Atomic I/O letters column #71Originally published in Atomic: Maximum Power Computing Last modified 16-Jan-2015.
I have just bought a Creative X-Fi Platinum, but it doesn't work properly. It pops and crackles and clips all the sound.
I have been through hell with Creative and all they are doing is running me around. I have tried all their fixes and software and nothing works.
They say because the motherboard I have is PCI 2.3 it can't be guaranteed to work, because the X-Fi is 2.1. Is the X-Fi a legacy card? Isn't the PCI spec backwards compatible? Checking out all the forums, it seems this is not an isolated incident, and also that Creative don't care.
Creative have also told me it is my Nvidia motherboard - but I have an Intel DP965LT!
Should I just take it back and never use Creative again?
Creative have a long and glorious history of making sound cards that Just Don't Work with various hardware configurations. Creative are not the only company that's made expansion cards with issues, of course, and the fact that they're the leading sound card brand no doubt magnifies the problem. So many people buy Creative products that any possible defect one of them might have is likely to be experienced by many users.
This, though, is no excuse for the sheer number of defects that Creative not only allow into retail products, but then fail to fix with firmware and driver updates.
People have been complaining about X-Fis making breakfast cereal noises for a couple of years, now. I think Creative have patched some of the problems with updates, but many clearly still remain, on a variety of hardware platforms and not just the NForce/SLI/whatever systems that Creative have mentioned.
Creative's "PCI compatibility" argument is particularly stupid. The only time there should be such problems with that is when a newer PCI slot can't deliver the voltage an older card needs. PCI allows cards to be keyed to prevent them from even plugging in when there's a problem like this. If a card can be plugged in, it should therefore bloody work.
I recommend you take the damn thing back, and get yourself a card from a company with a better ratio of marketing to actual firmware/driver development time.
I recently upgraded my GeForce 7900 GTX to an 8800 GTX, and am getting bad eye strain.
Just for normal use (even Internet use), after 20 to 30 minutes my eyes feel strained, and if I get up and do something they feel blurred, and sometimes I'm even dizzy.
I previously used a 7800 GTX, then the 7900, and no probs.
The only other upgrade I did was an Athlon XP 4800+ CPU, and I flashed the BIOS. Everything seems to run OK, I have the card set at 60Hz (my Samsung 931C monitor shows it as 64.1kHz scan rate, 60Hz frame rate), and there is no visible problem.
Any help would be great, as this is preventing me from using my beautiful new card :(.
Since you've got an LCD, though, it shouldn't ever have visible flicker. It shouldn't even be easy to tell if you've switched between the analogue and DVI inputs for your monitor, and that shouldn't have anything to do with eye strain anyway.
You probably would have noticed if everything was fuzzy because you were using a resolution other than the monitor's native one. But even that shouldn't do your eyes any harm, unless you're unconsciously squinting all the time or something.
So, with all of that eliminated, my first guess is that there's actually something organically wrong with you, and it just coincidentally got bad enough for you to notice after you changed your video card. It could be some ghastly disease - there's a long list of obscure and terrible neurological complaints that start out with eyesight disturbances, just as several of the world's most horrible infections start out with "flu-like symptoms" - but it's much more likely to just be the normal eyesight deterioration that everybody can look forward to as they get older.
Eyestrain, blurriness, even dizziness; all standard symptoms for someone who needs glasses but doesn't have any.
So I suggest you visit an optometrist. You may not be happy to discover that you now need glasses (or a change in prescription, if you've already got them), but you're doing yourself no favours if you put it off.
After receiving a really annoying telemarketing call just before dinner the other day, I wondered if there was any way to stop them from getting through.
I don't know a whole lot about phones, but in the office environment you can call extensions to reach different departments, so I was wondering if I could perhaps set this up at my home? So if someone calls my number they then have to dial an extension to reach me, effectively stopping those troublesome calls.
I don't know whether there are any specific anti-telemarketer devices here in Australia. There are plenty of them in the USA, where telemarketing has been a plague for years (particularly lucky recipients there could expect dozens of calls a day, though things are improving now...). But the US gadgets aren't legal to plug into the Australian phone system, and won't necessarily work here anyway.
