New Software

I was listening to the Security Now podcast and there were some interesting pieces of software that were discussed:

SpinRite: This program makes a bootable CD or floppy that can be used for crashed hard drive recovery- even when the disk is not accessible to Windows...

I am not even sure how this works as the drive will simply click and freeze Windows until it is unplugged.  The software does a low-level scan and re-scans sectors with errors to recover data one bit at a time.

Diana's Mom had the hard drive in her laptop crash and I had given up on it: I replaced the PCB board with one from an identical drive, I tried several different IDE-to-USB adaptors and I even put the drive in the freezer for a few days in an attempt to recover data.  This program ran for about an hour and found several bad sectors- it was able to recover all but one; and that did not appear to be a critical sector as I was now able to recover all of her pictures and documents!

Perfect Disk: a very thorough disk defragment program- this will even defragment system and swap files.  It is hard to see a big difference on a 10K rpm Raptor drive, so I cannot say if this is a 'must have' program- but it does look pretty cool!

xBox 360 Pro w/ HDMI - WTF?

I had pre-ordered Halo 3 before I sold my xBox 360 (with the intention of buying a 360 Elite) so I decided to purchase a xBox 360 Pro as they now include the HDMI port (one of my primary reason for wanting to upgrade to the elite).

I went to Fry's last night and purchased the last premium and set it up to play a bit before I had to go in for some sever work (12:00am - 4:34am); problems:

1. The new system sounded like a fan was dying (my prior system was VERY quiet- maybe I should have kept it?)

2. I could not update from xBox Live update; I kept getting 'you must update' - 'update failed' flip-flop messages.  (This turned out to be me needing to open some ports on my router)

3. The HDMI output is so close to the normal A/V port that both cannot be used at the same time- so to use the L+R or fiber-optic audio out put from the xBox 360 I cannot plug in the HDMI cable:



It appears the design of my later complaint is so Microsoft can sell me an A/V adaptor and HDMI cable for $50;


I returned the 360 this morning.

I am now contemplating if I want to get an xBox 360 Elite which includes this $50 cable + an upgraded 120GB hard drive (pro had a 20GB) or wait until the 'holiday bundle' is out...


Apple TV Final Verdict

This morning I was finally able to access SMB shares and test the Apple TV for HD capacity; it choked on 720P MKV files and could not even load 1080i MKV files...  A little research showed the CPU in the unit is a Pentium M 1GHz and the unit packs 256MB of DDR2 RAM... Some people are saying this is fine for 500MB MKV files (I am assuming VERY lot bit rate movies?) but a 4GB - 8GB file (the size of most 120min 720p movies) just won't go...

However, during the process I learned a bit more UNIX:

pax -r -z -f Archive.pax.gz

sudo mount -uw /
sudo touch /.readwrite
sudo sync


sudo rm /.readwrite
sudo sync
sudo mount -ur /
chmod +x /sbin/turbo_kext_enabler.bin
sudo /sbin/turbo_kext_enabler.bin
sudo kextload /System/Library/Extensions/smbfs.kext

sudo cp -R /Users/frontrow/Downloads/os/System/Library/Extensions/smbfs.kext /System/Library/Extensions/smbfs.kext
sudo cp /Users/frontrow/Downloads/os/sbin/mount_smbfs /sbin/mount_smbfs
sudo chmod -R 755 /System/Library/Extensions/smbfs.kext
sudo chmod +x /sbin/mount_smbfs
sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Extensions/smbfs.kext
sudo chown root:wheel /sbin/mount_smbfs
mkdir /Users/frontrow/Movies/movies
mkdir /Users/frontrow/Movies/videos
mkdir /Users/frontrow/Movies/hd
mkdir /Users/frontrow/Movies/extracts
sudo mount_smbfs "//user:password@" /Users/frontrow/Movies/movies
sudo mount_smbfs "//user:password192.168.10.106/videos" /Users/frontrow/Movies/movies
sudo mount_smbfs "//user:password@" /Users/frontrow/Movies/hd
sudo mount_smbfs "//user:password@" /Users/frontrow/Movies/extracts

sudo mount -uw /
cd /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app/Contents/PlugIns
cd AwkwardTV.frappliance/Contents/Resources
sudo chown root:wheel SetupHelper
sudo chmod 4555 SetupHelper
cd ~
sudo mount -ur /

sudo mount -uw /
sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app/Contents/PlugIns/nitoTV.frappliance/
sudo chmod u+s /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app/Contents/PlugIns/nitoTV.frappliance/Contents/Resources/nitoHelper


The Apple TV is great, but if it cannot play my 720p movies then it is not any more useful than my xBox running XMBC.  The Apple TV is a great appliance, but it seems to be designed for an 'average Joe' consumer that will not be pushing the unit to its limits- and I doubt that Apple will ever sell 720p high-bit rate HD movies on iTunes until the next generation of Apple TVs... 

