Extra copper

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Wallplate with two network jacks and F-type connectorI had one regret when we did our house extension a few years ago. I'd neglected to install network points next to the TV antenna outlet that I'd put in our family room (what was I thinking!). This meant that the Media Centre has been operating on wireless for the last few months since we relocated it from another room. Not ideal, even though it's very close to the access point, and I also suspect the wireless drivers are responsible for the Media Centre machine constantly waking up from sleep-mode even though nothing was scheduled to record.

Replacing a skirting board provided an opportunity to hide some cables and remedy the situation. I was initially just going to put one cable in, but then figured that if I'm going to put in one, I might as well put in two. Plus, there's that special family Christmas present that might appreciate a network connection pretty soon (It rhymes with "Textbox Elect", and we're exercising great restraint in not opening the box until December 25th! We ended up getting the 250GB bundle from Harvey Norman – though don't let them try and sell you a more expensive bundle with a ripoff $50 HDMI cable)

I'd pulled the cables up into the ceiling in the family room a few weeks ago (along with replacing the skirting board), but only yesterday got time to finish the job and run them into our storeroom (where the modem and switches are).

I managed to pull one of the existing cables back up into the ceiling, tie the new cables onto it, then pull them all back down through the wall cavity into the storeroom (if that hadn't worked, I'd have had to resort to drilling a hole in the ceiling cornice and running some conduit down the wall).

I'd bought a new wallplate and fittings from Jaycar, so I connected those up and hooked in the existing F-type connector. I did discover that the wallplate was probably intended to be mounted vertically (as the network points would only mount sideways), but I can live with that. It's all hidden behind a sidetable/cabinet anyway.

I then plugged the cables into my 1GBit switch and tested them out in the Media Center. Even though the cable and fittings are only CAT 5e, so far I've managed to the existing cables to run at 1Gbit. Not this time, both were only connecting at 100Mb Sad smile. I didn't have a lot of spare cable to play with at the wallplate end, but I wondered if I had untwisted the copper pairs too much when I'd hooked them up to the wallplate jacks. I re-did one, taking extra care to keep the pairs twisted until right up to where the wires got punched in. Bingo, 1Gbit! I tried the same with the second, but unfortunately it was still at 100Mbit. Oh well – one out of two isn't too bad.

Now just to wait patiently for two more weeks until we can play with our XBox 360 and the Kinect controller. Should be a great way to work off Christmas lunch!

My first Windows Phone 7

Friday, 10 December 2010

Photo of Samsung Omnia 7 handsetOn Sunday, I dropped by the TeleChoice shop at Marion, and purchased a shiny new Samsung Omnia 7 phone.

I've been reading up on Windows Phone 7 handsets since before their release, so felt reasonably well informed as far as what features were present and what was still coming. I ended up choosing the Omnia 7 because a lot of positive comments about the clarity of the Super-AMOLED display, and also that it was compatible Vodafone's network (my current provider and whose $20/month cap appeals to my budget).

On returning home, I inserted my SIM card and battery, plugged in the charger and turned it on. Starting up was simple and problem-free. I entered in my Windows Live ID, Google GMail, and Facebook details and a short while later, my contacts (aka People Hub) was populated with lots of familiar names. It also connected to my home wireless network without issue.

I've sadly been missing out on listening to podcasts since my trip to TechEd (and losing my old phone's bizarre non-standard earphones), so I was pleased to be able to finally resume my regular habit. I've previously made use of the Spokenword feed aggregator, but one downside to using this is that all the podcast files get lumped into what Zune thinks is one single podcast. So I just entered each podcast RSS feed individually. A pity Spokenword doesn't seem to allow me to export my feed collection, but it wasn't too tricky to re-enter them.

Screenshot of Zune software showing podcasts collection

So far so good. I'll post an update in a few weeks including how I'm coping on just 100MB/month!

Right in the solar plexus

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Not the usual start to the day today..

First one of the kids woke up at 1.30am complaining that they couldn't sleep (they had actually been asleep but logical arguments don't seem very successful at that hour of the morning!).

Then later on, around 5am I think, another child woke up complaining it was too dark. I turned on a bedside light and they seemed happy enough with that to be able to go back to sleep again.

Not so much for me.. I tossed and turned for a while, then decided to get up myself. After breakfast I went to have a shower, only to discover that the hot water wasn't. My initial theory was that the batteries had gone flat in the instantaneous gas hot water heater, but we didn't have any spare 'D' cells to replace them. I rushed down to the shops just in time for opening (7am), bought some batteries. Back home, new batteries in, but no joy.

Next step, ring some plumbers. Got on to one, who suggested isolating the heater to double-check whether it was actually trying to start or not. I checked that and it wasn't, so the batteries were probably not to blame. He then said I was best off ringing Bosch to arrange a service call.

Bosch water heaters are serviced by in Adelaide by SA Hot Water, but they don't open until 8.30am, so while I waited I proceeded to boil the kettle multiple times so that I could have a bath in reasonably warm water. This reminded me that I am relatively tall and our bath is relatively short. I won't provide any pictures (you can breathe a sigh of relief!) but basically with a bit of wriggling about I can either get my legs wet, or my top half, but not both at the same time.

I rang back SA Hot Water at 8.30am, got through to their service people and turns out they've got a guy in the area who could come over right away – hooray!

He arrived not long after, and after giving some advice along the lines that our heater is probably on the way out (just over 8 years old) and is also a bit undersized for our house, managed to fix the problem.

So now my wallet is a bit lighter, but I'm also thinking that we should start investigating a replacement unit, with the idea that it would be compatible with a solar hot water system (something the current unit wasn't).

It's all happening!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

First Windows Phone 7 was release last month.. (still haven't got one but am warming to the Samsung Omnia 7)

Then the first CTP of SQL Server 'Denali' was released last week..

And tomorrow (18th) Microsoft's Kinect for XBox 360 is released in Australia.

Don't tell the kids, but I'm thinking this might be the Gardiner family Christmas present this year!

Prices I've seen so far:

Update 18th Nov, 9pm

Discovered good forum discussion on Economical Gamer site, which highlights Harvey Norman 4G Bundle (2 games) $468

SQL Server 'Denali' highlights

Saturday, 13 November 2010

On Wednesday at the two Adelaide sessions of the PDC Roadshow I gave the world's fastest overview of interesting things coming in the next version of SQL Server – codenamed 'Denali'.

I'd even whipped up some PowerPoint slides, but due to time constraints didn't get to share them with everyone, so I've summarised the main points here:

Main highlights

Areas unchanged in CTP1

SQL Server Engine

SQL Server Integration Services

'Atlanta'

'Crescent'

Microsoft Certified Masters

If you're interested in finding out about these features (and more), Roger Noble and Rob Farley will be talking all about 'Denali' at this month's Adelaide SQL User Group (Tuesday 23rd November).