The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.

It’s been some time since I last properly posted, which, even then, was in acknowledgement that I don’t post a lot. There are good reasons. The main reason was that I wanted to get away from WordPress as, frankly, I hate it, from a developer’s perspective. If you hate a codebase, you’re unlikely wanting to spend time customising it – especially if you’re not getting paid for it. I also had my own css templates ready to completely overhaul the look of the site (and didn’t want to create a theme in WordPress), and had that planned to be built in to whatever next CMS I wanted to use next. It’s not been easy to find a CMS that will suit me. As I work with it daily, for my job, I’d like a Laravel based CMS, with PyroCMS being the front runner. However, development on that seems to be halted, or at least very slow, which doesn’t give you confidence of there being a codebase that won’t outdate very quickly. So I’m still on the lookout for a replacement.
With the above in mind, I was on a data freeze until I had gotten that part of the project done. I really am not looking forward to the data migration to a new CMS, and the fewer posts to move the better. Obviously, it hasn’t materialised as yet, and I have articles I had prepped just sitting in draft, being forgotten about and also outdating. So I should at last try and keep this site ticking over, whilst we wait – as it could be a long wait.

I also wanted to do a server and domain migration. It was getting annoying having to manually update the SSL cert, every 3 months, due to .dev domains not having port 80 access (yes, I know there are plugins that can do this but it’s quicker to do the 3 month manual thing than sort it out). Now I’ve moved to a .net domain, the SSL cert can be automatically renewed. I have also moved to a different server, which will help with running costs.

And life also got in the way. I was recently diagnosed with FND – which is something I have been dealing with for many years, and took a hell of a complaining to even get to see a specialist. It plays havoc with my memory, and ability to think clearly, amongst a host of other things – just great for my line of work. The whole condition can be very frustrating on a daily basis.

So there we are; big plans that kinda went wrong. C’est la vie.

Ryzen 5900X: One last hurrah for AM4.

Disclaimer: I actually wrote this post back around October 2022, so things are already pretty out of date. The CPU is still going strongly, at least. :)

I’ve been looking at building a new system, lately. My current one is certainly no slouch, and it was also treated to an AMD Radeon 6800, summer of 2021. Mainly so I could play Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 at high resolutions, with the settings mostly turned up. (Yes, the card was expensive. No, I don’t regret the purchase). This system was originally built back in early 2018. In that time, I upgraded the CPU from a Ryzen 1700 to 3800X and was very impressed with the results. However, I am doing a lot of video work, these days (editing, encoding and such), plus large projects, in Ableton, did start to get a bit too much on the CPU. FS2020 is also pretty CPU limited too. So a fresh system has been on the back of my mind. However, amazingly, 4 generations in and I still had an upgrade path on the AM4 based CPU, plus my motherboard had a BIOS update that would support it. AMD have recently released the new AM5 based Ryzen 7000 range, which look to be utterly incredible, but with no support from motherboards you already own and the fact it’s DDR5 ram only, an upgrade gave me two choices:

  • Build a new system from scratch. Naturally the hard drives, graphics card, case and PSU would be transferred over. But the CPU, Motherboard and RAM would have to be entirely new. That’s a pretty expensive upgrade, but would offer a fair mount of ‘future proofing’.
  • Upgrade my current system with a Ryzen 5xxx. With the massive benefit of keeping my existing motherboard and RAM. Less of a hassle to upgrade – and wouldn’t have to to pester my CPU cooler manufacturer for a new bracket. Less ‘future proofed’ but still an upgrade over my current CPU. and better value.
Under £350 for a high performance 12 core chip is great value. Last gen or not.

I did give the new system upgrade a lot of thought but in the end, I opted for a Ryzen 5900X to keep my current system going that little bit longer (we could get in to a Trigger’s Broom argument about what constitutes a PC setup, and when is it no longer the original machine. But we’ll leave that for another day). Ryzen 5xxx CPUs can be found for excellent prices, now they’re not the latest shiny. I’m sure at this point there will be some people screaming ‘why not the 5800X3D!?’. They would have a point. That thing is beastly for gaming, However, I need an all-round CPU. And the extra cores will certainly help with my music and video work. I also sold the 3800X and made back close to 50% of the cost of the 5900X. So it didn’t hit the wallet all that much, and was a pretty cost effective upgrade.
I’m not too bothered about my new CPU being a generation behind. Tbf, it’s not as if I was unhappy with the 3800X either. It proved to be an excellent workhorse and was leap years ahead of the 1700 I originally built the system with.

