Blasphemous for Switch Has Very High Input Lag

I downloaded the demo for the Switch game Blasphemous to try it out, but I immediately found it very frustrating to play due to high input latency. The character doesn’t react to button presses immediately, making for sluggish and very imprecise controls.

I had to test it out to make sure it’s not just my imagination, and here’s what I found.

I used my Canon PowerShot S100 to record 240 frames per second slow motion video. 240fps equals 0.00416̅ of a second. By counting the number of frames between a button press and on-screen action and multiplying it by this number, you’ll get the milliseconds of input lag.

You can download the original video to count the frames yourself

Blasphemous takes 30 frames to react to my input, which equals 125 milliseconds of input lag.

For reference, I also checked Axiom Verge 2.

Download the original video

Axiom Verge 2 takes 21 frames to react to my input, which equals 87 milliseconds of input lag.

When it comes to response to user input, the difference between 87 milliseconds and 125 is vast. I had a great time playing Axiom Verge 2 and never noticed any input lag. But the 125 milliseconds it takes Blasphemous to respond to my button presses was instantly noticeable to me and severely affected my ability to play enjoyably. For a game that requires fast reactions for difficult battles, this is really unacceptable. It’s a good thing I tried the demo before purchasing this game.

Fix for Windows 10 not seeing network shared folders

If your Windows 10 device is having problems connecting to a SMB/network shared folder, the shared folder might be using an older version of SMB, or it may not allow guest logons, both of which Windows has disabled in recent versions. Here is how to re-enable these options. This worked for me to finally be able to connect to network shares again.

Enable SMB v1.0

Open the Start menu and type the word “features”; select the first result called “Turn Windows features on or off.”

In the Windows Features settings box, make sure all of the SMB options are checked:

Click OK. You may have to restart your computer.

Enable SMB guest logons

Open the Start menu and type “gpedit.msc”; select the first result.

In this Local Group Policy Editor settings windows, navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Network > Lanman Workstation.

Double-click “Enable insecure guest logons”, select “Enabled”, Apply, then OK.

Your system should now be able to connect to any version of SMB and to unsecured shared folders. This should hopefully solve your problem with connecting to a network share.

How to migrate your WordPress site if you’ve hit the upload size limit

Note: this method works as of April 2020.

The universally recommended plugin for WordPress migration is All-In-One WP Migration. This plugin will create a site file that contains all parts and aspects of your WordPress site, which you can then upload on your new live site. Unfortunately, if the generated site file is larger than 512 MB, you cannot upload the site file to your new site without paying to remove this cap.

The site I was developing turned out to be a 880MB site file, and after some research on various sites, comments, and videos, I learned how to get around the limit and upload it.

Your file exceeds the maximum upload size for this site: 64 MB

At first, the plugin will tell you that 64 MB is the upload limit, then it will suggest that you either edit some configuration files, or download their “extension” plugin which increases the file size limit to 512 MB.

You can ignore all this.

There is an older version of All-In-One WP Migration that can be easily modified to increase your upload limit to anything you want. This method works even if you’ve exported your site file using the latest version of the plugin (confirmed as of April 2020).

  • First, deactivate and delete the All-In-One WP Migration plugin (and its extension, if you installed it).
  • Next, you’ll need to download the old version, which is located on github:
    • In order to download a directory from github, you’ll first need to install the Chrome extension gitzip. Make sure you’re using actual Google Chrome, because it didn’t work for me with Vivaldi, which is a Chrome spinoff.
    • …And in order to use gitzip to download a large number of files, you’ll need to authorize it with github. Make sure you’re logged into github (create an account if you don’t have one already), then click the gitzip browser button, click “Normal”, then authorize it.
    • Now go to this page to find the old version of All-In-One WP Migration, among a long list of other plugins.
    • Do not click on the name of the plugin. You have to right-click on the empty blank space to the right of it, then select the GitZip option in your context menu.
  • The older version of All-In-One WP Migration will download to your computer as a zip file, which is convenient because it’ll be in the format WordPress needs it.
  • In WordPress, go to Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin, and upload this zip file and activate it.
  • Now to modify the plugin so that it accepts larger uploads. This page outlines the steps in detail, but I’ll repeat them here:
  • Go to Plugins > Plugin Editor, and on the right of this page, select the new plugin, and click “Select” to load its files.
  • On the right sidebar, select “constants.php”
  • Scroll down to line 249, which is the setting called “Max File Size”
  • Add “* 20” after the long number, so that it becomes

define( 'AI1WM_MAX_FILE_SIZE', 536870912 * 20 );

  • Click Update File at the bottom of the page to save this change to the plugin.
  • Now go and upload your site file. Your site should now be migrated and ready to use.
Upload limit is now 10 GB!

