Should you really clean your registry?

You’ll see this a lot online: “Is your computer running slow? Then clean your registry!”. Obviously, these statements often come bundled with a 40$ software that claims to drastically increase your computer’s performance by simply cleaning it’s registry. In this article I’ll test out one of these registry cleaners to see if they actually work.

First off, what is the Registry?

The Windows Registry is a large database that stores both Windows’ settings and those of the programs you install. It was designed as an alternative to *.INI files, which were slow and cumbersome.

Why do we supposedly need to clean it?

Those who sell registry cleaners state that we need to clean the registry because, over time, it becomes riddled with unused data (keys) that negatively impact performance and cause system errors. While it is true that the registry slowly fills up with obsolete data, is it true that this slows down the computer? Should you really clean your registry?

What we used for our test:

For this test, I’ll be using RegClean Pro (http://www.systweak.com/registrycleaner/), because it’s one of the more popular registry cleaners out there, and it’s ranked #1 on toptenreviews.com (http://registry-cleaners-software-review.toptenreviews.com/), for what that’s worth.

I’ll also be testing the computer’s performance using the ever so popular Passmark PerformanceTest.

Here’s the computer on which I’ll be testing RegClean Pro:

Processor:AMD Phenom II X4 960T runnning at 3.6GHz
Video Card:MSI 1GB GDDR5 Radeon HD 7790 with a memory clock running at 1500 MHz and a GPU clock running at a 14.2% higher speed than stock.
Hard drive:Crucial M4 128GB SSD (OS Drive)
WD10EZEX 1TB Western Digital Blue Drive (Storage)
Memory:16GB CORSAIR Vengeance DDR3 RAM, running at 1600MHz.
Operating system;Windows 8.1 Pro, 64 bit edition.

On to our tests:

Before cleaning our registry, we need to assess the computer’s performance using the Passmark benchmark. These were the results we obtained:

Initial benchmark results

Next, we open RegClean Pro and scan our Registry. The program found a total of 668 errors.

RegClean Registry analysis results

We then ask RegClean to fix these errors.

RegClean is finished cleaning the registry

Now that our Registry’s clean, let’s test our performance anew:

Results of the second benchmark (once our registry is clean)

As you can see, there’s virtually no change in performance. If anything, we’ve actually scored lower (-1.09%) that we did before cleaning the registry. But we aren’t finished yet.

RegClean also has an option to “Defrag” the registry, which apparently also improves performance, so we ran the Defrag analysis, and RegClean reported that the registry was 4.6% fragmented.

RegClean registry fragmentation report

Therefore, we ran the Registry defragmenter, which took a few minutes (we had to restart the computer). Once this was over, we did another Benchmark, and this is what we obtained:

Benchmark results after defragmenting the registry

As you can see, there still isn’t any significant change. The slight increase in the score (+2.65%) might as well be due to the fact that we’ve just restarted the computer.

Summary

In conclusion, Registry cleaners, or at least RegClean, DID NOT increase our computer’s performance. If you really want to speed up your computer, you’re better off saving your money for better hardware. Instead of spending 40$ on a Registry cleaner, use it buy a stick of RAM. Or, even better, save up for a better video card or processor.

That concludes this article. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and don’t forget to come back for more!

-Icosebyte

Why do files get fragmented

File fragmentation can be a real plague on traditional hard drives. They slow down your entire computer, while reducing the life expectancy of the drive. But how does this come to be? Why is it that files somehow end up scattered across the whole drive?

It’s actually quite simple. Imagine the hard drive as being a series of boxes, each one capable of holding 1 byte of information (in reality, it would be more accurate to think of these boxes as holding 1 bit of information, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just think of them as storing 1 byte):

Empty memory

When the hard drive is new, all of these boxes are empty.Now, let’s say we store a 3 byte file on the drive. This file will fill up three boxes.

3 Bytes taken

Now, we add a new 14 byte file to our drive, the computer appends this data to the previous file. At this point, we still have no file fragmentation.

2 Files written

Now, let’s say we delete the first file. This leaves us with some free boxes before and after File 2.

