Category Archives: Tech

Ditching Cable – Part1

Broken Cable :(Or….  How I learned to love the Internet.

So after months and years of paying to the man for a decent picture, and 50,000 channels I never watch, I gave my $157 monthly bill a good hard look late last year.

I’ve found myself downloading more and more, and whenever I watched TV it was usually something I had taped with the DVR a few days earlier.  Whenever I watched through the channels, it was either for a show I would like to catch, usually after it had aired, or just random flipping.

So after much thought and a bit of research I decided to take the plunge as others had before me, drop cable television completely, and get everything online as much as possible.

Now, I could use my laptop, but I use this more for work than anything else.  I would also have to reconnect it every time I wanted to go online to view something.  My thought was to get a dedicated PC, and use this.

But I wanted to get a good PC.  Nothing too big like your average tower, or something that would suck my electricity bill dry, but also something that had enough horsepower to get the job done.

All this for under $500.Boxee on HTPC

After running past some reviews I settled on the Dell Zino, Acer Revo AR3610, or the Asrock HT330.  I was hoping to watch movies off DVD directly on the PC (so I could disconnect the DVD player as well), and that rules out the Acer as it doesn’t come with an optical drive (DVD).  I could always get an external one for USB, but that means more components, and more bucks.

So after much ado I order a Dell Zino on sale for around $450 shipped.  Of course, after I sent the order in, I receive a notice that it will ship nearly 3 weeks later.  That was just ridiculous to me.  I was a bit on the fence between the two remaining PCs, as Dell is more of a known brand, but the options were more limited with no optical audio port, a handful of USB ports, and only a single audio out.  Wheras the ASRock came with a DVD drive, 5.1 Dolby channel sound, optical sound out, plus options for HDMI, VGA, and 8 USB ports available (plus it included a remote).  Shortly thereafter I canceled the Dell order (with a 45 minute wait time on hold – ughhh), and ordered the ASRock.asrock_ion_330ht

It shipped out the next day, and arrived 4 days later.

The PC itself is about the size of a large hardcover, and uses just 65 watts while up and running.  It only comes with 2GB of RAM, but it is upgradable, and has decent sized HDD with 320GB of space.  The innards are tiny, and nearly all components come on board with an NVidia chipset and graphics, and a newer Intel Atom 330 dual-core processor.  Technically, this is not just a regular PC, but rather a NetTop.

So here I am, just over a month in, and while I’ve had some speed bumps, I would have to say it was a great choice.  So far, so good.

I am by nature a tinkerer.  I work in IT and I spend my days figuring things out.  The challenge it presents is not much for me, but rather just time.

Next post I’ll dive into the software options, streaming sites, and how to handle live TV.  Stay tuned!


Microsoft supports those who support it (NOT!)

microsoft_logoOk, so I’m one of those that wasn’t too keen on Vista when it came out.  Seems I wasn’t the only one as I couldn’t even download drivers for my “Vista Ready” laptop until 6 months after it was on the shelves.

Here we are years later, with most of the Vista kinks worked out in a few Service Packs.  And along comes Windows 7.

Now this doesn’t get released until October.   You can get it next week if you have an MSDN or Volume License, but end users have to wait until it can begin gathering dust in the middle of Autumn.

I’ve actually been running this for nearly a month, as an RC user (pre-release version).

If I were to sum it up I’d say it is what Vista should have been, but wasn’t when it was rushed out the door.  That isn’t to say it doesn’t have odd quirks, but I’m hoping the full release (RTM) version has this sorted out.

Built in screen cropping.  Improved program taskbar and pinning.  I really like the program autopreview option as you hover over the open programs.  And I’ve already taken it upon myself to let everyone who asks know how I feel.

And how does Microsoft reward this loyalty?  This willingness to test drive and potentially ruin my data?  Stocks you say?  A nice T-Shirt perhaps, or a ball point pen that says “7 – better than Vista!”

Nope.  In usual Microsoft fashion they stomp those who embrace them.

In the latest TechNet newsletter, they release the upgrade paths, and among the details is the line that:

“Upgrades to Windows 7 from the following operating systems are not supported: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows XP, Windows Vista® RTM, Windows Vista Starter, Windows 7 M3, Windows 7 Beta, Windows 7 RC, or Windows 7 IDS”

Ok, no lost love with my Win95 upgrade.  But I’m one tiny step away from the full version.

I’ve toiled on making sure all the apps I need are modded up the ying yang.  Now you tell me that I get to wipe it all out and need to perform a reinstall?  That tease back in May that an upgrade would be possible, was all just vaporware.

Gee.  Thanks.  Next time you release a patch that crashes another server – leave me out of it…


Blog on a roll

A few days later and I’ve got it where I want it.

I managed to find Google throws up lots of info, but tooling through it can be hard.

Going through the WordPress Codex is good, but I’m finding useful bits from other people that have been through it.

This helped me the most getting it switched from default domain/wordpress to domain:

Now that I’ve reset all the permissions, I’m on my way.  Now time to find some decent plug-ins and gadgets.


Blog setup issues

So I’m a novice to the blog-o-sphere.  And I’m finding some quirky things with setting this up to where it works more easily.

I’ve found resetting permissions on the folders helps, but it’s not a clean cut as I’d like.

I’m sure I’ll get better in time, but I’m hoping I can sort this out before it gets too out of hand.  Keep up if you can :)