I think the old newspapers would have called this an Extra 😉 While The Hunter – Call of the Wild is a hunting game, hunting doesn’t always equate to shooting with a gun. Here’s some photo type shots from an encounter in Hirschfelden with a young male Fallow Deer – Unsure and inquisitive he steps out of cover…

…Then more boldly out into the open…

…advancing to within a few metres…

…Until he suddenly realised I was there in the bushes. Time to go…

…and no, I didn’t shoot him, except with the camera 🙂

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!

Keeping a log of all my runs in the two trucking projects gives an opportunity to compare the efficiency of the two trucks that we ran in parallel.    This is not a straight forward task for a number of reasons which I will discuss.  The conclusion I reach will of necessity be clouded by a number of intangibles.   But let’s start with the trucks themselves for they are in some ways chalk and cheese.

Our Volvo FH has a 4×2 chassis while the Kenworth K100 is a 6×4 – both are seen as standard configurations for tractor units in their home European and US truck markets.   A 6×4 chassis is commonly believed to have a small negative effect on fuel efficiency.   The K100 is also quite angular in appearance whilst the Volvo FH is more aerodynamic.

The engines are closely matched power wise at 450HP for Detroit Diesel in the K100 and 460HP for the Volvo D13K and their swept volumes are quite close – 12.1 and 12.9 litres respectively.   But there the big differences kick in.  The Detroit offering is a V8 two-stroke while the D13K is a 6 cylinder in-line four-stroke engine.   The Detroit engine dates to 1974 and was a very widely used in trucks and buses throughout the 1980’s in the US.   Production ceased in 1995.  The D13K entered production in 2012 and is to the latest Euro 6 specification which is aimed at reducing emissions.  One would think that reducing emissions ought to have a positive effect on fuel consumption but whether that is actually the case is a matter for debate in other forums than my blog.

Having set the scene, let’s move to the numbers for the trucks…

Volvo FH                              19 trips                 14.74 tonnes      29.63 l/100km    7.94 mpg

Kenworth K100                  10 trips                 13 tonnes            30.43 l/100km    7.73 mpg

…which seem to bear out the assumption that the modern truck with the latest engine should be more fuel efficient.   It doesn’t appear to be by a lot though – 0.21 of a gallon per mile.   But that’s with a 1.74t weight penalty.   I looked at ways to even out the weights to get a clearer impression of the difference.   If I take the runs done by our Kenny for the Doubles Event where the tonnages were all in the high teens and select similar weights from our European deliveries we get a clearer picture…

Volvo FH                              9 trips                    17.67 tonnes      31.18 l/100km    7.54 mpg

Kenworth K100                 10 trips                   17.5 tonnes        35.05 l/100km    6.71 mpg

…with the K100 clearly burning significantly more fuel than the Volvo.   It equates to 16.4 gallons difference every 1000 miles – that’s around a $52 saving for the modern truck compared with the old stager using the October 2017 cost of diesel in California.   Small margins on a single truck become massive savings on a big fleet!

This is not a rolling road test where all factors are the same.   I suspect that the real world margin is even higher but the only way I could test that would be to put the two trucks into the same environment and haul the exact same loads with them.   Even then the results could be skewed by the traffic on any given run.   The general driving in Euro Truck is much more varied than in ATS.   Most of the driving with the Kenworth has involved long stretches on the interstate with cruise control on at around 55mph.   In France you either have back roads with lots of roundabouts or autoroutes with regular stops at tolls to break up the cruising.   In Germany you have no tolls but lower speed limits on the autobahnen and back roads.   There are similar road challenge issues throughout Europe.

An interesting illustration of the point is the run from Linköping to Oslo which was one of the runs included in both sets of figures but critically it was included in the second set of figures to even out the weights hauled and could be viewed as having an impact on the FH’s overall results.   This was the lowest weight at 15t but because of the nature of the roads and some of the gradients encountered along with slow moving traffic it was actually the Volvo’s worst for fuel consumption in the subset at 6.82 mpg.   The only similar road encountered by the K100 in our sequence of tests was the run from Redding to Eureka with 17t where the fuel consumption was 5.86 mpg.

The overall conclusion is that the ETS2 / ATS games do provide a good representation of the real world fuel consumption by the trucks (assuming you’ve turned on realistic fuel consumption in the game settings!).   I would expect the modern truck engine to be more fuel efficient than a 40 year old design.   The amount of difference is partially obscured by the differences in the ETS2 / ATS road environments.   What is not taken into account is the relative maintenance costs and for a real world self-employed trucker these might swing the balance when choosing to stick with a less complicated older engine.   You can find lots of videos on YouTube exploring this.

One final real world difference between the US and Europe that I want to mention.   In Europe you buy a Volvo, you get a Volvo engine.   A Mercedes-Benz – you get one of their engines.   In the US it seems that whilst certain trucks are allied to certain engines – Freightliner with Detroit Diesel and Kenworth with PACCAR  – a buyer can order what is known as a ‘glider kit’ if they want which is the truck without an engine or drive train.   They can then specify whatever make of engine / drive train they want.   So you find Kenworth trucks with Cummins or Caterpillar engines in place of the PACCAR units that would be the factory standard – or in our case a Series 92 Dee-Dee.   It’s a different market!

This was an interesting mathematical experiment for me.  I wanted to see whether the modern truck is more fuel efficient and I think that has been borne out by the figures.   It’s been a good way of keeping the grey matter active which is a healthy thing to do.   I’ve also done a lot of research into the real trucking world over the months of playing ETS2 and ATS.   These truck sim’s may be ‘only a game’ but the opportunities for straining the brain are there if you want to take them 🙂