The New PC Build Begins

A Youtube video claiming a 20 minute build had me thinking I’d overestimated the job.

Nope–20 minutes passed with me barely scratching the surface.

the build begins.jpgAs mentioned earlier my major birthday gift was a new computer. I wanted something beefy and speedy. That meant no store bought PC, but something assembled here at home–literally on the kitchen table!

There was no time this weekend so I started tonight. A Youtube video claiming a 20 minute build had me thinking I’d overestimated the job.

Nope–20 minutes passed with me barely scratching the surface.

There is no instruction manual on how to go about this. Sure, every individual component has some sort of manual, but none of these parts are specifically meant to mate and the order of assembly is my choice alone.

On top of that there will be cables from the power supply left unconnected. Will they be the right ones? Will I forget something? Hopefully not.

I began installing the power supply, front panel card reader and a disk drive. Then I began to populate the motherboard with the CPU, fan/heat sink and video card. Once that was done I installed the nine standoffs and screws to attach it to the case.

pny video card.jpgThis is my first time with the new generation of powerful video cards. My card is quite imposing! It’s probably as powerful on its own as my last fully assembled PC.

I’m breaking now because there are parts I need to scavenge from an older machine. Then comes the installation of the operating systems (Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux) and drivers.

I might be done by tomorrow. Maybe not.

When finished the build will be fully documented in pictures and text.

The New Computer

Monday I was having a conversation with some folks at the station. They were surprised people build their own computers.

Nerd Alert!

This entry will be very dense and geeky. Don’t feel obliged to read it. To most people it will make little sense.

I ordered the components for my new computer Tuesday. Most of the order will be here Wednesday with one (important) piece arriving Friday. I have dealt with NewEgg before so this speed is no surprise. They ship from NJ and CA.

The machine will be built to speed up video and still production. Photo files have gotten much larger and difficult to easily handle. Video files, also larger, are often encoded in a way which makes them very CPU intensive when played or edited. My old computer is sometimes outmatched. Transocding video or making a large panorama can take hours!

I’m not sure this computer’s power will be very noticeable for web surfing.

There was more than one goal in mind while spec’ing out the components. Obviously, it had to be fast. Secondly, there was the matter of noise. Third… well you can spend as much as you wish! I wanted to show some restraint.

In the reviews for the pieces which will go in this box I searched for the words noise and silence.

The CPU or ‘brains’ will be an AMD Phenom II X4 945. I went with AMD instead of Intel strictly on price. The Intel chips are a little faster but they’re also a lot more money as are the compatible motherboards.

This chip is a quad core meaning there are four very fast computers in this one package. Today’s software can handle that allowing simultaneous programs to zip along without bothering each other.

As computer chips have moved through their generations the sockets they are plugged into have changed. This chip uses an AM3 socket which also supports DDR3 memory. That’s the fastest you can get. The machine starts with 4Gb, but there’s room for more and today’s 64 bit operating systems handle more.

The motherboard is from ASUS. They have an excellent reputation. This has the features I need, but most motherboards do. It doesn’t have integrated video, which most boards do have, but which I didn’t need.

Originally I’d spec’ed out a video card with ATI chips. My friend Bob said there had been some compatibility with ATI and Linux (this system will boot to both Linux and Windows 7, though not at the same time) so I moved to an Nvidia card. Both are very fast. I needed two output channels as I use two 19″ montiors for 2560×1080 resolution.

Video cards are becoming more important as some video/photo editing math has been moved from the main CPU to the processor on the video card which is specifically optimized to perform these calculations.

My power supply is an OCZ because the overall buyer ratings were good as was the price and the comments which mentioned noise. Seven hundred watts should be more than enough. Good grief, it had better be!

The case really puzzled me. I’m not sure how to quantify this purchase which seems like it should be nothing more than a commodity–a box with standardized hole spacing to mount the whole shooting match. I settled on a CoolerMaster which got good reviews and had audio, USB and Firewire ports on the front.

