Sunday, May 20, 2007


A long while back, I wrote about buying the components for making a homebrew Personal Video Recorder (PVR.) I subsequently decided that I no longer required such a device and went with a PVR that my cable company offered. This practice continued in my new abode with my new provider, Cablevision. Late last year, though, I realized that my viewing habits rarely entailed surfing channels above the standard cable spectrum. Aside from the Channel Formerly Known as Discovery Wings (the Military Channel) and some cooking and grilling shows on Discovery Home, basic cable provided for all my viewing needs. Of course, dumbing down to basic meant no PVR service (digital only.) So I returned the company PVR, went with basic (at an aggregate $29/mo. savings) and revived my old PVR project. I boutht a Hauppauge Tuner card/w remote and finally got the EPIA machine working with Ubuntu Linux and MythTV (excellent HowTo's here) All was well for several months. Some caveats that would later come back to haunt me: The EPIA wasn't 100% stable and would freeze up every now and then. Also, the nifty case was extremely compact and had cooling issues. I no doubt compounded the problem by shoving the noisy little beastie in an enclosed cabinet (all that needed to poke out was the remote's IR receiver, which I velcroed to the TV.) Eventually, the machine died, and I was stuck without any way to serve up Barney videos to the kiddies. (This is a BIG issue.) Luckily, the 80 gig hard drive was fine and I was able to hook it up to a discarded 350 MhZ Dell my brother-in-law graciously donated to my cause and retrieve a bunch of Barney shows -especially the critical "It's Your Birthday Barney!" episode. You have no idea how important that one is to my oldest. Once I rescued some important files, I rebuilt the PVR system on the Dell. It went much quicker the second time around once I was familiar with Ubuntu and MythTV. The trickiest parts are the remote configuration and getting the tuner to display the menus on the TV (not just the TV-out.) Once that was set I have a much quieter and more stable system that the EPIA ever was. Ironically, the Dell is -on paper at least- less powerful than the EPIA, but most of the heavy computing tasks (MPEG encoding and decoding for watching TV) are handled in hardware by the tuner card anyways. So now the Barney Machine is back in business and we have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of shiny happy episodes to feed my kids. Happy days are here again.

My other big "project" has been supplementing my Lotus Notes workflow skillset with Java Server Faces know-how. I have made great progress in this area in the past few weeks. Suffice it to say, a great many tasks that are simple as pie using Lotus Notes are not as trivial -at least at first stab- using other toolkits such as JSF. I have -happily- finally gotten over a critical hump in being able to assemble a basic functional toolkit and establishing a workable mindset to be able to problem solve solution sets using the new (to me, at least) meme. I plan to test the waters with an application I developed using NetBeans Visual Web Pack (data persistence and security provided by MySQL and OpenLDAP respectively) and possibly collecting enough notes and tips to develop a seminar or book title tentatively called "JSF Scenarios." Subtitle: "Giving the groupware developer the tools to provide solutions using the Java Server Faces standard." Sub-sub-title: "JSF for Notes developers."

My friend and "blog sister" Wendy is running for a cause. Help her out!

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