Category Archives: nerdy

XBMC / ECS H61H2-M2 Budget system.

The Hardware

Low-budget system. ECS H61H2-M2 mobo w/hdmi output  was blowing them out for like $30 bucks after a rebate. Got a cheapie intel cpu (G530?) from MacMall of all places, via Ebay for $45.

I tried it on both windows and ubuntu and it was fine.

HDMI worked as expected on my television (but was weird on Dave’s?). One thing to note is when the audio line out is plugged in, the sound doesn’t come out the hdmi.

The system uses about 38W sitting on the windows 7 desktop idling according to my Kill-a-watt. This is with an inefficient-looking 400W power supply (it uses 3W even when off, or on standby). That’s inlcuding one 3.5″ 7200 rpm hard disk drive spinning.

Win 7

Fresh Win 7 Pro SP1 installed from bootable USB key. Installed fine but not even the lan worked right out of the chute. Installed mobo drivers, but just the following:  chipset D:\ECSh61h2-m2\Chipset\INF ; lan  D:\ECSh61h2-m2\Lan\Atheros\AR813x  ; video D:\ECSh61h2-m2\VGA\H6x\W7Vista64.

Got xbmc Version 11.0 ‘Eden’. Installed and ran okay. very snazzy. The remote control for andoid works fine EXCEPT that by default, it’s not turned on — to enable it you have to go to system settings and enable the http web server in xbmc.

XBMCbuntu / Linux

Also got 11.0 ‘Eden’ which is distributed as a live CD; based on Ubuntu 11.10 (I think). The live cd booted up and seems to just work. Then I installed it onto the hard drive. It booted up and ran just great. If you exit (click on the virtual “power button”); you will go to a login screen where you can log into a normal ubuntu (select XBMCubuntu) desktop. There is a third choice from the login screen called “openbox” i tried it but it just went to a blank graphics screen.

openssh-server is installed and running by default, so you can/should just let it do its XBMCunbutu full-screen thing and log in via ssh.

Tried some content on a usb hard drive, as well as a windows smb share and both worked fine. didn’t mess with any sort of wireless network traffic. Xbmc has plug in apps for things like Youtube, PBS, Fox News, Al Jezerra, etc; they all work pretty well but the content is somewhat disorganized.

I almost always have trouble with grub/grub2. The basic jist is that you’re supposed to be editing the file /etc/default/grub (e.g. to change the default boot setting) and then you run a job called update-grub. This generates/updates a file called /boot/grub/grub.cnf which you’re not supposed to edit, but you can as long as you’re aware it might get overwritten by various scripts. I never have much luck doing the grub-install, which actually diddles with your hard disk’s MBR. here is the full doc: There is a gui app (apt-get install startupmanager) but I sometimes have trouble with it; like this time i used synaptic to install it just fine but it actually put in the wrong default (it put in a 6 instead of a 5 into grub.cfg!).

If it get really stuck, i just use some windows admistration command, /fixmbr or somesuch; and that just gets rid of grub all together.

Boxee on Win 7

Note that as of March 2012, boxee desktop (as opposed to the commercial boxee box) is at it’s end of life; so this is more of a historical curiosity

Fresh Win 7 Pro installed. Installed mobo drivers, but just the following:  chipset D:\ECSh61h2-m2\Chipset\INF ; lan  D:\ECSh61h2-m2\Lan\Atheros\AR813x  ; video D:\ECSh61h2-m2\VGA\H6x\W7Vista64.

installed fine out of the box, except won’t run. To fix that install direct X from microsoft


note that i initially installed a slightly older (late 2011?) version and it had an aspect ratio problem (black vertical bars on both sides of the screen when playing video; regardless of screen settings).

Boxee on Ubuntu / Linux

Note that as of March 2012, boxee desktop (as opposed to the commercial boxee box) is at it’s end of life; so this is more of a historical curiosity

installed 11.10 default from cd. Did not install anything extra or special. i.e. unlike win7, the lan and graphics seem to “just work”.

boxee- and installed by clicking on it and using gui (could have done: sudo apt-get install boxee… )

There were some instructions here… so i installed these dependecies. Thread on boxee forum about installing 1.5 on Ubuntu 11.10.

sudo apt-get install libssl0.9.8

my only confusion is I can’t figure out how to launch the program?? in the unity desktop, you can click on the ubuntu button and search for boxee and a shortcut then pops up and runs.

