The biggest prize on offer in the history of Australian lottery is upon us and for every one in two adults who have purchased what they hope to be a winning ticket is asking themselves – “What would I do with the money?” – My answer is “what wouldn’t I do with it!”.
I’ve never owned a PS3 although I have thought about buying one almost every time I walk past the PS3 stand. As mentioned above it does provide value since you can use it for gaming and as a BD player. The BDP-S550 on the other hand was a purchase because I wanted a standalone BD player, I already have a softmodded Xbox 360 so buying the PS3 as well didn’t make too much sense. This does come with the bells & whistles that you’d expect from a premium price there is one feature that I wish it had and that is being “region free” – on the other hand the BDP-S550 does have onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and it has 7.1 analog outputs for those with older receivers. I’ve tested this on a Logitech X-530 the other day since my Dell 27″ LCD doesn’t have a sound bar and it works perfectly on just two channels. I became really excited on how much better it would be on 7.1.
There is an entry level of this player, the [b]S350[/b]; This is slightly cheaper model that doesn’t come with certain features like the analog 7.1 support but if you’re using HDMI anyway, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Also another thing that I have found out is that only limited releases of Bluray titles actually support 7.1 surround sound so do bear that in mind when purchasing, there is a website which lists all of the releases in 7.1 format but I can’t remember it right now. If you also happen to own a Bravia tv, the remote will work with that as well which is handy but will be redundant if you have a universal remote. The player itself is designed nicely except for one irritating flaw but I’ll get to that in a minute. It has a nice blue gloss finish and is slimmer than most of the BD player on the market but I wouldn’t recommend stacking anything on top of it. The player also comes with an ethernet port which I’ve used to update the firmware, just plugged it in, navigate my way through the menu and selected the update…no network configuration required.
So here is the design flaw: Like the BDP-S350, the BDP-S550 has a deeply recessed USB port on the rear of the unit. It’s a flaw because the opening for the port means that many standard USB drives just won’t fit. However, Sony does include a slim 1GB USB drive with the BDP-S550 that fits perfectly, so that deep port shouldn’t be a problem. Except in my case I never got this 1GB USB drive in the box and I couldn’t be bothered chasing the retailer for it.
Again due to the impending relocation I haven’t had the chance to put this player through its paces but what I have seen so far impressed me, I don’t have a large collection of Bluray Titles yet or DVD’s but I have tested a couple to see what the upscaling performance was like and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m confident that as the technology develops they will improve on the loading times, since you still have to wait about 20 seconds or more for the movie to load such as Twilight for example.
So there you have it, my brief look at the Sony BDP-S550, hope that helps..
This part of the build is a no-brainer, DDR2 memory modules are much cheaper that what they were about 3-4 years ago. I currently have six sticks of 1GB Crucial Ballistix but that might be too much of an overkill so I’ll probably just sell those. I recently purchased a 4Gb kit of Team Xtreem Dark (2 x 2Gb modules) for $85 and they seem to be running just fine or I could go even cheaper and grab the Kingston 4Gb kit for $63.
*Prices are obtained from MSY Website
I’ve yet to decided which Operating System I will use for this HTPC but I think the 4GB setup would be the sweet spot.
It’s a good day today! Got up this morning, Donna & I went to our local Good Guys store, before you know it we just became the owner of the only Samsung PS50B850 Ultra Slim plasma they had in store and two hours later, took delivery of it and it now sits proudly (still in its box) in the lounge room. As a bonus, we later found out after purchasing the tv that Samsung started their promotion again yesterday for the free 22″ LCD TV if you purchase the following models from their range:
LA40B650, LA46B650 & LA55B650,
LA40B750, LA46B750 & LA52B750,
PS63B680, PS50B850 & PS58B850
UA40B6000, UA46B6000 & UA55B6000
UA40B7100, UA46B7100 & UA55B7100
UA46B8000 & UA55B8000
Offers closes 31 July (or until the 15,000 are gone).
