Thinking of upgrading to XP from Vista?

Check this article out. Couple that with the black theme for XP and you're all set!

New Title!

In response to an excellent comment, I've changed the title. Does this earn me a cookie?

Blogs are for women with cats.

When a man records his epic deeds he calls it a chronicle.

~ Matt Demoss

Home Networking for dummies

In this month's edition, I'm going to point out who not to buy networking equipment from.


Specifically, I bought a D-Link WBR-2310 . Every time the wireless is enabled, it causes all of the computers connected to it to lose connection every minute. Disable the wireless, it goes away. Go figure.

I went through about 3 hours of tech support to learn that my router was broken (duh). I then went through about 5 hours on the phone with several different RMA representatives after their system failed to verify the address of my credit card. While working with them, they managed to charge my account 3 times (and still deny that anything went through). After speaking to my bank several times, the RMA representatives, the supervisor of the RMA representatives, and my wife - I've decided that it's not worth my time to get another D-Link networking product even if it's free.

In the end they never submitted the paperwork to truly charge my account - I was just left without $300 of my own money while it was "Pending" for a week. Fun.

Do yourself a favor and buy a Linksys.

The title that almost wasn't.

It's been over a month since I posted anything here. I'm still alive and working hard at many things that most would consider nerdy. This new job has kept me so busy...I haven't had the energy to post the cool things I've done or learned.

However, I lack some motivation. I suspect that all of one person actually reads this besides myself. Perhaps I should alert some friends to add this feed?

Anyway - here's just a short list of some interesting things I've been looking into. Make a comment and I'll expound on any one of them!

* Did you know that you can use arraylists in vbscript? I only knew it was usable in
* Nearly every last tidbit of information (Installed Software, Processor ID, Mapped Drives,....) about your computer can be accessed remotely by using WMI. I've implimented WMI using both vbscript & will soon be doing it with ASP.NET. Talk about making system management fun!
* Buying a house is a pain in the butt.

Anyway - post a comment if you read the blog. Maybe I'll be more motivated :-/

Laptop BIOS/CMOS reset = pain

This post is for those individuals looking to see if this is possible... I just reset the BIOS on an HP Pavilion ZE4900 (laptop) by removing and replacing the CMOS battery. The online manual doesn't show its location - but you need to complete disassemble the laptop down to removing the main board. The CMOS battery is located on the underside of the board toward the front of the laptop. Needless to say - the last four hours are hours I'll never get back :-/

Custom Game Maps != Terrorist Threat

For those of you haven't heard, a young Chinese student was arrested the day after the Virginia Tech shootings and denied the ability to graduate with his peers. Read more about it at FortBendNow. Why was he arrested? Apperently, two parents reported to school officials that he had created a game with his school as the backdrop. That "game" was Counter-Strike - and his contribution was simply a custom map that resembled his school. He and his friends would apparently play the game together. When he was arrested, police searched his house and found a hammer - which he used to fix his broken bed - and then classified him as a terrorist threat.

If you've read thus far, you're probably thinking one of two things.
  1. This student is a terrorist threat. He created a virtual simulation of committing violent acts at his school. This kind of thing cannot be tolerated.
  2. What is the world coming to? They arrested one of our more creative young minds.
If you can't tell - I hold the latter opinion. I'll attempt to explain below.

When I was in middle school, I'd already gotten to play Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Certain members of the media still refer to these types of games as "murder simulators" or "mind-altering virtual experiences". I'd refer to them as "pretty fun" and "completely harmless". Playing these games was fun - in the same way that Mario Brothers was fun. You traverse a level and stop/kill the bad guys. In Mario - you jumped on their heads or spit fireballs at them. With first person shooters (like Doom and the like), you shot the bad guys. Doom was certainly creepier, in the same way a horror movie is creepy, but in no way made me want to purchase a gun and shoot anything - in the same way that playing Mario didn't make me want to spit fire or jump on people.

Years later, I read a magazine ad for a 3d editor called Pie in the Sky software. This software let you make 3D maps (levels) just like your favorite first person shooters (it looked like a mix of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom really). The idea of making your own 3D world was really interesting. My imagination flowed as I'd daydream (quite often) about recreating many of the places I'd seen/been to. These places included: our dear lease (where I'd daydream for hours sitting in the deer stand with my Dad), our house, parts of my hometown, and of course - our school. Later in college, I got involved with playing Half-Life, Counterstrike, and a mod called Natural Selection. Was I seeking a way to shoot at people/aliens? No. The games were fun. Their atmosphere and level design were most interesting to me. How did these people create these detailed virtual worlds? Can I create my own? The creative mind (especially one of the engineering/architecture type) is constantly looking for inspiration to create something new. Not only do we want to create something, but we want to interact with it. If all we wanted to do was create, we'd be artists - not engineers or architects. This leads me to the creative process that all creation stems from...

