Blog Went Down And Then It Went Up Again .. Boing Boing

by Jon Davis 10. February 2008 20:59

I am on the slow but inevitable journey to reclaim my home office. Out goes the rediculously noisy home computer, with big, noisy, dust-ruined fans on top, back, side, and inside, that served as a server but sounded like a jetliner. (Actually, it's still in there ... turned off. I haven't arrived in my journey yet.) I decided that if I want to use my home office as a home office and be productive away from the TV, I need to get the "jetliner PC" out of there, but I'll have to figure out what to do with it because it serves my Windows Media Center / TV / DVR stuff out to my Xbox 360 over the network, my blog web site, and my music library.

I've got three PCs: the "jetliner PC" for e-mail and home services like Media Center, a gamer PC that I originally bought to do music production with but didn't have time to follow through with that so I made it a gaming PC, and my laptop. I decided to replace the "jetliner PC" with a living room HTPC, or at least replace the case and CPU, and set it up to use my Blu-ray drive that I've been trying and failing to sell on Marketplace. I'd tried to use the Blu-ray player on my gaming PC from across the room, but after dragging DVI and optical cables all the way across the room, I couldn't get optical S/PDIF audio out to work with PowerDVD and my external audio adapter for my audio receiver. So after spending a couple weeks trying to get this kludgy system working, I had given up and bought a standalone Blu-ray player. But with an HTPC, maybe I can get it working after all, and then sell off the standalone player and get some money back.

After researching HTPC computer cases, based on price and user ratings I opted for the Antec Veris Fusion Black 430. This in turn required me to look for a new micro-ATX motherboard since I couldn't just swap in my plain ATX motherboard from the jetliner PC. I ended up getting the Gigabyte GA-G33M-S2H. So far so good, although one of the reasons for choosing it was its HDMI output, which I ended up not using because its HDTV signal stinks (doesn't fit the desktop to screen like my GeForce 8800 GT does with the nVidia Control Panel). The on-board video was adequate for normal use but not for multimedia use; I didn't expect it to be, but I was curious and wanted to try. So anyway I ended up putting my GeForce 8800 GT in it, which leaves me without a decent video card in my gamer PC. Hmph.

Anyway, my blog was also hosted on the jetliner PC, so now I've finally migrated it to my HTPC. As you can see, the blog's back up, and the HTPC is up and running in my living room where it will be running 24/7, making less noise than the air conditioner ventilation and only a hair more noise than my Xbox 360 -- not truly silent, but acceptably quiet.

With the awesome but expensive GeForce 8800 GT video card, I'm finding Blu-ray performance quite acceptable, as I was able to watch Spiderman 2 on Blu-ray without hiccups and in high resolution (although not without tweaking out the tint and other color settings on the TV to get rid of the over-contrast, over-saturation, and deep purplish tone). On the other hand, as of this post I have yet to see how Blu-ray performance will perform with IIS and SQL Server installed.

The LCD front panel on the Antec case is unreadable, no matter how much I toy with the contrast setting with the front panel utility software. It's not broken, it's flawed; I can read it if I squint hard enough or look closely, but at ten feet away my vision gets a little blurry and the blue backlighting against the bright blue foreground doesn't help at all.

The IEEE 1394 (Firewire) interface didn't have a connector on the inside, so the jack on the front panel is worthless, but fortunately I don't do video camera work and there's a working IEEE 1394 interface on the motherboard on the back panel.

I only got the S/PDIF optical audio output working with PowerDVD after I installed the latest audio drivers and then configured it to use dts 5.1 from Windows sound control panel.

I bought a Western Digital 1TB external drive to back everything up, as I had intended to take the two drives used in the RAID 0 array of my jetliner PC and make them dual standalone drives in the HTPC, starting from scratch. But Windows Vista Full PC backup (for emergency rollback) failed me. I had backed up everything up across two partitions of the RAID array I backed up the ASP.NET files, too, but forgot to back up this blog's database. So when I took the two drives back to the jetliner PC and ran the Windows Vista restore process, it told me that my hard drives were too few or too small. This made no sense, since it was all exactly the same; the RAID array had to be re-provisioned, but first I tried re-balancing the partitions, and then I tried the original partition sizes, but no matter what I tried, Vista refused to restore. Phooey.

A little Googling, and Windows Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 (yes, ALL of that in the name) came to the rescue. I installed only the VHDMount utility, with which I mounted the backed up hard drive partitions in the Full PC Backup archive. Ha! I grabbed the database files from the old Program Files directory, and .. well, here we are.

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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