If it didn't hurt, I bet at least it sounded pretty bad...

Full Circle

I am back to using Vista as my Media Center PC...

Windows XP MCE 2005 was running Ok, but there was the occasional random error that popped up (under the display so I didn't see it until I was shutting down) and some random failures to play videos. Sunday I was showing a friend and I was unable to play any of my HD (in H.264 MKV format) videos. I tried to fix it and I got to the point where nothing would display on my TV save for the cursor. I installed VNC to try to remedy this (assuming it was out of range/frequency) and everything looked fine- I could even move the cursor on the TV while viewing everything else in VNC- very strange...

I formatted and installed Vista Premium from a Dell OEM CD I have (I will need to activate within 30 days or it will shut down). The 1st install was going Ok- until I updated the motherboard BIOS (Abit Fatal!ty F-I90 HD) and everything wend BSOD- Note: always update the BIOS BEFORE installing the OS (when possible). I did another format and re-installed Vista...

Another note: configure the MCE environment screen resolution AFTER you install the final video driver! I set the MCE to 1080i with the default driver (from Microsoft) and I had an unaccessible environment once I installed the Catalyst v7.4 drivers- I had to unplug the HDMI and access the system via VGA (which reset it back to 1024x800) to get back into the MCE area. The new Catalyst driver does allow custom HD (overscan/underscan) resolutions.

After an install of the most recent Vista Codec Package, everything seems to be working smoothly (even the TV- which was a deal-killer for the last install). Why is this one better? Not sure; maybe better MPEG2 decoders or (perhaps) the MCE environment doesn't run very well in 1080i (I am in a custom 720p at the moment.)



All I can say is whiskey tango..


New Gaming System

For those of you that haven't heard, windows Vista SUCKS for gaming. I hear rumor that Direct-X 9 games have issue running under Direct-X 10. I encountered playability issues while trying to play Spellforce 2 under Vista on an Athlon X2 5200+ with an ATI Radeon x1900GT; after bumping the resolution down several steps and dropping almost all of the visual effects I was still getting video stutter from most on-screen activity. Age of Empires III has similar issues. However, World of Warcraft had no problems at all!

I tried the same games on a much less powerful system (an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ with a Radeon 9600) that was running XP and they all ran smooth as glass (with some of the settings turned down a bit). The Athlon 64 X2 3800+ was now my 'gaming' PC so I upgraed the video card to an eVGA 7960GT KO - but I also wanted a smaller case, so yesterday I went to Fry's to see what they had...

It was Friday and it was their one-day 'anniversary' sale- I ended up getting a new motherboard/CPU combo for $150 (Athlon 64 X2 5600+ CPU with an ECS GeForce6100SM-M motherboard). I also got the Silverstone SG01-Evolution case and an Antec SmartPower 2.0 350 power supply ($40 with a $40 MIR- I couldn't resist!).

I built it out last night and I was very unhappy with the noise level generated by the fans. The case is very tight on space, so the power supply is literally 3/4" above the stock CPU fan; placing my hand in-between the two reduced the airflow even further and the CPU fan would rev up to 4000+ rpm (and increase the noise db by a bit!). The stock VGA cooler on my eVGA 7950GT KO was also very notable (I have been meaning to change this since I bought it).

Today I went to the 'other' Fry's and bought a Zalman CNPS8000 (for the CPU), a Thermaltake ND1 (for the VGA) and some Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste; the now system generates much less noise (VGA is still a little noticeable, but it is a direct molex connection; I need to figure out a fan speed reducer) and the CPU is several degrees cooler.

I also picked up a Sony DRU-120C DVD burner (on sale for $40- a far cry from the $500 I paid in 2003 for my DRU-510A!) and a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA II 750GB hard drive to round out the system (the only thing I am re-using from my prior system is he memory!)

Finally to complete the system, I moved my Matrix Orbital MX6 display over to the new system; it looks sharp and runs great! (I will be spending most of tomorrow configuring the SpeedFan/FRAPS/Custom messages under LCDC)

The only problem I had during the build was it would freeze on post after detecting the CPU. I fiddled with the RAM and IDE/SATA connections and nothing seemed to help. It turned out my KVM swich (which acts as a USB 2.0 hub and presents my USB mouse/keyboard) was freezing the system. A BIOS update gave a partial fix for the issue (the system would boot, but mouse response was erratic) so I ended up adding in a PCI USB card- the KVM switch now works great!

I am weird- this is the kind of stuff that I WANT to do over the weekend!


My Music Awakening...

I think I have determined when I actually started listening to music and remembering what was played (memorizing the lyrics)- 1983...

Duran Duran - Hungry Like the Wolf
Toto - Africa
Styx - Mr. Roboto
Culture Club - Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come One Eileen
David Bowie - Let's Dance
Thomas Dolby - She Blinded Me with Science
Prince - 1999
Toni Basil - Mickey
Men Without Hats - Safety Dance
Men at Work - Down Under
Michael Jackson - Beat It
Thompson Twins - Love on Your Side

God, I love UseNET!



Slipstreaming XP- the new way...

(New way... what's this talk about a new way?)

I heard about a program called 'nLite' on DL.TV; it is a slipstream/automation program that lets me take a copy of XP and integrate service packs and hotfixes onto a bootable setup CD. In addition, I can set options for things I use (ex: show hidden folders, disable 'auto hide' for system tray) and add in applications that I always use (Firefox, AVG, DVDShrink, and lots of others).

While looking for a good list of service packs, I cam across RyanVM's XP Post SP2 updates- which also includes detailed instructions for use with nLite.

usually rebuild my systems about every 3 months, and these pages combined will save me a few hours for each build! :o)


Orb.com updates

Orb Networks has updated their software to 2.0 and added in a lot of extras- such as TV tuner and webcam support. I cannot get over how it is free and it allows me to access all of my media from anywhere (except my blackberry as it does not support any of the offered streaming formats- windows media, real audio or 3Gp).

I took today as a PTO from work; I had to talk to an electrician about running a cable to our TV downstairs. Turns out he will do the same thing that I would- just drop a cable down the chimney and not use the fireplace! We could not run the cable today due to time constraints and the flue being filled with bricks and crap...

I need to look into setting up a distribution center for our HD systems- it will come in handy if we decide to do a whole house audio/video distribution system. Problem is that I may need 2 component and 2 HDMI to each TV- unless I just do everything via component and port the input devices through a AV switch... I definitely need to do some more research! :o)

I have a feeling that I will finally get everything just the way I want it and then it will be time to move... (in another 2 years or so). I am already imagining the massive cabling that I will be doing there!

RG6-Quad x 5
CAT5 x 5
Speaker Wires
Fiber-optic? (I have a few 100' SC-SC cables that I need to use up!)

The above would be per-room! (and some rooms will x2)