The Free TV is: LA22B450
Pictures of PS50B850:
Let’s face it Xbox 360 games are not the cheapest and when you’re spending $100 or more on games you want to make sure that they are still around when you want to kill a few hours with friends. While holidaying in Thailand, I discovered MBK shopping centre in Bangkok and an entire floor dedicated to electronics and your gaming needs. While not all are legit it gave me the idea that I too should be backing up my precious games. I asked myself whether I should void what little warranty I had left and decided to take the plunge.
I’ve never softmodded a console before but I knew that there was a huge online community dedicated to such ventures so I researched what I can and watch a number of videos on YouTube. In the end I was successful after 11 frustrating hours of turning my pc on and off, plugging in and unplugging cables while trying to follow written & video tutorials. My Xbox 360 has a Hitachi DVD drive (00078FK) and while this is a common dvd-rom it certainly is not the only model it comes it and neither is it the easiest one to flash, in my opinion anyway.
This blog entry is basically a reminder for myself on all the things that I was doing wrong during the whole process. Realistically the entire modding process takes only about approximately 30-45 minutes from the time you open up your xbox, flashing and closing it backup. If you’re a complete noob like me then try to allocate between 4-6 hours and make sure you’ve had coffee and plenty of hair because you’ll be wanting to tear them off your head during the course of the mod. I started my first mod at around 3Pm in the afternoon and I was playing my first backup at around 2am, yes I took my time, made sure I read what needed to be read and took the precautionary measures in case I “bricked” my beloved xbox. The second mod (more of an update really!) took about 5 hours, mainly because I had completely forgotten what I did 4 months ago and had to go back and learn most of it again. So here are the tools that I used to complete my second mod but before I do that, let me just quickly explain why I needed to flash my DVD-Rom to the latest firmware. My first flash was an iXtreme 1.41 and while it worked for most of my older games, the newer games such as Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.K.X, Prototype and MLB 2K9 will not, unless I upgrade the Hitachi firmware to 1.51. I won’t go into the difference between these games and that of 2008 simply because I do not have the technical capacity to do so, if you want to find out why, then Google is your friend.
- JungleFlasher 1.62
- iXtreme 1.51
- Slax 2.1
- Windows XP with SP2
- Textbook’s Xbox 360 Firmware Flashing Tutorial
Besides WinXP of course, the tools above can be found at www.360mods.net
So here is my version of the tutorial of what you need to do to play your backups on a flashed Xbox 360with a Hitachi drive 00078FK. This worked for me but I cannot guarantee that it will work in every scenario so use this ony as a guide.
- Open your xbox and void your warranty. – Video Tutorial Here
- Unplug the SATA cable from your Xbox drive and use another SATA cable to plug into a SATA port on your motherboard.
- Configure the BIOS on your PC to boot from CD-ROM
- Load Slax 2.1 CD
- Restart PC and turn on your Xbox before your PC finishes posting and make sure Hitachi drive is detected if not then restart again until you get it right.
- If you manage to get Step 5 done correctly Slax will boot off the CD-Rom and do it’s thing, this will process will pause and show a “Spinning Disk” message, when you see this message, hit Open/Close button on your xBox and eject the tray. Slax will then continue to boot…
- Once Slax finishes and displays a Login: option hit the Open/Close button on your Xbox, if it doesn’t close at your first attempt then hit the button again and the tray will close. This means your Xbox 360 is now in Mode B which is some sort of a debug mode. This is very important otherwise your flashing will not work.
- Some video tutorials that I’ve watched will say that the tray will automatically eject when in Mode B, while this did happen to me during my first flash, it didn’t do it the second time around, I don’t know why this is perhaps it’s because it’s already loaded with a different firmware. Moving on…
- Press eject twice on your Xbox and with the tray open, hit the close button once and then push the tray in gently. Once you’ve done this, you will see the Green light flashing away on your xbox. This is a good thing.
- Hit the reset button on your PC and unload the Slax CD and boot into Windows, making sure that the BIOS detects the Hitachi drive.