You can of course change this upload limit to anything you want by editing the number “20” in the code above.

This worked perfectly for me and I was able to migrate the new site.

When you’re done, feel free to delete the WordPress plugin and remove the Chrome extension you installed earlier.

Making An External Hard Drive Into An Internal Drive

There’s more to it than just removing the enclosure and plugging it inside your PC

There are two types of external hard drives: “portable” and “desktop.” Portable drives are around 3 by 4 inches, and only have a single short USB cable to connect to your computer. Desktop drives are larger, about 4.5″ by 7″ and thick, and they need to be plugged into an outlet so they have an additional wire.

As most people know, external hard drives are just internal drives but with an enclosure around them. You can take apart the enclosure on a desktop hard drive and plug the bare drive inside a PC. But there’s more to it than that. Portable drives can’t do the same thing, because the bare drive doesn’t have internal connectors; its USB interface is its only connector.

If you’re planning on taking apart an external desktop drive to use it internally, there’s a couple things to know because it might not work.

I have a Seagate Expansion 4TB drive which I kept all my media on. When I took apart the enclosure and plugged it into my PC’s SATA ports to use it internally, the drive and its files did not show up properly. In my list of drives, it came up as unformatted.

And when I look at the drive through Disk Management, it shows up as a weird format with multiple partitions.

As it turns out, the enclosure actually converts the drive into a special format—a format that can’t be read through the bare drive. In order to start using it as an internal drive, I had to do the following:

  1. Copy and backup all the files you need off of the drive, because the drive has to be formatted and erased. I had to purchase another 4TB internal drive, just so I could copy all my files off of the external drive first.
  2. Remove the drive from its enclosure, and connect the bare drive to the power and data SATA ports inside your PC.
  3. Once booted up into Windows, go to This PC (formerly known as My Computer), and take note of the drive letter of this new unformatted drive.
  4. Open Disk Management by hitting Start, then start typing the word “partition”. The start menu will show an action called “Create and format hard disk partitions.” Hit enter, or click on that action.
  5. Locate your new drive by looking for its drive letter among the list of drives shown here.
  6. Right-click on the blue section of that drive, and Select “Delete partition.”
  7. Right-click on the grey left square section of that drive (where it says “Disk 1” in my image) and select “convert to GPT disk.”
  8. Now, right-click on the “unallocated” part of the drive, and select “New Simple Volume.” If you keep “Quick format” selected, then the formatting should take only a few seconds.

And that’s it, it should now be a regular internal drive.

One thing to keep in mind is that, supposedly, external hard drives are lower-quality drives, so it’s best to only use them for backup and media storage purposes. Using it as a constant read-and-write drive is not recommended.

Please let me know if this post helped you!

OnePlus 5T Review

In the past year, flagship phone prices have soared to very uncomfortable heights. A few years ago, the idea of a $1,000 US phone sounded absurd; today, it’s standard fare for the best of the best in mobile tech. Google’s Nexus program, which paired high-end phones with affordable prices, has been discontinued. You’d be hard-pressed to find a similar option today, if it wasn’t for one growingly-popular company called OnePlus.

OnePlus’s latest offering is the 5T, which—despite being a full-on flagship phone—retails for only $499.

I have spent 4 months with my OnePlus 5T, and I can confidently say that not only is it still the best phone I could have bought this year, but that it’s also the best smartphone I’ve ever had. Read on to find out why.

My OnePlus 5T (with original glass screen protector)

The Hardware

In terms of specs, the OnePlus 5T is a 2017/2018 flagship in every sense: it has a 6-inch, 1080p AMOLED display, Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6/8 GB memory, 64/128 GB of storage, dual-cameras, fingerprint and face unlock, NFC, a USB Type-C connector, and even a headphone jack.

Its industrial design hits a sweet-spot in size: the 6-inch screen has very small bezels around it, so you get a lot more screen compared to the size of the phone you’re holding. It’s quite usable with one hand, but you’ll have to occasionally switch to 2 hands if you need to do something more complicated. The metal body looks and feels good.

