Entries Tagged as 'Hardware'

Promise NS4300N NAS (Update)

Looks like Promise has “fixed” the issue with Seagate 1.5TB drives in the NS4300N NAS…

They’ve replaced Compatibility List NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081031.pdf with NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081126.pdf on their support web site — the never revisions of the V1.0 Compatibility List omits the Seagate 1.5TB drive (interesting that they choose to call it V1.0 rather than V1.1 and remove the previous V1.0 list from their web page)… but the firmware release notes still contains the statement that they’ve added support for 1.5TB drives (the only 1.5TB drive I know of is the Seagate).

Promise’s actions are a little suspect… maybe it’s time for a trip over to Alameda’s Small Claims Court…  I’ve retained copies of both versions of the compatibility list as well as the firmware release notes.

And for the record, I have still yet to receive any update to my online support inquiry even though I’ve updated it a number of times with “additional” comments and information; and I’ve called Promise as well.

Originally posted 2008-12-04 22:13:22.

IPTV

IPTV has come a long way since the early 90’s and for most of the nation we’re on the edge of an era where digital entertainment in the home will be carried throughout our home (and enter our home) over a conventional data network.

At the moment, most media player devices are vendor specific in what they will do (ie, the U-Verse set-top box is an IPTV device, but is very limited in what it provides beyond allowing a consumer access to the U-Verse servers) — though there are some general purpose devices.

Sure, you can attach a Media PC or Home Entertainment PC, a XBox 360, a PS3, or a Wii to your entertainment system and use it as a somewhat general purpose media player — but it’s not really designed to provide a good user experience for media (they’re intended for general computing or gaming) – or you can purchase one of a growing number of media devices that are being offered that are targeted specifically to provide for a reasonably good consumer experience.

There are also a number of BluRay players that have media player capabilities — but since I consider BluRay a dying media format (and have since the day the format wars were decided) — I see no reason to invest in a player that’s likely to go the way of the 8-track; nor do I see a reason to pay for over priced discs (particularly when I already own a license for the material in another format, and no longer subscribe to making the MPAA richer when they offer me nothing).

There are also a number of display panels that have media player capabilities — but you’re going to find that the display panels that use the best display technology don’t contain the wizzy features to allow for streaming media. So my advice, is buy a solid panel and just realize that you’re going to have an external box (I don’t know of anyone who’s built a cable-card type module for IPTV at the consumer level let).

That leaves us with just the stand along devices — and if you decide that NetFlix is an absolute requirement you come down to three devices currently: Roku Streaming Player; Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player; and Western Digital TV Live Plus HD Media Player.

For my money the Roku is a joke — and I’m just going to pass right over it since I’ve already given it more attention than it deserves.

Both the Seagate and the Western Digital devices look like they have potential (note, only the WDBABX0000NBK is worth considering, the other models are in the same bucket as the Roku)/

The WD TV Live Plus; however, specifically supports the “play to” feature of Windows Media Player — which means you should be able to play any content on the device that you can play on a Windows 7 machine… which opens you up to a much larger potential source for entertainment.

Let me be clear at this point that I haven’t tried any of these devices for myself — I’m just in the phase of trying to figure out which would be worth my time to look at… once I have a device (and hopefully I’ll be happy with the first I get) I’ll write up a detailed post on the feature set — if you’re in a hurry, just read over the capabilities of each of the possibilities and decide what features you have to have to eliminate the number of possibilities down; and before you do that, if you haven’t looked at the value of the NetFlix streaming feature — acquaint yourself with that, and you too will likely consider it a “must have”.

Originally posted 2010-08-03 02:00:49.

USB Hard Drive Adapters

 Everyone’s making them and they come in really handy…

 Basically they’re devices you can use to access a bare hard drive.  Most of them supports PATA and SATA 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives (though some vendors require a bunch of adapters to do it).  The APRICORN DriveWire unit is clean and simple and priced around $30 (use a price search engine) or less.