Sorry, no LED encrusted fans, cold cathode lights or ruby red tansparent side panels. Some people customize the look as if these computers were hot rods. That’s actually not far from what this machine will be but aesthetics are low on my list.

Just in case I hadn’t gone far enough I added a noise dampening kit which mounts soft sound absorbent pads on the case’s walls. It was under $10 and seemed like good extra protection.

There’s a ‘small’ 250Gb SATA drive coming as the system drive. The 1Tb drive currently in my main computer will move here for data. Two DVDRW drives will come from older machines as well.

As mentioned earlier this will be a dual boot machine. There will be a partition for Ubuntu Linux and another for Windows 7. It doesn’t make sense not to have a Linux side.

Monday I was having a conversation with some folks at the station. They were surprised people build their own computers. It’s a very small minority and probably getting smaller. Years ago there was a price saving. It’s much less now.

It is very easy to do. The whole shooting match shouldn’t take more than a few hours to complete–maybe less. It can all be done without instructions because most components can only go in the right place!

I’ve designed systems before. There is a definite sense of accomplishment when you know the computer’s performance has been enhanced by decisions you made.

Google Changes Everything With The New Google Chrome OS

Price out Windows Vista (or soon-to-come Windows 7) or Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard and see how they stack up against free! Google’s new OS will be open source which means free.

A little after midnight Google made a startling announcement. Late next year Google will roll out an operating system–Google Chrome.

Price out Windows Vista (or soon-to-come Windows 7) or Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard and see how they stack up against free! Google’s new OS will be open source which means free.

Some of you reading this are more technophobe than technophile so here’s a quick explanation. An operating system connects the programs you run with the underlying hardware that is your computer. Different operating systems interface with programs differently. Software must be written or rewritten for each OS. That is why my Mac friends kvetch so often about applications they want not being available for their machine.

Google’s OS promises to untie applications from a specific OS.

The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

Actually there are lots of promises starting with security and speed.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

This is a huge announcement. Microsoft and Apple stock will plunge this morning. As of now their business plans are suspect.

It’s more than just a tech thing. This is a seminal moment in the history of communications, computing and media.

Google Chrome

With Chrome your javascript execution is going from a Model-T to a F/A-18. Like I said, it’s really noticeable.

I’ve been playing around with Google’s Chrome browser. I’ve used it at home where it sometimes replaces Firefox which always replaces Internet Explorer. In and of itself this isn’t a big deal. I’m a geeky, nerdy-boy. You would expect me to dabble in new tech that’s still in beta.

The reason I’m telling you (hopefully for your own sake you’re less geeky than me) is there is a difference in browsers–a difference you can notice. Chrome is crazy fast.

From what I hear the real slowdown in most web surfing is javascript. That’s a computer language sent from a website but executed on your machine. It is the real bottleneck on the web. With Chrome your javascript execution is going from a Model-T to a F/A-18. Like I said, it’s really noticeable.

At work where my desktop machine is old, slow and runs Xubuntu Linux, Chrome has added new life. That’s especially true with Gmail, a site heavy on javascript and a site I’m constantly checking.

Chrome isn’t without its problems. There are few plugins currently available for it. I use plugins with Firefox to extend my browser’s capabilities and miss them. On the Linux machine I haven’t yet figured out how to load Java (completely different from javascript) or Flash. It’s possible it’s not yet capable of running Java and Flash.

Chrome is not quite ready for prime time, but there is a great deal of promise.

You would assume by now browsers would be mature technology with little low hanging fruit. As it turns out–no.

My Dev Website Is Still Down

The site is still down as I write this! Why? I could have gone to Best Buy, picked up a new PC, loaded a “LAMP” suite (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) and restored from a backup hours ago.

A little before 2:00 AM finally responded to my “website down” complaint.

Thank you for contacting us.

We do apologize for the inconvenience.