Unique to OnePlus among Android phones is an alert slider on the side of the phone, which lets you switch between Normal, Do Not Disturb, and Silent alert profiles. You can configure the Do Not Disturb mode to allow and disallow different types of alerts, such as calls or notifications. Unfortunately, the existence of this hardware toggle means that you don’t get the software toggle that’s usually built-into Android, which can automatically switch profiles based on the time of day. I personally prefer having the hardware switch—when walking into a meeting, I can blindly silence my phone from inside my pocket (on other Android phones you have to unlock, pull the notification shade, and select the relevant quick toggle).

The power and volume buttons and the alert slider all feel crisp and satisfying, with no mushiness. The single loudspeaker is loud and clear, but it is bottom-firing, which means and a finger might inadvertently block the audio sometimes. Phones with front-firing speakers don’t have this issue.

You have two options for unlocking the phone: face and fingerprint. Both are very fast—so fast, in fact, that it’s hard to believe they’re actually authenticating you before unlocking the screen. The face unlock setup process simply involves facing your phone for about 5 seconds. After that, any time you press the power button or double-tap the screen (depending on your settings), the phone will unlock in a split second. The fingerprint sensor is optimally positioned in the upper middle of the back of the phone, and it too is lightning fast. You’ll never skip a beat unlocking this phone throughout the day.

The 6 inch display of the OnePlus 5T is excellent. Everyone I’ve shown it to enjoys the picture on it. Photos and videos look great, and I’ve spent many hours watching Netflix movies and YouTube videos on it. The 1080p resolution is lower than the 1440p on most high-end phones, but in my opinion, this is the right resolution for a smartphone screen: even at an inch away from your face you can’t see the pixels. The only benefit I can think of for those 1440p screens is for VR applications like Google Cardboard and Daydream, which most people nowadays don’t really care about.

The display is quite high in brightness, and is easily viewable under bright sunlight. Colours are vibrant and feel accurate—not over or under saturated. The settings even let you switch between 5 colour profiles, letting you tweak the screen image to your preference. You get two additional settings when it comes to the screen: Reading Mode and Night Mode. While both are intended to help with eye fatigue, Reading Mode desaturates the screen and gives it the look and contrast of newspaper, saving battery power and reducing distractions for long reading sessions. Night Mode is a blue light filter, which can be configured to turn on automatically based on the time of day to help with sleep readiness. Both can be toggled from the quick settings panel.

The Camera

I’ve taken some great and memorable photos with my OnePlus 5T, both in daylight and indoors. Viewed at full size, the photos from this 16MP shooter look good. The photos have good contrast, color saturation, and they’re not over or under sharpened. Zoomed in or cropped, however, the images don’t have great detail. The colour and edge details exhibit an “oil-paint” effect, as if they were ran through a Photoshop filter.

As a dual camera setup, the OnePlus 5T relegates low-light shots to the secondary, 20MP camera. This camera is supposed to be optimized to gather more light and use image processing to get clearer and brighter low-light photos. In practice, this camera only triggers in very, very dark conditions—places where my own eyes can barely make out the objects in front of me. But the photos it does capture show a bit more detail than my eye could see, which is good. But considering how rarely this camera will be useful, I can’t help but wonder if its resources couldn’t have been better spent on just improving the main camera, such as with a superior sensor or optics, or optical image stabilization.

Like most other recent flagships, the OnePlus 5T camera also has a “portrait” mode, which creates a depth of field effect to make portraits pop. In my experience, this works very, very well. In fact, photos taken in portrait mode look much higher quality than the standard photos. The details of these photos even lack most of the aforementioned detail problems—they just look plain good! The masking that the software uses to separate the blurred and non-blurred portion of image is very well executed, and doesn’t have the “hard edge” issues you find with some other portrait mode phones.

I’m also very happy with the quality of video capture. Videos are stabilized in software and shakiness is smoothed out. Available video modes are 720p, 1080p, 4k, and my personal favourite: 1080p 60fps, because I love smooth video (file sizes are doubled in this mode, however, so it’s wise to use it sparingly). Other camera features include a beautification mode, slow motion video, and a Pro Mode which lets you adjust every camera setting manually, including the option to save RAW files.