I was once told that there are no new ideas. All "new ideas" are simply combinations and expansions of older ones. I haven't thought of a situation which would disprove this yet. So how does this relate to the situation described above? Simple. When a person is learning to design homes, they most often start with designing and drawing what they're most familiar with - their own home. When a person is learning to cook, they start by making what they've eaten most. When a person is learning to sing, they sing along to songs they've heard alot. So...when a person is learning how to create a virtual 3D world - they start with what they know...what they've been around the most...either their own home or the school they've spent 15 years attending. This isn't problematic until you realize that the software being used to create these virtual worlds has guns and shooting stuff in it. So why do these "creative brains" choose to put their efforts into something with lots of violence and guns?

Well - because that is the most available and easy tool to use. Most first person shooting games come with a map editor and instructions can be found online for creating a new map. Commercial software to simply create a 3D rendering is often expensive and difficult to learn. The process used to create a new FPS map takes as little time as a few minutes to construct a basic room with a hanging light bulb. To fully create a home, or gosh a school, would take weeks - maybe months. A finished product even partially resembling something in real life should be considered a work of art and something that was constructed with the utmost attention to detail. But you may be asking - if there are other tools out there, why choose one that uses guns/violence? Simply put, there are no 3D world creation software that is as free and interactive as the ones included with 3D FPS (first person shooter) games. I've tried multiple "Home Creation" software packages that all cost $69+ and none of them compare to the realism and atmosphere you can create using a built-in game editor like the Half-Life/Counterstrike editor Hammer.

I've tried my best to explain what was going through the mind of the young man who's life has been forever changed by false accusations. Some of you will still think that anyone creating a map of their own school has to be up to no good. I can't change that. I can, however, suggest a possible future for those like this young man. They go on to create: the buildings you work in, the special affects you watch at the movies, the videogames you and your kids play, the bridges you drive over, the "3D tours" of homes you're looking to buy, and will eventually build the "3D tours" of the schools you will look to place your children in. The beginnings of their talents will spring from videogames and map-making software, much like this young man's did. We should encourage and pay attention to these young minds, for their lights are the brightest ignored spots of genius in our society today.

The Resurgence of the Adventure Game Genre

I've been a gamer ever since I first laid eyes on an Atari. But of all the genres that I've enjoyed - the Adventure Genre stands out the most. What games are included on this list? Pretty much all Lucas Arts games...Monkey Island (1-4), Loom, Day of the Tentacle, etc. Because of my age, these games (for the most part) came out before I was old enough to realize that I needed to go buy them. As such, I acquired them from garage sales and relatives wanting to get rid of them. The adventure genre isn't known for its replayability, graphics, or downright fun. What I've always enjoyed was the tongue in cheek humor provided by them. I've enjoyed the zany puzzles. I enjoyed the "talkies".

These kind of games have been abandoned as a viable genre. Monkey Island 4 was the last great (if you can call it great - it used the keyboard more than the mouse) adventure game released by Lucas Arts....all the way back in the year 2000. So for seven years the world has needed a fresh adventure game. Who stepped up to the plate? Telltale Games. Building on the success of Lucas Arts' old Sam & Max adventure game, Telltale Games built and released episodic Sam & Max adventure games through GameTap (a monthly PC game subscription service). A friend of mine lets me use his secondary account, and I've been gladly enjoying Sam & Max for the last six months. They've completed the "first season" of the game (6 games) and are now offering it for sale at their online store. To be honest, Sam & Max is the ONLY PC game I've been playing in the last six months. None of the rest have held my attention (or been as entertaining).

