Finally! Stupid power outage frying my stupid PSU. Well, that or it was already dying, and the power outage just made that evident. Oh, and then there’s the stick of RAM I discovered was bad. BUT, all is now well. Until the next thing breaks.
Turns out, after I upgraded to Apache2, I neglected to re-enable the suEXEC module, which meant that any attempt to save content to the wiki would have failed. My apologies to anyone who may have attempted to post a comment on any pages (for example, the savsender discussion page).
As everyone is perfectly aware, the Internet has had an incredibly profound effect on our society. In many ways, it’s revolutionized our lives, giving us the ability to touch people and information a world away, right from the comfort of our living rooms. For many, these changes have been incredibly positive. But for those invested in the status quo, particularly traditional media companies and the like, the ‘net is a bane, one which blindsided them, transforming from curiosity to grave threat in a mere fifteen years, threatening to destroy business models that have existed for the last century.
Among those threatened is the newspaper industry, which no longer has a monopoly (well, oligopoly, when combined with television) on information. The result is companies left scrambling to make themselves relevant in order to attract new subscribers. Of course, anyone who owns a home has probably sensed this. I can’t begin to count the number of times some teenager has arrived at my door, attempting to push me into buying a subscription (god damn these companies for introducing young, impressionable minds to pressure sales tactics so early… I’m betting a good half of these poor children will grow up to be used car salesmen).
Over the last few years, no doubt aided and abetted by souless marketing graduates, these companies have evolved their strategies in an effort to manipulate their victims into saying “yes” to a free month with the paper (good luck canceling that subscription). In the past, I was amazed and disgusted by tactics that have included, among other things, children who inform you that, should they sell you a subscription, they will be entered into a draw for a scholarship to the university of their choice. You wouldn’t want to deny them the chance at an education, would you? I’m not sure which angered me more, having my emotions manipulated like that or my intelligence so grossly underestimated.
But today I discovered a new tactic that is, I think, even more insidious: I hear a knock at the door. Without thinking, I answer the door to discover a wholesome looking young man with a clipboard, the Sun logo displayed prominently on the letterhead (this was, I think, a tactical error on his part), immediately putting me on the defensive. “You’re gonna try to sell me a newspaper, aren’t you?”, I ask, clearly dismayed. As I try to insist that, no, I don’t want a damned paper (the Sun is the worst kind of populist tripe, only inches away from the World Weekly News), the young man informs me that part of the money will be going to support his local hockey team. Oooh, clever, trying to appeal to my presumed love of Canada’s favorite game (jokes on him, sucker!). Again, I try to get rid of the little bastard, and he informs me that, rather than purchasing a newspaper, I could opt to donate $10 or $20, and the newspaper would go to a hospital, instead. $10 or $20 to get rid of this kid? Sounds like a good deal to me. As it happens, I didn’t actually have $10 or $20 on my person, so eventually he gave up in search of easier prey, but it was a close call.
Now, what’s incredibly clever about this strategy is the appeal to charity. By giving the victim the option of donating cash instead, the person feels good, thinking that they’re supporting a hockey team and providing newspapers to hospital patients and their loving families. How can you say no to that? But what isn’t so obvious is that the newspaper company still gets their cut of the profits. See, either way, you’re buying a newspaper. Worse, they never make it clear how much of that $10 or $20 would actually go to this presumably financially strapped hockey team. For all you or I know, the newspaper company keeps half of that money (or more), and given that a monthly subscription to the Sun is around $20, that’s a pretty good deal for a one-time newspaper donation.
It’s really quite clever. Heck, even I got sucked in, and I pride myself on seeing through these transparent rouses. I guess this is what happens when you combined the evil of marketing with the powers of psychology.
So, you remember that dead EPIA board, right? Yeah, the one I was going to use in my Living Room Frontend as part of my MythTV project? Well, after shipping it Fedex some time last week, it finally arrived at Logic Supply yesterday morning, and underwent testing. And can you guess what happened? Oh yes, I bet you can! The board booted just fine for them! Oooh, surprise surprise.