My verdict on the OnePlus 5T camera is that it’s overall a good, serviceable shooter that will do the job of capturing your memories. It will often even delight you. The pictures it produces are not as good as the latest Pixel, iPhone, or Galaxy, but it’s worth noting that those phones have only recently set that bar extremely high, and that a step below them isn’t necessarily bad.

The Experience

I have found that I use my OnePlus 5T much more than previous phones, and I think it’s simply because it’s such an all-round great phone. The software is smooth, lag free, and consistent—no skipping or slowdowns occur when swiping homescreens, scrolling webpages, or pretty much doing anything. The speedy processor and optimized software make sure to keep all actions fast. The ambient light sensor always keeps the screen at the perfect brightness, no matter what the lighting conditions I’m in, so I never have to reach for the brightness slider as I frequently had to do on previous phones. Multitasking, such as switching back and forth between several apps to find and fill out information, is always as fast as I expect it to be. Split screen works just as well, and I frequently watch a YouTube video on the top half of my screen while WhatsApp chatting with people on the bottom (not all apps work in split screen though).

Charging is done with the included USB-C to USB-A cable and OnePlus’s proprietary Dash wall charger. From what I’ve read, Dash charging is the fastest of the fast charging technologies available in the industry. From my experience, I don’t doubt that claim at all. OnePlus actually encourages users to stop plugging in their phones overnight. And it makes sense—why keep your phone tethered all night, when a short plug-in at one point in the day will suffice to charge it? I have personally taken to only charging my phone in the period between waking up in the morning until I finish getting ready. This short plug-in time usually brings my phone up to 85%, which is much more battery percentage than I need for a day’s use, as you’ll find in this next paragraph about: battery life!

I almost feel like writing poetry when trying to express how I feel about the battery life on my OnePlus 5T. It’s amazing! After all these years—after almost a decade of being a smartphone user—I can finally just use my phone without worrying about how much I can use it! Where I used to get a maximum of 3.5 hours of screen-on-time (SOT) with previous phones, I can get over 7 hours of SOT with this phone. The battery capacity specification isn’t even that large—it’s only 3300mah. My Nexus 6P had a 3450mah battery, yet could rarely last me to the evening without a mid-day charge. This phone, on the other hand, often finishes the day at 50%. The wizards at OnePlus have really done something special; something that Google themselves were unable to do despite being the makers of Android and having 8 tries with the Nexus program.

Old habits die hard, but in the past few months I have very slowly unlearned the habit of worrying about battery life throughout the day. I now just use the phone as much as I want, and I rarely glance at the battery percentage. It’s liberating. It’s fun. I watch multiple movies and play games on a long-haul flight and still have battery to take me to bedtime.

In regards to software, if you like stock Android—the version of Android that’s designed by Google and shipped on the Pixel and Nexus phones—you will also like Android on this phone. It’s a customized version of Android called OxygenOS; but don’t let the “customized” adjective scare you: this isn’t custom in the sense of Samsung and LG phones. Rather, it’s stock Android but with additional, *optional* customizations built-in, should you choose to use them. Here is a list of all these additional features I could find:

  • Customize the Navigation bar, such as swapping the Back and Recents buttons, or add a toggle to hide the bar and call it back up with a swipe. Or, get rid of the navigation bar entirely and use gestures to perform Home, Back, and Recents actions.
  • Assign a customizable long press and/or double tap action to each of the Back, Home, and Recents buttons.
  • Option to swipe the fingerprint sensor to open the notification shade, or long press it to take a photo.
  • Other gesture options such as flip the phone to mute, use three fingers to take a screenshot, double-tap the screen to wake it, and control music by drawing screen-off gestures.
  • On the status bar, you can choose between two battery icon styles; show or hide the battery percentage; and even choose to hide any of the individual icons that usually show in the status bar.
  • A customizable night mode, a reading mode, option to make selected apps full screen by default; Ambient display to show screen-off information when you lift the phone; dark and light themes; disallow individual apps from using the notification LED.
  • A built-in audio equalizer.
  • Parallel Apps, which lets you have multiple installs of an app on your phone at the same time (for example, to have separate work and personal versions of an app).
  • App locker, which lets you lock certain apps behind your lockscreen password or fingerprint, for an additional layer of security.
  • Gaming Do Not Disturb mode, to prevent notification popups when you’re using certain apps, and optionally route incoming calls through the loudspeaker, disable auto brightness, and reduce phone performance to save battery power.
  • The built-in launcher lets you use icon packs.
  • Phone reboot option.

