When it rains it pours

Sep 14 2007

Today's story is a lesson in patience. 

Lothar's Rule #1: Don't get too attached to any particular electronics.  Just when things start working smoothly for you, life (or your wife, if you really screwed up) will slap you in the face.  Smile


In our last episode, (has it really been a couple months?) I described the steps I had to take to get the Schedules Direct program guide working on my Mythtv setup.  Let me start out by saying that the program guide has been working great for me.  Other than having to pay for it now, there's nothing I can think of to gripe about.  It's been working smoothly for me for almost two months now.   Almost a little too smoothly...

The last two weeks have not been the best for the electronics in my house.  To start things off, my client motherboard has taken another respite at the MSI rehabilitation facility.  I say another because this is not the first time that this motherboard has taken a vacation to MSI with this exact same problem.  The board went into a coma (it went to sleep and has no signs of waking up) just three months ago.  When I push the power button, the power LED lights up, the fans spin, the drive starts to spin up for approximately 0.532896 seconds and then shuts back off again.  I can't imagine that it's anything that I'm doing because I suspend and resume my system all the time.  I would have just upgraded it to a new board but it's the MSI 6150 board based on the A64 CPU so if I upgraded I would need a new CPU, new RAM, a video card if it didn't have good onboard graphics, etc and it just seemed too much of a hassle for right now.  Besides, other than this issue, I've had great luck with this board.  And it's got all the I/O that I could possible want for audio and video.  So, long story short, this one is out of commission.



In an attempt to survive while that board is being revived (again) I decided to put my test/backup server system in the living room.   The difficulties here are that:

  1. It's ugly.  It's a standard beige tower case.  It was meant to be hidden under my desk, not to sit on display in my livingroom.
  2. The video drivers were not properly installed at the time.  I had recently upgraded my OS from Fedora Core 5 to Fedora 7.  For whatever reason, the prepackaged drivers that I have been using since the beginning of time with this system no longer load properly.  The generic driver worked well enough on my desk connected to a monitor but it was not good enough to use tv-out (svideo Surprised ). 
  3. Audio from my server is limited to stereo.  Give me a break.  This system is about 8-9 years old now.  Still works great but the technology is a little dated.  Anyway, I had been forced to bring computer speakers into the livingroom because I had no way of connecting it to my receiver. 


So with these limitations initially, we went with the fall back plan.  In the past, when all else fails, we have gone to my wife's laptop.  The display is great at 1900x1200 but it's only a 17" screen which is tiny compared to the 36" that we're used to.  But at least it works.  Usually.  A day or two after we started using the laptop for our tv show pleasure, the laptop decided it had had enough too and decided it wanted to power off and stay that way.  After a nice conversation with Dell tech support (which actually was pretty good) they decided that it was probably the motherboard and shipped one out next day to a local tech support person who was out the next day to swap boards (I am so glad we got the in-home service with this laptop).  After they swapped out the boards, the problem remained.I eventually found a stereo to RCA cable which is now connected to my receiver.  It's still stereo (faked 5.1?) but atleast I can control it with my remote again.

Silver Lining

As they say, every cloud has it's silver lining, right?

Right now things are still up in the air but progress is being made.  The frontend board is currently being looked at.  I am hoping to have it back before Christmas so I can show off my setup in all it's glory for my family when they come to visit. 

Since the laptop was having issues also, I was forced to get most of the issues with the server fixed so that we had something usable until the frontend board came back.  After a couple of days, I was finally able to force myself to go to the nvidia website, download their installer and install the drivers by hand. Surprised  I also came across a stereo to RCA cable that I had from a while back which allowed me to connect the system to my receiver.  It's still stereo (fake 5.1?) but at least I can control everything with my remote again now.

Since we had already been having issues with the video on my wife's laptop (they were out this summer to replace the video card and the screen), and the replacement motherboard didn't seem to help at all, Dell has decided to replace the entire laptop for free.  As it turns out, this particular model (which was the best of the best of the best at the time-we spent a very pretty penny on it) isn't made anymore (the tech support guy almost sounded like he was laughing) they are going to replace it with the current best of the best it sounds like.  I don't know the exact specs on it yet but I'm sure it'll be VERY nice.

In the end,  while the complete collapse of all the electronics in my house (ok maybe it just seemed that way) has been a pain to work with in the short term, and seriously killed the WAF around here, it has forced improvements that would not have otherwise been done.  While I wouldn't want to repeat the process any time soon, I think I came out ahead in the end here.

If you actually made it all the way through to the end of my little rant here, you need a life.  Just kidding.  However, I'll end here and stop taking up so much of your time.  Thanks for listening to (reading) my little rant here.  Now back to work! 

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