But, how can that be, you ask? Didn’t it exhibit some odd behaviour, such as powering up without the power switch being hit? Well, according to the support guy at LS, the board comes with AC loss auto-restart enabled by default! What this means is that, if it notices the AC get connected, it will automatically boot itself (which is good for a system you want on all the time). This mislead me into believing something was going wrong, when in fact it wasn’t. This, coupled with the fact that the board simply won’t POST without RAM installed, lead me to believe the board was toast when it was, in all probability, the RAM the whole time.
Damnit I hate hardware hacking.
Anyway, the bright side of all this is that Andy, another co-worker/buddy of mine, was visiting Princeton, New Jersey (where our corporate head office is). So, on the return path, I had LS overnight the board to Princeton for $25, and then I had Andy bring it back across the border. Result? Three day turn-around on the cheap!
Unfortunately, now I have a problem. I need to test my RAM. However, I’m not yet aware of a DDR2-compatible box that I can utilize for the purpose. And until I can verify the memory, I can’t really move forward on the FE. Did I mention how much I hate hardware hacking?
Things were going so well. The MythTV Backend is now built and humming away quietly in my basement, Fedora Core installed and working nicely. The only minor glitch being some issues with the onboard NIC, though nothing that can’t be solved. Really, it was all going too well.
And then the other shoe dropped.
A couple of days ago, the board for my Living Room Frontend finally arrived after much waiting, whining, complaining, etc. When it finally showed up, I eagerly went home and mounted the board in the lovely Antec case I bought (at which point I realized the EPIA board could also fit in micro-ITX case… it looked so tiny in the mini-ITX Antec). I then wired up all the connectors, routed all the wiring nice and cleanly, and then went to install the RAM. Which didn’t fit. Why? Well, you see, I ordered DDR memory. I then decided to opt for the EPIA EN12000EG instead of the M6000. The M6000 takes DDR. The EN… takes DDR2. $80 blown. Doh.
So, today, after running some errands, we stopped by BEST and I picked up a stick of DDR2. Then, after dinner, I installed the stick and powered up the board. And nothing.
Actually, that’s not true. The PSU and case ventilation fans spun up, even though the power switch hadn’t been pressed. Not good. Experienced computer builders will immediately recognize the potential problem this presents.
So, I decided to start trouble shooting. The first thing was to make sure the PSU wasn’t at fault, so I disconnected the ATX connector from the motherboard and flipped the power switch. Nothing. Nada. This ruled out the PSU.
I then proceeded to reconnect the ATX connector and begin disconnecting other things gradually, testing the PSU in between. And every time, the fans spun up. Eventually, I was left with just the ATX connector attached to the board and nothing else. No RAM. No connectors. Nothing. And when I hit the power switch… the fans spun up. Conclusion? Bad motherboard. Grrr…
So now I have to return the board and get a replacement. Looks like no PVR for at least a few more weeks. On the bright side, at least I can get the backend finished up.
Incidentally, in the process of looking up resources on how to debug this problem, I found this forum post (second one down) describing the process of troubleshooting a motherboard. I mirrored the content here just in case the forum link disappears.
Meanwhile, I figured it would be a good idea to get the networking wired up to the living room. Now, my plan was to reuse the existing coaxial outlet as the ethernet jack. This is particularly convenient, in my case, because I’m dropping down between floors. You see, in this case, when dropping cable from scratch, it’s necessary to drive a hole between the lower wall framing plate and the subfloor. This means augering a hole through four inches of wood… not fun, especially if you don’t want to damage the wall. However, because I was reusing the coax connection, this hole had already been cut, making my job much easier.
Thus, all I needed to do was drop a piece of cat5 around twelve inches straight down into the basement. Easy, right? Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. You see:
- The coax utility box can’t be moved out of the way, because it’s fixed to the stud,
- I’m dropping through an exterior wall, which means insulation, which gets in the way,
- Because it’s an external wall, the box is surrounded by a PVC boot, making it more difficult to access from below,
- The hole in the basement is located near the exterior wall, over the existing framing, making it awkward to reach,
- The existing coax is fixed inside the wall, meaning it can’t be moved (or used to drag the cat5 through).
Now, the only workable method was to use a coat hanger to fish upward from the basement to the coax box. Once I reached it, the plan was to fix the cat5 to the coat hanger and draw it down into the basement. Things did not work out so well. I eventually gave up at 12:30 last night, after around 4 hours poking and prodding inside my walls.
