Wire speed!

Dad came over the other day and helped me run some CAT6 cable from my computer room to my lounge so I can stream video’s etc at gigabit speed over NFS from the fileserver upstairs to the Mac Mini which is now hanging off the LCD TV using my new HDMI-to-DVI cable.

MacOSX at 1920×1080 on a 37″ screen is incredible! I’m awaiting my wireless keyboard/trackerball so I can use it to surf downstairs as well as running Plex (Xbox Media Center ported to the X86 Mac) with the Mac’s remote control. I’ve watched my first 720p and 1080p movies, and you can actually see the difference from a regular 480p XviD or DVD – not just the resolution, but the detail like hair and leather textures and lack of compression artefacts, plus you get DTS 5.1 sound and so on that the Xbox1 simply can’t cope with.

I’m going to order 15m of white CAT6 or 5e from ebay though, as the blue looks a bit naff against my white walls.

I’ve been playing with Windows Vista today under VirtualBox3, it really is a pile of poo – can you believe that to install Service Pack 2 you actually have to first install SP1? They each take about an hour, and afterwards there’s still more to get from Windows Update. Literally to install Vista, Norton and Office (plus service packs etc.) must have taken well over four hours! Nothing like RedHat where you install 5.0, type “yum -y update”, go make a cup of tea and come back to 5.3 with OpenOffice and so on pre-installed.

Weather’s still boiling hot, in fact I’ve come out in prickly heat/heat rash, so am showering every few hours to keep my core body temperature down and minimise sweat.

I also finally found my old GnuPG key, so I’ve revoked the Jedi one from the keyservers, leaving the more up-to-date Synaptic one which uses better encryption.

New Home Theatre setup

I’ve just bought a 37″ LCD TV, 1080i FullHD all the bells and whistles. Its lovely. I’m awaiting a HDMI->DVI cable for my Mac Mini, and then that will be hooked up to replace my Xbox as my media centre box (running Plex).

Someone is seriously inflating the cost of computer accessories in France though – a 1.5 metre HDMI->DVI cable was 30e in the supermarket where the LCD came from, or four quid including postage from ebay UK for 2m!

I’ve moved the CRT telly into the snooker room, along with the Xbox. I tried overclocking my OpenWRT wireless routers to get the signal through the two 3 foot walls, and it just managed it at 15dbm (up from 7dbm!) but there’s more noise and heat and less signal now, so streaming video doesn’t work, even though http/ping/ssh are usable. So I’m going to have to run some CAT5e up from my bedroom through the lofts and down I think – which I already did when we renovated the snooker room, although its on the opposite wall to where I need the TV, and we’ve sealed up where the a cable could run behind the skirting boards!

I’ve got to do the same down to the Mac, as I tested and even 720p video’s can’t stream over 54g wireless (regular DivX does of course) and VNC is a bit slow too, gigabit will be much nicer. So I should be able to run a cable from a switch in my computer room, through the ceiling where the gas pipes go, and along the beam in the lounge to the Mac. I’ve got to look into the effects of running UTP cable alongside copper pipes, and then either beg some cable from PP, or see if the couple of 25m lengths I’ve got are enough – should be for the Mac, dunno about the snooker room though.

If I cable those two up, I can completely disable wireless in my house, it is an awful piece of technology really – too many “standards” with differing implementations, way overstated speeds and far too vulnerable to interference from microwaves, phones etc. Fine for some casual web surfing from a laptop, although I don’t have a laptop anymore – another piece of technology I don’t really have a use for.

I’ve also got to get a friend to help me run some more satellite cable (which I’ve got to measure and buy too) for the snooker room, I’ve got a spare Sky box, card and LNB socket, so might as well plug it into the telly.

It’s sweltering hot the last couple of days, I’ve been over to the folks and used their jacuzzi, but it doesn’t cool you much when its over 31c outside. My lounge is about the coolest place at the moment, being all thick stone walls and tile floors, as long as I keep the door shut.

Update: I just moved my 24″ LCD onto my main desktop machine, seems like a waste on the laptop docking station (it used to share with the Mac Mini) and wow, 1900×1200 is a lot of desktop space! You can play 1280×1024 games in a window, or have what used to be a fullscreen VirtualBox session in a window and still have about a third of the desktop free. Websites can look a bit odd though. An 80-column text editor only fills about a third of the screen too, so it should be useful for programming. The sound is a bit tinny compared to the 19″ though – as that was a TV as well, so had good speakers. Of course its handy for watching movies with the widescreen aspect ratio.

Update 2: I found that even the wireless speed of the Mac Mini was unacceptable – scp’ing a 700Mb DivX took ages, so I’m currently hanging a 15m piece of CAT6 out of the window and in through the back door! Getting around 35MBytes/sec over GigE now, so copying a 4.4Gb Matroska file took under 3mins!

I’ve also figured out how to sleep the Mac Mini remotely, as if you use shutdown it won’t wake using WOL. So you just make the following AppleScript:


tell application "System Events" to sleep

chmod a+x it and run it over SSH.


My nephew came over today for a few hours, we played various Xbox games – he’s mad on driving games like Burnout3 and MX vs ATV Unleashed, although not so keen on Outrun2. He’s much better at Sonic The Hedgehog than me. Surprisingly for a 4-year-old, he could read things like “2 player”, “Sega” etc; and even navigate through the setup menu’s to start a different game. Then finished off with pizza (which he plastered in Tabasco sauce!) cooked in the new oven and doing some washing and a quick walk down the road. We discovered he quite likes gherkins and mixing mayonnaise with tomato ketchup, but doesn’t like green bell peppers (only red ones!?)

