The Taylor's

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Month: January 2016

Tips for a Reliable Zwift Experience

I’ve been using Zwift for several months and have had my fair share of application crashes, but I think I’ve resolved them after a bit of trial-and-error.  Here is my list of tips for having the most reliable Zwift experience.  Note that you should only consider the following tips if you’re having issues… if you’re not, then ride-on!

Plugin Your Laptop’s Power Supply

Most laptops try to conserve power when they aren’t plugged-in to prolong battery life.  Give your laptop all the power it needs to run Zwift by plugging in the power cord.   That’ll also save you from getting towards the end of your ride and then having to stop riding to plugin your laptop because your battery is dead.  Your smart trainer needs power anyway, so it’s not like you can create a cord-free environment no matter what you do.

Note that there is now a “Laptop Battery Saver” option in the Zwift settings as well. If you’re computer is hard-wired to power, select the “Off – Max Speed” setting.

Use a Wired Secondary Display

If you’re projecting Zwift to a TV or second monitor, use a wired connection instead of a wireless one (like Miracast).  I think this was the reason Zwift kept crashing on me.  I project Zwift onto a TV using Intel WiDi, which is similar to Miracast, and after about an hour of riding the screen would freeze even though the sound was still going.  I recently purchased a long HDMI cable to hard-wire my laptop to my TV and I haven’t had any Zwift lock-ups since.

Use Zwift in Windowed Mode on Second Display

When Zwift runs in full screen mode, it will always display full screen on your computer’s screen and you can’t drag it onto another display.  As a result, you end-up setting-up your computer to duplicate the display onto a secondary monitor or TV.  I can only assume that running Zwift on your computer and a secondary monitor requires more resources of your computer for no real gain.  Instead, change Zwift’s “Screen Mode” setting to “Windowed” so you can drag it to your secondary monitor or TV.  This also gives you the advantage of being able to open other applications on your main display.  In my case, I open-up Pandora via a web browser on my main display and listen to music while riding with Zwift on my secondary display.

Use Wired Internet Access

This might not be an option for many since it’s unlikely that your Zwift rig is setup near your Internet router, but if possible, hard-wire your computer to your network instead of using Wifi.  Hard-wired access is always faster than Wifi and isn’t as subject to temporarily losing a signal.

Configure Your Computer for a High Performance Power Plan

If you’re using Windows, you can adjust the power plan settings so that your computer can use as much power as it needs to make the game run well.  I recommend starting with the “High Performance” power plan and modify it as you see fit.  Note that a high performance power plan typically assumes your computer is plugged-in to a power source, not running on batteries.  Here’s how to configure a power plan in Windows 10.

Ensure Zwift is Using the Right Graphics Adapter

Most laptops don’t have secondary graphics adapters, so this may not apply to you.  However, PCs and high-end laptops might have secondary graphics cards, like a NVidia adapter for example, to handle intense graphic needs.  Make sure that when Zwift runs, it is using the graphics card you want it to use, not which ever one Windows picks.  On my laptop, there is a NVidia application in the toolbar that has a link that states, “Customize which applications use the GPU.”  I have it set to always handle Zwift.

Configure Zwift for the Appropriate Screen Resolution

In the Zwift application settings, you can set the “Game Resolution” to 576p, 720p, or 1080p.   Don’t select a setting that is higher than your hardware can handle because that will just make your PC work harder for no benefit.  For example, I’m projecting Zwift onto an LG 720p TV.  I could set Zwift to display 1080p, but that won’t do any good because the TV won’t be able to display the increased resolution.

Ensure Your Comptuer Hardware is Up to the Task

If you’re projecting Zwift onto a new 4k TV and you’re expecting flawless performance, super high resolution graphics and high frames-per-second, your computer better be a pretty new, top spec high-end machine ($$$$) as well.  Don’t expect a 10 year old el-cheapo computer to be able to handle pumping-out hours of high resolution graphics without melting down.  (Note that Zwift won’t display at 4k yet, but you get the picture…)

Although I’m not sure of how much it will help Zwift, it doesn’t hurt to increase your laptop’s memory to as much as it can handle (or you can afford) and perhaps upgrade to a solid-state hard drive (SSD) instead of a standard hard drive.  SSD prices have come way down over the past few years and my experience is that they do boost performance significantly.

Ride on!

Source Control Explorer “Object reference not set to an instance of an object”

As a programmer, seeing the error message “Object reference not set to an instance of an object” is pretty common and pretty annoying.  What’s even more annoying is when you get that error when simply trying to get the latest source code from your Team Foundation Server within Visual Studio, as shown below.

Source Control Explorer Error

At least in my case, this error resulted from the primary hard drive on the TFS server being completely full.   TFS 2015 recommends at least 50 GB of free space be available on the drive where TFS is installed.

Microsoft TFS ActivityLog.AgentScope.xml Error

Over the last weekend, our TFS 2013 server decided to stop building projects for no apparent reason.   No one had changed any software on the TFS or build controller servers and the only evidence of a problem was the following message in the “Diagnostics” log file for each build:TFS Error MessageAfter spending hours searching for solutions to this problem and finding nothing, I finally figured-out the cause of the issue.   The primary hard drive on the TFS server (not the build agent) was completely full.   After sending a request to our infrastructure team to add more storage to the primary hard drive on the virtual server that hosts our TFS implementation, the builds started working again.

