Something Random

Chewy509

Wotty wot wot.
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Handruin

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That's a fun enhancement of Doom, I might have to check that out. I tried a bit of the Quake II RTX remake on Steam to see what it looks like with Ray Tracing enabled and it was neat. Performance was bad though.
 

snowhiker

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Any news from DD or Lunar?

Last night I filed my 2019 taxes with TaxAct Online. Cost $117 for Fed & State forms and e-file. Fuck me. 10 years ago it was $25-30 for both. Of course I had to buy the "premier plus" tax prep version as I had two shares of stock vest and then were immediately sold. Schedule D and Form 8949 aren't included with free e-file. So even though I'm barely over the half way point of the $69,000 free cutoff I have to pay to file taxes. Sigh.

I got a SMS and email less than a minute after e-filing informing me the IRS has accepted my return. A bit over an hour later my state return was accepted.

A bit under $2200 total refund coming from fed+state.

How long did you guys have to wait to get your refunds?
 

Newtun

Storage is nice
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Nov 21, 2002
Messages
386
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Virginia
Feds: filed and accepted 2/25 with TaxAct online, refund direct bank deposit received and processed 3/4, so 8 days Δ.

That was then; though the filing deadline was extended due to COVID-19, now the IRS may be dealing with the economic-relief aspects of COVID-19.

I haven't filed State yet. I will owe $, so I'm waiting to see if TaxAct will offer a deal, otherwise I'll use the State online system (which I've already started).

I don't believe the TaxAct State estimate for the State "bottom line", but maybe they have some "tricks" I don't know about.
 
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sedrosken

Allergic to Sunlight
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Nov 20, 2013
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The Sticks
Due to some added extra time to my day (working from home now), I've played a bit of Brutal Doom... Certainly makes Doom fun...
You're about, oh, five years late? ;)

This was what got me into playing Doom mods and while the dev of this particular one is apparently a bit of a prick (as well as alleged plagiarist...?) it's definitely a classic. Personally I'm a much bigger fan of playing Doom II with Combined Arms, Colourful Hell and Maps of Chaos.

As for refunds, I believe I filed on the 3rd of Feb and received my refund via direct deposit on the 12th. As Newtun said, though, since they extended the deadline and their direct deposit records are apparently being used for delivery of the stimulus money, I'd imagine they're under much more stress right now than at the beginning of Feb.
 

Handruin

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Any news from DD or Lunar?

Last night I filed my 2019 taxes with TaxAct Online. Cost $117 for Fed & State forms and e-file. Fuck me. 10 years ago it was $25-30 for both. Of course I had to buy the "premier plus" tax prep version as I had two shares of stock vest and then were immediately sold. Schedule D and Form 8949 aren't included with free e-file. So even though I'm barely over the half way point of the $69,000 free cutoff I have to pay to file taxes. Sigh.

I got a SMS and email less than a minute after e-filing informing me the IRS has accepted my return. A bit over an hour later my state return was accepted.

A bit under $2200 total refund coming from fed+state.

How long did you guys have to wait to get your refunds?
I filed my 2019 taxes back in early March and the refunds were deposited to my bank in maybe 3 days. I used FreeTaxUSA this year and it cost me very little to efile. The federal was free and my state $12.95 + tax. That's all I spent. The filing cost at freetaxusa has nothing to do with your income. I highly recommend checking them out for next year if you want to save some money filing. There are a bunch of people over at reddit /r/personalfinance that recommended them so I gave it a try.

My refund was fairly significant this year due to a 30% tax rebate because of my home solar panel project from last year. That plus I had a mortgage for a new house giving me more to itemize. That's why I filed earlier than usual this year.
 
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Handruin

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Feds: filed and accepted 2/25 with TaxAct online, refund direct bank deposit received and processed 3/4, so 8 days Δ.

That was then; though the filing deadline was extended due to COVID-19, now the IRS may be dealing with the economic-relief aspects of COVID-19.