Here's a brief rundown on how I'd score this game if I was reviewing for an online game site:
  • Graphics: 5/10 - The game doesn't push my GPU hard at all. However, it's a cartoony looking game with 3D graphics and nicely modeled characters. If it got much more graphically intensive, it wouldn't have the comic feel that it should. You should be able to run this game on just about any PC you could have bought in the last 4-5 years.
  • Replayability: 4/10 - Once again - this isn't what adventure games are about. You may replay the game once every few years. I tend to explore every aspect of an adventure game the first time through, so replaying is done more for nostalgia sake than anything else.
  • Sound: 10/10 - the voice acting and ambient music are excellent and really contribute to the feel of the game. The Sam & Max voice actors remind me of the old cartoon that was being produced years ago. So yes...this is a "talkie" :)
  • Humor: 8/10 - The humor in this one (and most adventure games) is very dry. My humor is the same, so I found the games to be pretty funny. At times, the jokes and dialogue just didn't tickle my funny bone - but they made my wife laugh. Good stuff.
  • Challenge: 7.5/10 - This is one area where I was a bit disappointed. The old Lucas Arts adventure games many times had you combining different items in your inventory to do things (sometimes multiple items). These games didn't do that at all. To top it off, each game generally had a similar premise - Find out problem, get tool from the inconvenience store, solve problem. Not that this was a totally bad thing - but a little more interactivity with the items in the inventory would have been appreciated. At other times, the puzzle completely stumped me and I ended up cheating (yeah I know...don't say it). I didn't ever get that same feeling that I got when playing the first couple Monkey Island games when I'd solve some rediculous puzzle using multiple combined items and timing my mouse clicks right. The game was still rewarding though.
  • Worthy of purchase: 11/10. If you've ever enjoyed adventure games, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up and play through it (all 6 episodes). I'm not advertising for TellTale here - but I think they've done the Sam & Max franchise justice.
If you're interested in purchasing the entire series, the TellTale store has it. You might also think about getting a 3 month subscription (or longer) to GameTap. It's a pretty neat service and has alot of good games to pick from besides the Sam & Max Series.

Introducing AMD Phenom

Intel switched their flagship line to the "Core" nameplate. AMD was bound to follow suit. As this DailyTech article points out, the Phenom is a member of the AMD Stars family of processors that also includes the new AMD Athlon 64 and Sempron 64. You'll want to see the PPT slide for a breakdown of what exactly will be available. Here are some highlights though:

  • This new line of chips is AMD K10. The original Athlon 64 was K8
  • All new chips except the absolute upper-end Phenom FX Quad Core will use Socket AM2+
  • Phenom X4 ( a quad core chip) has a TDP of only 89W! MUCH better than AMD's previous consumer quad core product.
Is this the start of a new competitive streak for AMD? That would be a great thing, not only for AMD - but for anyone looking to buy a new processor. With competition comes price drops and more value for your money :) I'm thinking now's a time to invest a little money in AMD.

Wonderful Utilities - 7zip

In continuing the theme of sharing what applications, themes, gadgets, etc. that I use and love - I present 7zip. 7zip is a FREE, open-source compression program (similar to WinZip).
What will it pack and unpack?
  • 7z
  • ZIP
  • GZIP
  • BZIP2
  • TAR

What will it only unpack?
  • RAR
  • CAB
  • ISO
  • ARJ
  • LZH
  • CHM
  • Z
  • CPIO
  • RPM
  • DEB
  • NSIS

Pretty handy! I've found it to be a direct replacement for the built-in Windows Compressed Files utility, as well as WinZip. Did I mention that it's FREE? But with many open-source programs that are provided free, it is very appreciated that you donate to the group that produces it so that they can continue offering it for free. :) 7zip Homepage

That beautiful black windows look

Been a while since I've posted anything. Reason being, I haven't had much time for anything fun technology wise. A couple weeks ago, I upgraded my ancient Dell laptop's ram. This decent speedup allowed me to continue using it without cringing. As such - it was time to deck it out with the typical compliment of visual goodness.

First thing - the Black Luna theme from Microsoft, known as Royale Noir. It's a black version of the Windows XP Media center theme.

Intersted in obtaining this theme and installing it? Here's a link. I personally prefer this theme, and have been using it for just about a year now. It's definitely delayed my purchase of Vista. :)

WinAudit - a shameless plug for a nifty tool

While surfing the interwebs, checking the emails, etc. I came upon a program called WinAudit. It's a FREEware app that can report a lot of things about your machine and output it in a lot of different formats. Straight from their site: "The programme has advanced features such as service tag detection, hard-drive failure diagnosis, network port to process mapping, network connection speed, system availability statistics as well as Windows® update and firewall settings."

