Homemade NAS Box

So back in 2008 I started on a project to build a media/storage server. The whole thing was for a senior capstone project with lots of research, hours of configuring/testing, and finally presenting. Using Windows Home Server and FreeNAS I showed the pros and cons of each. Unfortunately I lived on campus so setting up a real server was frowned upon. Instead, everything was simulated using Windows Virtual Server running on my now gaming PC.

This year I thought it was time to finally build a physical media server and move all of my music, videos, and old documents off my PCs. The original plan was to build a server using a mini-ITX motherboard with 4 SATA ports, and 3x 2 terabyte hard drives in a RAID 5 configuration, stuffed inside the smallest case possible. The system, in theory, would sit behind my TV and share everything out using FreeNAS.

Unfortunately, those plans have not worked out so now I’m falling back on an alternative. Why not take an old computer I already have and turn it into the storage I want?
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IM Chatting with a Newton

About two years ago I wrote a wiki article detailing how to setup a Newton to use Jabber as an instant messaging client for Yahoo, MSN, AIM, etc… Unfortunately that wiki no longer exists and the Internet Archive never backed up the pages. So I pulled out the old document I typed up and have reposted it here. I hope somebody finds it useful.

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A New Way to Carry a Camera

Like many people today I like to enjoy the hobby of photography. While I certainly won’t make a career out of the photos I take, getting outside hiking with a camera is a fun pastime. Whether it is one tree changing colors before the rest or seeing deer and turkeys run through the forest, there is always something to photograph. Last year I took the opportunity to upgrade from Canon Powershot A630 to the Nikon D3000. I have to say the change has been welcomed fun. All of the controls are easier to access through the screen settings and dials. The larger lenses and sensor allow more light to be collected and therefore clearer pictures. The zoom control of the lenses is precise so I can perfectly frame a shot.

If I have to criticize the D3000 for one thing it would be the provided neck strap. While hiking the neck strap will rub my neck badly and cause it to sweat. Overall it’s just uncomfortable. It’s a little difficult upgrading from a camera that will fit in a cargo pocket to one that s constantly hanging from my neck. There has to be a better solution.

Thankfully, the local camera store here in Louisville has provided me the answer in the name of the BlackRapid RS-4 camera sling. Instead of camera hanging from my neck, the sling allows the camera to hang to my side much like messenger bag. The RS-4 is designed so the camera can be quickly swung up to my face for shots then just as easily return to my side. No longer do I have to deal with the uncomfortable neck strap that came with the D3000. Another great feature the products from BlackRapid have is they work with almost any camera. From small point-and-shoots to large SLR or video cameras all I have to do is screw the provided fastener into the tripod socket found on the bottom the camera.

After several hiking trips to local parks and forests I couldn’t be happier with the Black Rapid RS-4. For anybody looking at replacing the neck strap, wrist strap, or any other strap on their camera I highly recommend checking out the products from BlackRapid.

http://www.blackrapid.com/

Have fun,
Tony

Website Back Up

I just found out today the website was down due to an error caused by the WordPress Mobile Pack plugin. It was nice to be unable to access any part of the site. But, now I’m back up and have to say thanks to Jeff Starr and his blog, Perishable Press. He had a great article explaining how one can disable WordPress plugins from withing the site database.

http://perishablepress.com/press/2008/02/18/quickly-disable-or-enable-all-wordpress-plugins-via-the-database/

1997 OS Meets 2011 Hardware

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish there was a way to use my Newton on my phone or tablet?” Well now you can. For all of those Newton Users who have an Android device, you can now run the Einstein emulator.

Let me give you a little backstory. Back in 2005 Paul Guyot, a well-known and respected Newton programmer, released the first public version of his Newton emulator called Einstein. The original concept was to come up with a solution to make the Newton operating system hardware independent and possibly license the OS from Apple (1). That was going to open the way for new hardware and therefore keep the Newton platform alive. Unfortunately the project never got past the emulator step, but Paul continued to working and was able to build Einstein to run on OS X, Windows, and a few Linux tablets like the Nokia 770/800. In 2007 Einstein was released as open source software so other programmers could join in and help bring Newton OS to new devices. Once such programmer was Matthias Melcher (2).

Since 2007 Matthias has continued to work on Einstein to improve its speed, reliability, and functionality. 2011 has been particularly exciting because Matthias ported Einstein over to the iOS platform giving users the potential to run Newton OS on their iPhones and iPads. Unfortunately Apple rejected Einstein from being released in the App store and the iOS port is no longer being developed (3).

Now Matthias is working on an Android port of Einstein (4). An early build is available for download, but a lot of work still needs to be done to optimize the speed and reliability. Running the emulator on a Droid 1 is slow, but good enough to show off to friends. I personally can’t wait to see what happens to Einstein in the near future as devices get faster. What are you waiting for? Go dump the ROM off your Newton and get to emulating.

