Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I had a hard drive crash last Sunday in my media PC (or HTPC, PVR, or whatever the hell you want to call it). Anyway it's the PC I wrote about building in Make magazine (see my profile for a link to it).

It's my pride and joy and it really bums me out that it is down. Since I also run my FTP, HTTP, SSH, and streaming mp3 servers off of that machine it definitely cramps my style. Plus I can't watch any of my recorded TV shows and since I use that machine to play DVDs I can't watch those anymore either. You never realize how much you'll miss something until it's gone.

On the other hand it was probably partially my own fault that it failed (although it DOES seem as if every hard drive crash I have experienced is at the hands of a Maxtor hard drive; note to self: don't buy those anymore). I do have far too little ventilation in the PC's case so the drives get pretty warm. Hopefully I can fix that.

I'm still in the process of replacing the drive and getting everything installed again. So I'm going to use this time as an excuse to do some upgrades that I've been meaning to do for some time:

1) Install WinXP instead of Win2K. It's really hard to justify doing this when the machine is running beautifully with Win2K, but now that I'm reinstalling everything anyway I might as well upgrade. I had a copy of WinXP Pro on an old PC that I haven't used in a couple of years so I just transferred that copy to the media PC.
2) Improve the ventilation in the case. As said before, the drives get pretty warm in there so I'd like to improve that a bit. I thought I was going to have to buy some fans and figure out how to rig them in my already-tight case, but after examining things a bit I figured out a way I could move the drives around to drastically improve airflow so I shouldn't even need fans now. Woohoo!
3) Replace the power supply. I was using a stock Dell power supply (250W) that was woefully under-powered since I had a Pentium 4, a Geforce 3, 2 TV tuner cards, 3 hard drives, and a DVD drive. Frankly, I'm amazed the power supply was able to power all that stuff at all. It did get pretty hot when I was doing much drive access on the machine... So anyway, I went ahead and threw out a little cash for a good power supply. I got an Antec SmartPower 2.0 500W supply from my local Fry's. It was pricey but it should be reliable. To install it I had to actually cut away part of the metal on the back of the case to get it to fit correctly. Man, the Dremel I bought years ago has turned out to be one of the best investments I've made.
4) Buy a copy of Norton Ghost 9.0, so I can image the drive so if this ever happens again I can just replace the hard drive and throw the image on the new drive. I already backup my data files onto a USB external hard drive but for some reason it didn't occur to me how much of a pain in the ass it would be to reinstall all the programs and OS. I'll also be able to use this to image my main PC's drive so I can upgrade it from the always-full 40GB drive it currently has to a larger 160GB or 200GB drive.
5) I recently got a really good deal on a Hauppage PVR-150 at Circuit City. I was a little worried about installing it with my old power supply (I figured it might be the straw that broke the camel's back). But now that I've got a new power supply I'm gonna throw the new card in there. Now I'll be able to record 2 shows in BeyondTV at the same time!

Well this experience has sucked, but I'll probably have a much better machine when I'm all done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Here's another cool find: Airscooter

Check out the Airscooter II, it looks like a personal helicopter for roughly the cost of an SUV.

There's no firm release date yet (some time in 2005), but it looks impressive so far.

If this thing became popular they'd have to re-write alot of laws, I think. Just think of a sky full of these things. They'd probably have to change the rules on unlicensed flying to exclude this thing. They might even have to come up with a completely different system of air traffic control...

Friday, July 15, 2005

So a while back I found this really cool compiler called SDCC. It is an open-source C compiler for several different microcontrollers (including the Microchip PIC, one of my personal favorites).

Anyway they just made a new release a little while ago, which is good. But it is difficult to get it up and running for PIC processors on Windows. So I put together the steps I had to go through to get it up and running on a Windows machine using Cygwin. This needs to be fleshed out and made a bit clearer, but at least I've got something...

-install gputils and Cygwin. Make sure to install "make" with your Cygwin install.

-download win32 version of sdcc and main (uncompiled) version of sdcc

-unzip main version of sdcc to a temp location and copy all files and folders to SDCC install directory

-must make these makefile changes to prevent gputils from segfault'ing
gplib -c $(LIB) gstack\\*.o

LOBJS = $(patsubst %,%\\*.o,$(DIRS))

LOBJS = $(patsubst %,%\\*.o,$(DIRS))

-also must change "Makefile.in" to "Makefile" in

-Script to create headers from inc files: 1) must have gptuils folder in C:\ 2) must have this script and inc2h.pl installed in sdcc root directory

for file in $(ls /cygdrive/c/gputils/header/p*.inc)
export picstring=$(echo $file | sed "s/\/cygdrive\/c\/gputils\/header\/p//; s/.inc//")
../../inc2h.pl $picstring /cygdrive/c/gputils "pic$picstring.h"

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Every once in a while I find something that totally surprises me. Today I found something new in the world of emulation. I've been a follower of console and handheld emulation for some time now (Super Nintendo, Gameboy, etc.). But I never thought about emulating those cheap little handheld games from way back in the day.

Well someone did think of it and they created a program to emulate these classic games. It's called LEDhead.

It looks pretty cool, and it runs on PocketPC and PalmOS to boot!

The only way I can think of to improve on this is to start emulating some of those little crappy LCD (not LED, but the ones with the custom game-specific LCD screens) games that they sold when I was a kid. That would be cool! Then I could recapture nearly all of my youth digitally.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I'm entering the 21st century finally. I decided to create a website about myself and some of the things I work on in my spare time (most of which are pretty geeky). I decided to use it also as a learning tool to teach myself HTML, website design, and also find out what blogging is all about.

My website is coming along but it's not quite ready for primetime, so all you get for now is this blog.

I'm not sure what I'm going to write here. Most of it will probably just be my random ravings (which will probably make me appear to be afflicted with attention deficit disorder).