Anyway - it's pretty neat. My new employer is a "100% Microsoft Shop", so I'm trying to move more that direction in the things I learn about and use on a daily basis. I'm all for open source, free software for all, and beautiful alternative user interfaces...but managing a 100% Microsoft Shop is surely going to have its peaks. All in all I'm looking forward to the opportunity. Only question I now have...should I switch my Linux server/media box to Windows Server 2003?

If you've got a handy free tool for the Windows world that makes your life easier - leave me a comment or two :)

The great global warming debate

In order for a great debate to be a true debate - both sides must be heard. Do you think you've heard the other side? I bet you haven't. I caught this on Digg Videos today and was surprised I hadn't heard about it before. I suggest clicking this link for the full size, but the mini video is below.

Ever wish you could have been a transformer?

With the new transformers movie coming (see trailer below), quite a few nerdy types (me included) are getting really excited about a cartoon we haven't watched in more than a decade. Once upon a time we played with the toys, watched the videos and movies, and wished we could be a part of it all. These guys did just that! If you were ever a fan of the series - you owe it to yourself to check out their awesome costumes!

Here's the Transformers Movie Trailer -->

Job Hunting - part 3 (final)

My job hunt has finally come to a close. Before spring break, I secured 3 interviews. I went to the first - and enjoyed it so much that I decided that's what I wanted to do. The second interview the next day stretched on for four and a half hours! I left there knowing that I never wanted to work there. Something about writing in a custom version of COBOL (with added GUIs...weird) 40 hours per week in a solitary office with no windows did not thrill me.

The good interview was last Tuesday. This morning they called and offered me the job! I won't disclose major details here - but the wage is very good. The benefits are great. They're even going to help pay for my relocation! How's that for nice? All that and the company is located in the Woodlands, TX. It has to be the most beautiful place in all of Houston. I am really happy.

This job search has been a learning experience. What do I really want to do? What makes a job worthwhile? What am I absolutely unwilling to do? These are all good questions. My Dad always tells me that if you're doing a job that you enjoy, it doesn't matter how much you get paid. I've held fast to that belief and I think it's done me well. Here are some quick thoughts about the job hunt:
  • Never settle for something you could see yourself hating.
  • If the drive to the interview and back feel like traveling cross country, don't work there.
  • Networking (connections) are the best way to get your resume in front of the people who make decisions. I only got one serious inquiry in all of my applications through job board sites.
  • Avoid negative words during interviews. Even if the interview goes fantastic...those words will haunt you until you hear whether the company wants you or not. Be honest - but positive.
  • Aptitude tests, canned interview processes (heavy recruiting), and non-knowledgeable points of contact to a company make for an extremely non-appetizing job outlook. Interviews go both ways.
  • Smile and laugh when you can at an interview. Ask questions. The good companies don't need any more yes-men than they already have.
My sincere hope is that this is the last you'll see about Job Hunting on this blog. :)

Job Hunting - part 2

Good News!
I've got some good news on the job hunting front. After lots of applications and job-board searching, I've managed to secure an interview (yes one) at a company in Northwest Houston. I've also garnered a couple of phone interviews (mostly recruiters looking for more experience...). But this is progress! Considering how little time I've been hunting a job, a couple potential hires is a pretty good amount (I think). What's most interesting to me is that my solid in-person job interview was acquired by word of mouth from a friend on a car forum. That just goes to show the depth of importance networking plays in finding a job!

So what skills are IT companies looking for in the Houston area? In my searching, the most requested skills are as follows:
  • C#/ in general
  • SAP
  • Oracle, SQL Server
Doing a Background Check?
In the likely event that one of those companies ends up on this blog while doing a background check - welcome! You're one of only a few to have actually seen this corner of the WWW. :)

Spoofing the Mac Commercials

I don't often laugh at online videos - but this one got me. Now don't get me wrong - I love the Mac's interface. It's truly a wonder. But this video is absolutely hilarious :)

Job Hunting - part 1

I decided earlier in the semester to discontinue this graduate degree and go after something I had more fun with - specifically an IT career. I haven't really gone into much detail here on what my skillset is (besides toying with Ubuntu...which really isn't a skill). But my background is primarily that of an Information Systems graduate (with a high GPA) with some self-employed programming projects under my belt. Looking for jobs online hasn't been exactly pleasant - or yielded results (yet).

