Oct 22, 2007

my woes with the new machine

its been almost a month with the new computer, the issues I have had so far are:

1- I cannot control the volume on the optical/spdif output, that means my objective to eliminate the receiver remote control is in jeopardy, in lay-man terms the computer sends out all six audio channels (5+1) to the receiver using AC3 or DTS format, these formats are the original unaltered audio signal and to make changes to the volume it would need to uncompress the sound modify it with new volume info and then re-compress it, this would effect the audio quality so its not done this way, the sound card lets the audio pass unaltered all the way to the receiver, the only straight forward work around to that problem is that I take the six individual analog audio outputs from my computer and plug them to my receiver/amplifier, for this I would need to buy a new receiver as the existing SONY STR-K740P doesn't accept individual audio channel inputs (it accepts optical and coaxial), I wonder if the audio signal on HDMI cable is AC3/DTS or something else, if it behaves well, it can be another viable solution.

2- I am still using legacy IDE instead on SATA AHCI mode which if I enable would let me plug in hard drives with out starting/stopping the machine, plus it supposedly have a more intelligent Queuing algorithm, which should translate in to more efficient seeks, this problem is still outstanding, no drivers out there seems to be able to fix the issue.

3- the 720p flat screen displays currently in the market have a max Resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, my VGA card sees the flat screen as a generic nPNP monitor and hence doesn't let me set the max res to 1366x768.

4- I don't use the native Denovo Edge method of connection, since I need the bluetooth functionality so
I run a small binary that changes the IDs of the bluetooth dongle in the registry so that windows Vista views the dongle as bluetooth, this is not a very elegant solution as when the machine comes out of sleep mode it doesn't always connects seamlessly to the keyboard.

5- the price for internal HD_DVD drives and Blu-Ray are still prohibitive.

6- vista 32 bit cannot address 4GB memory

I would consider the project complete once I have all these issues resolved, I will update this same blog with any resolutions that I come up with.

Oct 10, 2007

new machine

recently changed the computer setup in the house by moving away from a 'laptop-centric-strategy' to a more 'sturdy-central-server'. Another thing thats different this time is that I decided to put together a machine myself instead of going with a mainstream vendor, 10 years ago thats what I use to do but then Dell made it economically unfeasible to go through the hassle of DIY projects.

Some of the problems that I attempted addressing:

1-whether its writing a blog, watching a Ron Paul youtube clip or reading something on techcrunch, your family might want to chime in to all those activities, and if you are spending a lot of time on a laptop, then they are are pretty much being neglected and are also being left out of the whole experience, my solution to this is to bring every one in to that fold.

2- laptops due to there very design philosophy (mobility) make it almost impossible to have them running 24/7 on an available network, having a server that serves as a file server, hobbyist web hosting platform etc. etc. on a decent bandwidth sounds pretty appealing.

3- I think we are right now moving in to a new era of computing, from 65nm chip fabrication to 64-bit computing to hdmi to clear QAM HDTV tuners, SATA instead of IDE, everything is getting a face lift and a lot of these components are really affordable by themselves, this has left a lot of bundled hardware providers scrambling to play catchup (they need to upgrade there over all lineup as well as cut down the prices for there existing top-tier offerings), what sony, dell, lenovo and hp are offering is not everything that i am looking for, and in the instances where they are offering it is at a price I am not willing to pay.

4- what was a I looking for? a machine that can do a little bit of everything, it needs to be a decent server so that I can run VMWare on it and experiment with different Operating systems/technologies without messing with the main machine and it also needs to support HTPC functionality (run all kind of multimedia apps, interface with a lot of different gadgets, is able to do HDMI/optical output, edit video etc.)

5- Most importantly when I put together my shopping list I was looking for something that can scale, hence a casing that supports lots of hard drives and a motherboard that supports all PCI and PCIe slots,16 GB 800Mhz SDRAM and AM2 socket for future processor upgrades

here is what I plan to run on the new machine:

1- Vista 32 bit with Windows Media Center
2- fedora 7.X under VMWare server

and here is what I have put in to the machine:

1- GIGABYTE GZ-X1 BLACK 0.6mm SECC / ABS Front Panel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 350W Power Supply
2- GIGABYTE GA-MA69G-S3H AM2 AMD 690G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
3- AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ Windsor 2.6GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model ADA5200CSBOX
4- nMEDIAPC ZE-C68 All-in-one USB 2.0 Card Reader w/ USB Port - Retail
5- G.SKILL 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-6400CL5D-4GBPQ
6- 2 Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500JB 250GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA100 Hard Drive
7- 1 300 GB external NDAS (networked) hard drive
8- Logitech diNovo Edge 2-Tone 84 Normal Keys 9 Function Keys USB Bluetooth Wireless Mini Keyboard
9- SAMSUNG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S203B
10- HDHomeRun Networked Digital TV Tuner

with a Brother all-in-one WiFi printer and a UTStarcom F1000 WiFi phone I think I feel pretty much in-sync with the times.

things that are still on my wish list for the near term:

1- 36-bit physical address (PAE) support for Vista (so that I can use the existing 4GB of RAM (all of it, not just 3.2 GB) and also when I add more RAM I don't have to upgrade my OS (at least not now when the driver support isn't that great for the 64 bit OS)

2- working SATA AHCI drivers, so that I might experience the joys of NCQ and hot-pluggable hard drives (right now I am running in native IDE mode)