Google Spreadsheets

Posted by me on Thursday, the 20th day of July, anno domini 2006 at 10:46 PM, local time.

So I needed to create a spreadsheet today. For what, really isn’t all that important (doing some figuring with some loans and such). But, I use Linux here at home, so don’t have Excel sitting around. And I never liked OpenOffice much (I don’t want to get into it). Gnumeric just annoys me. And I haven’t used sc in quite some time so I would have had to re-learn it all again. But I wanted to get this figured out quick!

I had heard about Google’s Spreadsheet stuff but had not used it or seen much about it actually. So, I thought I would try it out. Turns out its pretty good. Hardest bit to get used to is not right clicking for copying and pasting and what not. Right clicking gets you the context menu for the browser. To copy and paste and insert and delete columns/rows/cells/etc., you click on some buttons on the top of the page. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, its just a little weird right now. Also, there aren’t as many formatting options for how to format each cell’s numbers as I’m used to. For most tasks, I’m sure it will be fine.

Another problem I’ve noticed is that there isn’t an easy way to get from the Google Desktop to the Spreadsheets area. Would be a bit nicer if you could get to Spreadsheets directly from the Google Homepage.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will be quite nice to use the sharing stuff for the spreadsheets, too. A given spreadsheet can be made visible to select other Google users, either just for viewing or for editing as well.

So, after all that rambling: The Google Spreadsheets AJAX application appears to be quite nice for simple usage as well as portability and sharing. But there are definitely some things that could be improved upon.

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Waiting for the Harddrives

Posted by me on Friday, the 7th day of April, anno domini 2006 at 12:10 AM, local time.

So, overnight really means, better luck next time, its really two days.

Anyway, while I wait (patiently?) for the hard drives to arrive, I’ve been playing with alternate booting methods. Booting from USB keydrives was supposed to work with this motherboard, but it was also supposed to work on my Thinkpad, where I never really got it to work at all. So, needless to say, that didn’t work here either. :) Booting live linux CDs worked just fine, of course, with SLAX having a lot more hardware support than Knoppix does. Maybe a more recent Knoppix has some better drivers, but I just tried what I had.

That got rather boring, so today I played with PXE booting from network. Set up my rack server to provide the DHCP booting, kernel image, initrd, and the rest of the setup. That should let me play a bit more with more recent kernels and drivers for the case and motherboard so that when the harddrives really do get here tomorrow, I should be relatively ready to go. Surprisingly, booting over network was a lot easier than I would have originally thought. Not too slow either. You should try it :)

Well, thats about all thats new on the MythTV front for today.

By the by, I added the Man Room Cam link to the links on this page so nobody has to wade through recent articles to find the one where I listed that link. I have heard that several people seem to use this page as a portal to that one. So, alright, I’ll try to be accommodating.

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MythTV parts start trickling in

Posted by me on Thursday, the 6th day of April, anno domini 2006 at 12:07 AM, local time.

So, my case, motherboard, processor, DVD player, and 1GB of RAM arrived now. I put them all together and didn’t run into many issues at all. The documentation for the case is slightly out of date, I believe, as some connectors aren’t exactly as pictured, and some are preconnected. Another slight “issue” is that the case has a USB connector needed for the front panel, and 4 headers (in double header sets) for the 4 USB front panel ports, for a total of 5 USB headers. But, the motherboard only has room for 4 header connections inside. I decided the best route for me was to connect all the front USB ports onto the motherboard directly, and take the front panel display USB and plug it into a USB port on the back of the motherboard. Not a perfect solution (since I now have a USB cord sticking out of a hole in the back of the case and then plugged into a port in the back), but it appears to work just fine, and leaves all 4 front ports usable as well.

Another issue I encountered was the huge number of power cables and connectors in the case. Lots of cables, not a lot of room. It all fits, but air flow could be a little better. Of course, there is also a lack of a couple specific cables. The second case fan has no control inputs, so its always on (or always off). In theory, I could whip up a little circuit to control it from a serial port or something, but that might be a bother. Currently I just don’t have it plugged in at all, and that seems to work fine under current situations (with no harddrives and no tuner card yet). I also wish that the power supply had a temperature sensor and a fan control input, so that those fans could be controlled as well. There are inputs on the motherboard for them, but no cables from the power supply box (I think… there might be a few connectors that I am not sure about yet). Right now, they are always on, but they aren’t too loud.

