DSL Fixed

Ok, I guess I owe BellSouth an apology.  My DSL was working great and suddenly- BAM!  I was down to 1/2 my normal speed; it must have been something they did as nothing changed on my side...

After tracing and re-tracing my cables it appears that the fault was in my wiring.  Actually not in MY wiring, but the wiring made up my the company that put in the phone override for our alarm system.  I traced the phone line (I have another CAT5 dedicated entirely to DSL) and one of the connections to my DSL CPL box was such a bad connection that it snapped off when I touched it.

It has been two years since the alarm company did this install; it is my guess that the cold weather made something contract (perhaps the plywood it is mounted to?) and made the connection bad enough to cause the issues I was seeing.

After a modem and router reboot I am back up to a full 6Mbps- woo hoo!

Memor32 Updates

I grew tired of waiting for Team Memento to release their 1.3 firmware so I went and purchased a used PS2 from GameStop for $80.  It is 'fatty' PS2 that is model #SCPH-30001 R (a v5 or v6 motherboard- I will need to open the case to verify).

I purchased the PS2 as I found out I can run programs on bootup from the Memor32 cartridge by holding down R1/R2/L1/L2; this runs programs on the cartridge from /BOOT/BOOT.ELF or BOOT1.ELF/BOOT2.ELF/BOOT3.ELF.  Any ELF File can be renamed and run on startup- such as a nice selection of files from ExploitStation.

I tried USBeXtreme loader but it not see my USB Drive; I tried HDLoader and and HDADVance, but these only work with the 'fat' PS2s with the internal HD slot (via use of network adaptor add-on).  I decided to go back to the old faithful system and get a fat PS2...

I installed a 160GB Seagate drive and HDLoader 0.8b booted up and was able to format the drive.  I tried copying a game from DVD and it took about 15minutes for a 1GB game.  I removed the drive and connected it to my PC via a USB-IDE adaptor and ran Winhiip to copy three ISO images over to the HD- this took about 6 minutes to copy 8GB of data.  With help of the HD Loader game comparability list I was able to get all three games to work with no problems.

The Memor32 still works as a (4x) PS2 memory card so I am pretty much done.  If I want to boot to a normal game I just do not hold down a button  while rebooting the PS2; if I want to take this to another PS2 I just need the HD and the Memor32 card!


Weekend Issues

So my DSL is screwed up and we had snow- one good and one bad event...

I noticed on Wednesday that my DSL was going at about 1/2 speed that it normally was- about 3Mbps instead of 6Mbps.  I also noticed that if I rebooted the router it was taking several minutes to re-sync and get back online. 

I called BellSouth on Friday from work- bad mistake; they can only trouble-shoot if you are at the residence.  Basically they have you connect to speed.fastaccess.com and see what results you get- if you have a bad connection they cycle the sync, get you to reboot your modem and do a little song and dance.  None of this helped so they scheduled a technician to come out and take a look at it- on the next morning between 8am and 12am (!!!). 

The technician arrived and checked my line with a little DSL computer; he verified that I was having some kind of issues and he was going to check the box and may have to escalate to the line support group.  I gave him my cell phone and didn't hear back from him (he did a test call to my cell phone to put the number in his phone, but I never saw a missed call- I think he mistyped my number!)

Currently I have only about 2Mbps - 2.5Mbps connectivity and I am really hoping that they will get this resolved on Monday.  I am kind of betting that someone else in the neighborhood ordered DSL this week and my connection was 'bumped' while installing the other circuit (this happened a few years ago but at that time I had a total loss of sync). If this is the case then it is way too easy for a minimum wage technician to make a mistake and not realize that there is an issue with another customer (my early rant- I will retract if it is something else)

Another reason that I may not have heard back from the tech is that it started snowing about 30 minutes after he left my house.  The snow lasted for about 4-5 hours in central Atlanta, but some areas had more than I did.

For this reason (and the fact that wind chills were expected to be in the single digits) the weekend maintenance (Sunday 1am - 7am) that I was scheduled for was canceled (yay!).   So everything can be taken from perspective; the snow was bad as it may have kept everyone home and ruined the weekend, but it was good as it saved my weekend.

I was way to tired to go on on Sunday- I had been up until 5am on Saturday (and back up again at 9:00am when the technician arrived) playing Warhammer Dawn of War : The Dark Crusade (Awesome game!)  I was playing a warez copy, but I picked up a platinum edition today with the original dawn of war/dark crusade/winter assault at BestBuy for $30 today (with my new room fridge).

What Do You Do with 1500 Hard Drives?

