Thank you, Valve

EDIT: The configuration below has now been superceded by LANCache.

About twice a year I help set up and run a local LAN Party at a Rugby club on the outskirts of town. Compared to more widely known events, ours is tiny in comparison – typically 20-30 people – all squeezed into the club house.


One thing that a LAN party needs to be a success, particularly in the last few years, is a solid connection to the internet so that multi-player server lists can be retrieved, DRM systems can unlock, updates can download, and people can sign into Steam. Guests might also wish to have more general net access for the web, email, IM etc. One of the issues with smaller venues, however, is that they generally have no need for a fast, reliable internet service – the cheapest consumer-grade connection will normally suffice. In some cases, the geography of the less expensive locations – required for small parties – tends to impose technical limits on what services are available anyway. In our case, the clubhouse has an ADSL connection which syncs at about 2Mbit on a good (dry) day.

Continue reading “Thank you, Valve”


Not long ago I bought a pack of games on Steam for quite a big discount, but I’ve only got around to playing two of them so far. I’m currently stuck at the T-Rex part of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, but on Sunday I made my way through almost all of Infernal and have just spent a few minutes completing it.

The storyline has several twists, one from the start being that you’re playing the part of an ‘evil’ force which battles against ‘angels’, though it’s not the deepest plot I’ve encountered in a game. The best part about this game though is the graphics. The levels are stunning, and judging from the detail that has gone into them I would say that a significant part of the development of the game was dedicated to the level graphic design. It’s all accomplished without resorting to DX10 and shaders that require a graphics card from 2009 to run – I managed to run it at the highest settings with the top AA that it supports for the most part, only having to remove the AA for the last mission. They must have pulled some trickery to make the game look so good without causing the problems that plague Crysis (which is still on hold until I can beef my computer up enough).

It took most of the day on Sunday to complete, so there’s probably a good 8-9 hrs gameplay there, and I played it on easy cos I prefer enjoying the scenery and storyline to facing frustratingly difficult challenges.

The other games in the pack are: Just Cause, Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, Project: Snowblind, Rogue Trooper.

Attempting Crossfire


A couple of months ago I bought Crysis for my PC. My PC has a reasonable spec, with a dual core processor, as much RAM as 32bit Windows can support without crashing and a mid-range graphics card (X1950 Pro). However, Crysis could barely run with this spec even on the lowest settings. Setting up Crossfire should approximately double performance.

When I last upgraded my computer, I spent quite a bit of time researching motherboards, looking for ones with Crossfire support in particular. Crossfire motherboards have 2 of the larger PCI-X slots, though they don’t necessarily both run at x16 speeds. The X1950 Pro card that I already had supports Crossfire mode without having to purchase a special master card – all that is needed are two identical cards.

The card I already owned had just 256MB RAM, but when I purchased it’s companion card there were only 512MB versions available. It was a bit of a gamble, since the configurations weren’t identical, but fortunately Crossfire mode worked beautifully. When in Crossfire mode, the cards appear as one single card to Windows with 256MB RAM, but with a significant performance gain.

I’m not going to bother with taking benchmarks, but I can confirm that Crossfire did help run Crysis on low settings. I think to run it on highest settings I’d probably have to spend quite a chunk of cash, which I can’t really justify at the moment.

This test of Crossfire was only a temporary setup because the new card is really noisy and I had to borrow a more powerful power supply from another computer – Crossfire mode requires a PSU that can supply at least 550W. So until I can afford to buy another power supply, the second card is sitting on the floor underneath my desk.