That’s what I think I have been going in for the last 3 weeks – which may explain my lack of blog posts. I could blame Microsoft at this point and they are certainly complicit in my absense. But that would be harsh as there are other players involved too. But Microsoft kicked it off, so lets start there…

Back in late September my gaming pc told me that there was a new ‘Important’ Windows update and I needed to restart to install it. We get Windows 10 updates regularly and, to be fair, most of them are non-events. They bring minor improvements or changes that have no visible impact on me at all. This one, however, was different.

In less than 20 minutes it turned my working pc into a total wreck. But, it did it very subtly – everything seemed to be working ok in the first few minutes. Then I started experiencing frame stutters while driving my truck… that grew to frame and audio. I tried watching streaming video – distracting dropouts. Then I found the mouse cursor staggering across the screen and the task bar moving up and down in jagged movements rather than scrolling smoothly.

When these things happen you initially panic… for a few seconds… then your past experience as a programmer kicks in. You start working through the many possible causes and checking on the internet for other people’s possible fixes for the issue you are experiencing. The message I got from doing the latter is that Windows 10 2004 update is a total can of worms – I’d like to call it something else but that would result in my blog becoming an ‘adults only’ experience.

So – first port of call after listening to the encyclopedia of issues with the 2004 update (yes, you could fill an encyclopedia with all the issues) – was to check and update my graphics card drivers. I do that regularly anyway but I still found one new update to load. I’ve loaded 2 more graphics card updates in the last 2 weeks too while seeking a fix for my issues – not that this has fixed anything.

I’ve tried a number of settings changes recommended to end stuttering. None of them achieved more than delaying the inevitable return to stuttering at a level that makes games unplayable and videos unwatchable. Back to square one – or should that be a squared circle? I’ve checked the well-being of my CPU and Graphics Card – neither is stressed and both have plenty of spare capacity.

I decided to rollback the update – back to version 1903. Immediately, there are no issues – everything is working fine. I’ve tried updating to 2004 three times now and each time I have worked through a planned course of action to resolve the issue but nothing seems to work.

Part of the problem is that asking Windows to confirm that the drivers for a particular sub-system on a pc are up to date is likely to result in a ‘latest drivers installed’ response when that may not be the case. I have a suspicion that the issue is relating to the RealTek sound chip drivers as these could certainly cause stuttering audio. However, finding the correct driver on the RealTek site is difficult – the translation from Chinese isn’t very clear. There is also a very serious risk that any ‘drivers’ downloaded from the internet may prove to be malware – so extreme caution is advised.

Is it all a negative experience? No – I found that a setting for my graphics card had been changed and restoring the factory default settings fixed a minor framedrop issue I’d been experiencing in Farming Simulator. I’m guessing that the person who built the pc may have changed it for test purposes and not restored it before shipping. I’ve also learned that turning off the shader cache on the graphics card can improve performance if you have a good CPU to handle processing.

I’m back on Windows 10 v1903 for now because that works. I’ve disabled Windows updates to prevent the level of disruption that I experienced happening until I’m ready to take it on again – a situation that can’t be a permanent solution as Microsoft will stop supporting some things and modify others so that they only work with the latest version of Windows. I’m currently testing games using the NVidia RTX2070’s audio output as an alternative to the RealTek. So far that has worked well and I’ve noticed that a minor sound glitch that I used to experience occasionally isn’t happening – it was rare, so a lot more testing is needed – suggesting that the problem is related to the audio software.

So, the plan going forward is to locate a good set of drivers for the RealTek chip. Continue testing to narrow down the cause before re-updating to build 2004. If the issue continues then I have already planned a full strip out of code from the pc and start from scratch for Christmas when my Son will be home from Uni – two heads are always better than one! If we can’t resolve it then it maybe time to bite the bullet and walk away from Windows 10 – I haven’t ruled out moving to Linux even though that would mean no longer playing a couple of my favourite games.

I’m annoyed with Microsoft for pushing out this Windows 10 update at a time when they were clearly aware that there were many issues. Doubly so because so many of us rely on our computers to keep us sane and maintain contact with the wider world while locked down by the pandemic. Insensitive at best 😦 Did I say my criticism was harsh? Maybe it wasn’t!

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 KΓΆln to Π‘Π°Π½ΠΊΡ‚-ΠŸΠ΅Ρ‚Π΅Ρ€Π±ΡƒΜΡ€Π³ (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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