I haven't filed State yet. I will owe $, so I'm waiting to see if TaxAct will offer a deal, otherwise I'll use the State online system (which I've already started).

I don't believe the TaxAct State estimate for the State "bottom line", but maybe they have some "tricks" I don't know about.
If you're concerned about TaxAct and their estimate when compared to your state's prep, also try freetaxusa and see what their estimate is. That should be free to go through the tax prep process and they will only charge money if you decide to efile. This will at least give you a comparison to see if there's some oddity between the two services when estimating your tax liability.
 

snowhiker

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I've stayed with TaxAct mostly because of inertia. I already have an account, they do a decent enough job calculating taxes/refunds, efile both fed+state and staying with them means there is one less company with my SS#, address, and other vital info. I think the $69,000 cutoff for free tax prep and efile is because it's subsidized by the IRS. If the on-line tax prep companies weren't getting any money they wouldn't advertise their "free" service as much as they do.

I didn't do it this year, but in the past when I've looked into other "free" tax prep companies and I discovered that Form 1040 + Schedule D + Form 8949 = NO FREE tax-prep options, regardless of income level. So if I have to pay for "premier, premium, super-wham-o-dyne," tax prep I might as well stay with TaxAct. I did get an email from TaxAct for 20% off fed+state but I feel like they just jacked up the price high enough to account for their 20% off coupon. I don't anticipate any stock sales in 2020 so I should be able to prep + efile for free in 2021, at least with the IRS. State is always a bit trickier.

Then again I could have just downloaded the fillable-PDFs from the IRS site and mailed in my return for free. I'm paying $117 to get a quicker refund. Assurance that my forms were received by tax agencies. Near-zero chance of data entry errors and that the direct deposit refund will go smoothly.
 

Will Rickards

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$117 dollars is crazy. Although I have an alert setup at slickdeals for the taxact stuff so when they offer the deal for like $15 or so, I jump on it. The most expensive part of taxact is the state. And in my state I can do that very easily online as I have to do local taxes separately anyway online.
 

snowhiker

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The cost to efile Fed+State has spiraled out of control with Taxact. Cost for Fed+State below:

2011 - $18
2012 - $20
2013 - $18
2014 - $20
2015 - $40
2016 - $60
2017 - $60
2018 - $69
2019 - $117

I'd like to see a site that can efile FEDERAL and State returns (for AZ) using 1040 + Schedule D + 8949 for a reasonable cost. One stock sale now = bend over. :(
 

Handruin

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This is a fun demo of path tracing in Minecraft. The actual examples of the RTX demo start around 3:12 if you want to skip to it. I love how well the lighting is done in the various scenes.

 

snowhiker

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My bug-in-monitor problem is solved, but now I have a new problem. My luck is awesome.

My water heater just sprung a leak. Great! What's next?

At least it's summer in Phoenix, AZ, and a water heater is OPTIONAL for a warm shower. Still need to have a new one installed within the next 1-3 days. Any suggested makes/models? Rough guess on installed price? TIA.

- natural gas.
- 40-gal.
- 8-12+ year warranty.
 

Handruin

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Does Phoenix have any kind of local incentive program for improving efficiency in your home? You may want to look at a hybrid heat pump water heater if your electrical rate isn't too high. Sometimes there are incentives/rebates for changing over to one of those style heaters.

Otherwise, can you consider a plastic-based or stainless steel hot water tank so that you can go a lot longer than 8-12 years? This can increase the life of the tank but you'll still be on the hook for post-warranty replacement of heater elements if they fail. Usually it's the tank that dies first though.

You can also go with a traditional 8-10 year warranty tank but do regular maintenance on it. That being, flush it once a year and replace the anode every few years. Most people don't do this (self included) but it can help lengthen the time the tank lasts.
 

snowhiker

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Messages
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Does Phoenix have any kind of local incentive program for improving efficiency in your home? You may want to look at a hybrid heat pump water heater if your electrical rate isn't too high. Sometimes there are incentives/rebates for changing over to one of those style heaters.