Play Dominoes!

Dominos With 1500 Hard Drives - Watch more free videos


The Downfall of HD DVD

Ok, I am a HD DVD supporter, but this is just too funny to not post...

Memor32 for PS2

I purchased a Memor32 PS2 memory card from Modchip.ca; What is a Memor32 and why did I pay $70 for a PS2 memory card?  The basic Memor32 is a 32MB PS2 memory card (4x larger than a normal 9MB PS2 card) that has a mini-USB port on it.  This port allows USB connection to a PC (after downloading the appropriate drivers) and with the Memor32 savegame manager you can transfer save games to and from your computer (for archival storage or using other users save games). This feature is pretty cool. 

But wait- there's more! By downloading a firmware update from the Mememto Team you can play backup games on your PS2- without opening the case to install a modchip! (Detailed instructions for the firmware installation can be found on the Memento guides web page).  After the firmware update is installed the PS2 is essentially 'modded' to play non-original games (one catch, the disk images must be patched to run- detailed instructions on this is also in the Memento guides).  Even better is that the firmware works on all PS2 (so they claim) from v3 (Original 'fat' PS2) to v16 (PS2 Slim) and the card may be used on multiple PS2 systems (one at a time, unless you have multiple Memor32 cards).  Removing the card removed the patch so the PS2 warranty is not voided.

The current v1.2e firmware seems to work pretty Ok; I ripped my copy of Shadow of the Colossus with ImgBurn, patched it and burned it back a DVD-R (note; the current version works only with DVD-R media- DVD+R does not appear to work).  I put the disk in, booted the PS2 (with patched Memor32 card inserted) and I greeted my a 'Mememto' screen instead of the standard Sony screen.  A few moments later Shadow of the Colossus booted and I played through the first two levels before getting bored (ADD kicked in). 

I also tried patching Star Trek: Encounters and Galdius that I downloaded from one of the binary newsgroups and I had less success; Star Trek would boot and show most of the intro and freeze before the game started.  The later game boots and seems to play Ok, but I did have a game freeze during the load of the 5th training level.  It is possible this is do to corruption in the images I downloaded or it is also possible that my PS2 doesn't like my DVD-R media (Imation 16x DVD-R burned at 4x).

A promised v1.3 firmware promises the ability to run games from hard drive (internal for old PS2s ore USB for new PS2s) but is is also said to currently support HDAdvance/HDLoader on the old PS2s.  There are complaints about the PS2 reading a disk image over USB1.1 speed, but PS2 disks can be installed to the HD via a PC (at USB 2.0 speed) with WinHIIP software.

I am not 100% sure how this actually works, but a Memento patched game will appear as a DVD video to the PS2 browser if it is inserted without the Memento card; I am guessing when the PS2 tries to play the DVD video it looks for settings on the memory card- and from there there is an exploit that allows the Memento software to run and play a backup PS2 game?

Note: I will have to say something about Modchip.ca- they have great turn-around on orders.  I placed an order on Saturday and selected overnight FedEx.  My order was processed on Sunday and went out Monday morning- so I received it by 10:00am on Tuesday.  I was supplied with email information during order and processing to indicate the status and tracking information of my order.  Great job guys!

It did appear that I had a used Memor32 as there were six save games on it when it arrived (some Resident Evil 4 level 1 and some other random games), but it is also possible that this is how the card is tested before shipping- perhaps they just forgot to erase the test saves?


HD DVD Comes Back Swinging - Lowers Prices

The HD DVD group came back from CES with price cuts:

Toshiba formally announced new prices on the third-generation of players:

  • HD-A3 at $149.99
  • HD-A30 at $199.99
  • HD-A35 at $299.99

Consumer sales this holiday season have proven that the consumer awareness of the HD DVD format has been elevated and pricing is the most critical determinant in consumers’ purchase decision of the next generation HD DVD technology. The value HD DVD provides to the consumer simply cannot be ignored.

Meanwhile, Sony raises its lowest priced BluRay player back up to $399 (from $299 for the holidays)- possibly feeling that they have won and they can charge what-ever they want and the consumers will eagerly pay...

There is also a good HD DVD sale at Amazon; lots of titles for $14.99 (a half-decent price for a movie)

I am starting to fell that almost all of this is pointless; both formats are doomed to the fate of the LaserDisc.  There are not enough people in the world that actually care HD moves are four times the resolution of standard DVDs to spend $20 - $30 on an old-ass movie. 

