Trucking Digest

With a lot fewer posts from me over the last couple of weeks, this forum seems the best place to explain what has been going on as the root cause is my love of simulation programs on my computer. The pc I am writing this on is a Hewlett Packard Envy. It came with an Intel i7-4770 CPU, an AMD R9-270 graphics card, 16GB of RAM and a 2TB hard drive. At the time of purchase it was a high-end office and mid-range gaming pc – ideal for a casual gamer and a serious photographer with lots of processing to do. For at least three years now the Truck Simulator programs by SCS Software have been the core of my relaxation. Before that I also enjoyed Railworks Train Simulator. Each of these ‘games’ relies heavily on the ability of the hardware to create the scenery through which you pass to a good level of detail in order to achieve the illusion of travelling through the real world and maintain a high degree of immersion. And there we come to an issue, one that I’ve lived with for quite some time.

The R9-270 is now quite an old graphics card and was in the middle of AMD’s R9 range which means it was ok for most things but you might have to settle for lower quality graphics than with a top of the range card. One of the issues I have experienced in my simulator games is random graphical glitches, especially after the pc has been in use for a while. I sometimes got them in Railworks and also in the Truck Sim’s. The other issue was micro-stuttering in the movement through the environment – occasional missing frames resulting in very tiny stop-go instances that my eye would see. These issues over time can be a bit frustrating. I did read a comment on the Euro Truck forum dating to three or four years ago where another gamer complained that his R9-270 made the game unplayable! That certainly was not my experience – otherwise I would not have persevered with playing for so long. In fact it would be wrong of me to suggest that I was in any way disappointed in the HP Envy’s performance as a whole. Perhaps I’m just too pragmatic to get agitated about this sort of thing. I knew I was pushing the graphics card and possibly also the CPU beyond their realistic ‘best performance’ areas by playing heavy-duty simulation games and I accepted the resulting glitches as an understandable consequence. As I have moved into more recent games, Fishing Planet would be a good example, it has become even more apparent that the R9-270 was being asked to work beyond what was realistic.

One of the key indicators of trouble is the noise from the cooling fans in your pc – mine have been getting very loud (Hoover-like loud) and are a sure indication that something in there is getting way too warm for comfort. One fan has taken to making knocking noises as it slows down after a game has closed. I have cleaned the system thoroughly to remove dust and checked the fans over but the issue persists. But there is more to the situation – let me explain a little further. Another issue is sharing hard drive space between photography requirements (RAW files can be very large) and game code/saves (which can also be very large!). When your hard drive is close to 3 quarters full it’s time to look at your storage solutions and options. So, you see, I had a bit of a problem to resolve. It’s been rattling around my head since late last year like the pea in a referee’s whistle. So what is the solution? Replace the HP Envy with a new machine that can run those games better? That won’t really solve my other problem as even now the preferred largest size hard drive is 2TB – yes you can get bigger but that seems to be the ideal max for most systems. Give up playing simulation games? – don’t even go there!!! 😦 No – my solution is to buy a high-end gaming pc that will work alongside the existing HP Envy. All games will be moved across to the new machine and the old machine will have more free space on its hard drive to process photos. Shifting the games from the current machine will significantly reduce the stress on the graphics card and CPU – possibly extending their lifespan. And the games will benefit from a more suitable environment to provide a glitch free experience and thus improved immersion when driving my trucks 🙂

I have spent 6 months looking at a number of options, not helped by the continual changes in the computing equipment market place. I did consider building my own but I probably need a couple more years of knowledge gaining before I’m ready to take that step – although Alasdair is quickly learning such skills on his BTEC course 🙂 In the end I opted to buy from CCL Computers after they were recommended by simulation guru Squirrel. I chose to balance cost against performance – which means that I chose to buy the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X processor. The graphics card is the Nvidia RTX2070 which is upper-mid-range in Nvidia terms but with performance way above the top of the current AMD range (at a price). Today was its first day in service and what a day – a delivery for an SCS Software event. We took a racing truck from Köln to Санкт-Петербу́рг (St.Petersburg) as part of the #OneTruckFamily event that SCS are currently running with the FIA European Truck Racing Competition. That was 2hrs:46mins of driving on the new rig with no glitches and no stutters 🙂 Alasdair asked me when I told him about my intended drive – “How long would that take in the real world?”. 67.5 hours or 2.8 days including rest stops – and I was tired after just 2hrs:46mins! Some images below of my MAN TGX on this run…

Have a good weekend everyone – drive safe – more info about the new pc in another post 🙂

The Opacity of Windows

I’m guessing that most of my readers are on Windows 10 by now and have learned to love it, not least because in general it falls in the category of a Billy Preston quote in a Stephen Stills song – “If you can’t be with the one you love honey; love the one you’re with” In general it’s ok but every now and then we hit issues and these are almost always related to updates. I’ve just had a day or so of my time wasted trying to get to the bottom of why my Windows 10 installation was reporting that several important downloads had not happened. This dated back to September last year and an update to v1803. Why it only just started telling me this week is a mystery. Initial investigation showed the error as being a download fail – Error 0x80070015.

