Sunday, February 08, 2015

The beginning of my HTPC

Cooler Master power supply and casing boxed.



I ordered a casing and power supply recently, and they've arrived. These two will be part of my budget HTPC build. They're pictured above still in their boxes (a Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced and a Cooler Master Elite Power 350W).

I'll be taking my time ordering parts in small batches.

Here's the proposed specifications for the HTPC.

Casing: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
Power Supply: Cooler Master Elite Power 350W
Motherboard: Sapphire Pure White AMD E350 Mini-ITX
Memory: Adata DDR3 1600 240 Pin DIMM RAM 2GB
Storage: Archgon CB-5021-GB Internal Blue Ray Burner, Western Digital 3TB Hard Disk (2 initially in RAID1 using btrfs, 3 eventually in RAID5 using btrfs)
Operating System: OpenElec

I'd initially wanted to make a separate NAS and HTPC build so I can separate storage from the media player. I'd even asked on G+ and got awesome input. This was supposed to be a higher spec'd build running the NAS while a Raspberry Pi build was supposed to the the HTPC.

In the end, I realised it wasn't a good idea for me. I've never build a NAS or a HTPC before. Tackling 2 new things at once is probably a bad thing. So instead I'll be combining them into a single machine to reduce the number of unknowns to a more manageable number.

Next purchase: Motherboard and RAM.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Reset Windows XP activation

One day you boot up your old trusty Windows XP PC and it tells you "This copy of Windows must be activated before you can log on." You can't boot into Normal Mode. Even Safe Mode with Networking doesn't work.

Here's how you can get back into your Windows in Normal Mode.

1. Boot into Safe Mode (without Networking, or it won't work).
2. Run the following command, rundll32.exe syssetup,SetupOobeBnk.

You should be able to boot into Normal Mode now.

Note that your Windows XP activation has now reset to 30 days so, re-activate Windows as soon as you are able to avoid interruptions.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My impression of Kubuntu 14.10

The Kubuntu 14.10 desktop

I've used Kubuntu for about a week already, so here's my impressions.

Overall, the experience has been positive. I like the smooth transition animations when doing things like minimising/maximising windows. The default software selection is pretty good, too. Akregator is my feed reader, Firefox is Firefox, LibreOffice is LibreOffice.

I also like how certain software stay resident without slowing down the system. When something interesting happens an icon appears in the notification area ready to interact with whenever you are. So far, I've noticed KTorrent and Akregator doing this. Amarok's icon is always present but that doesn't seem to affect system performance at all.

But, not everything is well polished. Dragon Player's time slider in full screen mode doesn't employ the smooth transitions evident in other parts of the desktop, for instance.

Also, almost every app in Kubuntu seems to be intent on making themselves as complicated as possible in terms of UI design. I've had to manually pare down those I use regularly as much as possible. Maybe this is why I've always preferred GNOME-based desktops. While I do find KDE's animations nice, I much prefer GNOME's simple UI designs. The fact that I think KDE's UI looks rather cartoonish may have helped sway my choice as well. I still do think it's overly bright but it's nothing to be overly concerned with.

Clicking a magnet link in Akregator brings up KTorrent if it's UI isn't open already. While that's not a problem if you have only the one magnet link, it quickly becomes a nuisance when there's multiple links to follow. I've yet to find a way to get KTorrent to remain in the notification area when new magnet links are added.

Kubuntu, in essence, is a good desktop. It simply needs a bit more spit and polish here and there to make it even better. I get that some people do like the rather cluttered looking software UI, so I'm not saying there's a requirement to change things there. But making things like desktop animations work across the board (that Dragon Player full screen mode, again) would make the experience more consistent.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of more examples but I'm sure there's little inconsistencies here and there needing addressing. Still, Kubuntu's good so far. I'll be staying for at least this cycle. Come 15.04 I may head back to Ubuntu if I really can't stand KDE. Or, maybe I'll try yet another flavor and see how that turns out.

Update:

Amarok search is simply insane. DeaDBeeF doesn't iconify into the notification area. Help! Looks like my search for a suitable music player continues...


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ubuntu 14.10 is out; Why not try a flavor?

Kubuntu 14.10 desktop with Firefox open

I've followed Ubuntu since Warty Warthog. Unity was disorienting at first but now it's pretty good. Still, I've always wondered: What about the other flavors?

I've tried Kubuntu & Xubuntu in LiveCD before. They didn't leave good impressions on me. But maybe I just needed to give them some time like I did Unity to grow to like them.

So, this time I'm doing a clean install with Kubuntu instead of my usual Ubuntu.

As I'm writing this, the latest 64-bit ISO is burning onto DVD media. I've opted for the Plasma 4 release. Experimental features have never been a pleasant experience for me on Ubuntu so I'll not try out Plasma 5 just yet.

Moving to KDE means I'll essentially need to re-pick my favourite software for doing the basics. I'll be looking for new BitTorrent clients, RSS feed readers, DVD burning software, etc...

I hope it'll be a good experience.

Friday, October 10, 2014

DIY budget NAS build: Hardware side

I've been thinking of getting myself a NAS for some time now.

But off-the-shelf NAS look way too expensive than it's worth. Besides, building your own sounds like such a nice little personal project. That said, I don't have money to burn so I'll be going for a budget build that serves well without breaking the wallet (too much).

So here's the fruits of my "research" based on what's available.

Processor: AMD Sempron 2650
Motherboard: Asrock AM1B-ITX
Memory: AData 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3
Storage: 2 x 3TB WD Green, Silicon Power Touch 01 8GB
Power Supply: Cooler Master Elite Power 350W
Casing: BitFenix Prodigy

Basically, I've attempted to make a low-priced build while maintaining good performance. I'm trying to keep a small footprint while having the option of installing 3 or 4 storage drives for RAID5/6 hence the choice of casing. This being my first NAS build I don't really have an idea what the performance will be like but I'd think a NAS doesn't generally require a lot of compute power.

At the moment, I'm thinking of running Ubuntu Server on this build for the Btrfs support. That's why I only have 2 hard disks for this build. Btrfs RAID5/6 is still very very experimental so I'll be doing a simple RAID1 first and moving over to RAID5/6 later when Btrfs support improves or, as storage requirements dictates.

Any suggestions out there?

Updates:

Based on feedback I've reduced memory to 4TB. I can always add it back later if it's needed.

Casing's been changed to a BitFenix casing which supports up to 5 3.5" hard disks but looks quite a bit larger than the Cooler Master I'd picked earlier.