Monday, May 20, 2013

Near Perfect HTPC

For quite some time I've been very intrigued by setting up an ideal home theatre PC. Finally, I've had the time to set one up; while the hardware is iffy, it's a very solid system. While I'm not one of those "hardcore" hardware people, I'll give a full description of the software and services I'm running on this little machine.

I went through three various candidate computers for my HTPC. The first one was my wife's old netbook. The screen was cracked, so removed the screen, keyboard, battery, and any other useless components. It was small enough to fit into a DVD player enclosure with extra room to spare. Everything was going well until I found out (the hard way) that it had the Intel GMA 500 chipset - from a bit of research, this chipset is not friendly at all with Linux distros - this means I had to trash that.

My second candidate was an old tower I had. While I'm not a huge fan of having a large, loud, and very clunky tower sitting next to my TV, I was willing to compromise. But, it turns out that it had water damage from being in storage for too long. Well, isn't that nice?

Finally, my third candidate was a Toshiba Satellite L35-S2174. I was very hopeful about this, but I know it has some issues. I removed the screen, keyboard, battery, and DVD drive. The female power adapter inside was mangled, so I just hard wired a power supply to it - it's only one volt over the specified amount, so it works well. Finally, a working candidate! Now, to the software & networking aspect!

My first choice of operating system was Debian. Since I use Debian on my desktop, I figured it would work well; I was wrong. The repositories for the GPU were a bit dated. My second choice, and final choice was and Ubuntu Minimal installation. I installed the following packages:


This gave me a basic desktop to work with. While I'm competent enough to work only in the CLI, I'm choosing to use a DE for simplicity's sake.

So, everything was configured well, I moved on to installing the following packages for my media center. I'll give a brief description as to why I installed them too:

OpenSSH - Installed this for remote file management and system maintenance; pretty standard in most OS installs.

Transmission - Installed for downloading torrents; configured to do remote torrent downloading and management. You know, when you're out and about, you get the urge to watch a show, movie, or listen to music, you can download it, and when you get home, your content is waiting for you.

Subsonic - One of my favorite pieces of software. This allows you to upload, download, watch, or listen to your own media library where ever you are in the world, granted you have an internet connection, an application for your device, and flash player to watch video.

XBMC - It wouldn't be a HTPC without this; the interface is crisp, and it does everything you need to do with your media.

XBMC Android App - Controls XBMC with a phone or tablet.

Unofficial XBMC addons - These give you more features than you know what to do with. I can't even begin to explain.

How to display Chinese characters easily in XBMC - Since my wife and her mother enjoy watching Chinese soaps, I had to figure out how to get XBMC to display Simplified and Traditional Chinese characters. It was very simple, and everything is done through the XBMC interface. Change the XBMC system font to "Arial", then in International, you change the region, or something like that, to Hong Kong Big 5. Done. Now my wife is very happy, and it's hard for me to use my HTPC now.

Problems - My only problem is with the laptop I'm using. The VGA output (the machine is Pre-HDMI) is defective, because the screen flickers / refreshes on my TV; it's annoying, but I can deal with it until I build a dedicated XBMC box. The WiFi NIC is also terrible. The Atheros chipset this machine uses is very wonky; sometimes it's fast, sometimes it's tear-your-eyes-out slow. It's like a temperamental puppy 24/7. The little wireless keyboard / mouse / laser pointer I got has a signal that fades in and out, but it's good for when I don't want to use my phone. The laser pointer is good so I can drive my dog crazy.

Future plans: On my future build for a perfect XBMC machine, I'm going to have the same software installed listed above. I'm also going to install emulators on it (PSX, MAME, NES, SNES, Genesis, Mega Drive, Atari, etc...), purchase a bluetooth dongle and bluetooth controller to play the games.

Any suggestions or comments, please feel free!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My message to designer brands

Two words to large designer brand names, such as LV, Burberry, Coach, Chanel, Juicy Couture, Gucci, and especially Chico's:


Because of the huge brand name importance to society, stating and showing off to people how "important" you really aren't, these designers will do anything to protect their name; including shutting down a "mom and pop" operation named after their dog. It really shows how heartless these people are; and they don't give a damn about the people, even if they are customers.

So, as a resolution, I will no longer support these companies, especially Chico's. I will be going to the homeless mission, lower Whacker Drive, the Salvation Army and donating all of my "high-end" designer brand name products to the ones who really need it.