There are all manner of potential fixes for this error on the internet, some of them requiring a download of third party software. Before going further, let me warn against that route – you might be paying for something that will fix nothing. Equally, you may be introducing a virus onto your machine and we don’t want that! Sensible ways to try to fix are the ones already built into your Windows. Right click on your windows symbol on the left of the task bar at the bottom the screen and in the menu you’ll find the option to open the Windows Powershell (Admin) tool. From here you can run SFC and DISM checks on your system – which will either fix issues in the files or tell you there are none. I won’t duplicate other sites here – just do a search for SFC or DISM to learn how to use these tools 🙂 Suffice to say that neither found any errors 😦 So back to head scratching.

If you are looking at the Windows Update screen you’ll see an advanced options link below the list of failed updates. This provides you with the ability to refresh your Windows 10 installation – sounds great doesn’t it! But wait a minute – if you choose that option it will uninstall most of your programs which means you’ll have to reinstall them assuming you have the product keys written down somewhere! Not very user friendly 😦

There is however another option. Go looking for the Windows Update Assistant. This online Microsoft tool will bring your machine up to the latest version of Windows 10 without deleting your programs or your files. Now why the hell don’t they just provide a link to that in the Windows Update screen and save us all a lot of heartache when the updates get confused???

For the record, I think an upgrade to version 1809 from 1803 got disturbed and failed to complete. So my version of Windows wound up trying to download v1803 files that were no longer available for download or were not applicable. Running Windows Update Assistant from the web resolved that but it took a couple of hours so be prepared to spend some time hugging your pc.

UPDATE: – Since running Windows Update Assistant I find that it has appeared as an icon on my desktop. It hasn’t done that when I’ve used it in the past so I guess Microsoft have addressed the problem 🙂

Trucking Digest

Last week’s Trucking Digest was a milestone for my blog – it was my 1000th post 🙂 Hopefully, I can continue on to post a lot more! Now, lets get on with business…

I promised last week that you’d get to meet Night Train this time around. Night Train draws her name from the Oscar Peterson Trio album. She’s a Peterbilt 389 with a 6×4 chassis. The engine is a Cummins N14 which has been chipped (tuned) to produce 600HP – which has the additional advantage of giving the exhaust sound a very distinctive bark! She’s finished in a special metallic blue and cream paint scheme by modder Klunk. Best cruising speed for this truck is 60mph, though she can go a lot faster. Here she is heading for Roswell with a Tractor……and arriving at the customer in the small hours to make delivery……and here is the dash…

Euro Truck sim grabs most of the headlines again this week. v1.33 released which brought the Krone Boxliner trailer into the game for us to own. This was an important step for my company as it would allow a move into the lucrative chemicals market as well as container shipments of other commodities. I bought one for myself and after a couple of loads bought two more, one for my Bordeaux garage and one for Montpellier where they can be used by my drivers. There were a number of other trailers made available for company ownership but I haven’t assessed their potential yet and ones aimed at the Scandinavian market aren’t really applicable to my French company. Here’s a shot of the faithful MAN heading through northern Germany with a load of Chlorine on the Boxliner…

There were a number of esoteric were changes – the way that raindrops appear on the windshield, tweaks to the physics and some background changes such as the ability to keep your profile on the Steam Cloud. There were also another batch of Random Events which further increases the diversity of each drive. But the other key change was new ports at Travemünde in Germany and Kapellskär in Sweden in preparation for the new ‘Beyond the Baltic Sea’ dlc. With baited breath the community waited all last week until Thursday evening when that long awaited new map section released. I can now visit Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and a small part of western Russia! Initial impressions are good. There many interesting scenes mapped and new features like Border Controls – here we are crossing into Russia…… note the border police on the gantry checking the roof! My papers were ok and I was allowed to pass – I wonder if we’ll ever see jobs turned back at the border for wrong paperwork or maybe even confiscations of contraband? Somehow I reckon a consignment of ammunition might raise a few eyebrows! Here we are leaving Kaliningrad across the Queen Louise bridge over the river Neman – next stop Lithuania border control!..

There are four ways to get jobs now in the Truck Sim games – Job Market when you’re a driver for hire; Freight Market to haul other companies trailers; World of Trucks where you also haul other companies trailers and finally, Cargo Market where you get loads for your own trailer. In case you’ve forgotten all, except World of Trucks jobs, operate in game clock time. One thing I’ve found is that the roads in the new ‘Baltic’ area are lumbered with many speed restrictions and the afore mentioned border checks. Every job I’ve done so far in the area has been very tight for time – even the standard jobs! The upshot is that you have to really get a move on with your deliveries if you aren’t going to bust your drivers hours or arrive late at your destination. And the downside of that is you can’t spend time sightseeing 😦 I think I might send my trailer home and do some IRL timed World of Trucks jobs so I can enjoy the mapping! I’ll leave you with this tail shot as I cross into Leningradskaya Oblast on my way to Saint Petersburg…

American Truck Sim has its own v1.33 waiting in the wings and will have another innovation – diversions… Can’t wait for that! Report to follow when it’s been deployed. And I can report that both games are now in sync regards IRL time played – Euro truck has finally caught up! So I shall now be alternating between Europe and the US to keep them in close alignment. Best wishes to all my readers – Keep on Trucking 🙂