I was so happy to find these units that I purchased two of them and gave away my previous ones made by another vendor.

If you’re going to routinely swap drives on and off a computer, and don’t want to spring for an external case you might be better off with a hard drive dock also available for about $30, but they don’t support PATA (PATA is not hot swapable).

If you’re going to use these units to upgrade a computer’s hard drive, remember Acronis TrueImage is a great tool (you can find shareware and OpenSource tools as well — but TrueImage is well worth the price and has many additional features that you’ll likely find useful).


APRICORN: DriveWire – Universal Hard Drive Adapter

Originally posted 2008-12-29 12:00:32.

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services

I picked up a copy of Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services; basically the package includes the same Pharos (re-branded) GPS module that Microsoft has been using along with a Pharos (re-branded) FM side-band receiver (similar technology as to what you can get on a number of all-in-one GPS units that provide real time data).

I haven’t tried all the wizzy new features for real yet, but in service areas I should be able to get real time data on traffic, construction, gas prices, weather, etc… the real question is how well S&T uses that data to auto-magically re-route.

I have a Pharos all-in-one GPS-150 receivers that’s a nice little unit, but it’s difficult to enter address information (there is not a sync to the PC option), and it doesn’t get real time data feeds. The Pharos all-in-one uses their Ostia software rather than Streets and Trips; but you can hack Tom-Tom PDA software to run quite nicely on it (the problem is getting the maps).

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A bit of trivia for those that don’t know the connection between the word “Pharos” and mapping / navigation. Pharos was the name of the light house at Alexandria, Egypt. And “Ostia” was the ancient port of Rome at the mouth of the Tiber river.

Originally posted 2008-07-08 00:15:45.

Hyper-V

I started to switch my virtualization hosts over to Server 2008 about two weeks ago; and I’ll give you some feedback on my experience.

The first thing you’re going to find with Hyper-V is that migrating your old virtual machines to Hyper-V isn’t particularly easy unless you want to purchase Microsoft’s virtual management server — quite a large expense for most users.

You can download a tool called VMC2HV (that converts Virtual Server / Virtual PC VMC files to Hyper-V format) and that will make it fairly easy for you, but there are still some things you need to watch for.

Before I talk about VMC2HV, there are some setting in Hyper-V you’ll want to change right off.

  • Set the path for your virtual machine configuration files.
  • Set the path for your virtual disks.
  • Setup a virtual network (you may need more than one depending on your configuration).

When using VMC2HV:

  • Make sure you tell VMC2HV where you want your Hyper-V files (and how you want to organize them).
  • Decide where you want to store your virtual disks (don’t store them under the virtual machine directory, put them in a separate tree.
  • Make sure you check the “swap SCSI 0 with IDE 0” box; if you used SCSI drives on Virtual Server, you need to remember you can’t boot from anything but IDE on Hyper-V; any additional disks you have can (and should) be SCSI.
  • Correct the virtual disk paths (and file names) if you’ve changed the location of the files.

I found that VMC2HV worked well… but it was far from perfect.

After you finish with VMC2HV you’ll need to setup the virtual network manually, and you’ll probably want to check all the setting.

VMC2HV certainly made it easy for me to jump start, but then I found that just recreating the virtual machines under Hyper-V was just about as easy.  The only “difficult” thing with the Hyper-V interface I’ve found is that getting it to put the configuration files where you want them is a little tedious, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it.

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I’m running Hyper-V on machines with: Intel Q6600 (Quad Core2 65nm) with 8GB of DDR2 memory (Corsair DHX) on Intel DG33TL motherboards and hardware RAID5 (fifteen spindles or eight spindles — I’ve two machines with each configuration).

I find that giving each virtual machine two processors makes them much more responsive, and even running far more cores than I actually have doesn’t swamp the host processor (most of the time my virtual machines are IO bound, waiting on network responses or dealing with disks).

Most likely for a home (or small office) virtualization server you’ll find what I’ve shown several of my clients — invest in memory and spindles.