I guess I will return the Apple TV to Fry's tonight and pickup an xBox 360 (to play the copy of Halo 3 I picked up today).  I heard rumor it already has H.264 support and Microsoft is going to add XviD and DiVX support with the next update (or I can use TVersity to convert the files on the fly to WMV).

iPod Touch Return

on a side note...

When I returned my iPod Touch and got my iPhone, I was told the screen was 'in specifications' so I would be charged a restocking fee; I am guessing there is a much lower specification rating on the iPod Touch screen than the iPhone screen as I can actually watch 'The Matrix' on my iPhone and not go insane...

I am seeing more and more complaints on screen for the iPod touch on the web and that issues will 'be remedied' by Apple- I am very happy with my new iPhone (with only 8GB); all I want is my $40 back for the restocking fee I was charged on my iPod Touch!

(of course I could just call my credit card company and tell them that the device was defective and I want to dispute the charges).


iTunes - Windows Media Sync : MusicBridge

I would have killed for a program like MusicBridge a week ago. 

I have about 3,800 MP3s and I give each one a rating (1 to 5 stars) to indicate how much I want to hear the song again. From this, I can create playlists in iTunes to synchronize to my iPod and iPhone (very useful with the 8GB storage on the iPhone).  There is a similar feature in Windows Media Player (at least in v11) that also allows me to rank a song- the difference between iTunes and Windows Media is that the later will store the rating in the appropriate ID3 tag entry in the actual MP3; apple seems to put this storage in a proprietary iTunes.itl file (and back the data up in itunes.xml)- which is pretty useless if I want to move to a new computer and install a clean copy of iTunes! (well, there are some hacks- as mentioned earlier in my postings).

I heard about MusicBridge on the Windows Weekly Podcast - and this is exactly what I have been looking for (at least for the last several Windows XP/Vista rebuilds/re-installs!)

Apple TV

Another device and I will be an Apple fanboy...

I picked up an Apple TV (the 40GB one) as I had a rewiring session last night (until about 2am).  I have narrowed my audio/video system down to:

  1. TV
  2. Sony Reciver
  3. DVD Player
  4. Comcast Cable Box
  5. xBox (running XBMC)

All the above work great- save I do not have a way to play my HD content located on my server.  I have been attempting (in vain) to get a working copy of LinuxMCE working- but I have been thwarted at every attempt (HMDI frequency out of range after reboot, ATI video not supported, etc). 

I did a little research on the Apple TV and found that it is pretty hackable (good sites are http://www.awkwardtv.org/ and http://www.appletvhacks.net/) and it supports 720p/1080i via HDMI or component output.  By design it only supports media that can be streamed/synched from a system running iTunes- but underneath it iall s essentially a fairly decent computer with a BSD operating system.

Out of the box, the Apple TV is fucking incredible: I may sound like a simpleton when I rave about the photo screen saver, but once you see dozens of your pictures scrolling by in layers and then doing a 180 degree spin you will see what I mean- Wow... Just, wow...  The interface is clean and very intuitive; and everything works as it should.  While listening to music the album art flips around every 30 seconds or so (to prevent plasma TV burn-in?) before the screen saver takes over.  It plays my video podcasts on my TV- nice!


The first trick is modifying the Apple TV (without actually opening it up) is finding a product called 'Patchstick' (check a bittorrent search sites).  This is an IMG file that can be copied to a USB drive (512MB or larger) that holds a bootable OS; its sole purpose is to enable SSH on the Apple TV. 

This part was actually a little difficult as I had to learn the 'dd' command:

dd if=patchstick.img of=/dev/sdb1 bs=1m

Now if this was all I had to do then it would be wonderful- but the instructions were written for the OS X environment and changing '1m' to '1M' doesn't seem to work in Ubuntu.  After three failed attempts, I downloaded the windows version of dd and created the patchstick with no further issues.