So, what now? Well, Chris, a buddy from work, said he might come by on Saturday and give me a hand. Hopefully, between the two of us, we can get the cable run. Of course, until the EPIA replacement arrives, it won’t actually get connected to anything…
Unfortunately, bad fences are another thing entirely. Many weeks ago, my neighbour decided he wanted to build a fence. “Sure!”, I said, not realizing what I was really in for. Some time later, fence posts arrived, and I started to wonder when we would begin.
Well, I found out one morning when, to my surprised, I heard the sounds of digging outside. I went out to find him installing posts with the help of his other neighbour. This would be fine… if they knew what the hell they were doing. But they didn’t. The holes were far too shallow (maybe a foot deep), and the 4x6 posts were turned so the short side lined up with the fence line, and in many cases they weren’t even properly aligned. It suffices to say I got out there immediately. We ended up digging 2’ holes (which probably should have been 3’, but he wouldn’t listen) with no gravel in the bottom (despite my enquiries) and concrete dumped in the holes with the posts (he claims we didn’t need forms).
This is when I first realized something about my lovely neighbour: he’s a know-it-all who doesn’t actually know what the fuck he’s doing. Worse, he is whatever the opposite of a perfectionist is. This certainly explains why he was so impressed with my work on our Cedar Deck.
This was all illustrated in our next interaction. We had talked about materials, and I told him I wanted pressure-treated or Cedar, nothing else (I’m not planning to treat the fence right away, if at all). Moreover, standing beside the fence posts which extended far above my 5’ 6” frame, I told him we’d need at least 6’ boards. Well, guess what showed up on his driveway a week or two later? 5’ spruce boards! Well, there was no way I was going to put up with that, so I told him he had to have the boards replaced with 6’ PT.
Oh, but I’m not finished! The neighbour decided, on some of his off time, to put the 2x6 cross braces on. Good idea, right? Apparently not. You see, rather than building a nice sloped fence like everyone else in our neighbourhood, he decided to use joist hangers and make a stepped one. So now, either I’m going to get fucked with two different styles of fence, or my other neighbour will, and I’m not willing to inflict that on him.
But wait, you probably think I’m done now, right? Oh no! No no! You see, we still haven’t gotten to the fence boards! I was chilling comfortably in the house when I heard the sound of a drill outside. “Oh shit, he’s working on the fence”, I thought, and I raced outside to find he’d finished the far panel and had started on the next one. From a distance, it didn’t look too bad… and then I got closer. First, I should point out that he put all the fence boards on his side, which isn’t that big of a deal. However, he also bought screws that were too long. So, on the entire first panel, all the screws had driven straight through and were sticking out on my side. ARGH! Worse yet, his idea to fix it was, get this, to grind the tips off. Let’s just say I objected.
“But what about the second panel?”, you ask? He decided to start driving the screws in at an angle, rather than doing the obvious and just returning the damned screws. Well, in this case, I didn’t care too much, as the screw heads show on his side, not mine. But, upon examining the work, it was pretty damned obvious that the fence boards started level with the top cross-brace, and slowly started curving up! I mean, how could you not notice this?!?
At this point, I simply took over. There was no damn way I was going to let him fuck up my fence further. Luckily, he had to drive his wife somewhere, and by the time they’d returned, I’d already done two panels and started a third, and by the end of the evening, I was done. The next day, I rescrewed the entire first panel (though, now my side of the cross braces are peppered with holes) and repositioned all the boards in the second one. The result is that we now have a decent (if somewhat odd) looking fence on the east side of our property that isn’t going to match with the one on the west. Woo fucking hoo.
Interestingly, this is a very clear illustration of why I chose to work on the deck alone. I’m a perfectionist, and unless I’m working with another perfectionist, I would inevitably get very frustrated. Moreover, if I work alone, I only have myself to blame if there are flaws in the finished product… as opposed to cursing someone else’s name every time I noticed something that annoyed me. :)
So I just had the weirdest salesman/door-to-door guy bother me. This wasn’t the usual hard sell thing, as I first expected. Instead, what they wanted to do was place a sign on our property to advertise Honeywell (specifically, their home security products), and in exchange they would pay us. How could I possibly say no?? Well, you see, the problem is I’m already pissed enough at the sheer ubiquity of advertising, and the last thing I wanted was my house to turn into a glorified billboard. Not to mention the fact that I think home security systems are largely overrated (it’s not like it would take more than ten minutes to break one of our windows and steal a bunch of valuables) and are nothing more than a way for companies to cash in on fear.
