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Status 2009-09-19^H^H18

Oops, forgot to write this yesterday when I was done.

I wrote out so many wonderful ideas to work on with koi (the name of the new server.) I was expecting the OS install to be the easy part, right?

...not so much... First of all, I thought I had an ISO for CentOS 5.3 i386 already. Turns out I had a couple aborted downloads of i386 and a good disk for x86_64. So, I spent the first 3.5 hours of the day downloading a DVD ISO and researching software.

Then when I finally got started with the OS, it took about 2 hours to format the 1TB RAID array, and that is without having to re-build the RAID array itself (was already built from the last time I tried this with CentOS 5.0) Something is seriously wrong with these drives.

After the format, the install was relatively uneventful. Started playing around, and came to the conclusion that I don't want the OS on the CF card; I'm too afraid of write wearing on a non-redundant file system. So I took out the CF card and re-installed the system (again) on the RAID pair. This of course necessitated a repartition and therefore a RAID rebuild, which is still going on now.

So, yeah. These are brand new 1TB SATA drives. They should _NOT_ be going this slowly. Something is seriously wrong. hdparm claims that they're not using DMA; I'm not even sure I know what PIO mode they're using. When I tried to enable DMA using hdparm, it claimed that function was not allowed. The BIOS doesn't have any useful settings on the SATA controller other than "enabled" or "disabled."

There is a newer BIOS that I'm trying to get installed, but my DOS boot USB stick doesn't work on this system, so I'm having to wrangle some other tricks to get FreeDOS installed on a partition I left for it on the hard drive. I just haven't gotten to this part yet, so I don't know whether it works. But the goal is to have a DOS environment on the hard drive that is bootable from the normal grub install that I can use for BIOS upgrades and what-not.

I'm _HOPING_ that a new BIOS will fix a lot of the problems I'm having (possibly even the inability to boot from USB!). I'll report on that when I've tried it.

But if I can't fix the SATA, this motherboard, as cool as it is with its 4 physical serial ports, is not going to work out. :-(

In the many hours I was waiting for koi to do thing, I started researching media PC options. I looked at MythTV, The Roku Box, and Boxee.

I have a Myth front-end on my neighbor's back-end which is cool, but it a) is illegal, b) only kinda sometimes works, and c) likely has a limited time-line once Charter decides to ditch their analog channels. We're looking for alternatives.

The Roku box looks pretty cool as a hardware platform, but it only supports NetFlix, Amazon Video On Demand and Major League Baseball (which I really couldn't care less about). Those two are cool, but I really want a better selection, and Boxee seems to be the best available. Roku claims that they'll add more as time goes on, but I'm not willing to bet $100 on that just now.

So I'm really looking for something that will get legitimate content, and a wide array of it, over IP. Of the three, Boxee running in Windows seems to be the most functional option. Windows is required for Silverlight and therefore Netflix. This is a bit of a bummer because it means I likely won't use the system for anything else. But if I can build a small, low power, quiet system that'll do Boxee, I'll be happy with that. So that's what I'm playing with. I'll let y'all know how that turns out. :-D

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