If you’re with a broadband provider other than BT, ask for the SIM code when you’re moving your telephone line.

Long version

British Telecom have a habit of making things unusually difficult for their ‘cheap’ customers.  Not only do they try and foist every single one of their sodding services on you when you only wish to make an enquiry, but they’re (deliberately or otherwise) quite adept at being very inconveniencing when it suits them.

If you don’t have broadband with them and you’re moving home, you may need a SIM code (simultaneous provide code) to transfer your broadband smoothly.  Failure to obtain this code means you can’t kick off the broadband transfer in parallel, meaning a much longer time period of downtime.  After arranging my phone line transfer, I phoned up BeUnlimited (an ISP I can thoroughly recommend) and was informed that I need a SIM code to move the broadband quickly.

I then entered the catacombs that is BT’s cavernous automated phone system.  After much swearing and several dead-ends (note: companies should NEVER tell me to hang up when I reach a dead-end – there should always be a ‘to speak to a human being, press 1’ option), I managed to get through to someone.

Anyway, it turns out that various BT operators don’t seem to know what the SIM code is and will gropingly state things like, “no, you mean a MAC code; I can arrange some broadband with BT for your new home, Mr. Simpson”, as you patiently try to explain that you have placed an order, and you wish to retrieve the SIM code associated with it as your existing broadband provider is asking for it. 

After much gnashing of teeth and stalling, the operator revealed that I cannot get the SIM after an order has been placed – it is generated once and discarded; they don’t take a note of it or mention its existence.  I was told I had to cancel the order, wait 24 hours and then re-order, then explicitly ask for the code during the order process next time around (as they don’t provide it as standard).

What an absolute shambles.  Can you imagine them doing the same thing to me had I been with BT for all services?  Not on your life.

Windows Live Writer

If you’re still editing your blog using the WordPress (or equivalent) web interface, I’d recommend checking out Windows Live Writer.  I was introduced to it at work, as we maintain an internal technical blog to ensure that our bus factor is acceptable.  Windows live writer is simple, easy to set up and much more pleasant to work with – I’d thoroughly recommend it.  It’s a free download, too.

Normal service to resume shortly

I’ve had an .. interesting few months.

Realtime Worlds went into administration and then collapsed.  It was quite abrupt; abrupt to the point where even the more cynical amongst us (i.e. me) didn’t see it coming.  We’d done some cursory back-of-the-fag-packet calculations in the pub and reckoned there was roughly another year of funding in place; we’d also been assured in the past that MyWorld was not at the mercy of APB’s performance.

The gist of it is that APB launched to a critical mauling.  The company’s great hope haemorrhaged money; the sack-everybody card was duly played.  Understandably, the project that was not making revenue was first on the chopping block and MyWorld staff were placed on 30 days of consultation, with a further 30 days of notice of dismissal after that.  It was a long, drawn-out process that bore little fruit.  Needless to say, I was very, very … displeased.  More than two and a half years of service down the drain; some folk had much more to lose.

Long story short, we all got made redundant.  During this period I was rather pre-ocuppied and didn’t do much interesting programming at home (I spent most of the time in the pub moping and fostering a weird, giddy doom-mongering spirit), so the blog went a touch quiet.

A new company sprang up to continue development of MyWorld and I’m now a part of it.  This is now common knowledge, so there’s no great harm in saying so.  Hopefully we (we as in : the new company) will be blogging about our games/technology/company culture in future, but I’ll try to resume normal service of talking balls here, too.  I’ve recharged my batteries and I’m ready to go again :)

On another plus note, pretty much every single person I knew on MyWorld has now secured a new job.

Terms that mildly displease me #243 & #244

#243 “Concretion”

Concretion sounds stupid.  Please, just say concrete type.

#244 “Action”, as in “he’s Actioning it as we speak”

Action is a noun.  I will not stand for this!