Categories
Josh Lyon

Another Round of Toys

I just went through another round of buying toys and I’m not sure I’m quite done yet.  My most recent purchases include yet another large hard drive (500 gig), next-gen game console, speaker wire, and more.  

360 - Black and White ThumbThe Xbox 360 Elite edition recently came out and I had been eyeing it for a while leading up to it’s release.  It’s very similar to the Xbox 360 Premium edition, but it adds an HDMI port, black finish, and larger (120 gig) hard-drive. There are a number of reasons I decided to take the plunge and get one.  I’m not really a true “gamer” by nature, but I am interested in console modding / hacking.  My current Xbox 1 is the pinnacle of my home theater and entertainment system.  It’s modified to run “homebrew” software, copied games, and emulate older consoles. It currently has a piece of software on it called Xbox Media Center (XBMC), which serves as a dashboard from which I can launch other applications, games, and widgets or play movies, music, and pictures. I really should post an article about this to describe in more detail what it does, but for now I’ll leave it at that.

That being said, the Xbox 360 really didn’t excel at any of the things that my Xbox 1 did once it was modified.  However, the in-game graphics and technology inside the console are what really did me in. I said I’m not really a gamer, but if you know me you know I love technology and high-resolution video/graphics.  I recently bought a 56” 1080p TV and now that the Xbox 360 includes an HDMI output, I thought it would match up well.  On top of that, all my home-theater equipment is black so the console will match much better than the standard white version.  The fact that they threw in a larger hard-drive was just an added bonus.  I really have no need for it now – I already have around 2 TB (terabytes) of storage capacity on my network – but in the event that the Xbox 360 is modified to allow homebrew apps I’ll be happy the storage space is there.

Since I moved to my new apartment, the complete home-theater experience has been lacking in one area – completing my surround sound.  I have a 1000 watt 7.1 setup powered by an Onkyo high-current amp, but I only have 2 speakers and the sub hooked up at the time.  The way I laid out the apartment wasn’t really accommodating for the complete system, but I finally decided to buy the tools I needed to complete the job.  Laura has been doing some decorating and I now have a great place to hide the two rear speakers out of the way. I bought some Acoustic Research PR362 flat, white speaker wire to run to the rear locations and a fishing tool to get the wire where I need it.  I still don’t have a good location for the rear center speakers, but for the time being 5.1 will have to do. Attached is a diagram of what a 7.1 setup looks like.

 

7.1 Diagram

And what better to pair with my new home-theater and entertainment equipment than another 500 gig hard drive for the media-server.  The computer currently has an 80 gig “system” drive that is used for operating systems and applications.  I have Windows XP, Mac OS X, and SUSE Linux 10.2 loaded on it for fun – but really only use the Windows System. I keep getting larger and larger hard-drives, but there’s not much I can really do about it. Here’s the progression of the computer storage capacity:

40 GB
80 GB
80 GB + 80 GB
80 GB + 80 GB + 160 GB
80 GB + 160 GB + 160 GB
80 GB + 300 GB + 300 GB *
80 GB + 500 GB **
80 GB + 500 GB + 500 GB

* 160 GB drives went into the Xboxes
** 300 GB drives went into the Xboxes

As you can see, it will only be a matter of time before I need even more capacity. It would probably be a really good idea to have a good backup system, but as much as I change through hard-drives I couldn’t afford while I was in college. Who knows, maybe a good RAID setup will be my next purchase.

 

Categories
Tech

Favorite Apps of 2006

I recently installed Mac OS X on my desktop computer and fell in love with a few of the features it has.  What’s funny is one of the big things Mac lovers boast about is how great their macs look.  And you know what, they’re right.  But you can enjoy the same cool features on your PC too!  Here are a few of my new favorite applications.  Two of them have to do with the mac-like interface and two of them are just my favorite apps.

Mac-like Interface:

  • Reflex Vision – this tools gives you features similar to the expose views in OS X.  It allows you to view all your windows at once with a zooming animation.  It’s really something that’s just too hard to describe or understand, so I recommend either downloading and trying it out or seeing the flash demo on their website.  http://www.reflexvision.net/
  • Yahoo! Widget Engine – I think this application actually used to be a fee-based application called Konfabulator. But Yahoo! has purchased it and made it available to everyone for free. You can download widgets, which are small applications that run in the background and display information.  If you’ve used OS X before, I’m sure you remember the little calculator and dictionary search. http://www.konfabulator.com

Other Good Apps:

    • Mozilla Firefox / Thunderbird – if you seriously haven’t heard of this browser and mail client yet, you should definitely try it out. Firefox has all the features that were just recently implemented in IE7 and it runs faster too!  One of the best parts of firefox is the addons. Here’s a few I really like: http://www.firefox.com
      • IETab – allows you to render web pages using internet explorer seamlessly inside firefox.  The only place I really use this is for Microsoft based pages like Windows Update, Microsoft Live, Microsoft.com, and ProClarity Web Pro.
      • Stealther – turns of cookies, history, and all the information that tracks you on the web.  This is useful when you don’t want someone on your computer to be snooping on your stuff, but really useful when you don’t want websites prying too.
      • Adblock Pro – I really only use this when I remote into my computer at home.  It’s designed to turn off ads that are on websites.  I’ve learned to block out ads when I’m surfing the web, but I dont want them taking up my bandwidth when I’m on Remote Desktop to my home computer
    • PortableApps – they just released a Suite which includes all of the most common applications.  The best part about it is they are all stand-alone applications that can be run directly from your thumb-drive.  My favorites are: Firefox (internet), Thunderbird (mail), Clamwin (antivirus), 7-zip (compression), Miranda (messaging), and uTorrent (downloading) http://www.portableapps.com
Categories
Tech

Media Center – Software vs OS

After trying a couple different applications designed to effectively act as a replacement for Windows XP Media Center edtion (MCE), I'm going back to Microsoft's operating system. Basically, none of the applications could do everything MCE could. And even when they got remotely close, the interface was hideous in comparison to MCE.

I needed an OS that was based on XP Professional so I could use the development tools required for my classes, like Visual Studio .NET. Being based on Windows XP Pro also allows me to enable Remote Desktop Connection so I can access and control my desktop from anywhere with Internet Explorer 5 or newer… or the Remote Desktop application….

I personally prefer to use the Remote Desktop application because it allows me to connect my local drives/printers on the laptop while im "logged in" to the Remote Desktop. This ability was the solution to my loud computer in my bedroom being the computer I use to download files over night. The thing is so loud, I can't go to sleep with it on at night.

I needed a remote server in a different room so I could continue my downloads over night and cut-down the total overall time to download. My xbox is modded with XBMC, but there are no homebrew applications to download torrents. So I installed Linux on the xbox (X-DSL) and installed a BitTorrent client. That worked… kind of. If I wanted to use the Xbox Media Center functionality of my xbox, I would have to stop downloading.

So what next? How about one of those spare computer I have sitting in my closet? Perfect. Install Windows XP, set up the computer, set up remote desktop, set up file-shares… "wallah!" I now have a file/torrent-server to house all my media.

I'll get back with some photos and screen shots… for now, use your imagination. I'll try to write up some info on the processes later.