Here are a few places I've put my resume out to (and found jobs to apply to):

These seem to be the front-runners in the market as far as job-boards go for IT people. So why has my search been trying? A couple reasons:
  • I have virtually ZERO experience being that I'm a college grad and haven't been in the industry. Many jobs want at least "1+" or "2+" years of experience in an area I consider myself to be pretty good at - but don't qualify for because I haven't worked a job doing such.
  • I'm currently located in Northwest Arkansas...and am looking for a job in Houston, TX. This shouldn't be a barrier - but to some it seems like it is.

Overall this post is a rant. I know it - you know it. Finding a place to "get your foot in the door" without being religated to the Help-Desk is difficult when looking online. Searching for jobs with the text "Entry Level" yields little to nothing consistently. Perhaps this is a market? Shouldn't there be a place for the nation's top IT firms to recruit the nation's top IT grads and talent? Many of us are willing and able to relocate. I think I may be onto something here...

Getting rid of errors

I've been getting an odd error ever since I started wanting to play anime subs with gmplayer. Specifically - this error says:

Requested audio codec family
[mp3] (afm=mp3lib) not available
Enable it at compilation.

So, I did a little searching and found that there is a very easy fix for this! Simply go into your gmplayer preferences and select the Codecs and Demuxer tab. From there, change your Audio codec family to FFmpeg. That's it! No more annoying error!

docx file converter

In my other life, I teach computer courses and accept assignments through an online course management system. Our school (and myself) have yet to upgrade to Office 2007, but students aren't wasting any time. I found an official Microsoft converter for Office 2007 formats available here:

Doing your taxes with Linux

Many people use computers for real purposes...not just to tinker. Although I'd rather tinker than do anything else, I did have an opportunity to test Linux's readyness for a real purpose. I did my taxes!

I've been using Turbo Tax online for a few years - and decided I'd like to do the taxes from the couch this year. Of course...the media center PC runs Ubuntu. Years ago - this might be have been a problem - but not this year. With the adoption of Firefox as an accepted browser (for all operating systems), Linux can now do 95% of what every PC user does...use the Internet. Coupled with the latest flash 9, I was set. The only problem I ran into was Turbo Tax gives you a warning that you're using something other than what they recommend (which is Windows or Mac OS X). They do support Firefox though, so I plunged ahead. Everything worked as expected, even being able to view their PDFs with Acrobat Reader.

I guess doing my taxes isn't something that nerdy. However, it's nerdy when you're doing your taxes on an up and coming operating system and run into zero compatibility issues. If only everything was this easy.

Increasing the Wine font size

Thus far in using Ubuntu, I've been able to use only Linux applications. I'll admit that some of them were just ports of their Windows or Mac OS X counterparts...but I never had to install wine (a compatibility layer for running Windows programs). Well you know that torrent app I recommended? kTorrent? It's crashed on me several times in the last couple days...and ate up every bit of memory the system had this morning. I went looking for a better alternative and my only choice was to use uTorrent under wine. No problem!

Wine is only a synaptic click away. Running utorrent under it is a simple affair too. I found this tutorial very helpful: Using utorrent with wine - Ubuntu Forums

However, since my primary monitor is a 32" LCD and I'm at about an 8-10 foot distance from it - the font size needs to be increased. Under windows this is a simple task...but under Wine = not so much. I think this is something that NEEDS to be put into the wine configuration app. Anyway - here's how it's done.

First - close any applications that are running under wine.

To change the size of any menu font - you'll need to edit the win.ini under the following folder:


Add the following information to the win.ini file:

You can change the 18 to whatever size you need - but that worked for me. Now we need to change font size of the rest of the application. To do so, use the terminal and launch wine's regedit:

wine regedit

You'll want to browse to this value:


and change it to something larger. Make sure to change the selection to "Decimal", as you probably don't natively speak hex. It's default in decimal is 96. I upped mine to 120 and it worked nicely.

When you're done doing that, close out regedit and restart your wine application. Enjoy your larger font sizes and lack of squinting!

Here's the best resource I found on this matter after a bit of searching:


I've been working to organize my movie collection on this Ubuntu computer. I'm a big fan of nice GUIs, and found a pretty good one for organizing any film/TV collection. It's called GCfilms. It has an entry in the Ubuntu repository, so installing it is a cinch through Synaptic. Here's a screenshot from their homepage:

GCfilms Homepage
GCfilms can even launch the video file you have linked from it in your favorite media player. It is default set to mplayer, so if you're using a GNOME desktop like Ubuntu - you might want to change that to gmplayer. Gmplayer is mplayer with a nicely done GUI, enabling you to change preferences of the video you're viewing on the fly.

