Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category.

New rig, build results

I saw a tweet from Scott Hanselman on his new rig and he has a blog post about it. Then I realized I hadn’t posted about my new rig that I built in January. I wanted something fast for development and also for video editing. I went with Linux Mint as I have been running Mint happily on my home computers for a few years now. I chose to go unconventionally with an older server motherboard and some older components that fit. The Motherboard is a Supermicro and holds a paired Intel Xeon E5-26780 server processors, they have 10 cores each. That gives me 40 threads. 16GB of DDR3 memory and a Pro SATA III SSD. I re-used the graphics card from my old rig, I use xBox for gaming anyway. The total was about $1500, bought from Newegg and Ebay.

Let’s take a look at the numbers,

The machine Scott is building ( before over-clocking )
– Warm build just under 10 seconds.
– Cold build takes 33.3 seconds.

My desktop server
– Warm build takes 16.16 seconds.
– Warm build with -no-restore takes 9.35 seconds
– Cold build takes 27.2 seconds

Interestingly my cold build is faster, maybe because of more threads ? Warm is a lot slower on my rig. Nice to see .net use all the available threads during the build. Do your own build see what your rig can do, maybe it’s time for a new one ?

Media Center, No guide listing, Windows Vista

I stopped getting the guide information as so many in 7/2015 on my Windows Vista box. I tried all the tricks found on the Internet, different zip codes etc. to no avail. Finally I installed Windows 7 and the guide listings are back. Media Center is back working as it used to, I can record shows etc. Frustrating experience, but if you are on Vista you might consider getting Windows 7 instead. My Ati Wonder digital card tuner works under Win 7 without the OSFRLoader that was needed under Vista. Next thing to do, install McBuddy.

ATI Wonder record digital cable in Media Center

I have a Media Center as my recording device running on Windows Vista which has served me really good in the past. Recently I upgraded to the digital package with my cable provider. When you do that you get a digital set top box from them to watch your channels, which obviously only feeds your TV. Therefor I had to find a solution to how I’m going to record the digital channels from Media Center as I only have a analog tuner card in my computer. I went searching high and low for such a tuner card. It turns out there are not many choices, you can get ATI wonder OCUR which can be either external or internal card, has one tuner and can only be bought second hand on Ebay or where ever you can find them it will be close to $200. Then there is the new Ceton InfiniTV 4, with 4 tuners around $400 from the source. Yes you guessed it, if you have 4 tuners in the card you can record 4 shows from different channels at the same time. The Ceton cards are not shipping in big quantities yet and there is a waiting list, there have also been some quality concerns but from what I hear most of them work great out of the box. But for me I wanted something right way and also I didn’t want to take a chance on a $400 card if things didn’t work out. So I chose to grab ATI wonder off Ebay. Once I got the card it’s time to set it up before calling the cable company to bring out CableCard for the digital tuner.

So let’s get down to the more technical aspects of the whole thing, the digital tuner card will accept a PCMI CabelCard provided by your cable provider. Luckily there is a law that mandates the cable providers to provide you with a CableCard if you need one for your recording device. You can get more than one, but then you have to pay extra. Most of the cable providers send out a tech to do the install, some of them allow you to do it yourself. In my case they sent out a tech and charged $40 for the appointment.

And of course you have to get your system ready for it first. In this case External ATI Wonder, connect your cable feed, power it up and plug the USB connection into your computer. The computer recognizes the unit and loads a Microsoft driver for it. The ATI tuner is only sold with computers specially designed to run Media Center using the ATI wonder digital tuner. To see if your board / bios is compatible you need to run a small utility program found here OCUR bios check utility. In my case the computer was NOT compatible.

Not to worry there is a tool for that as well OSFRLoader, that can be found on the internet as well. That tool will load ACPI table in memory along with your other bios information pretending that you have OCUR capable computer. It will set it self up to load when you boot your computer. After that you run the OCUR bios check utility again and it should claim that your computer is compatible.