Currently the server on where your sites are hosted is down and that is the main reason you couldn’t pull up your site. Our admins are now working on it right now to fix the problem in the fastest time possible.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.


Christian Rey Tanilong

Technical Support

1&1 Internet

The site is still down as I write this! Why? I could have gone to Best Buy, picked up a new PC, loaded a “LAMP” suite (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) and restored from a backup hours ago.

If it goes much longer, replace Best Buy with mail order from NewEgg.

There is a recent backup, right?

How I Use The Web

I’m basically talking about bookmarks and email, but I also maintain a small VPN, using Hamachi.

I’m not sure if I’m early, late or in-between on this, but I am using the Internet differently than I did six months or a year ago. This has a lot to do with my using three or four computers on a daily basis. It’s a pain for them to not be in sync.

The breakthrough was better, faster, more universal, high speed access. Now I clone my bookmarks and email and also maintain a small VPN using Hamachi.

To handle bookmarks, I’ve switched to Weave, an Adobe Air applet which run in Firefox 3.0. Every 15 minutes or so, it looks to see if I’ve changed anything on any of my machines and then attempts to keep them all alike. I could use this for usernames and passwords too, but I’m not quite ready.

The bookmarks have become more important under Firefox’s new ‘awesome bar.’ I’ve seen many bloggers speaking out against it, but I like it. It’s especially good at finding a URL based on my typing a few descriptive words.

For email, I use Gmail. I own a bunch of domains and have many email addresses (most rarely used). They all aggregate to Gmail, which responds with the proper return address.

Gmail is the first web based email I’ve found acceptable. You never have to delete a message. Archives are searched Goggle style, since that’s who owns Gmail. It even hosts my IM client, keeping copies of all my Instant Messenger conversations (Like AOL isn’t already doing this). They come in handy when searchable.

I use a few add-ons to increase Gmail’s value. I wish those programs, like Greasemonkey and Open Notebook, would sync up as easily as my bookmarks.

I often bring things to work I’ve produced at home. I have a 2 Gb flash drive attached to my keys. Most time, it’s just easier to move things across the network. I’m set-up to tunnel into my desktop Linux machine at work and place stuff on its drive for use later in the day.

The power of networks is growing.

Gmail Problem. Slow/No Login. I Forgot. I Depend On This!

Screenshot.jpgOMFG! Gmail… dear sweet dependable Gmail is having problems.

I first signed on with my laptop and waited. Finally the connection times out. I’m upstairs now, on the Linux machine I use as a DVR. It’s not much better.

We’re aware that a subset of users are reporting seeing Temporary Error (502) on logging in. We’re investigating the issue and will keep you updated on this thread. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.


Gmail Guide

A full paragraph and yet, no real information contained! Nice. That’s a skill. If there was smoke coming from the Gmail server with my account, would they tell me?

I depend on Gmail. It is the aggregation point for all my email accounts (admittedly, too many). I am going through some sort of Gmail withdrawal at the moment. This is what heroin users feel, right?

This must be a small subset, because I’ve seen nothing from anyone else posted. Maybe they’ve all just crawled in a corner.

The Tech Support Guy

If you have your PC password protected, I have bad news. With a quickly downloaded copy of the “Emergency Boot and Recovery Disk,” I logged on and was in control of users and passwords in under five minutes!

I am the tech support guy. I usually have a computer or two hanging around the house, needing repairs. These come from friends and associates. It’s a challenge, which means I enjoy it.

My friend Farrell’s mom’s machine is on the floor next to me. Once a very pricey Fujitsu, this laptop is getting a little long in the tooth. It was gunked up with a little spyware and some tiny applets; only a problem in the aggregate.

There was one other problem. Ruth had somehow locked the computer with user name and password she didn’t know!

If you have your PC password protected, I have bad news. With a quickly downloaded copy of the “Emergency Boot and Recovery Disk,” I logged on and was in control of users and passwords in under five minutes!