So, unsurprisingly, I said “fuck that”… though in somewhat more polite language. But the best part was the guy’s reaction. “But… we’re gonna pay you.” he replied, as if the price of my soul, not to mention my values and dignity, were so easily purchased. He seemed genuinely puzzled, not to mention a little put off, that I didn’t want to become a Honeywell marketing tool.
Well, to Mr. Marketing guy and to Honeywell, I say it again: fuck that. I already have to constantly put up with advertisements. Everytime I browse the web, turn on the TV (after I’ve already paid for cable), or go to the theatre (with a ticket I already paid for), I’m bathed in advertisements and product spots. Why would I want to pollute my nice little neighbourhood with even more?
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.
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.
So, I found myself watching the last half of Austin Powers on Fox tonight and, apparently, the following words are offensive (among others I’m sure I’ve forgotten):
Specifically, Alotta Fagina’s name was changed to… get this… Alotta Cleavage. Heck, they even tried to come up with some clever pronounciation (like “fagina”), in order to make it sound sorta like a joke. So sad.
The “scrotum” censorship (did I just say that?) occurred during the oh-so-brilliant Dr. Evil speech. Apparently, it was just fine for him to say “ritually shaved my testicles”, but saying “a shorn scrotum” is just too much (though, to be fair, they may have cut down the speech for the sake of time, which would be a shame… it’s one of the best parts of the movie…)
And lastly, strangely enough, the word “horny” was replaced with the word “randy”. As if that makes any difference whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the whole scene with Austin naked in the background while Vanessa is talking on the phone and making sure to “accidentally” cover Austin’s gear is presented in all it’s glory, including the moment when Vanessa bites into a conveniently placed sausage while Austin is stretching… I just don’t get it.
So I returned my Palm and got my cash back. I was planning to get it replaced at the store, but unfortunately they didn’t have any in stock, which is, apparently, the normal state of things (I’ve returned to FS and BB, since, and still no TXs in stock). Given all this trouble, part of me is wondering if I should bother replacing it…
Unfortunately, just the day before my Palm died, I bought myself a car charge for the thing… a frickin’ $50 car charger (I coulda swore the tag on the shelf said $29.99). Moreover, like an ass, I threw out the packaging and receipt, meaning I can’t return it. So, I figure, trying another TX is probably worth $50. OTOH, if I have trouble again, well… Palm can just kiss my lily white
On a completely unrelated note, as I sit here typing away, Seventh Heaven is on TV. Now, those who know me have heard this, but I really think it needs to be in writing: I firmly believe that Seventh Heaven is, hands down, the worst television ever made, in the entire history of civilization. I challenge anyone, anyone at all, to come up with a counter example. Good luck! You’ll need it.
So, I finally get my pictures up, and not even a week later, my Palm dies. Yes, dies. After attempting to power the damn thing on, it spontaneously reset. Now, I’ll admit, this isn’t the first time this has happened (stability has been… okay. Not what I expected, but I’m guessing about average), so I took it in stride and waited for it to boot back up. But, instead of booting… it just hung at the Palm Powered logo. :/
Well, the next natural step was to perform a hard reset, which should reformat the NVFS memory and restore it to it’s factory defaults (I’ve done this once already, for other reasons, so it wasn’t an unusual procedure to me). Things seemed to work… it asked me to confirm the hard reset, to which I said ‘yes’, and then… it hung at the Palm logo again. Piece of shit.
Of course, my next move was to search Google and see if there was a solution. Thus, I ran across this forum discussion where a person described the exact same symptoms. The consensus? Get the unit returned. ASAP. And don’t return it to Palm, if possible, lest you be stuck with a refurbished unit.
So there you have it, my first Palm adventure. It was going so well. I’m just glad I didn’t become deeply reliant on it before this all happened.
Anyway, the next step is to head to Future Shop and see if I can get this damned thing replaced with a new unit (shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see). OTOH, if they attempt to get me to return it to Palm, I may just tell ‘em to fuck off and give me my money back.