Archive for February, 2008

My latest home techie project is building a Media Portal computer for the home theater setup. I love my digital media but it’s not always great to watch TV shows & movies on the computer. Burning the shows/movies to DVD and watching it on the main home theater works well but carries the small hassle of burning everything first.

Having a Media Portal will let me have all my movies, tv shows, music and some other goodies directly integrated with my home theater setup. Now that I have Eva’s old computer freed up, I’m configuring it to be a central media portal. It will be connected to my network and connected to the home theater receiver and controlled via the Harmony 880 remote.

Here are some quick specs:
P3-1000 CPU
Microsoft compatible media center infrared receiver
Windows XP
Media Portal software

The initial testing thus far has been great. The Harmony 880 works really well with the Media Portal software making the whole experience so much better. The only problem has been finding a reliable hard drive to go live with. Out of the four drives I’ve been testing, three have all failed. Fortunately one drive will be good enough. I got my IR receiver from eBay yesterday and it was a snap to get working. I picked up some nice long 25 foot audio/video cables this morning from cBit.

Once this drive passes the tests, I’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll!

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Today is my last day off before returning to the grind of a working man’s life. Despite not doing anything major, the last two weeks has been a nice break to relax and enjoy my own time for a change. So let’s see…some of the things I did over holidays – in no particular order:

  • Bought an iMac. Unfortunately it’s for Eva but I can still be jealous.
  • Installed a new kitchen light. Sure it took me 8 months to finally do but it is done.
  • Had Dim Sum for the first time. Hey that looks good, what is it? Chicken feet? I’ll pass! Good stuff otherwise.
  • Played with Ubuntu a little. Pretty cool & more eye candy than Windows Vista. Still would rather have an iMac.
  • Cooked quite a bit. Pretty nice to take my time in the kitchen, buy some fresh stuff and actually have dinner ready for 5:30 instead of starting it at 5:30.
  • Started building a networked media center from Eva’s old PC. Just need some cables and an IR receiver now.
  • Spent time with Eva, my dad and Carol and Roman too.
  • Bought tons of crap at Costco.  Can’t wait to take my new flashlights camping.
  • Played lots of Guitar Hero III.
  • Played live poker a couple times and even turned a profit!
  • Ummm other stuff I can’t think of.

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A Wordpress theme homage to the classic Mac.

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Day 2 with the iMac and in brief, I am VERY impressed by it! I can’t really find anything to complain about. Top to bottom, this is how a home computer should be. It is small (relatively speaking that because the whole computer is built-in to the LCD display), it is stylish from both a physical and software perspective, it is easy to use and it actually works in a friendly way. Everything that Windows Vista has managed to screw-up works great on the iMac. The 3D-accelerated desktop on the Mac is fantastic to look at – Windows Vista is well…crap. The gadgets in the iMac are un-intrusive, stylish & functional – Windows Vista is well…crap. The iMac comes with application & multimedia software (mail, iphoto, itunes, etc) which all integrate together. Windows Vista comes with…crap.

Never thought I’d say it, but Macs really have out-done Windows PCs these days. Sure Microsoft has near-total dominance in the market but the great thing about computers is that they are obsolete so fast. If Microsoft doesn’t get it’s ‘crap’ together soon, I think more and more people will be switching to Macs when the time for an upgrade comes around – Eva certainly did.

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For almost two hours, we are the proud owners of a new Intel Core-Duo 2.4Ghz, 3G RAM, 320G HD, 20″ iMac.

The initial setup was easy and the system updates ran without a problem.  Took a while but first thing I like to do on any computer is update it.

E-mail was a little tricky to get going since I’m setting up the Mac to connect to my Exchange server.  Found out that IMAP4 wasn’t enabled on my Exchange server to just right-clicked the service, started it and Mac Mail magically worked.  That makes the migration all that much easier.

