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I just lost yet another hard drive. This time, it's in my desktop, so I lost my RAID 0 array. This is only a few months after building it, and it was just in time for me to come home and try out the new scout update for Team Fortress 2. I replaced the two Seagate drives I had in there with a single terrabyte Western Digital Caviar Black, reinstalled just about everything, and I did get to play TF2 today. I think I might be done with Seagate; they need to get their act together.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 4:22 PM
Filed under: Hardware

I have been thinking about purchasing a new laptop for some time. My IBM laptop is big and clunky, and it has enough junk running on it that it's not really enjoyable to use more than I have to. I wanted something that I could take on vacations and use around the house in front of the TV. Ultimately, I decided to buy a Dell Mini 9. It's one of those newfangled netbooks; it's incredibly small, and also very cheap. It's no speed demon, but it fit what I wanted perfectly. It has a 64GB solid-state drive, and absolutely no moving parts. It's completely silent. The processor is an Intel Atom, and I bumped it up to 2GB of memory. It even runs Windows Vista, and it does so quite well. My only real complaint is that the battery lasts only a hair under four hours, but considering that it only has a four-cell battery, I'm willing to be forgiving. Considering that it cost me just over $500, I'm pretty pleased with it.

In addition to the laptop, I recently had to buy another hard drive for one of my servers. The box runs on a RAID-5, so theoretically I just needed to pop the new drive in and rebuild the array, right? Well, when the drive failed, the computer must have fun chkdsk or something and messed up the data on the two remaining drives, because when I rebooted it, I got a bluescreen, even in safe mode. So, I had to reinstall the operating system, and I also had to recover all of the data on the box. I have a remote backup at my parents' house, but I can only get around 120KB/second from that box to mine. Luckily, I had about two thirds of the data backed up locally as well, but I still have had to download about 80GB from the remote backup. The process has been slow and painful, but it's nearly finished.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 11:41 PM
Filed under: Hardware

Well, last week I received my new Logitech 880 universal remote. And by received, I mean I had to go to DHL's office to pick it up, since they apparently only come during the apartment leasing office's lunch break. The remote matches my DiNovo Media Desktop mouse and keyboard perfectly. I had previously gotten one of these for my dad for father's day, and setting it up was a breeze. However, my remote was to be used with my PC, not as a simple remote replacement. This meant that I had to get an IR receiver. I received that on the same day.

Needless to say, setting up the remote to control my computer was slightly more complicated than for simple electronics components. First, I had to set up the Logitech to emulate devices for each of the things I wanted to control on my computer. This meant a separate remote for Winamp, BeyondTV, and PowerDVD. And then I had to get it to emulate an amplifier to control the computer's volume. After all of this was finished, then I had to get the receiver to interpret the commands. This meant going through all of the buttons for each of the Logitech's different modes for the different programs. This was complicated further by the fact that you also have to pick appropriate anti-repeat timings for the IR signals, both in the remote setup, and in the IR receiver setup.

So, after I thought everything was configured, I fired it up. Of course, nothing this complicated ever works on the first try. Luckily the program I am using to interpret the signals has a nice logging feature. With that, I discovered that the remote I was emulating to control BeyondTV has not one, but two sets of IR codes that it alternates between. So, you guessed it, I got to go through all the buttons again and configure the program to use both sets of codes. Another problem I found was that I had forgotten that PowerDVD does not use the Windows volume control, because I have it set to forward the sound directly to the SPDIF output for processing by my Onkyo amplifier. So, I then had to add that device to my Logitech and tell the Logitech to use that for changing the volume while watching a DVD.

In short, the process was long and extremely painful, but in the end, well worth it. I love the remote; I can hardly wait to get a real HDTV to integrate with everything else. I do hope, however, that in the future the process can be streamlined a bit, either by Logitech or by the IR receiver hardware folks.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 5:29 PM
Filed under: Hardware