August 2010

Xbox 360

This week I broke down and bought my first XBOX 360.  The $200, 4 GB model was too cheap to pass up.  It came in the mail on Wednesday and I set it up late that night after work.  Having not been entirely thorough in my research led me to several disappointments in short order.  My unit’s lack of a hard drive means I can’t play any of my old XBOX games.  I was also dismayed to learn that Netflix instant watch requires an XBOX live gold membership in addition to a Netflix subscription for no apparent reason.

My frustrations were compounded later by separate troubles with my computer.  One of the primary motivations for buying an XBOX was for an easy way to play content from my computer on the TV.  I’ve been using TVersity to stream stuff to a PS3 with reasonable success but that stopped working.  Internet connection sharing wouldn’t start so I was unable to connect the Xbox directly to my computer and Windows Media Center would not communicate with the Xbox when I finally got Wi-Fi working.  I finally surrendered early in the morning with very little working.

On Thursday I formatted my computer to solve all the problems on that end.  I got Windows Media Center to work partially but it would not be recognized again after restarting the Xbox or my computer.  TVersity is working so I decided to stick with that.  I also upgraded my Live account sooner than I would have liked and tried out Netflix.  It works quite well and seems to look a lot better than its PS3 counterpart.

An entirely separate computer problem presented itself on Wednesday.  One of my new Dell 2209WA monitors died.  A dark and distorted picture accompanied a persistent high pitched whining sound when it is on.  Since I bought my new screens on eBay I wasn’t sure I would have any luck invoking the warranty.  I was content to pay for a repair but apparently they don’t actually fix things… At least that’s what I gathered from a seemingly confused Indian woman I was speaking with.  Eventually I located an order number on the shipping label of the box and from there I was able to get a warranty replacement ordered.

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Outside of work, I spent a lot of my free time playing with my “new” computer this week.   I did have to break down and reinstall Windows on Thursday.  The OS wasn’t entirely stable even though it did function after changing the core hardware.  I would have been forced to anyway since the RAID drivers I needed pretty much have to be installed during the OS installation.  I got my RAID1 array working without incident.  I did have trouble with my Windows 7 CD key, however.  I bought my copy through a student deal with  Digital River.  The valid product key I bought only worked with the disc from the downloaded ISO.  The actual disc that was shipped to me doesn’t work with my CD key.  It’s an issue have yet to work out but the burned disc worked fine.

Among other things, I installed Crysis to see how my system would handle it.  With all the settings maxed, it still got choked up during a firefight and gave about 20 FPS otherwise.  With the settings set to “High” instead of “Very High,” it’s perfectly playable.

I had to work on Friday to cover a shift for Monica.  I was not thrilled about working but it was a good evening as far as work days go.  I wrote a story about Al Qaida that made air as I wrote it following some suggestions from John.   The newscast itself was somewhat eventful in that it occurred during  a thunderstorm.  I don’t think the station actually lost power but there was plenty of lightning and flickering of lights and monitors.  It knocked out one of the recievers for a weather clicker and apparently we were off the air for about 15 minutes starting late in the 10 o’clock broadcast.  Luckily we were back on after a few minutes as the inundation of calls would have continued until my shift ended at midnight.

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I devoted Friday to rebuilding my desktop PC and making some small modifications to my case.  I’ve had an Antec P180 case for my desktop computer four years now.   After clearing the case of all components, I cut two holes in the panel where the motherboard is mounted to allow wiring to run behind the mainboard.  Fewer cables running through the middle of the case improves airflow and aesthetics.  I found myself wishing I had thought to make this modification in a cooler season as it was quite hot outside, even in the shade.  The work itself was not hard, however.  I also had the benefit of practice.  I made the cutouts on a spare case the day before to assure myself I would have no problems.

I used a Dremel with a cut-off wheel to do the bulk of the work and then smoothed the edges with a couple different bits.  I covered the metal edges with u-channel rubber to protect the wiring that would be running through the cutouts.  Later after thoroughly cleaning the case of dust and metal filings, UPS arrived with my new parts from NewEgg.  Assembling everything was easy enough although doing it neatly is time consuming.

Since my old Scythe Ninja heatsink is not compatible with LGA1156, I had to replace it.  I picked the Scythe Mugen 2 which has a hard bolt mount.  It takes some work to get everything aligned right but it works so much better than a spring mount which requiring stressing the components to get it installed.  I spent the better part of the evening getting the rest of the parts and wiring just right.

With all the components installed, I plugged it in and turned it on.  I was quite pleased to see it boot up successfully on the first try.  Windows even loaded without complaint.  I figured I would also have to reinstall the OS with all the hardware changes.  It took a couple reboots before drivers were installed for all the hardware.  Eventually I had to reactivate Windows over the phone.

I was up well into the early morning cleaning up the mess I made.  I had a couple boxes of spare parts sprawled out over the floor that needed to be repacked and the parts I removed from the case earlier in the day had to be stowed.  I finally got to bed at about five in the morning.

Saturday afternoon, I shot pictures of my newly rebuilt rig before closing up the case and moving it back to its corner.  We had leftover red beans and rice for dinner before I headed to work this evening.  I am usually the lone PA on Saturdays but Danielle was working tonight because I had to run graphics for the show.  Tonight was basically my first time doing that.  For graphics display we use Avid Deko.  Running the playback controller basically consists of tabbing through a list on onscreen graphics and calling up the appropriate ones in each of the four channels in which they can appear.  I was nervous having never done it before but it’s not difficult and I did alright.  Running graphics for the 10 PM news was a nearly duplicate experience since both shows are so similar.

August made its presence known as I was waiting outside for a cab after work.  Even though it was 10:30 at night, it was still a sweltering 95 degrees outside and there’s no reason to expect the weather to get any better in the coming weeks.

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