  • If you can avoid any paging in the virtual machines you’ll see much better performance (so don’t give the machines more memory than they need and you have, and don’t create a paging file).
  • For any virtual machine that reads and writes the disks heavily the more spindles that make up the host volume the more current IO you will have, and that mean you’ll be able to sustain a higher IO rate.  And if you use RAID5 you get fault tolerance on your virtualization store.

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Installing the Hyper-V integration files is also a bit of a pain.  The Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager will do it automatically, but for those who don’t want to spend the money on something that is probably far more than you need you’ll have to do it by hand.

First you have to remove the old VMadditions that were put there by Virtual Server or Virtual PC.  If you do that before you move the files off your old machine it’s easier (you won’t have a mouse or network under Hyper-V until you complete the installation of the integration files).

Second you will upgrade the HAL, which is done automatically the first time you try to install the integration file (once you do this, there’s no easy way to go back to Virtual Server or Virtual PC, so save a copy of your boot VHD if you’re not sure).

Third you will install the integration files (which install the Windows Driver Foundation; and that’s the only problem I saw — apparently if the temporary directory doesn’t get created before WDF install runs, it fails — check you log files for more information, and just create the temporary directory by hand and re-run the setup for the integration files).

When you have the integration files install and reboot the machine should be working perfectly.

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I’m seeing a rather dramatic speed increase in my virtual machines using Hyper-V; which is really surprising since IO on the boot drive should be slower (since it uses IDE) than it was with Virtual Server (which used SCSI — highly para-virtualized).

I suspect that overall the way Hyper-V is built (you can read white papers on Hyper-V if you’re interested; you’ll also notice that Hyper-V and Xen conceptually share a similar architecture) is responsible for the speed increases; and the fact that you can allocate up to the number of physical cores you have to a guest machine or run 64-bit operating systems and software under Hyper-V you can really build out a virtual infrastructure which has great performance.

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Overall I’m pleased with Hyper-V, and have found it much easier to use on Server 2008 than trying to start with a Hyper-V Server (Microsoft gives away a version of Server 2008 which can only be used as a virtulization host; unfortunately you have to remotely administer it, and that isn’t as easy as it should be — it does work, but the learning curve is a little steep).

My feeling is that there will be a significant update to Hyper-V soon, adding more device support (and para-virtualization).  And the real question is:  Why isn’t there Hyper-V for Vista?  The two operating systems derive from a common code base, and certainly for developers having Hyper-V on a Vista workstation makes more sense, and since Microsoft gives away Hyper-V server they can’t argue that it will cannibalize sales!

Originally posted 2009-02-03 01:00:13.

Hardware MPEG2/MPEG4/MPEG4-AVC/H.264 Transcoding

Leadtek Research Inc has release the WinFast PxVC1100 PCIe x1 add-on card which uses four of the Toshiba encode/decode cores  (SpursEngine SE1000 — BXA32110) derived from the joint Sony/Toshiba/IBM alliance (STI) Cell (Cell Broadband Engine Architecture, CBEA) processor (used in the Sony PlayStation 3 game console).

If you’re serious about video encoding this card is way more powerful than leveraging your GPU (nothing stops you from using both).

I couldn’t find a retail price on the PxVC1100; from what I’ve read it was delayed, but should be available in the US soon.  I expect it’ll be fairly expensive since Nikkei WinPC’s benchmark showed a high-def video in MEPG-2 TS format was transcoded to H.264 using the WinFast PxVC1000 about 2.9 times faster than a Core2 Q9650 (3GHz).

If you want to check out other vendors that offer a SpursEngine enhancement, some Toshiba Qosmio laptops and the Thomson-Canopus Firecoder Blu PCIe add-on card are candidates.

Originally posted 2009-01-03 12:00:46.

Flat Panels

So you decided to get that large flat panel high definition LCD TV for yourself…

That’s so last year.

The new display technology is based on organic light emitting diodes (OLED), and they promise to provide much high contrast images, blacker-black, and way better energy efficiency.