Delete fie 1

As you can see, we now have 6 bytes of free space on our hard drive. But, does that mean we can add a new 5 byte file? Indeed, we can, but we now encounter a problem, which is that we only have 3 byte of contiguous free space. This means that the computer will need to split this new file into 2 parts:

File 3 split in 2

So now, to read File 3, the hard drive head (the “needle” that reads and writes data to the drive) must jump over several blocks of memory. This makes the operation slower and more damaging to the hard drive.

That summarizes, extremely roughly, why do files get fragmented.

-Icosebyte

How to bring back the Windows 7 start menu in Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 is a pretty nice operating system. It’s fast, stable and offers a bunch of cool features. This being said, I absolutely despise the Metro interface. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great on tablets, but it just sucks when you’re using a keyboard and mouse. That’s why, in this article, I’ll show you a way to bring back the Windows 7 start menu in Windows 8.1.

Keep in mind that we won’t be installing the actual Windows 7 start menu, but rather a nice imitation.

What we first need to do is download a free program called Classic Shell, which is available here: http://www.classicshell.net/

Once the download is finished, launch the installer. Classic Shell also offers the possibility to restore the classic Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer 9, but I prefer to opt-out of these option.

ClassicShell installer

Once the program is finished installing, you can select a bunch of options such as the type of Menu, the icon for the menu, etc

ClassicShell options

And there you go! You now have a nice imitation of the good old Windows 7 start menu.

Start Menu screenshot

I hope you enjoyed this article, and have a nice day!

-Icosebyte

How to pre-generate your Minecraft World

Have you even wanted to explore a Minecraft world without facing constant lag because the map is being generated? A good way to avoid this is by pre-generating your world. This can also be useful if you’re hosting a Minecraft server and want to provide your visitors with a map of the world.

So how do we do this? Well, it’s actually fairly simple. The first thing we need to do is to download a program called “Minecraft Land Generator”, which is available here: https://sites.google.com/site/minecraftlandgenerator/home/download. What this program does is it generates terrain by constantly changing the spawn point of a Minecraft Server.

Note: The main download didn’t work for me (the zip file was corrupted). If you also encounter this problem, you can simply download the “Source” zip file (https://github.com/Morlok8k/MinecraftLandGenerator/archive/master.zip). You’ll find a working, compiled version of Minecraft Land Generator in the “zip” subfolder.

Once you’ve downloaded and extracted Minecraft Land Generator, you’ll want to click on “MLG_Initial_Setup_Windows.cmd”. This will prepare the program.

MLG initial setup

Once this is done, we’re ready to create a map. Click on “Run_MLG_Windows.cmd” and enter the desired world size.

Run MLG Windows

Note: If you want to change the seed of your world, simply change the seed specified in the “server.properties” file that was created when you ran  “MLG_Initial_Setup_Windows.cmd”. Now, you simply need to wait for the program to finish creating your world!

Map of output world

If you wish to know how to create a map of your Minecraft world, you can check out this article: http://thecomputerblog.net/create-map-minecraft-world/.

That concludes this article on how to pre-generate your Minecraft world, I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

-Icosebyte

400$ gaming computer build (2014)

The other day, a friend of mine asked me if I could help him build a gaming computer for 400$ or less. Since I loved the idea, I decided to post my final build on this website.

Note: This build does not include an operating system (over a hundred dollars for Windows, free for most Linux distributions) nor does it include a screen, mouse or keyboard. This is only the tower.

Disclaimer: If you try to build this computer and screw something up, we are not to be held responsible. If you’re inexperienced with building computers, look up some tutorials first!

Anyway, enough talking :P, here’s the build:

PartsLinkPrice
CaseNZXT Source 210 S210-001 Computer Case40$
MotherboardASRock FM2A78M-HD+ FM2+ / FM2 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard55$
Optical driveASUS 24X DVD Burner - Black SATA Model - OEM20$
Power SupplyEVGA 500W ATX12V / EPS12V 80 PLUS Certified Power Supply45$
Processor/Video CardAMD A10-6800K Richland 4.1GHz Radeon HD 8670D Quad Core APU120$
RAMG.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory 50$
StorageWestern Digital WD Blue 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM60$
Subtotal390$

Keep in mind that, with taxes and shipping, the price will be slightly above 400$

Why I chose these parts:

Case:

The NZXT Source 210 S210-001 is a pretty basic case (which is what we would expect for 40$). I chose it because it was inexpensive yet offered all the basic options we could want for a 400-500$ Gaming PC. It supports both Micro ATX and ATX motherboards, has an impressive total of 8 Internal 3.5″ Drive Bays and supports 6 fans (1 included with the case) for good airflow. The case is also quite roomy and feels sturdy. It’s biggest drawback is the fact that it looks like something out of the nineties… it’s just plain ugly in my opinion. Nonetheless, for the price, it’s a great case.