I told the family the laptop would benefit from more memory… but it’s at its design limit already.

It will work and do everything Ruth wants. It will do it more slowly than I’d like.

She would actually be the perfect candidate for Linux, though I haven’t (and probably won’t) mention it. It’s a little less CPU intensive than Windows XP, meaning it will be faster, and it has all the applications she wants and uses.

Linux still scares most users who cling to the belief Microsoft is some sort of gold standard. Of course, to me Linux is worn as a geek merit badge.

One thing I did do was install logmein. Next time, the repair is done via remote control! There are now seven machines I can operate from home.

Linux Matures

My desktop machine at work runs Linux as its operating system&#185. It has for years.

I’ve always used the excuse we run some applications on it that can’t be easily run on Windows. That’s true. It’s also my toy.

As part of my bargain with the technogods at work, I scrounge around the IT department, looking for PCs pulled from service. Over the past few years, my desktop has always been a generation or two behind state of the art.

That’s fine.

Recently, the station was ‘retiring’ a server. It no longer had a hard drive or any RAM. It was a dual core Pentium machine with an integrated Intel video system on the motherboard. It became mine.

I tried loading Linux on this machine a few months ago with limited results. In fact, I ended up going back to my Pentium III 800 mHz machine with 128 mb of RAM.

Now, with Ubuntu Linux v7.10 out, I tried again.

Wow! Linux is here.

The distribution installed easily and this computer sings. And, since it doesn’t run Windows programs, it won’t ‘run’ viruses and spyware aimed at a Windows audience.

Unless you really need Windows for a specific application, I’m pretty sure Linux will easily fill the bill.

Today, there are Linux office suites, graphics programs, multimedia players and pretty much everything else you’d find on a store bought PC. They, and Linux itself, are free.

Companies like Asus are selling off-the-shelf Linux loaded laptops and Wal*Mart is stocking Linux equipped desktop machines. The prices are hundreds of dollars less than comparable Windows boxes.

If I was Microsoft, I’d start worrying. There has been a loud cry of unhappiness from their users.

Their most recent operating system iteration, Vista, seems designed more to satisfy the RIAA and MPAA than its actual customers! Some features that existed on earlier operating systems have been removed or neutered on Vista. Meanwhile, Wal*Mart and Asus are legitimizing their free competitor.

Propeller heads like me aren’t what’s going to give Linux critical mass. It’s going to take exposure in retail outlets. And that’s what’s happening.

If you’re at all curious about computing… if you’ve got an older PC you want to play with… I recommend Ubuntu Linux. I’m very happy with it and I suspect you will be too.

&#185 – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

An operating system (OS) is the software that manages the sharing of the resources of a computer and provides programmers with an interface used to access those resources. An operating system processes system data and user input, and responds by allocating and managing tasks and internal system resources as a service to users and programs of the system. At the foundation of all system software, an operating system performs basic tasks such as controlling and allocating memory, prioritizing system requests, controlling input and output devices, facilitating networking and managing file systems. Most operating systems come with an application that provides a user interface for managing the operating system, such as a command line interpreter or graphical user interface. The operating system forms a platform for other system software and for application software.

The most commonly-used contemporary desktop and laptop (notebook) OS is Microsoft Windows. More powerful servers often employ Linux, FreeBSD, and other Unix-like systems. However, these operating systems, especially Mac OS X, are also used on personal computers.

The Excitement Of Android

I read a lot last week about Google’s new mobile phone initiative – Android. It’s not an actual phone, that much is perfectly clear. Instead, phones will be built on Android.

Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications.

My current Samsung Blackjack runs on Windows Mobile 5. Android would perform that same function. There are many similar, though different, phones using WM5. I expect the same thing with Android.

Does the world need another mobile platform? Maybe not. But what makes Android so exciting and different is, it’s open source. That puts it in the same category as Linux, MySQL and Apache&#185.

