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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Home Entertainmentorium

A photo of my half height HTPC Hmm a bit dusty.

Back in the mists of time my friend and I separately set out to build ourselves PCs to act as multimedia players. I’m not sure if “HTPC” had been coined back then because my friend christened his “The Home Entertainmentorium”. Snappy!

My wife was highly sceptical about my plan to build a second PC and install it into the living room. She was sure that it was simply a devious plan of mine to extend my computing related mess throughout the house. However she could see the benefit of having her 600+ CD collection collated with each track only a click away so I was in living room PC business.

Looking at my HTPC PC now it is seriously dated with its 1.6 Semperon CPU on an Asus A7V8X-MX motherboard with Gforce 6200 GFX. That said it still performs its multimedia tasks in a most satisfying way, CD and DVD burning, TV recording, music, DVD player, photos, internet access, internet radio and 5.1 surround sound to mention but a few. All told it’s a great bit of kit and thanks to the BBC iPlayer, 4OD et al it has become even more useful.

I have to admit that I am pretty smug as, after my wife’s initial resistance, it has turned out that she uses this PC far more than I do. In fact, she refers to it as “her” PC.

Currently I am thinking about upgrading to accommodate HDTV but this would require a new CPU, motherboard, probably RAM, Blu-ray Drive and TV card. Not to mention a HDTV. That’s a pretty penny and at time of writing I think it’s still a bit early to jump on the HDTV bandwagon, besides that, the thought of replacing our entire DVD library to take full advantage of HD brings on nausea.

If you haven’t dipped your toe into the HTPC sea yet why not give it a go.

Just bear in mind that you are going to want the PC to be as quiet as possible. Also don’t get hung up on what the PC looks like (as I did). For simplicity’s sake I would advise using a standard size case which, if it’s a bit ugly, you can always hide away.

Friday, May 9, 2008

First time dad.

Very recently I became a father. Apart from his one massive foot he is fantastic.

Charles Kennedy fails to turn up.

Charles Kennedy I am a big fan of Mr Kennedy and I have to admit that I'm a bit worried about him not turning up for Radio 4's Any Questions? this evening. Dimbleby made a big thing about how the program had bent over backwards to allow Mr Kennedy to contribute by setting up a telephone link to the program, after Mr Kennedy had apparently missed his train, only for him not to turn up.

Doubtless there will be speculation in the press. I just hope everything is ok as I'd really like to see Mr Kennedy back in politics at a high level asap. I still have a list of the Lib Dem MPs who sent him the letter that ended his leadership of the party. A list of traitors. Interesting how many of them subsequently stood for leadership. Sad how they managed to effectively write the party off just when it was starting to make an impression.

Independent Scotland.

Lion Rampant Flag Alex Salmond leader of the Scottish National Party is a rather happy chappie at the moment. Not being a huge fan of Alex I find this rather unsettling. I've never really seen the point of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom as I am as happy with being British as I am proud to be Scottish.

If opinion polls are to be trusted then most Scots share my feelings regarding Scotland's membership of the UK. A recent poll by YouGov 28.04.08 shows that only 25% of Scots would favour complete independence.

My worry is that this figure of 25% may well rise. I can't see Labour winning the next general election and I can easily imagine the Conservative Party winning with a sizable majority. Unfortunately the Conservatives still fail to gather support in the North of England and in Scotland. Essentially we would once again see a UK government with few MPs with constituencies North of the Border. Scotland remembers what this was like from the Major/ Thatcher years and some will be forced to contemplate independence to avoid this state of affairs returning.

I have to say I'm a bit worried. The Conservatives seem to have forgotten their Unionist credentials. Labour are in real difficulties, Wendy Alexander, say no more. The SNP are cock-a-hoop. Many people in England seem to favour Scottish independence which I find a bit weird, does that mean they are anti Britain?

Bush- Clinton- Bush- Clinton?

Hilary Clinton Barack Obama If I were an American Democrat having trouble deciding about the nomination I would bear in mind the consequences of having two families taking turns to hold presidential office. The two term rule for a president is constitutionally an excellent idea and the people who instigated it had very good reasons for doing so. The USA is not exactly a small place and has no shortage of very tallented people so why is it that two families are governing the place?

Boring and lazy.

Just been checking over my embryonic blog and I am satisfied that it is indeed boring. However I know realise it could be far more boring. I seem to have left out a lot of detail! (Thanks Muig) Shame on me for not maximising the boring factor. If you need more info or detail on any of the topics I mention please feel free to ask for more as I'm always pleased to elaborate.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fridge repair.

VT9 thermostat
Just to prove that I can be boring about more than one subject... I fixed my fridge/ freezer the other day. After visiting I was able to diagnose the problem. In my case the fridge was no longer getting cold. After hot wiring the compressor avoiding the thermostat I found that the fridge came on and I knew that I had a faulty "stat". A quick check on ebay and I was able to get a replacement one for £11 including p and p. Whats more it arrived the next day. Thanks to ace-machine-man for excellent service

After this diy repair exercise I know a lot more about fridges than ever before and I will probably share this info in the future. In particular I have fallen in love with our 26 year old fridge freezer. Before I worked out that I could fix it I looked at replacing the whole thing and I was struggling to find a modern fridge freezer that came close to matching its capabilities. More about the last of the pre Whirlpool Bauknecht fridge freezer at a later date perhaps.

If you ever have a white goods problem or if you are considering investing in a new bit of kit check out the ukwhitegoods forum you could save yourself a small fortune.


I have to say I am jolly impressed with Orb. It really has some great features and its very easy to use. The only downside is that when streaming liveTV it needs a PC with a fair bit of grunt. My HTPC that I built ages ago only has a semperon 2400xp (socket A) just can't hack that particular feature.

If you have not tried Orb and you are looking for a media streaming solution, or even a way to access files on your PC remotely, you really must take it for a test run. I was surprised at all the additional features as I'd always thougth of it as a TV streamer. Whats more if you are only interested in pumping media round your home network Orb will do this for you as well as it detects that the host and client are on the same network and streams the media directly between them. Free and Amazing.


linuxmce screenshot I had a look at LinuxMCE the other day. I could not get it to install over Kubuntu using the CD method, using the DVD image did however work. LinuxMCE is interesting but I feel it tries to do to much. I'd really like to get the boot over network going but to do so I would have to redesign my home network and I just dont want to do that at the moment.

For the time being I'm putting linuxMCE on the back burner until I can find a use for it. Having said that its well worth checking out.