Motherboard:

The motherboard is pretty much the most important part of a computer, so you want something good. The ASRock FM2A78M-HD+ is perfect for our budget. It’s inexpensive (55$), supports FM2 and FM2+ APUs (which is necessary for our processor) and has 6 SATA slots. It even supports USB 3.0! What I didn’t like about this board is the fact that there are just 2 memory slots, but for this price, we can’t ask for more.

Optical Drive:

There’s not much to say here, the ASUS 24X DVD Burner is just a standard DVD drive, which is all we’ll need for this computer. If you ever wish to turn this build into a HTPC (Home theater PC), then you can switch this drive for a BLU-ray one, but this is unnecessary for gaming.

Power Supply:

This computer is not particularly power hungry, so the 500W EVGA power supply will be more than enough. This model is reliable, inexpensive and relatively efficient with it’s 80 PLUS rating. Also, if you ever wish to upgrade this computer, then the EVGA 100-W1-500-KR should still be able to pump out enough power.

CPU/Video card:

Had we had a bigger budget, I definitely wouldn’t have chosen an AMD APU for this computer. Unfortunately though, there’s not much we can do with 400$. This being said, the A10-6800K is surprisingly powerful. It boasts an impressive 4.1GHz quad-core processor and a reasonable Radeon HD 8670D GPU. Furthermore, this unit has an unlocked multiplier, so it’s easy to overclock. This being said, If you have a higher budget, I recommend that you replace this APU with a CPU+Video card combo. You’ll get much better performance with something like a Radeon HD7770 and an Intel Core i3-4130. Keep in mind though that, if you decide to use a different processor/GPU combo, you’ll also need a different motherboard!

RAM:

You really can’t get less than 4 Gigabytes of RAM nowadays. This being said, gaming doesn’t usually require that much memory (unless you’re running a 150 slot Minecraft server ;)). These two G.SKILL Ripjaws units should be enough for most games. It’s good quality ram that runs at 1600 MHz and comes with a nice heatsink. All-in-all, it’s just about perfect for this build.

Storage:

With games getting constantly bigger, you’ll need lots of hard drive space. This Western Digital Blue drive offers a respectable 1TB of disk space at a reasonable price. It also has pretty good read/write speeds, although if you really want speed, go for an SSD. If you feel like 1TB isn’t enough, you can always buy two of these drives.

Conclusion:

This article shows that, even with a very tight budget, you can still get decent performance. This 400$ gaming computer build will be able to play most games at reasonable settings. If you think you could get better performance by using different parts, feel free to let us know in the comment section down below!

Also, keep in mind that you’re probably better off spending 500-600$ on your computer. You’ll get much better performance than this build for just a slight increase in price.

I hope you enjoyed this article and, as always, have a nice day!

-Icosebyte

How to limit a program’s internet bandwidth

The other day, I was casually watching a Minecraft stream when suddenly, Steam decides it might be a good idea to update some of my games. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if I had a better Internet connection, but this isn’t the case…

Obviously, the Steam updates took up ALL of my bandwidth, making the stream impossible to watch. This pissed my off to no end, so I decided to scour the web for a way to limit a program’s internet bandwidth.

Turns out, it’s actually a fairly easy thing to do. The first thing you need to do is to download and install a program called NetBalancer (the free version is more than enough for our needs). NetBalancer can be found here: https://netbalancer.com/

Once NetBalancer is finished installing, open it. You’ll see something like this:

NetBalancer user interface

Now, let’s say we want to limit the download speed of Google Chrome. We first need to select the relevant process (in this case, chrome.exe):

Now, we need to click on the half-filled green arrow icon:

Clicking the correct icon

We then set the desired download limit and press Ok.

Setting the desired download limit

And there you go, the program should now have a limited download speed, and therefore won’t monopolize your internet connection.

