My brother's Athlon XP 3000 was showing its age recently, when he tried to run Beowulf on it. The game simply wouldn't start - which suggested a new PC was required.
He's opted for an Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 (@ 2.66GHz); 4GB Geil PC6400 DDR2 along with a GeForce 8800GTS. Having installed Vista Home Premium on it last night, I decided to run 3D Mark 2006 - to see how this new hardware compares to others that I've run the test on.
I know 3D Mark scores should be taken with a pinch of salt - but 9035 is insane when you compare it to Red19's 3892. That's almost (but not quite) 3 times the score, which is comparing a 2.6GHz (overclocked) AM2 Dual Core to a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, with the former sporting a 7800GT and the latter utilising the 8800GTS. It just goes to show how much technology has come on in only a year.
What score do you get with 3D Mark 2006?
For Christmas 2007, IOCEA.com Ltd celebrated by organising a driving day at Prestwold Hall, Leicestershire.
I awoke at 6am and met the others outside the office for 6:45am. We drove in convoy to Prestwold Hall, where some of our clients and other colleagues were waiting. By 9:30am we had consumed bacon rolls and cups of tea, ready for the safety briefing.
The 16 of us were then split into 4 teams (of 4!) and we were taken out for the first of our many experiences of the day - a couple of demonstration laps with an instructor. I chose to sit in the back of one of the BMW Alpina's:
The instructor took the first lap easy, narrating the whole way around the circuit - explaining where to brake and turn into corners and where to put the power down. The second lap we were taken faster and it was great to see what a Diesel can do.
After the demonstrations (others were in the 2nd Alpina or 2 x Imprezas) it was our turn to drive the Mini Cooper:
On first impressions, I was really impressed with the Mini's interior and gearbox. After the first lap, I completely understood why many say it handles like a Go-Kart. We had 4 laps total in the Mini, with an instructor telling us the best lines to take in both the Mini and the faster cars that we'd be driving later on.
Then it was onto the Ferrari 550 Marinello. I've always respected Ferraris and admired them and the 550 was no exception:
With a 5.5L V12 the Ferrari screamed around the track - the engine note is amazing, as if Ferrari spend much of their R and D improving it. Once it was my turn, I climbed in and familiarised myself with the interior. The seats were leather with a suede dash - if I recall correctly (most of the time my eyes were on the track ahead) and the gearshift is gated with a large aluminium gearstick.
The Prestwold Hall track itself is quite large - maybe a corner or two shorter than Top Gear's test track. Although our lap times during the day weren't measured, according to one of the instructors the fastest car they've had around it, is Audi's new R8 - in about 1m 8s.
After a brief from the instructor, I was away - heading out of the pits at a snails pace, getting used to the (awkward) gearbox. Compared to the other cars on the day, the Ferrari demands the most input from the driver. The clutch is solid, requiring a lot of pressure to engage the gears. The throttle is extensive, with more travel than you initially think - and the brakes are demanding too.
However, it was as good as - if not, better than you'd imagine a Ferrari to be. 4 laps in the 550 and I was [almost] sold, thinking that the day couldn't get any better. I didn't have any time to read the dials within the cockpit - but the instructors later informed us that everyone hit around 120mph on the back straight in both super-cars.
After the Ferrari, it was time for the Lamborghini Gallardo:
I thought the Ferrari was going to be the highlight of the day, as I've never been a big fan of Lamborghini's. But that all changed after the 4 laps in the Gallardo. I thought the Ferrari sounded great at idle and at speed - but the Lamborghini was in a league of its own. Idling, you could hear the fans cooling the engine by sucking in copious amounts of air. But at full throttle, it screamed with an exhaust note out of this world!
Out of my team, I was the 3rd to drive the Lambo and I struggled to fit in comfortably. Whereas the Ferrari was a bit on the low side, the Gallardo required me to sit lower in the seat, in order for my head (with helmet) to fit in. The seats were once again leather, though in two tone orange/black. The steering wheel was more compact compared to the 550's and the gear shifting was instead operated by paddles on either side of the wheel. This was one of the highlights of the Lamborghini - as I exited the pits, the instructor informed me that to change a gear, I had to keep my foot on full throttle and pull the paddle towards me - as the car would do the rest. And woah, the gear changes were possibly the most fun. Full throttle down the straights, I changed up a gear and the car momentarily engaged the clutch, moved gear and kept the power flowing. As a spectator, the sound from the exhausts as the Gallardo changes gear is amazing.
The Gallardo sports a 5L V10 but feels much tighter and more modern compared to the Ferrari. I can't quite describe it in words, but after driving the two, all 16 of us agreed that we'd drive the Lamborghini home. We even contemplated either distracting the instructors and driving off with it - or going halves on the purchase of one (well 16/ths I guess).
So, I'm going to be trying to re-live my Gallardo experience by playing many computer games, such as Project Gotham.
