Movies, Star Wars, and Hardware Adjustments for New Years

By Paige Francis Posted Monday Jan 8, 2024

Filed under: Epilogue, Paige Writes 10 comments

Mostly going to be talking about a wide variety of B- and C-Horror movies today, but I also learned a few things while playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. “C-Horror” movies, by the way, are horror movies produced by a Roger Corman-affiliated production, which usually means a New World or New Horizons production. One of the movies I watched most of was so bad even New Horizons doesn’t list it as one of theirs…officially the movie doesn’t seem to exist. I’m talking about movies so much lately because I’ve been sick since Christmas Day. Maybe it was Covid, but probably not…I think it was just a really bad cold. I’m still coughing regularly, and blowing my nose every five minutes. This makes doing “real work” rather difficult, so my days have been comprised of sitting at my computer grinding armor upgrades in SWTOR while watching ASMR or, for reasons, finally going through a backlog of dozens of movies and thinning out my collection. Mostly in horror.

I have finally got all my gear in Star Wars: The Old Republic to level 336. This was the max level before the most recent expansion; currently the max is 340/344. The 344 upgrade bits can only be obtained in group play, which I mostly don’t do, so *my* max is 340. But as I feel no pressure to grind out two more complete upgrade sets (which includes having to remake most of the augment equipment because that gets destroyed by upgrades…at least from what I remember that last time I messed with augments). But the REALLY important thing is that my computer kept crashing. Like, shut-down level crashing. Computer suddenly turns off. Boop. No error sound. Just like the power got pulled. Monitors all say “No Video Signal Detected” then go to sleep. When I reboot, I get a POST error saying one of the CPU fans is reporting a low speed. I know why this is, but that doesn’t mean the CPU *ISN’T* overheating. Or one of the video cards.

Let me tell you about my computer. I used to have pics; but I think I lost them when I deleted my blog about 18 months ago. I built my current computer in 2012. I had a little bit of money at the time, and I spent a few thousand dollars. The CPU is an Intel Core i7-3930K on an Asus TUF Sabertooth x79. 32GB of RAM. 500GB SSD system drive and a 2TB 10,000 RPM data drive. 2 180mm air intake fans in the bottom of a Silverstone Raven RV01 (I think, may have been an 02 or an 03) 90 Degree case, plus 5 more 120mm fans. The original CPU fan was a Noctua DH-15 Dual-120mm CPU heatsink and fan system. Two DVD-RW. Two Sapphire Radeon HD 6850’s taken from my then-current computer. Those were upgraded to Radeon HD 7870’s in 2013, and then Radeon R9 270’s in 2014. Both 180mm and most of the 120mm fans have gone out over the years. I’ve replaced enough of the case fans to keep ventilation going, and replaced the Noctua DH-15 with a CoolerMaster Hyper H212. You can see why I was concerned there were plenty of reasons for the crashing to be a natural consequence of age and failure.

I use three monitors; a 1080p in the center and two 1440×900 on each side. The center monitor is on one video card and the outside monitors are on a second. I usually have a game or whatever I’m working on in the middle, and then play YouTube or some other video on one outside monitor and use the other for resources or secondary tasks. The crashes were occurring while I was playing SWTOR on the main screen and had YouTube playing in Firefox on the right screen. I tried reducing graphics settings in SWTOR, all the way to the point of just playing in a window on the main screen. This cut crashes down to a minimum, but didn’t eliminate the possibility. I usually prefer keeping games in windowed settings so that I can move in and out of them, grabbing screenshots and information, without having to deal with the full-screen “refresh” that happens every time you move back in to a “full-screen” application. After revisiting some research I did a year or so ago, I was reminded of why this was PROBABLY actually contributing to my problem.

Setting a game (or other app, if the app supports it) to “Exclusive” Full-screen, or some other term similar, basically hands all responsibility for the app’s interaction with the monitor to the video card. Windows doesn’t really have much to do with it, except to stand by waiting for some prompt to come along that gives control back to Windows. Most people will run into this when some kind of over-riding system message will tell Windows to put up a notification on the screen, and suddenly you’re booted out of your full-screen game back to the Windows desktop. This has become more elegant over the years, but you still see it sometimes. Microsoft has pushed for video modes such as “Windowed Full Screen” to be implemented, which keeps control of the app in Windows hands. And a lot of the time, that’s fine. No problem whatsoever. But sometimes it is. Because the Windows Display Manager is INHERENTLY not as efficient as your video card at writing the game to your monitor. It’s the same thing, more or less, as writing a program in a “programming language” vs. writing a program in “machine language.” The programming language has to go through a layer or two of interpretation to get to executing instructions directly on the computer hardware. It’s like adding multiple “middle-men” in to a task…each one has to examine the action, make THEIR important change, and hand it on to the next guy. Just to clarify, however, these mid-level changes are REQUIRED…they are part of the convenience of using a programming language. Going straight to the machine code will give you a smaller, faster program that does the same thing…but knowing HOW to do what you want requires specialized knowledge. Doing complex graphical presentations may require knowledge and skills only a handful of people EVER knew about any given computer configuration. Programming languages consolidate all that knowledge into a generic set that many people can use. At the cost of performance.

