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Category: Problem solutions

Upgrading ssd’s/nvme drives

Upgrading ssd’s/nvme drives

Consumer SSDs (solid state drives) have been transformative for the PC world. Their massively smaller size, temperatures, and power requirements have made ultra-thin laptops possible, nearly double battery life, massively increase drop resistance, and their speed has increased performance of disk operations/booting by 10x or more.

The only down side is that they’re fairly limited in capacity. While platter-based drives are selling consumer-priced 8-10 terabyte drives, your average consumer-level SSD is a paltry 512GB for the same price. As prices drop and one upgrades their SSD, one is faced with a terrible upgrade procedure. Upgrading your SSD often means backing up your data, making a windows re-install usb, re-installing your OS, and restoring all your data and re-installing your apps. Annoying to say the least.

It would be great if one could just copy the current image to a new drive, expand the partitions, and just swap drives – but that doesn’t seem possible…or does it.

Equipment you’ll need:

First you need to know what kind of SSD your system has. Is it SATA, PCIe, M.2, U.2, mSATA, or SATA Express, or a soldered-on drive? There is a lot of confusion here, because there is the interface type (SATA, NVMe, PCIe) but there is also the plug type (SATA, M.2, etc). Often you will find guides that interchange or equate them in confusing ways.

Once you have determined your drive type, you need to buy an appropriate drive-to-USB adapter.

Hardware you’ll need

Get one of the following that matches your system configuration:

Software you’ll need:

The Procedure:

  1. Make a backup. No, seriously. You should make a full backup of your system and all those important photos and documents. Go buy an external hard drive and download a free backup program, or buy a cloud storage solution right now, and back up your system. What you’re about to undertake could result in a dead drive if something goes really wrong (static discharge, select wrong source/dest drive, etc). Besides, you have already been doing backups of all your stuff already – right. RIGHT?
  2. Plug in your new SSD/M.2 drive into your USB adapter and plug it into the USB port. To be safe, unplug ALL unnecissary drives – including USB, external backup drives, etc. The less confusion the better.
  3. The procedure I’m going to use is more fully outlined here. And more discussion here.
    1. Start up EaseUS Backup Home (free version).
    2. Click on the ‘Clone’ operation in the lower left sidebar.
    3. Select your SOURCE drive. Proceed to the next step.
    4. Select your DESTINATION drive. Make SURE this drive is your brand new, empty drive.
    5. When you click next here, you’ll see the partition layout of the source and destination drives. You’ll notice there is a tiny partition at the start of the drive – this is the boot partition and doesn’t need to be touched. The next, largest bar will be the system drive. Many laptops will have a 3rd, very tiny partition as a backup partition.
  1. While not immediately clear, you can actually click, move, and resize these partitions! If you can expand the second/larger partition to the end of the space, do so. If you cannot, you need to carefully MOVE (not resize) the 3rd/recovery partition to the end of the drive. Then you can resize the larger middle partition until there is no more free space between the tiny first and tiny 3rd partitions.
  2. Click proceed to image the source drive to the new destination drive. This could easily take 30-90 minutes or longer.
  3. Once you are done, shut down the program and power down the system.
  4. Take your new cloned disk out of the USB adapter.
  5. Physically swap the old drive in your laptop/PC with the newer drive. Unplug the system/disconnect internal batteries to avoid accidental poweron while doing this.
  6. Plug back in and boot. If you did everything correctly, you should be able to power up with the new drive and boot right back up like nothing changed. When you check the free drive space, you should notice all that new capacity!

Wiping and selling

If you wish to sell your old drive, then I recommend using the program DiscGenius to wipe it before selling it. Simply deleting the partitions doesn’t actually wipe the data – and it can all be read by crafty people. Don’t do this wipe of the old drive until you’ve used your new SSD for at least a week to make sure it won’t prematurely fail.

  1. Take the old, smaller drive you wish to wipe+sell and plug it into the USB adapter you used above. Plug this into your PC.
  2. Start up DiscGenius
  3. Delete all the partitions on the old drive. Make SURE you are picking the correct, old drive and not your current boot or a spare drive that’s plugged in.
  4. Right click on the now empty drive, and select ‘Erase Sectors’. Fill the sectors with random data and then click proceed. This will overwrite EVERYTHING on that drive with junk data. It will take around an hour or two. Once you’ve done this, nothing can be recovered from the drive. Safely unmount the drive, shut the program down, and unplug the drive.
  5. You can now sell or use the drive for some other purpose.
Removing the 60fps limit in Dead by Daylight

Removing the 60fps limit in Dead by Daylight

It seems that as games target more platforms on release, they are increasingly dumbing down the controls and limit features to the lowest common denominator platform. For PC’s, this mean frame rates are often capped at 60fps. Dead by Daylight goes even further by not even allowing you to change the FPS limit in the PC game. Those that have tried increasing the limit have run into various animation/physics bugs – indicating that this limit on the PC is due to lack of validation/issues.

