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…
1 of 2