In a video (see below), Google co-founder Sergey Brin makes it perfectly clear he wants Android to be supported by the same type of free software tools he used to get Google going! This time, in his role as super rich guy, he gets to be the one who pays to have them developed, then set free.

To that end, the Android SDK (Software Developers Kit) is open and free. The SDK is the tool with which Android applications will be developed. SDKs for platforms are pretty commonplace. Having them be open and free is not.

Finally, Google has offered a $10,000,000 bounty for Android software developers. That might not be enough to excite Microsoft or Motorola, but it will spark many propeller head geeks into action. That’s big money if you can write a killer app all by yourself, or in a small partnership.

This open source phone talk can’t be pleasing my cell carrier, at&t, or any of the other incumbent carriers. Their business model is predicated on control of both the network and the hardware you buy. Right now, they decide what you phone can do, not you.

Understand, this isn’t a perfect solution. Free and open software can lead to ‘crashed’ cellphones, with no one to take responsibility. Still, it’s a very exciting concept.

My limited time with the Blackjack has shown me the potential in the mobile platform. We’re barely out of the stone age. My hope is, Android takes it to the next step.

For someone like me, who still fancies himself a bit of a hacker, it’s pretty exciting. There’s a lot of upside potential here. This is actually better than if Google had just gone ahead and announced a phone!

&#185 – Even if Linux, MySQL and Apache mean nothing to you, understand that much of the Internet would stop running immediately without them! That includes Google, EBay, and a gaziilion other sites… including

Geoff The Spy

Like so many of us, as he upgraded his PC, my friend John&#185 didn’t know what to do with the old one. He had a relative, a grown man, with no computer, and John asked if I’d set him up with this old one.

This is something I’ve done dozens of times, and I almost always reinstall Windows. This time, I thought I’d try something a little different.

The end user wasn’t going to play games or work in multimedia. He was going to use the computer for web surfing and email. Instead of Windows, I installed Ubuntu Linux.

My thought is, this guy doesn’t know anything technical. Why saddle him with an operating system that’s got a bullseye on it, attractive to anyone writing spyware or viruses?

The install went flawlessly. I inserted the Ubuntu disk, answered a few questions (actually, John did all of this) and let the PC do its thing. The only bumps in the road had to do with installing Flash (I wish Ubuntu came with this already installed) and attempting to upgrade the video driver.

I rebooted after updating the driver and ended up with a blank screen! Damn you penguin. As has happened so often in the past, I had fixed the computer to the point of breaking it!

The bad video driver was quickly removed. John watched as I typed some cryptic commands into a text based terminal screen. One bad part of Ubuntu (and all Linux distributions) is, most people would be lost at this point with a dead PC! There are fewer ‘Geoff’s’ to call for technical assistance with this esoteric operating system.

John was pretty pleased (and hopefully his relative will be pleased too). The old computer is quite agile and more than beefy enough for its new assignment.

Refurbishing this computer was the purpose of his trip, but John brought more goodies with him. His wife’s company had thrown out some older laptops… which she then rescued from the trash. I could have one, but there was a problem. It was unusable!

The laptop, a very sweet Fujitsu Lifebook Series B subnotebook (a tiny laptop, perfect for traveling) had Windows 2000 installed and was password protected. The password kept me from getting to the programs and the lack of a CD drive kept me from installing a new operating system (like Linux) as a replacement.

In situations like this, I become obsessed.

The Fujitsu has only a USB external floppy drive. It was a comedy of errors as I realized none of my current home machines had floppies, plus I had no floppy disks. There was lots of ad libbing and part swapping to be done.

I scrounged the hardware, then headed to the net, trying to find a solution. Amazingly enough, there are simple single floppy programs which will read and then allow you to overwrite a password. I didn’t have to crack the code. I just inserted my password where the original had been.

I felt like a spy as the computer was now programmed to consider me the administrator.

This was great for me, but you have to worry about the level of protection built into today’s modern computers. In essence, Microsoft led the original owners to believe these laptops were under electronic lock and key. A guy in his pajamas sitting on the floor shouldn’t be able to crack open this laptop… but I did.

