mercoledì 27 aprile 2011

Getting rid of Windows viruses using a (Linux) Live CD

This is a very simple guide on how to fix your Windows partition if you can't access it due to virii (or because a virus is blocking you from browsing antivirus websites or updating your definitions).
It might also happen that the virus (for example TDSS) installs itself as a rootkit in the hard drive's boot sector. I've seen this in a few friends' PCs. If this is the case, it might be VERY difficult to get rid of the virus while running windows from that particular computer.

The solution? Running a Live CD of another OS to wipe your hard drive clean of virii.

My first suggestion would be going full open-source and fully functional OS. So, Ubuntu (probably THE most hardware-friendly OS out there) and ClamAV with the latest definitions (that could be updated while running the live OS). You can download the latest Ubuntu CD and then boot it, download ClamAV and then run it, but I'll give you simpler solutions.

Step 1) Download the ClamAV live CD This is a very useful set of tools that include a Windows password removal tool and testdisk.
Step 2) If you're planning on booting from a usb-stick (pen drive) and not from a CD, get UNetbootin too.
Step 3) Put in the Live CD or pen drive and boot it! ClamAV is a very good antivirus at removing infections without deleting files.

If that din't solve it, you can try running the Kaspersky Rescue CD (also works with UNetbootin) which is old, but very good nonetheless.

An honorable mention goes to "Trinity Rescue Kit" that also has lots of tools and antivirus applications to fix your virus-ridden PC.

lunedì 25 aprile 2011

I've been away for awhile...

I've been visiting everyone's blogs but haven't had the time to comment everyone or to write a new post myself, I've been a bit busy with work. Here's a current WIP:

  It's a Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni. Still needs all the lights, exhausts, mirrors and a lot of small details. This is taking longer than usual, but it's a quite complicated car. And probably one of the most detailed I've worked in a while.

Tomorrow I'll post a cool and easy tutorial on how to disinfect Windows viruses using a live linux CD!

lunedì 18 aprile 2011

Hackintosh (a.k.a. OSX86)

What is it? It's a "special" version of OSX you can install on almost any (relatevely new) PC.
This is a really easy video that explains most of the steps in order to get a running version of OSX on your PC!

A couple of suggestions:
-I've had more luck with iAtkos for new, SSE3+ CPUs.
-Don't try dual booting with Windows right away. If you can, try it on a separate HD before deciding if it works well enough to keep it.
-Does it really work? Yes and no. If you get most of your hardware working, it's only the beginning. With some PCs it might work exactly like a Mac, with other you'll need some tweaking, others are hopeless.

Good luck!

Legal notice: You should only do this if you own a Macintosh

sabato 16 aprile 2011

Relax, enjoy

It's a nice saturday evening and I felt like relaxing. I found somewhere the best background music / sounds combination you can find.

Step 1: open this link
Step 2: now this one:
Finally, this:

All you need now is a good cigar and a glass of brandy to be the classiest in the block.

(for greater effect, leave the fireplace window in full screen)

giovedì 14 aprile 2011

Virtual Machines

Today I want to talk about Virtual Machines, or VMs.
Wikipedia tells us that a VM is a "completely isolated operating system installation within your normal operating system".

In layman terms, it means you can have whatever operating system run as a program within watever operating system you might have. So you can run OSX on your Windows 7 or Windows XP on your Linux.

Technology has also made it possible for VMs to run on the background and when you execute a program installed on that VM (let's say you have a Mac, and 3ds max installed on your Windows 7 VM), it'll only launch 3ds max on its own window, without you noticing that there's a whole operating system behind. You can treat then 3ds max as a normal window and even dock it.

It's useful if you don't want to multiboot (I'll do a nice article on running Mac OSX natively on PCs one day) and must run software designed for other OSs.

Try the VMware for free!
For Mac OSX (install any OS on the VM): VMware Fusion
For Windows 7 (any OS, instructions to install OSX) : VMware Workstation
For Linux (almost any OS): VirtualBox

I'll post some more renders later this week, I've been working on some...

martedì 12 aprile 2011

Overclocking guide: Part 2

Let's get started!
The first step is to enter your BIOS.  To do this, boot up your computer and while it begins to post hit the Delete key (it might be F1, F10, F12 or ESC too, try them)
The best way to start overclocking is by increasing your FSB by 10mhz at a time and running Orthos or SuperPi (both stability testing programs) and monitor temps, and increasing voltage when needed. The idea is that when you get an error or can not POST, you should up the vCore (CPU voltage), restart, boot up and run Orthos again.
For now, we'll focus on your RAM.
We are going to set the RAM to 1:1. As a result, the RAM will be running synchronous to the FSB. This might sound a little confusing but hang in with us for a while.
DDR is Double Data Rate, so when you look at the RAM divider settings in the BIOS, you will see that if the CPU frequency (the FSB) is set to 266MHz, the RAM will be set to 533MHz. This is what is known as 1:1.
Whatever the FSB, just double it to give you the RAM 1:1 value. So, 400 FSB would equal 800MHz RAM and so on.
When you're done with the RAM, do a 10% overclock on your FSB to jumpstart. So if it's set to 266, set it to about 290mhz. For now, leave the vCore to auto.

