Archives June 2007

Sunday 17th June 2007 - 18:11:35


Had a nice time on the roof today fixing our TV reception. I couldn't work out why our TV reception was so poor. We have an external antenna in the house we're in at the moment. The problem was twofold. The antenna was connected to a different outlet in the house, not the outlet in the lounge room and the antenna was pointing in the wrong direction!

The first time I got on the roof I checked the connection of the cable to the antenna's balun. It was OK but the connector (an F-Connector) was shoddily done. Instead of being crimped with a crimping tool, this connector had been fitted with a pair of pliers or something, it wasn't round or hex crimped, just crushed. So I took the tape off the mast to release the cable, draped the cable over the gutter and fitted a new connector. I then wanted to test the cable for continuity. For that I needed to make sure it wasn't plugged into the TV. I noticed that the type of cable coming out of the floor in the lounge room (no socket, just a cable out of the floor... yay) was a different type to that which is coming down the antenna mast. So I ended up cutting the connector I fitted off anyway to get the baluns rubber boot back off the cable.

I remembered noticing a stub of coax that had been cut off poking out the side of the chimney cover. I went to check that out next, but dropped the damn thing down the chimney! Luckily it was pretty rigid and folded on it's self in an 'S' shape touching the sides, halting it's descent. I just reached in and grabbed it. I then taped it with a long piece of tape to the mast so it didn't happen again.

The little stub of coax didn't actually reach out of the chimney so I had to terminate it with an F-Connector (Properly crimped!) and then use a joiner and fly lead. I sealed the lot up with tape and connected the fly lead to the antennas balun. The connectors I used were different to what was on there. The type I used were weatherproof. They have a rubber 'O' ring in the bottom of the screw thread to seal the cable end and on the crimp end they are injected with some sort of grease which forms a seal on the other end when you force the cable in.

I drew a map and got the bearing to the ABC transmission towers from here. I copied that line onto my map and voila. I borrowed a compass off Dad and oriented it. I climbed onto the roof and pointed the antenna parallel with my ABC towers line. The nuts on the U-Bolts on the bottom end of the mast weren't budging, so I had to reach up and loosen the U-Bolt on the antenna and rotate it that way which was a bit precarious as I had to use both hands and lean on the chimney.

I don't know how (or if) the other neighbors TV are working. The two neighbors either side have archaic, bent and cracked antenna elements and they aren't pointing in the right direction anyway. Most people in the street must have cable or something because not many others have antennas.

The reception is now flawless! I'm really pleased. It should also do well for my digital tuner card in the home theater PC.

I also started building a shelf in the garage. I ran out of screws though Frown

Saturday 16th June 2007 - 23:07:19


Had a BBQ with Mum and Dad today.

We installed a lock on the garage door finally. Along those lines, we got an electrician today! (Instead of an airco mechanic) He was good, installed a smoke alarm , changed a few light switches and fixed two light fittings. The wiring in the house is so damn old it's insulation is decaying. Not cool.

Have you noticed some of the ads for kids toys these days? Saw a good one thismorning for a transforming wrecking ball crane truck.
The punchline in a COPS style voice was "This is the type of hardware you need WHEN YOU NEED TO TAKE A BUILDING DOWN!" kel couldn't understand what I was laughing at... and then it was "TRANSFORMS INTO (something) TO FINISH THE JOB"! hahahah! The whole way they market this crap is just lame. While in the shot the toy was "TAKING OUT" some grey painted foam buildings where they crumbled and exploded amazingly.

Friday 15th June 2007 - 22:27:05


The weekend at last!

What a huge week! I even did some patch panel work this week. One of our customers (in their wisdom) glued their patch panel to the wall because they could't find any screws. Which is fine, but it's crooked! There is NO chance of getting it off the wall now without taking out chunks of wall. Anyway, my job for the day was to take their blue spagetti soup and turn it into a working LAN, which I did. The annoying part was the patch panel, it wasn't all that spectacular and I ended up having to strip and twist (to make them thicker) the wires to get them to contact the V blades in the punch down. I got it all sorted eventually. The other weird thing was it as a 568B wired panel, which is odd. I've not seen one before. Most of the outlets needed to be re-crimped too. I ended up offsetting the rack-mounted gear on one side by one rack hole so that they were level!

IDE Tape drives. The bane of my existance. We have tried about 8 IDE cards now and they just do not want to play the game. The one that is working is chewing up one whole core when doing a backup, that's crap. Reason is because we can't see the IDE ports on the IDE controller card because it's RAID. The IDE ports aren't shown in the device manager. So, we can't force the drive to use DMA mode. It's annoying because it's going to probably mean a board swap and more down-time for the customer. It's a damn shame too because everything else in the server is perfect, they've done everything right. RAID 5 with a hot-spare, lots of RAM and regular backups. It's a really frustrating problem!

