Crossing buttons for the 'little people'


New Software and Sites

I found a nice video conversion software from nVidia called Badaboom (yes- just like from the 5th Element; "big big badaboom"). Badaboom converts a multitude of video formats (DivX, MKV, MPG, etv) to MPEG4 format and it uses an nVida 8000 series or video chipset to do the conversion- resulting in a very fast rendering on my GTX260. It includes default output formats for the PSP, Blackberry Bold, iPhone, etc.

Google Analytics offers free website analysis (up to 5,000,000 hits/month- then the start charging!) for your webpage. It is not as pretty as Mint, but it is free..

I also stumbled across a fairly comprehensive restaurant menu listing at All Menus.


IOCell NetDISK 352ND Review

In my never ending quest for expanding storage, I chanced upon a 2 drive NDAS enclose at Fry's called the NetDisk 352ND from IOCell Networks. It is a fairly unassuming product that has internal space for two SATA hard drives and a 10/100/1000 network connection on the back. For $90 I thought I would give it a try:

IOCell_001 IOCell_003

The box contains the 352ND NDIS device, a power supply, a 6' patch cable and an installation packet with a quick guide and CD.

My first concern was that the tape on the internal box was opened but the external IOCell seals were intact; further inspection made me think the unit was returned as the power cables were not customarily bound by twist-ties and there were stretch signs on the plastic bags. None-the-less I decided to continue on.

The system opens pretty easily; there are two screws on the bottom that let a side panel slide off, revealing a hard drive cage held in by two similar screws:


IOCell_007 IOCell_009

The HD cage has a circuit board on the back that hold the bulk of the electronics:


The entire setup is fairly well engineered; two SATA drives go into the HD carrier and are secured by four screws each (like a HD is normally secured in a case). The carrier is then placed back in the case and slides over two connectors that provide power to the board and allow communication to the RJ45 interface and the front panel lights. The entire assembly is 4 screws to open, 8 screws to secure the HDs and the same four screws to re-close; total assembly (without assistance from the quick guide is about 5 mins).

I chose to installed two Seagate 1TB drives; 7200rpm, 32MB cache drives. Once the HDs are installed I powered the unit up and turned to the NDSD software.

The system is a NDAS device- or a 'Network Directed Attached Storage' device- which means that it cannot be accessed with out specific software on a PC. The NDAS software is fairly simple and it installs three drivers for Windows XP/Vista; a LPX Protocol, a NDAS Bus, and a NDAS Miniport controller .

After installed, I ran the software and it prompts me to connect to actual device where I must enter a 'NetDisk ID' from the bottom of the unit:


There is also a 'Write Key' that can be entered- and I assume is required to write/delete from the drive. Once installed it puts a 'NDAS Device Management' icon in the system tray that allows me to mount/dismount either drive or check status of the system.

When I right click and mount a drive, the drive is presented to the Windows disk manager which assigns it a drive letter and prompts me to format (if necessary).

The NDAS Device Management icon does not indicate how to create an array out of the drives- nor does the included quick start guide give instructions; This is done by another 'NDAS Bind Utility' that is installed in the start menu. The Bind Utility will allow creation pf a RAID0, RAID1 or an 'Aggregation' Bind- the later being needed to 'create an aggregated disk if you need a disk that is too large for a basic disk'- so it appears to be a RAID0 for larger than 2TB partitions.

I created a RAID0 (stripe) set and let it build. After it was done, I right clicked the tray icon and told it to 'Mount Device'. This brought up the Windows disk administrator where I created a 2GB partition and formatted it with FAT32.

At this point, I have a 2TB NDAS deice that appears as an 'N:' drive for my PC. so I decided to copy over a few dozen GB of DVD images to check the speed. The transfer speed was not bad- averaging about 60MB/s per windows calculations (about 480Mbps- or 1/2 of my 1GB network speed)- but issues quickly arose.

After copying about 4GB of data, I heard a distinctive click from the NDAS that sounded like a hard drive power cycling. Shortly thereafter I received a message that the NDAS connection had degraded and the a second message that the NDAS connection had dropped. The transfer failed.

I checked all the cables, reconnected to the NDAS (via the tray icon) and stared over. After another 4-5GB it happened again- and yet another 3 times before I stopped trying to copy to the device. I tried the latest software download from IOcell but still with no luck.