Otherwise, can you consider a plastic-based or stainless steel hot water tank so that you can go a lot longer than 8-12 years? This can increase the life of the tank but you'll still be on the hook for post-warranty replacement of heater elements if they fail. Usually it's the tank that dies first though.

You can also go with a traditional 8-10 year warranty tank but do regular maintenance on it. That being, flush it once a year and replace the anode every few years. Most people don't do this (self included) but it can help lengthen the time the tank lasts.
I haven't looked into any incentives but I'm sure any decent aftermarket water heater is going to beat a 17 yo "builder grade" water heater, especially since the "efficiency sticker" shows my model on the low-end of the scale. Energy use: 263, on a scale of 215-283 therms/yr.

Buy yeah, I plan on doing the maintenance on the new one I get.

Quick check of a few places and it's going to be $1100-1500 depending on base or base+extended warranty. 6y/3y (parts/labor) don't thing going to (10y/6y) for $400 is worth it.

energy use.JPG

Never did any maintenance on water heater. It looks like the pressure relief valve was installed on the top (instead of side port) where the anode would usually go so I don't even know if my tank has an anode.

side hole.JPG

relief valve top.jpg

tank-front-view (2).jpg
 

Handruin

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You got 17 years out of your hot water tank? It must have had an anode inside; I can't imagine it would have survived that long without one. I bet the anode is gone at this point for sure.
 

snowhiker

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You got 17 years out of your hot water tank? It must have had an anode inside; I can't imagine it would have survived that long without one. I bet the anode is gone at this point for sure.
From what I've been told, according to my posted pics, is that the pressure relief valve and drain was installed where the anode goes and the relief valve (see above post/pic) was just plugged. So maybe an anode was under the relief valve? Dunno. Maybe the tank was "overbuilt," or my water/conditions resulted in slow corrosion? Who knows.

I have a newly installed water heater. It's the A.O. Smith Signature Select G9-T4040NVR. I was stuck on this brand because AFAICT it is USA made and comes with a 9-year warranty. Total installed price was $1268. About 60% of that cost was the install.

no-anode.jpg
 

fb

Storage is cool
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Jan 31, 2003
Messages
589
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Östersund, Sweden
It has, I guess they had another view on quality back then. We will see hoe long it lasts, most of our neighbours heaters have passed away.

Proof, it got signed off on march 30, 1965: :)IMG_20200510_190736257.jpg
 

fb

Storage is cool
Joined
Jan 31, 2003
Messages
589
Location
Östersund, Sweden
We have soft water. There hasn't been any maintenance in the last 47 years that I know of, but perhaps we should? I just read the red warning sign at the bottom of the picture, that the safety valve needs some care now and then to prevent the heater from blowing up. Perhaps I should read up a bit on heaters. :)
 

Chewy509

Wotty wot wot.
Joined
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Gold Coast Hinterland, Australia
In further gaming news, I've completed Doom 1 and Doom 2 with the Brutal Doom mod, and now have started playing RealRTCW mod (RealRTCW is a mod for RTCW - Return to Castle Wolfstein). Latest RealRTCW builds are based on iortcw (open source enhanced version of the RTCW engine), so lot so bugs fixed, game play updated, etc. (You still need to have a licensed copy of RTCW though, RTCW is available on steam or gog; I still have my original RTCW:GOTY CD pack)

https://www.moddb.com/mods/realrtcw-realism-mod

Arch Linux: https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/realrtcw/
 

sedrosken

Allergic to Sunlight
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The Sticks
Just so you all know I'm alive (the 'rona didn't get me), I've been building a 486 desktop. It's been going well -- I've been messing with it for the last few days and it's worked very well but I'm planning to take it up a few notches.

