January 20, 2012

New Fangled Tech

Naturally, I'm researching Core Parking.  It's been around for a number of years, but during those same years, I've essentially "dropped out" of keeping up with technology.  My previous rig was a Dell with a dual-core (I forget which) and it worked fine for minor gaming.  It kept on working with newer games, so I never dug into the "new-fangled" stuff.  That system lasted me over five years.  Also, since the prices for components and custom machines have dropped significantly, actually building my own rig (or building for others) had become unreasonable: it's cheaper and easier to just order something that has what you need.  "Back in my day" you needed to build your own system if you wanted cutting edge technology without paying an arm and a leg (*ahem*Alienware*ahem*).  But with a new "custom built" rig that someone else (CyberpowerPC) built for me, I'm back waist-deep in researching the new-fangled technologies.

Not much has changed.  Well, a lot has changed tech wise, but the community seems to have stayed the same: just a few "serious" sites (Anandtech, Tom's Hardware, Overclockers.net), riddled with different groups of increasing population:

Very Few: The hard core geeks who can differentiate between different gate technology materials (I just made that up), drills holes into their CPUs and even solder on wires to get that last .5 Frame Per Second.  These guys will tear you a new one (by answering in detail or by dismissively giving a correct but unexpected answer) when you ask which processor is faster.

Minority: Somewhat serious folks who like to tinker, but are not drilling holes in CPUs (although when pushed, they will and then go into a depression).  They are up to speed with the latest marketing and specs and can generally work through tough issues, but also when to stop and accept a non-optimal solution.

Majority: Those who just want things to work and wander into various communities looking for help.  They eagerly want to solve their problem, but sometimes throw everyone off by asking how to edit the registry.

Of course, there are the usual nut-jobs as well and the angry ones who will rant and rave for pages and pages about how much they don't care about something.  These people tend to campaign for boycotts and demand something unreasonable, like a game company to call in programmers to fix their specific issue.

I like to think I fall in the minority because I know enough, but not enough

As I started with, I've been reading about Core Parking quite a bit and strongly suspect that this is the problem I (and others) might be having with Skyrim rebooting at random.  Consider this:

Note: my system has 2600k, Gigabyte MB, Gigabyte GTX 570, 16GB RAM

  • Intermittent (sometimes after a minute, sometimes after an hour) hardware reset/crash/freeze.
  • Only with Skyrim
  • Works with other games
  • Works with Benchmarking tools (DX9, DX10, DX11) (over 7 hours running)
  • Works with stress testing tools (over 7 hours running)
  • Works with Benchmarking + Stress testing AT THE SAME TIME (Kombustor DX9 and DX10, 8X MSAA, 1920x1080, POST-FX, FULLSCREEN for about an hour)
  • Replaced Power Supply
  • Reinstalled Skyrim
  • Did the other things recommended by others on the 'net.
  • None of the above made a difference
  • No overheating
  • No error logs are generated - hardware just gets zapped
  • Unable to replicate rebooting/freezing outside of Skyrim
  • Disabling Speedstep made the system stable (one reboot in a week of playing for hours and hours a day).
  • Re-enabling Speedstep caused the crashes again.
  • Re-enabling Speedstep and disabling Core Parking seems stable (not fully tested yet).
  • Doing the above two seem to have worked for others (unsubstantiated reports only).
  • CPU/GPU load when playing Skyrim is very low on my system (settings are Ultra/maxed out).
  • Disabling Core Parking seems to be universally good for gaming (haven't found a negative post about it yet)
CPU Loads when running Skyrim

  • Skyrim Creation Engine: is it built on Gamebryo? Why does it not use more cores?
  • Is Core Parking kicking in while playing Skyrim since the load is low?
  • Is the Skyrim engine somehow allergic to cores being powered down?
    • Skyrim works with Speedstep/C1E/C36/C6 State Support turned off (this prevents Core Parking)
    • Skyrim (seems to) work with Core Parking turned off and the above turned on
  • Out of the millions of Skyrim players, only a minority are having issues.  Is this because:
    • Only a few have high end processors + Windows 7 that support Core Parking?
    • Only a few have 16GB of RAM?
    • Only a few have low CPU/GPU use with Skyrim (most posts indicate that Skyrim is CPU intensive)?  This would mean my system is TOO FAST
    • Most have disabled Core Parking at some point in the past (I have a brand new box, nothing else loaded but games)?
    • Most have enough background processes to prevent Core Parking when playing Skyrim?
Anyway, some Core Parking things I found:
  • Works best in a server environment where there are cores that are truly not busy for long period of time
  • Does not save power if the system is under heavy load
  • Only in Windows 7, 8 and 2003, 2008
  • Impedes performance when enabled
  • Known to cause problems (Microsoft has a patch to disable it)

Testing to continue...

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