I’ve been playing around with WordPress and thought I’d try the WYSIWYG editor again, its been a while so I wondered if the annoyances had been fixed and some real functionality added, but it turns out there’s no difference from when I tried it back in v1.7 days. The way you add links still is not as easy as just putting the HTML in, and the linebreaks are annoying, plus its not exactly Dreamweaver. I think the visual editor in Plone was better.

I’ve also been playing with SSH tunnelling – the magical ProxyCommand in ssh_config allows you to do things like use another machine as a gateway, so host A can go through host B to get to host C and so on. I even managed to tunnel a HTTP session from a machine three hops away to my desktop web browser! Its all described as part of the book Hacking Linux Exposed.

I thought I’d try to see how VirtualBox handles running more guest OSes than the host has CPU cores, so I ran CentOS 4, CentOS 5, Win2003, XP Pro and Windows7 all at the same time. From the screenshot you can see that it still only uses a few percent of the CPU, and I’ve still got plenty of the 8Gb RAM left over; plus look at the fancy Compiz window opacity, ooh pretty…..

I just watched Bill Bailey’s Tinselworm standup show, it was OK, pretty average stuff for BB. Frankie Boyle Live was much better, although it did seem to degenerate into slagging off the audience and swearing at them after a while, I guess the guy can’t take heckling!

Movies, Plumbing etc.

I’ve just revisited transcoding DVD to XviD as per this post and it seems to fail on the latest mencoder – it only encodes the first chapter of the title. The fix seems to be to specify the title and use dvdnav instead of dvd urls, so something like this (title 20, all chapters):

mencoder dvdnav://20 -dvd-device HERBIE -ffourcc DIVX -af volume=10 \
-aspect 16:9 -of avi -noodml -oac mp3lame -ovc lavc -lavcopts \
vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=1242:abitrate=128:threads=2 -audio-preload 0.8 \
-delay 0.1 -lameopts cbr:br=128 -vf scale=640:360,harddup \
-info name="HERBIE" -ofps 25 -alang en  -o herbie_fully_loaded.avi

I upgraded the XBMC on my main Xbox to Atlantis beta2, so its more like Plex on the Mac now, with MediaStream interface (now with 4:3 support) and all the Linuxport upgrades.

I’m awaiting my replacement snooker cue tips from eBay. In true eBay style the guy promised to send me some samples for free so I could size them up, then he sent me an invoice for something like a tenner for three tips! So I just ordered 50 of the 13mm for 15 quid and told him to forget the “free samples”, these better fit or the lot are going back on eBay!

The plumbers seem to have left – I say “seem to” as they didn’t say they were done, or when they’d be back with the electrician and chimney-sweep. I have a wire hanging out of a wall for the thermostat and a mains socket that needs moving so that it doesn’t touch the copper pipes! The gas is being turned on on Tuesday, so they’d better get their arses back here quick if they want their cheque.

I just watched WALL-E, which so many people have said is “film of the year”. Well they most be smoking some good shit, as it was crap! Basically its Johnny-5 from Short Circuit playing the part of Will Smith in I Am Legend. The only two words spoken throughout the whole film are “wally” and “eva”.

I also watched Tropic Thunder, which looked like it was going to be an Apocalypse Now spoof, but was actually pretty rubbish. The best bit was the faux-trailer at the beginning. I can’t believe how many big-name actors were in such a rubbish movie.

Then there’s Narnia 2: Prince Caspian, which was a darker sequel (much like how Return To Oz was a bit psycho) and had lost most of its magic. It had turned into an action movie more than a fantasy. Apparently another sequel is being made, although it looks like the two older children won’t be in it – probably as the oldest girl is now 20, which explains the enormous tits!

Finally, Step Brothers was an OK Will Ferrell movie, typical to his style though. The Ballsack scene was incredibly funny 😉

Update – NOT

Its been way too long since my last post, and now I’m back in France I have plenty to write about in the Personal category and a few for the Movies category, so much that I’m going to leave it for another day or just skip it altogether!

So I thought I’d bung in some quick techie snippets instead:

I’ve been playing with Oracle 11gR1 on Linux and 10gR2 on Solaris today, coding up some auditing scripts, which has gotten me back into Bourne Shell programming, ooh its been nice. I’ve also been using Git a lot more too, although mainly from the CLI rather than the QGit GUI – which is nice, but not my thing really, GUI’s just seem to slow me down.

Yesterday I finally got my RT2500 wireless card working in the laptop I’m giving Mum. I ditched Fedora9 and CentOS 5.2 as RedHat seem to be doing their best to destroy wifi – indeed a recent kernel patch stopped any wifi but Atheros chipsets from working at all. Anyway, I hate to say it, but I installed Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop and wireless worked out-of-the-box.

I’ve been playing with OSXBMC on the Mac Mini – although now they’ve renamed it “Plex” and are merging with some skin-project called CenterStage. I played my first HD movie on my new 24″ widescreen monitor and its great!

I’ve converted my middle bedroom into a computer room, so now have half a dozen computers and God knows how much network equipment all buzzing away with their flashing LED’s in just one room – and not where I’m trying to sleep! I’ve been looking on eBay for a print server, but they’re either too expensive to ship from the UK or the French are dicking around, so I think I’ll give up.

When the shell’s finished (pretty soon) I’ll probably move one of the PC’s in there, with an old CRT or something – I’ve already wired up the CAT6 and a gigabit switch!