Now on to moving FireFox bookmarks from the PC to the Mac.  This is fun ;)

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I wish I could say holidays were more exciting but they are actually quite nice and relaxing.  No work to worry about, just time to relax.  It’s actually a little hard to believe that tomorrow is already Friday and then I still have another week off!

So let’s see here…  Been doing a lot of shopping with Eva.  Costco now has summer stuff in stock (wierd, eh?) and Eva finally got herself a pair of zippy pants for camping.  If you don’t know what zippy pants are then you don’t have any friends that go camping and shop at Costco.  Zippy pants rule!

We went to Mongo’s for dinner a couple nights ago with my dad and Carol.  That was nice and filling and they are still very happy after the Paris trip.

Eva and I went for a Dim Sum lunch at Kum Koon Garden this afternoon.  It was our first time going for Dim Sum and aside from this being our first time, it was pretty good.  Fortunately Eva stopped me before I got an order of chicken feet thinking it was something else.

Guitar Hero 3 on medium is still quite the challenge.  I’m getting better but the guitar battle against Satan is really kicking my butt.  On the bright side, my hammer-on and pull-off techniques are improving.  Very fun game, I can see why it is such a huge hit.

If things go as planned, Eva should get her new Mac tomorrow.  Never did I think the day would come when a Mac would be part of the household.  It has brought back some fond memories of my first Apple computer though.  A very classic Apple ][e.  Now that was a real computer back in the day.  Completely obsolete by today’s standards but still the first computer I had to program on, word process and play games.  Ahh the games were so…well…bad but still for the time and my age, they were fantastic.

Almost the weekend and with this weekend, another week off – yay!

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Today being my first actual holiday day started off with a surprise.  The surprise being pretty much ever computer nerd’s worst nightmare – my computer would not turn on!!!  This was certainly a first, I just couldn’t get the thing working.  I figured it was one of three problems, either my on switch wore out (very rare been seen it happen once), my motherboard died (somewhat rare but happens) or the power supply died (fairly common).  I tried by-passing the on-switch by jumpering the power switch on the motherboard with no luck.  So either the motherboard is toast or it’s the power supply.  Not having any extra parts to test with, I took the `puter to CBit which fortunately wasn’t very busy on a Monday morning.  I didn’t have to wait long and the tech was very knowledgeable and testing the power supply right away and found it to be a bit flakey.  He tested another power supply on it and then ti worked just fine.  At least the motherboard was OK.  So $125+tax later, I’m on my way home with a new power supply.  I try to install it at home and notice that none of the screw holes line up which I think is odd since this should be a standard form factor.  So back to CBit….  The tech takes ones look at it and I realize my error…. I had tried to install the power supply upside-down.  So bad home and less than half an hour later, everything is fixed and running fine.  Geesh, would you believe they let me work on computer servers for a living?

Aside from that, I made eggs benedict for the first time yesterday and they turned out very nicely!  It’s nice to have my dad and Carol back in town too after their two weeks in Paris.

Eva and I went out for a nice lunch to celebrate our holidays and it’s a good thing we saved room for desert because I had the smart idea of going to Baked Expectations after.  Mmmm Mmm Mm damn, the caramel pecan cheesecake I had was sooo good and Eva’s Tira Misu cake was equally delicious!  We went around the Osbourne area a bit and just shopped around.

Even with the busy day, I still fit in some Guitar Hero.  Awesome game, too bad I suck at medium skill.  Practice, Practice, Practice…

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Phew, finally taking a couple weeks off from work after going through a pretty crazy multi-month schedule for the iSeries upgrade.

So far for holidays:
* I’ve rocked out on Guitar Hero 3 for Wii.  GH3 is awesome.  Eva brought it back from Toronto for me.  Isn’t she nice to me?
* Had the sushi buffet at Miso last night and damn was it ever good.  The place was busy too.  I wonder if they see me walking in and cower in fear of my sushi appetite.
* Enforced some tougher anti-spam rules in Exchange at home.  Spam sucks.

Much more to come….

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