Have fun,
Tony

http://code.google.com/p/einstein/
(1) http://marc.info/?l=newtontalk&m=109452984605975&w=2
(2) http://marc.info/?l=newtontalk&m=118396241728586&w=2
(3) http://marc.info/?l=newtontalk&m=129745881308428&w=2
(4) http://matthiasm.com/einstein.html

Not Dead, Just Busy

Yes, I know. It’s been months since I posted a new entry to my blog. After the ADC adapter I really didn’t know what to right about. That had to be my achievement for the year. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of writing useful posts that people will continue to enjoy. I can’t thank everyone enough for the comments about the ADC adapter and GIMP. Here are just a few of the topics I have ideas for:

  • Finally upgrading to an Intel Mac
  • Learning the ups and downs of W.I.N.E.
  • Learning about SCCA Autocross
  • Using a BlackRapid camera strap for on the go photography
  • Newton on Android
  • FreeNAS: Reviving an old school project

That should be enough to keep me occupied for a few months… I hope. OH, I didn’t announce it but I setup a photo gallery accessible from the link at the top of the page. Rather than have Yahoo or Google host my photos I thought I would do it myself. And now that winter is over in KY (hopefully) I can get back outside and enjoy some hiking trails.

Have fun,
Tony

Controlling a Cinema Display from XP

With the DVI to ADC adapter a success I’ve run into a new issue with the Apple monitor I salvaged. There are no physical controls for the brightness and I can’t turn the monitor off. The power button on the ACD is designed to control the monitor as well as the Mac it’s connected to. Pin 13 on the ADC spec is listed as “soft power” so I assume that is where the functionality comes from. While there is a brightness button on the front of the display, its function is to open of the display preferences in OS X so you can adjust the settings there.

All of that is great if you are using a Mac with an ADC video card or even an ADC adapter (the brightness controls are controlled through the USB connection), but there is no way to control the monitor from a Windows PC natively. Luckily there is the Internet and the great world of open source software. A few years ago a guy by the name of Laurent Morichetti wrote an application called WinACD. The function of the program was simple; give Windows XP users the same control over their ACD monitors as Mac users have.

The installation process is simple.

  1. Download WinACD from http://sourceforge.net/projects/winacd/.
  2. With the monitor’s USB cable disconnected, run the WinACD installer.
  3. If any popups appear saying the drivers are not signed click “Continue Anyway”.
  4. Once the installation is finished plug in the USB cable from the monitor.

Controlling the monitor settings is as simple on XP as they are on a Mac now. When looking at the advanced display settings a new tab is available. Under it there are controls for the brightness and monitor buttons. There is also an option to control the monitor’s brightness using shortcut keys.


There are a few issues with WinACD. There has been no development on the program since 2006 so it does not support any of the new LED Cinema Displays. WinACD doesn’t work on any 64-bit version of Windows. Also, as you can see my screenshots I cannot change any of the settings for the monitor buttons. That is probably just specific to monitor I am using. If you can over look those issues then WinACD is a great application for anybody using an Apple Cinema Display.

DIY ADC Adapter

It’s been a while since I added a blog entry, but this is worth it. This time I am building a DVI to ADC adapter so I can connect an old Apple Cinema Display to a PC.

The Backstory:
The PR department at the college I work for was going through some old stuff. They came across some Mac equipment they no longer wanted and asked my office, the Help Desk, to dispose of it properly. What came back were some Apple video cables and one 20″ Apple Cinema Display. It wasn’t the aluminum version, but the older white one that looked like an easel. Of course, this display couldn’t be connected to any regular computer because it used an ADC connector. Apple specially engineered the ADC connector so that power, video, and USB were carried along a single cable. While this was great for reducing the amount of cabling you had, it also meant you had to have either a PowerMac with a compatible video card or a DVI to ADC adapter. That originally cost an $130. Oh, don’t forget your computer had to have a DVI.

The Idea:
If you fast forward to today you can buy a DVI to ADC adapter for $75 from Amazon.com. That would be the quick solution for connecting the monitor to a computer, but I have an idea: why not build my own? The ADC standard is basically the same as DVI with extra wires for power and USB ports. The pinout on the connectors between DVI and ADC are a little different, but shouldn’t be too hard to over come.

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Mobile Ready

I am happy to report that Look It’s Another Blog is now compatible with mobile browsers. This is thanks to the WordPress Mobile Pack plugin, which provides a simplified theme along with some PHP scripting. WPMP has a list of browser user agents known to be used on mobile devices. If one of those browsers connects to this website then the mobile version will load. If you would like to view the full version of the site then not a problem. There is a link at the bottom of the page to switch back and forth. The website will remember your preference in the future.

For all of you out there who are surfing the web with an Apple Newton and the Netwscape browser, WPMP will choose the mobile version of the site for you. Currently I can not get Net Hopper to connect to Look It’s Another Blog. It doesn’t appear to like the fact Go Daddy is the host. Courier will load the full site. In testing it does not send a user agent to websites. Therefore, websites do not know what type of browser is connecting.

And in case you were curious, here are the user agents for Newtscape and Net Hopper.
Newt’s Cape/2.1e-2(NIE)
NetHopper/3.2 (Newton)