As a smartphone power user, these additions are a godsend to me. I personally dislike having unnecessary icons such as Bluetooth and NFC cluttering the statusbar, and now I can hide them. And, like many iPhone users I know, I like to preserve my hardware buttons and not press them if I can avoid it—so I have customized a long press on the back button to lock the screen. When listening to music, I love that I can pause and skip songs by drawing a screen off gesture. And I really appreciate the audio equalizer, which I have tuned for great sound on my headphones. These are all features I would miss if I was using a Pixel phone.

One problematic issue that needs to be mentioned though is that the OnePlus 5T can’t play HD videos from Netflix and other copy-protected streaming sites. It was an oversight on OnePlus’s part—they simply forgot to check this point before shipping the phones. They eventually announced their solution to fix this problem, but it involves mailing the phone to the factory, which could have a one-week or more turnaround time. This is a long time to be away from one’s smartphone. I personally watch a lot of Netflix videos on my phone, and I notice the lack of quality, and it’s annoying. But the process of backing up my phone, wiping it, mailing it in, configuring and setting up my backup phone for the meanwhile, and then doing it all again when the 5T returns—it’s all just too much time and energy. The lack of HD quality on my Netflix viewing is just not worth that ordeal.

But all else aside, I have to say that my favourite thing about using this phone has been its consistency. Every smartphone I have owned until this point has had a disappointing lifecyle: the week you unbox it, it’s fresh, fast, and fun, but it grows slow and starts showing problems with every passing week. That great first-week battery life dips down to half or less of its original runtime. Animations that once were smooth become stuttery and laggy. A glitch somewhere in the system will produce random reboots or freezes. Every additional app you download makes the phone feel slower and slower. Regular reboots are required to make the phone feel temporarily normal again.

The above listed issues are the bane of my smartphone experience. I have experienced them all with all my previous smartphones, and my friends often complain about similar issues with their phones.

The OnePlus 5T is my first smartphone that hasn’t degraded in this way. It works the same today as the day I unboxed it. I have added way more apps than I dared to on previous phones, the speed and battery life have remained the same. I don’t reboot it for long periods of time—like over a month—and there’s no difference in performance. And the battery lasts as long today as it did originally. This level of consistency is something I’ve never experienced before, and really grounds my confidence in this phone.


You may be wondering, if the OnePlus phone is as good as I’m claiming it is, then why isn’t it more popular? The only answer I can give is that OnePlus just doesn’t have the marketing and distribution network in the West the way Samsung, LG, and Google do. OnePlus phones are not on store shelves or sold by phone carriers, so you have to buy it from their website. They are a smartphone lovers’ brand—and you’d normally only hear about it if you read about and research smartphones.

Those of us who have heard about them and chose to buy their latest phone are rewarded by having to spend as little as half the price of the competition, while getting a similar or even better product. The OnePlus 5T is the perfect device for me: it has a large and wonderful screen housed in a comfortable size body, speedy internals and optimized software that keep it consistent, a nice camera, lots of customization options in the software, use-till-you-drop battery life, and none of the annoyances that have plagued my previous smartphone experiences.

Like I said in the beginning of this review, I still consider the OnePlus 5T to be the best smartphone I could have bought this year. I look forward to seeing what OnePlus offers in the future.

The Next Smartphones

The iPhone has changed a lot over the past 10 years since the first model, but the front face of the smartphone has stayed relatively unchanged. This conservative development of the design has held up very well over the years, and the latest iPhone models remain some of the most beautiful smartphones around.

But this will not hold up any longer.

The latest trend in smartphone design is going “bezel-less”—removing as much from the front of the phone that isn’t screen. This has a very important impact on the design of the device: for one, a device that’s “all screen” looks incredibly futuristic, and secondly, it greatly reduces the size of the phone while keeping a bigger screen. To put that second point in perspective: imaging holding a regular iPhone in your hand, but this one has a screen the size of the iPhone Plus. You get all the benefits of having a big screen, yet retain all the benefits of having a smaller phone (more portability, pocketability, easy one-handed use, etc).

Smartphone manufacturers, in their unending quest to add new features and benefits, have made it clear that the next design trend is to remove as much bezel as possible and increase the size of the screen relative to the device. And no one has achieved this better than Samsung in yesterday’s unveiling of the Galaxy S8.