Yesterday and today were coding days. I added a few new features and fixed the interface mainly on our Sugar project. I am really loving the YUI library. It's great. I've used it to do small popup dialogs that grey out the site into the background, you fill out the form then it goes away. This is the *good* kind of popup though, it does stuff for you. It schedules a followup call for our projects when you hit the button. It also updates some other status' that allow us to monitor the progress through a project.

Computers are dropping like flies at home. The HTPC died, and tonight has mysteriously started working again. Which was good because I needed to nick one of it's SCSI drives for the server, which lost a drive in it's RAID 5 array. I booted the HTPC and copied all the data off it. The lone SCSI drive in the HTPC is an U160 drive only 16GB I use for recording to. I've thrown that in the server, replacing the dead one and it's rebuilding while I type now. It's unfortunate because the replacement drive, although quicker, is much, much louder. It's all I've got though. I've gone from a Seagate ST318275LW (18.2 gig 7200RPM Ultra-2 SCSI) to a Seagate Atlas 10KII (18.2G 10000 RPM Ultra-160 SCSI). The other down-side is that drive will far out-pace the other drives in the array, it's kind of a waste throwing a nice U160 drive in with Ultra-2 gear. What I really want is to get another 2 or 4 disk array of 320GB SATAII drives. That would be nice =) The other thing that annoys me about this failure is that it's the other RAID 5 array that has the hot spare! This array doesn't!!! Grrrrrrr.

Hopefully the data is all-good and it's happy when it's done and I reboot.

Sunday 10th June 2007 - 22:23:03


Today I went to Josh's and finished off some of his house LAN. At least now the Cyber-Den is wired for LAN! Ben came over too for some LANnage, but had a nasty piece of spyware that was really difficult to remove. I ended up sticking his hard drive in another computer to delete the infected files. A pair of DLLs working in unison, delete one's entries, the other re-writes them etc... Josh also got a new video card which unfortunately didn't want to play the game =/ Lots of weird graphical corruption.

We had hamburgers for lunch and of course some OLD.

Saturday 9th June 2007 - 13:02:16


Massive week of programming and call-outs.

This week and part of last week, Tape drives were the bane of my existance. This customer's Sony Tape drive just did not want to play the game at all! It turns out the problem was the IDE controller on the mainboard. Most of the new Pentium D chipsets don't come with IDE controllers, so board manufacturers have to 'tac one on' somewhere. In this case they solved the problem by using a USB to IDE bridge on the board as the on-board IDE port. This is all well and good until you introduce tricky things like Tape drives and Retrospect backup. Retrospect backup doesn't play nice with USB-IDE bridges, at least not the old version that the customer has because it says to windows "go away, I'm going to talk direct to the drive" instead of using the windows drivers to communicate. The other problem is, the USB-IDE bridge might not be a full-to-spec IDE port, so, when MS Backup or retrospect tell the drive to do something or request some sort of status from the drive, it falls over.

Once we were over that hurdle I started trying different IDE cards, another boggle in it's self. Most of the available IDE and SATA/IDE PCI cards are RAID by default now. You can't just buy two dumb IDE ports on a card anymore... which sucks arse. So, we get a nice array of 5 or so different IDE and IDE/SATA controller cards and try it. Most don't detect CD-ROMs, the very last one I tried, with an ALi Chipset was already behind the 8 ball as we pretty much assumed it'd not do the job, being ALi. This stupid ALi SATA/IDE controller card was the *only* card that detected both CD_ROMs and the Tape Drive.

OK, so we slap the controller in the server and 'hook 'er up' and it's all happy, except the backup process is now chewing out one whole core of the CPU to it's self and it's slowing everyhing that's running on the server down. Grrrrrrrrrrrr... My current running theory is because the thing is a RAID card, you can't see the individual IDE ports in the device manager. Because you can't see the individual ports in device manager, you can't force them to do DMA mode. Because the Tape Drive is not using DMA mode (god knows why not 'cus it detects as UDMA 5) it chews out a heap of CPU time dumping or reading data to and from the tape. Yay.

It's pouring rain now. It has been for days. I sat down for 5 minutes outside and shot half-a-gig of photos in about 10 minutes. I didn't really achieve what I wanted (frozen motion water drop type shots) but I came close. It's very overcast so I had to bump up the ISO to expose the drops quickly enough to get the "frozen motion" type shot. The other problem I have is my 28-70 f/2.8 lens' Auto Focus is screwed, so I can't set it on AI Servo mode which is a continuous auto-focus mode.

It looks like the changes to the level in the back yard helped a bit but not that much. I cleaned the compost heap, I mean, gutters today. That's why they were overflowing during the rain. The downpipe was clogged and there was about 75mm of muck all the way along the gutter!

Tuesday 5th June 2007 - 19:17:29


Major Down-Time!

Finally I have the net back and we're all settled into our new house! (Except Liam who refuses to sleep!)

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