Well, with all the hardware for the MythTV project on the way (mostly, anyway… NCIX didn’t have a couple items in stock. Like the TV capture card), it seemed like a good time to get the house in order for the new arrivals. Thus, as a logical first step, I decided it was about time I got my firewall rebuilt and moved all the various networking bits downstairs onto some kind of shelving. The result is this:
As you can see, I re-purposed an old Ikea shelving unit as a make-shift rack, and then moved all these things downstairs:
- Cable Modem
- 10Mbs hub (until I get a proper switch for the main house LAN)
- 10/100Mbs switch for the MythTV LAN
In case you’re wondering, this gear is all set up like so:
[[fig:Home Network Diagram]]
Why so complicated? Well, the primary complication is in my choice to shunt the MythTV stuff onto it’s own subnet. I had a couple reasons for this:
- The MythTV frontends will be configured via DHCP and bootp. Putting this on a separate network prevents conflicts with the main firewall DHCP (and any other network-booted devices I may deploy).
- I figured a dedicated, switched 100Mbs network for the Myth stuff wasn’t a bad thing.
Of course, if I had a proper switch which supported VLANs, I could have done this with a single switch, but I wasn’t prepared to pay the bucks for such a device.
As for the firewall, I ended up abandoning LEAF in favour of m0n0wall, a FreeBSD-based firewall that boots nicely off a mini-CD and writes it’s configuration to a dirt cheap USB flash drive I plugged into the back of the thing (IOW, no more unreliable floppies!). And as a bonus, it has a nice, easy to use web-based admin interface, so no longer do I have to hook a damn monitor up to the thing every time I want to reconfigure things.
Okay, this one’s a little different, though. I swear. It costs a lot more than my previous projects…
So what is it? Well, for many months now, I’ve talked on and off about building a DIY PVR setup. Usually this starts off with me complaining about the timeslots for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and quickly turns into a discussion of how awesome a PVR would be for timeshifting my favorite shows, listening to all the music I’ve transferred onto my computer, and watching all the content I’ve downlo… err… ahem. Anyway, as a result, I’ve often thought about:
- Buying and modding an XBox,
- Building a MythTV-based system, or
- Buying a Shaw PVR.
But it wasn’t until I got my pay adjustment, and the attendant backpay (all the way back to last december!) that it became a practical possibility. The problem is, now flush with cash, I think I’ve gone a little overboard.
It all started with plans to build a simple MythTV-based PVR with a mini-itx board of some kind, mounted in a little case. It didn’t take long before this ballooned into a full frontend/backend networked multimedia infrastructure project, with all it’s associated costs. But you know what? I don’t care, damnit! :)
Anyway, I’ve started some new pages to cover my MythTV project. There you can read about my motivations, details about MythTV, and the hardware I’m using. As for the current status, the gear has all been ordered and should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point, the fun begins! Meanwhile, I’ll need to string some cat5e between my living room and where the backend will live, so that should keep me busy.
And just to give you a little taste, here is a shot of the case I’m going to use for the Living Room Frontend:
Unfortunately, bad fences are another thing entirely. Many weeks ago, my neighbour decided he wanted to build a fence. “Sure!”, I said, not realizing what I was really in for. Some time later, fence posts arrived, and I started to wonder when we would begin.
Well, I found out one morning when, to my surprised, I heard the sounds of digging outside. I went out to find him installing posts with the help of his other neighbour. This would be fine… if they knew what the hell they were doing. But they didn’t. The holes were far too shallow (maybe a foot deep), and the 4x6 posts were turned so the short side lined up with the fence line, and in many cases they weren’t even properly aligned. It suffices to say I got out there immediately. We ended up digging 2’ holes (which probably should have been 3’, but he wouldn’t listen) with no gravel in the bottom (despite my enquiries) and concrete dumped in the holes with the posts (he claims we didn’t need forms).
