Posts Tagged ‘tech’


Posted: December 4, 2008 in Uncategorized

sarahahoyt ‘s new eeePC 1000 came in today, and it is very cool.  I’m now officially jealous.

I spent a couple hours setting it up, including internet (our wireless is encrypted and uses MAC filtering, so I have to find the MAC addresses first, then add them to the router, and then I can set up the internet!), proper household LAN setup, Star Office tweaks (the screen res is 1024×600 — already a bit short — and the default word processor has THREE lines of icons taking up real estate), etc.

I’ve read quite a few reviews claiming that the Xandros pre-installed wasn’t robust enough, but nearly all of them seemed to decide this after they decided to make the eeePC their primary PC.  For a writer’s travel laptop, I think Xandros is perfectly fine.  We’ll see what sarahahoyt  thinks as she uses it.

My only problem now is that I want one!


Wireless Woes

Posted: July 28, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Well, I got the new HTPC put together over the weekend — except for wireless.  It doesn’t like my D-Link DWL-G520 for some reason.  No problem with the old D-Link DWL-520+, but it doesn’t support WPA encryption, so I can’t connect to my network.  Fortunately, I have nice neighbors who let me use their connection, so I have internet access, but I don’t have access to my file server.

I shall have to research this more, but later.  Tomorrow Sarah goes to RWA in San Francisco, so it’ll be a busy time.

One more oddity: My Puppy Linux LiveCD takes forever to load into RAM.  We’re talking a number of minutes, rather than the 20-30 seconds on the 3GHz Celeron.  What’s up with that?

HTPC Parts have arrived!

Posted: July 25, 2008 in Uncategorized
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 All the parts to my new HTPC have arrived, and I’ll put it together this weekend.  

In the meantime, I managed to resurrect the failing computer after a couple hours of analysis and a replacement power supply I had lying around.  So I started thinking that maybe I’ll just keep it in service, so I don’t have to pollute the new HTPC with anything that’s not strictly business-related.  Easier for me; better for the IRS.

TV and PC Blues

Posted: July 22, 2008 in Uncategorized
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About 4-5 months ago, our 61″ rear projection TV — the cornerstone of my home theater setup — stopped working for no reason. I don’t know why.

About 10 days ago, my media desktop PC started turning itself off randomly until it wouldn’t turn on at all. I don’t know why.

What I do know is that I’d been talking with Sarah about upgrading the PC for about a month, and the TV for about a year (what with the impending death of analog over-the-air signals in February, 2009). The only thing I can figure is that the TV wanted to go out with some dignity before it was obsoleted b and the lowly Celeron decided a Core 2 Quad would spank it so much that it felt it had to commit suicide.

So, I’ve spent virtually all of my free time for the last 10 days researching replacements. In the end, I decided to combine my two goals of a Home Theater PC and a CA art/music CAD PC (you know, Poser for 3D, Photoshop for 2D, FL Studio for music, etc.). On its way is $800 of:

For the computer literate, I made some concessions to keep the price, noise and heat down, with components that still fit into the case, which is probably the best engineered HTPC case I’ve seen for cooling and acoustics.  C’est la vie.

For the less computer-literate, this is an audio-component-looking case that fits in my stereo rack with the DVD, VCR and tuner that’s connected to my Dolby surround sound speaker setup — only this case has a quad-core PC instead of a stereo. I already have the OS, a DVD burner and external ATSC tuners for digital over-the-air broadcasts that I’ll move into the new unit to complete the setup.

The only thing I’m missing is the monitor/TV, which I’ll order the next time it goes back on sale for $490 (I missed it overnight Sunday), which seems to be every other weekend:

We haven’t really missed the TV that much, and this monitor will not only work as a dandy desktop monitor for the music/art/CAD work, but also as a 1/4-size home theater screen, since the DVD can connect directly to it (and I still get full surround sound through my home theater setup).  I love dual-use.  Triple-use, actually, since we’ve moved exercise equipment into the old home theater room, and my intention was to be able to use the computer from a treadmill with a wireless KB/mouse.  I think that’s doable from 4′ away with a 28″.  We shall see.

