Got a fancy new Pascal-based video card and a Gigabyte motherboard? Staring at a blank screen? Read this

Last week, I pulled the trigger on a long-overdue video card upgrade, jumping from an aging 670 GTX to a fancy new 1070 GTX made by Asus. When it came in the mail, I eagerly shoved it into place on my motherboard, turned the power to my computer back on, and… nothing. While I don’t have a speaker in my case (does anyone these days?), it quickly became clear that it wasn’t clearing POST, which was confirmed when a press of the power button a couple of minutes later (in theory enough time for a full boot) caused it to shut off immediately.

At first, I thought maybe it was a power issue. I have a Corsair 650W power supply that seemed up for the task, but I became a little skeptical. I tried a different power cable. I tried a different PCIe slot, wondering if I’d screwed something up taking the 670 out. I put the old card back in, returning everything to normal. Nothing in the configuration in BIOS jumped out at me.

From here, I turned to the internet for help. Plenty of other people had blank screen issues, but most of those seemed to be hardware failure-related. Then I came across a post by another Gigabyte motherboard owner, who solved their problem by changing the PCIe configuration to manually reflect that it’s a 3rd-gen PCIe card.

This sounded vaguely familiar from my time spent looking through BIOS settings, and sure enough, I found what I was looking for under M.I.T. -> Miscellaneous Settings: PEG Gen 3 Slot Configuration. This is set to Auto by default, and for whatever reason, my Z77X-UP4 TH motherboard (and, I’m guessing, a number of other Z77-based Gigabyte boards) completely fails at automatically detecting the right setting. Once I toggled it to Gen3 and put the 1070 back in, everything was just fine.

So don’t freak out! Just go digging in BIOS for an obscure setting that ideally should never have to be changed.

Song of the Day: Third Eye Blind–Semi-Charmed Life

I had no idea what this song was about when I first heard it in junior high. Honestly, I didn’t know what “bumped” meant in the context of this song until maybe… a coupla years ago? But it was one of my favorite songs in ninth grade, and I think was a harbinger of the sort of thing I would end up gravitating toward once high school came around and I moved on from pop music.

It’s got a good beat, some good syncopation, and a catchy chorus. I remember that there were a lot of different versions of the song depending on where you heard it. The End, Seattle’s alternative station, played the song in its entirety, while the two major soft rock/pop stations I occasionally listened to/was subjected to played a slightly different version of the song which basically avoided the part of the bridge where everything gets dark. MTV played yet another version of the song which contained more of the bridge, but avoided the overt drug references at the end.

In retrospect, it’s pretty interesting how the song was more-or-less stripped of its meaning depending on where you heard it, and I kinda wonder what Stephen Jenkins and co. thought of the ways their song was neutered.

Song of the Day: Alkaline Trio–Dead and Broken

I used to HATE Alkaline Trio.

It was always pretty irrational. My buddy Ben, who I gave a ride to most mornings in high school, decided one day that we were going to listen to a new album he’d just bought. This always ends poorly, but in this case the album was Alkaline Trio’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire. Something about Matt Skiba’s (and Dan Andriano’s, but to a lesser extent) voice grated on me, and neither the music nor the lyrics had any initial appeal.

Eventually I was won over, even though they’re still pretty terrible live. I initially came around listening to From Here to Infirmary, the follow-up album to Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, but these days I hold both albums in fairly equal esteem, along with their debut Goddamnit and their next album Good Mourning. From there, though, things start to get dodgy. “Dead and Broken” is from the BYO Split Series Volume 5 that came out after Mourning in 2004 and marked the beginning of a transition for the band from pop-punk to punkish pop. Crimson would follow in 2005, and while the production is shamelessly glossy and overwrought, it had enough high points to justify an occasional spin when I’m in the right mood. I find everything after to be increasingly mushy, however, even though I still give every new album a try out of loyalty (with maybe a touch of masochism).

Anyway, in 2004 (I think–it’s hard to pin down exactly when it was) I went to Warped Tour with my buddies Peter and Nick, and Peter and I each made compilation CDs with songs from the bands playing to get us psyched on the way. While I love being able to create a playlist of whatever I want to hear whenever I want (on my phone, no less) these days, crafting a compilation was a different experience then. You only had 80 minutes of play time, so you had to make your choices judiciously. Each of us had slightly different bands we gravitated toward, along with different song choices, but this was one track we agreed on. The funny thing is, I don’t think Peter even really liked Alkaline Trio that much–this was just a really good song that had the perfect fast tempo and percussive beat for driving 300 miles in one day.