The potential audience is pretty small- all the people that have HDTVs and use them for actually watching HD content (outside of live sports) -especially when compared to the 194,000,000 DVD players worldwide at the end of 2006.

Many people will still sit on the sidelines and wait for one format to completely win- which will not be the case until all studios go one way or the other...

A Naked Chumby

The Chumby is marketed as a 'hackable device'- but I guess this only applies to the software as it appears to have been purposely made not easy to open.

To disassemble a Chumby, you need to pull the vinyl off the surrounds the screen.  It is glued (with some sort of plastic or rubber cement) so it probably will not be an entirely 'clean' opening (click on any image for a link to my Flickr pages for a much larger version for more details).


After the screen section is removed, disconnect the 26 wire ribbon cable from the back of the screen (it is keyed, so it will only go back together one way).  Remove the cotton stuffing from the top and the bean-bag material from the bottom of the case to allow access to the speaker/rear panel assembly.

The ribbon cable suggests that one can mount the screen somewhere away from the main body (say in a nightstand?).  The fault with this is idea is that the 'bend switch' is located in the other part of the device- so it must be accessible to get to menu features.


The speaker assembly is held in by four tiny (#00, I believe) Phillips screws.  Two of these are visible at the bottom edge of the speaker assembly; the other two are about 1 1/4" above the others but they are hidden behind the wiring plugs for the speakers and power.  (Note: The speaker and power plugs are identical- so if you remove these please be very sure you put them back in the same place!).  The speakers assembly will come out easily after the screws are removed.

The speaker connection, power plug and 9v power cable are all detachable, so they can easily be extended to another location if desired (i.e. 12V input for a car mount)


The rear panel is held on by double-stick tape (and the four screws that were removed in the above step).

Here are some pictures of the full Chumby assembly minus the case:

There is a sub-board that is sandwiched above the main PCB via two long Philips screws and some plastic stand-offs.

The sub-board is the 'WiFi Riser board'.  It is connected via a short USB cable and is home to a Xterasys 3135G 802.11g USB Wifi adapter (minus the blue plastic case).  There is a bright blue LED on the WiFi adaptor that indicates it is powered on.  The thermal putty on the adapter seems to serve two purposes; heat dissipation and to maintain space between the WiFi adaptor and the main board.

I am not sure why they opted for an entire sub-board instead of using a short USB extender as this appears to be the sole function of the sub-board.  The connecting cable is USB-A plug to USB-A plug and the board is USB-A receptacle to USB-A receptacle; a short USB extension cable would have accomplished this...



The main board sits behind the LCD.  It has two ribbon cables on the bottom; one (larger) one for the LCD display and another (smaller) one for the touch-screen.   On this side of the board sits the 64MB Flash RAM chip (Hynix HY27US08121M) and two USB Transceiver chips (Sipex SP5301C).

Note the 'with love -bunnie' inking on the top left of the board.  :o)


Releasing the ribbon cables allows access to the underside of the main board.  The board can now flip up- held in place by the copper tape on the other side of the board. On this side we find the CPU (Freescale Semiconductor MC94MX21DVKN3), two 32MB RAM chips (Hynix HY57V561620CTP-H). the touchscreen controller/DAC (Ti TSC2100) and another USB Transceiver chip (Sipex SP5301C). 

There is some more thermal putty on this board- covering most of the CPU and part of the memory modules- that also acts as a spacer/insulator between the mainboard and the back of the LCD screen.  Removing the thermal putty also removed most of the identification markings on the memory and CPU chips.


Re-assembly notes:

The 'bend switch' is a microswitch with a piece of metal extended up to the top of the Chumby.  It takes a bit of experimenting to get the cotton re-packed in the unit so the switch is not accidentally activated by the vinyl case (i.e. don't re-glue the screen to the case until you have verified the switch is not 'stuck').


Blu-Ray Player Profiles

"In order to allay confusion, the BDA has adopted special labels that will be placed on Blu-ray movies. Those with a "Bonus View" sticker will require Profile 1.1 players, while those with "BD Live" will require Profile 2.0."

HD DVD may be having trouble (due to the Warner announcement), but I think Blu-Ray will have some rather large issues when consumers start figuring this out...



My Chumby Review

I received my Chumby yesterday; It was shipped UPS Expedited from Shenzhen, China to my office and it took about 7 days between placing the order to receiving.  Not too bad considering I ordered it on New Year's eve (not sure if they did processing on New Years day). 

What is a Chumby?

