Saturday, August 27, 2005

Another HTPC Update

I gave in and bought a standard def tuner card for my HTPC, the AverMedia M150. Media Center Edition requires an SD tuner card to enable TV features. I tried to avoid the expense, but it was totally worth it. MCE's TV features are amazing! I've used TiVo and this ranks right up there in terms of usability. I've got scheduled recording for some essential programming (Family Guy, American Dad). I'm excited to never miss an episode again!


On a coworkers recommendation, I downloaded and used XsdObjectGen from Microsoft's web site. I opened up the documentation and saw that one of the principal authors of the tool was Colin Cole. I worked with Colin on a project a not too long ago...shook his hand, had a beer with him even. I feel so special.

Lotus Notes

The best thing to ever happen to Lotus Notes. Thanks, Microsoft!

Outlook Connector for IBM Lotus Domino enables you to use Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2002 to access your e-mail messages, calendar, address book, and To Do (task) items on an IBM Lotus Domino Release 5.x or Release 6.x server.

The Rule of Mike

In any gathering of "tech people," there will be more guys named Mike than there will be total females.

(I read that in a slashdot comment a few months ago and it just popped into my brain, so I decided to share it.)


SyncToy is one of the best utilities I've ever used. I'm using it to make backups of critical files (OneNote files, some source that's not in source control, work documents, SharpReader settings to read from multiple computers and stay in sync) from my hard drive to my USB thumb drive. I plug in the drive, start the app, click a button, and a half dozen folder pairs sync automatically. And if I modify some of those files on the thumb drive from a different computer, SyncToy is smart enough to move changes back the other direction. Well done.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Upgradeable TV

My Philips 37PF7320A/37 display has a USB port. I figured you could use it to browse pictures or whatever--it didn't matter to me because I have a PC plugged into it. I finally took some time to tweak the picture (MCE includes some videos to help you find good adjustments) and read the manual. It turns out you can upgrade the Flash ROM of the TV. Sweet. Download it to a thumb drive and plug it in. I was two realeases out of date. Nice.

City Living

On Friday, I got my hair cut at a salon around the corner, maybe 200 feet away from my door. The timing was perfect. I stopped in on the way home from work to schedule an appointment and she said she could fit me in right then.

After the haircut, I dropped off my dry cleaning at the place right next to the salon. Another short walk.

Saturday was spent moving and playing with my Media Center and home theater. It's looking and working pretty sweet. My entire music library, time-shifted HDTV, divx movies...all driven by a remote control.

I walked to 2200 N Clark to Indian Grill (it has the same owner as Bombay in Champaign) and had some delicious saag paneer for dinner. They wouldn't let me substitute naan for rice, which caught me off guard. I really thought she was making a joke when she said no.

Saturday night when I decided that I needed a snack, I went to the Chipotle downstairs and got some chips and guacamole.

Today when I woke up, I walked out of my building, crossed the street kiddy-corner, went to the Starbucks right there and had myself a coffee.

For lunch, I walked halfway down the block and had a sandwich from Potbelly's on Lincoln. I love those peppers!

Early in the afternoon, I walked a half mile to the Dominick's on Sheffield and Fullerton. It's a cool store—it has two stories. Produce and deli stuff on the ground floor; cans, boxes and refrigerated items on the second floor. Elevators included. I got three bags worth of groceries and walked back home.

For dinner, I took a random walk, heading south down Lincoln, then looping back up Clark via Armitage. I found a gyro place and had way too many calories for dinner.

After eating, I decided to keep walking. I headed two blocks eastward to Lincoln Park Zoo. I think I may have been there when I was a kid, but I don't remember specifically. Anyway, it's really just a park, an extension of the sidewalk. There's no entrance, no gates, no turnstiles. The sidewalks on the street lead to the sidewalks in the zoo. So I took a walk through the zoo. It was a nice walk, though the little girl standing on a bench and screaming, "GIRAFFE! HEY, GIRAFFE!" was a temporary distraction.

On the way back home, I stopped on one of the other corners of the intersection I live on and grabbed a copy of The Onion. I took that to a pub and had a pint of Sierra Nevada.

This evening I registered for a Guitar 1 course at Old Town School of Music this fall. It should be fun!

City living sure is convenient and full of opportunity!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

HTPC Update

This past weekend I started building my HTPC. The parts spec out as follows:

  • Gigabyte GA-K8N Ultra SLI motherboard
    • NForce 4-based
    • Fanless
    • Dual gigabit Ethernet ports
    • 2xPCI Express 16X ports
    • Gobs of USB and Firewire ports
    • Coaxial digital audio in and out
    • Four SATA-150 ports, supports RAID
    • Four SATA-II ports, supports RAID
  • AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (Venice core)
  • 1 GB DDR RAM (2x512)
  • 2x160 GB Western Digital SATA-II in a 320 GB striped RAID-0 configuration
  • Sony DWQ28A 16X Double Layer (8.5GB) DVD+-RW
  • Gigabyte GV-NX66256DP GeForce 6600 256 MB video card with fanless heat sink
  • DViCO FusionHDTV 5 Gold Edition HDTV tuner card
  • Silverstone LC10M case, with built-in display (for track/artist info, for example) and IR receiver (for remote control)
  • Silverstone ST30NF fanless 300W power supply
  • Silverstone NT01 v2.0 fanless heat-pipe CPU heatsink (this thing is sexy, check it out)

Note the emphasis on fanless and quiet construction. This thing is barely audible. I've left the two rear case fans enabled, as the fins of the CPU heat sink butt up against them (did I mention that that heat sink is sexy?). Actually, the hard drives are probably the loudest part of the whole thing. The DVD drive is silent when playing a DVD movie, though it whirs when it really spins up (like when you're installing software). It'll be a nice quiet home theater component, sitting next to the receiver and the TV. I didn't want some loud-ass fans drowning out some quiet dialog during a movie.

There was a challenge when installing the RAID drivers while installing Windows. That whole F6 thing requires a floppy drive (why can't I burn the drivers to a CD?). Finding a working floppy disk took a few tries, as did pulling the drive out of another computer.

I can watch HDTV using the supplied software, time shifting and the whole deal. It comes in beautifully! The Windows Media Center Edition 2005 software will only work with HD if you also have a separate SD tuner installed. Lame! Double-lame, since the Fusion tunes both HD and SD in a single card. So I'll probably be using Media Portal, an open-source project to provide the same functionality. It sees the card as expected, though I still have to set up the channels and install XMLTV (for a program guide) to make it work (in other words, I need to RTFM). Plus it's written in .NET, so maybe I'll contribute in my "spare time."

Did you know that Windows Media Center Edition 2005 is really just XP Pro with an additional Media Center program? And here I thought it was something more.

The other challenge I'm facing is getting the IR receiver that's built into the case to work with remotes other than the one that came with it (say, for instance, the better-laid-out MCE remote that came with the Fusion). I think I read that the beta drivers will fix that, though I didn't get a chance to try.

If only I had more time to play with it! Maybe this coming weekend. Though most of my time will be devoted to moving then, so maybe the weekend after it. Once it gets to a steady-state though, and I'm able to do everything from a remote control, this thing's going to be suh-weet!

Edit:I bought a standard-def tuner.