Alkaline Trio - Dead and Broken

How to Fix a Flashing, Unresponsive Squeezebox Boom

The Squeezebox Boom is basically the world’s best alarm clock. It streams music from your computer’s library via WiFi, can be set to any alarm schedule, and even has an ambient light sensor to dim itself when you are ready to go to sleep, among other features.

So imagine my dismay when I arrived home one day to find its buttons blinking and nothing on the display. Logitech built in a number of ways to hard reset the device and its firmware, but nothing I tried would bring it back to life.

I took to the Internet and found that one possible solution was to reseat the Boom’s WiFi card. I didn’t see any obvious way to take it apart, so this idea seemed like it was going to require a lot of time and specialized tools. The directions I found to do it were also vague at best, so I put it off.

A few months later, in a fit of inspiration, I decided to bring what had become an expensive paperweight back to life. The project was a success, so I thought I’d post some detailed instructions and pictures so I can help others get through the process.  The only tools required are a Torx 10 screwdriver and something flat to pry out the speaker grilles.

First, pry the grilles out from the top, toward the middle. In the picture below you can see the gap you’re aiming for. I used a flathead screwdriver, but something flat and plastic would be less likely to damage the grilles.

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Once you’ve pried both grilles out, you’ll see four Torx 10 screws flanking the display/buttons. Unscrew all of these, but be careful as you finish, because there’s an electronic ribbon connecting the front piece to the circuit board underneath.

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The front circuit board has five screws holding it in place. The screw in the middle is kind of camouflaged by the board itself, so be sure to unscrew it before you try to pry the board out (this may or may not be something I fell victim to). Note that now there are two electronic ribbons to contend with, the green one on top, and the yellow one on the bottom. These ribbons are notoriously fragile, so proceed with care. I actually pulled the green one out when I did this, but was able to simply press it back into place. I was lucky.

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Once everything is unscrewed, you’ll notice that pulling out the circuit board is made more difficult by the mini-Molex-like clip that provides power to the display. Unlike the ribbons, this clip is pretty hardy, so don’t worry about using too much force to yank it out. Just be aware that once it pops out, you still have to basically hold the circuit board in place because of the ribbons.

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On the backside of the circuit board is what we’re really after: the WiFi card. It has clips on the left and right holding it in place, but even when unclipped, it doesn’t travel very far. At this point, pull it out slightly to unseat it (don’t worry, it won’t even come all the way out) and then press it back in and reclip it in place.

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Put the circuit board back into its place in the Boom’s chassis without screwing anything back in and plug it in. If the Boom goes through its usual startup process, congratulations! You’ve fixed your Boom and can reassemble it. If you still get flashing buttons and no display, you can still unseat the WiFi card and everything should work fine over Ethernet. This may require snaking some cable under your bed and/or some sort of WiFi bridge to make work in a bedroom, but I’d rather be able to continue to use the World’s Best Alarm Clock than have the convenience of a simpler setup.

Song of the Day 6.1.11

Holy crap, it’s June already!

Today’s song of the day is for my aunt Tracey, who poked fun at me yesterday for not liking bands unless they were sufficiently “unknown.” Granted, there’s an element of truth to that statement, being that I primarily listen to relatively indie bands that not that many people have heard of, but I also like some pretty ginormous bands.

Case in point: Muse. “Knights of Cydonia” is originally found on Black Holes and Revelations, but the version I’m posting is from their live album HAARP: Live from Wembley Stadium. Wembley is one of the largest venues in the world.

I think I’ve made my point.

Listen: Muse - Knights of Cydonia

Notes from The Great iPod Experiment D-G

I was going to write this after I finished F, but I procrastinated so long that I made it all the way through G, too. Whoops.

First of all, I was kind of amazed how long it took me to get through F. Look at this list of bands:

Face to Face
Facing New York
Fake Problems
Fall Out Boy
Fenix TX
The Flaming Lips
The Flatliners
Fleet Foxes
Flight of the Conchords
Flogging Molly
The Forces of Evil
Franz Ferdinand
The Fratellis

I expect a lot of bands out of letters like A, M and S, but so many F bands felt a little odd to me.

