Server Maintenance

On the 31st of January was a maintenance day for my server. It started as a check to make sure that the non restarting after a sudden one second power lose issue was due to faulty PSU… I just confirmed my suspicions. With the test PSU the issue was gone and the computer was powering up properly afterwards. The 435Watt PSU installed on the server was on it since 2004, the year the system was build. Yesterday I got a replacement psu. An 80+ certified CoolerMaster GX Series 550Watt PSU, and I am gonna replace it as soon as I get back.

I also cleaned lot’s of dust and replaced the thermal paste on the CPU for the first time since I built it. I also found out that finally the fan used for cooling the northbridge was dead. Now I have to search for a round 40mm replacement cooler, though I find it hard to find a replacement here in Greece. Also at some point I will have to also replace the computer chassis with a newer one with better airflow since the system is up 24/7.

So after the cleanup and the reassembling I connect the computer to power and ethernet and I wait for it to boot and to access it via SSH, but nothing happens so I actually plug a monitor and a keyboard and I reboot the system, only yo find out that it is stuck at the GRUB loader waiting for keyboard input for reason unknown. It was the first time I had this issue.

While checking the bootloader I also found out that I had some GB of space allocated to a Windows XP installation that was not needed anymore actually since the machine works as a ubuntu based server. So while deleting the NTFS windows partition I also accidentally destroyed the ext2 formatted /boot partition need to boot my LVM setup.

So after searching for a while for ways to rebuild my setup by creating manually the /boot I found nothing helpful (well maybe I didn’t search enough). However while panicking somehow I decided to re-install Ubuntu 10.10 Server on the same BTRFS formatted LVM volumes without actually formatting the partitions, in order to keep my data intact.

However everything installed in system paths was replaced, so I actually lost all my configuration files, along with the web root, including everything stored in my Database (MySQL). The only things saved where those saved under the /home path. Hopefully my Subversion repositories where stored there, so I was actually able to keep them intact.

On thing I have to admit is that it was actually really easier to setup everything from scratch since I already knew where to search for the features I wanted to implement.

Now I am planning to make a tutorial at some point showing the steps to setup everything, but this has to wait till after my exam period is over.

MusicBee: Auto-DJ feature

MusicBee: Auto-DJ
MusicBee: Auto-DJ

Today I decided to test MusicBee’s Auto-DJ feature. I have to admit that it seems rather interesting. The feature creates random playlists based on a seed track. You can choose the initial list size, the maintain X upcoming tracks feature will keep X non-listened tracks in the list. After you listen to some tracks and the remain tracks get lower than X, the feature will automatically add more tracks to the playlist to maintain the X.

You can choose as a source for the tracks your entire music library, or some specific playlist or even some folders. You can also apply some custom filters to restrict the choices. You also have the option to restrict the track genre to the the same as the seed track.

Now on the track selection you have a random option, and a choice of different/same artist with a slide bar that goes from different to same artist. If you are towards different it will choose more tracks from different artists, and if you go towards same it will choose more tracks for the same artist depending on the position of the slider. Another choice is the higher rated tracks preferred. Another really cool option is getting tracks from last.fm. With this option you can get tracks from artists rated by last.fm as more than a percentage (that you can change) similar. It also has two sub-options, the one is to restrict the selection to artists similar to the seed track artist only, and the other is to choose artists similar to the preceding track in the playlist (this one allows more drift to the playlist generated).

The feature also gives you the option to allow stream tracks from last.fm (this requires either a subscription or living in a country that the last.fm radio feature is free). You are allowed to choose the frequency of the last.fm track streaming. You also can choose either to stream tracks from artists similar to the current track in the playlist, either tracks recommended by Last.fm, or tracks belonging to specific tag/artist radio station etc.

I think it is a really nice feature, and I am gonna use it a lot from now on, because it gives another feeling to the music listening and the reason is that I rarely listen to random tracks, most of the times I listen to full albums.