I managed to find a single review on NewEgg that indicated there was a potential thermal issue with the design -so I opened it back up and had a look for myself. The reviewer was spot-on about the heat issue; after about 20 minutes of use the HD carrier was so hot that it was near painful to the touch; the drives were so hot that I could not hold either one in my hand for more than a few seconds; it is not good for HDs to get this hot. I am assuming the 'click' I heard was the hard drive having a thermal event and resetting to prevent damage.

Active cooling is not present in the 352ND case- but oddly there is a spot for a small fan (possibly 35-40mm) and a 'CN4' connector on the board that looks very much like it would be for powering a small fan:


The absence of this fan makes the system dead silent but also turns it into a hard drive ready-bake oven. I could purchase a fan and install it in the system, but I am afraid there were other concerns on IOCell's mind when they chose to omit the cooling fan (perhaps the fan size does not provide enough air flow to keep the system cool, so they just omitted it?). The opened internal package with the intact IOCell seals makes me wonder if there were last minute changes to the design- such as removal of a small fan...

I repackaged the system as I received it (the extracted HDs were still pretty warm by the time this was competed) and it will be returned to Fry's tomorrow.

It is a fairy well made/designed device, but the lack of active cooling makes it a hard drive death pit. In short, I find once again that I get exactly what I pay for!


Transformer 2 Trailer

Leaked Transformers 2 trailer from CrunchGear:


Kindle (2) Ordered

With all the news about the imminent announcement of the Kindle 2 (possibly on Monday, Feb 9th) I finally decided to break down and buy one. 

Amazon still only shows the original Kindle for $369, but speculation on the delay in shipping (they have been back-ordered since December) and information from other sources seems to indicate that Amazon will likely ship Kindle 2 units to fulfill current Kindle backorders-  after the Feb 9th announcement, of course.  The actual units are said to starting to ship on Feb 24th- which coincides with my Amazon delivery estimate of February 27th (my Birthday!) to March 11th.

MobileRead and The Boy Genius Report have some leaked 'official' images- which are almost identical to the ones originally posted by The Boy Genius Report from October of last year.  The screen looks almost the same, the overall thickness has decreased and it looks a little more 'apple-ish' with a metal back and rounded edges (albeit way to many buttons for an Apple device!)  Rumors are that the SD slot has been removed and the internal memory has been upgraded.  I would prefer to still have an SDHC/Micro-SDHC.  It is unknown if there has been a processor upgrade (the original Kindle has a Intel PXA250 400 MHz) of if the unit will offer touch-screen capabilities (doubtful), but the integrated EVDO connection is said to still be there (to allow direct downloads from Amazon.com and receive OTA newspaper/magazine/blog updates).

Engadget will be live bogging the Amazon event that starts at 10am; I guess I will have my Google reader up and be hitting refresh every few minutes.


Useful Kindle sites I stumbled upon while researching:

xBox 360 Part Deux

You may have read earlier in my blog that I had purchased a used xBox 360 from Gamestop and modified it to play 'archival' copies of games.  The model I had was an original version (i.e. not a Falcon or Jasper chipset) and did not have an HDMI interface- so I was using component output.  Being an older, hotter running chipset (both CPU and GPU are 65nm) I decided that it would be a good idea to install an auxiliary cooling fan.  I found one from Koing Gaming that incorporated cooling, VGA/Component/S-Video/Composite video output, Optical audio and a 4 port USB Hub:


This solution was awesome as it provided cooling, a USB hub and reduced cable clutter; I was very content.

In December I came across a used MadCatz xBox 360 HDMI Conversion kit for about $20- so I decided to give it a try.   To use the HDMI conversion kit I needed to remove the Koing cooling kit- which didn't seem like an issue as I was removing the need for component cables; all I was 'losing' was the USB hub.

The xBox worked Ok for about a weeks after installing the HDMI conversion kit and then I noticed that the console was freezing up a few minutes after starting; this seemed odd.  Within 3 days I had my very first RROD.  Do'h!

Searching the web I found several 'solutions' for the RROD issue- most of which involved replacing the CPU/GPU clips with a more traditional mount- such as using individual 5mm screws and nylon washers (for spacing).  If all was done correctly, the modifications on my system should have resolved any GPU/CPU heating issues.

