Comp Day and New Toys!

Today I took one of my comp days for weekend work (DST patch and data center move) and I will take a second tomorrow- my last comp day will be next Friday (I hate long weeks).

On my day off, I worked on my roommate's and her business partner's 'Pearl' Blackberries- wow, almost like being at work! The new (replacement) unit for Jon was missing the contact behind the track ball; I took it on my own to fix it. DST patch, lastest firmware, etc.

First Toy:

After that, I went to Fry's and picked up a new microATX motherboard for my HTPC. The current board is a cheap-o ECS RC410L/800-M that I basically got for free when I bought a Pentium D925 (Dual core x 3.0Ghz) CPU, so I really cannot complain all that much about it. It did the job for Windows XP MCE 2005, but it would BSOD while trying to install Vista. The error code I received was an IDE error (Vista didn't like the ATI chipset) and I tried swapping HDs, DVD drives, cables, etc. A quick search on Google for "RC410L/800-M BSOD" indicates others are having similar issues; there are mentions of a hacked BIOS (last official update was 06/2006), but that sounds like more trouble...

I finally gave up decided to get a decent motherboard.

I picked the Abit Fatal1ty F-190HD; not because of hte 'Fatal1y' branding, but more for the fact that it has on-board HDMI (via another ATI chipset- that was kinda scary!). The only short-coming of this board is that it only has one old-school PCI slot and two 1x PCI-E slots; I guess this is the push to get me to abandon the ole' PCI slot...

Vista installed like a champ on the new motherboard (everything else was the same) and I didn't need to use my NVidia 6600 PCI-E card (don't laugh- I only bought it as it was cheap and it had a component output break-out box) as the on-board HDMI works great with my TV.

Vista wasn't too happy with the default video settings (under scanning) but the latest (and still buggy) ATI drivers/control center allowed me to create a custom resolution for the desktop. Ironically when I setup MCE with the old drivers, it allowed me to set 720p for its interface, and it looked great- since the ATI driver install it has a black box around almost every window.

I found a Vista Codec Pack that seems to work fairly well, so all of my XViD and DiVX files are playing fairly well. So I have migrated yet another system over to Vista.

Second Toy:

My Canon Speedlite 430EX flash came in today (for use with my Rebel XT camera); I popped it onto the hot shoe of my camera, and I am fairly impressed! I have taken several indoor pictures at night and it is hard to tell if it is a day or night shot! The pictures also look much more sharper as the flash has an auto-focus beam assist (also make it easier to take pictures in the dark as it throws a red cross pattern where it is focusing!).

I have a lot to learn about the flash before DragonCon! :o)

Additionally I picked up a 500GB Segate PATA drive (16MB cache, 5 year warranty) for $129 at Fry's- this will go into the DVR that I am getting next pay cycle (perhaps along with the 400GB I pulled from the prior MCE 2005 system).

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