Posts in category 'technology'
So, aside from the computer building debacle as reported earlier, I finally got around to one other major TODO I’ve had on my list some time, that being to get some household networking going and move the damn cable modem and firewall downstairs. Previously, the cable modem was in our bedroom, and we had a hacked up piece of cat5 running into the den, which was a substandard solution, to say the least, so I felt it was about damn time to do something about this.
The beauty of this situation is that in basically all new houses, they’re wiring up the telephones using cat5, which means 8 pairs of wires, rather than just the old two. This means that, at every telephone jack in a new house, there are two pairs in use, and six extra pairs just sitting there, begging to be wired up. Well, regular ol’ 10baseT, which is capable of doing 10 Mb/s (sufficient for my needs) only needs four pairs. So, using the telephone line already wired into the den, I was able to hook up 10baseT from the den straight to the basement without having to drop a single line. Sweet!
For those wondering how to do this, it’s simple. You need just a few pieces of equipment:
- A modular faceplate and two connectors, an RJ11 and an RJ45 (or two RJ45s, if you like).
- A blade screwdriver.
- A pair of wire cutters/strippers.
With these items, the process of wiring is a simple matter:
- Remove the old plate and disconnect the wires. The blue and blue/white wires should be the ones in use. Warning: the ring voltage on telephone lines is enough to give a nasty shock, so do your best to avoid touching both wires at the same time.
- Connect the original wires to the middle pins of the to-be-telephone connector. For an RJ45, that would be as follows:
- blue -> pin 4
- white/blue -> pin 5.
- Plug in the telephone and verify it works.
- Wire up the ethernet connector as follows:
- white/orange -> pin 1
- orange -> pin 2
- white/green -> pin 3
- green -> pin 6
That’s it! Well, not quite. Now you get to wire up the other end. If you head to the electrical panel in your basement, you should see the various telephone lines from the house congregate. It’s up to you to figure out which one corresponds to the jack you’re wiring. I just disconnected them until I disabled the phone line I was working on. :) Once you’ve found the line, take the unconnected wires (there should be six) and splice a piece of ethernet to the white/orange, orange, white/green, and green lines such that the wire colours match. This will create a straight-through connection that you can wire into a hub. If you want to create a cross-over (so that you can connect the panel end directly into a computer) wire the white/green to white/orange and green to orange.
There, that’s it! After this, I installed a cable splitter, moved my cable modem and firewall into the basement, and then ran a patch cable from the jack upstairs into my hub, and voila! Done! Good times…
For my next trick, I think I’ll pick up another hub at some point, put it in the basement, and then put in another modular jack where my cable is currently wired in and run ethernet to the hub, in preparation for some sort of video PC or hacked Xbox-type solution. Plus, hey, it’s good ol’ techy fun!
Update - I Still Hate Building Computers
So, in an amusing twist of fate, after going to Best Buy (yes, again… piss off!) and buying myself another video card for a whopping $129, I discovered (during a household search for other components, but I’ll get into that later) that I did, in fact, have a spare video card that will suffice… an old PCI Mach64, which will certainly do the job for the short term (and will eventually find itself in my server, in a swap for the GeForce card it currently possesses). Thus, now I find myself needing to go back to Best Buy (yes, for a third time) to return the card I just purchased.
Oh well, on the bright side, I’m saving myself $129, and I found that old card I was sure I had!
Bah, so I plugged in the Mach64 card, and the board wouldn’t power up. Odd, I thought. I pulled the card, and when I hit the power switch, at least the fan started spinning. So I plugged in the GeForce and… spinny fan, but no POST (Power On Self Test, for those not in the know… the part of the boot sequence where the RAM is counted, etc). Not even a beep from the speaker. And the HD led stays on, which doesn’t seem like a good thing.
So, I think I’m gonna abort this whole process. I’ll try taking the board back to BEST, and the card back to Best Buy (I’ll keep the RAM and just load up Frodo for now). Now, on to trying to compile a new kernel for Frodo, since the current kernel apparently doesn’t recognize more than 896 megs of RAM (as oppose to the 1.5 gigs that’s in there). I hate computers.
Further Updated Update:
Got the new memory in and the new kernel compiled. After futzing with my video drivers, I even have X working again! Now comes the wait to see if anything broke… good thing I kept the old kernel around.
Why I Hate Building Computers
So some of you may remember that a while back, I had a combination hard drive and power supply failure, simultaneously. The hard drive failure was pretty easy to detect, thanks to that lovely, disturbing clicking noise that haunts the dreams of anyone who’s experienced such a failure. Fortunately, the danger here was mitigated by the fact that, for some time now, I’ve chosen to run a pair of drives in a mirrored configuration (aka, RAID-1). Thus, while it appears to the user that I have a single drive, in reality, the data is always written to both drives.
The power supply, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter. When I noticed the failed drive, I removed it from the mirror and attempted to reboot my computer. But the other drive wouldn’t spin up! Or, it would spin up, but the computer wouldn’t detect it! Scared, I moved the drive to a spare machine I had, but sure enough, that machine wouldn’t detect the drive either! As a last resort, I took the drive to work the next day, and, to my great relief, the drive was perfectly readable, with all data intact. It was at this point that Lenore reminded me that my spare machine wasn’t in use because the hard drive controller was hosed. I then made the assumption that the same was true for my main computer.
