Archive for May, 2009

Awesome HTPC

May 13, 2009

I recently built an HTPC, media PC, media center, or what ever you want to call it. For a fairly low price I was able to put together a system that has been able to handle all my “under the TV” needs.
Around the holidays quite a few friends and family inevitably ask “What do you want for the holidays?” i.e. “What should I buy you?” This year I decided to put the parts list for my HTPC on Kaboodle and send the list around. Kaboodle works like your own personal wedding registry (replacing your spouse-to-be with that little voice that says “you NEED this”).

In coming up with the parts list I consulted several sites that specialize in media PC junk: We got served, HDTunerInfo, AVS forum, Channel8, and DesktopReview. The system I came up with actually ended up being fairly close to one that later won an award in some NewEgg competition.

AMD Athlon X2 4850e 2.5GHz Socket AM2 45W Dual-Core Processor $60

ASUS M3A78-EM AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $65

Western Digital Caviar SE16  500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s  $60

CORSAIR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $35 w/ rebate

Antec New Solution Series NSK2480 Chassis $90 w/ free shipping (Splurge)

LG Black LG Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM & 16X DVD±R DVD Burner SATA Model $90

TV TUNER SILICONDUST|HDHOMERUN NET $135

VGA SAPPHIRE 100255L HD4670 512M RT $82

That comes to a grand total of $617. Some of the parts were not strictly necessary but I had the benefit of acquiring many of them as gifts. The ATI HD4670 was not needed since the ASUS had an onboard ATI card, but the performance gain is tremendous over an integrated card and I have since learned that I can connect FOUR monitors to the machine using ATI’s SurroundView (using both mobo and discrete ports). The Antec case ended up being a bit bigger than I had imagined (yes the dimensions were posted). I didn’t take into account the room required to connect a butt load of cables to the back. The HDHomeRun tuner has worked well. The only hiccup I have had with it so far is that I can’t record a show if my router is “taking a break.” This has only happened once and I think it is neat to be able to watch TV on any computer via the network (though I haven’t used this yet). The HDHomeRun also has good support and compatibility with several Linux distros. I really like the way this computer ended up. If you use an old case, and cut out the Blu-Ray and extra video card, the core build of this computer ends up being alot of bang for the buck.

Kubuntu KDE 4: Where da plasmoid?

May 12, 2009

Several months ago, excited to try out the shiny new KDE 4, I upgraded to Kubuntu 8.10. Within 5 minutes (thanks to some interesting word choice on a properties menu) I had managed to delete the taskbar (the bar at the bottom) and the system tray and program launcher along with it. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to hit the right keyword combination in my internet searching to find instructions on how to bring them back without removing my ~/.kde directory (not desirable).

I had an idea about putting a new ~/.kde folder under revision control using SVN and deleting the taskbar to see what file controls the plasmoids. Fortunately my friend in the next cube knew about bazaar (a distributed revision control system) which has an extremely low overhead compared to SVN and is very easy to use. Between the two of us we came up with the following procedure which allowed us to discover that the ~/.kde/share/config/plasma-appletsrc file controls the presence/absence of plasmoids for KDE 4.

This is what we did:

  1. Rename the ~/.kde directory to ~/.kde_bak so that a new one is created when you log out and log in. This will restore the panel at the bottom.
  2. $ cd ~/.kde/share
  3. $ bzr add .   #with bazaar installed
  4. $ bzr ci -m “Hunting for plasmoid control.”
  5. Once again delete the panel at the bottom.
  6. $ bzr status
  7. From the files that were reported as being modified we identified “plasma-appletsrc” as the likely target.
  8. $ bzr diff config/plasma-appletsrc   #that looks like the one
  9. $ bzr revert config/plasma-appletsrc
  10. Copy the prestine version of plasma-appletsrc into ~/.kde_bak/share/config
  11. Remove the current ~/.kde and restore ~/.kde_bak to its rightful place as king!
Lots of containment definitions missing from the plasma-appletsrc file corresponding to the missing task bar.

Lots of containment definitions missing from the plasma-appletsrc file corresponding to the missing task bar.