Before I went to bed, the laptop downloaded a few years worth of patches from the Microsoft site and was fitted with a wireless card.

This morning, I brought the machine downstairs and played with it a little while eating my breakfast. I was proud of my accomplishment.

“Why do you need another computer,” Helaine asked?

It’s an obsession I suppose. Some folks go nuts over shoes or jewelry or cars. For me, it’s wire and computers. Neither should ever be thrown out – ever.

&#185 – John’s friends call him “Big John.” He is a massive man, well over six feet tall. John’s heart is proportional to his height.

About The Penguin, Again

The Linux mascot is Tux the Penguin. He’s become a joke in the Fox Family, with Helaine often reminding me how the penguin and I don’t get along.

I’ve got two penguin problems – one at home and another at work.

First I was forced to upgrade my homebuilt DVR – a MythTV installation which runs under Linux&#185. It was unavoidable. The company that was providing the TV listings stops doing so this weekend. The new group (a non-profit) that will fill the void isn’t supported by my installed system. Newer software fixes that.

I did everything I was supposed to do and ended up with a machine that was missing its web interface… the place where I program the DVR! When I fixed the web server, I found another non-working piece that was hidden by the first problem. Once I fix that, I’ll probably find more that’s busted.

At work I switched Linux versions as I moved to a faster computer. My intention was to reinstall the software that produces our tide tables intact. Right!

When run as a scheduled event (a cron job), tide tables are produced for a few cities, then nothing. If I run the program manually, no problem. Everything works fine.

Try and troubleshoot that one! I’m three hours in and no closer to a solution.

I’ll be working on both problems from home this weekend. We’ll see if the penguin and I can have a reconciliation. It’s doubtful. And yet, I’m such a dweeb at heart there’s no doubt I’ll continue installing Linux in the future.

&#185 – I really should explain what Linux is. It is an operating system for computers.

No help, right?

Linux, like Windows or OSX for Macs, is what connects the programs you run to the computer that runs them. An operating system creates standard methods for accomplishing tasks. It keeps progammers from having to reinvent the wheel with each new application.

Most Windows programs have similarities. The same goes for Macs and Linux machines. That’s because the programs you use and tying into ‘hooks’ built into the operating system.

Making The Switch At Work

I decided it was time to get a faster computer at work. No problem. I enjoy re-working older machines, so I just went to our IT guy and asked for the next machine they were cycling out.

Wow – what a find. It’s a beefy IBM with a dual core 2.8 GHz Pentium 4. It lived a previous life as a server. There was no hard drive and only 256 mb RAM. That was fine. I had some hardware at home which was never going to be used. It’s in this IBM box now.

I downloaded, burned and installed Ubuntu Version 7.04. It went in seamlessly. This is very impressive. Linux is never easy. In this case at least, Ubuntu was every bit as simple to install as Windows.

In order to have some time to do it right, I brought the computer home and did my installation there. I guess this is the true definition of bringing your work home with you!

Today I brought it in with the intention of swapping it for the old one – true plug and play. I should be so lucky.

Between the version of Ubuntu I had been using and this one small things had changed. Files which were in one directory were now in another. Stuff like that.

The video wasn’t right for my monitor. That’s always perplexing, but a quick check (on another machine) online found the solution (control-alt-backspace).

It might take a day or two to get this puppy up and running, but no more than that. In the meantime, a computer which was probably destined for the the trash or storage is making my life a little easier. How sweet is that?

A little nerd love, please.

Mail Changes For Me

I’ve decided to make some mail changes. Nothing you’ll notice, but it’s a big change for me. I’ve moved all my mail to Gmail servers, run by Google.

Whatever your email address, someone is hosting two mailservers for you. There’s one to send (SMTP) and another to receive (POP). My servers had been at Hostforweb, who also maintains the server this blog sits on.