I should also point out that using multiple video cards for different monitors complicates the process. Windows has been improving support for multiple monitors being used for regular Windows functions, but some apps will still ONLY recognize the “main” video card. So even if a second video card is driving one of the outside monitors, all the video “processing” is done on the main video card then “handed off” to the second video card solely to write to the screen. Going out of your way to use apps that can help recognize multiple video cards can improve your experience a lot.

But anyway, that’s why Exclusive full-screen mode is *usually* the best way to play a game, performance-wise. But here’s another neat thing: Firefox, at least a few years ago, used the 3D rendering parts of many graphics cards to play video better. Some other browsers, not to mention any one given program, do the same. Some use OTHER parts of the video card to help render hardware. There’s even specific parts of many video cards that are built-in SPECIFICALLY to help your computer play video. Playing HD video, especially compressed video (and everything online is compressed, including everything you ever watch on your phone, which brings up the scam of home 4G/5G internet, which we can talk about some other day) is all about the math. Lots and lots of math. TLDR; watching YouTube specifically with *FIREFOX* was causing a hit on my graphics performance; a problem I wouldn’t have had if I was using, Edge; for example. So I stopped watching YouTube videos, decided to weed out my horror movie collection by playing videos in PotPlayer 64-bit on my right-hand screen, and put SWTOR back in Exclusive full-screen. I haven’t had a crash in days.

Still probably need to start building a new computer, though. Ten years is pushing the edge pretty hard.

Quick. Name a specialfx-heavy underwater sci-fi movie about meeting an unknown life-form in an undersea habitat that was released in 1989.

Did you think of the classic James Cameron movie The Abyss? Knowing the people who read these articles, I bet a few of you knew it was a trick question of some kind and thought of a different movie. I bet you at least knew I WASN’T talking about The Abyss. And good for you. Because The Abyss was the THIRD (that I know of) movie with that plot line and description released in 1989. August of 1989, to be exact. It was preceded by Leviathan in March of 1989 and Lords of the Deep in April of 1989. Now, movies used to take YEARS to produce, no matter what, unless you were making B-movies, and then you could pop those out in weeks. Leviathan and The Abyss were both big, expensive productions with popular, well-known casts. Lords of the Deep was made by Roger Corman and starred Priscilla Barnes. Terri, the final blonde, from popular early-80’s sitcom Three’s Company.

For my money, Leviathan is the best movie. Sure, The Abyss had those amazing water fx, but the rest of the movie features a largely forgettable cast and a bottom-drawer story. Leviathan is a good-old creature feature very much in the style of The Thing remake. Starring Peter Weller fresh off Robocop, Amanda Pays just hitting her stride in Max Headroom after years of support roles and “1 Episode” credits, Daniel Stern somehow breaking out of a supporting role and comedy career by doing the voice-overs in Wonder Years, venerable actor Richard Crenna landing a spate of gravitas/mentor/voice-of-reason roles throughout the 80’s, and supporting roles filled by a surging Ernie Hudson, staple supporting character actor Hector Elizondo, and “that woman that always plays a woman with unusual eyes so you don’t trust her” Meg Foster. Unfortunately the final two roles are “stock urban ‘Mexican or some other Hispanic'” Michael Carmine and “blonde woman that has big breasts for sex appeal” Lisa Eilbacher. And to be 100% honest, Hudson’s character avoids the “token African-American” stereotype solely by his dynamic performance stealing scenes. The other characters are helped by Weller’s…understated….brand of performance. He’s not bad in any way, and the character he plays seems perfectly written for him, supporting the idea that he can’t really do “forceful.” This mainly goes screwy in the film’s final act. Weller has to assume the action-lead that his character is just not written for, while shunting Amanda Pays’ astronaut-in-training-easily-the-fittest-person-on-the-crew to the side as the damsel-in-distress-that-must-be-saved. Yeah, that’s the formula…but they came so close to shattering the mold in this one. You can feel the bones of a slightly elevated story supported by fantastic fx throughout, only to be let down by a fairly bog-standard ending.

But I’m not here to talk to you about Leviathan.