Somehow I can’t get rid of iTunes…

Lately I have been trying to manually manage my 6G 160GB iPod classic, in the past through Winamp with the default iPod plugin, lately I moved to MusicBee (it also supports iPod management, but I think it needs some work more, Winamp’s iPod management seemed smoother with less issues), which I believe is a wonderful player, and has also build in last.fm support, a feature that is important for me. Well it has a few issues with the last.fm tag radio stations but still I don’t have to have the extra of the last.fm player.

For iPod scrobbling on the other hand I use the linux last.fm client, which makes things a lot easier. And it is working almost always… apparently the last time I tried to scrobble there was some kind of corruption yet again on the iPods database, so I lost every single scrobble. Also the iPod was not visible in applications like sharePod due to the database corruption, so I installed iTunes in order to restore the iPod, I guess that’s the only reason it will be on my system…

My new computer

I actually wanted to post this for a while, but for various reasons I didn’t get to. So about a month ago, I got my new computer. I could have got it assembled by the computer store, but because I wanted to move some hardware pieces from my old computer, and also I wanted to actually assemble it on my own, I decided to get it in parts. So I put the order on the 4th of May around the noon, and I got the parts delivered around 12 the next day. I got the items for Plaisio S.A. I prefer this retailer because I am satisfied by their after sales service.

Here is a list of the hardware I ordered:

  • CoolerMaster Cosmos RC-1000 Case (RC-1000-KSN1-GP)
  • OCZ Z Series 850W PSU 80+ Gold (OCZZ850M-UN)
  • Asus P6X58D Premium (1366, DDR3, X58)
  • Intel Core i7 930 (s1366, 2.80GHz)
  • OCZ Fatal1ty Edition 6GB DDR3-1600 Ram Kit (PC3-12800, 7-8-8-26, OCZ3F1600LV6GK)
  • PowerColor AX5870 1GBD5-MDH SVGA (PCI-Express, 1GB)
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB HDD (32MB Cache, 7.200 rpm, Sata, WD6401AALS)

So here it the items in the packages when the got delivered:

On the top box we have all the hardware parts and in the one in the bottom contains the case.

After opening the first box I got all the parts for my new computer:

After this point I got the hardware pieces out of their boxes along with the computer case and I started the assembling of my new computer.

I went on and installed the motherboard on the case along with the PSU, and I also removed the HDD case from my old computer. I wanted to format the HDD while building the computer, and also I had to clone my 640GB Sata-300 WDC Blue with the operating system of my old machine, to an older 300GB Sata-150 I had spare, in order to move the 640GB drive to the new system as a storage drive along with the other drives. I also had to move my AverMedia TV tuner and my Audigy 2 ZS to the new computer (I need a secondary audio card for my Behringer studio monitor, until I get some money for a firewire audio interface).

Here is my old computer after removing the HDD module.

I also got the disks ready for the new computer while formating my new drive. I used the WDC Black for the OS installation. I created 2 partitions one around 100GB for the system and the rest as a space for new downloads.

At some point I finished installing the hardware and I decided to connect the computer and power up to check if everything is fine. Luckily everything worked just fine so I calmed a bit, because I was kind of anxious. One of the reasons is that there was a weird loud noise while I was trying to lock the CPU on the socket. It seems that actually it was the mechanism slipping or something while I was trying to press it down and lock it.

Then I started installing Windows 7, I got online started downloading the latest versions of the drivers for my hardware, plus some of the essential software in order to finish the setup and move to my new system. Along with the new parts I got, I also moved to the new computer my Creative Audity 2 ZS audio card as I mentioned above along with my AverMedia AverTV Duo Hybrid PCI-E tuner, along with a 1.5TB WD Green HDD, 2x640GB WD Blue drives and a 500GB Seagate 7200.11 (the ones with the firmware bug, this one had it’s firmware updated, the other one was full of bad sectors and got replaced with the one of the WD Blue). I also moved my Sata DVD-R to the new computer and placed a Sata DVD-Rom I had spare on the old computer.

