Our desktops at home, Alexstrasza and Keristrasza, have seen little use in the past years. Firstly, because the room they’re in got messed up by our cats. Secondly, because we’ve primarily moved to mobile and console gaming. Lastly, because lounging on a sofa or bed is much more comfortable than sitting in an IKEA work chair. 😛
Seeing how we prefer working on laptops instead of desktops nowadays, I shifted our future PC landscape plan to replace the obsolete PCs with laptops and some accessories to help them out. One of these accessories is an external Thunderbolt 3 GPU enclosure, to give our slim laptops a boost when playing games or rendering video. Essentially, I wanted to have a single portable device that I’ll bring to work and everywhere, while having the ability to hook it up at home and play AAA games on it.
(Had this drafted months ago, but thought it would be pointless. Recently though, my sound bar / AVR somehow reset all its settings and I had to figure out how the wiring goes again. After sorting everything out, I thought I should make a record just in case I forget again :P)
#Start of First Draft
Recently acquired a new TV to replace the 9 year old Sammie. Full HD and 3D goodness, finally!
With every new purchase however, there would be some work involved. All those cables on the existing devices will need to be rerouted or removed. And you need to figure out the limitations with the various equipment to try to get the most out of them without having to spend even more money upgrading them.
So TV arrived the same day of purchase (thanks Sony!), and first thing to do was to move the HDMI inputs from the switch onto the TV. We wouldn’t want to lose any resolution or colour along the way. Also had to buy a digital optical cable to route audio from the TV to the AVR (just a sound bar).
Tested the gaming consoles, and Astro, and so far so good. But wait, we’re not getting complete audio from the HTPC. One whole night of troubleshooting revealed that I couldn’t passthrough DTS audio to the TV, because the TV can only send out Dolby Digital through its optical output. The workaround for this was to get another digital optical cable so that I can connect my HDMI switch (which supports ARC) directly to the AVR. The HTPC then connects to the switch as an input, and the output goes to the TV. The TV will then send back the audio signal to the switch via ARC, and this gets routed over to the AVR via optical cable. Sounds convoluted doesn’t it? Surprisingly, the TV supports DTS via ARC, but not via optical. On the other hand, it might just be the audio feed directly from the HTPC to the AVR. I had spent another night trying to figure this part out, cuz it wouldn’t work for some reason.
#End of First Draft
So here we are in 2015 to continue this post. ARC is the feature that’s working here because the only input connections that the AVR are getting are digital optical ones.
Another use for the switcher is to route the legacy devices to the TV via HDMI. This part gets kind of interesting. The DVD player and PS2 do not have HDMI outputs, so they were originally connected to the AVR via RCA or Coaxial inputs. Now that the AVR no longer outputs HDMI to the TV, I connected it to the HDMI Switch instead. So whenever I need to use the DVD player or the PS2, which I rarely do, I just had to switch inputs on the Switch.
Then, somewhere along the way, we decided to try making the HTPC into a karaoke player. For karaoke, we need to use a separate karaoke amp and speakers instead of the AVR. We originally used this karaoke audio system separately using a laptop connected via a stereo jack, and ran Karafun on the laptop for song queuing and Windows Search for the library. Now that we wanted to connect to it via the NUC, which only supports HDMI or DisplayPort, we needed to somehow convert the HDMI audio to RCA. So we had to buy a HDMI splitter that had RCA output for this.
The problem with this HDMI-to-RCA splitter is that its HDMI output would sometimes turn off for some reason. Maybe it’s a limitation of the device itself, so I went out and bought another HDMI splitter so that the original HDMI output can be split off cleanly before heading to the HDMI-to-RCA splitter. In the end, we have 2 HDMI devices between the HTPC and the AVR/karaoke amp.
Everything’s all dandy now, except that XBMC can’t seem to handle the karaoke queueing very well. But that’s a different post for a different day.
Previously I wrote about installing this awesome media server onto a Synology NAS here. However this guide referred to another guide on a different site which subsequently went down, and I couldn’t find a copy of it anywhere else.