The next minor issue I had was with the DVD drive and the case. When first installed, the drive’s open button was wedged too closely to the case’s drive open button, so it was always depressed, which causes lots of POST issues and whatnot. But, with an exacto knife, the case-to-drive-button interface was slimmed down a bit to a perfect fit for the drive. Other drives might not have as big of an issue with this out-of-the-box, but even so, it was easily fixed.

So, thats pretty much where I’m at. I can boot live-linux CDs just fine and everything seems to work ok. Havn’t tested the remote control or the front panel display yet fully, or the digital audio yet. The gigabit ethernet ports appear to work just fine (in 100mb mode, of course :). TV out worked instantly, and the thing has only booted with TV as display so far. Wireless keyboard/mouse over USB also just worked, too.

The two hard drives are on their way and when they arrive, work will really get under way. I think with the hardware RAID, they should work just fine. We’ll see. Then there is lm-sensors and fan control, the front panel display, the remote control, the digital audio, cpu throttling, dvd/cd burning, etc. all to get working with the hardware, and mythTv to get working in software, all before the final part arrives, the tuner card. Most of the hardware stuff above I am currently hopeful that it will just work. We’ll find out, I guess. I might be lucky.

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Posted by me on Tuesday, the 28th day of March, anno domini 2006 at 12:55 AM, local time.

Ha! Now that no one reads this thing anymore, I shall post some more things to it, just to confuse you all.

So, anyway, as I’m sure many people are aware, I have long been planning to build a MythTV box so that I too can join the DVR revolution. The VCR has its limitations. Also, I have been lazily not updating this blog very often. So, I thought I would use this place as a kind of heres-how-I-did-it type blog for my mythTv box. From time to time. Feel to free to mock my problems as they come up and belittle my plans for my new computer as you will.

Since I havn’t actually purchased any of the hardware for this new thing yet, I can’t really describe how I’ve got it set up just yet… For now, I will describe what will be in the thing, and then as I get the pieces, I will try to remember to write about any issues that crop up and resolutions to the problems.

So, here goes. First, I will likely be getting almost everything from NewEgg. They might not have the absolute best prices but they are certainly reasonable, and have a great selection and great return policies.

The order in which I present these things might be a little odd, but it really just harkens back to route I took to decide what to get. Sadly enough, it all started with the case. I blame Adam. The whole damn thing is his fault.

The Case
Thats right, its the Silverstone Lascala SST-LC11S-M. A great case, that really was made with only one thought in mind: Jon will love this. I mean, seriously, its MicroATX, comes with a remote control and IR module, and a front panel display (both with linux drivers direct from Silverstone’s site). It comes with a nice and quiet ATX powersupply (only 240W, which is slightly worrisome, but can be upgraded to 300W if not more from Silverstone). Price isn’t horrible, but you are paying for their high quality case engineering abilities and whatnot… right… anyway.

The Motherboard
So, ok, I’ve got a cool case, but it needs a MicroATX board. And really, when I think of what a nice motherboard needs, what comes to mind but dual gigabit ethernet ports, onboard SATA with hardware RAID0/1, onboard Audio with SPDIF I/O, onboard Video with DVI/VGA/S-Video/component outputs…

Of course, only one such motherboard exists: The AOpen i915GMm-HFS. Its a Pentium M board, which originally I wasn’t overly happy about, but seriously, with the limited powersupply available and how I really do want the thing to run quiet and cool, its really the best way to go. Originally the motherboard did have some issues with the CPU heatsink, but they’ve since fixed that up, so thats good. It also boots from USB, which is a major plus. There is also a good wiki devoted to using the thing with linux, and the outlook is very good. Pretty much everything works 100% with the latest 2.6 kernels and a couple module options. Even S-Video/DVI/component out, SPDIF in and out, the fan speed controllers and temp sensors, the hardware raid and sata stuff, etc, etc. So thats all great!