I’ve also had a case upgrade recently. Far more room for the GPU, drives and better cable management.

Massive kudos to AMD for making AM4 so upgradeable. Going from a Ryzen 1700 to 5900X, on the same platform is excellent service to consumers. I did note, in my last CPU upgrade post that I’d have to get a new motherboard for a Ryzen 4000 CPU (which was actually released as the 5000 series), but that ended up actually not being the case and many 3xx/4xx motherboards were updated to use the 5xxx CPUs. Such a nice change from Intel’s policy of a new motherboard with every CPU change.
However, this will certainly be the last CPU upgrade, for this system. And I will expect this set up to now see me through for the next 3-4 years. Maybe more. There’s a chance I’ll double the RAM to 64GB, if I see a bargain.

Installation

Before I started pulling apart the system, I made sure the BIOS was on a version that would support the new CPU. If you are also thinking of upgrading your Ryzen do this before you do anything else. You don’t want to install your new CPU only to find it no longer posts, and you’re left staring at a blank screen, forcing you to swap the CPUs round again. The CPU swap was about as painless as you can expect. Naturally you have to remove the heatsink, give various bits a clean, do the swap, apply thermal paste and replace the heatsink but I didn’t shred any fingers in the process.

The 5900X dropped in to place. Remember to apply thermal paste before you stick the heatsink back on!

Thoughts

As before, with the 3800X, I won’t go in to scientific benchmarking. There’s plenty of people that do that if you need to compare CPUs. But, as with the Ryzen 3800X over the 1700, there was a very noticeable improvement over the chip it replaced. Flight Simulator 2020, which is a very CPU bound game was the largest benefactor, with higher frame rates at – Well, I must be honest and say I didn’t record the framerates, before and after, but the difference was perceptible enough. And it should be too. The Ryzen 5900X has a much improved single-thread and multi-thread performance, plus the 64MB L3 cache is double the amount on the Ryzen 3800X. All in all, it’s yet another powerful upgrade for a modest amount of cache. Especially with the sale of the 3800X recovering some of the costs. The likes of Transport Fever also enjoyed smoother gameplay.

FS2020 is visually stunning, and an easy way to lose hours to simply enjoying the view.

Along with the game performance benefits, the productivity benefits are also present. Ableton allows me to run even more tracks, with more plugins on the go. Editing and rendering projects in DaVinci Resolve is effortless. Handbrake chews through frames like they weren’t there. It’s been a massive boost.

This will be the final configuration for this machine, as far as motherboard, and CPU go. It’s possible I will upgrade the RAM, and maybe a GPU upgrade. But, with the amount of power available, it will be a few years yet before I start considering an entirely new build.

Noctua NH-D15: Silencing the Ryzen.

A couple of months ago, when I installed the Ryzen 3800X in to my desktop, I noted that, whilst the provided stock cooling was decent, it did have a tendency to get noisy under load. Far noiser than the cooler provided with the Ryzen 1700. It also isn’t all that great at keeping the processor cool; easily reaching the upper limit of 95 degrees celsius, the moment it needed some grunt. I do like a quiet system, so decided I may as well get an aftermarket cooler sooner, rather than later.

Continue reading “Noctua NH-D15: Silencing the Ryzen.”

PC upgrade time. Ryzen R7 1700 to R7 3800X.

[Image from AMD.com]

There’s a lot happening in the AMD world. Some of the third generation Ryzen chips have just received a slightly faster sibling, in the form of the XT models, and Zen 3, in the form of the desktop Ryzen 4000 CPU’s (don’t get me started on the mobile chip model designation convention) can’t be too far away, with the expected release to be towards the latter of 2020. I’ve been umming and arring about what my next upgrade was going to be but when Amazon cut the price of the 3800x to £280, albeit temporarily, the decision become much easier.

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Upcoming Site Changes

I’m having a little sort out of this site, over the coming weeks. My main plan is to move the domain name over to simonpreston.dev, ditching the Devpond name (which wasn’t all that great anyway, really). I’ve already begun the process; the new domain name already points to the blog, and the site title has been updated. The next phase will to be update links, inside blog posts, that point to the old domain, to the new one. After that set the old domain to redirect completely to the new domain, and bye bye, old domain (eventually).