Thank you again you faceless names, you've given me the final push towards my minimalistic lifestyle; I will no longer be imprisoned by unnecessary possessions.

Next post: MINIMALISM: The first step.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Apple boot up key-combos

Brief overview on the different key combos for Apple computers. Keep in mind, some of these may or may not work depending on your computer (Intel or PPC).

Boot key combos:
Bypass startup drive and boot from external (or CD).... CMD-OPT-SHIFT-DELETE

Boot from CD (Most late model Apples) ................. C

Force the internal hard drive to be the boot drive .... D

Boot from a specific SCSI ID #.(#=SCSI ID number)...... CMD-OPT-SHIFT-DELETE-#

Zap PRAM .............................................. CMD-OPT-P-R

Boot into open Firmware ............................... CMD-OPT-O-F

Clear NV RAM. Similar to reset-all in open Firmware ... CMD-OPT-N-V

Disable Extensions .................................... SHIFT

Rebuild Desktop ....................................... CMD-OPT

Close finder windows.(hold just before finder starts).. OPT

Boot with Virtual Memory off........................... CMD

Trigger extension manager at boot-up................... SPACE

Force Quadra av machines to use TV as a monitor........ CMD-OPT-T-V

Boot from ROM (Mac Classic only)....................... CMD-OPT-X-O

Force PowerBooks to reset the screen................... R

Force an AV monitor to be recognized as one............ CMD-OPT-A-V

Eject Boot Floppy...................................... Hold Down Mouse Button

Select volume to start from............................ OPT

Start in Firewire target drive mode.................... T

Startup in OSX if OS9 and OXS in boot partition........ X or CMD-X

Attempt to boot from network server ................... N
(Hold until Mac Logo appears)

Hold down until the 2nd chime, will boot into 9?....... CMD-OPT

OSX: Watch the status of the system load............... CMD-V

OSX: Enter single-user mode (shell-level mode)......... CMD-S


After Startup:

Bring up dialogue for shutdown/sleep/restart........... POWER

Eject a Floppy Disk.................................... CMD-SHIFT-1 or(2) or (0)

Force current app to quit.............................. CMD-OPT-ESC

Unconditionally reboot................................. CTRL-CMD-POWER

Fast Shutdown.......................................... CTRL-CMD-OPT-POWER

Goto the debugger (if MacsBug is installed)............ CMD-POWER

Put late model PowerBooks & Desktops to sleep.......... CMD-OPT-POWER


Easter Eggs:

Although Apple has moved away from relatively frivolous "Easter Eggs" connected with startup modifiers, there are a few available for old Macintosh models.

* Command-X-O, when held down at startup on a Macintosh Classic boots the Classic from a built-in ROM disk.

* Command-Option-C-I, when held down at startup on a Macintosh IIci whose date has been set to 20-Sep-89 (the machine's introduction date), produces some sort of graphical display that I can't check for lack of a relevant machine. A different display appears if you hold down Command-Option-F-X at startup on a Macintosh IIfx with the date set to 19-Mar-90.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Scripts updated!

Just updated three of my scripts

Subsonic 4.6

Minecraft install - grabs the start file from Google Code instead of from my old server.

Joomla 2.5.1 (only had to change a few lines)

If you download these, you should note that you have to make them executable: chmod +x

Mac OS X in Virtualbox

I'm big on virtualization; I try to virtualize every OS, just so I can get a feel for it, or to say I've played around with the OS. All around the web, there are ways to run Mac OS X on x86 architecture; it's never been totally stable in my experience, so I figured I wouldn't waste the resources - instead, I just simply virtualized it. I'll go through the steps.

If your computer supports VT-x / AMD-V, please read on! If you have no idea what that is, either read up on it, or stop.

You'll first want to obtain a copy of OS X for the x86 architecture. I won't tell you exactly where, but I can say that it's at a bay of pirates - they will have it in iso format. Second, depending on the operating system you're using, download Virtual Box and install it.

Once you have the ISO downloaded and VirtualBox installed, next you want to prep for your virtual machine (VM). Start off by clicking 'New'. You'll be greeted by a nice friendly wizard. There's a small catch, Type in 'Mac OS X', but select the guest OS as Windows 7 or XP. Give the VM about 1024mb of RAM - if your computer can handle more, don't hesitate; however, you can't go over half of what your host OS has (i.e. If your machine has 2048mb of RAM, you can't go over 1024mb).