The good news is you can remove this limit. If you want to change the VSync or FPS limit then edit GameUserSettings.ini located in your user directory:

C:\Users\'yourUsername'\AppData\Local\DeadByDaylight\Saved\Config\WindowsNoEditor\GameUserSettings.ini 

Change the following line to whatever you want your max frame rate to be. I have a 144hz display, so I set mine to this:

FrameRateLimit=144

This next step is not required if you just want to set the FPS limit, but you can also to turn vsync on/off by changing this line to true/false respectively:

bUseVsync=False

Save file. Play game.

Source: https://steamcommunity.com/app/381210/discussions/0/1741106440032943073/

Setting up a Raspberry Pi-hole

Setting up a Raspberry Pi-hole

Ad blockers such as uBlock Origin and Adblocker make the web usable – but are not available on every platform and not of the same quality.

Pi-hole is an Linux-based server setup that absorbs ads by filtering DNS requests. You set up the Pi-hole server on a simple Raspberry Pi, set your devices to use the pi-hole server to resolve DNS entries, and voila – any requests to ad sites are immediately and transparently absorbed.

This is far superior to ad block applications for a few reasons. First, because the websites doesn’t even know you’re using it, you will never get those annoying ‘disable adblock to continue’ messages. With a little extra work, you can make your wired/wireless router also run DNS requests through it so that all devices wifi connected phones/laptops/game systems/etc get free ad filtering.

I just set one up this weekend on a raspberry pi and it’s been interesting to play with so far. Pi-hole has been a bit too fiddly in the past, but seems to be working pretty well these days with a slick web interface and easy installation. So far, it has worked really well – but I do occasionally get a false positive and have to turn the filtering off. I’ll give it a few days and see if it grows on me.

Here’s the instructions I used: https://blog.cryptoaustralia.org.au/instructions-for-setting-up-pi-hole/

Changing the DNS for your Win10 system while still using DHCP:
https://www.windowscentral.com/how-change-your-pcs-dns-settings-windows-10

Setting up SSH after install on your raspberry pi so you can access your pi hole via windows/putty/etc.
https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/remote-access/ssh/

Here’s the parts list from Amazon:

Raspberry Pi 3 b+ Case, iUniker Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Transparent Case with Raspberry Pi Heatsink for Raspberry Pi 3B+, 3B, 2B – Access to All Ports (Clear) $5.68
Samsung 32GB 95MB/s (U1) MicroSDHC EVO Select Memory Card with Adapter (MB-ME32GA/AM) $7.49
Element14 Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Motherboard $36.97
iTrunk Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ (B Plus) Power Supply, 5V 2.5A Extra Long 2M Micro USB Power Supply Charger Adapter for 2018 New Version Raspberry Pi $8.15
Windows 10 99% memory usage even when nothing is running

Windows 10 99% memory usage even when nothing is running

Running out of memory while running Windows isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. But since Windows 8, things have mostly gotten better from memory usage/performance.

I recently ran into an issue where I’d close down all of my apps, but leave my system on overnight. When I’d jiggle the mouse in the morning, I would be greeted with horrendously sluggish drive swapping and 100% memory utilization. On a system with 32 gigs of memory. Even worse, I opened up my task manager and shut down everything possible – but nothing was indicated where 25+ gigs of memory went. Bad job Microsoft, shouldn’t your performance tools be able to tell me what is using up 90% of my system memory?

I got a clue from the fact my non-pageable memory usage was huge. This, apparently, indicates a driver or service with a memory leak:
https://windows101tricks.com/fix-memory-leak-problem-on-windows-10/

The problem was the Killer Network Suite. Apparently, this is a pretty common problem with the Killer network driver. I uninstalled it, and the problems seemed to go away.
https://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/3yzjyz/killer_network_suite_gave_me_a_major_memory_leak/

I then downloaded and installed the DRIVER ONLY package for the network interface by going directly to the Killer network website.

Turns out that the Killer network suite unfortunately lives up to it’s name: it certainly killed all the memory on my system. 🙁

MacOS 10.14 Mojave in VMWare

MacOS 10.14 Mojave in VMWare

Developing a iOS app used to require buying a Macbook or Mac mini. With VMWare, it is no longer necessary. I used VMWare Workstation 15.0 Pro and was able to develop an app and debug it on real iPad/iPhone hardware. Setup instructions are here:
https://techsviewer.com/install-macos-mojave-vmware-windows/

Here’s the latest VMWare Mojave 10.14.4, 18E226 (March 25, 2019) image:

Further tips after the above setup

Sprite Dicing

Sprite Dicing

Handy technique for saving texture space! There are various tools to do this, but the basic scheme is to split up a large texture into much smaller chunks, individually trimming these chunks, and seamlessly reconstructing the sprite in the viewport.

