SOPA Blackout

Not that there’s much traffic here, but I’m blacking the blog out tomorrow in support of the opposition to SOPA. I work in Information Technology and understand just how bad it would be for the Internet as we know it. We’re not China or Iran, though with what’s been going on in Congress lately, we could be going there. We should NOT be going there.

It’s asinine that Congress can’t get their act together to pass a budget but when Hollywood flings some money at them they have no problems working things out. Make sure you call your Senators on January 18th and let them know you oppose SOPA and PIPA.

The New HTPC Is Up And Running

As part of the hardware refresh I’m working on, I’ve replaced the Mac Mini that I’ve been using with a custom built Sandy Bridge based box. The XBMC forums were a great source of information on what would work and what I needed. I had to change up their recommendations slightly because my receiver does not have HDMI ports, so bitstreaming audio was out. I saved some money because I already had a hard drive and a Blu-Ray drive, so that that into account if you’re pricing this out. The hardware arrived yesterday, and after I finished my school work I started assembling. It was all put together and ready for an OS install before I turned in. I finished it off this evening and got XBMC installed. The numbers are impressive. It’s quiet and powerful, with VC-1 Blu Ray rips playing without a problem. That was something the Mini struggled with because if its lack of hardware acceleration for anything except h.264. Now the Mini will get rebuilt and become my desktop/server, and an Air will be coming home to be the traveling machine.

Here’s the list of the hardware I used in the build:

Even More Bargains

Well, I headed back after lunch and picked up another one of those UPSs and found a pair of Linksys brand high gain antennas for my WRT54G as well. With the discounts on both of them it was like getting the antennas for free!

Going Out Of Business Sale Bargains

One of the CompUSA stores near where I work is going out of business and having a huge sale. Based on some Internet searches it looks like they’ve marked things up before marking them down, but the markdowns are still making them good deals. I picked up some Mac stuff including an iCurve laptop stand, a MightyMouse, and a keyboard all for 50% off. I also picked up a new 900VA/540W APC UPS to supplement my current UPS. I’ve got that one up and running now and will probably head back over tomorrow to see if they’ve still got any and get another one so that I can replace the big rack mountable one that I’ve currently got.

The iCurve is great. It’s got the screen at a great height to work and with the new mouse and keyboard in place the Mac’s that much easier to use and it’s staying cooler as well!

My First iPod

For various reasons I’ve been thinking about upgrading to an iPod lately. First, with the MacBook on the way it seems the easiest way to integrate my music with the system. Second, the Creative Nomad that I’ve currently got is not compatible (and yes, I know about the Nomad library project and if it gets closer to 100% I might think about it). Third, Creative’s end-of-lifed the model I’ve got.

So today I went down to the Southlake Apple Store and picked up a 5th generation iPod. It’s a lot smaller than my Nomad, sounds better, has a color screen, and has space for photos and videos as well as music. It’s a pretty neat little gadget and I’m glad I finally got one.

Our First Video Conference

We got MSN Messenger working with the webcams tonight and the results were actually pretty good. The video, at least on my side, was a few frames short of full motion, and the audio quality was top notch. I don’t think I’m going to need to buy the video conferencing package that Logitech sells. It was good to see and hear Reese and I think he enjoyed it too.

I’m looking forward to being able to do this a little more frequently now that we know it’s working.

Video Chat With Webcams

I picked up a pair of Logitech QuickCam Communicate STX webcams today to set up on the computer here in Peoria and on my Windows box at home so that Reese and I will be able to do some video chats instead of just phone calls. The installation went well and the image quality, especially in poor lighting seems to be pretty good. They claim that the cameras work with MS Messenger so we should be OK. If not, Logitech’s got a pay service that does video conferencing, and while I’d rather not pay if I don’t have to, the rate’s reasonable and getting the video chat going is more important than spending a little money.

Roady Walkman

I got an e-mail announcing that Delphi was having a quickie sale on a few accessories for the Roady2 XM receiver. And a sale it was! I got the Personal Audio System (a Walkman-like adapter) for $20! And then for kicks added in the home kit so that I can listen at my desk. $40 for both with free shipping. Sweet!

The site was getting hammered so badly yesterday that it was all but inaccessible. Note to marketing folks, check with your IT guys before starting an e-mail campaign. I’ve run large e-commerce websites (NokiaUSA.com) and you don’t do this kind of stuff in a vacuum. Because of that I was worried that it’d be all sold out before I could get my order in, but no worries. It was happy this morning and the order went through.

Another 10% Off!

I found a 10% off coupon that I’d gotten with the Vonage rebates and went back over to the store to see if they could apply it. It turned out that they could and I saved another 10% on the purchase price, which I’m not going to scoff at.

New Surround Sound Receiver

When I signed up for Vonage, Circuit City was doing a pretty sweet deal with rebates and such. They paid for the adapter, the signup fees, and left me with a gift card to put towards an upgrade of my receiver. The only problem was that the card had a rather short expiration date.

So, that being said, since there was a sale going on today, I picked up a Sony STR-DE898. It does component video switching so I can run the TV on component input and have the receiver do all of the video switching. I’ve got everything running now and it’s working well. Even got the Harmony remote reprogrammed.