Instead of talking about specific albums this time around, I’m going to talk about a few bands whose career trajectories made for particularly interesting listening:

The Decemberists: Here is a band that has consistently defied being pigeonholed into a single genre since Castaways and Cutouts was released in 2002 (well, more properly, since the 5 Songs EP in 2001, but I don’t have that). Originally their music was a particularly story-driven, broody style of folk rock, but starting with Picaresque, their music became more expansive, a trend that ballooned over the next few albums until they released The Hazards of Love in 2009, a full-on concept album about a faun and the girl who loves him. As is par for the course for The Decemberists, the whole thing ends in death.

But I guess Colin Meloy and co. don’t like to rest on their laurels. Even in the midst of recording Hazards, they must have felt the need to ocassionally indulge in a fit of whimsy, because they put out Always the Bridesmaid in late 2008, a collection of singles that came out of the Hazards sessions. Then this year, they put out The King Is Dead, which has a decidedly more country influence than any of their previous music. A lot of people praised it as a return to form, but I find that the stories are not as interesting, nor the music quite as engaging as their older stuff.

Listen: The Decemberists - Record Year

Facing New York: I’ve written about FNY and the dramatic difference between their self-titled album and its follow-up, Get Hot, but I thought I’d expand on it a little here. Facing New York was a slightly proggy, slightly depressing, but mostly listenable album released in 2005. I’d seen them live and heard their Full Turn EP beforehand, and while the album didn’t quite live up to my expectations, it spent a lot of time in my CD player that summer/fall. “Apple Sugar Cider” is one of maybe 3 songs I skip every single time I hear it (actually listening to it for the purposes of this experiment was excruciating) but other than that, songs range from good to great. My only real issue with the album is that the drums are mixed too far forward for their relative… serviceability.

By 2008, I’d kind of wondered what happened to the band, but then Get Hot surfaced. The prog was gone, replaced by a jammier, more downbeat sound. As I’ve written before, I was initially disappointed by this approach, but it’s grown on me a lot. “Me N My Friendz” in particular is a ridiculous stream of consciousness (sample lyrics: “…I’m stuck dead center between my teens and my thirties/envisioning how my children would look if I had ’em with the woman in the checkout line in front of me/maybe they would look like my last girlfriend/19, English major, Diet Coke head…”) set to one of the album’s more driving, uptempo beats. It’s a great way to close the album.

Listen: Facing New York - Me N My Friendz

Gatsbys American Dream: This was an interesting one for me, because I love Volcano and Gatsbys American Dream, but have never really given Ribbons and Sugar the time and attention it deserves and I think I’ve only listened to Why We Fight in its entirety a few times. So I was actually pretty stoked to get the chance to listen to all of their albums in chronological order and to give them my semi-undivided attention.

Listening to Why We Fight and Ribbons and Sugar made me want to listen to both more. Gatsbys has always written layered, multidimensional songs that beg to be listened to multiple times to draw connections and tease out meaning that may not otherwise be evident. In partiicular, Sugar was informed by the fact that I recently saw them live and know how it would sound if it were recorded today. “Snicker at the Swine,” for example, transformed from a slightly technical, angry diatribe on the record into a raucous rager live, so caustic and powerful it gave me goosebumps.

In The Land of Lost Monsters is still kind of hard for me to appreciate, because it’s so downbeat compared to the rest of Gatsbys’ material. I understand that this is part of the point, to make an EP of songs that are not poppy or accessible in order to make a statement about the greed and corruption of record companies, but let’s put it this way–I vastly prefer the uptempo version of “Badlands” found on Volcano to the slower, more ponderous version found on Monsters.

Volcano remains my favorite Gatsbys album, partly because it was the album that introduced me to the band, but also because it represents the strongest coalescence of what makes them great: intelligent, layered lyrics, coupled with music, especially drums, that not only keep things moving, but also often add to the emotion and meaning of any given song. I can never decide on one favorite album of all time, but Volcano is certainly one of a few on my shortlist.

Gatsbys American Dream (s/t) is also pretty great, but is just a little too bitter for its own good. I understand why the band felt the need to write and record it, and I enjoy it a lot, but by making it so personal rather than keeping things allegorical it becomes a little harder to identify themes and empathize with them. All an outsider really gets is, “Music labels really, really suck.” This is a worthy point, made forcefully, but ultimately it’s a less profound and universal theme than “human emotions are like a volcano”.