I inserted the (built in Windows and verified in Ubuntu) USB drive in the Apple TV rebooted it while holding down the 'menu' and '-' keys on the remote -to force the Apple TV to boot from USB (I held it for a full 5 minutes before giving up- and then it started to boot from the USB drive!).  It run, throws a few errors (normal) and I was told to reboot.  This enables SSH (and SCP).


After SSH was up and running, I connected via Putty and then transferred a program called NitoTV over via WinSCP.  NitoTV is a customized version of MPlayer that integrates into the AppleTV menu (as another menu item called nitoTV).  There is an automated installer, but I couldn't get it to work (probably Execute was off or it needed to run as root), so I did a CAT of the ./installme file and did a manual install:

-bash-2.05b$ pwd

-bash-2.05b$ sudo /Users/frontrow/Downloads/nitoTV/installme
sudo: /Users/frontrow/Downloads/nitoTV/installme: command not found

-bash-2.05b$ sudo mount -uw /

-bash-2.05b$ installer -pkg nitoTV.pkg -target /

installer: Package name is nitoTV 0.2.5b8
installer: Installing onto volume mounted at /.
installer: The install was successful.
installer: The install requires restarting now.

-bash-2.05b$ sudo mount -ur /

-bash-2.05b$ sudo reboot


There is also an application autoloader that simplifies other processes- and I still need to setup SMBFS on the Apple TV to be able to access my SMB shares...


iPhone Upgrade

I was tired of waiting for hacks for the iPod touch (a week is too long to wait!) so I returned it and purchased an iPhone- basically the same as the iPod but with 1/2 the storage and a it requires a 2 year AT&T service contract (if you don't know what you are doing). 

I picked up the iPhone this morning and I spent a little while researching and trying out different ways of 'activating' and unlocking it.  For those that are unfamiliar with the iPhone, when you take it out of the box it is basically a brick; your only options are 'activate' or 'make emergency call'.  You cannot get the iPod functions until you sign up for a 2 year contract with AT&T (starting at $60!) after connecting it to iTunes.  I already have two phones (work and personal) and there is no way I was going to sign up for another phone service (which works out to $1,440 + taxes/FCC shit over two years for the cheapest plan!)

A few things need to be done to activate your iPhone to allow you to sync with iTunes (to copy your music/videos/podcasts over).   You an also choose to unlock the phone to allow you to use another GSM carrier's SIM (or an AT&T SIM without the Apple plan).   I found a great tutorial on the iPhone Dev Wiki and on http://iphone.unlock.no/.  I also found this a two part video on YouTube:

How to Unlock Your iPhone Part 1:

How to Unlock Your iPhone Part 2:


To accompany the above you will need the complete unlock package download.   Later you can browse through the list of PXL files applications/games that you might want to install on your iPhone.

My experiences with the phone ulocking were very different; I was using iTunes (the latest/greatest for use with the iPod Touch) and apparently (and without  mention) you cannot use this version with iBrickr.  What I did was run the Independence Day hack (after searching for an old copy of iTunes, followed by iBrickr, then the AnySIM hack; this all seemed to work (with errors and issues)- but  I noticed there no sound from the iPhone speaker after the last AnySIM application.  I did a restore (via iTunes) and re-applied Independence Day and iBrickr- and it appears the AnySIM hack worked (and was not reverted by the restore!)

One good thing about these hacks is that it is hard to kill an iPod/iPhone; if the firmware is corrupted, you can put the device in recovery mode (by pressing power + menu on the iPhone) for about 3 seconds and plug it into iTunes.  iTunes will detect the recover mode and walk you through downloading the appropriate firmware and run a restore on the unit.

Overall I am VERY impressed with the iPhone- much more than I thought I would be (the hype around its release was a turn-off for me; but the $200 drop made me actually consider it).  It gives me email, web browsing, google maps, you tube, a 2MP camera, WiFi/EDGE connectivity, audio/video playback and PDA functions (calendar, contacts, notes) all in one small package; if can get blackberry messages on this I could retire my other phones!