Lords of the Deep released a month after Leviathan. The plot is actually a bit closer to The Abyss,

and the film has a very strong “save the Earth because humans are kind of mucking it all up by destroying everything” message. This is a Roger Corman ultra-low budget movie, which makes the fx truly remarkable…mostly. There are some problems. The writing is weak, as an example I present the following scene in paraphrase form:

Scientist 1: I’m gonna go get some samples to find out why Engineer 1 turned into a dead fish.
Commander: No, no one is going outside because Engineer 1 turned into a dead fish. We can’t risk contamination!
Scientist 1: Aren’t we risking contamination by exposing everyone to the dead body you insisted on bringing into the station?
Engineer 2, walking in: DEAD BODY? WHAT DEAD BODY?
Commander: Oh, your best friend that I just sent out to find the missing relief crew showed back up turned into a dead fish. He’s right there. Points.
Other Scientists: Wait, the relief crew disappeared? Why didn’t you tell us?
Commander: I was just about to. I promise.
Scientist 1: So are you gonna call another relief crew down?
Commander: I can’t. The communication dish is still down from that sea-quake that made the relief crew disappear from their sub. As soon as Engineer 2 gets over his best friend being turned into a dead fish I’ll send him outside to fix it.
Commander: Are you…implying…I would endanger the lives of my own crew?
Scientist 1: All I’m saying is whatever turned Engineer 1 into a dead fish could turn any of us into a dead fish. So at least let us TRY to find out what’s going on around here by going outside and getting samples.
Other Scientists: Yeah, it’s our lives. Let us decide if we’re willing to accept the risk.
Commander: THIS IS MUTINY! FINE Scientist 1! Go get you samples and risk everyone’s lives instead of fixing the dish and risking everyone’s lives! But if anyone else gets turned into a dead fish, it’s YOUR FAULT!

The following paragraph contains spoilers, although why that would ruin your viewing pleasure is beyond me. You watch a movie like this for the spectacle, but because people die and there’s unknown substances and also conflicting objectives you’re SUPPOSED to wonder what’s going on. But because the writing and directing is so bad, conflated by bad pacing and some confusing edits, you won’t really be able to piece it together until the end, when the movie just spells it all out for you. But final warning, the following paragraph contains spoilers for this Roger Corman C-movie from 1989.

See, there are aliens from another world on the sea floor of Earth. They came here half a million years ago from their own world, which they destroyed by depleting their world’s resources for energy. So they managed to develop infinite energy and all left their planet looking to share their infinite energy, which also basically gives them infinite life as a hive species, with other lesser-developed worlds. Such as Earth. Thing is, the company that runs all the undersea research/mining/etc. is scared by the fact that the aliens can’t be killed, so they keep trying to find ways to kill the aliens, or ignore them, or hide them, or something. That part isn’t very clear. Apparently every time some underwater researcher finds a clue about the aliens, because the aliens are desperate to talk to humans to save Earth, the “company” has to evacuate the station, burn all the records, and censure the researchers. But THIS time Scientist #1, played by Priscilla Barnes, manages to get a piece of alien into a specimen aquarium, where it grows into a full-on alien and can start communicating with her. The other engineers and scientists end up taking her side, which is what allows her to get this far, because a sea-quake at the beginning of the movie disappears the relief crew from their sub and damages the underwater research station’s communication dish. So the commander takes it on himself to censure everyone with murder. Meanwhile, Scientist #1 manages to take the station’s mini-sub out to the abandoned relief crew sub and is led by psychic messages to and underwater cave system made by the aliens, which has air and pressure to make it safe for humans. Here the intentions of the aliens are made clear and she finds out the relief crew and some of the missing crew from the station are all in the caves and alive and well thanks to the aliens. So Priscilla heads back to the station to save the last few people because the aliens tell her there’s another sea-quake coming that will destroy the station for good. That’s where we find out the commander has been killing everyone using the station’s AI Computer Trillby, because keeping the “company” safe and the existence of aliens a secret is the most important thing. For the record, when he finally regains communications, his boss disagrees with his “interpretation.”

And the movie ends with a title and voice-over letting us know we need to get our **** together because there probably aren’t aliens in the ocean waiting to give us infinite clean energy.

Which…yeah, that’s probably true.

Lords of the Deep is a surprisingly good movie, as long as you go into it with, honestly, pretty low expectations. But seriously, if you haven’t seen Leviathan, do yourself a favor and seek it out. Much better movie than The Abyss, in my opinion.