That said, their upcoming album is my most anticipated of the year, and I have every intention of seeing them every time they’re in Seattle from here on out, because the fact that they’ve reunited at all after breaking up in 2006 is against-all-odds awesome.

Listen: Gatsbys American Dream - Snicker at the Swine

Here are a few other general notes about the experiment:

  • Since February 20, I’ve listened to 177 albums, or 4.8 days of music (really slightly more now, since I’m already knee-deep in H). This means I’ve spent that much time in my car in just over 3 months. This is kind of shocking.
  • I’ve occasionally considered buying a larger iPod to accommodate more of my music, but having just 30 gigs to work with has its advantages. Some albums have been harder to get through than others, but only one album has truly felt like it didn’t really belong on my iPod anymore: Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled album. I’ve tried, but I’ve just never really been into the band, and while I got rid of You Could Have it So Much Better and Tonight to make space, I clung to the idea that Franz Ferdinand was somehow worth keeping. I was wrong.
  • This post is way, way longer than I expected it to be. Maybe talking about bands instead of albums wasn’t a good idea.

 

Notes from The Great iPod Experiment A-B

I’ve now listened to everything on my iPod through the letter B, and as a bonus, I don’t have anything on there that starts with C (sorry, Catch 22, I’m not sure how/when you got deleted) so I’ve moved right on to D! Part of why I’m doing this is because I want to get a feel for just how much of the 30 gigs of music on my iPod is what I’d consider essential (or at least not deletion-worthy), and to this point, I’ve really enjoyed every album I’ve listened to. Granted, not all of them make particularly great driving music, but I haven’t been wanted to skip anything yet either.

A few albums that I don’t listen to very often stood out:

Against Me!’s Stolen Searching for a Former Clarity demos: Back in 2004, a CD of 8 demos was stolen from Against Me! and posted on the Internet.  Some of them eventually found their way to Clarity in a more polished form, but a few of them were relegated to demo purgatory. What struck me listening to these demos is not only how good they still are, but also how easily I recognized every track. I still like the electric “How Low” better than the acoustic version that was eventually recorded for Clarity.

Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug: I never really gave this album the time it deserved when it came out, and I still think that it’s kind of unfortunate that they ditched the slightly punkish edge in favor of a darker, moodier sound, but it works better than I initially gave it credit for. Here’s hoping Suck It and See has a little more inertia.

Blink 182’s s/t: Another album that I never really gave proper time to, this one is a more dynamic mix of uptempo and broodier stuff than I remembered it being. I still think Take Off Your Pants and Jacket is a much better, catchier, and generally more listenable album, but I can’t deny that there’s more raw talent on display in Blink 182 and as an arty, slightly indulgent bid for respect and legitimacy from a band that previously had a serious case of arrested development (see: “Happy Holidays, You Bastard”), it’s not bad.

Since I can’t stop posting music in every post, here’s a song!

Against Me - How Low

Wordbooker Test

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen the note that I posted about my blog, but that was an unintended effect of trying to import my RSS feed into Facebook, which at one point was the easiest way to crosspost content from WordPress to Facebook. I’ve discovered a WP plugin called Wordbooker this morning, so I’m testing it out before I head to work.

To make this post less boring, here’s a song! “He Said” by The Hippos is probably my favorite track on Heads Are Gonna Roll, in part because it’s one of the few songs that isn’t primarily about girls and whining about them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but by the time you get to the end of the album, it’s a nice change of pace.

The Hippos - He Said

Song of the Day 04.04.11

I’m probably going to actually start posting these with some regularity (and maybe even live up to the “of the day” moniker) since the WordPress plugin I’m using to post them makes it a whole lot easier to do so, but I’ll miss the album art of the old Flash player.

Regardless, Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American is a near-perfect album from start to finish (I’m sorry, Clarity is just too… slow as a whole), and the opener/title track kicks things into high gear immediately. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan when it first came out, but coming to it later let me avoid a lot of the hype that surrounded the album when The Middle and Sweetness both blew up and helped the album go platinum. I always appreciated the fact that they managed to finish the album by touring relentlessly in Europe, having been unceremoniously dropped from Capitol Records, but the music just didn’t pull me in initially.

These days, though, this song gets stuck in my head pretty regularly, so I might as well get it stuck in your head, too. Enjoy!

Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American