Resistance: Completed

Last night Scott and I completed Resistance: Fall of Man on the Playstation 3. It was a monumental achievement, and we’d like to thank three Friday nights with no work the day after, Dr Pepper and Pringles.

Resistance: Fall of Man

I have really been enjoying the Playstation 3 since I picked one up in mid December, thanks to Scott’s help! I also bought Ridge Racer 7, and my friend Gavin who works at Neversoft sent me his game, Tony Hawk’s Project 8. All are excellent and really show off the console. I have also been getting better with first person shooters, although I think that keeping up with a veteran Halo player (Amber’s sister) was more down to me knowing exactly what to do with the weapons in Resistance. Lobbing an air-fuel grenade over to my opponent, whilst standing behind an invisible shield and seeing their bullets apparently bounce off me is very satisfying!

Game Controllers

Halo character

Before this year, I had never played a first person shooter on a game console. I mean, how on earth do you aim for the head with a tiny joystick that sticks about 2cm up from the control pad? I find it impossible to get accurate control without a mouse. However, when I played Halo for the first time this year, I realised that accuracy with control pads is not impossible – people were easily picking me off with accurate head shots, again and again.

So, what am I doing wrong? More importantly, how do I get better? Practice? I’m wondering if there was some class I missed somewhere along the line. I have no trouble at all owning all in Ridge Racer, Need For Speed and Gran Turismo, but first person shooters give me so much trouble. In multiplayer battles, I find myself regularly facing other players whilst we both shoot the hell out of each other, but I always die first. The head is such a small target!

I tried searching the web for tips, but to no avail. So, I invite you to post your solutions so I may finish my games. By the way, I have no trouble at all with Call of Duty 3 on the Wii, since it has a “proper” controller – I just aim and fire at the screen!

How to Fix a Laptop (or, how to not fix a laptop but then fix it for real after you break it)

As I mentioned before, I bought a new MacBook Pro recently because the BGA (ball grid array) RAM chips on the graphics card of my old laptop partially desoldered themselves. That left me with a few options; throw it away, buy a new graphics card, or have it repaired. Since I would like to sell it, I ruled out option 1, and options 2 and 3 both cost upwards of $250. That left me with fixing it myself.

Laptop in pieces

After having a look online, I found some people who had been successful in fixing their laptops. The BGA chips becoming desoldered is apparently a fairly common problem. In one success story, a guy used a heat gun and recommended that the work be performed outdoors due to the high temperatures. Having a concrete front porch, and it being a still day, I decided to do just that.

I bought a heat gun from Ace Hardware for $24. It has two temperature settings, 345 degrees C (650 degrees F) and 535 degrees C (1000 degrees F). Figuring that solder can melt anywhere between 200 and 450 degrees C, I decided to try on the lowest setting first. Holding the heat gun 2 inches from the first BGA memory chip, I gave it a blast for 30 seconds with a thick cardboard heat shield protecting the surrounding components. After doing all four chips, I tried the board in the laptop, but the problem was still not fixed. 🙁

So, feeling brave, I gave the first chip a blast on the higher setting. After about 15 seconds, my cardboard heat shield caught fire and a strong gust of wind shook my rig (circuit board placed on a metal cookie sheet). It was enough to dislodge some of the surface mount components on the underside of the chip. Not good at all. I moved my rig into the garage and completed the job on the next three chips.

NVidia 440 GO graphics card

After moving inside, I dug out my soldering iron, with a very clunky tip, and cleaned it the best I could. Somehow, I managed to steady my hand and resolder three resistors and two capacitors, some as small as a poppy seed. I checked the connections with my multimeter, and despite not knowing the resistor values, reading precisely 300 ohms on all of them comforted me.

I powered up my laptop expecting to see white smoke or a blank screen. To my utter disbelief, the damn thing powered on OK! Checking the hardware properties showed my video card was reporting a full 64MB instead of the 32MB before. And, no screen corruption! The big test was playing Half Life 2 though – it ran without a hitch!

So, if you need your laptop fixing, I am not doing that again. Go and find someone else.