Friday, June 27, 2008

Mr. Flamingo, sir

Fancy Flamingo
Originally uploaded by oblik
Our church youth mission trip came up with an interesting fundraiser idea where they land a flock of flamingos in your yard. They "sell" various levels of insurance to either ensure they leave quickly or perhaps don't land at all. Once landed, you "buy" cleanup and direct the flock to another member of the congregation. Since my wife is staff, we were unable to purchase insurance and last night they landed. I think this guy is their leader.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I (heart) Virtualization

I use it everyday in my job and it provides a wealth of opportunities for our business, but tonight I found one more reason to love it at home. After my last project of removing the hard disk from my MythTV frontend, I still have an issue of migrating my backend system to CentOS. A blind upgrade is a scary prospect on a fully working system so I'm loathe to just stick the disk in and see what happens.

Enter VirtualBox

The free virtualization software from Sun. In no time at all I had installed that old noisy 10GB hard disk into an external USB case, attached it to my PC, and allocated the drive to the virtual machine and booted to the CentOS installation DVD. With this I can test an upgrade from Fedora Core 6 to CentOS 5 on a system that is reasonably similar to my backend and see if there are any major issues. If something goes horribly wrong, no harm done and none of this testing required any hardware on my part other than the drive itself.

I'll report back later on how the upgrade goes...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Family Camping

Family Camping [P]
Originally uploaded by oblik
Had a great time camping this weekend. It was nice to get away with friends and simply relax. God blessed us with rain only in the wee hours of the morning despite the weather reports predicting otherwise. I was also glad to get out with the camera and snapped a couple nice pictures (see more at the Flickr link on the right) including this 10 second exposure that I tweaked a bit from the RAW shot before uploading.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Well, that was easy...

I finished my "quiet the living room" project. It was actually alot easier than I expected. As I noted before, my goal was to remove the somewhat noisy hard disk from my home theater PC and replace it with a silent compact flash card. I ended up choosing the Ridata 8GB 233x CF card as my drive. It seemed to get good reviews and I was impressed that the company took the time to respond to people's problems on the website.

Once I got the drive, I was pleased to find that my card reader that I had installed in the machine that used a USB connection was supported quite well as a boot device. I had also decided to change from Fedora Core to CentOS as my operating system. This was done mostly because Fedora is a quickly moving target of releases and updates while CentOS goes through less transformations. Since I don't update the OS of the PC often, this fit better in my plans. Other than that, they are nearly identical, having both stemmed from the venerable RedHat distribution.

Installing the OS was simple and I was again pleased to find that the 233x CF card performed nearly as well as my aging 10GB hard disk. With the OS installed, getting the drivers and applications reinstalled was simple (I've done it so many times now it's old hat). We watched two nights of So You Think You Can Dance in HD on it now, and haven't had any problems. The only question now is whether I can turn down the CPU fan any to reduce that noise. Maybe with less heat in the case from the drive that might work.

All in all, not a bad $40 upgrade. The only issue is that sometimes on boot, the drive isn't recognized or has some kind of error. I think this is due to the aforementioned USB reader not being initialized quick enough during the boot. I will probably end up buying a CF to IDE adapter so that the flash drive appears like a normal hard disk to the OS. This should eliminate that issue or at least remove that as a possibility and point me towards other possible causes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Things I'm working on

It seems in my tech life that I always have some little project I'm working on. My last was a Linux router/firewall/proxy server to use to manage the Internet access at home for the kids. It seemed to work rather well except for one day it freaked out and just quit connecting to my AT&T DSL. Ultimately, AT&T provides a decent set of parental control software that lets me manage not only websites but instant messaging contacts that ended being a better system for me than the Squid access lists. So much for the Linux router project. The hardware now sits in the basement waiting for a new lease on life.

So now I'm searching for my next project.

I have this long standing idea of making a digital picture frame out of an old laptop. The idea lingers but my motivation fades. So instead, I've decided to convert my MythTV (read: homebuilt Tivo) system attached to our TV to boot from a flash drive. I've become obsessed lately with the noise coming from the unit so I'm looking to drop the hard drive from it and boot from the silent flash memory.

We'll see how that goes as the memory should arrive later this week...