Limited internet

I hope that this article helped you, and thanks for reading!

-Icosebyte

How to add custom recipes to your Minecraft server

Did you ever think about how awesome it would be if you could add custom recipes to your Minecraft server? Perhaps a way to craft horse armour or cobwebs? Well, this is precisely what we are going to do in today’s article!

To make this possible, we need to install a fantastic Craftbukkit plugin called Craftbook. This plugin is possibly the best thing since sliced bread. Seriously, Craftbook is a must for every Minecraft server. It just adds so many interesting mechanics, such as sittable chairs, cooking pots, easy painting switching… and of course, custom recipes!

In this article, I’ll just talk about custom recipes, but I strongly recommend that you check out the other features of Craftbook. They’re all awesome and worth your time (I might talk about them in an upcoming article)!

Ok, enough talking, time for some action. The first thing you’ll need to do is to download and install Craftbook (can be downloaded here: http://dev.bukkit.org/bukkit-plugins/craftbook/). You’ll also need a plugin called WorldEdit (http://dev.bukkit.org/bukkit-plugins/worldedit/) as well as ProtocolLib (http://dev.bukkit.org/bukkit-plugins/protocollib/). Finally, I recommend that you install Vault (http://dev.bukkit.org/bukkit-plugins/vault/) although it isn’t necessary.

Once you’ve installed all of these plugins, start your server. We now need to activate the Custom Crafting mechanic (all Craftbook mechanics are disabled by default.)

You can do this by editing the Craftbook “config.ylm” file (located in the plugins\CraftBook folder). Open the file in Wordpad and scroll down until you see the following two line:

custom-crafting:
enable: false

Change it to:

custom-crafting:
enable: true

And reload the server.

Ok! You should now be able to create your own recipes. Let’s make one for cobweb. The way we do this is by putting the recipe in the three leftmost rows of our inventory, and then putting the output object next to the recipe, as such:

Making recipe for cobweb

When you’re satisfied with your recipe, type the following command: /recp save <Recipe Name> <Recipe Type>

Where <Recipe Name> is the name you give your recipe (not really important) and <Recipe Type> is either Shapeless, Shaped or Furnace (Additional information regarding the recipe types can be found at this page: http://wiki.sk89q.com/wiki/CraftBook/Custom_crafting). Basically, shaped recipes are the ones for which the way you place the ingredients is important, while, in shapeless recipes, you can put the ingredients in any order. Furnace recipes are the simplest, they simply specify what happens when you cook something.

In my case, I’ll be typing the following command:

/recp save Cobweb shaped

recp output

Once your recipe is saved, you can test it out by using a crafting table:

Testing recipe with crafting table

And there you go, that how you add custom recipes to your Minecraft Server!

If you feel like you haven’t perfectly understood this tutorial, I recommend you watch the following video:

That concludes this tutorial, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and have a nice day!

-Icosebyte

How to create awesome Minecraft screenshots

When you wish to showcase your latest and best build, typical screenshots just don’t cut it. Instead, you’ll want to render your masterpiece in a picture worthy of Thomas Kinkade. But how can you do this?

To create awesome Minecraft screenshots, you’ll first need to download and install a free program called Chunky, which is available here: http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/63913-chunky-minecraft-mapping-and-rendering-tool/

Once you’re finished installing Chunky, open it.You’ll see something like this:

Chunky Launcher

Make sure the Java and Minecraft directories are correct (they will be unless you’ve installed Java/Minecraft into a weird folder), then click Launch.

Now, you need to open your Minecraft world in Chunky. To do this, click on Select World and then choose your world from the list (if your world is singleplayer) or browse for the world if you’re using a standalone server. Chunky will then load the map.

World loaded in chunky

The next step is to select the chunks that will be rendered in the final image. In other words, we need to select the area around which we want to take our ‘screenshot’ . To do this, press and hold shift, then click and drag around the desired area.

Chunky selecting chunks

Note: In the Options tab, there’s a button that allows you to load a custom texture pack for your render. I strongly recommend you use this. In my case, I’m using the Conquest texture pack.

