Aug. 18th, 2011

Ordered the Harmony PS3 adapter from Amazon last week, it arrived today.

Of course I'd assumed (without checking) that this was a USB device. Nope, it's Bluetooth and runs on mains power, so it's got a US power pack on it. Fortunately I just happen to have an appropriate converter lying around spare.

So that's hooked up and working now.

In the past I'd not bothered with the Activities stuff on the Harmony because my old telly was weirdly incompatible with it. The new telly is of course not incompatible. So I set some of that up today, too.

It works as advertised. My amp turns out not to be compatible for input-changing, but I already had audio going through a manual switchbox (short version: everything here used to be done with component+stereo, stereo leads are still hooked up as my amp is an older stereo-only model). So when changing activities I have to hit the relevant button on the box, but it otherwise works.

Really my only quibble is that if you go behind the back of the Activities menu to change the state of a device using the Device stuff, it doesn't keep track of that. So, for example, if I've been using my aTV to play music -- so it turned the TV on for that, and then I turned the TV off once I'd selected what I want to listen to -- switching to the "Watch TV" activity won't turn the TV back on. But hitting "Help" will correct the situation, so it's still quite reasonable.

The one slight hitch I have is that my Harmony One is fairly old and the battery is just about dead. The replacement I bought doesn't quite work -- it powers the unit, but can't be recharged. Rather than waste yet more money on batteries which may not work I've found a cheap-ish source for the Harmony 700 and I'll either use the battery that came with that, if it works, or switch to the 700.
The box arrived today. It's an ASRock ION3D 152D, which is a small-form-factor barebones with an Atam D525 CPU and ION graphics. Comes with a DVD-RW drive as a built-in (there's a version with a BD-ROM drive for ~$100 more) and an IR receiver for use with the bundled MCE remote. Plus it has a gigabit NIC.

Added 4GB of RAM and a 750GB 5400rpm 2.5" SATA disk.

Hooked it up -- HDMI to the telly, analogue stereo audio to the switchbox, ethernet to the switch, stuck an XBMC-Live disc in the DVD drive and booted it up.

Everything but the remote worked out of the box, no futzing around required.

Rebooted, installed XBMC-Live on the disk. Turns out it's just a slightly-modified Ubuntu 10.04LTS install rigged to automatically log in to the "xbmc" user and run XBMC on the display. Completely suitable as-is to use as a house server, XBMC when chewing through all the media files only eats ~30% of a core, and this thing reports four.

(I think it's actually dual-core with hyper threading, but whatever.)

So I've updated everything to 10.04's current state and added some extra cruft on. Getting the remote working was a bit of a trial -- there was a change in how LIRC deals with remotes in a kernel update which made its way into 10.04's update repo, so the vendor packages no longer work and there are lots of people talking about how they fixed it but most of those didn't actually work.

This worked for me.

System basics:

matt@ant:~$ uname -a
Linux ant 2.6.32-33-generic #72-Ubuntu SMP Fri Jul 29 21:08:37 UTC 2011 i686 GNU/Linux

matt@ant:~$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
model name : Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU D525 @ 1.80GHz

I am rather less impressed with Dropbox, though. I've been using it for an offsite backup of my music collection -- yes, I could get much of it back by re-ripping my CDs, but I've a fair bit of music I've purchased online now. One neat thing it does is sync over the LAN if you've got multiple registered machines on the same network.

So I fired up the client on ant. And would you believe, Dropbox ate the 90GB "Music" folder? Nuked the copy stored on their end, blew away the primary copy on my end too.

Fortunately I have this covered by Time Machine for an on-site backup, so I wasn't completely screwed. But I'm disinclined to pay for Dropbox again when renewal time comes around in six or so months!

Anyway. The only outstanding issue now is moving my leafnode installation across. Once that's done the old machine can be retired, and this nice low-power very very quiet machine can take the place of both the old "server" and the hacked first-gen AppleTV.
A couple of quick tests:

scp a 3.5GB file from my MBP to ant (the new Atom box, 1000Mb NIC) and red (older Core 2 Duo laptop, 100Mb NIC):

ant: 16.8MB/s, chewing 100% of a CPU core and no iowait
red: 11.2MB/s, chewing ~65% of a CPU core and no iowait

Implication here being that on ant the limiting factor is the single-threaded ssh through which all the data is going, while on red the limiting factor is the NIC.

Investigating ant a little further, rsyncing the same file but over NFS (using unfs3 on ant, OS X Lion on the MBP) it topped out at ~27MB/s for a short while at the start, with CPU peaking at ~50% utilisation, but it didn't take more than about 20 seconds for that to slow way the hell back down to just on 17MB/s, ~30% CPU, and iowaits around the 15% mark.

Which implies that even though one can get rather faster burst out of this box, the internal spindle is just too slow to keep up for very long at all. Which is fair enough, it's a 5400rpm laptop disk.


Abort, Rephrase, Ignore?

October 2011

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