I have to admit that I am completely satisfied with my new computer :D, maybe the only things I would like is an SSD with Sata-600 interface for the operating system and another 6GB (that I couldn’t afford when I placed the order).

Avira Free, getting rid of the annoying popup…

I am a user of Avira free for a while now, I think it is around 2 years now or around that, but i always found that popup advertising their premium version really annoying as it would happen in daily basis. I tried a lot of free antiviruses before  concluding to Avira, none of them included such an annoyance. Well I know they provide a premium payed version, and I know it comes with more features than the free one but I am not interested in getting the premium version, I am completely satisfied with the free, and I really see no reason to get reminded every single day that they offer a premium service.

So after a little bit of search I realized that it is possible to stop the annoying popup from appearing. So after a quick search on Google, I reached this post at wikiHow.com.

This article explains how to prevent the popup from appearing. This will not affect any other part of the antivirus and the updates will work just fine.

So for my OS, Windows 7 Ultimate (this guide applies also to Windows Vista Business and Ultimate) you have to go through the following steps.

  1. You have to open the Control Panel. (Start Menu -> Control Panel)
  2. Go to Administrative Tools (If “View by:Large Icons/Small Icons” is selected. If “View by: Category” is selected then go to System and Security and then chose Administrative Tools.), there choose to open Local Security Policy/ies.
  3. In Local Security Policy/ies click on Software Restriction Policy/ies -> Action -> Create new restriction policy
  4. Go to Additional Rules, Right-click and choose New Path Rule…
  5. Click Browse and navigate to C:\Program Files\Avira\AntiVir Desktop\ (if you use the 32bit variant) or C:\Program Files (x86)\Avira\AntiVir Desktop\ (if you use the 64bit variant) and double click avnotify.exe
  6. Set the security level to Disallowed (if it is not already set like it was in my case)
  7. Click apply and OK

And that’s it you have blocked the annoying popup for life (well actually more like till next format or till you remove it).

For other versions of Windows you can visit the original post at wikiHow.com.

How to change The Windows 7 Logon Background

While I was bored playing around with StumbleUpon, I found an interesting article on groovyPost.com about how to change your logon background on windows 7. It’s rather interesting, because after a while I somehow did get bored of the default windows 7 Logon screen background, though I have to admit that I only see it a few times every few days when I reboot my PC, but still a change would actually be welcome.

In the beginning I decided to re-post the howto guide on my blog linking to the site, and also to the specific post I was re-posting (Links have been removed since the last edit). Apparently the owner of the site didn’t actually like my re-posting of his work so he send me a request to remove the re-posted content. Well I can not judge him for wanting the guides/howtos he made only posted on his site for whatever reason (the reason he gave me was about the time he spend in gathering/creating the howtos and guides and maintaining his website, well I can’t argue with that and I can understand his point on this, and that’s why usually when I re-post something I mention my source), that’s his right. So I complied with his request and completely removed the re-posted howto. Probably it is my fault for re-posting content without checking the site for any guidelines on this subject or sending a mail to ask if I can actually do something like this.

However the info provided in his guide are generally part of a lot of guides, some of them dating back to the period of the Release Candidate versions back in the spring/summer of 2009. On of the most popular guides is the one at withinwindows.com by Rafael. Since the steps are pretty simple I’ll present the info here in my own way based on the info supplied by the post linked above.

So to begin with:

You have to start the regedit application. For this you have to open the Start Menu, go to the search box and type “regedit”. Regedit.exe should appear on your results. Click on it to open the regedit.

You have to locate the:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI\Background

key. There you have to check for a DWORD(32-bit) value with name OEMBackground. OEMBackground gets boolean values of 0 (disabled) and 1 (enabled).

Then you double click on the Key to change the value from 0 to 1.

According to the various guides there is a possibility that this value will be nonexistent, which means that you will have to create it.

The images are stored in %windir%\system32\oobe\info\backgrounds. Paste that to the address bar of the windows explorer and press enter to open the folder. In some systems this folder might not exist so you go to %windir%\system32\oobe\ create a new folder created info and inside that another one named backgrounds.

