Saturday, May 03, 2008

Amazon Kindle Back in Stock


They had sold out of the ugly little bugger BUT IT'S IN STOCK NOW! It reminds me of the Snow Speeders from Star Wars.


Grey, Ugly, Wedgy. With a cable that shoots out the back. No, the Kindle is wireless.

I guess the big draw here is what it does. I actually saw one on a flight I was flying the other day. It's not as ugly in person.

I've owned ebooks (the Rocket eBook 1100 and various PDA's with MS Reader installed) and they can be pleasant to own. Nice to always have something to do.

I can't review it, but if you're a well heeled voracious reader then it's probably the device to own.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Palit Porn

9800 GTX and GX2 at the Bass Computers BBQ. 3 8800 Ultras in an SLI config.

Thanks to Brandon LuTran at Palit for the time.

No Reason

i has a bucket
see more crazy cat pics

It's a Fri. I wish I had a bucket. Imagine that second line in a Mr. Krabs voice.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Coby MP-C741 MP3 Player Tips and Tricks


Updated on 5/1/08: If you are having trouble applying the firmware update, somewhere there is an option on the MP3 player to format the internal memory. I forgot I had done that, so if you are having trouble applying new firmware, try that first.

Neat little player. Right now it's free after the rebate or make money possibly. See this post I made. I love a bargain. I got mine at Office Depot on clearance for $4.99!

To business:

It will work with a Mac just fine, mounts as a drive (or two drives if you add an SD card) on the desktop with no special drivers. It didn't like my unpowered USB hub so I had to plug it into the Macbook directly.

Tips:
Just use the SD slot to put your MP3's on if you have it filled, and save the internal memory for recordings as that is where the player will put them.

Put the SD card in a USB adapter or card reader. It syncs a LOT faster with my Iogear SD USB drive. (Like a thumbdrive but you put an SD card in it.)

Note: Supposedly it only accepts a 512M card into the slot but I used a 1 gig micro SD card from my phone and was able to browse and play MP3's on it. I read elsewhere that a 2 gig card has been used successfully. YMMV.

The internal memory mounts as one drive, the SD card as another drive.

OS X Disk Utility didn't want to format or partition the 512 Meg Micro SD I installed with an adapter. Drive Genius didn't like it either.

OS X shows it as a Yountel device when mounted in Disk Utility. I'm betting something like this unit.

Turns out there was something wrong with the Dane Elec Micro SD to SD/MMC adapter I had. In the trash it went. That adapter also didn't work with my card readers. So recycle those MicroSD card you have to use with this player. Be careful which adapter you use.

Get the firmware update off the Coby site. Read how to and where in the FAQ here. The latest there is version 1.44

Plusses: To me, a decent set of headphones! They sound better than my JVC HAFX33's I paid $10 for. Normally it's a $15-$20 pair, but they sounded tinny compared to the Cobys.

General Comments: I thought Coby made cheap crap. I was impressed by this unit. It's no iPod, but add an old SD/MMC card you've got, and a copy of Synctunes, and it's a nice little unit especially for the price.

Keep Your Car Air Conditioning AC Efficient and Clean

To keep your car air conditioning clean and fresh, turn off the engine then turn the key back on after use and let it run on high until the temperature of the air coming out of the vents matches or is close to ambient. What this does is warm up the core so that water won't condense or form as much moisture as just shutting the key off and walking away. Guess what? Icky stuff won't grow on a warm and dry air conditioning core.

Plus, it'll keep you cool as you gather your things from the car, put up the sunshade (you do that right?) etc.

Using a sunscreen keeps your car interior in better shape and keeps your A/C from working as hard when you get back in. On a side note, that window tint really does work, and should decrease your gas usage slightly by decreasing your A/C usage. If you live in the south, it just makes sense. On the early model Toyota Prius, the engine had to turn on to run the A/C, so I had mine tinted for that reason especially.

A product I use when the A/C starts to get that sour odor is Pure Air A/C duct sanitizer. I've had my bottle for years it seems like. 8 ounces will last you a long while. I has NO PERFUMES OR ODORS that I can detect, it just kills stuff in your A/C vents.

Remember, purchasing via the Amazon product links supports theroblog.com!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

theroblog.com Talk Radio!

Yeah, Really. Call in Wednesdays at 12PM central time.

www.blogtalkradio.com/theroblogcom

Free computer advice, flying, the internet (the one with all the emails), 80's and more!

Expect the first shows to be LAME. Hey, at least I'm honest!

Dirty Little Family Secret

That title ought to get some Google hits eh? I have seen it all:


No kidding.

http://www.texaslicesquad.com/

And I thought there was a magazine for everything. Turns out, there's also a service business for everything.

Economic Stimulus Package: An Urgent Plea!

Put it in the bank! Or pay off a credit card or SOMETHING. Buy that more gas efficient car or an electric scooter for neighborhood errands. DON'T spend it on crap!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Toast 9.0.2 Observations

Not a review, just some annoyances and a fix.

