So, going to the Verizon Wireless mall store on a Friday night with the kids is apparently our idea of fun.
We got the wife the Droid Incredible 4G which for us was the best balance of price, performance, and most of all size. If you want a phone that isn’t an iPhone 4 or isn’t giant, this is probably the best one out there. She seems to like it so far, and although it’s a little different than the Motorola Droid (Android 4.0 and HTC Sense will do that) the learning curve is relatively small.
And although they wouldn’t let me keep the 150MB data plan on it after all, they were able to extend my current contract on the device, which meant I didn’t have to change my unlimited data plan (which I checked I still had before leaving the store). So I will have that for at least as long as I choose to keep my phone, which will be at least another 15 months or so. Hopefully by then they’ll have an unlimited data family share plan.
So we’re happy.
So I’ve decided this blog will focus on my home technology and how it affects my family, and how I have to balance my need to be a hyper geek with the needs of the children in the family, as well as my wife who has a considerably different relationship with technology than I do.
Should be fun.
It’s time to get a new phone for my wife–it’s been 2 1/2 years, and the digitizer on her OG Droid is malfunctioning.
I have a grandfathered unlimited data plan on my Galaxy Nexus. I had downgraded my wife to a legacy 150MB plan to save $15 a month. I’m bummed about losing unlimited data but I don’t want to pay $500 for a phone just to keep it.
Here’s the thing: I can upgrade her phone, and go to a 4GB Share Everything plan, and pay about what I’m paying now (it will depend on the discounts). I never have used more than about 2GB, and my wife never uses more than 100MB. So in reality this is a lot more data that I ever use now. So it should be no problem. Except I have unlimited data now, and I like it.
I just need to get over myself. And I will.
I will probably start using this blog for all sorts of stuff since I’m out of grad school nowadays. But it’s probably worth seeing where I am with my digital music since then:
- I’m still using my original Squeezebox 2. It works great. I’ve upgraded my server to 7.8.0 beta. It works pretty well most of the time. Sometimes some stuff with Perl plugins, but usually it just keeps trucking. I’m sure the VFD has faded over time, but I have no way of knowing that.
- Still rocking the Denon AVR-3805, and we’ve since renovated the family room and now have professionally installed speaker cables to my Klipsch Quintet speakers. Which still sound great. My KSW-10 subwoofer has had two new sub amps installed, the last one a BASH subwoofer amp that has performed admirably. I think the old amps failed because the driver would occasionally get stuck, but I’ve found manually manipulating the cone seems to free it up.
- We now have a nice Samsung D-series TV, which isn’t part of the music system per se, but with Logitech Media Server now having a DLNA server, I can play music through the TV if I really want. But there’s really no point in doing that.
- I spent a lot of time looking for a wireless streaming solution to my Android phones; I played for a while with Subsonic and it worked well enough but I didn’t end up paying for it; I tried even to get DLNA support working through a VPN or SSH tunnel and was not successful. Luckily, eventually SqueezePlayer came out and works perfectly, especially paired with SqueezeCommander to control it. So that’s what I use most of the time to listen to music when on the move. The only disadvantage is the lack of a clean handoff between 3G/4G and WiFi. Usually I just turn of WiFi and it’s fine.
- I can also use my DirecTV HR24 receivers to listen via the LMS DLNA support. I don’t do it very often because it can be quite slow to load up the menus.
So, that’s the short version. My 500GB drive is almost full of music; I have 3TB drives I bought just before the Thailand floods but haven’t installed because I was busy with grad school; and I’m still on the fence about if I’m putting them in my now 5 year old server or if I’m buying a new low power (probably a dual-core Atom) server to upgrade to. I’m torn because I wouldn’t mind building an HTPC box to use with my new TV, but I don’t want the hard drives in the family room making noise. The server isn’t too slow but it would be nice to get some dual-core excitement.
So my next projects will be upgrading the server and/or hard drives and continuing to explore with DLNA stuff. I’ll update when I can.
The new server is working great–it’s got plenty of power and has been rock-solid stable. I ended up with Debian on it, and I’m a lot happier now that I’m running testing instead of stable (for instance, I have FLAC 1.2.1). I’ve been running the 6.5.5 nightly builds of SlimServer, upgrading every week or two as I think of it.
Power consumption is a little higher than before but still pretty low. I haven’t fully taken advantage of the throttling the CPU can do yet–I haven’t had the time to investigate what the stock kernel does versus the various mods that VIA makes for the kernel and what they do.