- When completely booted into WindowsXP click on My Computer and you should see two CD-Rom drives listed, your internal DVD-Rom and your Hitachi drive. Success! Congratulations, you’re over the hardest part. This took me hours to get right.
- Open up Jungleflasher and you should see your Hitachi drive listed on one of the ports.
- You must restore the original firmware of your drive before flashing to a new hacked firmware, this is quite easy and is achieved with a few simple clicks of a button.
- Once the restore to the original firmware is completed, you can now flash it to the hacked firmware of your choice the latest one being the iXtreme 1.51
- Turn off the Xbox and plug the original SATA cable back into the drive and test with one of your latest back ups preferably one that is a “3rd Wave” release. If it all works then you can close her up.
As you can see, even when rushing through this tutorial there is still quite a few steps to be followed and others are more important than some. Like I said, what I wrote above applied to my situation and may or may not work with your setup. Using Jungleflasher is a tutorial in it’s own so I suggest downloading their user guide and familiarise yourself with the section that applies to your drive. You can download this guide here
Planning a wedding is a momentous task and getting married in another country is no mean feat, so many things to worry about and it can turn out to be a logistical nightmare. I have experienced it when Adam & Daniela got married in Macedonia, it was exciting and it added a sense of adventure to it. I think in some ways it was also exciting for the guests that made the long journey to be there. Getting from Sydney to Orhid, Macedonia is a trek and a half. Passing through four different countries and as many airports, then a three hour cab ride on a non-airconditioned taxi is definitely a labour of love.
Daniela & Adam didn’t have the luxury of a wedding planner, they simply communicated by phone and email with their suppliers but in the end it all worked out. Our wedding on the other hand is less than two years away and time is very much on our side, but we don’t want to leave it to chance therefore we decided that a wedding planner will come in handy. A professional that can guide us and help us through the intricacies of such a chaotic day. Donna is anal and I mean that in a good way, she actually takes pride in that, she’s picky and even if she finds it difficult to make decisions, more often than not, she delivers. The wedding planner of our choice will have a difficult and challenging time ahead of her/him but working with someone like Donna will be satisfying because she demands nothing but excellence, mediocrity is not an option.
Ma. Erlina “Kutchie” Zaldarriaga was recommended to us by my cousin’s husband, she’s got an excellent reputation in the industry and seems to have delivered countless events succesfully. Before we decided to take her on, Donna specified her requirements and made clear that she needed someone that will work with her every step of the way. Her fee of PHP75K seems reasonable and it looks like we’re paying for a quality service anyway. I’ve read great reviews about her and other testimonials have also helped in deciding to take her up with her services.
I think I may have mentioned before that a lot has a changed since I got engaged, all of a sudden something that I have been so nonchalant about has become an enormous deal and why shouldn’t it be? I want it done right and as close to a perfect day as we could possibly manage. I certainly hope that Kutchie will help us make that happen.
While I’m still in at the very beginning of this article I’m still researching whether a GPU native HDMI is a far better option that purchasing a card that has DVI to HDMI adapter. According to some people it doesn’t make a difference but there have been comments also disputing this.
I had an idea at the start that the cost of the case and the gpu alone would eat up 50% of my total budget and it’s looking like that’s going to be the case. One of the cards that I’ve been looking at but having trouble finding stock is the MSI 4670-MD512 the 4600 series offering from MSI looks like it was designed specifically with the HTPC builder in mind. It has 1x Dual-link DVI, 1 x VGA (D-Sub Output) and most importantly 1 x HDMI port. The R4600 HDMI series also supports Unified Video Decoder (UVD) 2.0, so that the CPU is not decoding the entire digital stream itself, which helps lessen the amount of electricity used by the CPU and prevents lag.
These are just a few of the questions I asked myself when deciding deciding on a GPU was:
- Am I going to use it for Gaming?
- How much noise will it produce?
- Operating temperatures when under load?
- Will it be able to handle all if not most of the Hi-Def that I throw at it?
- Will it fit in the htpc case of my choice?
- Power consumption.
