Windows Vista Media Center

Gear September 29th, 2007

About a week ago, after a brief conversation about it with Dror I’ve set to convert my old machine to be a Home Theater PC.

I really wanted an HTPC. But after my last horrible experience buying an out-of-the-box HTPC I was pretty skeptic I’ll make another attempt at it any time soon.
After I got my new PC recently I just had the old one lying around. I’ve installed Windows Home Server on it which was working nice but not all that useful.
Talking to Dror I realized that upgrading my old machine to a basic HTPC simply involves a 380nis expense on a good TV card (Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 150).
Given this new realization, I decided to spend the money required on an initial proof of concept to see the system working. I would then upgrade whatever’s necessary to make it decent.

Phase I – Initial Setup

I bought the card and spent the other day building and configuring my basic HTPC setup.
My current spec is as follows:

  • Intel Pentium 4, 2275 MHz (17 x 134)
  • MSI 645E Max-C Motherboard
  • Gainward GeForce FX 5200 (AGP 4x, 128MB)
  • Hauppage WinTV-PVR 150 MCE (Comes with Media Center remote and IR Blaster. Everything you need to get a Media Center installation up and running)
  • 360GB Storage

IMG_0880

The great news is that it has been working perfectly for 2 days now. I’m ecstatic!

However, it’s not perfect. It makes a lot of noise and, as you can see from the picture, looks kinda ugly in my living room.
It also has a wired keyboard and no mouse which makes things difficult when it comes to doing things the MCE remote can’t do.
Anyway, this leads us to the next phase of my Media Center experiment…

Phase II – Upgrades

There are upgrades I intend to make in the near future:

  • Case

The current case is ugly, has a poor cooling system and makes a lot of noise so obviously I need a new, decent case.
I’ve been reading about all sort of heat problems with HTPC cases and I’m tempted to go with another Antec P180 which already proved to be a huge success on my other PC.

LC17

  • Motherboard

My current motherboard is old. I want to get a new one that supports USB 2.0 and SATA so I could expand my storage later on. The problem is that Socket 478 motherboards are hard to come by these days. Can anyone in Israel recommend a store that still has such boards in stock?

  • KeyboardMouse

I need an inexpensive wireless keyboard with a mouse-wheel on it. The Microsoft® Remote Keyboard for Windows® XP Media Center Edition seems like a sensible choice so I’ll probably be ordering this one as soon as possible.
Microsoft Remote Keyboard for Windows® XP Media Center Edition

  • PCI Wireless Device

Because my 3com wireless USB device doesn’t work well. Its slow and it fails to copy files between my two machines.
DLink DWA-547

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Introducing My New Monster PC

Gear September 29th, 2007

I’ve recently decided to replace my old home PC with a new monstrous gaming PC.

When I first sat down and defined what I want from this new machine I set the following priorities:

  • Fast – Its a gaming (and development) machine, it has to be fast! It has to have superior graphics capabilities. I also want an SLI enabled machine so I could upgrade to a second GPU in the future.
  • Quiet – My current computer is way to noisy.
  • Reliable & Maintainable – My machine runs 24/7 and holds my important personal data, work, source code etc. so it has to be 100% reliable. No overheating, crushes and downtime due to repairs.
    I’m also tired of cheap cases that fall apart after the first few times you open them and require a lot of work with screws etc. to install drives etc.
    It has to support a decent cooling system (I do plan to install two GPUs and several HDs in the future).

Ideally, I could an obscene amount of money and build a mega-dream-machine. But then again, I do not have the obscene amount of money to spend on that cause.
After a lot of reaches and some compromises I’ve reached a spec that fits my needs.

The Setup

IMG_0882 IMG_0884IMG_0897IMG_0898

Here’s a quick breakdown of the computer spec and the rational behind:

  • Antec P182 Gun Metal Black 0.8mm Cold Rolled Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case (link) – 230$ (967.6NIS)

Many do not realize it, but the case is one of the most important parts in a computer. I used to settle for cheap cases that used to break easily and give you hard time whenever you want to install a new component.
This time I decided to go for a professional case and I don’t regret it. The Antec P182 is simply unreal! It has a very clean look, its quite (was built in collaboration with SilentPCReviews), has great heat isolation and 3 fans and its very easy to handle. Read the reviews at see at AnandTech and SilentPCReview.
p182_q

  • ASUS P5N32-E SLI Plus Motherboard (link) – 280$ (1177.93NIS)

NVidia’s 650i chipset is a far more economic variation of its ridiculously expensive 680i chipset.
The ASUS P5N32-E SLI Plus motherboard is a hybrid board based on NVidia’s 650i and 570 chipset made to compete in performance with 680i boards at a cheaper price. It has received lots of raving reviews like this one from Anantech.
Another reason to buy an SLI board is that I’ll be able to add a second video card in the future when price decreases…
P5N32-E SLI Plus

  • EVGA 8800GTS 320Mb ACS3 Video Card (link) – 462$ (1943NIS)

A gaming machine needs a strong GPU. This card run NVidia’s 8800GTS GPU and is equipped with ACS3 (Asymmetric Cooling System) heat sink fan.
It provides outstanding graphics performance an keeps cool and quite. The ACS3 modification makes this card very good for overclocking if I’ll ever want to get into that…
The card is reviewed at the following Best of the Best Roundup.

  • Thermaltake Toughpower 650W Power Supply – 195$ (820NIS)

Thermaltake’s PSUs are quite and reliable. I used to have problems with generic PSUs so I chose a brand name this time.