To be clear: I have never liked Samsung as a smartphone manufacturer. As far as Android phones go, their phones have always been the most unoriginal, generic plastic devices to unfortunately be everywhere and in the hands of everyone who didn’t know better. I can only attribute their success to the fact that their marketing and distribution teams are much more innovative than their product development team.

But with the Galaxy S6 this started to change, and Wednesday’s unveiling of the S8 obliterated any question that Samsung is now a completely original hardware designer. The design language of the S8 hardware is unquestionably unique, and it’s beautiful.

In contrast, iPhone has a huge amount of wasted space on that never-changing front face: it has a large round home button with space all around it, creating a large bottom bezel, and for the sake of symmetry the top bezel mirrors the size of the bottom one. It also has bezels along the sides of the display. This design aesthetic has served the world’s most popular phone well for its first decade, but this cannot continue. The iPhone 8 will, without a doubt, have a new front face: it will get rid of the physical home button, and reduce or eliminate the bezels.

If Apple waits out a generation with a iPhone 7″S” iteration, this delay in updating the design will might actually hurt their sales numbers for the first time. The iPhone will very quickly look dated, old, and possibly ugly now that consumers have seen the future of smartphones.

Piano Note Guide

I made this piano note guide because I couldn’t find any decent quality ones online. This is simply a guide for beginners to identify notes on the stave and their counterpart keys on the piano. Feel free to download and print the images for your uses.


Piano Note Guide - Large

Piano Note Guide – Large


Piano Note Guide - Small

Piano Note Guide – Small

To download an image, right-click it and select “Save link as…”


Tags: piano key guide, piano note guide, piano cheatsheet, children’s note guide, children’s piano note guide, beginner’s piano note guide, beginner’s note guide, piano guide

Smartphone Displays and Resolutions 2015

My first smartphone was a very high-resolution phone: the Nexus One had a 800×600 display that made every other phone—especially the iPhone—look awful. This was the thrown glove that drove Apple to take ownership of high-resolution displays and name-brand the idea with the “Retina” moniker. The iPhone 4’s 330 ppi was a small but important leapfrog over the competition, and it cemented the importance of display pixel density for the industry.

The competition didn’t take this threat lightly, and their newest flagships run at 6× the resolution—and almost double the ppi—of that Apple phone.

In 2015, pixel densities have reached the point of absurdity. Today’s bleeding-edge resolution du jour is Quad HD, or 2560×1440. This resolution is so incredibly high, it would take a 9″ screen for this resolution’s pixel density to reduce to the iPhone 5 & 6’s. These <6″ phones have a higher resolution than the 10″ retina iPad, and are almost 10× the resolution of my old Nexus One.

What’s the point of pixel density past 300ppi, which is where Apple claims the human eye can no longer see pixels? Many of us have been asking this question for the past couple years. 1080p on its own was crazy high, so Quad HD has left many of us scratching our heads. HTC seems to agree, as they have kept their line of One phones at the same resolution through the years.

Incredible pixel densities are not completely without their use. In 2012, Oculus demonstrated that a lens held in front of a mobile display can wrap images around our field of view, immersing the viewer in the image and creating a true VR experience. Warping an image blows up the pixels, spacing them out and exponentially reducing the pixel density for the viewer. Early prototypes of the Oculus Rift used a 1280×800 display, which must have produced a very blurry image. But thanks to the obsessive small-screen resolution increase on the part of Samsung, LG, Sharp, and JDI, virtual reality kits will soon be able to produce a life-like image to the viewer. According to one Valve engineer, realism may require a display somewhere near 8K resolution.

I would say 8K (7680×4320) resolution on a mobile display sounds impossible. But then again, back in 2011 I wouldn’t have believed 1080p would be possible, much less passé today.


All ppi calculations were done using online tools such as this one. Open the source image to view the full-size, pixel equivalent on your screen.

Tags: phone resolutions, phone screen resolutions, smartphone displays, mobile displays, mobile screens, smartphone resolutions, smartphone screens, mobile resolutions, phone screens, phone resolutions, phone ppi, phone displays, mobile ppi, smartphone ppi, pixel densities, device resolutions, device screens.