The iPhone is the ultimate gadget phone- defiantly not for everyone- but if you are the kind of person (or just a big nerd like myself) that likes to snap pictures with your phone and have them automatically upload to Flickr, or if you like to have Google maps, weather and stock quotes and YouTube videos a touch away then this is defiantly something you will want!

One thing would make this the perfect phone (in my opinion): Get the Bluetooth stack working like it should be for a device of this type!  I want A2DP/AVRCP for my headphones, GPS support, and wireless sync.  My icombi AP21 provides the first option for now (albeit it makes the ipod about an inch longer) so I can wait and hope for a while... :o)


iPod Touch Woes

Ok, I have had the touch for a few days now and it's 'magic' has worn off.  This is a product that was definitely rushed to market as there are some issues; such as:

  • Omission of physical volume up/down buttons; this is on-screen when playing music in portrait mode, but turning the unit on its side (to coverflow mode) eliminates the volume control- meaning I need to turn the iPod touch vertical, change the volume, and then return to horizontal position if want to listen and watch coverflow (as we all know the iPod/iTunes 'Sound Check' does NOTHING!)
  • WiFi does some strange things if left on and the unit screen is turned off- it appears to aggressively search for sites- draining the battery in about 3 hours (with screen off!)
  • Some messages (such as the failed unlock screen) still say 'Your iPhone is locked' instead of 'Your iPod is locked'- indication a rush to market and lack of end-user testing before release.
  • Image quality; the blacks are washed- like a cheap LCD TV- and this affects video and image viewing. Here are a few comparison shots:

ipod_touch_comare2 ipod_touch_comare1

(iPod Touch screen above, original JPG below)
Note: this is not to show image detail as the screen is only 640x480 (and iTunes does an image resize before loading it on the iPod) but is to show the issues with darker color contrasts on the iPod Touch; this is much more eminent in darker movies (such as the Matrix).  images from iPod Touch were taken with a DSLR camera with 1/13s exposure at f5.6; they are not perfect, but they are a good representation of what the iTouch screen looks like in real life. *Above images are copyright of DigialBlasphemy.com

Other Issues with the iPod Touch (by design of Apple- not production issues):

  • No Bluetooth (why no A2DP Apple???)
  • No eMail Program
  • Cannot add entries to the Calendar (but I can add a contact?)
  • No Camera (well- this was hoping for way too much)

I think most of the above were make the iPod Touch drastically inferior to the iPhone so sales will continue for the later device; If the unit had Bluetooth I might be able to pair to another carrier's phone and use it for Internet access- also allowing (possibly) VOIP clients (via bluetooth headset), GPS navigation (via Bluetooth paired GPS) and Bluetooth car integration (all of these will require the iPod Touch to be 'unjailed' to allow 3rd part programs to be installed, of course).

I see no reason for the omission of eMail client on the iPod Touch; it has a web browser that lets me go to GMail- why not include a POP3 client that lets me keep the message local for offline use?  (I am guessing that AT&T had this a stipulation for the release).

From the message boards, this does not look pretty for Apple; the iPod Touch sales are going to be hurting for the above reasons- many people will wait until the next version, or until this version is 'fixed'.  If the later occurs, all of the early adopters (myself included) will be demanding a replacement/repair of their unit.


Moving an iTunes Library

Ok, it has been a pain trying to re-build my iTunes library since I re-formatted my computer (I had a sound card driver issue and it was about time to do a clean re-install anyway): I have my music located on a network drive (\\servername\mp3s\) but iTunes will not allow me to store a library on a network drive (wake up Apple- people have home networks and it is a lot easier to backup stuff on a server!)... the work-around for this is to map a network drive (like M:) and use that as the music library base.

Works great on one PC.  But if I want to trick my iPod into synchronizing to two PCs it gets more difficult. 

I setup my home PC and setup the songs on M: (mapped to \\servername\mp3s).  I coped all of the files + folders to a portable hard drive and took them to work.  I also copied the iTunes.itl and the iTunes.xml file from the iTunes configuration directory to the hard drive.

At work I copied them to C:\MP3s and did a SUBST command to make windows see M:\ as a similar path structure:


In theory, the above should work like a NET USE command, just pointing to the local drive instead of a network location.  I copied the iTunes.itl and iTunes.xml files over and Shazam! My iTunes at work thought it was my iTunes at home.  I did an iPod Sync and I thought I was good to go... 