So here’s an attempt to rebuild the guide to include the missing steps. Since I’ll just be copying and pasting from the original forum discussion, there might still be errors. If you encounter any, let me know in the comments and we’ll see how we can get it corrected. As always, follow these steps at your own risk. This “worked” when my DSM was 4.0-2197; I cannot guarantee that these steps will work any more (or work at all).
I’ve always wanted a proper HTPC, but so far it’s just been off-the-shelf media streamers for me. 1st it was the AC Ryan PlayOn HD, 2nd was the Xtreamer Sidewinder 3, but they were limited with their inability to display Hi10p videos (10bit color-coded videos usually used for anime), and proper SSA subtitles (also used in anime for animated/colorful subtitles).
Now that Intel came up with these NUC thingies, I thought it was about time to start tinkering. There wasn’t any stock available for the D54250WYK at Low Yat when I dropped by, so I had to make do with the D54250WYKH, the version with the 2.5″ drive slot. Threw in 8GB of RAM and a 1TB drive on there. A little excessive, but I have big plans for this thing. 🙂
In order to get XBMC onto this machine, I thought of putting on a proper Ubuntu installation on there, then loading XBMC on top of it. I had almost no problems installing Ubuntu 13.10 via USB thumb drive, until I reached the end. I couldn’t boot into the installed operating system, due to some files that the NUC was expecting that were in the wrong place. A firmware upgrade to version 24 fixed that (I didn’t upgrade to 25, as there were reports of issues booting from USB3.0).
At this point I’ll also have to mention that I have not been able to access the BIOS since bringing the NUC home (it tested fine at the shop). I don’t know if it’s due to my HDMI setup (it goes through a splitter to get the the AVR) or something else. There were times that I couldn’t get video, but I think that is also due to the HDMI stuff (a power cycle of the AVR and/or TV seemed to fix it).
Once Ubuntu (desktop) was up and running OK, I immediately installed XBMC (Frodo) on it through apt-get. I ran it manually, and liked how it looked, but… I couldn’t play any of the movies I tried. XBMC would just crash to the desktop each time I loaded a movie. It seemed like it might be an issue with the audio, so I tried tinkering around with the settings, but I wasn’t able to get it work. Seemed like I couldn’t get 5.1 sound via HDMI too, so I messed around with pulseaudio settings too, but alas to no favorable result.
So I ditched that setup. Looked online and tried to do a minimal Ubuntu install instead. This makes more sense since I plan to run the NUC as mainly a server, with only a frontend to serve XBMC. I downloaded the mini version of 12.10 (decided to downgrade from 13.10, since HDMI issues were not experienced by me alone (should’ve read that before I started, but oh well)) and stuck that onto a thumb drive. The NUC would boot it, but it couldn’t recognize the NUC’s network adapter, which was needed to download some installation files. Scratch that, went with the 13.04 minimal version instead. Install went somewhat well: there were no errors or anything, but the downloads were sooo slow. It pretty much took an entire night. And the end result? It wouldn’t boot either. Bleh.
So last resort, was for me to use the XMBCbuntu distribution. XBMC and Ubuntu together in one shot. Went for Ubuntu 14.04 and the XBMC Gotham beta straight up. Installed like a charm. And the rest is pretty much history (macam cerita kawin pulak).
Well not quite. By default, RSS feeds are turned on by default, and this causes a massive drain on CPU time (about 50%; any scrolly text on XBMC seems to do this). Gotta turn it off to let it idle comfortably at 2-3% (and even that feels kinda high).
Hello again after so many years (just one actually). This blog has been here and there, up and down, and generally unreliable due to other priorities having taken up my time. Firstly, a summary of related events:
The website server was moved onto spot pricing. Yay cheap, but what I didn’t realise was that the latest server snapshot is not saved when the price exceeds the maximum set. So I had posts that were published and then disappeared. And since the spot price kept spiking, the server also kept shutting down. This was some time after my last existing post.