1. I choose to burn a DVD movie. 1x burn speed is selectable until you put a disc in. Then it's either 'Best' or in my case, 2x. The discs are some old stock I have, stamped with 1X near the spindle hole. Guess that's why I get coasters about 50% of the time huh? I want to be able to select less than what the recorder thinks it is, and I don't know what 'Best' means, really. Is it 1X or is it the 2x that's in the dropdown menu? Can't tell if the recorder thinks it's a 2X disc by mistake. Plus I get command errors and the burning fails.

Actually this was a lot worse at first glance in Toast 8 vs. 9. 9 appears at this moment to be using the average burn rate of 2x. 8 used to report like a 3x average or something silly for a 1x rated disc.

(Hey, I KNOW there are cheaper/faster discs, but I already had these. Waste not and all. Same reason I just put a 40 gig drive in a new 2.4 Ghz machine. It was free and Spinrite reported as faultless. Plus it plays games and accesses the Interweb just fine.)

2. I burned a 1.5 hr movie to a single layer 4.7 gig disc. 'Automatic' bit rate selection only used 1.59 gigs. Huh? Why not make it fill the DVD? TiVo source file, so I guess it only used the original standard def bitrate I recorded at the basic TiVo setting. I wonder if something with a higher bit rate would use the entire disc?

Answer: nope. I put an HD .TiVo file of 11.5 gig size on to a DVD. 1:55 length, still had 300 megs left over. It appears Roxio uses CBR encoding. Drag, dude.

A plus though, is that the output is pretty nice. Not quitecommercial quality, but pretty darn good. Of course, I can't use Grab to post a shot since Grab is disabled during DVD playback. Thanks Apple! So I used VLC. Click the image below for a Normal sized view. Some jaggies along edges, but pretty nice.

3. The audio sync issue I got on the same .TiVo source file in 8.0.4 has gone away in 9.0.2. Woohoo! Nice if they'd make 8.0.4 work right too.

4. Under 8, DVD video burns weren't verified like CD's. I just copied a DVD from my mounted DVD image of a .TiVo show, and it's now verifying. Nicer!

BUT when you just author a DVD, it doesn't verify it. So, hope your burn went well. No way to really tell I guess unless you get errors when viewing the DVD.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 Mini-Review

Ever wonder why my reviews are mini? Because I'm too lazy to do exhaustive reviews. You're going to look for more reviews and not base it solely on my experience anyway, or at least I'd hope you wouldn't. :)

So.

Here's what's happened so far. I just installed Ubuntu 8.04 'Hardy Heron' alongside Vista on a real partition (7 gigs, just to play with) and I'm posting from it now.

Done:
Installed the Nvidia restricted drivers. They don't like my monitor. I'd like 70-75Hz refresh rate (it's an old 17" CRT type) but it gives me 1280x1024 with a GROSS 50hz refresh rate or 1024x768 with 60hz refresh that looks horrible for some reason. Can't select higher. Hmm. Works, but not quite like I want. I don't want a headache, thanks.

Update 3 May 2008: My monitor was detected as Generic for some reason. So I had to tell it the brand and model (you could pick something with similar refresh rates. Run this command from the terminal:

sudo displayconfig-gtk

And my monitor and model was already available to pick. Again, don't make me Google to much or visit the command line to fix what should be easy. I now have a more ergonomic 72 Hz refresh rate. Close enough, but 75Hz IIRC is supported by my monitor.

What works:
Internet, sound, networked 930C attached to a Windows XP Pro box. So out of the box you can get stuff done. Printer install was easy.

Bluetooth. I bought an Azio BTD-V201 because it's about the smallest you can get, and I'm hoping it works out of the box with an Asus eee.

Here's a photo of how small this dongle is:

That's an SD card of course. It stick out about 2mm plus the black plastic part, so the silver USB plug part is not fully concealed. However, it will be unobtrusive on nearly anything. And sure would be easy to install in an eee or any other device via an internal hack.

It worked with no configuration on Ubuntu 8.04. No protracted tests, but I transferred a 4.8 meg file from my Cingular 8525 to the Ubuntu desktop after plugging it in and 1 minute setting the desktop to accept file transfers, be visibile etc. Ubuntu's Bluetooth control panel suits fine for this. Actually, it is very easy to use. Kudos on that. Beats the various Bluetooth stacks I saw in XP. More direct than OS X's Assistant. Don't need that level of handholding, Apple.

System is:

ECS 7050VT-M with 2 gigs RAM. This board has everything for a basic office or gaming system built in.
Celeron 430 1.8 ghz stock overclocked to 2.4 ghz by raising the FSB to 1066.
40 gig PATA (I had it lying around)
Floppy

To love:
All the free programs of course! Basics come installed, and TONS of other stuff available.

Surprises:
Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 5 is installed by default. Beta? Really? Would Microsoft or Apple install beta software or any serious computer company? I want it to work, not make me bleeding edge. File this under gripes too.

Skype was pretty easy to install (you want the .deb download) and my Webcam, a cheap Emprex PC-10AP worked out of the box! I had to fiddle with the sound inputs with the Volume Control applet and plug my mic into the front panel but I got it working. So, webcam and sound and mic work in Skype at least. :)

Neat graphic effects if your card supports it, ala Vista's Aero, Ala Mac's Expose, etc.