Geeks, what do you think?  Bear in mind I’ve already ordered everything but the monitor, so I’m not looking for alternatives at this point.  Does it look like it’ll work, or am I in for disappointment?  (There’s no discrete video or audio cards — although I can put them in later for about $100 combined, if needed — because there’s no gaming going on, just HTPC and CAD, which are far more CPU-intensive than graphics-intensive.)   I’m actually pretty impressed with what I can build for this price.  (I spec’d out a lesser system for about $600, but I really liked the case, so I decided to go with the higher end components instead.)

Oh, yeah, and I gave away the TV in my first CraigsList transaction, saving me $60-70 ($30 to donate it for recycling and $20+gas+taxes, etc for a U-Haul to take it for recycling, since it wouldn’t fit in the Expedition) in the process.

Man’s Best Friend

Posted: July 8, 2008 in Uncategorized

…is a Puppy Linux.

I just created a LiveCD for my company with a standard Puppy 3.01 distro (there are technical reasons for not using the new 4.0 distro that I won’t go into unless someone asks) and a VPN client added. Why is this my new best friend? Travelers can boot with this CD and have an absolutely secure connection back to the office without infecting the office network with any malware that may be on their PCs.

The whole OS runs in all of 200MB memory, including the OpenOffice distro, which gives us read/write/edit capability for our Microsoft Office files from the office.  To be fair, the standard 95MB distro includes Word- and Excel-compatible editors already; I added the 105MB OpenOffice distro to enable PowerPoint compatibility for a more “standard” office software environment.  

The standard distro also includes a Remote Desktop Protocol client, which allows us to connect to our WinXP/Vista desktops, and a Virtual Network Computing client, which allows us to connect to our Unix servers and workstations.  I use these tools regularly for telecommuting.

All of this in a neat little Linux package that I can run on just about any x86 PC (or Mac) I’m likely to come across, running entirely in memory, that doesn’t have access to my XP file system (unless I want to mount it, which is easy as pie and gives me read/write access to XP’s NTFS disk — something many tiny Linux distros don’t do), easily connects to wired or wireless networks, and even has IM and email, not just a browser.  Oh, yeah, and I can even watch DVD movies, too, out of the box.

And to make things even sweeter, unlike most Linux LiveCDs, if you boot on a CD burner, you can save your settings and files back to the LiveCD.  Of course, if you’ve managed to hork up the system with malware, you wouldn’t want to save your settings when you shutdown — to be fair, you probably wouldn’t even want to do a normal shutdown, just a power off/on cycle, which then restores your OS to a nice, fresh, non-horked-up state in a matter of about a minute.

What isn’t included in this little 200MB CD (which, BTW, can be put on a flash drive and booted from that if your PC supports it)?  A bunch of games, which you really shouldn’t be running in a work environment, anyway.

If you’re a software professional that travels, think about what I’ve laid out for you here, then consider putting together a CD like I did.  You won’t regret it.  Puppy even includes an easy remastering program in the standard distro, which I used to make my very own company-branded CD, complete with logo’d backdrop and company-specific VPN configuration.  (Ask me how I did it, if you’d like to know.)

Guitars Abound

Posted: July 12, 2007 in Uncategorized
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A little while ago, I raved about Guitar Hero. But, see, I don’t own a game console, and I really don’t want to buy one just for Guitar Hero.

I did think about it seriously, though.

Then I found an open-source PC clone called Frets on Fire. There are others, but this one impressed me the most. So much that I felt the need to get myself a Red Octane wireless guitar and a PSX/USB adapter (which I then found on eBay for $5 less just after I ordered it — the seller seems to carry them regularly AND ships from the US instead of overseas). With these two devices (and the “joystick” driver for the adapter), I can play Frets on Fire with a guitar controller. Too cool. I’ve been waiting anxiously for them to arrive.

They both arrived today.


I don’t know how else to put it. My son and I have been playing with it for about two or three hours now, and my arms hurt, but … Wow!

I don’t think I’ll be worrying about that console any more. With Frets on Fire, I have access to zillions of free songs out there, and I don’t have to work my way up to a song I like (like Kansas’ Carry On Wayward Son) through a bunch of songs I’m not that fond of.

Now, if I could only get it on my 61″ TV….