I’m pretty sure there are others things to consider but for now those six factors are what I’m looking at. As much as I would like to play PC games on a 50″ plasma, I know it’s not the wisest thing to do so I’ll leave the gaming part of it to my main rig even if this card is considered “mid-range”. This card is a single slot cooler and while it would have been ideal for it to have passive cooling like the 4650-M512Z it’s not going to perform any heavy 3d rendering so I don’t think heat would be such an issue. Now it’s just a matter of finding a store that has it in stock, much like the Lian Li case.
After discovering the convenience of streaming my modest collection of movies through Donna’s XPS M1330’s HDMI connection, the decision was inevitably made to build my first HTPC. It will take time obviously due to other priorities and the availability of spare cash but I know for a fact that it will be fun. Firstly I know nothing about building a HTPC but I’m guessing it’s no different to building a gaming pc, I just need to decide on the components to suit my needs and not to mention my budget. The goal is to come up with a HTPC that will stream movies, music, view photos, occasionally browse the net and record FTA programs if the need ever arises. I have set myself a budget of $1000 and as of this moment I feel that this might be enough but it is more than likely I’m going to need more than that.
So let’s begin, the basic components I’m going to need are listed below but bear in mind this list will change a number of times during this project. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of August which is the time when hopefully our housing expenses are a little bit clearer.
- HTPC Case with Remote
- GPU with native HDMI
- Power Supply
- Sound Card
- Wireless Card
- HDD (1 TeraByte or 2 TeraByte)
- Operating System (Linux or Windows?)
- Keyboard & Mouse
- Memory (RAM)
For those that might be reading this blog entry, please consider the fact that this is not a tutorial as such but more of a work log from a HTPC newbie, I’ll try to document each purchase and each decision I make regarding a component so that it may provide you with some sort of idea when building your very own HTPC.
Let’s take a quick step back and let me specify what I’m actually going to use this HTPC for and how I have imagined it to be set up in my lounge room. This media center pc will be connected to a Samsung 50″ PS50B850 plasma and a Sony Muteki 7.2 channel surround sound sytem, however I haven’t fully worked out the exact configuration whether I’m going to connect the HTPC through the Muteki and make use of it’s HDMI pass through functionality or just plug straight into the TV via HDMI and then use a fibre optic cable to connect via AUX/SAT on the Muteki. Ideally I would like to use less cables than what I have to considering these cables don’t come cheap at all. Anyways I can worry about that in 8-12 weeks time when it;’s completely built. Unless of course it makes an impact with my choice of hardware.
An engagement is not complete until you’ve organised an “Engagement Party” which is almost like a small dress rehearsal for the big day but slightly on the lower scale, but that doesn’t mean it comes with less stress. Lucky for us we’ve also just purchased our first home so that’s an added bonus. Between organising our finances and documents, as well as Donna’s uni commitments we have to work out invitations, catering and marquees. It is enough to drive a sane man crazy.
Credit must go to Donna though, she’s superhuman an unbelievable ability to get through the pressure even if sometimes it looks like she’s about to crack, she powers on. I try not to add to the stress and at times I do fail miserably but I do try my best to stay out of her way and be as helpful as I can possibly be. We agreed that the engagement will be her project, she will be at the helm to steer it along and I’ll be her XO and I promised that whatever I lack in this one, I will make up for the wedding.
Let’s get back to the engagement party – Our initial plan was to have the engagement party at Boronia House in Mosman which is a very nice venue, it is a heritage listed house built in 1885 which was refurbished in 1997. We were quoted about $6000 for 100 guests which included a $1000 bar tab if I’m not mistaken. All of this changed when we secured the house in Lalor Park and realised that it will be financially irresponsible to spend that much money when we can have the party at our house. Making it into a House Warming/Engagement party kills two birds with one stone.
We are still approximately seven weeks away from the party and most of the invitations have been sent, food have been somewhat organised, registry has been set and another thing that we’re hoping for is that the people occupying the house moves out on or before settlement date which is 5th of July. Fingers crossed!
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