But, that wasn't the end of the day! After a lunch at a local hotel in town, my team was due to have a ride with an instructor. Whereas the demonstration laps (in the Alpina) were reasonably fast, the fast laps with the instructors were insane. We were taken out in a Subaru Impreza:
This did two things for me - firstly it completely changed my opinion of Imprezas. I saw them as far inferior to the Mitsubishi Evolution, or Nissan Skyline (et al) and as a boy racer's ride. Secondly, the instructor at the beginning of the day, who pressed play on the DVD player for the safety briefing, turned into Michael Shumacher, or Lewis Hamilton.
Whereas our laps in the Ferrari 550 and Lamborghini Gallardo were fast, the laps within the Subaru Impreza (with the instructor in control this time) were insane. We were told to brake at the first brake board in the Mini and the second when driving the Gallardo/550 - but the instructor went past both and barely touched the actual brakes. The Bridgestones screeched as he took each corner as if it was the last, with the rear-end of the Impreza struggling to stay in line. Wow.
It's amazing to think that a standard factory built Impreza can perform like it did, but I was Impressed! Apparently, it'll lap just as well as the Gallardo and 550 around the track when in the hands of the instructors. I recall being overtaken by the Impreza when in both super-cars too.
After the thrills of the BMW Alpina; Mini Cooper; Ferrari 550 Marinello; Lamborghini Gallardo and Subaru Impreza, our team had a 'team building' exercise in a Mini-Moke. Whilst blind-folded, each of us took it in turn to be guided by our team mates around cones. It was a lot of fun and a good way to bring us back down to earth.
Of all the cars we drove, I'll never forget the Ferrari for its name; the Lamborghini for its thrills and the Impreza for having my eyes opened to what fast actually is.
At about 3:30pm we were seated back in the original safety briefing room, for the awards to be announced. Whilst driving the Lamborghini Gallardo, the instructor had a score card and marked us out of 100. I achieved 92/100 (as did many others), but overall my team won the day. My trophy is currently sitting on the mantle-piece, but will no doubt reside on my desk at IOCEA, for all to see.
If any of you are looking for a driving experience, then I think I can speak for all 16 of us and recommend Prestwold Hall. Thanks to our Directors, Derek and Garry for letting us all loose in some of the fastest cars of today!
For those of you that don't already know, the title pretty much says it all!
I've scanned pictures from the Ultra-Sound scan that we attended today and can also reveal the project that has been under-wraps for the past few weeks:
We're going to be using it to blog all about the Little Baby, so that family and friends can keep up-to-date with the progress. It's yet another WordPress blog, but I can't get enough of them - the theme is scratch-built and the site will soon feature a forum for others to share their experiences too.
Let me know your reaction to the news, if I've not told you in person!
After downloading a few free ISO's, I found many of them to be above the 4.x GB limit of my single-sided DVDs. As I usually tend to burn an ISO after downloading it, I hit a brick wall, momentarily.
An alternative to wasting inexpensive CDs/DVDs is to 'mount' the image using a piece of software, which basically tricks Windows into believing you've physically inserted the disc into the DVD-RW (or whatever).
However, a quick Google search threw up many solutions for mounting an image within Vista - but every one of them also mentioned that it wasn't compatible within Vista 64-bit (as I'm using Ultimate 64).
For those of you running Vista 64 and wanting to mount an image, use Daemon Tools. I think Adamskii recommended it to me back in University, when we were being the cheeky pirates.
Several of the aforementioned Google results stated that the newer versions of Daemon Tools contain SpyWare. Initially put off by this claim, I later discovered that the installer actually notifies you of the 'search toolbar' and allows you to choose not to install it during the installation process. Simple.
For those of you running Vista 64 (or XP Pro 64), you may have encountered the error message iTunes was not properly installed when opening iTunes. The message is followed with another stating that you wont be able to burn CDs until you re-install iTunes.
I've had the message pop-up since upgrading iTunes about 3 versions ago. It has proved to be very annoying, as it forces you to click OK prior to iTunes loading. Re-installing iTunes didn't resolve the problem though - so I turned to Google.
Apparently I'm not the only one encountering this problem with iTunes - as the Apple forums show.
The fix for this issue is simply to install a Driver Update for GEARs. I hadn't heard of GEAR Software until this evening, but it appears that many larger software manufacturers license GEARs in some form.
So, that's that problem out of the way - iTunes starts with no error messages of any form. However, Anneka and I have both experienced problems with our iPods and iTunes. The other night I had to reset both iPods in order for them to work with iTunes - without causing the program to crash upon start-up. But it appears the library that we both share, has become too big or corrupted - as it constantly crashes when trying to add any more albums to it.
It looks like I'll have to start again and import the music from the XML file.
Apple may well have the upper hand when it comes to designing products, but their software is becoming bloated and slow. If only there was a decent alternative to iTunes, that supported iPods; the iTunes store (with podcasts) and had the library management features.