A Chumby is basically an alarm clock with a 3.5" touch screen and wireless network connectivity.  It has a 350Mhz ARM processor, 64MB of RAM, 64MB of ROM, two USB ports and stereo speakers on the back of the unit.  In essence it is a pocket PC in a different form factor- but running Linux instead of Windows Mobile.

The real benefit of the device is that it is open-source software and people are encouraged to develop applications (widgets) for the device.  At present there are close to 200 widgets available for the device (and this is still in pre-release status), ranging from games to photo galleries to ebay/facebook/netflix status windows.

My purchase was as an alarm clock that will allow me to play a specific MP3 and not take up a lot of space on my night stand.  In addition it will double as a digital photo frame.

Anyone considering spending $100 on dedicated photo frame should definitely consider the Chumby as an alternative- but just be warned that the system software is still in development and it will require some technical knowledge to setup (like how to use Flickr).

Chumby Opening:

My Chumby arrived in an average looking box.


From Scenzhen, China to Atlanta, GA- it arrived intact.

Contents of the box; the Chumby is protected in a foam bag and secured with an official chumby seal

The actual Chumby is contained inside a burlap sack

Furthermore, the sack contains two additional sacs and a Chumby guide.  The sub-sacks contain the power adaptor and some 'Chumby Charms'

The packaging is fairly interesting, but kind of wasteful- I have no idea what I will ever do with these sacks or the charms; perhaps I will hide them away in the attic in case I decide that I want to resell the Chumby one day. 

Physical Appearance:

I ordered the black Chumby, but it is also available in latte and pearl.  It is a fairly simple device: A 3.5" touch-screen on the front and two USB ports, a headphone jack, a power plug and power switch on the back. 


Front of the Chumby (protective cover still adhered)


Front of the Chumby (protective cover removed and screen semi-cleaned)


Rear of the Chumby


Bottom of the Chumby


My Chumby in it's new home on my nightstand.

There is a single button atop the Chumby (beneath the leather material); this appears to be a rocker switch of some kind that give an tactile click when pressed.  There is a silver button on the side of the unit; as far as I can tell the sole purpose of this is to allow a place to attach the Chumby charms for decoration.

On the back of the device there are two speaker outlets and there are microphone holes next to the screen on the front (I have not found anything that uses the mic as of yet- this must be for developers to play with).

The USB ports can be used to connect a USB memory stick, an iPod or other devices (as developers work up software for this).  Connecting an iPod will allow the user to play music

The bottom of the Chumby has a Velcro opening with a 9 volt power plug; I assumed this was for a battery back-up for the clock and settings.  However there is a warning tag on the battery terminals:


Visiting the specified page further indicates that a battery is not currently supported and may be used for future features.  It also goes on to state that using a battery may void the warranty.  It sounds like they are concerned that people will try to use a battery to make the Chumby portable and the system cannot be supported by a 9V battery (which is further re-enforced by the 12v power adaptor included in the package).

Chumby Setup:

When the Chumby is first fired up it goes through a boot-up sequence and setup wizard (and a introduction video which I promptly skipped).  During setup it has a network wizard for wireless setup that supports WEP, WPA, WPA2 setup, allows you to give your Chumby a name and goes through activation (accomplished through online and interaction with the device to associate it with an account you create on the Chumby web site.

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory and is detailed in the setup manual, so I will not go into detail on this:


You must active the Chumby and setup and online account to create 'Channels' for the device.  The channels are groups of widgets that play in the order specified on by the way they are arranged on the website.  May widgets also have various options, including 'time displayed' for each item.  Some also request zip code/city information (for weather reports) or have you add the widget as a trusted device to Flickr or Picassa web album accounts.  The Netflix widget uses the RSS feed from Netflix and there are specific (Engadget, Digg, Gizmodo) RSS feeds as well as a generic RSS reader widget.

The button atop the device activates the contol panel:

The main screen allows scrolling through widgets; selecting one and clicking the screen representation or the 'hide control panel' returns to the widget- the top button does not return to the widget.
The mute button mutes the sound (obviously). 
The channel button goes to the channel sub-menu to allow selection of different channels.
Night dims the screen and displays a clock only
Music opens up a music player if you have an iPod connected via USB cable.
Settings opens up the settings menu.
Clock allows date/time and alarm settings
Stay keeps the current widget from cycling
Send forwards a widget to a friend's Chumby
Rate allows you to rate the widget with one to five stars
Delete removes the widget from the channel (you can only add widgets on the web site)

The channel screen allows you to select which channel is playing on Chumby.  The 'i' button gives info on the channel and the 'refresh' button refreshes changes that have been made to channels online (This happens automatically on regular intervals as well)

The clock setting allows Internet NTP time sync and allows you to setup two alarms.  One note on the Chumby Tricks page explains how to over ride the alarm sounds by placing 'alarm1.mp3' and 'alarm2.mp3' files on a USB drive installed in the unit.