Boot into Windows
Now save your settings, exit the BIOS and start windows. Download CPU-Z if you don't have it already and check your new CPU speed. Admire it and feel proud. Now let's get into some serious overclocking!
We want to have Core Temp and TAT (Intel Thermal Analysis Tool) open (or one of those two plus the temp monitoring software of your choice). The reason for using two different temperature-monitoring programs is that it increases the likelihood of getting accurate readings - and we want to be keeping a very close eye on the temperatures.
Open Orthos, select the Blend test (Blend - stress CPU and RAM) and set it going. Your temperatures will now rise as both of the CPU's cores are under heavy load. This is normal and is exactly what we want - we're trying to quickly establish if there are any temperature-related problems.
Leave Orthos running but keep a good eye out for the temperatures.
This is a relatively modest overclock so, hopefully, the temperatures will be under 65 deg C - well under, in fact.
So, restart and get back into the BIOS. Keep in mind that as you up the FSB, the motherboard will automatically up the CPU voltage (vCore) if it is set to AUTO, so it is important that you keep an eye on the temps once you are running Orthos.
Increase your FSB in 10 mhz at a time and if you can't POST, try 5 mhz increases until you can boot into Windows without errors and always do an Orthos run to check for stability.
You may find that you get to a point where it is stable but the temperatures are a bit too high for 24/7 use. In that case, it is best to keep lowering the FSB until you find a point where you are happy with the temperatures and the performance.

Tweak and tighten that memory
In this part we will be looking at tweaking voltages and tightening memory timings and generally optimising your PC now it is overclocked.
At this point, as we are going a little bit more advanced, we have to assume that you've read the other parts of the guide, have got to grips with how things work and know how to recover if you stuff up and end up with a bad overclock

Disclaimer - please read this bit, it is very important!
RAM is potentially the easiest component in a PC to kill. Applying more voltage than standard carries a high risk of damage and/or failure. All overclocking is done at your own risk.
A lot of RAM just will not overclock much, no matter how much voltage you feed it, so if things aren't working out for you in this part of the guide, leave it right there, rather than throwing more voltage at it.

Tightening up those timings
Now you have a nice, stable, fairly large overclock, we can look at tightening the RAM timings.
At this stage, be prepared for some CMOS clearing, blue screens of death and general odd behaviour from your PC - but it should be worth the hassle!
If your RAM is already running tight timings, such as 3-4-3-8, then there is no great need for you to follow this part, you can skip to the voltage-tweaking part further down.
If you have some RAM that uses Micron D9xxx chips, you will probably have more success than people that aren't. The Micron D9 chips can often do really insanely-tight timings at quite high speeds but will likely require a good slug of voltage to get there.
Some sticks are rated for up to 2.45V but, for that kind of RAM, you need active cooling - a fan that's blowing directly onto the RAM to dissipate the heat that's generated.
It's pretty simple, the higher the voltage, the hotter the sticks will get and the hotter they get, the more chance you have of getting errors or even killing the RAM outright, so you need active cooling
An 80mm or 92mm fan blowing at a moderate speed from a couple of inches away is enough to keep most D9 RAM happy, whereas a 120mm fan can have too big a dead spot to do the job as well.
There are also dedicated RAM coolers that you can buy from the likes of OCZ and Corsair and some of these work well.
As a general rule of thumb, if RAM is 2.0V or over, blow a fan on it. Better safe than sorry - keep the RAM cool.
OK, back to the timings.
Some applications benefit greatly from tightened timings, other don't, all you need to do is find a memory-hungry program that you use a lot and try tightening your timings. If you can see a benefit, then great, if not, change them back and forget about them.
Install the free, lite version of SiSoft Sandra, currently at version XII (2008). This has a very useful memory bandwidth benchmark. Run it and make a note of your current memory bandwidth.
Doing this on our testbed PC revealed that the RAM is rated for 5-5-5-12 @ 1066MHz (PC2-8500)
This will often mean that if it were to run at less than the rated 1066MHz, say at 800MHz, we could then tighten the timings without having to up the voltage (not always, but more often than not).
So, let's go into the BIOS and look at the existing settings. The FSB is 380MHz and the RAM is running at 760MHz with timings of 5-5-5-12.
Now, we happen to know that the RAM will go higher at those timings, so, in theory, can go tighter at a lower MHz. So, we'll change the timings from 5-5-5-12 to 4-4-4-12 and see what happens.

Voltage tweaking
So, your PC is rock-solid stable but there's an awful lot of hot air coming from the exhaust fan. What can you do?
Well, this section is for those of you who want to keep their overclock but would prefer to reduce the heat output just a little.
This involves little more than common sense and a process of elimination.
First, anything voltage-related that's set to Auto, simply change manually to its lowest value.
Do this one item at a time, test for stability and then do another. Otherwise, if you adjust a few things together and the system turns out to be unstable, you'd have to guess which of the changes is causing the problem.
A boost to Vcore is probably the biggest source of heat increase. But, unfortunately, when you overclock, you will generate extra heat, even if you don't add extra voltage. Nonetheless, you can try to reduce the amount of Vcore that you use.
Simply drop the Vcore to whatever you think and then test with Orthos/Prime/SP2004. If the PC fails, then more Vcore is needed, simple as that, so try upping the Vcore in single notches until stable again.
You can always back off the FSB but that kind of defeats the object of all the hard work we've just done.
There's a trade off between temperatures and performance and you're the only person who can decide what's best for you.

