EVGA nVidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Video Card Upgrade, Incredible Graphics in Games and Simulations

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When I built my desktop PC last year, I opted for a low-end video card, because my graphics requirements were modest and it helped keep the cost of computer parts down. Since then, I’ve wanted to experience a better visual experience on my computer in games and graphics simulations, meaning more detail and effects, and higher frame rates at 1080p resolution.

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Unfortunately, video card prices were outrageously inflated due to high demand from Etherium and other easy-entry cryptocurrency miners. With the welcome crash of electricity-wasting cryptocurrency markets and the anticipated announcement of a new generation of video cards from nVidia, the prices of video cards began to return to lower prices, which prompted me to begin looking for an upgrade.

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Considering that I have a 400-watt EVGA PSU and my monitor is 1080p, I focused on nVidia’s GeForce GTX 1060, because despite its Pascal architecture’s very modest power requirements (recommended 400 watt PSU and 6-pin PCIe auxiliary power), it pushes very high-quality graphics at 1080p resolution. While the 3GB model was less expensive than the 6GB model, I chose the latter, because it has more CUDA cores (1280 vs. 1152), more texture mapping units/TMU (80 vs. 72), and more streaming multiprocessors/SM (10 vs. 9). These enhancements coupled with twice as much GDDR5 video ram justified its slightly higher price for better performance and hopefully greater use lifespan. I went with EVGA’s single fan version of the 1060, because I have had good experiences with their products and I appreciate their streamlined, unostentatious, and quiet design on this video card.

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After purchasing the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB video card for $280 from Microcenter and installing it in my PC, I stress tested it and ran benchmarks to verify that everything was okay after the upgrade. As you can see above, it scored a 3D Graphics Mark of 10684, which is more than twice as high as the 3,954 scored by my old Radeon RX 550 4GB video card.

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In the Final Fantasy XiV Heavensward benchmark, the GTX 1060 GB scored an 11,797 at 1080p, while the RX 550 4GB scored only 4,416 at the same resolution.

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In the Docking Bay 94 Unreal Engine 4 simulation, I get well over 40 fps with the settings maxed out at 1080p. Read about how the simulation was made and find download links on 80 level.

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And, I get to fly the Millennium Falcon in EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 video game. While the game’s graphics are amazing, I was reticent to purchase it after its launch debacle with in-game purchases and loot crates. Thankfully, EA backtracked on those things after the gaming and Star Wars fan communities collectively denounced these greedy and unethical practices.

 

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Finally, EVGA’s current video game promotion includes a free copy of Destiny 2 with the purchase of a GTX 1060 or higher video card. After redeeming my copy, I’ve played a little of it, and I like it. I’m a big fan of the original Halo by Bungie, and this game reminds me of that game without the story relying on a single archtype hero, such as Master Chief. In Destiny 2, you can create your own character based on class (Titan, Hunter, or Warlock), species, sex, and appearance. For my first experience in the game, I created a Hunter. The GTX 1060 6GB video card makes this game run smooth and look beautiful at 1080p.

Overall, I’m very glad that I made this upgrade to my PC. If you’re considering an upgrade now rather than waiting for nVidia’s recently announced RTX line of video cards, I strongly recommend the GTX 1060 6GB as a lower cost, high performance video card.

Retrocomputing at City Tech Site Updated with Software Inventory

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Neuromancer for Commodore 64/128. Item in City Tech’s Retrocomputing Archive.

Recently, I posted about the new OpenLab site that I launched for “Retrocomputing at City Tech.” On the site, I included a photographic inventory of the computing hardware and peripherals that I have on-hand in my office in Namm 520. Now, I’ve added to the site with a second page that inventories a majority of the software that is in the vintage computing archive. The software archive includes games (like Neuromancer pictured above, Star Wars X-Wing and TIE Fighter, and Star Trek 25th Anniversary), productivity software (such as Microsoft Office 2004), encyclopedias (Comptons, Groliers, and Microsoft Encarta), and operating systems (Windows 95, Macintosh System 7.5, Mac OS X 10.0-10.3 and 10.5). Follow the link above to see all of the software on its original media followed by textual descriptions.

Retro-Review of Used Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Sourced from eBay

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I’ve wanted an IBM ThinkPad since I first saw my boss’ at Netlink in the fall of 1998. But, while I’ve been invested in PCs over the years tangentially, I reserved Macs as my primary desktop or laptop computing platform, which combined with the premium price on IBM and then Lenovo ThinkPads kept me in the Apple premium category. Put another way, I could afford one but not both.

Apple, as I’ve confided with friends, is diverging from my computing interests and needs. While design has been an important part of Apple’s DNA since the Apple II (arguably even earlier if we consider Woz’s design aesthetics for the Apple I motherboard layout), its increasing emphasis on fashion and accessorization and seeming less technological investment and innovation in its desktop and laptop computers have soured my allegiance to the company and its computers.

