The New Multi-Media Server (G5)

After my wife got a laptop for her birthday the G5 sat around unused for quite some time. After we bought the Apple TV I decided to set it up as a media server. In this case, I’ve started converting DVDs to an Apple TV 2 compatible format and dumping them into the iTunes library of the G5, which I’ve setup again. So far I’ve only converted around 20 DVDs, but that number is slowly increasing.

On several occasions we’ve streamed these movies to the Apple TV, which has worked great. At the moment, I’m focusing on converting the movies that we like to watch from time to time.

It’s been a long time since I posted something in the “Multi-Media Server (MMS)” category.

Insteon Module Randomly Turning Off

First, this experience may only be relevant to you if the Insteon device was just installed AND if you’re also using X10 devices. Specifically, there’s a much better chance that you may be experiencing the same problem I had if you are using an X10 motion sensor.

I recently purchased a LampLinc module to replace the X10 lamp module in the bedroom. Setup was a breeze – the new module didn’t have any problems linking to a new Insteon remote that I had also just purchased.

But it’s never that simple, of course.

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Airport Extreme Base Station Initial Impression: Home Run!

Updated 08/03/2011: The Airport Extreme Base Station has a major flaw for anyone planning to use a PPTP VPN connection to access a computer behind the router. I’ve added a new post that details my current view of the AEBS.

I finally had enough of dealing with my router problems and it was time to upgrade to 802.11n, so I purchased the AirPort Extreme this week. It came today and I just hooked it up. So far, I’m very impressed.

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Fix for Xbox 360 Controller Battery Not Charging

For a while I only had one Play-and-Charge kit for my Xbox 360, which worked fine considering I rarely had company over to play games. At one point the rechargeable battery went bad so I purchased two new Niko batteries from Amazon. Recently, both of these seemed to have gone bad and would no longer charge.

Having one battery go bad wasn’t unlikely. However, having three go bad in less than a year and knowing that previous batteries worked for a long time with no problems lead me to think that they weren’t actually bad.

Sure enough, after much searching, I found a solution written by user Nookie that provided a tip on how to recharge seemingly dead Xbox 360 rechargeable batteries. I tried this method with one battery and discovered that it worked. After one was working again I moved onto another and eventually realized that all three batteries were still good.

The gist of the tip is to plug the battery into the Play-and-Charge cable until the charge light goes off (or, early on, until it turns green). As soon as it changes just unplug the cable and then plug it back in. After a few subsequent connects and disconnects eventually you should find that the red light will stay on, indicating that it’s being charged.

So far, this seems to have worked. It looks like these batteries can be discharged to a point at which the recharge system doesn’t detect enough residual charge and just assumes the batteries are dead.

Source: [FIX] Xbox360 Controller + Play & Charge Cable Not Charging – Se7enSins Forums

Updated 05/23/2011: This trick does appear to have worked with the two Niko batteries. However, the original red 360 battery hasn’t held a charge for very long, yet. It may just be dead.

Updated 06/09/2012: I’m not certain, but this trick may have also worked qirh a PS3 controller that appeared to have a dead battery. It’s a bigger problem with the PS3 controller because the battery isn’t removable (at least not in the sense that an Xbox 360 controller battery is). With the PS3 controller I plugged it in, pressed the PS3 button, waited until the controller light turned a steady red, and then unplugged it after it started flashing, plugged it back in, and repeated the process several times. I have yet to actually use the controller but so far it appears to have started charging again.

From Virtualbox to Fusion (and thoughts on mControl)

I wanted to improve the performance of my Windows 7 virtual machine so I decided to look at moving to Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion. VMware had a special upgrade offer for current users of Parallels. While I wasn’t using Parallels I did have a license for version 2. The “upgrade” cost for Fusion 3 under this deal was only $20 so I went ahead and purchased it.

Performance of the virtual machine in Fusion does seem to have improved over Virtualbox. However, I am still experiencing some nagging lags even with Fusion. Of course, this is further complicated by the fact that my host Intel iMac only supports a max of 2 GB of RAM and Windows 7 requires 1 GB. Overall, it’s been tolerable but host OS performance has been suffering.

I don’t remember the specifics of how I migrated the hard drive image into Fusion but I think it was just a matter of setting up an existing virtual machine and allowing Fusion to acquire the disk image.

I tracked down one VM setting change that seems to have helped with performance of the host OS with very little impact on the guest OS (except for the fact that it re-installed some drivers, which messed up activation of one product). The only change I’ve made was to disable Hard Drive Buffering under the Advanced settings. Your mileage may vary. I suspect that systems with better specs will benefit from having that option enabled.

I’m still trying to decide the future of my home automation software. I like mControl but I’m starting to lean toward something that is OS X native. I don’t really want to have a Windows 7 system just to run one software package and I’m also frustrated with how the license is managed in mControl 2. It seems that any minor change to the hardware (or virtual hardware) will cause it to think it’s on a new machine and require re-activation. Correcting this is ridiculously simple, but still annoying. It’s hard to abandon a software package that originally cost over $100 but it’s also becoming less relevant to my home computer/home automation environment.

1998 Chevy Cavalier: Dash Indicators and Starting Problem

Earlier this week my mother’s car started having problems with the dash indicators (and apparently the entire dashboard console) while driving. Concerned her car was about to stop running, she drove it back home and then called me to give her a ride. Before we left I found that we couldn’t start the engine.

I tried starting it again later that day to no avail. The electrical system seemed to be working but it just wouldn’t turn over. All I’d hear was a fast clicking when I tried the ignition.

My initial thought was a problem with the battery, starter, or alternator. Both of my brothers also suggested it could be a short.

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This Blog has Moved (Again)

Ever since I moved to a WordPress blog under GoDaddy hosting I’ve had numerous problems with poor performance. I suspect this has much to do with the shared resources used for that hosting account and several posts on the Web appear to support this belief. Regardless, I decided to do something about it that would actually make a difference. I had already tried running a cache plugin and database optimizer (for several months) and didn’t see an improvement. Updating the blog and looking for errors sometimes took a very long time – I often had to wait several seconds just for a page to load or update.

I considered upgrading to a Virtual Private Server but the extra cost just wasn’t acceptable, especially considering I would have done it only to get this blog running properly. The base VPS hosting would have cost about $30/month and I would have added a Plesk console, which would have bumped it up to $35/month.

After mulling over my options for about an hour I decided to go with an alternative. Since most of my activity with this domain is just infrequent blogging I decided to sign up for a WordPress.com account and pay extra to use my own subdomain and not have any ads. The total cost was somewhere around $50 for the year – far less than moving to a VPS would have cost.

It’s only been a day since I moved to this blog but I’m already much happier. The blog has operated smoothly. There are a few other restrictions (I can’t use plugins that aren’t already available to this account, only certain themes are available, and CSS editing is an additional charge). However, those restrictions are not major issues for me.

I’ve cleaned up bad links that were a result of the move. The old blog is still active. I’ve setup a few redirects but I’m planning to put more in place for other posts that receive visits. Eventually, I’ll delete the old blog.