The image must be placed inside the %windir%\system32\oobe\info\backgrounds.The images file size can’t be larger than 256KB.

This is a list of the image names supported in the folder. It is sorted by width-to-height ratio (taken from withinwindows.com)

  • backgroundDefault.jpg
  • background768x1280.jpg  (0.6)
  • background900x1440.jpg  (0.625)
  • background960x1280.jpg  (0.75)
  • background1024x1280.jpg (0.8)
  • background1280x1024.jpg (1.25)
  • background1024x768.jpg  (1.33-)
  • background1280x960.jpg  (1.33-)
  • background1600x1200.jpg (1.33-)
  • background1440x900.jpg  (1.6)
  • background1920x1200.jpg (1.6)
  • background1280x768.jpg  (1.66-)
  • background1360x768.jpg  (1.770833-)

It seems according to that post that the backgroundDefault.jpg image is actually stretched to fit to the screen when a resolution/ratio specific isn’t found. So my best guess is that if you want a non stretched image better add one in your monitors resolution. I am sure it will actually look better that a stretched one.

I also found that another way to do this is through the Group Policy Editor. Though I am not really sure if it works with every Windows 7 or just with Ultimate.

So to change the logon screen background this way you have to go to the Start Menu and type Group Policy on the search box then click on Edit Group Policy.

After opening the editor navigate to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System -> Logon.

Then double click on Always use custom logon background and set it to enable, by default it is set to not configured.

After this part you can go up to the folder creation part (if the folders don’t exist) save the image in he folder with the proper name as mentioned above etc.

Both the ways mentioned in the above might actually be hard for the inexperienced people. However there is also another way, which is easier. You can achieve the same results with the use of a free application called Logon Changer For Windows 7 by tweaks.com.

This option is a nice solution for the non tech-savvy people, as it is really easy compared to the other solutions.

Enjoy! 🙂

Some pictures

Here are some pictures of the lamb and some other delicacies of the orthodox easter, and a few pictures of the trees around my grandparents’ house. It’s sure is spring…

The little lambs 😛

Splinantero & Kokoretsi
Flowers on the trees
A bloomed Quince tree.
A bloomed Quince tree.

Back to my Hometown

I am back to my hometown for a few days, (due to the orthodox easter) though I am not a believer myself I have to visit and join my family for this. It’s nice, but actually today (easter) was a pretty tiring day. I have a few days to sleep well, and the bed here is not as comfortable as my bed back in the city.

Since I am already here, I also did some maintenance stuff on my home computer here, like whatever updates got released since my last time here, since I am actually the only one that does something like this, I am even guessing that this computer doesn’t get much use at all. I actually have to do some updates-maintenance to my brothers computer tomorrow (that’s the one computer in the house that gets used regularly).

These days I was testing an issue I had since way back, with this computer. Some times when the computer was getting loaded with stuff, it would make a click sound after which the HDD would stop spinning and the computer would freeze. I was testing various stuff. I have two IDE drives installed on this machine, an 80GB Western Digital ATA-100 HDD and an Optiarc optical drive (DVD-RW). The HDD was set as master on the IDE-0 and the optical as master on the IDE-1. The thing I did was changing the setup HDD to IDE-1 and optical to IDE-0 without changing the cables used, up to this point, for the last 24hours the computer didn’t freeze at all, before it would freeze once every few hours. My suspicion is towards the cable, but I can’t tell for sure if I don’t check it.

