Before I begin, apologize for my erratic posting, and subsequent lack there of. I’ve been pretty busy lately, and all my free time has either been spent being lazy, playing Skyrim, setting up an HTPC or cooking. Blogging has fallen by the wayside as a result. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I’ve misplaced my very detailed notes for this entry. Pretty much the whole thing was written and ready to be posted and it has vanished off the face of the earth. Even as I sit here, I’m still thinking about cooking – I’ve got a pork curry in the oven which smells amazing!
Aside from that, I’ve been abandoned! My mum, dad and sister have all cleared off to Portland, OR to attend my brothers wedding this Saturday. I would have gotten to go there too, if it wasn’t for those meddling
kids exams. They are perfectly spaced so I couldn’t spend a reasonable amount of time in the states and prepare for the next test. Oh well, I might just head over there in the summer at some stage to see how they are getting on. That has been the big news over the last while in my house, otherwise things have been pretty quiet. As I mentioned before I’ve really been getting into Firefly, and I managed to get hold of a DVD player after posting a wanted ad in gumtree, so we can watch it properly now instead of just on the laptop. It’s some chinese rebranded box that looks straight out of the ark, but it plays DVDs which is all that really matters.
In the actual post (the one that disappeared), I started to talk about media centre PCs, which have become an area of interest for me. Since the new TV idea has been abandoned, I’ve been trying to establish a decent system for playing videos off flash drives and also streaming content from other computers on the network. Some DVD players and even freeview STBs (my brother’s in particular) can play files directly off flash memory, but they are almost unanimously crap thanks to terrible user interfaces and general implementation. They always feel like an afterthought; designed by a robot who has no concept of how humans actually use devices. They were straight off the table. I needed something usable by everybody which could deal with any format thrown at, and that looked pretty good at the same time. XBMC seemed perfect for the job. It’s media centre software with versions for Windows, Mac and Linux, and can be run independently of other operating systems as XBMC Live (bundled with it’s own version of Linux). I’ve currently got an old Dell Dimension 2350 running XBMC Live and hooked up to the projector which is excellent for watching stuff off my external harddrive, though I haven’t got it properly set up on the network. I’ve also got another PC set up with Windows XP and XBMC, though I’m still ironing out the connection to the TV. The problem is, it’s a CRT model and has no decent connections, only scart and composite video. There is another solution for the problem – the fabled RGB scart to VGA cable. It’s the best quality connection to CRT TVs and provides the least hassle as the TV is the default monitor. Getting the cable isn’t so easy though, as it’s a custom job and there’s a level of risk involved with this sort of thing. My resistors will probably arrive next week at some stage, so the project is postponed for the time being.
I’m still trying to organise a decent housing for PC, however. The current case is too bulky, and the heatsink fan is ridiculously loud and not at all suitable for watching a film with any quiet parts. I would love a custom wooden case, but my woodworking skills aren’t up to my vision unfortunately, and neither are my tools. The cordless drill isn’t even working at the moment! I’m probably going to hack apart some old amps or other suitable electronics case and replace the insides with PC components.
I’m off to work on this media centre some more, and with any luck, my notes will turn up and I’ll update this entry with everything I’ve forgotten. And on another note, if you haven’t played 3D noughts and crosses, it’s mindblowing! I think only one game so far has ended up in a tie, as opposed to the traditional 2D version.