I broke my singular VLB super-IO card by trying to solder on the secondary IDE channel (this was a cheaper model that left that particular bit off). Since I have to replace it anyway, I'm looking for a card that can cope with a 40MHz bus since that's technically out of spec. My video card, a Trident TGUI9440AGi with 2MB of VRAM, has a "fast refresh" jumper for 40MHz operation so I'm not concerned about it. My board doesn't have a variable oscillator -- to run it at 40MHz, I have to replace the 33.333333...MHz crystal with a 40MHz one, but I've already sourced one of those so I'm not too concerned. FYI, it's the GA-486VM. I have it in an ATX case that happened to have mounts for standoffs to fit an AT board, and I took a blank IO shield and drilled a hole for the keyboard port. I also modified the case with toggle switches for hard power and turbo, on my board curiously it's wired different than everyone else. Normally turbo on = slow, off = fast, but here turbo on = fast, off = slow. I'm told I can change that, but I don't care enough to. I have my power LED hooked to the turbo LED spot, and when it's on the LED is on, so that suits me just fine.

One final upgrade I plan to do is upgrading to a PNY TurboChip upgrade kit with an Am5x86-P75 on it. My board came with a DX2-66, but that isn't quick enough for a few higher-end things I want to do with it -- namely running Diablo, Duke Nukem 3D, and playing back MP3s. Normally the 5x86 runs at 4x33=133MHz, but it's well known for being an excellent overclocker, 160 is well within known limits for it. This kit uses the 169-pin "Overdrive" or "487" socket, but the key pin doesn't seem to be electrically connected to anything and the socket is otherwise identical, electrically and physically... so I can just snip off the key pin if it doesn't just fit in the socket as-is anyway. Said kit also has DIP switches on the bottom for setting the cache mode -- my board only supports write-through, for L1 and L2, of which it has 256K. It also has switches for setting the voltage, whether it be 3.3 on newer boards, or 5v like mine, since it's got voltage regulation on the kit.

One thing I was not prepared for was IO being so ungodly slow -- PIO3 IDE sucks, and so does ISA networking. It's enough to get away with Windows 95, but only just... oh, and my board also doesn't support LBA, it just barely outdates that idea, so to get anything over 528MB working I have to install Ontrack dick mangler Disk Manager. And since I have to do that anyway, I see no point in limiting myself to 2 or 4GB, I just chucked a 32GB card I had laying around in it. I was surprised that it had an IDE autodetect option -- and when I used it it comes up with the right numbers -- so you'd think it'd just work, but no. I'm using a surprising percentage of it -- you don't realize how much you'll use until you start copying CD games to disk so you don't have to play the CD swapping game... Day of the Tentacle, The Elder Scrolls II Daggerfall, Diablo, and Command and Conquer Red Alert are notably awful about using up disk space.
 
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sedrosken

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Okay, so some things have changed. I'm on my fourth super IO card, this one being ISA, and it seems to work fine. Round about as fast (or slow) as the VLB one it replaced, more reliable, it just works... I had awful luck going through these things. My second VLB card was unreliable (in fact it would hard lock my computer after about five minutes of use) and my first ISA card had issues with the serial ports and FDD controller. This one still has some quirks, it doesn't like having most CD-ROM devices on the same channel as my SD adapter, but I found one it can live with so I'm not going to worry too much about it.

I put together a CMOS battery for this machine's external battery header. Used a 3xAA holder since the board doesn't recharge anything on the external header. Works fine, the RTC is accurate within about a minute and it holds my settings okay.

I've managed to give Ontrack the boot by having a friend of mine program an 8K EEPROM with the XTIDE Universal BIOS for 386+ machines. Essentially this gives the machine LBA support -- but getting it working was a harrowing experience, mostly of my own making.

I started by popping the EEPROM in the socket on my network card -- the 3Com Etherlink III doesn't support PXE booting in any way shape or form so I don't feel bad for "wasting" the socket on it. Incidentally for boot ROMs on the ISA bus, it apparently doesn't matter where they are on the bus as long as they're mapped to an open memory address. Which I initially failed at -- I first mapped it to C0000h, which... immediately resulted in it not passing POST with the card inserted, due to it conflicting with the video BIOS. There's no jumper to reset the NIC's configuration, and no way to get back into the configuration utility without it being booted... so, you know where this is going.

