I’ve already posted about how I’d decided to choose the PC as my ‘next-generation’ gaming platform, and last weekend I built the first iteration of that machine. I say the first iteration, because a PC is inherently an evolving platform, and I expect to refine it and upgrade it in future, but this is where I’m starting from. I thought I’d discuss the choices I made, and the experiences I’ve had so far. Be aware, this is a long one with quite a lot of technical detail, so buckle up 😀

My Criteria

The problem with buying a PC is that you can quite easily go absolutely nuts and blow a fortune on it, by creeping up specification scale gradually without even realising - it’s only a little extra to move one notch up on a component, but then the other components are letting the side down, and before you know it you’ve blown a couple of grand. So, I deliberately set myself very clear goals in building this machine and didn’t allow myself to stray from that:

  1. It had to fit in my cabinet under the TV and not look out of place, and had to work in a living room environment generally
  2. Despite 1, it had to be full ATX with room for 2 full-length GPUs (even though I only plan to buy one initially), and have good ventilation
  3. It had to be approximately the same performance as Xbox One / PS4, give or take, because that would be the benchmark for most game developers going forward. I’ll compare to the PS4 since that’s the more powerful of the two.
  4. I set a budget limit of £700-£800, or about 2x a next-gen console. Mostly this was because I felt I needed to set a reasonable limit to avoid the ever-persistent ‘just one more upgrade’ temptation on PC, but also because it felt like a reasonable test of whether you could build a decent lounge setup for a reasonable sum. It’s never going to be as cheap as a console, but I’m willing to pay extra for a more open & flexible gaming machine.

With that in mind, I went shopping 😀

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“90% of startups fail” I hear this meme repeated over and over, from ordinary people whom it terrifies into spending a lifetime using their talents primarily for someone else’s benefit, to those business leaders who use it either to discourage shifting investment away from their ‘safe’ industries, or more subtly dropping it into conversation to increase the chances they’ll keep their best staff. I hate it, both because of the psychological blackmail it represents, and because for the vast majority of people starting a business, it’s total and complete nonsense.

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I have a long history with PC gaming; I was there back when you had to tweak your autoexec.bat and config.sys to squeeze that last 200K of memory to run specific games, and when we used to debate which DOS extender was the best. I owned consoles too, but my PC was where my serious gaming happened for many, many years. That period ended when I badly injured my back in 2008 and had to limit the hours I spent sat in front of a keyboard / mouse - I could barely put the hours in for work (and open source), never mind spending my gaming time there too.

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I’ve had a fair amount of experience with Windows-based installers in the past, including non-Microsoft Installer based systems like NSIS and the open source WiX, but most of the time I’d been working with one-off installers for native code projects, like the Ogre3D SDKs. I pride myself in not pre-judging the best toolset to use for any given problem - which is why I switch languages a lot - so when I came to write SourceTree for Windows, which is based on .

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Ever since I notionally transitioned into adulthood, I’ve always been interested in current events. Not just keeping up with the latest technological developments either, news in general is something I like to keep tabs on. Years ago, you basically had two sources: the fairly superficial summaries from TV news and tabloids, or the more in-depth coverage from broadsheet special reports and dedicated periodicals. Generally speaking you got the superficial once or twice a day, and something more probing every week/month.

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It’s seems you can’t tune into any sort of political debate on the economy these days without a glut of commentators and politicians lining up to tell us how all our problems can, nay must, be solved by ‘attracting investors’. We must do everything we can, we’re told, to catch the eye of these incredibly elusive and rare beasts, who are constantly on the move and always on the lookout for the juiciest pickings.

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One of the things I hear on occasion is the maxim ‘People buy from people’. Usually what people mean when they say this is that the only real way to sell things to people is to go meet them, shake their hands, wine and dine them, play golf with them, organise trade delegations to impress them, and so on. I’m sure that’s still the way it works in some industries, especially those which are large, slow-moving and headed mainly by the over-50s who are most comfortable negotiating over walnut boardroom tables.

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Once upon a time

politics

One upon a time, Lord Poncenby of Moneyshire rode into the small town of Greensville, atop a magnificent white steed and accompanied by an extensive retinue in finest livery. He declared that he loved the town so much, he had come to offer his grace and favour to the simple folk. If they would only swear fealty to his Lordship, and agree to a few modest conditions and changes in the town, he promised they would enjoy a bounty such that the town had never seen.

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It seems de rigueur right now for governments and businesses to come together to collectively form skills strategies, in order to co-ordinate the employment needs of business with the output of the education system. On the face of it, this sounds completely logical - kids will eventually grow up and need jobs, and businesses will need new employees to replace those moving on. But somehow, the concept of aligning education with the needs of existing businesses makes me rather uncomfortable.

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I was a manager of developers in an organisation for a few years, and during that period I learned a lot. But if I’m honest, I learned far more about being a manager from leading a large open source project for 10 years, because that taught me a lot about what makes developers tick. Of course, I’ve always been a developer myself too, but you often don’t think that clearly about your own motivations.

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