So it started up and ran pretty uneventfully 🙂


Embedding Youtube videos iframes and [dciframe] shortcode

[Update: revisting this on 2/27/2013 the problem mentioned just below seems to be fixed or otherwise is a non-issue — you can just use iframes directly within wp’s built-in editor with no problems, see e.g. driver-convicted-in-horn-honking-incident, which also by the way wraps the iframe in a div tag — div style=”clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;” — and that looks nice ]
There is a bug/feature/problem with wordpress’s built in visual editor (tinyMCE) in that it just goes ahead and removes iframe tags. An iframe tag is used for, among many other things, to embed youtube videos. Another popular usage example is to embed a google map, or calendar.

here is what some youtube embed code might look like:

<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>  </iframe>

Here are a couple of  good rundowns of what to do here or here. Continue reading Embedding Youtube videos iframes and [dciframe] shortcode

WordPress Minutia

tips and trick.


Below is a blockquote…

this text is in a block quote. Lorem ipsem dolar Lorem ipsem dolar Lorem ipsem dolar Lorem ipsem dolar Lorem ipsem dolar Lorem ipsem dolar Lorem ipsem dolar

Here is some text after the blockquote has ended.

Text boxes

So the code looks something like this <div style=”float: right; width: 250px; height: 300px;  padding: 2px 6px 4px 6px; color: #555555; background-color: #eeeeee; border: #dddddd 2px solid;”>text goes here</div> … And you can also add in fancier CSS3 styles like box-shadow, text-shadow, and box-radius — they work, but the visual editor stripped the radius and box-shadow: -webkit-border-radius: 10px; -webkit-box-shadow: 5px 5px 5px rgba(0,0,0,0.5); text-shadow: 3px 3px 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.3); Continue reading WordPress Minutia

Godaddy troubles, slow wordpress. Grid hosting solution?

It all started around the middle of November. My site was running very slowly. (Someone besides me even noticed it!). The slowness was limited to wordpress in the blog — i.e. static html pages loaded just fine, in fact very fast, well under 1 second typically (e.g. always did and continues to pop right up). Continue reading Godaddy troubles, slow wordpress. Grid hosting solution?

Nettop Motherboard

(actual date Mar 14, 2009)

After my disappointment with the Amazon and the MSI Wind Nettop, I instead went with an Intel D945GCLF2 retail motherboard.

Newegg $86 w/shipping.

There are a bunch of reasons why this board works out to be cheaper than the MSI Wind: it uses standard i/o like ps2 keyboard connectors (i don’t have a spare usb keyboard), it has a parallel IDE connector (i have old, extra dvd burners and hard drives), it uses desktop ddr2 memory instead of so-dimm (i have extra of that, too). And it has a pci slot.

Power / Power Consumption

This mobo requires a standard ATX-style 24 pin (20 is ok too, just leaves the upper 4 pins open) plus a 4-pin 12V plug.

The neatest solution for power would be PicoPSU, a fan-less atx-style dc-dc converter. sells them, e.g. a 60W bundle (includes the 12V dc “brick”) for $55. But I’m too cheap for that 🙂

In the meantime, I powered it with an extra, old atx power supply I have laying around. One that is already quiet, and relatively low-power.

ULtimately, at 36 Watts idling and 4W standby in windows is pretty good — though markedly higher than the MSI Wind Nettop which used only 24W/<1W.


I couldn’t figure out what version I had, so I ran the latest from intel, version 0150 and I chose to do the windows version. I worked fine but was scarey, because the whole thing just goes dark for awhile. (though at some point when it rebooted it said checksum was invalid, and hit a key to continue).


The reviews were quite good, though a common complaint being the northbridge cooler fan (there is no cpu fan) is too noisy, a good replacement was suggested to be this $4 one: Scythe SY124010L which i probably would have ordered but was out of stock.

As promised, the northbridge cooler is pretty noisey. I tried it at 7 volts, and that was better.The color code for the cooler is white/red/black : tach/+12V/Gnd.

Speedfan sees two fans, the cooler fan jack (the 3 pin that is closer to the cpu; the motherboard says “MCH Fan”) is called Fan1 and the rear fan jack (motherboard says “sys fan”) is Fan0. The cooler fan runs at ~4400 rpm by default.

The bios has fan speed control — but here’s the catch; only “sys fan” is controlled. So I plugged the cooler into the sys fan jack, and set it to “not smart” and 50% PWM. Now it runs at 3500rpm and is pretty quiet (somewhat quieter than at 7 volts). I’ve seen some reports that say their fans won’t run at this speed, but mine seems fine.

There is much talk about the fan, see e.g. on silentpcreview. This guy is selling a Pabst 40mm fan on ebay. In any event it apparently is a standard 40mm x 10mm thick fan. And even 50%PWM or 7V is plenty to keep it cool. This guy did some heat sink mods.


Getting it booted up from usb flash drive, dvd, or hard drive was no trouble at all.