Thus, I resolved to purchase myself another motherboard. So I took a trip over to BEST Computers and picked up a new board and a pair of new drives to replace my old mirror. But, when I got home that evening, I had a little epiphany, and decided to use my spare computer’s power supply in my main machine, just to test it out. And voila! It worked perfectly! Let this be a lesson: power supply failures can create weird, mysterious problems.
Anyway, what does this have to do with building computers? Well, suddenly, I had myself a spare motherboard and nothing to do with it. The natural thing, I thought, was to build a new machine (as opposed to just returning it…). So, eventually, I picked up a new power supply ($80), and this combined with the surviving hard drive from my last mirror, and the video card and RAM from my spare machine equalled a new box. Or so I thought.
So I began assembly. All seemed to go well. I got the motherboard mounted, and proceeded to grab the RAM… which, I discovered was 133-pin SDRAM, too old for my new board which required 184-pin DDR-RAM. sigh So I took a last minute trip to Best Buy (yeah yeah, piss off) and picked up a gig of new memory ($140 - $26 rebate).
Alright, so, RAM now installed. Case back panel, mounted. Front panel connectors, connected. Hard drive and CD-ROM, installed. So far so good. Lastly, video card.
Now, you probably already know this, but the job of the tech industry is to make simple things hard and hard things impossible. In the case of video cards, they decided to invent the AGP slot, into which a video card is to be installed. Which would be simple. To make it hard, they decided to have different voltages for AGP. 3.3v, 1.5v, and if that wasn’t enough, 0.8v too! So, if you have a card in one voltage, and board which only takes another, you’re hosed.
I bet you can guess what happened. I, apparently, have a 3.3v AGP card. Conveniently, my motherboard only takes a 1.5v AGP card. grumble. So now I’m stuck buying a new video card ($80).
So, total for this adventure:
Motherboard $150 Power supply $80 RAM $140 Video card $80 Rebate -$26 Total: $424
And the sick thing is, for about $80 more, I could get a whole new computer with a bigger hard drive and a nice sized LCD flat panel monitor to replace the 15” piece of CRT crap that I have now. And that is why I hate building computers.
E-Books... They Don't Suck!
So, in my on-going search for ways to justify the purchase of my PDA, I’ve decided to try and read my first e-book on the thing, specifically “The Da Vinci Code”.
Okay, quit laughing. I’m entitled to read a little pulp from time to time, too, ya know. So piss off! And, hey, it can’t be as bad as Decipher. No, seriously, it really can’t. If an author tried to write a book worse than that, I’m pretty sure his/her own lower intestine would reach up and strangle him/her, Douglas-Adams-style.
Anyway, surprisingly enough, the experience has been remarkably positive. I absolutely love real, physical books as much as the next guy (actually, probably more… I have this really nasty habit of “stopping in” to book stores and walking out with two or three new items to add to my collection. Which would be fine if paperbacks still cost $5, rather than the current going rate which is upwards of $10… frickin’ wallet rapists), and still think that the classic paper book provides a superior overall reading experience, although that’s probably at least in part due to nostalgia. But I have to admit, this whole e-book thing might not be so crazy after all.
Now, going in, I knew that e-books have some problems:
- Eye fatigue.
- Difficult to see in bright-light conditions.
- Poorer “random access” facilities.
- Less durable (for obvious reason).
In my case, the first two were my major concerns, especially given my poorer vision. But, as it turns out, it’s not as bad as I thought. The screen on my TX is clear and readable. The brightness controls make it pretty usable in a variety of light levels (though reflection is an issue). And as for the other issues, well, I can deal with them. Plus, e-books have a few advantages:
- Smaller pocket-print, thus easier to carry around.
- Easy to read one-handed, or even no-handed with autoscroll.
- Ability to adjust fonts, colours, etc, to suit the reader.
- Can carry around a whole collection of books easily.
- Very easy to just power on and read. The reader automatically remembers where I was and opens directly to where I left off.
- Works in dark environs. I could read while Lenore’s sleeping, if I wanted.
- Allows me to easily read material from resources like Project Gutenberg without having to print stuff off.
As for actual software, I really can’t say enough good things about PalmFiction. Unfortunately, the only things the author can say are in Russian, so you kinda have to fumble a bit with it. But once you do, wow! The feature set is incredible!
- Reads txt, PalmDoc, Word files, RTF, and others, and can even read compressed files.
- Can display the text using anti-aliased fonts converted from TTF sources.
- Supports any screen orientation, so you can read left- or right-handed.
- Can display in true full screen on hi-res devices. No wasted screen space!
- Does a great job of word wrapping and hyphenation.
- It’s FREE.
And there’s probably many more features I neglected to mention. Truely an awesome program, and far better than trying to read PDFs using PalmPDF.
On a separate but related note, the next e-book on my list is a Russian work called The Twelve Chairs, by Ilf and Petrov. ‘course, I was originally planning to read The Golden Calf by the same authors, as recommended by Arkadi, our resident Syberian. However, the folks at that site haven’t completed the translation, and the last thing I want is to be left hanging halfway through. ;)