HDTV DIY calibration

There are lots of resources out there for calibrating your HDTV. Unfortunately, most of them aren't free. They want you to buy some software, a DVD, etc. I went looking for just calibration images - large ones - to sit and calibrate my HDTV with. set doesn't have that many options to adjust - but nvidia-settings does! (Or your equivalent video driver software) Anyway - if you're looking for some great images to do your own tuning with - head to this AVS forums post. Here's just a small sample:

Forced Enjoyment

This isn't the first time I've tried Ubuntu (or Linux for that matter). Several times in the past few years (since 2002 actually), I'd get the "Linux Bug" and repartition my hard drive to be able to try out some new distro. This would normally come about after I'd read some positive review of said distro (or from a friend). What have I tried in the past? I started out on Mandrake (now Mandriva), moved to SUSE 8 & 9, then MEPIS (great distro btw), and now Ubuntu. At each step, the experience has gotten better - but I'd always switch back to using Windows full time for some reason or another. This typically took about 2-3 days. Sometimes only hours.

Why only hours? HP Laserjet 1020. I bought this excellent printer a while back and absolutely love it. No more expensive ink every 2 months for me! One problem though...this printer has some odd quirks under Linux. Last I looked, the best support for it had gotten was having the ability to print up to 20 pages - then you'd have to power cycle the printer. So this PC has been only Linux for over a week now...why? I don't print from it.

With Windows XP still on my main PC, I've been free to continue my fun Linux project without interruption. The more I use it - the more I discover that it has every bit of functionality my Windows box has (except printing of course) and then some. Some favorite applications I've discovered:
  • Amarok - best media player I've used in years. I've been using Winamp since the 1.x days...and still do (5.x) on my Windows machine. I'd tried iTunes but didn't like it. Amarok is fantastic and truly deserves a Windows port.
  • kTorrent - BitTorrent Client. On Windows I've stuck with Azureus. It's stable, has lots of features, etc. I tried it under Ubuntu and had lots of little issues...overdownloading, NAT/DHT connection problems (not fixed by port forwarding, etc.), and even the occasional lock-up. I researched a while and lots of people say to run uTorrent under wine. No thanks. kTorrent apparently is much like uTorrent anyway. It's completely stable, no NAT problems (or DHT). Even integrates well into GNome (despite it's KDE roots).
  • GKrellM - System Monitor. Nice small out of the way utility that'll let you know CPU/memory/ethernet details.
  • MPlayer - Media Player that will play ANYTHING. For all your avi/h264 needs.
These are pretty standard apps for Linux users, it seems. They've got equally viable ports or competitors on the Windows front - but I'm just happy they exist for Linux and have fairly decent GUI design (excellent in some cases). GUI design has always been lacking on Linux, in my opinion (specifically programs that you want to use on a typical desktop that have no GUI frontend). I'm really enjoying my current setup and don't have ANY plans to change back to Windows on this media center Linux box.

Weird GNome issue gone

Happy to report that using the non-beta drivers (8776) stopped that odd issue from happening again. Hope those beta drivers get that issue fixed. Suppose I'll look for a place to report the bug. :)

Also - if you're using an HDTV with a'll soon find out that everything looks washed out. You can fix some of that using the nvidia-settings tool. To access it, run this in the terminal:

sudo nvidia-settings

You'll soon find out that your great settings aren't being applied when you log out and back in (or reboot, etc.). You'll need to load this utility's settings when ubuntu starts. To do so, add this line to the System->Preferences->Sessions->Startup Programs area:

nvidia-settings --load-config-only

That should do it! Soure: Ubuntuforums

Ubuntu + HDTV + Nvidia Beta driver =

Odd GNome issue.

I've been busy reinstalling Ubuntu Linux today. Everything was working dandy except for the fact that I had partitioned my / too small and my xfs partition WAY too small. Some may say that I could have enlarged these - oh well.

My first round of reinstallation used the Nvidia beta drivers & Beryl. I had 2 system freezes while updating packages and decided that Beryl just wasn't going to cut it for me. I'm sure it will improve in the I'll install it in the future. I quickly disabled Beryl and was back to using Metacity with the Nvidia beta drivers. I moved the PC back to my HDTV (as the Ubuntu Live CD uses a refresh rate too high for my HDTV to install) and changed the resolution to match the widescreen goodness. Everything looked great so I shut it down and did some non-nerdy things for a while. Upon coming back and booting up the box, I was greeted with some odd issues in GNome. Specifically - the little red shut down button in the top right had moved several inches to the left. The trash can did the same thing. Odd! I couldn't find any help on the Internet for this issue...and no configuration menu. That's one thing that GNome really needs - more configuration options for panel stuff.