Updating an Alienware laptop with switchable AMD graphics

The Problem: Dell won’t provide updated graphics drivers, and you can’t upgrade to Windows 8


I tried upgrading my Alienware laptop to Windows 8.1 recently, and I had a very bad time. My machine is a m17x R3 with AMD switchable graphics. The problem begins with the fact that laptops with AMD switchable graphics require a special display driver package from the manufacturer (in this case, Alienware/Dell). You cannot use drivers direct from AMD because switchable graphics laptops are “special.” AMD’s own drivers will not know how to handle the Intel+AMD system in your laptop, hence why you need your OEM to create the driver package tailored to your setup. The OEM in this case is Dell. Dell completely stops supporting your laptop with graphics drivers the day you purchase it from them. This is terrible, because as most gamers know, new display drivers provide optimizations that make your games and applications run better. Most people with a dedicated AMD or Nvidia card regularly update their graphics drivers for these benefits. But if you purchase a $3,500 Alienware, which is supposed to be the ultimate gaming machine, you will be stuck with drivers from before the manufacturing date of your laptop. In my case, that’s 2011. Those are some very old drivers. Needless to say, Dell is not going to provide any drivers for Windows 8 either. 

When you purchase a $3,500 Alienware, you’re stuck with drivers from before the manufacturing date of your laptop

When I tried installing the existing drivers into my Windows 8 upgrade, I ended up with a very unstable system. Switching between AMD and Intel graphics would result in a blank screen, and I’d be forced to hard-reboot each time. Sleep and hibernate didn’t work–again getting a blank screen every time I woke the machine. Brightness controls didn’t work. And multi monitor was finicky, cutting off the external monitor frequently. One option I tried extensively was these third-party Leschcat drivers. Leshcat is a developer who has made it his mission to help everyone with AMD switchable graphics to have the latest AMD drivers by creating his own driver packages. Apparently he’s been doing this for years, releasing new packages with every new AMD driver release. These drivers apparently work well for many people. They just couldn’t work for me without still having many of the aforementioned problems. After struggling through many, many different setups, and then giving up and reverting back to Windows 7, I eventually stumbled onto the solution. I reinstalled Windows 8.1 and now I have a perfectly working machine 🙂

The Solution

The solution requires a sacrifice: you have to give up the ability to switch to Intel graphics. I’ve personally come to terms with that. Running on battery while on AMD graphics doesn’t actually have the severe impact one would imagine. My machine actually lasts for more than a couple hours on battery while on AMD. So, accepting this, you can go ahead and start. Caveat: This solution assumes you will be performing a clean install of Windows 8 or at least reformatting Windows. Changing the following BIOS setting while continuing to use the same Windows installation could result in a blank screen, as it did for me. Disclaimer: I’m only sharing my personal solution here for you to try at your own risk. I do not guarantee anything and I cannot be held responsible for any problems you might incur.

How to do it

  1. This is essential: update your BIOS. Go to Dell’s support page for your machine (you should have come here anyway to download all the drivers you’re going to need once you reinstall Windows). Download the BIOS upgrade and run it. This will add a new, previously-unavailable feature to your BIOS that you will need next.
  2. Be ready to reformat your machine (all your backups should be done, drivers ready, etc). You can’t boot back into your current Windows installation after this, because you might just get a blank screen.
  3. Reboot into BIOS by spamming F2 when your machine starts booting up.
  4. Go to the Advanced menu, and check out the brand new, previously-unavailable control at the bottom of this list: Primary Display.

    This control has two options: SG and PEG, which are neglectfully unexplained in the help pane. Let me tell you what they are: SG means switchable graphics, and PEG means AMD-only. In SG mode, which is the mode your machine has always been in, your computer recognizes both the Intel and AMD graphics drivers at the same time. Device Manager will show both display adapters, and you will be expected to use the proper, OEM-packaged driver in order for these adapters to not only be switchable but also be recognized properly. PEG mode, on the other hand, makes your machine forget about the Intel graphics and act like a computer that simply has an AMD card in it.
  5. Switch this option to PEG, then save and exit your BIOS.
  6. Install Windows 8.1/7. Run Windows Update multiple times until it says once and for all that there are no more updates available.
  7. Go to AMD’s driver website and select your graphics card type. No matter what you choose, as long as you indicate that it’s a notebook, it will direct you to a download called AMD Mobility Radeon Driver Verification Tool. Download this and run it.
  8. You should now get the following screen.Capture
    If you’d struggled with AMD switchable graphics drivers as much as I had, you would understand how exciting it is to get this screen. This screen indicates that your machine is behaving like a regular computer with an AMD Mobility GPU inside it. Previously, if you’d run this same verification tool, you would simply get a message saying that your machine is not supported and that you should contact your manufacturer for drivers (good luck with that).
  9. Go ahead and click Start Download, and install AMD’s newest Catalyst drivers to your machine.