An iPod attached to the USB port will allow you to play music form the iPod play lists.  The sound is surprisingly good for such small speakers.  (The beta version of the control panel offers many more options for music- this is reviewed later in this post)

Settings give info on the Chumby, allow you to change volume (note- this is a terrible place for this as there are no physical volume buttons on the deivice), change screen brightness (two settings only- 100% and night mode), setup network connections or re-calibrate the touch screen.



There are a ton of widgets that are available for the device, with more being added each day.  As you add widgets to a Channel you are given a preview before adding and allowed to enter specific settings for your region, account, etc.





The volume controls (outside of the music player) are only accessible through control panel -> settings -> volume; this is a pain-in-the-ass if you are watching youtbue and you need to increase/decrease the volume:


Brightness has two settings; Full and low.  The full is pretty bright but the low is a 'night mode' that can only be seen with all lights in the room turned off.  This should be a slide-bar setting to allow different levels:


As I stated before, the Chumby is a pre-release product at this time and these may change before the final release.  There is already a beta version of the control panel that has drastically enhanced the functionality (with custom alarm settings, music streaming options and many other welcome features).

The Chumby is a unique device that will appeal to the person that likes gadgets.  It is also an interesting gift that can be pre-activated and configured for a loved one that can constantly be evolving (there is an email photo to Chumby widget that is fairly popular) based on changes that you make to a channel.  It is still a diamond in the rough but has the potential to be an indispensable device if configured with the proper info (weather and traffic reports in the morning, changing to a digital photo frame during the day and then to a RSS reader or youtube player for bedside entertainment while winding down).   $180 is a little steep for some and others may find it a bit complicated with creating an account and having to manage some of the features through the web site- but the device has an great footprint size for a bedside alarm clock and lots of features that will keep expanding as the community grows (I am looking forward to Google Maps with local traffic myself). 

In a later post I will review some of the improvements already brought forth in the latest beta version of the Chumby control panel.

I also have managed to disassemble my Chumby and taken some pictures that I will post in another blog post.


nVidia 9800GX2

The 'next gen' nVidia card (9800GX2) is two G92 GPUs in a single package running in SLI.



It is basically an SLI of the current 8800GT/GTS512 cards (G92 GPUs, 512MB ea) on two PCBs mounted to a single PCIe 16x interface.  It will require two PCIe (SLI compliant) power inputs and cost about $450 (or $50 less than two 8800GTs in SLI).

Based on the 'success' of the 7950GX2 some people are expecting this to be a flop.


Looks like I will be getting a 2nd 8800GT when my tax check comes in...


HD A3 Review Addendum

I noticed something about the HD A3 tonight as I put in Batman Begins from Netflix; the fan in the A3 is louder than my entire HTPC system- which utilizes three 120mm fans and a 380w power supply... Definitely not a selling point for a home theater (but at least it is no where near as loud as my xBox 360!)

Vista MCE

I have been running Vista MCE on a new motherboard and I have not been having the re-occurring issues I was experiencing where the system would lockup when trying to open 'My Videos'.  I am not 100% but I am starting to think it may have been a network/chipset/video driver issue.

I did notice that if I left the default 'Sample Videos' folder in place, the lockups were more infrequent- however these did occasionally occur and persisted through three rebuilds of Vista Ultimate.

I purchased the M2N-VM HDMI motherboard (I have been looking at this system for several months) as I had an Athlon 64 X2 5600+ freed up when I purchased my Phenom 9500 CPU; the integrated HDMI (with digital audio over HDMI), MicroATX form factor and low cost (about $80) made this motherboard a perfect candidate for a media center upgrade.

I did a clean install of Vista and (so far) I have not received the spinning blue circle lockup I was getting with my ABIT Fatal1ty F-I90HD system when I went into 'My Videos'.

There are a few other possible factors that should be considered:

  • Updates from Microsoft addressed lockup issue
  • Updated driver Codecs work better with Vista
  • Network switch/NIC incompatibility

Chumby Tracking

I ordered my Chumby on Monday and it has been processed and is currently en route with an estimated delivery date of Tuesday 01/08/2007- but the tracking information shows it made it from China to Alaska and is currently on the way to the UPS distribution center in Kentucky, so it is traveling pretty quick...

Here is a nice map of the progress of my Chumby...