Back to the office with the PC. I figured this had something to do with the leftover of Beryl. I reinstalled everything...and moved back into the living room. Same results. Yuck!

Back to the office again and here I sit. It's updating right now, then I'll proceed to change the kernel and install the non-beta Nvidia driver. Seeing as how this is what I did when the partitions were too small and this little quirk NEVER happened...

I found a great thread about changing your kernel in Ubuntu. It's not compiling your own or anything - but it's what I needed: Ubuntuforums . One odd thing I noticed is that your new kernels are signified in GRUB as being generic. I suppose I was expecting something about K7-SMP. It is in fact using that kernel though. Definitely shows 2 cores when monitoring the system.

UPDATE: According to page 25 of that thread, Ubuntu 6.10 has made several kernel options don't even bother following the guide if you're on 6.10. Just check your kernel with [ uname -a ] in the terminal to see that you're already running a 686-smp kernel.

I'll update here in a while on the strange HDTV/beta-Nvidia/Gnome issue. It's truly annoying and I hope it doesn't decide to continue happening.

The little Linux Box that could

I decided that in order to tinker without disrupting the smooth operation of my workhorse PC, I ought to just build a testing box. In the event that I can actually tinker enough to stop wanting to tinker (like that's going to happen), I also wanted the PC to serve a dual role as an eventual Media Center PC (Windows or otherwise). So I laid out some requirements:
  • Multiple Core - I've read that the latest versions of software that play High-Def video (DVD & Blu-Ray) recommend having dual core. No reason to skimp on this as many inexpensive CPUs have this now
  • Onboard DVI - While I may eventually get a better video card for this system, having the ability to otuput to my HDTV using a DVI->HDMI converter will come in really handy.
  • Small Case - I've owned plenty of too-huge computers. This should be able to blend into my entertainment setup
  • Maximum Linux compatibility - If I'm going to be running Linux and don't want headaches...Linux needs to be able to recognize my hardware pretty much out of the box. Not that I can't install drivers/whatnot - but the most promising thing when putting together a machine and installing the OS is actually seeing that none of your hardware is DOA.
With these goals, I set out to find the parts I wanted. I've had mostly good experiences at Newegg, and chose to use them again. After several hours of comparison shopping and checking the Internet for Linux compatibility - I came up with this setup:
  • Case: Apevia X-QPack link
  • Motherboard: ASUS M2NBP-VM CSM link
  • Processor: AMD Athlon X2 3800 (Socket AM2) link
  • Ram: Kingston DDR2 533 1GB link
  • Hard Drive: WD 320GB SATA link
  • DVD Burner: LG 18X link
At the time I purchased the parts - the Intel Core 2 Duos were definitely outperforming their AMD counterparts. However, the Athlon X2 3800 was cheaper than any Core 2 Duo. I've also had good experiences with Nvidia chipsets & Linux - so what the hey. I got the ASUS motherboard primarily because of my excellent experience with prior ASUS mobos. It's also nice that it has onboard DVI.

Everything arrived quickly and nothing was DOA. I did experience some minor sound issues with different Linux distros and Windows - but not enough to call the motherboard defective or anything. Probably more of a driver issue. If you are using this motherboard under windows - I would suggest uninstalling the Nvidia firewall which is installed when you use the unified driver on the ASUS CD. Find another firewall... Never really liked the Nvidia one.

I'll detail my Linux installation fun (fun is also code for excrutiating frustration in some cases) in a future article. Thanks for the read!

Decided it was time to start a blog

I've been experimenting with Linux more often lately and have found several blogs out there to be very helpful. I've stumbled upon some pretty good information and hope to post it here when I stumble upon it from time to time.

Initially I considered paying for hosting on my own blog - just to learn the ins and outs of Wordpress or CMS Made Simple. But the truth of the matter is - I'm more interested in tinkering with the technology than coming up with sample content. As such, I set out to build a small Linux server/media center to do my tinkering on. I'll post it's specs in the next post.

If you're reading this - you either came to my blog really quickly or you've dug through the archives. Welcome to my blog!