You will now have a perfectly working machine, minus the ability to switch to Intel graphics. It’s essentially like having a desktop with an AMD video card. I hope this works for you. Please let me know how it goes if you try it.

Starting out on LinkedIn

When I signed up for LinkedIn a few weeks ago, the setup process confused me when it asked to do things which I didn’t consider part of LinkedIn’s scope. I emailed an engineer friend of mine for clarification, and I found his thorough answer to be quite useful for anyone who wants to get to know this networking service from a professional’s perspective.

Me: Hey man, quick question. You’re the expert on LinkedIn. I made an account a week ago, then it asked me to add pretty much everyone I know from Facebook and my email contacts. But that seemed strange to me because I thought LinkedIn was just for professional contacts. Should I add all the people I know? Is there are benefit to it?

His response:

Hey man,

I think LinkedIn has turned into a typical social networking thing, and some people use it for that purpose. I keep my contacts to people who I’ve worked with, who I know are proven professionals and not jokers. I also keep some recruiters as contacts in case I need to look for jobs or they are looking for people to fill jobs, etc.

Not in all fields, but in my field, people take it seriously, like I will check someone’s LinkedIn if I’m thinking of hiring them, to get an idea of their experience and their credibility. The best indicator I find is the skills that people endorse you for. When you see skills endorsed by some Joe Blo, then it doesn’t mean much, but it means a lot when highly known and respected people give endorsements. Large numbers of these shows that it’s unanimous, not just one person’s biased opinion. Also, people give recommendations to speak about your management skills, technical skills, personality, etc.

I get lots of people who want to add me to their network, who I know only socially but not from something professional. I avoid those for 2 reasons:

  1. It makes you look bad if you’re an engineer when your contacts, endorsements, etc are from non-engineers who don’t know the field.
  2. Some of them want to use you to make themselves look good, and once they are in your network they can say and do stupid things to embarrass you in the professional community. So it’s best to keep it to your professional network, not social network.

Of course engineers use it differently than some other fields, for example a musician wants to be connected to producers, suppliers, etc, but again not to some jerk who knows nothing about music and who’s just trying to be a groupie.

Best Regards,

Shortly after posting this conversation I was contacted by another friend of mine, one who works in communications this time. She wanted to share her thoughts with me from the perspective of her own field of work:

I think your friend had good points relating to technical fields. And you don’t want to add everyone in your Gmail, because that will include random people such as spammers or people you don’t really know.

However, I will add anyone I am friends with, worked with or went to school with for a couple of reasons:

  1. If you work in a social field, non-industry endorsements can actually be a good thing. For example, in my line of work, it’s to my benefit to have people endorsing me for blogging, because even if they’re not experts in the industry, they’re the audience.
  2. The more people you have in your network, the wider your reach if you’re looking for work, and even if people in your direct network aren’t in your field, they may work for a company that has a position suitable for you. They can forward your profile to the appropriate people or even just let you know about an upcoming position.

So it can be really professionally useful to have a wider network.

Companies are using LinkedIn more and more, and it’s also a good way of keeping track of companies you might want to work for. You can also join groups, either based on industry, alumnus, or interest, and you can join in discussions with other people in your field and get to know them a bit. You might make connections that might be helpful in the future, or just ask questions of people who have more experience than you or learn about topics you’re interested in. So that’s a whole new side of LinkedIn that I think people are now finding useful.

LinkedIn has become the most important asset for employment in many fields—in many cases it has completely replaced the résumé/CV as a much more legitimate and current document of work history and skills. My takeaway from these conversations is that your usage of LinkedIn will vary depending of your field. For an engineer, limiting your contact list is important, so it’s best to skip the automatic friend-adding steps in the signup process. But if you’re in a more social field, your social contacts can be your most important asset. It should be good to know this important distinction before jumping into the service.

If you have any thoughts or insight on this topic please feel free to discuss in the comments below.