After my trials and tribulations with the Thecus, I realized I needed a real solution. People on the Slim Devices forums had talked about mini-ITX boards with Via processors as low-power, high-performance solutions. Basically I want a real math coprocessor to handle encoding and transcoding duties, and having an x86 processor will make things simpler. I still wanted low power consumption, and although the system may use more energy at its peaks, the ability for it to throttle down the CPU variably as well as to go into deep sleep mode and spin down the drives when not in use should offset that overall.
I decided I needed more power to run SlimServer comfortably, as well as rip and encode CDs when I get them. I also might want a second Squeezebox someday, and I couldn’t easily run two at once on the Kuro Box or Thecus, especially if transcoding was involved. I also want some headroom for home automation or other projects.
So I got a motherboard, case, and http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813995002. The case was bigger than I expected but I figured I should be able to cool passively (lots of vents) and keep noise and power consumption down. If I can’t there some case fans which are actually very quiet. And this thing will live down in the basement anyway. The power supply is very efficient and usually fanless.
I’m reusing the hard drives I got for the Thecus, as well as my old CD-ROM drive, scavenged from the external USB case to mount inside the box as an IDE device–taking one more power supply out of the equation and its phantom power and efficiency losses.
I put everything together and it didn’t work. It powered on but it didn’t POST. I later determined that the RAM wasn’t seated correctly, and it takes some pushing to get it in right. I’ve booted it but without a loadable OS on it (funny, it can’t boot the ARM Linux kernel off the hard drives) it is less than useful.
I’m thinking I’ll install OpenSUSE on it. I’ve enjoyed Debian and Gentoo but since I have an x86 CPU I might as well avail myself of all the options. While the thing has a video adapter I do plan on running it headless most of the time. It has a sound card as well, and I may try to run squeezeslave on it and use it to play music downstairs.
I got a temporary SlimServer config running on my Kuro Box with an 80GB drive, and the 500GB backup drive hooked up via USB. It worked fine.
I decided to buy an open box Thecus N2100 from Newegg, with upgraded RAM, a quieter fan, and dual 500GB hard drives in a RAID 1. Nice. The whole solution still cost me less than the original Kuro Box. The Thecus has a 600MHz processor, so I expected it to be quite a bit faster. Continue reading
Well, the hard drive was dead. I did manage to get some of the things I wanted off of it (even though I think I have backups everywhere) but I will have to do my configuration over again.
Which is fine by me. My gentoo image was a little old, and I was having trouble updating packages without conflicts and dependencies that would be tricky to untangle, so I’m using a new overlay and starting from that.
I’m also taking the time to install u-boot, which allows me to boot straight into a 2.6 kernel, instead of booting a 2.4 kernel in the firmware and then chaining a 2.6. Should be fun.
I’m using an old 80GB hard drive I have for now–my 400 GB is off to Seagate for a factory refurbished replacement. I didn’t take the amazing offer where for $100 they’d upgrade me to a refurbished 500GB hard drive.
It’s boring yet fun work, watching it all get put together again.
It was bound to happen–I was copying my music files over from my main Kurobox disk to the backup USB drive and noticed a few i/o errors. I dismounted the /datafiles/ file system and tried to do an fsck which did not go well, basically I lost the root filesystem out from under the running kernel. A reboot first brought the Kuro into EM mode, from which I tried to start another fsck, which also didn’t really work.
I tried rebooting again (since I haven’t done the serial port mod on my Kuro, I can’t tell what’s happening on boot) and it was probably hanging on boot. But it’s also likely that it was doing an fsck itself on bootup and would eventually boot up, provided things weren’t too swiss-cheesed.
But I decided to take a closer look. I opened the Kuro Box (BTW, opening it allowed me to also spray some WD-40 in the case fan which makes it run much quieter now), removed the drive, and put it into the USB carrier my backup drive is in. Of course I didn’t get the IDE cable in firmly at first and couldn’t read the disk, which of course sent me into a panic.
But I fixed that, and my computer recognized it, and automounted both the root and /datafiles file systems. Mostly intact. So the good news is that once I run the fscks I should be able to boot again. And at least I haven’t lost everything if I have to rebuild the Kuro.
Of course, I was thinking of upgrading anyway. So maybe this is my big opportunity. . .
I finally downloaded the SlimScrobbler plugin and started using my last.fm account. I have been using the NowPlaying plugin, but that’s not nearly Web 2.0 enough on its own.
So if you use last.fm go ahead and friend me and watch my music stream by.