Amazon started charging for the Broadway Academy store instance, so this had to be shut down too. This was in December.
Diablo III happened. Many loots.
After very long consideration, I bought a new Haswell i5 Intel NUC. Last week. 😀
PC in a box, the Intel NUC.
Such a tiny thing as a PC. Love it. Threw in 8GB of RAM and a terabyte drive in there for good measure. Migrated the blog over to nginx and php5-fpm. Also running XBMC for my media centre, and the ol’ minecraft server is up and running again. Next to do would be to migrate the BA store front, then shut down my presence on AWS permanently.
Heartbleed happened. Patched everything up.
Will try to post more in the upcoming months. Stay tuned.
Due to the inability of the Synology 411j NAS to host this wordpress site, we’ve finally moved to Amazon’s EC2 service. This is Amazon’s cloud service with its micro instance starting at USD15 a month if you run it 24/7.
Yes, USD15 is a little pricey for just a private wordpress blog, but Amazon allows new users to try it for free for a year. And since they have a data centre in Singapore, I thought why not?
The migration was simple enough. First step was to set up the EC2 instance, so we used one free preconfigured image by BitNami. Picked it up on the AWS Marketplace, then it’s up and running in no time.
Second step was migrating the entries over from the old blog. WordPress has a built in Import & Export feature so all the posts, including attachments, were migrated over effortlessly. Though I just realized we’re missing the posts from our guest bloggers; not sure when this happened, but it’s the same as the old site so it must’ve gotten deleted or transferred to another user during previous migrations.
Next was to point the site address from the old site to the new. The DNS server will continue running on the NAS, so it was just a matter of changing the CNAME entry from our current dynamic DNS to the Amazon one. There was a mention somewhere online that the Amazon hostname will change if the instance is restarted, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
After that, WordPress was running off the /wordpress subdirectory, so we needed to SSH into the instance and setup redirection from the root directory. A quick uncomment in /opt/bitnami/apps/wordpress/conf/httpd.conf and it happens, but permalinks are still pointing to the /wordpress subdirectory so I’m going to have to figure out how to work that with redirection.
As you may be able to tell, the server is running zippy as ever. Will just need to keep a reminder to move the blog again to a paid local web host before the AWS Free Tier expires. 😛
So I’ve recently acquired a Synology DS411j, which I hoped would have flawless built-in DLNA compatibility with my PS3. I should’ve known it was too much to ask for proper transcoding.
There’ve been plenty of discussion regarding how to get the PS3 media server, something I’ve been using on my Windows PC, installed on a Synology NAS. The most complete guide I’ve found is here on Mark in the Dark. I followed it, but I had to do a few things differently and additionally to get it to work proper.
In the end, transcoding was horrifyingly slow on the 411j’s processor. I could barely get the first frames off a 720p movie. But for those who have more powerful units and would like to try anyway, here are the modifications to the original guide. Props to Mark and synops for the original guide. My DSM version is 4.0-2197.
the pain-in-the-butt Azgalor is now dead. It was tough keeping the tank up and timing Shields before the AoE Silence while avoiding Rain of Fires (i kept running from one into another), but we managed to do it. Didn’t have time to move on to Archimonde, but the time will come for that.
Looks like this will be the last FTK for me before my trip to Oz. Now getting all the minor details out of the way, like travel insurance and currency. So much to do… 🙁
upgraded wordpress to 2.3.1, upgraded wpg2 to 3.0.2, upgraded K2 to RC3.
changed from a 2-column layout to 3-column layout cuz there was just too much info for a single column. the rightmost column (i tweaked K2’s CSS a bit cuz I didn’t like the extra column being on the left) will now contain stuff i wanna look at on a daily basis; external links basically. the rest will remain on the original column.
the new layout looks good on Firefox, but I don’t have IE7 to test on. do let me know if it looks borked.
wordpress has tag clouds now. not sure how to use them along with categories. :