The Processor
So, since I need a Pentium M now, I really have just a couple choices from NewEgg. Either a 1.73GHz Dothan, or a 2.00Ghz Dothan. Now, I really don’t need that extra 0.27 GHz, so I went with the slightly cheaper 1.73Ghz guy. Its 533MHz FSB and 2MB L2 cache should make it a lovely speed increase from most things I’m use to. I’m sure we’ll be very happy together.

The Memory
So, in brief, I figured memory is cheap, so I might as well load up. 2x 1GB of DDR2 533 RAM should be great. Its CORSAIR, so its not the absolute cheapest cheapo crap I could find, but its still not bad in price.

The Drives
Ok, if the motherboard supports hardware RAID0, and linux supports the chipset, I’d be foolish not to take advantage, right? Also, it appears the every time I check back, prices fall further. So, two Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 SATA 120GB in a lovely striped array should work great. 240GB of space for a DVR should be fine, right? If not, I always could use some network attached storage over my dual gigabit ethernet ports….

I do have some slight concerns as the noise levels of these guys, even though a lot of the reviews claimed they were pretty good. We’ll have to see I guess. Can’t be louder than my current laptop, as I know many people will attest to.

I’ll also mention here, though its rather boring, I will be getting a DVD drive for this thing as well. DVD burner actually, so that will be cool (DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW, DVD-RAM, CD-R, CD-RW burner). Don’t know that I’ll use it all that often though.

The Capture Card
Last but not least, is the capture card. The Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 500 really seems the way to go. Sure, its analog only, but I only have an analog TV anyway, and don’t really see the need (or the allure) of HDTV. Analog is cheaper, and it works fine with everything :) I can upgrade later if I need to.

The card is the only PCI card I’m going to need to have in this system which is pretty nice. The card has two onboard analog tuners and also allows S-Video input from a cable box or VCR or what-have-you. Each tuner also has its own dedicated hardware MPG encoder! I have heard reports online where encoding two different things at the same time with this card has only about a 2-5% CPU utilization overhead or so (and that was on a Celeron, I believe). That should leave plenty left over for watching a third show or playing music or doing God-knows what else on here.

It also works great with MythTV and linux, the reports seem to indicate in the reviews on NewEgg. There were some issues with this card on early VIA chipsets, but those have been resolved (VIA issue, as I recall). Also has an FM tuner on it, but I don’t really listen to the radio much so I don’t expect to use that a whole lot. I may attempt to set it up though, depending on how bored I get with this thing… :)

The route to the poor house
So, I am planning on starting to buy this stuff starting with my next pay check. Since I really need a couple parts before I can even boot the thing, a large portion of it will be coming shortly I think. The case will be arriving first, as I need its power supply. With it will likely come the motherboard, CPU, and 1GB stick of RAM. Since it can boot off of USB, I should be able to get linux up and running at that point, and mount stuff off my network. Not too bad really. Should be able to play music and downloaded TV shows at that point without too much trouble.

Shortly thereafter I’ll probably get the two harddrives and the DVD drive. That should allow me to fully install my linux distro of choice (Slackware of course…) and mythtv software and get things rolling on that end. At that point, I’ll definitely be able to use it for my music listening and downloaded TV shows, as well as DVD playing.

Finally, I’ll need to get the capture card and the other stick of RAM to complete the system, but they can wait a bit to spread the costs out. Since I really will need them to run the system with any real DVRness, that will be a good impetous to get them, since I will have already gotten everything else for it already :) Once I get those, it should be only a very short hop to watching TV through the thing, and recording television shows as well (I’ve read reports that with the ivtv drivers, recording is as simple as “cat /dev/video0 > show.mpg”. Now that, is sweet), even if I don’t fully have MythTV setup yet. With my current television lineup SQL database scheme already in place on my other server, I may just play around for a while with integrating that with recording TV automatically from there. Command lines are better, I say!! :-)

Anyway, it’s late, I’m tired, and I have a bit of a headache. Probably because it’s late and I’m tired.

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Just messing around

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 14th day of December, anno domini 2005 at 4:50 AM, local time.

Trying to get acquainted with this thing. Bit better theme now. Might not still be perfect. Not in love with that shade of blue, actually.

Meant to add a link in the last post to test out the inter-blog linking stuff, so here it is now. Number 9 in that post and the degradation of the English language.

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