This is when I first realized something about my lovely neighbour: he’s a know-it-all who doesn’t actually know what the fuck he’s doing. Worse, he is whatever the opposite of a perfectionist is. This certainly explains why he was so impressed with my work on our Cedar Deck.
This was all illustrated in our next interaction. We had talked about materials, and I told him I wanted pressure-treated or Cedar, nothing else (I’m not planning to treat the fence right away, if at all). Moreover, standing beside the fence posts which extended far above my 5’ 6” frame, I told him we’d need at least 6’ boards. Well, guess what showed up on his driveway a week or two later? 5’ spruce boards! Well, there was no way I was going to put up with that, so I told him he had to have the boards replaced with 6’ PT.
Oh, but I’m not finished! The neighbour decided, on some of his off time, to put the 2x6 cross braces on. Good idea, right? Apparently not. You see, rather than building a nice sloped fence like everyone else in our neighbourhood, he decided to use joist hangers and make a stepped one. So now, either I’m going to get fucked with two different styles of fence, or my other neighbour will, and I’m not willing to inflict that on him.
But wait, you probably think I’m done now, right? Oh no! No no! You see, we still haven’t gotten to the fence boards! I was chilling comfortably in the house when I heard the sound of a drill outside. “Oh shit, he’s working on the fence”, I thought, and I raced outside to find he’d finished the far panel and had started on the next one. From a distance, it didn’t look too bad… and then I got closer. First, I should point out that he put all the fence boards on his side, which isn’t that big of a deal. However, he also bought screws that were too long. So, on the entire first panel, all the screws had driven straight through and were sticking out on my side. ARGH! Worse yet, his idea to fix it was, get this, to grind the tips off. Let’s just say I objected.
“But what about the second panel?”, you ask? He decided to start driving the screws in at an angle, rather than doing the obvious and just returning the damned screws. Well, in this case, I didn’t care too much, as the screw heads show on his side, not mine. But, upon examining the work, it was pretty damned obvious that the fence boards started level with the top cross-brace, and slowly started curving up! I mean, how could you not notice this?!?
At this point, I simply took over. There was no damn way I was going to let him fuck up my fence further. Luckily, he had to drive his wife somewhere, and by the time they’d returned, I’d already done two panels and started a third, and by the end of the evening, I was done. The next day, I rescrewed the entire first panel (though, now my side of the cross braces are peppered with holes) and repositioned all the boards in the second one. The result is that we now have a decent (if somewhat odd) looking fence on the east side of our property that isn’t going to match with the one on the west. Woo fucking hoo.
Interestingly, this is a very clear illustration of why I chose to work on the deck alone. I’m a perfectionist, and unless I’m working with another perfectionist, I would inevitably get very frustrated. Moreover, if I work alone, I only have myself to blame if there are flaws in the finished product… as opposed to cursing someone else’s name every time I noticed something that annoyed me. :)
Okay, I thought I’d heard it all when I learned about Sailboat Arcadia. I mean, some guy building a boat in his backyard?? Well, I came across something equally hardcore today…
Tell me, have you heard of David J. Gingery? Yeah, neither had I. Well, this crazy nutjob, who was, to quote Wikipedia, “an inventor, writer, and machinist”, wrote a series of books on how to build machine tools. Not too remarkable, right? Well, what makes this so unbelievable is that he didn’t do it by buying parts from hardware stores and so forth. Oh no, that would be too easy. Instead, he figured out how to build his own Foundry in his back yard, capable of melting aluminum and zinc alloys. Then, using Green_sand molds, he casted the parts he needed and built his devices from scratch.
But it doesn’t end there. After figuring all this out, he wrote a series of books which, in simple, clear language, describe how to build a metal working shop. The first book covers the construction of a charcoal foundry, and the remaining volumes describe how to build various metal working equipment from recycled scrap metal, including, believe it or not, a lathe and a drill press. And all this can be done without the need for power tools or other expensive gear.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “does he really plan to build a metal working shop??” In short, no. :) After completing such a project, I honestly have no idea what I’d do with it. But you must admit, it’s pretty damned amazing.