My Zwift Island Rig

My Wahoo Island Rig

When training indoors with the Zwift software, the main route is called “Zwift Island”.  As such, the term “Zwift Island Rig” has caught-on as a way to describe one’s setup for using Zwift.  Technophobes might may find using Zwift a bit of a challenge as it does involve considerable technical expertise to get it running smoothly.  My Zwift rig is hardly pretty to look at, but it works for now and is a work-in-process as I learn what works and what doesn’t.

It’s my opinion that the best Zwift setup is the one that involves the least amount of work to get it working.  If it takes a half an hour to get setup before each ride, that’s way too long and will be a discouragement to training.   The only part of my rig that requires setup is getting Zwift started on my laptop and then wirelessly projecting it to my TV.

I purchased a refurbished Wahoo Kickr with 10-speed cassette from Wahoo Fitness which brought the price down below $1k.  Since my custom-built Trek ION cyclocross (CX) bike has the Ultegra 10-speed components group, I opted to use it for my training bike.  I have a Shimano 105 11-speed cassette in case I want to put my road bike on the trainer, but my CX bike is configured for a more comfortable up-right riding position.   Since there is no wind resistance to worry about in indoors, riding up-right like a giant parachute won’t affect my training results.

CycleOps Sweat Catcher Bike Thong

My rig is setup in my basement where it is typically about 60° F all winter long.  Although that is a tad cool when I first start riding, it only takes a few minutes before I wish it was colder.  I have a cheap box fan nearby to keep cool and have it within an arm’s reach while reading to crank-it-up as I start to get hot.  The fan is also to my side to maximize the surface area the breeze cools on me versus having the fan straight in front of me.

I use the CycleOps Bike Thong Sweat Catcher to protect my bike from the corrosion caused by dripping sweat.  It has a nice pocket in the front for holding my TV remote and mobile phone.  Since my basement floor is concrete and I don’t really care what happens to it, I don’t have anything under my bike.  However, it’s recommend that some kind of mat be put on the bike if protecting the floor is of concern as sweat and chain oil can get on the floor.

Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor

My cyclocross bike doesn’t have a cycling computer or related sensors, so I opted to purchase the Wahoo RPM cadence sensor to provide cadence data to Zwift.  The sensor is attached to a strap on my right shoe as shown above as opposed to being strapped to my bike’s crank arm.

Without a cadence sensor, I found that Zwift would attempt to calculate my cadence, but typically calculated it to be much faster than it actually was.  This created issues when using Zwift in workout mode.  Zwift would cause the Kickr to apply a lot of resistance to maintain the workout’s desired wattage because it thought I was riding at approximately 95 RPM.  The reality was that I was pedaling much slower, likely around 65 RPM’s.   This became a big problem when I was running out of gears and my legs were getting tired.  I don’t like grinding my gears at low RPMs because I want to preserve what is left of my knees.

Lenovo ThinkPad W520 and Samsung Galaxy Tab4

Zwift requires a computer with a decent graphics card and considerable processing power.   Although my 2012 Lenovo ThinkPad W520 laptop is a bit dated as far as technology goes, it is capable of running Zwift without much problem.  Unlike lower priced laptops, it has a dedicated NVidia graphics card that is pretty much necessary for smooth Zwift operation.  I have the NVidia software configured to always run the Zwift application using the NVidia card and not the onboard Intel HD 3000 graphics card.   Running Zwift using the onboard Intel graphics caused Zwift to crash because the graphics processor couldn’t keep-up.

Unfortunately, I’m a Microsoft Windows 10 nerd living in a Apple/Android world.  Even though the main Zwift application runs on a Windows PC, their mobile application only runs on an Apple or Android device.  It’s not necessary to run the mobile application in order to use Zwift, however, the mobile application makes it easier to perform interactive tasks like giving other riders a “Ride On!” notification, taking turns in the course, and a host of other social features.

The Wahoo Kickr Fitness application is also only available on the Apple and Android platforms.  It is used for updating the Kickr’s firmware and for performing “spindown” calibration tests.  To ensure my Kickr doesn’t get too far out-of-whack over time, I opted to purchase a Samsung Galaxy Tab4 tablet to run both the Zwift and Wahoo mobile applications.  Because it’s considerably larger than a phone, it makes working with the Zwift and Wahoo mobile applications relatively easy when riding.

Suunto ANT+ Adapter

In order for the Zwift software to wirelessly detect the Wahoo Kickr and Wahoo RPM cadence sensor, I’m using the Suunto Movestick Ant+ Mini USB Adapter.  Aside from plugging the USB dongle into my laptop and letting Windows install a driver, there wasn’t anything else necessary to get it to work.

To project the Zwift application onto a larger screen, I use my laptop’s Intel WiDi wireless display capabilities to project to the Microsoft Wireless display adapter that is plugged into my LG television.   Although projecting to my TV is nice, I’m pretty sure I’d be just as content with riding on Zwift using just my laptop screen.   However, mounting my very heavy laptop in front of my bike at a location I could reach it would involve purchasing some kind of podium or the like.

My current rig works quite well as is, but there is always room for improvement.   Some thoughts on improvements include:

  • My television is mounted too high on the wall to be comfortably viewed for any length of time while riding.   (However, if I lower it for indoor riding, it’ll be too low for watching while doing other exercise in my basement.)
  • Although the box fan was a cheap cooling solution, it hardly moves any air.  I’ll likely look for a pedestal fan with a bit more horsepower in the future.
  • I ‘d like my tablet mounted on my bike’s handlebar so it’s easier to type group texts and interact with Zwift.
  • Using a large computer monitor and hard wiring it to the laptop instead wirelessly broadcasting to my TV might help speed-up the setup time.

If you have any questions about my Zwift rig or need some assistance in setting up your own, please leave a comment.

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