Oh, and what I mentioned about Defcon 4 last week. I don’t think the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome reference was apt. I managed to catch two lines out of context that led me to that conclusion, and certainly post-apocalyptic movies were hot and influenced Defcon-4, but 70’s B-horror, Apocalypse Now, and Planet of the Apes probably did most of the heavy lifting inspiring this plot. In short, the crew of a satellite equipped with nuclear missiles for which to fire on the Soviet Union witness a nuclear exchange occur after an international incident between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. They never receive the authorization to launch their missiles, and despite having contingency plans they are supposed to follow, the commander of the mission refuses to launch. Three months later, the other two crew members want to de-orbit and land the satellite, because in this alternative version of the world you can do that with satellites, but the commander refuses to do THAT, too. Coincidentally, the next day, commands from OUTSIDE the satellite tell it to crash land on the coast of Nova Scotia. So now they have to jettison the nuclear missiles before they re-enter earths orbit, but one gets stuck and will blow up in 60 days or 60 hours, it’s not clear which. That’s why the commander refused to launch the missiles earlier, so they could have this plot point for the rest of the movie. The satellite crashes, the captain is eaten by irradiated humans, one crew member has a concussion and the other crew member, our hero, leaves her and seeks out help and information at night. He encounters a hillbilly with a homemade armored bucket loader keeping a woman hostage as his girlfriend, and later a Kurtz-style military cult run by the son of a former Missile Command or NORAD bigwig. And after this the plot really doesn’t make any sense and just kind of happens to happen until everything blows up and the right people live and the right people die. Watch it once; the early part in space is actually pretty good. Although the movie isn’t NEARLY as good as its ALL TIME GREAT movie poster by Rudy Obrero, most well known for his epic illustrations of and for Masters of the Universe.

I had a half-dozen other movies I wanted to talk about. We’ll see what next week brings.

Love you all! See you next week!


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10 thoughts on “Movies, Star Wars, and Hardware Adjustments for New Years

  1. Makot says:

    We’ll see what next week brings.

    More SW:tOR or more movie rewievs, one would suppose.

    Either way a good read :)

    1. I mean, you’re not wrong. Appreciate it!

  2. Syal says:

    …now I want to see the Roger Corman version of One Punch Man.

    1. I can’t tell you there ISN’T one, at least not in spirit. I’ll see what I can find. Might take a while…see my comment about particularly bad Corman movies just “disappearing.”

  3. Philadelphus says:

    If the computer itself is crashing full stop, it might be a power supply issue. Full disclosure I’m just some rando on the internet, but had something similar happen to me over the latter half of 2022 with my PC that I built in 2014. It’d just shut off, at first only rarely when playing more power-hungry games, then slowly over time it started happening more frequently with less and less graphically demanding games, which is what finally led me to realize what was happening. (I’d coincidentally upgraded my system about a month before the first crash, so I at first thought it might be system instability or something. I should’ve had more faith in Debian stable. XD) After I replaced the power supply I discovered it also fixed another issue that’d been plaguing me for a while, where my sound would randomly cut out for a few seconds before reconnecting; it didn’t even cross my mind that that might be related to a failing power supply, so if you’ve noticed any other weirdness happening around the time these crashes began that might be something to consider. Just a suggestion based on what happened to me, I’m no computer repair technician or anything. But I haven’t had any problems since replacing the PSU about a year ago.

    1. I didn’t write about it, but I have considered it. People generally don’t consider that power supplies are wear items…I bet it’s not producing anywhere near the power it could when it was new. Right now, I’m gambling on the fact that I bought a pretty nice and overpowered power supply, a Cougar GEX, or whatever the equivalent of the GEX was a decade ago. Pretty sure it’s 1100 watts, a couple 100 over what I needed. It could still be the problem, of course.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Yeah, hard to say for sure, of course. The description just reminded me of my issue. Good luck getting whatever it is fixed!

  4. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Late comment but:

    I love that the example silly dialogue actually works as is if only the movie was a farce.

    I also love how the movie poster has both “Def-Con 4”, the actual title, but also immediately provides the full words of the abbreviation so that people don’t get too confused.

    1. Exactly! There *technically* nothing wrong with that conversation, except as it happens in the movie it feels like a helical spiral.

  5. Daimbert says:

    I debated it, but can no longer resist the temptation to comment: I did these sorts of things first [grin]. Meaning the commentary on The Old Republic and the commentary on horror movies, both of which have been semi-regular on my own blog since 2018/2019 and are regular now. I don’t talk a lot about computer hardware so that one’s all yours [grin].

    That being said, wrt horror movies I haven’t talked about any of these as I haven’t watched them. I DO remember the cover for Def-Con 4, though. It might have been one of the videos in a convenience store that I worked at once and sometimes rented movies from.

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