So, I thought about how to try out a different kind of PC laptop–one that I had wanted but could not afford when it was originally released–and make an investment in extending the life of what some folks might consider an obsolete or recyclable computer.

Within this framework, I wanted a laptop to take the place of the MacBook Pro that I had sold on eBay awhile back while the resell value was still high before rumored price reductions as product refreshes roll in. It needed to be relatively lightweight and have a small footprint. Also, it needed to have good battery life. And of course, it needed to run the software that I use on my home-built desktop PC.

Eventually, I decided to purchase a very well taken care of Lenovo ThinkPad X230 for $190.00. Originally released in 2012 for a lot more than what I paid for it, this ThinkPad model features an Intel Core i5 3320M Ivy Bridge CPU running at 2.6GHz with 2 cores and supporting 4 threads. It has 8GB DDR3 RAM and a 180 GB SSD. In addition to built-in WiFi, it has an ethernet port, 3 USB 3.0 connectors, an SD Card reader, VGA and Display port connectors, and a removable battery.

From a user interface perspective, it has a chiclet keyboard which responds well to typing quickly. Its touchpad leaves a little to be desired in terms of responding to some gestures like scrolling, but its red pointing nub and paddle-style mouse buttons at the top of the touchpad are exquisite. It includes some feature buttons like a speaker mute button next to volume keys above the function key row, and on the left side there is a radio on/off switch for the WiFi and Bluetooth.

Initially, I tried out the ThinkPad X230 with Ubuntu, and everything seemed to work out of the box (though, I added TLP for advanced power management). However, I switched back to Windows 10 Professional with a full nuke-and-pave installation, because I have some software that is far easier to run natively in Windows instead of through Wine or virtualization in Linux.

In Windows 10 Professional, the ThinkPad X230 meets all of my productivity needs. I use LibreOffice for most things, but I also rely on Google Docs in Chrome for some tasks (like inventorying the City Tech Science Fiction Collection). The WiFi works well even at City Tech, which has one of the most cantankerous wireless networks I’ve encountered. At home, I use it on my lap to browse while watching TV.

The X230 is snappy and quick despite its age. Of course, the SSD and ample RAM support increased input/output for the older CPU. Chrome, LibreOffice, and Windows Explorer respond without hesitation. It easily plays downloaded Solo: A Star Wars Story 1080p trailers in VLC, too.

With the included 6 cell 45N1022 battery, it runs for several hours (this is a used battery, so its capacity might be lower than one that is brand new). I purchased a 9 cell 45N1175 battery, which I’m testing out now. With the 6 cell battery, it is just shy of 3 pounds, and with the 9 cell battery is a little over 3 pounds. I’m hoping that between the two of them that I can get plenty of work done on the go without being tethered to a power outlet.

Future tests include running World of Warcraft and watching full length movies. The display’s viewing angles could be better, but I’m willing to accept them as they are as I can adjust the brightness and display gamma easily using keyboard shortcuts and the Intel Display Adapter software to minimize its poorer display quality as compared to the latest HiDPI displays available now.

I’m tickled to use the Lenovo ThinkPad X230 as my main laptop. Now, I can say that I’m a proud ThinkPad owner instead of a zealous Apple user.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve included more photos of the X230.

If you’re considering a new computer, I would, based on this and my other vintage computing experiences, suggest that you consider trading up for a used or refurbished machine. Getting a used computer keeps that computer out of a landfill or being destroyed for its rare metals, and it might be an opportunity to try out a computer that you might have missed on its first time around.

 

Retrocomputing at City Tech

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In addition to working on a book review today, I created a new OpenLab site for Retrocomputing at City Tech. In addition to recording how I use vintage computers in the classroom and in research, the new OpenLab site contains a catalog of my vintage computing archive. I populated this catalog with most of the hardware, but I plan to granulize it further and create a catalog of my software. This, of course, will take time. At least there is a place for me to record these things now within the auspices of the work that I do at City Tech. I updated my previous Retrocomputing Lab page on this site with a link to the updated site on OpenLab.

PC Computing, August 1994

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The August 1994 issue of PC Computing was my go-to source for customizing my 486/DX2 66MHz system back in high school. I wanted to relive some of those tricks in my emulated DOS environments today, so I began hunting around for a copy to refresh my memory. After having no luck with nearby collections on Worldcat, I reached out to several eBay sellers who offer back issues of computer magazines. Seller sij167 replied that he had a copy that he would offer up, which I immediately purchased. It arrived very well protected this afternoon.

In this issue, the Operating Environments section is particularly helpful for building batch files to do a variety of otherwise tedious typing tasks. There are tips from “superstars,” including Bill Gates and Peter Norton. There are opposite-end-of-the-spectrum columns by John Dvorak and Penn Jillette. And, of course, the advertising! I wonder if I would get a reply if I send off a bubbled-in information request postcard?