I edited a few of my song ratings at work so I deicded to copy the iTunes.xml and .itl back to my hard disk for re-integration at home.

At home I copied the files back over to my PC and my synchronicity came to a halt; iTunes could not longer find my music!  I took a look at my iTunes.xml file and all files were being re-directed to c:\MP3s instead of M:\!

I did a find-and-replace in the XML, saved the file and stared up iTunes; no luck- iTunes was still looking to C:\MP3s for everything...

<pointlessly scream at computer>

A little research finds that the XML is just a backup of the ITL file- only used when the ITL is damaged for rebuilding. One web site indicates that making the ITL file 0 bytes and modifying the XML file will cause a rebuild on restart of iTunes (make sure iTunes is off as it updates the ITL when it closes!). 


So now iTunes is happy again- for the moment...

I wish iTunes would embed the ratings in the ID3 tag for ratings- that would eliminate 90% of my need to do this sort of modifications to the iTunes library (it takes a long time to manually update 3800+ songs!)


LinuxMCE Progress

I have been having fun with the LinuxMCE installation on a motherboard with ATI chipset with an embedded Radeon X1250 video- but I did manage to get HD output (via on-board HDMI to my TV):


I found a 'how-to' guide that walked me through installing the video drivers (basically downloading a package form a 'restricted' repository); How-ever, once I started to install MCE it all went to hell and I am back to square 1.

I also tried a GeForce 6200GS PCI-E card (component output) and it seemed to work for a start- but after the first reboot the video was out-of-range and neither my TV or my AV receiver can handle it (the port is actually 'looped' on my receiver).

<sigh> Where is a beta for XBMC on Linux?


iPod Touch Issues...

Hmmm- I guess this is the price I pay for being an early adopter...

I have been having problems synching my new iPod Touch with iTunes v7.4.1.2- a sync begins but it never ends; iTunes stops transferring music and sits there with 'Syncing Broo2' (the name of my iPod Touch).

But this in itself was really not an issue- the problem is there appears to be something running on the ipod during the sync and this continues to run and use up my battery- and kill WiFi! 

I did the 'slide to cancel' sync before I undocked the iPod to stop the sync process as gracefully as possible; I noticed it was warm- probably from charging the battery?  I slid it into my pocket and went about my business.  I took the iPod out a few times at Fry's to see if there was a WiFi connection so I could check for reviews on items- hmmm, no WiFi signal at all?

I stopped and looked at a HP laptop on dislplay; enabled wireless and found there were a few wireless connections (including 'Fry's Belkin'- which had the default admin password and no WAN connection- now renamed to 'Fry's Dead Router')- but nothing on the iPod.

I left and went to MicroCenter.  I looked at a few things and tried again to get a signal; nothing in the store.  I started to think that the back of the unit appears to be the antenna and maybe it is very directional so I gave up (I did not want to hold it up like a camera phone so as to not draw attention to my new toy).

When I left Microcenter I looked at it again; the battery level was now in the red; What the Hell?  I haven't played any music or videos- and this thing has been on for maybe 10 minutes during the day.  I also took note that this thing had been warm for the entire day- warmer than human body temperature.

I shut the unit down and rebooted it- and got a message that batter was less than 20% (in about 4 hours since I took it off the charger)- but now I could find several WiFi connections.  I also noted that since it rebooted (took about a minute the metal was now cool to the touch).

I have verified that iTunes is the current version- and did a repair install; looks like the same issue.  My last sync started at 2am and was canceled at about 11:00am (7 hours sounds like to long to sync 9GB of data).  I will have to do a restore on the unit and see if it fixes my issue...

Another Note: iTunes apparently sends unit crash reports back to Apple- I know this as I have sent at least 3 crash reports back to Apple since it's purchase yesterday. 

But it is still pretty fun!  :o)  

Post from iPod

This post was written entirely from my new iPod touch... Lets just say that there are some browser issues with Safari.  the hacks for the iPhone (iBrickr for Windows and Jailbreak for OS ax)  do not yet work on the iPod touch (I am looking forward to eMail and NES when this has  been resolved!)

<note: edited as Safari on the iPod does not appear to play nice with the forms on Blogger>


Got me a iPod Touch!!!

