Prohibitory Order ignored

Apparently, Smart Shopper has chosen to ignore my prohibitory order, as I received mail from them yesterday. (This is really exactly what I expected, since the type of discounted mailing permit they’re using requires mailing to all addresses in the town.) So, I forwarded the mailpiece off to the Prohibitory Order Processing Center, where if all goes well they’ll get a court order requiring compliance, and if they continue to mail me they’ll be in contempt of court. (39 USC 3008 (d), (e))

In-home electricity distribution

I find it interesting that while all the electrical wiring in my home is typical AC at home-use voltages, the very first thing that almost everything plugged into it does is concert it to DC. I wonder if it would be feasible/logical/more efficient to have just one AC-to-DC converter per house, and distribute DC throughout the house (in addition to the couple places where things actually want AC), with a different connector and standardized voltage (9V?) and so forth.

It could probably never happen since everything needs to be backwards-compatible for people to use it. It’s just bizarre when I look around me and everything that’s plugged into the wall actually wants DC and needs to convert it first.

Bad Memory

A few weeks ago, I placed an order with MCM Electronics for several things, mainly related to upgrading my wife’s computer as our DVR setup, including a 500GB hard drive, a cable distribution amplifier, a gigabit network card for my computer (which had an on-board gigabit NIC that broke), some cables to wire everything together, and 2 GB of memory for my wife’s computer (to add to the 1GB it came with). (They were having a 20% off sale at the time, so they seemed like pretty decent deals.)

Everything worked great, except for the memory. The computer wouldn’t start up if it was installed. This make me think I was doing something wrong at first, but installing memory is one of the simplest things you can do inside of a computer, and I thought I was doing everything right. Eventually, I tried it with just one of the new 1GB modules, and it would start up, and with just the other module, it wouldn’t. So, it looks like I got a bad memory module.

Well, that’s unfortunate, but the people at MCM were great, and had me send back the bad kit to send out a new one. When the new memory kit arrived, I installed it, and the system booted up. The system reported 3GB installed. Then things seemed to freeze a bit (things like Task Manager), but I thought that maybe I just hit too many buttons right when the computer started up, so I rebooted, and things seemed to work well. We watched a TV show, and that worked, so I figured that everything must be hunky-dory. Although, commercial detection on something it recorded crashed, but that could be unrelated. And in the morning, the DVR software had crashed. Hmm. The next day, while I was at work, Jessi dealt with a variety of crashing programs, blue screens of death, and basically couldn’t run anything more complicated than Spider Solitaire, and even that didn’t always work. So when I got home, I ran the Dell memory diagnostics (which I really should have thought to run previously).

There’s nothing quite like getting messages saying something to the effect of “I put FFFFFFFF into that memory address, and I got FFFF3CFF back out.”

So that memory’s going back as well, and I don’t think I’ll be buying memory from PNY for a while. The 1GB seems to meet our needs reasonably well as it is.

But, I do have to give MCM credit for answering the phone immediately when I call, giving me an RA number right away, and just generally dealing with the problems very well.

And taking the top 2 spots are…

In the DCI ratings database, your rating for a game no longer shows up in rankings if you haven’t played that game within the past year. (You still have your rating, and if you later play in another game, you show back up in the rankings.)

Since Dreamblade is for almost all intents and purposes dead, very few people have played a game in the past year. So, Jessi and I are on top in the Massachusetts Dreamblade rankings.

Alas, I just got an email saying that I’m going to become inactive in a month in Dreamblade.

And now, a HD-DVR with surround sound

My wife’s computer (which is now our DVR system) has a (Dell OEM version of the) Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS, which includes a port labeled “Digital Out”. I wanted to connect it to the surround sound system I have, which only has a single digital input, labeled “Digital Coax”. I thought that I might need to get the Digital I/O Module and a digital coax cable, but I wasn’t sure that would work, since the sound card model isn’t explicitly listed there, although I suspect that it would. The digital out itself is kind of odd, since it’s really three separate stereo SPDIF outputs, to get 6 channels out, and the sound card didn’t support the normal AC3 encoding over one output to a receiver, although it could pass through an original AC3 source (like a DVD, or, I hoped, a HD recording) on one channel.

But, some people on some forums on the Internet that came up when searching for what I was looking for suggested that all I really needed was a way to connect the mini-jack connection on the sound card to the RCA-style jack on the surround sound system, and that the cable itself wasn’t very important for the short distance that it’d be run. Some claimed success with a stereo-to-dual-RCA adapter and just plugging in the left/white output to the receiver, although I saw somewhere somebody who said they needed to use a mono-to-single-RCA adapter.

So, yesterday on the way home I stopped at a large store and picked up a stereo adapter (which wasn’t easy to find), plugged the little end into the sound card, plugged the white output into the digital input of the receiver, switched the receiver to use the digital input, and much to my surprise suddenly my sound was working through the receiver in stereo.

To get surround sound working, I installed AC3Filter to use as my sound renderer, set it up to pass-through AC3 input directly to the digital output, and all of a sudden I was getting surround sound when watching or playing back HD recordings. When playing back a normal stereo recording (from analog-recorded shows), it translates the audio into 5.1 in a reasonable way, although I think I can tweak it to improve it.

The whole process was much easier than I thought it would be.

Weekend of accomplishment

Saturday, I went to the Eventide prerelease. My lack of preparation wasn’t really an issue, as I was primarily a money-taker again. However, for Shards of Alara, I’ll be up in New Hampshire in charge of a new prerelease location.

Sunday, my brother (who deals with video processing for a living) and I fixed my home digital recording setup that I was having issues with. One of the other things I’d added to my cable system was a distribution amplifier. The amplifier improved the signal for my other digital devices (cable modem, and direct to the HDTV), as well as the devices reading the analog channels, but apparently it was too much signal for the digital tuner on the HVR-1600. We stuck another splitter on just the input to the digital tuner on the card, to reduce the signal by another 7dB, and that apparently attenuated the signal enough for it to work correctly. Rather odd, since the signal level it was getting before should have been pretty close to the level that enters the house, but everything seems to be working for now.

HD DVRing semi-joy

Last night, I managed to use the DVR (now on my wife’s computer) to record and play back HD digital programs, with wonderful quality. This makes me very happy, since doing that was one of the reasons I went with a computer DVR system in the first place.

But, it seems that it has trouble locking onto or getting some (or all) of the digital channels, some of the time. It seems to not work long enough to do a channel scan, or possibly the problem is worse with the channels on higher frequencies. It’s quite odd, and makes little (if any) sense. Sometimes the problem can be resolved temporarily by disconnecting the coax cable and plugging it back in, which seems really odd, since that doesn’t seem like something that should do much with coax cable. (And it took quite a while to figure that out, since I was thinking that my changing the coax cable, changing the ports on the cable splitter, and changing the cable splitter was actually doing something for a while, and then it’d stop working again. Where in fact, I think for some (or all) of my changes, it was merely the act of unplugging the coax and plugging it back in that make it start working again briefly.) It seems that the signal is okay, since my TV plugged into the same splitter can find the digital channels just fine, and I’m pretty sure that this all used to work when it was in my computer (I just couldn’t get acceptable playback of HD content). So, I’m a bit baffled for the moment.

Random Life Update

  • We recently changed the living-room-DVR computer from mine to my wife’s, since it’s more powerful, and she wanted to be able to play her games while sitting on the couch. We also recently purchased some new hardware for DVR purposes as well, including a 500 GB drive. I remember when 500 KB was a lot. Now, I’m not sure 500 GB will be enough. We also got some additional RAM, but one of the memory modules was bad, so I’ve shipped it back and am awaiting a replacement.
  • This weekend, I’ll be working at the TJ Collectibles Hartford Eventide Prerelease. This could be interesting, since my only experience with Shadowmoor was a store release event, and I really haven’t judged since then. I’m looking forward to it
  • Yesterday, I received a notice that I have jury duty again. I suppose the last time was more than 3 years ago, but I don’t think it could be much more than that. I found the last time rather interesting (probably because I actually served on a jury), so hopefully this time will be interesting as well. (Update: Last time was 2/10/2005. I thought I would have blogged about it.)