A note about the magazine’s title: The Wikipedia page for the magazine lists it as “PC/Computing.” The magazine’s logo is styled with a slash between PC and Computing as shown in the photo above. However, the magazine’s masthead page lists the magazine as “PC Computing” with a space separating PC and Computing, as does the footer on odd number pages throughout the magazine.

Workaround Solution to Spinning Blue Circle Next to Mouse Pointer (Working in Background) in Windows 10

pointer-workingEver since I installed Windows 10 on this desktop computer build (detailed here), I have been distracted by a tiny spinning blue circle next to my mouse pointer about every 5 minutes. This mouse pointer change indicates that a process is working in the background. I could still move the mouse around and click on things, but the mouse pointer change visually distracted me from the work that I was doing. The user interface, which should facilitate my focused work on the computer, was pulling my attention away from my work and towards what should otherwise fade into the background: the user interface and the operating system.

There are many discussions about what causes Working in Background mouse pointer change, such as here, here, and here. I tried troubleshooting what was causing the regularly appearing “Working in Background” pointer change on my computer, but I couldn’t definitively pin down the cause and resolve it.

Nevertheless, I found a solution to the distraction caused by spinning blue circle: change the “Working in Background” pointer to match the “Normal Select” pointer icon. Here’s how to do this:

Click Start > Settings > Device

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In Devices, click Mouse on the left, and then click “Additional Mouse Options” on the right.

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This pops up a new window with additional mouse settings. Click Pointers > Working in Background > Browse.

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This pops up a pointer selection window. Choose “aero_arrow.cur” and then click “Open.” mouse-pointer-select

This returns you to the previous window where you will click “Apply” and “Okay.” Finally, you can close Settings. Now, your mouse pointer should remain as the arrow pointer icon even when a process is working in the background.

Since I have made this change to my computer, I am not distracted by the mouse switching intermittently between the arrow and the arrow with spinning blue circle. Of course, the underlying cause of the spinning blue circle remains, but at least with this solution, whatever is working in the background is no longer disturbing my attentional focus by leaping front-and-center into the UI.

Computer Upgrades: HDD and RAM

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My desktop PC, which I wrote about its build and benchmarks previously, has performed very well since I built it late last year. However, I built it on a budget, so I wasn’t able to outfit it as well as I would have liked. After deciding that I would use the desktop computer as my primary computer, I upgraded it with those components that I needed most: more storage space and more RAM.

The most pressing need was additional hard drive space. The original ADATA 128GB SSD was adequate when I was testing the system and deciding if I wanted to use it as my primary computer. When I wanted to do more than just the bare necessities and have access to my data more quickly than an external backup hard drive or flash drive could provide, I added two hard disk drives.

First, I picked up a Toshiba 5400rpm 2TB OEM drive when Microcenter had them on sale. I had good luck with Toshiba drives from Microcenter with previous computer builds, so I was comfortable using a larger format capacity one in this computer. Due to the limited warranty on OEM drives, I put the drive through its paces to ensure that it wasn’t a lemon: I performed a low level format on the drive, and then I began the laborious task of moving files to the drive via USB and over the network. Then, I culled through the copied files to remove duplicate files. Finally, I erased the free space to stress test the drive again.

Second, I waited for another sale at Microcenter and purchased a Western Digital Blue 5400rpm 4TB drive. After adding it the computer, which required routing the power cable and SATA cables differently than I had done before, I stress tested the new drive with a low level format (this took all evening to perform!) and then copied everything from the Toshiba 2TB drive to the WD 4TB drive.

Another important need was additional RAM for the software that I use–multiple productivity applications, Wolfram Mathematica, and games. The Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX motherboard supports four sticks of DDR4 RAM. I bought the computer’s first dual-channel pair of Crucial DDR4-2400 4GB RAM sticks at an amazing discount. Unfortunately, DDR4 RAM prices rose and have stayed elevated since that time. When a more modest discount was offered than originally, I chose to take it. Now, all four DDR4 slots are filled with two pairs of Crucial DDR4-2400 RAM for a total of 16GB RAM.

I dabbled with VR before video card prices went through the roof. For this experiment, I upgraded the video card and PSU. I don’t have the video card any longer, but I kept the Corsair CX650M PSU so that I can switch out video cards for something more powerful in the future.

After these upgrades, my computer’s stats are:

Intel i7-7700

Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX Motherboard

Asus Radeon Rx-550 4GB GDDR5 Video Card

Crucial 16GB 4×4 DDR4-2400 RAM

ADATA SU800 128GB 3D-NAND 2.5 Inch SATA SSD

2TB Toshiba OEM HDD

4TB WD Blue HDD

Corsair CX650M PSU

ROSEWILL Micro ATX Mini Tower Computer Case, FBM-01

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