Right now there’s a premium associated with the price; but all that is changing (and changing rapidly).

OLED and related technology are becoming the commodity technology that’s used in computer monitors, televisions, and portable device displays.

Your big-block electronic store might only have one OLED model for every ten LCD models at the moment, but the CES is just around the corner, and manufacturers will be looking for ways to lure consumers to spend more of their hard earned money, and offering them compelling reasons (in the form of phenomenal displays at reasonable prices) to get their share of your paycheck.

Not to far down the road we’ll see PLED, the flexible version — which may finally deliver on the dreams of “LCD Paper”…

To help you understand the new acronyms, here’s a list you might want to familiarize yourself with.

  • OLED = Organic Light Emitting Diode/Device/Display
  • AM OLED = Active Matrix OLED device
  • FOLED = Flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode (UDC)
  • NOID = Neon Organic Iodine Diode (CDT)
  • PhOLED = Phosphorescent Organic Light Emitting Diode (UDC)
  • PLED = Polymer Light Emitting Diode (CDT)
  • PM OLED = Passive Matrix OLED device
  • POLED = Patternable organic light-emitting device
  • RCOLED = Resonant Colour Organic Light Emitting Diode
  • SmOLED = Small Molecule Organic Light Emitting Diode (Kodak)
  • SOLED = Stacked Organic Light Emitting Diode (UDC)
  • TOLED = Transparent Organic Light Emitting Diode (UDC)

For more information on these technologies, get yourself a snack and beverage and spend a few hours reading the results of an Internet search.

Originally posted 2009-12-19 01:00:36.

Grasping at nothing with billions

Intel paid 7.7 billion dollars (US) for McAfee Associates.

WTF is up with Paul Otellini?

Does he really think that having pathetically outdated security technology is going to help keep Intel in control of computing in the ever changing landscape of mobile computing?

Clearly Intel must be in the dark about how modern software is built from the ground up to resist the security issues that plagues the old cobbled together systems of the past (ie Windoze).  Obviously, though, Intel understands that their dominance in the computing arena is likely to fade — but spending this kind of money is just insane.

One thing is clear — Intel is massively over charging for it’s processors if they can afford to dump nearly $8B US into the trash can.

Originally posted 2010-08-27 02:00:20.

Xoom

Several weeks ago I purchased a Motorola Xoom (WiFi only model), I’d looked at the Acer, the Asus, the Samsung, and read up on the Thrive — I decided that the Xoom was the best candidate of the available Android/Honeycomb tablets available now.

I’m happy with my purchase, and it’s amazing how quickly a “gadget” can find its way into your everyday life.

I will write a lengthy review of the Xoom to let you know everything I like about it, and the things I really don’t think are that great… plus I’ll write a post on my rooting adventure (after all, it’s Android, why wouldn’t you root it).

Let me just close with it’s a great tool, and if you’re willing to carry something like that with you it gives you incredible access to books, news, entertainment, information…

I do expect that prices for 10″ tablets will continue to come down… but I’d definitely recommend you only consider a dual-core (or better) tablet.

Originally posted 2011-08-03 02:00:04.

Vista Activation

Over the past couple weeks I’ve had to “reactivate” two copies of Vista; now I did update the video cards and the optical drive (which is likely what triggered it), but interestingly enough, these are the two oldest copies of Vista (the first two computers installed with it).

It’s not difficult…

You try the online activation, it fails.

You call the automated telephone activation system, it fails.

You request a transfer to a Microsoft activation specialist, you read them the codes, answer a couple simple questions, and they give you the activation code which you type in and then you’ve activated.

Hopefully my activation is good for another twenty months (or more)!

NOTE:  While I’m sure that changing the hardware triggered this, I suspect that Microsoft has implemented a more rigorous inspection of the computer fingerprint to defeat bulk copies of Vista by questionable computer manufactures.

Originally posted 2008-12-28 12:00:06.