Happy overclocking!

venerdì 8 aprile 2011

Overclocking guide: Part 1

What is Overclocking?
Overclocking is the process of making various components of your computer run at faster speeds than they do when you first buy them, and were designed to run. For instance, if you buy a Core 2 Duo E4300 processor working at 1.8 GHz, and you want it to run faster, you could overclock the processor to make it run at 3.0 GHz.

WARNING: Overclocking wears down the hardware and the life-expectancy of the entire computer will be lowered if you overclock. This guide is merely for those who accept the possible outcomes of this overclocking guide and overclocking in general.

Why would you want to overclock? Well, the most obvious reason is that you can get more out of a computer than what you paid for. You can buy a relatively cheap processor and overclock it to run at the speed of a much more expensive processor. If you're willing to put in the time and effort, overclocking can save you a bunch of money in the future or, in some cases, can give you a faster processor than you could possibly buy from a store 

The Dangers of Overclocking
 The first and most common danger is heat. When you make a component of your computer do more work than it used to, it's going to generate more heat. If you don't have sufficient cooling, your system can and will overheat. By itself, overheating cannot kill your computer, though. The only way that you will kill your computer by overheating is if you repeatedly try to run the system at temperatures higher than recommended. Pentium 4s run MUCH hotter than any other CPU for example, so you should always check what the normal operating temperature is for your particular processor.

Don't get overly worried about overheating issues, though. You will see signs before your system gets fried. Random crashes are the most common sign. Overheating is also easily prevented with the use of thermal sensors which can tell you how hot your system is running. If you see a temperature that you think is too high, either run the system at a lower speed or get some better cooling.

The other "danger" of overclocking is that it can reduce the lifespan of your components. When you run more voltage through a component, it's lifespan decreases. A small boost won't have much of an affect, but if you plan on using a large overclock, you will want to be aware of the decrease in lifespan. This is not usually an issue, however, since anybody that is overclocking likely will not be using the same components for more than 4-5 years, and it is unlikely that any of your components will fail before 4-5 years regardless of how much voltage you run through it. Most processors are designed to last for up to 10 years, so losing a few of those years is usually worth the increase in performance in the mind of an overclocker.

The Basics
Let's have a quick look at some of the terms that will be used a lot in this guide:
Multiplier - a technical explanation here
Front side bus (FSB) - a technical explanation 
Northbridge - a technical explanation 
Southbridge - a technical explanation 
BIOS - a technical explanation 

When you buy a processor, or CPU, you will see it's operating speed. For instance, a Pentium 4 3.2GHz CPU runs at 3.2GHz, or 3200 MHz. This is a measurement of how many clock cycles the processor goes through in one second. A clock cycle is a period of time in which a processor can carry out a given amount of instructions. So, logically, the more clock cycles a processor can execute in one second, the faster it can process information and the faster your system will run. One MHz is one million clock cycles per second, so a 3.2GHz processor can go through 3,200,000,000, or 3 billion two hundred million clock cycles in every second.

The goal of overclocking is to raise the GHz rating of your processor so that it can go through more clock cycles every second. The formula for the speed of your processor if this:

FSB (in MHz) x Multiplier=Speed in MHz.

So, in short, (FSB) 200MHz x (Multiplier) 10= 2000MHz CPU speed, or 2.0GHz.

Let’s look at this table of Core 2 Duo CPUs:

FSB/quad-pumped (MHz)
Speed (MHz)

So, if we were to overclock the FSB with a $99
Intel Core 2 Duo E4300, we could do the following progress:
Speed (MHz)
200 (stock speed)

 -“OK, that’s fantastic, but how do I overclock??”

See you on part 2 of the guide!

sabato 2 aprile 2011

Quick burnout render

Today I don't have much to say,so I'll just post a very short video of some lifelike smoke I'm trying with FumeFX.

Please ignore the quality, lack of sound and choppiness. It was just a test to see smoke dynamics on FumeFX

I'm preparing a nice and easy overclocking tutorial for tomorrow!

venerdì 1 aprile 2011

BartPE: Live Windows on a CD

Today I wanted to talk about BartPE, which is simply a bootable CD with a live, working version of XP or windows 2003 that you can use without a hard drive (along overclocking or diagnosis programs) or when your windows installation is corrupted and you need to copy files over.

It's very useful when for example you get a virus infection and can't / don't want to boot from your hard drive in case you don't want more files infected. You can install an antivirus on BartPE's virtual hard drive (RAM) and clean your HD. Or defrag the hard drive, even.
In a more advanced environment, you can mount registry hives and edit any settings on the hard drive's Windows.

Try it! It's free and easy to use. You just need a WinXP or 2003 CD.
Download BartPE:


another render of the 3D car I've made recently, Alfa Romeo TZ3 Corsa.