At the recommendation of some of my contacts in the retro community, I took the bracket off the NIC, lined it up and held it away from the slot while the computer was booting, then did a couple hail marys and shoved it in. Incredibly, I did not blow up the board or short the power supply or anything. It just... worked. I got back into the configuration utility and remapped the ROM to D000h. Ironically the 3Com cards let you enable the ROM without it being present, or without it containing what it sees as "valid" code, but my Intel card that's more reliable and does 10/100 instead of just 10mbps, detects the ROM and won't let you enable it if it doesn't like what it contains.

Unfortunately the operation to upgrade the CPU was a failure at least for the moment. My Am5x86 arrived broken -- missing a couple pins and having cracked solder joints in several places, but apparently since it was sold as a collectible and not a working CPU it's not the seller's or eBay's problem. That's fine, I've determined overclocking my DX2 to 80MHz is sufficient for most of what I wanted to do with it -- or it would be, if the CPU was stable enough to make it into Windows more than 30% of the time. It's a shame, the DX2 at 66 isn't enough for MP3s or playing Duke3D reasonably well, and the DX2 at 80 was, but it's just not stable enough... I guess my options boil down mostly to flipping a coin on another 5x86 upgrade kit or waiting for a deal on an Intel DX4 OverDrive chip. The DX4 would hopefully be stable at 120MHz, 3x40, but I'm not holding my breath considering my luck so far... Unfortunately they're way overpriced. 70 bucks is the cheapest listing I found for one, and it's for something that's likely not the real deal out of Taiwan.

As for why I'm doing this, I find beating my head against a brick wall like this fun apparently. Still, two steps forward and one step back is better than one forward and two back.
 

snowhiker

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^^^ This.

For such a huge explosion the loss of life was "relatively minor" of only a few hundred. HOPEFULLY that number won't increase too much. The huge number of people with housing damage or complete loss is staggering. And the grain silo that held a huge percentage of Lebanon's grain, that was right next to the explosion, is very heavily damaged as well. I don't know if some/any of that grain can be salvaged or transferred from the still standing portion of the silo. The solid concrete silo also seems to have deflected some of the blast away from the city.

The explosion, at least from initial reports, doesn't seem to be the result of terrorism but from corruption and/or incompetence. 2700+ tons of ammonium nitrate was seized years ago and stored on the docs, unfortunately, next to fireworks. Fireworks were ignited by welders (ALWAYS the damn welders?!?!!) and that plus the ammonium nitrate equals a huge explosion.

Tragic for the people of Lebanon.
 

sedrosken

Allergic to Sunlight
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Oh wow. That's just awful -- how do you just have a cache of that stuff laying around? The impact of this is going to be felt for quite a long time.

In 486 news, I bit the bullet and got a DX4 overdrive -- thankfully I got the version that works in a standard 168-pin 486 socket and not the one intended for Socket 1/OverDrive/the 487SX socket. It does work, but with my stock AMIBIOS (build date 6/6/1992) it disables the L2 cache and sees the CPU as running at 80MHz whether the 33MHz crystal or 40MHz one is inserted. I confirmed with the 40MHz crystal it's running at 120MHz but it's not stable, it won't run Quake or make it into Win95 at all. No big deal -- I'll live with 100MHz, 33MHz VLB was more stable anyway, and I found a cheap double for the original VLB super-IO card I used at the start (and broke). With a DOS utility in my AUTOEXEC to set the drive speeds, I can get almost 7MB/s out of it. Absolutely unreal for IDE on a 486-class machine. No DMA modes of course, this predates that idea, but for PIO it's really not bad. As a nice side bonus, the VLB super-IO card is less picky about CD-ROM drives, so I was able to use the one I initially picked out for this thing. Bizarrely, with the utility loaded, it even makes my video performance go up a tad -- 8.1MB/s in WinTune97 vs 6.8 without that utility. At 40MHz the card was good for 10.5MB/s, but it'll be alright I guess.

