Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category.

Dell Studio Hybrid: Now with sound through the TV

TV/Sound sign by John Kannenberg. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic.

TV/Sound sign by John Kannenberg. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic.

The title of the post says it all, I guess. An upgrade of the kernel and pulseaudio packages means that I have working sound over HDMI.


Now I “just” need to write a file browse plugin for Moovida, and I should be ready to use the new media center.

Dell Studio Hybrid: Update

I have had the Dell Studio Hybrid up and running for some time now, but I haven’t put it into actual use because I am having trouble with the sound. Everything works just fine over S/PDIF, but that requires me to have my surround system turned on. And getting sound over HDMI to work has so far been a dead-end. Combine that with the fact that my TV refuses to use the sound from the mini-jack output (since it can probably sense that sound should be coming over HDMI) and it all adds up to me not having a new media center yet… Bummer. I even tried using the DVI output with a converter instead of HDMI directly, but that didn’t help. So it seems that for the foreseeable future I will have to use the surround system.

I have also gotten the new remote up and running, but hardware-wise I am not entirely please. The buttons that are mainly used with a media center are up/down/left/right, and on the iMON Pad remote they are – well a pad. And that just makes for a rather weird feel and responsiveness. It does have the ability to function as a mouse, though, but I don’t see myself using that.

Since everything is running in parallel with the existing setup I have had to throw in a switch to get network connectivity, and there is also an S/PDIF converter and the Dell’s power brick in there alongside the Wii – it is getting a bit cramped.

One thing I have found out is that when you have an existing solution that works (even if it does make a lot of noise) it is a slow process to replace it with something new. The main thing that is missing right now is getting all my music, movies, and pictures exposed remotely – and the symlink hell I have going on with the current media center (which will become tv recorder and file server) isn’t helping.

And I have to make a decision about whether to use Freevo (as I currently do) or use Moovida (and develop some code for a few missing features myself).

Pricey Cables

Why is it that cables (hdmi and the like) are so ridiculously expensive when buying them from a brick-and-mortar store? The price for a 1.8m hdmi cable was 450DKR (~$85), and for a bit less than that (425DKR) I was able to get the following (shipping included):

1 x Standard 230V angled power cord – 3m
1 x 1.3 gold plated angled HDMI cable – 3m
1 x Standard Coaxial digital audio cable – 1.5m
1 x Standard Optical toslink Digital cable – 0.5m
1 x Optical Digital to Coaxial digital converter

I know the online store doesn’t have to pay the rent for an actual store, but there shouldn’t be that big a difference…

Unboxing the Dell Studio Hybrid

My new Dell Studio Hybrid arrived on the same day I had to leave for the Ticer Summer School in Tilburg, so it wasn’t until Sunday I had the chance to unbox it. At the moment it hasn’t been powered on since I need to get an HDMI cable first.

But the initial impression is that the Studio Hybrid is a sweet little box. Unfortunately I don’t have room on the shelf for it to stand upright (like the Wii it will be placed next to) – but it looks quite nice anyway.

Dell Studio Hybrid

On Tuesday I (once again) searched the web for a new machine to use as my media center. When I got to I saw they had a sale on the Dell Studio Hybrid ending on July 22. The savings were about 2800DKR.

So I spent a few hours Wednesday looking into whether or not the Studio Hybrid would make a nice media center – and my conclusion was that it should be quite nice, especially at the discounted price. The other machines I looked into were the ASUS Eee Box B206, Acer Aspire REVO R3600, Dell Studio Slim, and the Compaq CQ2100SC.

The Dell Studio Hybrid only comes with an Intel GMA 3100 graphics card, which pretty much excludes it from playing 1080p content, but on the other hand it does have a 2GHz dual core processor. Anyway, that wasn’t a priority to me, I mainly wanted a quiet system that would be well supported under Linux. There does appear to be some problems getting sound through the HDMI port, but it does have other options, so I can work around it.

To make a long story short, I placed an order yesterday, and now all I have to do is wait… And of course take the time to get the necessary cables, adapters, etc., and install something sensible on the machine (Fedora, most likely). And move the old media center to the office, as that machine will still be tasked with actually recording stuff.

Update: I went to the Dell site to get a link to put in this blog post, and it turns out they have extended the sale until July 29… Go figure.

New Video Camera

I will never use a DV tape again.


Not that I hate the format or the quality or anything – it is just that everything is much easier with a video camera that has flash-based storage, and presents itself as a USB mass storage device.

Our old video camera had gotten to the point where it would only correctly power on every other time (it sounded like a mechanical problem), so I went out and bought new one. Nothing fancy, no HD quality recording – just a basic video camera.


I decided to buy a Samsung SMXF34BK camera since we have been quite pleased with the old Samsung. It has 16GB of built in memory, which gives a bit over 3 hours of video in 720×576 encoded in H.264 with AAC sound.

So far it has been really simple to use. I hope it will last at least five years like the old one.

Damn U3!

I needed a cheap flash drive, so I went out and bought a 2GB Sandisk Micro Cruzer. When I got home and plugged it in I discovered to my surprise, that it presented itself as two drives: The ordinary flash drive, and as a cd-rom (complete with programs, that wanted to autolaunch).

I thought that a quick formatting should get it to behave normally, but that is a no go. Apparently this is something called U3, and it sucks! There is no way to remove this “feature” using Linux, so now I am on the lookout for a Windows or Mac machine, so I can transform my U3-device into an ordinary flash drive.

Don’t buy these. It isn’t worth the trouble.

Update: U3 no more! After trying and failing to remove it using the Windows program I went to the office Mac, and lo and behold I now have an ordinary flash drive.

Storage Cabinet

A while ago at work we had a discussion about how to design a storage cabinet (for hard drives) that was both practical and cheap. The idea we ended up with was taking some sort IKEA furniture, putting in a power supply, and then adding a bunch of SATA-to-USB converters.

However it appears that a company called Addonics have already had that idea – except their stuff actually looks professional. I am sure it would be possible to build a nice little storage cabinet using their Storage Tower, a NAS Adapter, and some other bits.