Now that we’ve selected the relevant area, we can go to the 3D Render tab and click on New Scene. This will open up two windows, the Render Controls window and the Render Preview window. In the Render Preview window, move the camera around (using the mouse and arrow keys) until you’re satisfied with it’s position.

Render preview

Now, we need to configure the Render Controls. I used the following settings, but I recommend you experiment to find what’s best for you.

Render Controls

Note: Setting high values for SSP target (greater that one thousand) will drastically increase the time it takes for the image to render.

When you’re satisfied with your settings, click Start. All that’s left to do now is to wait for it to finish rendering!

 

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a screenshot taken in Minecraft versus the Chunky render:

Original screenshot:

Original screenshot

Chunky render:

Chunky Render

Pretty neat eh? (although the text in the leaves is kinda odd :P)

So that concludes today’s article! I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

-Icosebyte

How to create a map of your Minecraft World

 

Ever wanted to see your whole Minecraft World at once? There’s something oddly satisfying about seeing all your building in one single picture…

In this article I’ll show you just that: how to create a map of your Minecraft World.

The first thing you’ll need  to do is to download a neat little program called McMap (there are other alternatives available, but I prefer McMap because it creates an actual PNG file that you can then edit to add in city names, road names, etc.). McMap can be downloaded here: http://wrim.pl/mcmap/

Once you’ve finished downloading the *.zip file, extract it so you see something like this:

McMap extracted

If you’re running a 32 bit operating system, go into the mcmap-win32bit folder, while if you’re running a 64 bit operating system, go to the mcmap-win64bit folder. Once this is done, click on mcmapGUI2 to launch McMap. You should see something like this:

McMap graphical user interface

Now, we need to configure McMap. First off, select the world for which you want to create a map. Then, select your preferred options and click Start. Once the render is finished, you’ll see Map image written :-) 

MCMap finished rendering

At this point, go to the same folder in which you launched McMap (mcmap-win32bit or mcmap-win64bit). You should see a PNG file with the same name as your world. This is your brand new map!

Finished Minecraft Map

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you did, do come back for more!

-Icosebyte

How to easily create a large lake in Minecraft.

 

Let’s say you wish to build an awesome coastal city, but that you’re unable to find a coast close enough to your existing constructions… Do you start a new map or abandon your project?

In this article, I’ll show you an easy way to create large lakes using a Minecraft plugin called Voxelsniper.

The first thing you’ll need to do is to make sure you have a Craftbukkit server set-up (as far as I know, there’s no way for Voxelsniper to work in singleplayer). Once this is done, download and install Voxelsniper on your server.

Now, go to the place that you want to turn into a lake:

region to turn into lake

Then, put an arrow in your hand and type /b o.

This turns the arrow into an Oceanator brush, which inverts the terrain and covers it with water, giving you an ocean.

Now, you need to give a size to the Oceanator brush. To do this, type /b <size>, where <size> is a number that represents the size (really!) of the brush. Per example: /b 10.

configuring the oceanator brush

When you’re done creating the brush, right click the ground with the arrow in your hand in order to turn it into water. Do this until you’re satisfied with the size and rough shape of the lake:

using the oceanator brush

Ok, so now we have our lake, but it looks completely unnatural with those huge cliffs on  every side. What we need to do is to smooth out the coast.

Once more, with the arrow in your hand, type /b e melt. Once this is done, right-click all around the lake to smooth out the cliffs:

Smoothing out the cliffs with the melt brush

Notice that, at some places, the water has gone awry after we used the melt brush. To fix this, stand in the water (one block deep) and type /fixwater <radius>, where radius is the approximate size of the lake in blocs, ex: /fixwater 100:

Fixing the water with /fixwater

Now it’s starting to look like a lake!

The last thing we might want to do is to replace all the materials around the lake with sand, to create a more natural looking beach.

To do this, type /v sand

then /b b mm

followed by /vr <the material to replace> (in this case, I’ll be replacing the sandstone with sand, so I’ll type /vr sandstone)

You can then set a size for the brush by typing /b <size>.

When you’re finished configuring the brush, right-click (with the arrow in your hand) the area that you wish to convert into sand (Keep in mind that you’ll need to repeat these steps for every material around the lake):

Replacing the sandstone with sand

And there you go, that’s an easy way to create a large lake in Minecraft!

I hope you found this article useful,

-Icosebyte