With that out of the way you can go into Media Center and setup your TV signal. Have Media Center do the auto configuration and it should claim that you have Digital tuner. Step through the rest of the wizard and it will prompt you for PID to use with your ATI card. There is a generic PID that works for most people 263DJ-2Y9YT-6X9G6-W28DB-697TF Once Media Center accepts the PID your digital tuner is setup. Now you just need the cable guy to show up he will insert the CableCard and have it paired with HQ, once it’s working you should have full access to the digital channels from Media Center.

My Media Center is and runs on Windows Vista, you might have other configuration that needs to be dealt with differently. I hear that it’s even easier to set it up on Windows 7 and Media Center has some utility for it under the extra tools menu.

The Random Lava lamp

I once came across a sketch, which was something like

int RandomNumber()
return 4; // This number is completely random from a dice toss

I want to take a look at some Random number generators ( RNG ), it isn’t as simple as it seems at first.

Looking back in time. The book A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates was a big hit in 1955.

Today we have much more powerful hardware and much greater needs.

Probably the most famous generator used Lava lamps.

At there is another one that uses two radios.

And you have one using radioactive substance with a Geiger counter, just keep your distance.

Then you have the second version of the Lava lamps.  Landon Curt Noll moved over to LavaRnd which hooks up to your webcam.  Not any webcam they have a list of supported cameras.  And the source code is even available on Source Force.  Apparently they got tired of changing the bulbs in the Lava lamps and turned to webcams instead.  With a cheap webcam and their source code either in c or perl you can have a really strong generator up and running quickly.

Here is an idea, what about having humans do it.  We could put a lot of people in a room throwing dice, but that’s not efficient at all.  Let’s start with a list of bloggers, the list is randomly chosen each day.  As new posts are published on the bloggers RSS feed we will pick up the new data.  This data will be mixed in with posts from other bloggers.  Along with the feed from the stock market.  We could throw in some random Twitter feeds as well.  After doing some shuffling we create hash signatures from the sets of data and you have your randomness.  I’m sure the process could also use some blending similar to the LavarRnd blender.

How reliable are bloggers as a random source ?  Very reliable, as none of the bloggers will post the same post again.  They don’t repeat themselves, that would make no sense to a blogger. It would only cost them readers as people would get turned off.  It’s like hearing the same news over and over again, wait that’s Tv.  Maybe that’s why I don’t watch tv, at least not the news.

Let’s blog away, create those random numbers !

New computer

Actually not a new computer at this point, rather when I was about 12 or 13 years old.  My father went once in a while to England to participate in Kodak seminars that he had to take to be a certified Kodak repair all ills fixit man.  He took care of a lot of different equipment made by Kodak.  Mainly the one hour photo labs, but also a lot of other stuff.  I don’t think that the training in England was really needed, yes maybe in some instances.  I’m sure he wouldn’t have needed some of them and being able to fix whatever came up without a formal training.  The fact is that he liked going to England, because it was a cool place and just a fun to visit.

I had been campaigning for a computer at the time mainly to play video games.  The time came for my fathers next visit to England.  To my surprise he actually came back home with a Texas Instrument TI-99 that had the very first 16bit blazing processor.

The TI had a lot going for it plug in play hardware, voice module, cartridges etc.   I have to admit at first I was a little bit blown off because my friends had the Sinclair which boosted more of the popular games at the time like Decathlon

Which I had been playing at their house as I didn’t even have a computer.  But wait a minute, the TI had plenty of fun games too that I played for extended time.  Thank god for the pause button !  Once I played Parsec for 3-4 hrs without a restart.  I was motivated by some English computer magazine that covered games and people wrote in with their high score.  I also remember WarGames which appeared in the WarGames movie.  The game itself was kinda dull though I didn’t play it much.  The objective was to send nukes and defend nukes in the end everything blew up, end of story.  Which surprisingly leads us to Tom Anderson

You can find TI-99 emulator here it includes some of the games and other apps such as “Home Finance”.

My father said he wanted to get me somthing that wasn’t just a game console, rather a real computer that you could program.  Of course the programming language was Basic. After playing a lot of the games I became tired of them and wanted to do some programming.  I started by writing a game of my own, it was pretty primitive but it was playable.   I would also write some other small programs mostly something that had to do with graphics.  That’s how it started, how I got interested in programming.