I had a 27C512 programmed with a copy of Microid Research's MR-BIOS, an aftermarket upgrade BIOS from back in the day (this one built in 1994) for the UMC480 chipset this board's equipped with. It's still on the way, but it's my hope that this will re-enable the L2 cache with the DX4 installed. Everything I've read indicates that it will. I also had my spare 28C64 reprogrammed with a reconfigured XTIDE BIOS -- this one runs in 32-bit IDE mode for VLB/PCI, as opposed to the 16-bit compatibility mode the other one I configured does for ISA/VLB/PCI.

My CT2800 blew three caps and lost an output channel last night. I should have noticed the audible whine coming out of it -- even powered off -- was only getting louder over the last month or so. Still, for a card that didn't owe me a thing, I got a lot of use out of it. I'm not throwing it away -- I might recap it someday and see if I can get it to come back to me, but I am replacing it. After shopping around I settled on the YMF719E-S based Yamaha Audician 32 Plus. It should be an excellent replacement, a bit more fiddly (drivers were apparently never Yamaha's strong suit, but they work) but overall much cleaner. Advantages include:

- SoundBlaster Pro 2.0 emulation. This can be a bit fiddly, and in some games it reverses the stereo channels, but you can usually fix it. It can even do 44KHz stereo in this mode, which notably the real SBPro can't do.
- Windows Sound System compliance. This is how I'm going to run the games that support it, since it's supposedly less fussy and cleaner. This is also how I'm going to run MPXPLAY, since it supports up to 44KHz out of these cards in that mode, and its SBPro mode only does 22KHz.
- Working WaveBlaster header and bug-free MIDI, complete with MPU-401. Long story short, most SB16s had a "hanging notes" bug. I can't explain it but if you look it up you'll see what I mean. I don't have anything MIDI to use with it yet, but I plan to acquire such things in the future, and want to be ready to use them without frustration.
- Ability to disable the Game port. I'm going to use the one on my super-IO card for joysticks/gamepads, and this port exclusively for MIDI.
- Real OPL3 baked into the YMF719 chip.
- Ability to bypass the amplification circuitry to get a pure line-level audio out. I have powered speakers anyway, and in my experience the amps used in most ISA cards kinda sucked and added too much noise to be worth it. This is configured by a jumper block.
- (Possibly untrue) I've heard that once the DOS utility initializes the card, it leaves memory entirely. This could be a big boon in freeing up some conventional memory, but then again, I loaded the VIBRA16.SYS driver high anyway.
- XGlite SoftSynth for use with Windows 95, probably won't be useful for DOS General MIDI stuff as my CPU is too slow to do all that at the same time but it ought to be nice for playing MIDIs in Media Player.
- CHEAP. This card set me back US$26, a replacement CT2800 is around US$60 on eBay.

I reinstalled IE5.5SP2 in a minimal configuration since I only need it for the runtimes now that I've installed Opera 8.5, which works better and faster, surprisingly for a browser released in 2005. The weird submenu on the Start Menu that IE5.5 added is gone in the minimal config, as long as you make sure to customize it and make sure no associations are set. This is important because it made my start menu take an extra 2-3 seconds to pop up... every time.

Overall my 486 is faster and more stable now than it ever has been. And I'm learning more about what makes these older machines tick every day. The limitations are what makes it fun to me, I guess. I have to have some patience and manage my expectations, and be glad when things work well enough. In short, I'm not treating it like a slow Pentium, I'm treating it like a 486.
 
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Bozo

Storage? I am Storage!
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Twilight Zone
I'm still here. I stop in once in a while just to see what's happening.
I turned 72 a couple of weeks ago. I think reading and poking around the net are helping keep my brain working almost normally. Mahjong and solitaire help too.
 
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