Sunday, July 31, 2005

Gibberish in a Parallel VFD

One of the problems I had getting my Media Centre PC all set up and happy was the VFD (Vacuum Flourescent Display). No matter what software I tried using I got garbage in the display after a few minutes.
The solution to the problem came to me from the author of the excellent FrontView utility (one I'd recommend for any MCE owner who want's to display useful information on what their machine is doing).

It wasn't software but RFI/EMI (Radio Frequency Interference / ElectroMagnetic Interference).

The solution was simple... a quick trip to the electronics store and a 13mm internal diameter clip-on EMI Suppression Ferrite Core later .... no more interference and a perfectly working display.

I hope the nice folks at SilverStoneTek who make my case either include the ferro or at least include the instructions to solve the problem (and give credit to Dave who, besides writing the excellent FrontView has helped more than a few with this problem)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Tiger... a service pack or a big step forward ?

After installing Tiger, downloading the first set of updates, rebooting, installing the second set of updates and then patching things like VirtualPC I was ready to start playing around with Tiger.

It's nice. Don't get me wrong, but I think Apple have possibly over-hyped this creation. There is nothing that's a real show-stopped to make this worthy of the 'new release' title for me.

It seems a little faster, hopefully more stable, and the new design cues are cool. Spotlight is an alright addition, but QuickSilver provided everything that Spotlight offers me at the moment. Dashboard is cute but not sure it's going to control my life. If I could access these concurrently like stickies on the desktop or on a Dock bar then they'd be more flexible. Maybe OSX 10.5 !

So iChat, H.264 etc ... are they any good ? Who knows ! I don't know anyone using iChat... they've almost all MSN users on a PC (and that product is an orphan on the Mac sadly. A much better integration choice than AOL would have been in my opinion).

Safari 2.0 is just like 1.2 but (and for me it's a big but) it does fix the problems with authentication. RSS is a nice added feature and seems to work a treat.

Not found anything that doesn't work yet, but I've also not found anything to make me think that it's really critical to put the $ down if you're happy with 10.3

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Tiger By The Tail ;)

Just because I'm using Windows as my primary environment again these days doesn't mean that my PowerBook has been relegated to book-end status. I got it a new present the other day... a Tiger upgrade.

The install is slick and drama free (and fairly quick) even on my machine with very little free space.

Then came the funny moment... 75MB of patches needed to get it all up-to-date. And those patches would require a reboot. And the 10.4 roll-up was .2 already !

Call me silly but isn't one of the selling points with OSX that it requires infrequent patching and never needs a rebbot ;)

Ah well. It's almost done and I'll be able to play with it soon (only 15 mins to go on the downloads, then it'll probably want a Repair Permissions and a small blood sacrifice !)

Friday, July 08, 2005

It's like a PVR, STB, DVD and MP3 player. All in one box !

I got myself a new toy to play with. A HTPC / Media PC setup (Windows XP Media Centre) to live in the living room and organise our viewing and listening.

The current specs are:

FoxConn / WinFast K8S755A-6EKRS
AMD 64 3000+
1GB (2x512MB DDR)
Pioneer R+/-W Dual Layer
WD 250GB 7200RPM IDE,2 x 300GB SATA plus external Maxtor 300GB. One of the SATA drives is in a 3.5" bay, the other is mounted in a 5.25" bay in a Zalman zm-2HC2 HDD Cooler (mainly to control vibration)
Legend 6600GT with HDTV / DVI / Composite Out Audio: Onboard 5.1
SilverStone LC03S-V with Samsung 16T202DA1E Parallel VFD (that's a Vacuum Flourescent Display. Nothing to do with the works of Lemony Snicket)
TwinHan Mini-Ter PCI HDTV x2
Onboard 10/100/1000 + Netgear 802.11g with antenna extension
WindowsXP Media Centre Edition 2005 plus Rollup#2
Remote Control:
Logitech Harmony 880
Utopia YF-1E Home Theatre setup
Currently replacing Altec Lansing VS3151R which had to go for repair (back now and in use on another machine).

So far, all the bits have come from the good folks at Crazy Computers at Harbourtown on the Gold Coast, with plenty of advice from the XP Media Centre forums.

It seems pretty stable so far... hopefully that'll improve over time with XP fixes and MCE rollups !

UPTIME: offbeatmammal-MCE -

P2P will eat itself

P2P seems like such a good way to distribute content - legal and licenced or ripped and stolen - but it suffers from it's very democratic nature.
There are simply too many competing systems, too many versions of the same file and too many unstable connections to make it a practical and reliable way to distribute anything.

Soluitions like BroadCast Machine (which still needs porting to IIS !) make it really simple to put content out there and seed it without any complicated setup or experience needed, but when it comes to finding content it's another matter.

Say I was looking for a copy of a public domain documentary. I know the name and I visit the various tracker sites and eventually find not one coherent source but half a dozen different trackers, all in different states of repair. Not one of them is guaranteed to be complete and although they may all be sourced from the same original there's no way I can tie them together to work as a team.

Sure, it's a great idea.... one file shared between thousands of peers.
But when you have thirty trackers each with a dozen different seeds and no way of consolidating them / recognising they are one and the same file that's being shared it's little better than 1:1 downloads, easpecially when over half the downloaders are just leeching and not sharing.

The record and movie industries are worried about P2P. I wonder if they just need to wait and watch the continued fragmentation make them unworkable, or at least stop them ever gaining the critial mass that the proponents claim will topple 'big media'.

What will work is in closed networks (such as the cable operators) where they can use the customers connection and always-on settop box to distribute ondemand content in a secure and controlled manner and know they're getting optimum use of the system.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Instant Messenging.... and Spaces

After using Jabber for a while, and communicating with my MSN using friends via Gaim I've admitted defeat and gone back to just using the MSN Messenger. Gaim simply wasn't reliable enough communicating with MSN.

After the simple, tabbed interface of Gaim (and Adium on my Mac) the rather cluttered, multiple windowed, advertising bloated affair that is MSN isn't that much of a treat - taking up far too much screen real-estate.

But it's reliable so it'll stay for a while.

I do like the integration of IM, Voice and Video, and connections to MSN Spaces although there's nothing compelling enough there to get me to move from Blogger - yet ! That said as the MSN reach extends to Media Centre and Mobile Phones it could start to become a more central part of the online world. I still like my open Flickr, and AudioScrobbler libraries though - until Spaces provides a nice open solution (ie with plug-ins for iTunes or Firefox etc as relevant) I'm wary about getting too tied in....