One more of the things I did, was to replace the ArchLinux, on the secondary partition with Ubuntu 10.04 Beta as a secondary OS, and configure the linux up to my liking making it accessible only for me. I also installed BURG and the redit theme so now the boot selection menu looks something like the following:

OS Selection Menu
OS Selection Menu

I also installed some needed software, including the last.fm client for linux. I recently found out that the linux last.fm client is perfect for iPod scrobbling. I stopped using iTunes some time now, I used to prefer iTunes to since iPod due to the fact that I could scrobble the music I listened on the go, but many times the feature didn’t actually work, and I suspect an iTunes issue, so I decided to stop using iTunes, because I don’t really like it. Lately I usually add music to my iPod through Winamp in Windows and scrobble it through the linux last.fm client. It’s actually really easy, you just connect your iPod, go Scrobble iPod on the client menu, then select the path where your iPod is mounted and there you go, and this stuff works every single time unlike the iTunes&last.fm combo on Windows. I also installed conky with conky colors and some other useful stuff. Here is a screenshot of the desktop:

Desktop
Desktop

Then today I decided to play some game on my brother’s PSP so I downloaded “Lunar: Silver Star Harmony” but I couldn’t play it. I got some error and after some Google search I found out that I had to upgrade the firmware. The PSP had the 3.71 M33 CFW and according to a few forum I had to install the 5.50 GEN-D3 in order to play the game. I spend a great amount of time trying to figure out how to update the firmware, since it was my first time upgrading a PSP with CFW. For some time I was placing the needed files in different folders so I was getting a “Corrupted Data” in the PSP menu and I couldn’t upgrade, when I figured out I updated to 500 M33-6 (after figuring out how to bypass the battery check). According to a guide 500 M33-6 was the minimum requirement in order to upgrade to 5.50 GEN-D3 Final. Then I used the XGEN updater and finally I installed the firmware I needed, and finally started the game. However I spend most of my time on the update process that I didn’t have any time left to play… I ll try to continue with it tomorrow.

I actually got some photos from the preparation of the food today, and a few of the trees near the place we were, but I am kind of tired to search for the usb cable for my phone, to transfer the photos on my computer. I guess I’ll post them tomorrow in a new post.

Games games games…

Today I got my hands on Final Fantasy XIII, it was actually one of the main reasons I got my PS3, the other one was Metal Gear Solid 4, which I ‘ll try to play after I finish the MGS3 on the PS2, some time in the future. Since I actually finished with my World of Warcraft project (you can check the status of my chars on my Xfire profile in my links on the sidebar) I have some free time to play some single player games.

Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII

After Final Fantasy, I also have to finish Killzone 2 on PS3 and continue a few games on the PC, like BioShock (which I really liked up to the point I played), Metro 2033 (I generally love post-apocalyptic themed games, or anime and stuff), and also I wanna play Mass Effect both 1&2 and to start again the Dragon Age: Origins.

Well now that I finished with the posts and some changes on the blog, it’s time for some Final Fantasy 😀

Storage Upgrade Part II

About a week after the purchase of my 1.5 Green Western Digital HDD, I finally was able to get my hands on a Coolermaster STB-3T4-E3-GP HDD module. I installed on it all my Western Digital HDDs plus the new 1.5 TB drive leaving on the case 3.5″ bay only my 7200.11 500GB Seagate drive.

HDD installation
HDD installation

After the installation the case looked something like this:

This is the case after the installation of the HDD module
After the installation.

However the LEDs of the module’s fan where really bright, and due to the fact that I have my computer in the same room where I sleep, these was an issue for me. Actually my pillow is about one meter from to the place the case is facing, so I had the blue light on my face during night that made it almost impossible for me to sleep while facing the tower. Luckily during the first 24hours the top left led burned but still the light from the other three was too much. So I had to disassemble the computer again, remove the module, remove the modules front panel in order to see the fan.

The front panel is removed.
HDD module front view

Since the upper left LED burned, it is the only one which is not covered with black duct tape. However I covered all the other LEDs in order to make the light less bright.

Following this is an image of the side view of the HDD module with the for drives installed:

Module from the side
Side View

After the module’s re-installation on the computer case, the computer’s internal looked something like the following image. Since the case is a Middle tower and the Corsair PSU is not modular, the is a small issue with the cables inside.

The internal of the computer
Computer Internal

After the re-installation of the module the front panel of the case looked something like this:

After
After

The LED brightness was reduced enough, making it possible from me to sleep at night with the computer powered on.