My problem is, I check email from a few machines at home and another at work. I had to make sure all my emails got to one specific machine for archiving. That meant if I looked at my mail on one of the other machines first, I’d see the same unread email over and over.

Moving to Gmail allows me to use a web interface. Anything I do on one machine is seen on any machine! No more repetition.

Unfortunately, a web interface is slower. That’s the price you pay. It’s even worse on my ‘desktop’ machine at work, an old Pentium 900 with 256 mb RAM, running Ubuntu Linux.

Here’s how it works. mailserver is actually hosted by Google Apps. Once received, it is automatically forwarded to a Gmail account which also gets mail for a few other accounts I have.

I like Gmail, but I wish it were more versatile as far as ‘canned’ responses or signature files are concerned. There’s not much you can do there with pre-written files… though there’s lots I want to try.

As long as I’ve switched over to Gmail, I’ve also started using Google Calendar, which is integrated into the mail page. I’d like to be a little more organized. Maybe the ability to have this same calendar wherever I am will help me become more structured.

Google has a nice suite of applications, including online word processor and spreadsheet (which doesn’t read the overnight ratings I’m sent every day). Every part of it is free. It desparately needs a ‘to do’ list.

Switching to Gmail removed the spam filtering Hostforweb employs. H4W used to discard some email before they ever got to my inbox. Now everything gets to my account, though much is filtered into a spam folder.

I’m getting well over 100 spam a day on alone! Luckily, I only see them when I need to.

Scary Multimedia

As I type this entry, I’m playing poker and watching 60 Minutes, all on my laptop. I’m in the family room, but I could be anywhere in the house or nearby.

Until a few minutes ago, we had been using an 802.11b Wifi wireless network. The pipe wasn’t wide enough to pass high quality video. Now it’s 802.11g.

Simply, I increased the network capacity a factor of five just by substituting one piece of hardware for another. The additional investment was under $50. The practical implication is, my DVR&#185 can now push high quality, full motion video over our in-house wireless network.

When I put the original wired/wireless network in, there was no hint it might not produce enough bandwidth. In fact, when that original network went in, my connection to the outside world was through a dial-up modem.

Now, I realize, this new network is just an interim step in a never ending search for unlimited bandwidth. I will constantly need more bandwidth in-house and more bandwidth from the outside world. There will be more reasons to push bits around the house.

Some of those reasons, like video, I understand. Other reasons probably don’t yet exist.

Here’s how more bandwidth changes my DVR. Until recently, if I wanted to look at a recorded show without sitting in front of the actual DVR computer, I copied the whole file, machine-to-machine, across the network.

Even on the fastest in-house connections, computers that are wired not wireless, it took a few minutes to move a file to the playback machine (my typical video file runs approximately 2 Gb per hour). Now I can stream to the playback machine, moving only the bits needed when they’re needed. Playback starts instantly.

This little hardware switch also allows me to use a new piece of software, the MythTV Player. I’m watching 60 Minutes using it right now.

There’s nothing about this player that looks any different as it sits on my computer desktop. What it does do is read markers produced as my DVR records shows. They point to the beginning and end of commercial breaks. This player automatically removes the commercial breaks as you watch a show… and it’s been very effective so far.

As you might imagine, this is pretty scary to over-the-air and cable television stations, which make their money selling commercials. That’s how my employer pays my salary.

Luckily for me, the immediate nature of TV news makes it relatively DVR proof. That’s not true for most entertainment programming. Viewers should understand – no one will pay for big budget programming unless there are big budget returns.

This technology is changing the landscape of television. Some of the changes will be very good. Other aspects are sad. Without revenue, highly produced programming will disappear.

What good is having unfettered access, if there’s nothing to access?

&#185 – My DVR is a homebuilt computer running MythTV software on top of Ubuntu Linux. The guts of the computer were being thrown away. I added a $75 card and extra hard drive. My only other cost was time and a modicum of grief.