Current theory is that the initial xBox cooling solution caused pressure on the motherboard; when the GPU heats up, the board slightly warps from the combination of heat and pressure.  The GPU gets so hot in places that it can partially liquefy the solder- which combined with the warping of the board can 'desolder' pins the GPU from the motherboard- causing the RROD.

Normally when you pull an xBox 360 from the case one would expect to find 'x-clips' on the bottom of the board that hold the CPU & GPU heatsinks in place:


Upon opening my xBox 360 and turning  the board over, I was confronted with a different landscape:


This indicated to me that the CPU/GPU heatsinks at one time had been removed and the system was 'fixed'.  Since this was a refurbished system from Gamestop I cannot be sure if it was the prior owner or Gamestop that made the modifications. 

But in this case it was not done correctly (or I would not be writing this blog); when the heatsinks were removed, the old thermal paste on the  CPU and GPUs were not cleaned- rather someone slapped some extra heatsink compound on top of the existing and put it back on (the original thermal compound was black, the newer compound was ceramic white).  The old compound helped serve as an insulator and prevented some of the GPU heat from transferring to the heatsink for cooling- so the GPU was pretty much fried at this point.

I still tried to fix it so I cleaned the CPU/GPU (I hade to use PC board Flux remover as the thermal paste was so firmly caked on) and replaced the screws- but to no avail.  I did manage to get the RROD to turn into an E74 error, but still no boot.  Since it was pretty much dead, I even went so far as to try the 'RROD Fix via Towel Rap' with -also no luck.

In the end, I was (luckily) able I was able to use the dead xBox 360 as a trade-in against another used xBox 360.

For my 'new' system, I chanced on getting a newer system with a Falcon chipset (with newer 45nm CPU) and HDMI output.  Using a lookup on the xBox DVD Drive Database I determined that I had a BenQ drive in my new system. 

Further research showed that there are now firmware patches for the BenQ drive:

I opened the system in about 10 minutes (being careful not to leave any marks by using my Xacto knife to open the back) and immediately saw a BIG difference; the GPU heatsink was much more extensive in the Falcon system while the CPU heatsink was reduced (a 45nm processor produces less heat than a 65nm processor).


Above: Older chipset; small aluminum heatsink on GPU, nice copper heatsink on CPU.


Above: Falcon chipset; Improved copper heatsink with heat-pipe for additional cooling on GPU, aluminum heatsink on CPU now feasible due to newer 45nm CPU. 

I tired to use the DOSFlash method but ran into issues with my system having Buffer issues when the xBox drive was powered on.  I looked into native Windows flash options and came across JungleFlasher; this is available for direct download or through the XBins Downloader.

JungleFlasher is a windows based utility that makes it VERY easy to flash xBox 360 DVD drives:

  1. Install JungleFlasher
  2. Connect the xBox 360 DVD drive to a PC (using a SATA cable and a VIA VT6421 SATA controller)
  3. In JungleFlasher, under the 'MTKFlash32' tab, unlock the Drive (for Ben-Q and Samsung)
  4. Select the Device ID for the drive
  5. Read in the drive serial number/key
  6. Move on to the FirmwareTool 32 tab, load the iXtreme Firmware from your HD.
  7. Copy the serial number/key to the iXtreme firmware
  8. Save the modified iXtreme formware.
  9. Go back on the MTF Flash 32 tab and write the modified iXtreme firmware back to the drive
  10. Done! 

Once I started the actual JungleFlasher process my drive was done and the xBox 360 sealed back up in under 5 minutes.

JungleFlasher instructions from tOxiC x of 7s.

Ownership of Base Graph

What you say?!?



Here is a flashback video for those not familiar with 'All Your Base Abe Belong To Us':


G1 RC33 Firmware Manual Update

If you have a G1 and you are like me, then you have never gotten an OTA update from T-Mobile; my updates to RC28 and RC30 have always downloaded the file and performed a manual update.  Good news; RC33 has been released (not quite Cupcake yet) and download available from:

The update includes some fixes tweaks, updates Google Maps to 3.0 (with Latitude) and voice search.  More info here:


Basic manual update instructions:

Once the download finishes you'll have to save it to the root of your SD card and then rename it to update.zip.  Reboot the phone holding Home+End once the recovery screen comes up, apply the update by pressing Alt+S.

More info on the update procedure: