Archive for the ‘Watching’ Category

Noctua Fan NF-A4 FLX

Posted: February 7, 2014 in Hardware, Watching

So the CPU fan on my well abused Atom Ion XBMC player in the lounge has always been ‘whiny’. The usual noise that is supposed to accompany a 40mm fan spinning at 5k rpm and shifting sod all air. Recently, it has been getting louder, so loud in fact it became noticeable (to me at least) over the video playback.

Foolishly I assumed that the extra noise was from the side 80mm fan beginning it’s death rattle, but no, on closer inspection it was indeed the CPU fan. So based on a recently read ‘How To‘ build a silent HTPC I investigated the Noctua brand of fans.

Never heard of them before. I’d normally look for a brand like Coolermaster, Scythe or one of the other brands that build ‘proper’ CPU coolers for ‘proper’ motherboards. Still the guide was full of praise, as was several of the reviews on Amazon UK.

Although I initially bulked at paying almost £12 for a 40mm fan, I decided that if this was as quiet as it seemed it would be worth it.

I make no apologies for this. I am about to gush, I am actually about to gush over a fan.

It is absolutely brilliant. From the minute you open the extremely high end packaging to the moment you turn the system back on, the whole thing is superb.

The package comes with various cables and rubber mounts, including a “noise reducing cable” that actually lowers the rpm of the fan and hence the noise. Even without that cable in place I can’t hear the fan spinning with the case open. It is awesome.

I’ll amend this posting later with links and technical info, but for now, this will do!


Noctua website – and the info for the fan in question is here




Posted: October 3, 2013 in Hacking and playing, Watching
Tags: ,

So as a big XBMC fan (never would have guessed would you?) I originally planned to use my Raspberry Pi as a simple set top box in the playroom for the kids. Give them the ability to watch My Little Pony and assorted Disney films away from the main lounge. This never happened mainly because I never bought the TV.

Still with a new TV in the main bedroom, I’ve now got the Pi attached to the back of the set and running Raspbmc. Works very nicely, the box is out of sight and as the TV is on a remote controlled power switch, it gets turned on when the TV goes on. It does mean that Raspbmc starts even if it’s not needed, but small price to pay. As all the media is centralised via MySQL, I can always rebuild if it all goes south. The TV doesn’t support CEC, so I’ve still got the old faithful MS IR Blaster box peaking out from the bottom of the TV, but thats all you can see.

As a bonus, it can also see the Vu+ Duo STB downstairs, so FreeSat is now available up in the bedroom. Bit clunky, but it works!

As it’s an old model B (256M) I run the quartz skin to keep the UI overhead down. It’s also not overclocked, but I guess that if it goes slooow I can always hit the option. Very happy with it…

I still may amuse myself and try OpenELEC on a different SD card and see how that behaves…. there’s an Android STB sitting in a cupboard at work as well… always tinkering, never happy.


Posted: September 27, 2013 in Watching

Just finished watching Banshee. I have to say that it was a superb series and I’m looking forward to the next season.

Give it a look if you get a chance.

How True

Posted: April 22, 2013 in Rants, Watching
Tags: ,

While cleaning out old emails, I came across this comment that a colleague had found out in the wild and then reposted on an internal blog. It’s dated November 2011 and still seems like nothing has changed:


It’s well into the 21st Century and we’re still using optical storage media. After getting my Logitech Revue (with Google TV) I no longer have any devices capable of playing optical storage media in my living-room.

Any time we buy a DVD/BluRay it gets ripped/encoded and lives on our household NAS. I can watch it on the big TV, I can watch it on my (Linux) PC. I can even transfer it to Mobile/Tablet/Laptop to watch on long journeys.

The only problem with this is content-availability, if its not available to buy in this territory then I’ll buy it from another territory and get it shipped here. If its physically not available to buy, but it can be found on the internet and downloaded within a few minutes i say its fair game.

Organisations like the **AA are just trying to prop up an outdated business model, on the one hand they want content to be legally considered a physical piece of property. You “buy” it, they “sell” it and thus it can conceivably be “stolen”. Under this basis online downloads are correlated as “lost sales”, last time i saw some litigation they’re claiming $3,000 USD per music track.

