Richard Jones' Log

Tue, 25 Oct 2005
What I've been reading

I've just finished the first two Battle Angel Alita comics. I've enjoyed them quite a lot. Have a copy of Sandman volume 6 waiting in the wings.

I've also recently read an issue each of Analog and Asimov (short story collections) both of which had a couple of really good stories in them. I'm considering subscribing.

Finally, I'm also reading The Subtle Knife as part of my catch-up to Rachel (who's read pretty much everything worth reading for young adults ... and some stuff that's not worth reading).

category: News | permanent link
Wed, 19 Oct 2005
HTPC ...

The HTPC won't play our Buffy DVDs.

Ubuntu Breezy time

I've just upgraded my desktop to Ubuntu's "Breezy" 5.10 release. This was a mostly-painless exercise (to start it off I edited "/etc/apt/sources.list" and replaced all occurrences of "hoary" with "breezy"). Unfortunately:

  1. I had previously installed kubuntu's kde 3.4.2 package, and I had to remove the kubuntu line from my sources.list, rather than try to find an updated line from the kubuntu website (which I tried to do in vain for about half an hour of searching).
  2. A lot of packages weren't found on the mirror, so once I ran the dist-upgrade once, I edited sources.list to use and re-ran dist-upgrade and all the files were found.
  3. There was a dependency problem once installation started - for some reason I had to manually (and --force-depends) install the python2.4-elementtree package.
  4. X11 didn't start up properly. I've installed the nvidia drivers from nvidia, and that means editing my xorg.conf. This means the X11 update didn't patch my xorg.conf to fix the font paths (moved from /usr/lib/X11R6/X11 to /usr/share/X11) X11 barfed because it couldn't find the default font.

On the plus side, my cheap-ass surround sound card (a "Creative Ectiva Audio 5.1") is now detected by the OS (as a "Dell Sound Blaster Live!"). Also, Kaffeine doesn't go totally mental with the CPU when it quits, which is nice. There will probably be other benefits too :)

KDE still hasn't fixed the whitespace bug in Konqueror's textarea field. This bug has been on-again, off-again for years now (it was fixed in 3.3 for a while).

Also, Konqueror "view source" still uses Kate, which bitches about the source "being deleted by another program" every single time it's used. Very, very annoying for someone who uses "view source" a lot. I still haven't figured how to configure it to use a less ... intelligent text viewing program.

category: News | permanent link
Sun, 16 Oct 2005
HTPC success, finally

I've finally got the MythTV setup on the HTPC to the point where it's usable (ie. we can play DVDs, watch TV, play music and watch video files). The last hurdle yesterday was getting mplayer to play video in the correct aspect ratio. I finally figured out that I had to hard-code the screen aspect ratio (1280x768 is 1.666 which is between 4:3 and 16:9).

There's lots of little tweaks still to make, including getting the remote control to work consistently. For now, we just use the wireless keyboard, which is bearable. MythTV is definitely not for the faint-of-heart in terms of setting up though. All up, it's taken me months (on and off, including a period of complete arms-in-the-air resignation) to get going.

I'm glad I persevered though. There's lots of benefits, including time-shifting the TV (a.k.a. pausing), watching downloaded content (e.g. TV shows that won't get airtime here), being able to skip pointless intro screens on DVDs and being able to play some DVDs that won't play in my older DVD player.

Wed, 12 Oct 2005
More Shuttle HTPC woes

I finally got the HTPC running MythTV so it could tune the TV. That required me copying some MySQL database rows from a friend, and then shaking a dead chicken in front of the TV while it did a full scan (really, other tools just worked.)

So this morning it makes a funny sound when it turns on. I think nothing of it until Rachel says that the picture's a little funny. I fiddle and eventually realise that the video card is overheating. A little further investigation shows that the case fan is stopped. It's the only fan in the system (excluding the PSU fans, which don't cool the system down at all). Whoops.

I swapped the heat-pipe fan out and put in a spare fan I have - which doesn't quite fit because standard 80mm fans are 2.5cm thick, and the heat-pipe fan is 1.5cm thick. Ho hum. Anyway, I managed to get it all together and plugged in ... and the new fan doesn't work either. Or rather, the fan controller isn't working. Fortunately the motherboard has a (redundant) second case fan socket, and it is working. I swapped the original fan back in too since the replacement fan is quite noisy (even though I paid a fair amount of money for it originally because it was supposed to be quiet ... I don't think I've ever actually heard a noisier fan).

I have no idea what could cause one system fan controller to go bust and not take them all out. I really hope the problem decides to stay isolated.