Techie Things

It’s been a while since I’ve written a techie post, but I’ve dabbled with several new gadgets over the past few weeks. Non-geeks can stop reading now. :-b

We’ve now got a Media Centre PC hooked up to the TV in the lounge, perfect for watching all the UK television programmes and football that we’ve been downloading recently. I managed to find copy of “Windows XP to MCE05 convertor”, which worked a treat. Sara is bang up to date with all her UK soaps and, after finishing the latest series of The Sopranos, we’re now working our way through Prison Break and Deadwood, which we didn’t catch first time around. @-)

All this downloading — about 150Gb this month — eats up a lot of disk space, so yesterday I decided to buy some external storage. I wanted something that could be accessed from either PC without having to mess about unplugging wires, like a small NAS box.

After a bit of research I found the Akasa Integral LAN enclosure, which sounded ideal at £50 in the U.K., but I couldn’t find an Australian supplier. After a bit more digging I found the NexStar “LANShare” (pictured above), which plugs directly into the ADSL router and, after installing NDAS drivers, appears as a local NTFS drive on both PCs. 🙂

The cheapest supplier in Melbourne that I could find was PC.Net.Au, who are based in a suburb called Elsternwick, about 30kms away. So we drove over and picked one up, taking the opportunity to look at Elsternwick, Elwood and some of Melbourne’s “posher” Bayside suburbs. They all look like nice places but, unfortunately, are a bit too pricey for us. 🙁

Then, on the way back, I called in at MSY to buy a big hard drive and picked up a cheap USB Skype phone at the same time. Hopefully Sara’s family will get sorted out with Skype phones/headsets soon. :)]

I’ve also had a play with Phil’s “SlingBox“, which looks very interesting indeed. Initial tests look promising — I was able to watch U.K. Freeview — but it was a bit blocky and jerky. Hopefully that’s just a bandwidth/lag issue (my ISP is having a few issues with international latency at the moment). The technology looks great though, I’m really looking forward to watching live BBC or Sky News.

I’ve also had a chance to look at VMWare Server and set up a virtual Windows 2003 domain, just to keep my skills up to date for when I start applying for jobs. It’s an absolutely superb bit of software, far better than the Microsoft equivalent. I really wish I’d found it sooner, as it would have made MSI creation and testing a much easier task.

Finally I’ve installed the latest Windows Vista release candidate (on a virtual machine) and it looks really good. Although I wouldn’t want to be using a beta operating system on a daily basis, I’m getting used to the new look-and-feel by using the “Vista Transformation Pack” on top of Windows XP.

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