At the same time, they’re dead-set against the second-hand market, any other physical goods I can sell-on once i no longer need it – but apparently not. In this respect they want content to be considered a “non transferable license” for usage of the media – i.e. you don’t “own” it, possession of the media entitles you a limited license to watch the media.

As one Slashdot commenter noted, “Google, if you’re listening can you just buy the RIAA/MPAA and be done with it?”


If you’re not convinced, try asking one on the film studios for a replacement DVD because the kids have scratched it so badly that it doesn’t work anymore. If it is a “non transferable license” then they should replace it because I bought a license to use the media.

If it’s not a “non transferable license”, they shouldn’t get their knickers in a twist when the original disc gets ripped to a home server to prevent it getting damaged in daily use. As I own the ‘physical’, that means I can do what I want with it.

You can’t have it both ways.

So as I wrote in an earlier post, I’ve finally switched to XBMCBuntu as the main distro for my media playback fix. The other major bonus was the realisation that this meant I could now install MythTV backend and link it to XBMC using the new PVR plugins. Under OpenELEC there is no desktop, so the installation of a PVR backend relies on either using a built in service (generally TVHeadEnd) or an existing remote backend.

TVHeadEnd has been ‘unreliable’, so I’ve stopped trying to get it to work. Building a completely new box just to serve TV seems overkill at this point in time – I may change if I get around to building a new Home Server, but that’s a way off yet!

The chassis already had a dual tuner Hauppage DVB-T card (FreeView) in it from it’s earlier days of htpc testing, so the addition of MythTV backend meant that with minimal tweaking I have a working PVR in XBMC. If you only knew how long I’ve wanted this!!!!

I still need to tweak the system – it currently runs off a single 32Gb SSD, so I need to connect a significantly larger second HDD to store my recordings on, but progress is being made!

UPDATE: Well I guess I spoke too soon. A couple of weeks later I began to get a ‘unable to connect to MythTV’ message whenever I booted the box. Attempts at delaying the start of XBMC until the tuner(s) were up and running made very little difference.

UPDATE 2: OK got the hump. Turned off live tv in XBMC. To be honest it’s not what we mainly use XBMC for anyway.

End of OpenELEC

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Watching
Tags: ,

I love OpenELEC – it is in daily use as the main media player in the house for the past couple of years. It made my little Atom/Ion board fly, and turned mediocre hardware into something that was a joy to use.

Alas as of yesterday, it is no longer used. OK a bit dramatic I admit, but I finally had to drop the slim OpenELEC build of XBMC and return to the original in the form of XBMCBuntu.

And the reason… updates.

XBMC moved to a monthly update – that’s great, but not really of use to me as I NEED to have this player stable – both for WAF and the 2 kids! What it does mean is that the annual release is in position to be released in Dec/Jan and it works. It also means that I can do a simple apt-get update/apt-get upgrade and get the latest version without hassle. It will even update and migrate the MySQL central DB for me.

OpenELEC doesn’t. It is a beautifully crafted minimal distro that takes time to build and test after the official release of XBMC. It also requires (to date) manual updates in the form of copying across the new kernel and system files to the box and rebooting. So I did this with the update from v1 to v2 last year and it took time.. but I accepted this as the cost of using the software. I then did it again this weekend moving from v2 to v3 (actually v3.1, but hey). The update went fine, no issues at all. What’s not fine was the 72 hours it took to then re-import my media library before I can use the box. I know, I know, Atom 330 CPU isn’t going to be quick… but 72 hours… no. Even then when it did get restarted, it insisted on doing a library update and found more things that han’t been imported – and no – these weren’t new… if fact they were very old, watched and fully metadata’d up!

So assuming that my media collection continues to grow, the next update could take even longer and that’s not acceptable.

XBMC PVR – Freya

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Watching
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Well I’ve finally managed to get XBMC working with Live TV.

Yes I know that’s not such a big thing these days, it’s just that I’ve always managed to get it wrong!

Still after spending far too much time playing with TVHeadEnd – doesn’t install cleanly, then no access to web interface, then not finding tuner cards, then failing to detect signal, then failing to find channels, I finally gave up and reverted to MythTV backend on the box.

What can I say. It worked. No mess, no fuss, no buggering around.