That’s just the first phase, and I’m not planning on stopping there. I’m looking to move the site to a new server, in the near future. Also, I want to give this site a more personal look, and create my own theme. Not quite sure which will come first; probably the server move, as that’s the easiest. A new theme will be some months of work. Especially when this site isn’t part of my day job. Other ideas will be to plug more of my own applications in to this site, so it’s not just a bland blog.

So there may be some little bumps, and unexpected downtime, here and there – including one earlier, which I’m thinking may have been a transaction lock on the database, preventing the site from loading, as every thing else looked fine. But it’s all for The Greater Good.

Update 19th April 2020:

Server switch done! A bit sooner than I expected. But, as it turns out, we all have a lot more time on our hands, these days, thanks to many of us being stuck indoors. Earlier in the week, I got the domain name switch complete, and the old address now redirects to the new domain. Over the last couple of days I’ve been getting a new Ubuntu server set up, with a mirror of the site primed and ready. I’ve flipped the public IP of my old server, to the new one (a nifty feature in AWS, which means no need to wait for a new IP to propagate), and got the new certificates set up. I’ll keep the old server running, for a bit, but our new home is looking pretty good.

Update 17th June 2020:

Given up on the idea of creating a new theme, for now. As our team was mostly reduced to a skeleton crew, I’ve had so much actual paid work on that’s it’s pretty much been an impossibility, due to the site theme being such a large project in itself. So that’s on the back-burner for a while. Will revisit that, at a later date.

Thoughts on Imposter Syndrome

You’re at your workstation, struggling to understand the current task in hand, or devise a solution for it. It’s over running and people are asking when it’ll be ready. You can’t give an answer. Then the brain kicks in, questioning itself, asking “am I really cut out for this? Maybe I’d be better in some other career.” The thoughts dwell on, perhaps keeping you up at night, as you wonder if you’ll be found out soon, and given the chop.
You’ve just experienced Imposter Syndrome. A pain in the bum inflection where self-doubt and worry you are not to the standard expected, in your field, is prevalent. The funny thing about it is people seldom want to talk about it, as they fear letting on that they are having doubting thoughts, over their own skillset, will lead to a lack of confidence from their peers.

But it’s nowhere near as bad as you think…

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Was Windows 8 that bad?

It happened. I updated one of my last machines, running Windows 8.1, to Windows 10. That means all my Windows OS machines, physical at least, are on the latest version of Microsoft’s ubiquitous OS. But, even as I was doing it, I was wondering to myself if it was even necessary. Also I was wondering if Windows 8 got way too much of a bad rep, perhaps unfairly. It certainly didn’t get off to a good start, and it never recovered from that. But the story of the successor to the much-loved Windows 7 is a catalogue of errors causing it to be much maligned, as Vista was.

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I’ve switched to Linux as my primary OS, at last.

My current desktop, using KDE.

I’ve been using Windows, as my main OS, since pretty much the turn of the century. I’ve never hidden my disdain for the 9x (95/98/Me) codebase. It was a horrid experience, full of badly made drivers, plug and play that never worked, and guaranteed crashes/freezes more than once a day. Fortunately, I hardly had to deal with it, as my Amiga happily carried on being my main machine, whilst I fired up the PC (an AMD Duron @ 700mhz running Windows 98 and, later, Me. Ewww) for secondary tasks. However, this changed when x86 CPUs started reaching gigahertz speeds, and Windows 2000, built on the NT codebase, was launched. Out of the box it was so much more stable than it’s 9x siblings. Plus it offered excellent networking technology meaning I could finally share files across my home network, and control who could access them. I also built a new system based on an AMD Athlon processor, at this time, and the shift to the Windows environment begun. Of course, every Microsoft OS since has been an evolution of that (2000, itself, an evolution of NT 4), so there’s always been an air of familiarity to it. In hindsight, I probably should have gone with Linux all the way back then. But most of the software I wanted to use was Windows only, at that time. But things have moved on, and with MS baking in lovely telemetry data in to Windows 10, it’s time to ditch and switch.

Continue reading “I’ve switched to Linux as my primary OS, at last.”