Source image
Compresses down to this!
Backdoor Roth IRA

Backdoor Roth IRA

Getting your backdoor Roth IRA right is very tricky. If done incorrectly, you can find yourself owing a ton of money and more than negating the value of contributions.

Here’s the best/most correct covering of the topic:

Here is a higher-level discussion:
https://www.dadsdollarsdebts.com/2016/11/22/roth-401k/

Also look here for much more in-depth information:

https://www.kitces.com/blog/how-to-do-a-backdoor-roth-ira-contribution-while-avoiding-the-ira-aggregation-rule-and-the-step-transaction-doctrine/

Attaching 5.25″ floppies via USB

Attaching 5.25″ floppies via USB

Floppy disks are a relic of the past these days. You might still see the odd 3.5″ floppy – and there are even still companies making 3.5″ USB drives you can plug into your system today. But 5.25″ floppy drives (360k and 1.2 meg variety) are much more scarce. So scarce, in fact, that you’re likely not to find any outside of old vintage computers. Most modern PC’s since the Pentiums don’t even have connectors or interfaces that support them and I know of no vendors that make USB 5.25″ drives.

So what is one to do if they have old 5.25″ floppies they need to read? Turns out others have had the same problem – so you’re not alone. You have the following options:

  1. Find a service that will convert them – Usually for a fee around $5-$10 per disk.
  2. Buy an old vintage pre-Intel Core based computer from eBay that has a working 5.25″ drive.
  3. Use a 5.25″ to USB converter.
    1. Kryoflux – https://www.kryoflux.com/ -the Holy Grail of floppy readers. Is able to read all formats. Save as raw stream, or export to common sector formats supporting: Acorn Electron, Apple, Amstrad CPC, Archimedes, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, BBC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, MSX, IBM PC, PC-8801, Sam Coupe, Spectrum, E-MU Emulator & Emulator II, DEC RX01 & RX02 and many, many others https://www.kryoflux.com/
    2. Device Side Data’s FC5025 –http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html – USB 5.25″ floppy controller plugs into any computer’s USB port and enables you to attach a 5.25″ floppy drive. Even if your computer has no built-in floppy controller, the FC5025 lets you read those old disks. And it’s not just for IBM PC disks – it also understands formats used by Apple, Atari, Commodore and TI, among others.
    3. Supercard Pro. – Here’s a review and this page which contains a lot of useful information.

Replacement fans on 2016 Razer Blade 14″ laptop

Replacement fans on 2016 Razer Blade 14″ laptop

I recently bought a used 2016 14″ Razer Blade M970 (RX09-01652E22) gaming laptop for about 20% the price of a new one (seems the only things that lose value faster than a Porsche driving off the lot are gaming laptops with last gen technology). I needed this one since it had a high-end GPU that allowed me to do modern DX12/Vulkan work, while being in a nice transportable 14″ slim form factor (it had a M970 graphics card).

While a screaming deal, there was one other noise problem: the fans. Gaming laptops are kind of notorious for needing powerful fans to cool their graphics cards. Both the fans in this laptop were starting to make bearing noises. The temps were fine and the fans worked ok – they were just a little noisier than they should have been. I took them out and cleaned them, but same result.

The originals are Cooler Master FB07006M05SPA312’s. DC 5v 0.5A, 4 pin connector.

Unfortunately, finding these guys turned up next to zero hits. Best options I could find were:

  1. Live with it – but know the fans might be dying/making more noise soon.
  2. Send it in to Razer and they’re replace them out of warranty. They charged a flat $100 rate + parts (they quoted me about $20) + shipping. About $150. Ouch.
  3. Buy used fan/heat-sink assembly off eBay. They were still charging around $40, and the fans were definitely all used. They could have the same noise issues as I was having – or have them soon.
  4. Dig deeper.

Found:

I opted for #4 and found a company on AliBaba that hit the spot. I found this vendor selling off-brand versions that looked and speced out right. I took the gamble since the price was $32 for 2 fans – a SCREAMING deal:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/2PCS-CPU-fan-for-GIGABYTE-Razer-Blade-14-RZ09-01161E31-RZ09-01161E31-R3U1-laptop-cpu-cooling/32841110492.html

They arrived about 2+ weeks later as I opted for the free shipping. I popped out the old ones and can confirm these look and fit identically to the originals – sans the CoolerMaster stickers. They appeared to be brand new. Temps all appeared fine after gaming for well over an hour. They revved up to full power and then back down to idle perfectly. Best of all – they were nice and quiet. Success!

Alternative:

If you are looking for originals, I found these at $65/each, but that’s pretty steep to me:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Emacro-for-Cooler-Master-FB07006M05SPA312-Server-Round-Fan-DC-5V-0-5A-4-wire/32887795069.html