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6420 2.13Fhz CPU – 256$ (1114NIS)

This is basically the same as the E6400 but it has 4MB cache instead of 2MB. It also costs about the same as the E6400. Price-wise, the price for an E6600 didn’t seem to justify itself so I went with this one.
All of Intel’s Core 2 Duos are known to overclock well so I wonder how much juice I’ll be able to quizze of it…

  • 2GB Trancend DDR2 800Mhz – 220$ (925NIS)

Its cheap and in reasonable quality. I didn’t buy an expensive brand with heat sinks etc. because I’m nit an extreme overclocker and it seems like a waste of money.
This one should overclock well enough for my needs.

  • LG L226WTQ Widescreen LCD (~1500NIS on Sale)

Caught this one on sale at it was about time to replace my 7+ years old Mag CRT screen.
I’ve read some good reviews about it and it certainly looks good (and wide).
It has some bad sides though:

  • Its supposed to be Vista compatible but no matter how hard I’ve tried I couldn’t make its software connect with the screen.
  • It comes with a fixed height leg that only allows rotating the screen to the left and right. You can’t adjust the height or turn the screen upwardsdownwards.
  • Western Digital 320GB SATA2 7200 16MB Hard Drive  – 135$ (567.9NIS)
  • G-MAX 3.5 Card Reader – 25$ (105.2NIS)
  • LG Super-Multi DVD Rewriter
  • Microsoft Habu Mouse

Its been running without a problem for almost two monthes now and I did some extreme stress tests and benchmarking on it to make sure everything is working correctly and stable.
I would like to do some overclocking on so I just need to get a good CPU heatsink to be able to start working.

Currently I’m getting a Windows Experience score of 5.1 where the lowest score is by the CPU so overclocking should definitely improve that.

 WindowsExperience 

 

Things to Come

  • CPU Cooling Device – I need good CPU cooling before I can start overclocking.
    Possible buys (Still requires some more research):

03_sideviewB[1]

  • LCD Mounting Arm – I saw the Ergotron LX Desk Mount LCD Arms on Jeff’s post and it looks cool! A whole lot better than the crappy leg LG supplies with their LG.
    The problem is that the price for this arm in Israel is outrageously high – it’s almost triple than its cost in the US.
    I’ll probably have to have someone buy it for me in the US.

Modern Approaches to Data Visualization

Design September 26th, 2007

Modern data visualization is like a form of art.
The recent Overview of Modern Data Visualization article at Smashing Magazine is a must read on the topic…

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Introduction to LINQ

.NET, Programming September 17th, 2007

I’m doing a 1 hour Introduction to LINQ session at SAP tomorrow.
Below is a link to the presentations and I’d be happy to hear comments about it if anyone has any…

IntroToLINQ

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Duet To The Rescue…

Duet, SAP September 16th, 2007

When BNSF decided to replace its aging legacy systems, two software companies naturally came to mind. At the end of the decision process, only SAP remained.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad had already pushed its decades-old legacy systems to the limit, and with the railroad industry expecting rapid growth, the company decided it was time to upgrade, according to Jeff Campbell, BNSF’s vice president of technology services and chief information officer.

The only question was: SAP or Oracle?

The final nail in Oracle’s coffin may well have been Duet. While SAP and Oracle both had advantages in other areas, BNSF felt Oracle couldn’t match Duet’s functionality.

“Our casual users are very good at, and very familiar with, the Office environment,” Campbell said. “To be able to utilize that platform — as time goes on and more functionality is available in Duet — makes it much easier for the end-user experience.”

Check out the full article

What’s wrong with this code? #2

.NET, Programming, What's wrong with this code? September 2nd, 2007

Check out the following code snippet:

    static decimal Division(int a, int b) { return a / b; }

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Comments (7) imported from www.ekampf.com/blog/:

Sunday, September 02, 2007 9:46:22 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

divide with zero..

bb king

Sunday, September 02, 2007 10:54:57 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Absent casting to decimal in return.

HaGever

Sunday, September 02, 2007 2:18:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Casting has nothing to do with it. The code compiles and runs without exceptions unless you divide by zero as specified in the first comment.
But division by zero is not the only thing wrong here…

Eran Kampf

Sunday, September 02, 2007 4:28:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

1 in 5 Americans can divide by 0, such as. Just ask Miss South Carolina.

Brennan Stehling

Sunday, September 02, 2007 6:06:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

2Eran Kampf
Casting necessary here!
Define
a = 3
b = 2
Without casting your result will be 1, but with casting – 1.5
Int/Int return int, but (decimal)int/int = decimal
P.S.I don’t remind a division inasmuch as that this is trivial.
;-) Good luck

HaGever

Sunday, September 02, 2007 6:40:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Exactly!
You found the second point I was aiming at – dividing integers results an integer. so given a=1 and b=2 the method will return 0 and not 0.5 as expected.
On your first comment I understood you want to cast the return value which means doing (decimal)(a/b) which is still wrong.
You need to cast a and b before dividing by doing (decimal)a / (decimal)b or by doing what you said in the second comment (decimal)a / b which actually casts a to decimal and then divides it by b.
I guess the 2nd snippet was too easy compared to the 1st :\
Regards,
Eran

Eran Kampf

Friday, November 23, 2007 9:23:52 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

This is great! One question: Is there any way around the authentication issue? I have a portal which requires a login/password. Am I out of luck? –thanks

WOW GOLD