Monday, March 30, 2015

Just enough parts to run the HTPC

Archgon BluRay drive

So I've ordered a Archgon BluRay drive a last week and it arrived. I now have enough to actually run my HTPC build although it'll be limited to optical media playback for now. The storage drives will come later.

Unfortunately, I've hit a snag. OpenELEC detects a DVD inserted into the drive but selecting play disc doesn't do anything. Attempting to play the VOB files manually only worked for what looks like a advertisement video on the disc but the actual content I'm trying to watch doesn't play. I suspect it's a DRM thing and I'll need to install something extra.

So, I'm stuck with a non-working HTPC for the time being pending figuring out how to "fix" this little problem.

Here's a photo of OpenELEC 5.0.5 running. That small black box you see on the left is the HTPC.

OpenELEC 5.0.5 in action...

Monday, March 09, 2015

Continuing with my HTPC build

The major parts of my HTPC in their boxes.

I had ordered a Asrock E350M1 board and AData 2GB DDR3 RAM and they've arrived. Together with the casing and power supply I purchased earlier, and the cheapest USB key I could find (a Strontium 8GB from Popular Bookstore; it even came with a 10% discount) I now have enough parts to test if this build could work with sensible performance.

The OpenELEC install didn't take long. Following the installation instructions on the OpenELEC Wiki wasn't too hard. Everything seems to run fine. Even playing a 1080p video off a separate USB key didn't pose a problem. Playback was nice and smooth.

The wonderful Flirc Ir remote.
Oh, yeah. I guess I forgot to mention I'd bought a Flirc USB Ir Remote some time back. That one took over a month to arrive. I'd almost given up on it but I'm glad it came. Setting up Flirc for XMBC/Kodi is super simple so now I'm able to control OpenELEC using my DVD player's remote.

The only thing now is to get a BluRay drive and a pair of hard disks (or three) and this HTPC will be complete.

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...