Don't start the VM just yet! You want to fiddle around with the settings now. Select the VM, and click on 'Settings'. You'll be greeted by a slew of options. Under 'System', check off 'Enable IO APIC' and 'Enable absolute pointing device'. Next, click on 'Storage'. Under IDE Controller, it will say 'Empty'. Click on that, and next, click on the CD Icon near the right border of the window. Click on 'Choose File'. Point it to the direction of the MacOS x86 ISO file. Finally, click on 'Display'. Give it about 64mb RAM (or more) and check off 'Enable 3D Acceleration'. You're done. Click on 'OK'.

Fire up the VM by selecting it and clicking 'Start', or simply double clicking it - Whatever you prefer.

This is where I leave you. Now, the installation part isn't cut and dry as it may vary from computer to computer - so you'll have to pick and choose which kext you think may be the most suitable for your system. Also, I am very lazy and do not feel like writing anymore. The video should help explain it better - just pause and follow along!

This isn't really meant for production in the least. It's more or less for sandboxing programs.

I will not link to where you can get this disc image. I do not, and would not recommend using this in any sort of production environment. I only use it for testing.

Watch my video here

Forcefully installing Leopard on a G4

Among many of the computers I have, one of the newest additions is a Titanium PowerBook G4. Aside from the hard drive being too small - 40gb - and the processor being a bit underpowered - 800MHz - it's a good, solid machine. It originally had Panther (10.3) installed on it, and I thought that it could be brought up to date with the current Apple computers. I got out my trusty Leopard installation DVD, waited about twenty minutes for it to tell me that the computer didn't meet the requirements of 867MHz. I dug around on the Internet, and found a perfect solution!

Apple computers don't use a BIOS. Instead, they use OpenFirmware (somebody, please correct me if I'm wrong). Insert your Leopard install DVD into the drive. Next, boot into OpenFirmware. To boot your Mac into the OpenFirmware command prompt, simply hold down Command - Option - O - F and press the power button. Doing this will bring up a shell. Input the following exactly:


dev /cpus/PowerPC,G4@0 [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " clock-frequency" property [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " min-clock-frequency" property [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " max-clock-frequency" property [press enter]

boot cd:,\\:tbxi [press enter]


dev /cpus/PowerPC,G4@0 [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " clock-frequency" property [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " min-clock-frequency" property [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " max-clock-frequency" property [press enter]

dev /cpus/PowerPC,G4@1 [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " clock-frequency" property [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " min-clock-frequency" property [press enter]

d# 867000000 encode-int " max-clock-frequency" property [press enter]

boot cd:,\\:tbxi [press enter]

Continue to install everything normally. The CPU will return to normal once the machine is reset.

There's a video here

Installing an old school BBS

Over some time, I've wanted to set up a BBS. Not a web-based one, but the "old-school" kind. You can virtualize it, or make a physical server. That's up to you. However, you're going to need the following:

Ubuntu Minimal 19mb ISO
Ubuntu Server


Oracle VirtualBox

$ sudo su
-enter password-
# cd ~

# wget
# unzip -L EB009GL.ZIP

# chmod a+x
# ./

# apt-get install telnetd xinetd

# groupadd -g 501 bbs
# useradd -d /home/ele -g 501 -s /home/ele/ -u 501 bbs

# nano /etc/xinetd.d/telnet

This opens up a text editor
service telnet
flags = REUSE
socket_type = stream
wait = no
user = bbs
server = /usr/sbin/in.telnetd
server_args = -h -L /home/ele/
log_on_failure += USERID
disable = no

Save this

# nano /home/ele/

This opens up a text editor
export ELEBBS="/home/ele"
chown -R bbs.bbs $ELEBBS
exec $ELEBBS/elebbs -B115200 -C1 -N-1

Save this

# chmod ugo+x /home/ele/
# chown -R bbs.bbs /home/ele
# killall -HUP xinetd
# exit

$ telnet localhost

$ sudo su
--enter password--
# nano /home/ele/config

This opens up a text editor
export ELEBBS="/home/ele"
exec $ELEBBS/elconfig
chown -R bbs.bbs $ELEBBS

Save this

# cd /home/ele
# chmod a+x config


Now, to finish tailoring your BBS, make sure you're root, and also make sure you're in the /home/ele
Type in ./elconfig