Who's it for?
Hobbyists, curmudgeons, cheapskates, new computer users.

Gripes:
The monitor issue. For Linus' sake, please don't make me edit a text file to fix this. Soooooo 1990.

So far, all the solutions to things I want to do or fix seem to require command line usage. Can I? Yes. Do I want to? NO. I can Google and do darn near anything as always. Sigh.

The Totem Movie Player for DVD playback. I downloaded the codecs which it did fairly automatically, a few clicks here and there, and played the title about not airing it in public.

So now what? 'Go' to the various DVD menus isn't working. The Warning movie is over. I just wanna play the frickin' DVD. This is why Linux isn't on top folks. Skipping doesn't work. The help file says to go to Movie->Play disc. It ain't there.

Ooooh. I restarted the app and now it works. Coulda said that. Menus still don't work. But I can play the entire disc.

Verdict:
Can't do better for free. Make sure you have a geek around to help. We're not cheap, but we can be had. Fun to play with. I'd hate to have to reinstall and figure stuff out again. Nightmare mode. Reinstalling XP is bad enough.

Links:

Some Dude. Like this approach: sit your average user down (his girlfriend) and see if they can do simple tasks. Also taught me a few things.

Quote:"Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do. Erin’s intelligent, quick to learn and is reasonably well-acquainted with modern technology. If she had as much trouble as she did, what chance to the elderly or at least the middle-aged stand?"

Ditto.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Vista Ultimate with SP1 vs Ubuntu 7.10 Install on Cheapo PC build

Update 4/28/07: The Ubuntu 8.04 install went fine. I installed it on a separate partition from Vista. I had to install the Nvidia drivers post-OS install, and now Ubuntu's telling me to restart so I'll continue this update later. Obviously the network works out of the box. Graphics are 800x600 until I restart. Why Linux? For additional tools to use mainly, and to keep my options open. I have Mac/PC and Linux/Vista/XP (Home and Pro)/OS X 10.4.x available.

I just built a work PC from a Celeron 430, Ultra Grid Case model ULT33137, ECS 7050VT-M motherboard, and two sticks of HP DDR2 667 memory. All told, I've got about $125 in this system. I recycled a 40 gig drive, floppy, and CDRW burner from a computer someone gave me. I have an external DVD burner I can move between this and my Macbook. This system will be for extra work, and my PC servicing that I do. One intended use is the Spinrite recovery program that can literally take DAYS to scan a faulty drive. So I needed a little cheap system for that and to play with Vista and Ubuntu Linux 7.10. Maybe a little World of Warcraft now and then.


Vista Ultimate:
Graphics driver not installed on ECS 7050VT-M motherboard. NVIDIA MCP73V chipset. Whaaaa....? Also missing the Ethernet driver, so I can't connect on it to the Internet to get the driver because the Ethernet doesn't work so I can't update the driver for it so it won't work...see the problem here?

I'm sort of surprised SP1 doesn't include these items. This isn't exactly the latest chipset out there.

I installed just the Ethernet driver off the CD that came with the motherboard by telling Windows specifically where to find it on the CD. I don't use those auto installers that come on such CDs because the drivers are old probably, and I don't always want all the crap that can some with said CDs. Gimme the reference drivers from NVIDIA in this case, thanks. I'll get it on the Internet then do a Windows update after getting AVG Antivirus installed. Usually my first step!

BSOD: Automatically installed a driver for a cheap Emprex USB Webcam, and it BSOD'd on the 'Follow Facial Features' or whatever they called it, when I checked that option.

Saw it as an SoC camera, wich probably isn't right, but hey Vista, you called it and installed it. Been forever since I saw a BSOD, like since Windows 2000 Pro, and of course it's Vista. XP for me for my 'real' machines for the moment.

This system scores an overall 3.0 (due to the onboard GPU score of 3.0) on the Vista experience, not bad. Subscores ranged from 3.0 to 4.8 stock, and CPU was a 4.4 after overclocking.

I'll take a system like this any day that uses standard parts over some cheapie that HP and the like throw together for 3x the cost with wimpy power supply and even cheaper parts.

Comments on components

  • The case is a pretty good one. I got it and a preinstalled 500W power supply for $29.95 shipped from Fry's. Very nice for the price. The CoolerMaster 690 is nicer and comes with more fans, but installing and removing the side panels are easier on the Ultra. The Ultra comes with two 120mm cooling fans, drive bay and case rear. VGA side panel vent, but no fan included.
  • Motherboard: Only supports one system fan, so I hooked up the one for the drive bays. Have to get an adapter to drive more than one system fan. DDR2 single channel only, :( But has some overclocking features in the BIOS; FSB and some voltage control. I upped the FSB and the processor appears stable at 2.4Ghz The Prime 95 torture test caused some weird Vista issues, but didn't lock or crash, so I'll keep it for now. It's running cool at stock voltage so I sort of suspect a Vista/software issue.
Ubuntu 7.10 Install

Locks running the initial scripts, and doesn't work with the Geforce 7 series driver. Ubuntu 7.10 doesn't even leave the starting gate, so I'm downloading the 8.04 install. Will try to update that if it works.
 
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