I loaded up XP Home, SP3 using an IDE DVD-ROM and a SATA notebook hard drive.That went uneventfully. At completion, many features were not working: graphics, audio, ethernet.

I ran the supplied on CD drivers install (which took a long time — 15 minutes?), and as far as i could tell everything worked great.

Windows 7 Beta

I had no luck loading the Windows 7 Beta (build 7000, 32-bit). The first phase; file copy and whatnot runs fine but once it reboots i just get the cool splash-screen and then a BSOD. I guess I could try the 64-bit, but i don’t have it downloaded. This guy says it runs fine.

MSI Wind Nettop

I bought one of the newer MSI Wind Nettop from Amazon, their description at the time said:

MSI Wind Nettop 100 Desktop PC (1.6 GHz Intel Atom  Dual Core N330 Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, Barebone) Black. The price was $178 free ship which seemed pretty good.

It came in early March 2009 — despite it being on backorder, and despite amazon’s projected delivery of 3/31.

Anyway, it was a typo on Amazon’s part; it doesn’t really have Ram, or a hard drive — so I sent it back. Here is the same item at Newegg.

I can’t exactly find it on the MSI website, but this one is pretty close. The one i got definitely had the N330 Atom, though.

So while i had it, i put in a 512mb so-dimm (it only has one mem slot) and an extra 2.5″ sata hard drive. I tried out both Ubuntu live cd, and Windows XP sp3.

The only peculiarities were 1) the front sd slot isn’t available for booting (bios limitation? Which is weird, because i can boot from the sd slot in my msi wind netbook), and 2) Installstion of XP from cd booted fine from a usb dvd-rom drive, but then hung — I had to rustle up a sata drive to boot from. The sd slot wasn’t accessible to windows until i loaded the included cd of drivers.

The unit drew ~ 24 Watts running windows. Which is great.


MSI claims that this pc is “Ultra Quiet” and “offers a true noise-free comfort even during heavy game playing or intensive computing applications“. This is not true.

The only source of noise is a 50mm(?) case fan which is controlled by the motherboard. The bios seems to have no settings for this. It only reports the fan speed. The CPU and chipset are covered by a machined aluminum heat sink.

It starts up with a brief roar, then settles down into what could be fairly described as nearly inaudible. Unfortunately the slightest activity (e.g. opening up a tab in firefox) causes the fan to speed up and become quite loud — for a minimum of a couple of minutes. then if it’s idling, the fan will revert back to nearly inaudible. It’s pretty annoying.

One ray of hope: the latest bios, 1.7 said “Fine Tune Smart Fan”. My hopes were quickly dashed when it turned out my machine already had the latest 🙁

MSI Wind: Ubuntu

(late 2008 timeframe?) I’m running ubuntu 8.10 booted off a live CD and then System/Administration/”Create a USB startup disk” on a usb flashdrive. I let it do it’s casper thing so that changes are sticky — using 256M for the casper file. I saved a copy of the casper file so that i don’t have to re-create the flash drive. From time to time (i guess) the filesystem runs out of space and bad things happen, in that case just restore the saved casper file. Continue reading MSI Wind: Ubuntu


(note the date is actually eight years hence. 2008)I located the file MSIWindowsox86.iso, and had trouble getting the installer to do much of anything. It just barely started and then it gets stuck saying “waiting for root device” or something. The problem was the usb to ide dongle I was using to connect an old DVD drive (actually, I’m not sure which one was the problem — but it was one or the other!). Anyway I got a cheapo usb to sata dongle off of ebay and connected that to my newer Liteon DVD SATA and the installer booted up and worked perfectly. But I couldn’t get it to boot off the hard drive.Apparently osx has to boot from a primary (not extended) partition. This is becoming problematic because I have 3 primaries already used up: one for recovery, one for Win XP and one for extra space (which I shrunk with ubuntu gparted to make room). So now i’m using my last primary partition for OSX (type 0xAF).Actually after the install it STILL wouldn’t boot — the installer sets the boot flag on the osx partion. the error is “HFS+ partition error”.What does work is copying the /usr/standalone/i386/chain0 file (this can be done in ubuntu, it can mount the HFS partition) to the root of the windows partition and adding a line in boot.ini, i.e. “c:\chain0=”whatever”.Once booted up, i was pleasantly suprised to see the webcam and audio just worked.What doesn’t work is wireless or even ethernet :-)Wireless can be enabled by getting the driver for 10.5 from ralink’s taiwanese site. It is a little ugly but it works. The only bug seems to be the radio defaults to off, so you must use the ralink applet to toggle the radio to get it on. this must be done each and every time the computer comes up either from fresh boot, or even from standby.Trouble with the ethernet can be fixed by messing around with the speed/auto sensing. Again, it is messed up either from fresh boot or standby.