• Home Theatre PC (Components)

    For a while now, I’ve been thinking about building my own Home Theatre PC (HTPC). I’ve got an unused Vista Ultimate license that I’d like to put to good use, and using it for a Media Centre fits the bill. While you can buy a prebuilt HTPC, but I thought it would be both fun and educational to build one from scratch. There are a number of good resources when planning to build a HTPC, but I’ve found the most useful are:

    After throwing around various combinations of parts I’ve come up with the following list:

    CPUAMD Athlon X2 4850e
    CaseAntec Fusion 430 Silver (includes power supply)
    TunerHauppauge HVR-2200
    FanNoctua NH-U9B Quad Heatpipe
    RAM   Kingston (2x1G 800) KVR800D2N5K2/2G
    Drive 13.5" HDD SATA-300 250GB 16MB Seagate
    Drive 2Western Digital 1TB (WD10EACS)
    KeyboardShintaro wireless
    RemoteMicrosoft MCE Remote Control
    DVDLG GGC-H20N/L Blu-ray/HD reader, DVD & CD writer

    I posted this list to the forum (like a lot of others do) just to check it was reasonable. The main criteria I’ve worked from are quiet operation (and hence 45W CPU) and provision for the future (high definition). I made use of the Static Ice price comparisons to gauge what were good prices. If I lived in Sydney I’d probably buy most of the bits from IT Estate, however once you factor in shipping, the local retailers MATS Systems and MSY are pretty competitive. I was originally planning to get the Pioneer BDC-S02, but opted for the cheaper (and in-stock) LG instead. The other curious thing is that we’ve got a very old TV that used to belong to my parents - an early 1980’s Philips model that only has an RF (aerial) socket. Not exactly what most home theatre systems are made of, but it works, and I’d prefer not to have to replace it before it completely dies! So my plan is to use a cheap video card (a Gigabyte 8400GS 256MB GV-NX84G256HE) that unlike the onboard video has a TV-OUT socket, and use an RF Modulator to convert that to something the TV should like. If that fails, then maybe we’ll just have to buy a new TV. Once I’ve purchased all the components, I’ll post an update on the build progress.

  • New workplace checklist

    There’s nothing like changing employers (eg. leaving UniSA for the world of contracting) to make you realise there’s lots of things you need to (or should) know, either before you start or very soon after.

    Each workplace is different - some things will be common (eg. provision of toilets!), but there can be differences or variations.

    In no particular order, here are some things that came to mind:

    • Where is the light switch? Especially if you are the first to arrive and it’s still dark!
    • Where are the toilets?
    • Are there shower facilities? Essential should you wish to ride to work.
    • Speaking of bike riding, is there somewhere you can leave your bike (and smelly bike clothes)? Sheltered and secure would be nice.
    • What kind of workstation will you have? How many monitors, processors/cores, RAM, Vista or XP, etc.
    • Are tea and coffee provided?
    • Is it family friendly - specifically do they accommodate flexible work hours? Handy if you need to pick up or drop off kids.
    • What facilities (shops, banking, food) are close by?
    • Does a “social” culture exist? Are there morning/afternoon teas, birthday celebrations, team lunches, sporting or interest groups, movie nights, barbecues, etc.
    • Do your workmates have a sense of humour? Do they appreciate yours!
    • Is occupational health and safety taken seriously? Is the non-obvious boiling water tap in the kitchen appropriately labelled, or is it a scalding accident waiting to happen!
    • What is the most common form of communication - face-to-face, email, IM, phone, pigeons? If not face-to-face, how quickly do people respond - immediately, within the hour, next day, etc.
    • Are workmates encouraged to give “read” access to their calendars so you can easily find where people are, or is there some other facility (whiteboard, in/out board) used to indicate where someone is.
    • Do you know what to do if there’s an evacuation or you need first-aid?
    • Where is the fax machine and the printer?
    • Is there full or restricted access to the Internet? Are there  restrictions on using IM, Skype etc.
    • Are there extra duties or rosters you are expected to fulfil? Washing dishes, cleaning the fridge, buying the milk.
    • Is there a helpdesk? And do they actually help!
    • Can you make STD (interstate) or mobile phone calls from your office phone?
    • Is it generally safe and secure? Can you leave your wallet on your desk and expect it to be there later.
    • Is there an ID card or sign-in process to control physical access?
    • Can you work remotely or do they expect you to be physically in the office? If working remotely, what security requirements need to be met to connect into the work network.
    • What’s the car parking like and how close is it to public transport?
    • Where is the stationery cupboard?

    Can you think of anything else I’ve forgotten?

  • Amelia is home

    Ashford Hospital have a scheme called “Baby Bliss” where you can transfer to the Adelaide Hilton and finish your hospital stay there. They provide a midwife onsite, but it’s only suitable for mothers and babies that are doing really well and don’t require other medical attention.

    View from our hotel room across Victoria SquareWe found out on Saturday that the Doctors were happy for us to take this up, so that night the five of us spent our first night together as a family. The older kids enjoyed the experience - watching the trams and the fountain in Victoria Square from our room, Chinese takeaway and breakfast at the Pancake Kitchen. Narelle particularly enjoyed the room service (which is included for the mother).

    Amelia asleep on the couchMonday morning Narelle and Amelia were able to come home. Narelle is recovering quickly and Amelia is feeding and sleeping really well. She’s also doing the other thing that babies do a lot of as well :-)

    I don’t plan to blog anymore about Amelia at this stage. I prefer to be cautious about publishing details of our kids online (I know there are people out there that would misuse this information). When they’re old enough I’ll let our kids make that choice themselves.