Australia does, however, now have a Do Not Call Register. It's got the usual loopholes (charities and politicians can still pester anyone, for instance), but it should be better than the previous Australian Direct Marketing Association list, which was a voluntary deal and widely ignored.
Caller ID is standard for many ordinary home phones these days, but it's not much use against Australian telemarketers. It's normal for telemarketing calls here to be from unlisted "Private" numbers, and many people get plenty of valid calls from unlisted numbers as well.
Just setting up an answering machine and screening your calls can help, but only if you don't get targeted by telemarketers who just keep calling and calling and calling until you talk to them.
The best other option we've got, besides getting a new unlisted number (which, as a reader who used to work for market research companies has pointed out, won't save you from marketers calling [area code]-[random numbers], expecting 60% of them to be duds), is just telling every caller to remove you from their list. This does usually work, for each individual calling organisation.
If some particular group keeps calling anyway then you could try complaining to the Federal Privacy Commissioner or ACCC or Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman or something, but don't expect a great return on that investment.
When I place my finger over the "RF" connection on the back of both TVs I own, a faint but steady signal is produced. I can actually make out an image from whichever channel is tuned in on the TV. How is this possible?
I'm guessing our body holds and emits radio waves etc, thus providing enough reception to at least "channel" somewhat of an input signal. Very weird!
A receiving antenna is just a conductor that's sitting in an electromagnetic field, which induces a current in that conductor. Since the human body conducts electricity, it works as an antenna just like anything else the same size and shape with the same resistance would.
Now, the human body doesn't conduct electricity very well, and it's pretty far from being an optimal shape to pick up anything, which is why you'll never get a good picture from a TV or good sound from an FM radio (AM antennas are typically small wire-wrapped ferrite rods inside the radio) if you're just standing there touching the antenna socket, or hanging onto a rabbit-ear or simple single rod antenna.
Antenna sockets also typically expect to be connected to an antenna with a particular electrical impedance, which a human finger touching both terminals of a coaxial socket will be very, very far from.
But, to a first approximation, a human body certainly can work as an antenna.
This can be used to advantage in touch switches of all sorts, including "touch lamps", touchpads, iPod controllers and so on. They detect a sudden change in the capacitance of the switch area (the whole chassis, for a touch lamp), which will happen when a nice conductive human touches it. This is why they don't work when you're wearing gloves.
If I could find such a device it would greatly simplify my home audio setup because all three systems could be routed through my cheap switcher box and share the same input on my TV/receiver. I'd even be happy soldering it up myself if I knew what to buy. Any ideas?
I suppose the other option would be to just use the RCA connections on all the consoles, but it seems like the digital connections would be the way to go. Maybe you have some thoughts on that as well? My stereo is 7.1 capable and the surround sound really does help with immersion into the games.
There are a few gadgets that'll do what you want.
Some of them are professional audio doodads, the price listings being as usual led by a Behringer product. That's only $US130-odd, but it wants balanced analogue input, not crappy two-conductor RCA, so you'd need a "DI box" as well to convert the RCA to balanced XLR.
For about $US99 you can get the Creative DTS-610, which takes up to 5.1 channel audio via computer-standard 1/8th inch stereo jacks and outputs DTS audio, which most surround receivers can understand. Apparently its encoding latency is less than 50 milliseconds, which isn't likely to be very annoying.
And that's about as cheap as converters get (a reader's since pointed out the ADV-2000 converter, which does other stuff besides digitising audio and only cost him 50 Euros, less than $US70 as I write this). So I think you might well do better to just put that money towards a receiver with more inputs.
Incidentally, if you just do a Google search for "rca to toslink", you're likely to find plenty of little $US30-ish converters that will be of no use whatsoever to people like Jerry. He wants an RCA analogue audio to TOSLINK (optical) digital adapter. The cheaper "RCA to TOSLINK" adapters are just physical medium converters, which turn an electrical S/PDIF signal into an optical one, or vice versa. The bits are the same, only the physical medium carrying them changes.
In domestic setups, electrical S/PDIF is normally carried by same plain old RCA cables (or stupidly expensive ones, if you're an audiophile nutcase) as are used for ordinary analogue line level audio. Hence the confusion.