There were some post on Engadget that some Apple stores are quietly getting shipments of the new iPod Touch models- so I decided to check with the Lenox store in Atlanta, GA- and I was able to purchase a 16GB unit! :)

I will have to say the Apple Store checkout is pretty cool; the sales guy asked me credit or cash- when I said 'credit' he scanned the iPod with a PDA and swiped my credit card in the back. I then signed the screen and he inquired if I wanted a paper or email receipt or both. I opted for both and I had an an email on my Treo before he picked up the hard receipt from the printer. 'Thank you sir, have a great day' and I was out...

Out of the box the unit had a full battery- and a screen indicating that I needed to connect the iPod to a USB cable and iTunes- so I couldn't play with the unit during lunch. I had to update to the latest iTunes for my laptop to recognize the iPod Touch.

The WiFi appears to work pretty well, but it is definitely directional: if I lay it flat on a table in the conference room I have no connection- however if I pick it up the signal goes up to 50%; back on the table drops the connection again.

It appears that the screen is plastic (instead of glass as with the iPhones), pretty glare prone and a fingerprint magnet- but it has a good interface and is smooth with video pictures. It also allows basic photo editing for contacts (although there appears to be a bug- I must save the contact with photo and then go back and edit it again to zoom/crop). The browser is VERY fast for such a small device (but I cannot scroll the main page of Google Reader).

Personally my biggest let down is that there is no direct download settings for PodCasts (at least yet); a search of the iTunes store for 'podcasts' returns song for $.99- TWiT returns nothing. I also heard rumor of being able to directly download podcasts subscriptions to the iPod- no go (until someone gets into the interface and makes some homebrew programs).

A few hack sites are popping ups: ipodtouchhacks.com and hacktheipodtouch.com are the first two that seem notable- the later has instructions on using the jailbreak exploit (from the iPhone) to unlock the iPod- but this is all designed to be run from a Mac...

Hopefully there will be an exploit that allows the rumored inactive Bluetooh module to be activated- and used for A2DP!

On the early-adopters-for-profit side, it looks like the 16GB iPod Touch is going for $425 - $475 on eBay...



A fairly routine day; I went out to Frys... And MicroCenter (Duluth)... And the other MicroCenter (Marietta)... and Circuit City... and HH Greggs... However I only spent a total of about $30 (two $10 802.11G PCMCIA NICs and some 'N' sized batteries for my LED flashlights)- plus two stops at Taco Bell...

Damn Taco Bell- they have a new Cheesy Beefy Melt- this in conjunction with the Grande Chicken Quesadilla has continued to detract me from my diet strategy (it was a short hiatus for DragonCon- but that was a week ago)...  <shakes fist menacingly in the air at Taco Bell>

I have been playing with Trillian a bit- there are some nice plugins for the pro version (only $25); most notably a GMail notifier plugin, a winamp plugin, a spellcheck, and a 'now playing' plugin (changes away to currently playing song); there is also a live messenger plugin that I will need to try when I get back to work...

Speaking of which- I cannot believe I have already been on vacation for 15 days! Only one more day and then it is back to the 10 to 7 schedule... (But I am off again for the week of Thanksgiving). 


New iPod Touch

All I can do at the moment is drool...

I think I may forego the trip to Fry's this week consider a pre-order for one of the new 16GB iPod Touch units:

iPod Touch

...but at $399 for a 16GB unit I may change my mind before then!  :o)

Old Devices and New Gadgets

I have (yet again) become entirely fed up with XP MCE/Vista MCE- they are just too crash prone and too restrictive (Codec-wise); I have updated XBMC on my xBox (classic) and I am using it for all of my video and audio entertainment... 

XBMC is an open-source program (save for the MS xBox SDK libraries required to compile it) and it is uninhibited by concerns from the MPAA/RIAA/etc; so it plays pretty much anything I throw at it (DivX, XViD, MOV, VOB, ISO, BIN, etc) and rarely bitches or crashes.  It can connect to SMB shares, media servers, iTunes, ReplayTV and more.  This is what a media center player SHOULD do!

The only things lacking in the xBox are the inability to play 720p/1080i HD media (a 733Mhz Celeron CPU cannot handle it) and the lack of TV recording (which can be accomplished off-system by Windows MCE or Linux MythTV).

