December 29, 2005

PocketPC software update

I've got 3 pieces of software I'm using on my iPAQ hx2495:

For email, I use the free QMail3. No, I don't read Japanese, I used the Japanese Excite's translation.

I use Battery Pack Pro from Omega One for shortcuts and to beef up my Today screen capabilities.

I use Pocket Weather from SBSH Mobile Software to get weather reports for various places I'm interested in.

Why did I choose the products I did? Well, for email, it seems that the other applications I tried out either did IMAP poorly or mostly functioned in an offline mode, encouraging me to connect, download headers, disconnect, mark the messages I wanted to read, connect, download bodies, disconnect, mark the messages I wanted to delete or move, connect, synchronize and disconnect. That may've been the way to work 10 years ago when connectivity was mostly over dial-up but, nowadays, I'm almost always connected via WiFi, so I wanted something that was closer in operation to usual my desktop client, Thunderbird. QMail3 fills the bill.

For weather, I tried several, including the free ADB Weather Plus from Happy Jack Road. I would've been satisfied with the free client but, for some reason it has problems parsing the reports from the National Weather Service.

And Battery Pack Pro ... well, I just like it.

All told, this stuff cost me less than $30.

Posted by tony at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

nVidia RAID : nvRAID

The motherboard in my home-built PC is an ASUS A8N-E. It's an nForce4 AMD motherboard with not only the standard ATA interface, now known as Parallel ATA or PATA, but the newer Serial ATA or SATA and an Nvidia RAID controller. I started with a single SATA drive and planned to upgrade to a RAID1 configuration for my boot drive at a later date. One of my favorite stores, Central Computer, offered some discounts over the holidays and I picked up a second, identical drive and decided to try to RAID my existing XP Pro installation. Simple, right? Wrong!

To even be able to boot a RAIDed system, you've got to have installed the RAID drivers and, without an existing RAID on the system, they (or at least the nVidia ones) don't install! Now, you'd think this would all be pretty well documented in various forums (fora?) around the Internet but I couldn't find anything to really help me and, believe me, I did a lot of searching! So, I managed to create a RAID using my second SATA and a third that I had on-hand to hold backups and such. That allowed me to get my drivers installed (and also the nVidia XP-based RAID manager software). Then I backed up my system, undid the RAID, RAIDed my boot volume, restored the system to the newly RAIDed boot volume and, fortunately, that worked! Kudos to Acronis True Image for supporting RAID.

A simple matter of about 4 evenings work split up between searching the Internet, downloading drivers, installing, uninstalling, backing up, restoring and a lot of luck!

Posted by tony at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

HD capture cards

Been looking for TV capture cards to add to my home-built PC and I thought I'd HD capability to it. Well, like just about everything that's near the cutting edge, it's WAAAYYYY more complicated than it seems. Here's what I've learned:

Over-the-air (OTA) HD broadcast is known as ATSC and, if you want to receive OTA, you need a video capture device that can handle it. To keep things complicated, if you receive HD over a cable, you're most likely receiving it in QAM (the Wikipedia entry for QAM isn't too helpful as it discusses the imploementation, not what it implies for HD, so take a look at the entry for HDTV, instead).

OK, so, that covers OTA. Now, where I live, I don't get too much OTA. I do have Comcast digital cable and they broadcast HD channels so I can mostly rely on their service. It turns out that they put their free (i.e. "local") HD broadcasts in 256QAM so the capture device must be capable of decoding and decompressing 256QAM with ATSC optional. Well, most capture devices that are billed as digital or HD-compliant can do ATSC but not QAM. So far, I've found products from FusionHDTV, in particular, the FusionHDTV5 USB Gold, and the MyHD card.

Note, this doesn't allow me to receive/decode encoded broadcasts like HBO, Showtime, ESPN, etc. For that, I'll have to wait for a CableCARD-capable unit )supposedly I can get a card from Comcast in my area but, so far, there are no capture units that accept them).

Alternatives? Well, I've got a Motorola DCT6412 DVR (see this Wikipedia entry if you don't know what a DVR is) that's HD capable and has a Firewire port onto which it puts whatever channel's being displayed on the TV. I've hooked it up to my PC and have been able to display appropriately-sized video windows (using information from this post to the AVS Forum) but haven't been able to record anything so far.

So, what am I going to do? I'm not sure yet. I'll post when I do. If you have any suggestions, please email them to me or post them as comments.

Posted by tony at 08:04 AM | Comments (2)

Not a lot of noise but a lot of activity

I haven't been keeping up with my postings, not because nothing's been happening but because too much has been happening. Been very busy at work and have been taking on a lot of PC and tech projects, most of which I'm going to try to post here over the next few days. Stay tuned. Another post should be coming up shortly.

Posted by tony at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)