I was even looking at the Xtreme xBox (upgraded to 1.4Ghz CPU, 128MB of RAM), but $579 is a LOT of money for an EOL product- and it looks like it still cannot handle H.264 format (the format that most of my HD movies are in). The XBMC team is working on a Linux port of XBMC (maybe called LMC?), so maybe I can just go this route in 6-12 months! :o)

I made two new purchases over my vacation; one completely new gadget and a revisit of an older item:

Linksys NAS 200 Network Attached Storage

The new item is a Linksys NAS200 network storage device; it was only $150 and it can accommodate two internal SATA drives and two USB attached drives.  The unit is pretty small and easy to setup; the user management and disk allocation are handled via a web server running on the device.

Make no note that this thing is SLOW- but once files are transferred to it, it seems to work flawlessly.  I think the main limiting factor of the device is the CPU speed; if I am copying MP3s to one internal disk and playing a video from the other disk, the web interface is as slow as accessing YouTube over dial-up.  The next limiting factor is that the NIC is only 100Mbps! (this and my game consoles are the only thing running at this speed). 

On the plus side, it has some very interesting features- like a built-in media server that can be accessed from the xBox, xBox 360, Windows XP, and the MediaStreaming application for the Maemo platform (more on this in the next gadget).  It also has a built-in download agent; If I enter a URL of a file (such as the Ubuntu ISO image) and select a destination and it will download to one of the disks in the NAS.  I can also enter download credentials if needed (login/password) and it will download independent of the rest of my computers...

Nokia 770 Tablet PC

I picked up a used Nokia 770 from eBay and I have been having fun with it; it is a small Linux based tablet PC with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth; there are nice GPS apps (over Bluetooth), VoIP clients, and the normal GAIM, MAME, NES emulator, VNC, remote desktop client, etc.  Once I updated the software repositories I found a lot of useful apps; to make these changes you either need to manually type them in or you need to gain root access (by installing a small SSH server on the device) and 'sudo su -' with the default password of 'rootme' (and change the password once you have modified some other settings)

I found a hacked version of tablet PC 2007 firmware (the one in the newer Nokia 800) that has been modified to work with the 770- but this has a few bugs (video playback, Bluetooth issue) so I am back to the original 2006 version of the OS.

As mentioned above, there is a Media Streamer that lets me play audio/video from a server (or NAS) on my network; pretty nice.  There are also versions of Doom, Bejeweled and Tetris.

One weird 'feature' of the 770 is that it uses a 'MMC Mobile' (MMCM) card for expansion (looks like a MMC card that is only 1/2 as long).  This is different from the newer mini-SD and micro-SD cards, and apparently only goes up to 2GB in size (it also appears that only Nokia phones use this card!).  I will need to get one of these once I figure out how to get Bluetooth A2DP working...



I decided to hook my xBox (classic) back up and see how it works with XBMC on my TV; it looks pretty good (I cannot wait until they release the Linux version that will support 720p+ HD video!).

I finally was able to watch Zeitgeist (it can be watched on the web via Google video, but who wants to watch their TV monitor for 2 hours?) as there were some Codec problems with Vista MCE; All I can say is wow... 

Some of the stuff I have known about- The Federal Reserve System, symbolisms in religion, 9/11 speculation, and such- but this movie paints a very bizarre story; one that could be a very well-written conspiracy theory or one that could have some roots in truth.

I think I may buy a few DVDs from the site and give them to some friends so they can make their own decisions...

Dragon*Con 2007

This DC was a little different than the prior years; I was not as excited as I have been in the past- perhaps I am just bored in seeing so many stormtroopers/elves/demons as they all look about the same after so many years.  Perhaps it was the dynamic growth in attendance- and the 40 minute+ wait in line for a panel.

I left Sunday afternoon with the intention of getting a few hours sleep and heading back to the Cruxshadows concert- I ended up deciding I would rather stay at home and sort MP3s/FLAC files...  Today I do not feel like driving down for 6 hours of wandering around with no photo opportunities...

I have been doing a lot of inner reflection and there are things about myself that I need to examine...


Dragon*Con 2007 Photos

I am starting the upload of my DC2007 photos to Flickr before I head off for the day (Diana's birthday and Day 3 of DC2007!); most of the past two day's photos should be done by tonight (and then I start uploading the ones from today).

Tonight is the Cruxshadows concert- at 12:00am; I am just getting way to old for this stuff!  :o)