Home Theatre PC

Following an post from Jeff Atwood about his Home Theatre PC, I decided to look up the current prices of the mentioned components. Or at least the price I would have to pay, if I would like to update my, how to put it… ancient HTPC.

The old lady I call HTPC is a somewhat oldish Acer Aspire Idea 500 (no chance to find a link on the Acer pages, though) with a stunning amount of one gigabyte of Ram and an Intel Core Duo with 1666 Mhz.

This beast of a machine was state of the art when I bought it (that’s a lie) and fitted very well in my setup at the time I bought it. I could hook it up to my TV and my Logitech surround system. Everything was good.

But that all changed when the Fire-Nation attac… when the progression of media and bandwith hit in. Today my HTPC struggles with the evermore demanding tasks like Youtube above 480p or watching a stream via Watchever. Not to mention the impossible task to play a game on this thing (notable exception: Blobby Volley ).

Besides the old age of my HTPC there is a more pressing problem with this pc: It still runs Windows XP Sp3 Media Center Edition. Yes, that is a 13 Year old operating system.  Holy Crap. Five years ago the support went in the extended phase, which means from that point on, there were only security patches distributed. Not something you would expect in the household of an IT-Guy..

Anyway, with all these urgent needs to update my system I looked up the price of the Jeff Atwood HTPC (or at least my interpretation of that). And it’s quite cheap!

For around 400€ I could have a fully functioning multimedia PC with considerably more power (considerably as in: everything better) than my current HTPC. Also, in the price of 400€ is a 120Gb SSD included, which is 20Gb more of storage than the HTPC has now. And It would consume less power and probably be more silent than my current machine.

Because of the small footprint of the case and the mini-ITX board I won’t be able to extend the HTPC as easy as a Desktop PC, but that’s the case now too. But it woud fit nicely in our media rack.

So what components did I choose (based on Jeffs post)?

  • Case (Antec ISK 310-150): Would fit perfect in my media rack. A must buy. ~80€
  • MoBo (ASRock,B85M Pro4): Haswell, USB 3, HDMI… nice Choice. ~60 €
  • Ram (Two 4Gb blocks): Yeah. You need RAM. More is better, but 8Gb is enough. ~75€
  • CPU (Intel Core i3-4130): Here is my first different choice. Jeff choosed the energy saving version of this CPU, cause hsi HTPC is alway on. Mine isn’t, therefore I can save some money now (around 10€) and get more power. Which is always better. ~100€
  • SSD (Some 120Gb thingi): The HTPC has to boot fast. Therefore no HDD. Also I do have a network storage, so no need to attach tons of storage to the HTPC. ~75€

And that’s it. Jeff included the aforementioned tons of storage and another engergy saving power adapter. No need to, so we can save that.

The summed up cost for this pc is around 390€. Affordable, I would say. Let the saving begin!

Screenshot of zadig.exe

Flashing my Samsung Galaxy SIII

Today I decided to flash my Samsung Galaxy SIII

I couldn’t bear the badly written “improvements” which Samsung generously added to the Android anymore. My last smartphone, a now retired HTC Desire gained much out of the Cyanogen Custom Rom, therefore I gave it a try.

Setup:

I have a Samsung Galaxy SIII (Intl) – i9300 from O2, a german mobilephone provider. My Laptop runs Windows 7 and for guidiance I use the official cyanogen Wiki for my phone.

I’m feeling adventurous today, therefore I’ll try the nightly build

First step: Save your data!

Ok, you could do it the fancy way (Titanium), or just copy all files from the phone via explorer. Remember that some Apps doesn’t save their data to file but in the database. (The only one that mattered to me was Jiffy)

Second: Download stuff

As in the wiki advised, I downloaded the Heimdall Suite 1.4 and the linked ClockwordMod Recovery and because the cyanogen server aren’t the fastest ones, I started to download my CustomRom as well. (Step 1 from the Wiki)

Third: Do scary stuff

And here comes the fun: Shut down the phone (Step 2 from the Wiki) and boot in the download mode. I let the automatic device detection of windows do its work. Afterwards I startded the zadig.exe (Step 3.1). For the records, my phone was called “Gadget Serial”

Screenshot of zadig.exe

I copied the downloaded Recovery File as mentioned in Step 4 and proceeded with Step 5.

My working commandline was

heimdall.exe flash --RECOVERY recovery-clockwork-touch-6.0.3.1-i9300.img --no-reboot

It’s worth to mention, that the wiki points out NOT to use an USB-Hub, but to connect your phone directly. I didn’t read that part…

Other than that, no problems with the following steps.

Fourth:

Luckily I had the adb tool already on my pc, so my adb push wasn’t a pain in the ass.

I added the Google Apps as well.

I followed the “Installing CyanogenMod from recovery” manual and had no problems. But I can’t stress it enough, wipe data/factory reset is realy important!

It went well for me, and in a week or so I’ll write a post about living with cyanogen 10.1

Windows 7 – HowTo change system HDD to SSD (With built in tools only)

Ingredients:

  • Current Laptop or PC
  • New SSD
  • External Harddisk (for backup, so it’d better be fast and big)
  • One empty DVD (or the recovery disc)
  • Bunch of screwdrivers

Abstract:

  • Shrink your HDD partition to a size smaller than the SSD (*)
  • Create a recovery disk
  • Create a system image with Windows backup on the external Harddisk
  • Replace your HDD with the shiny new SSD
  • Boot with recovery disk
  • Choose to restore from a system backup

(*) The first part is realy important. I ran in a nasty trap when I changed my disks: I shrunk my system partition to fit on the SSD, but while I recovered, the recovery tool told me there wasn’t enough space on my target disk. The problem was my own lazyness: I created a new partition on the HDD where I moved all the not needed files.

The system backup tool tries to recover your whole system, not only your system partition. So be sure that all partitions on your HDD in sum aren’t bigger than your SSD

HowTo shrink the partitions: microsoft.com

HowTo shrink if there are “unmovable” files: brandonchecketts.com

Setting up Wifi on Ubuntu 12.04 Server via command line (yeah, finally some technical stuff )

Problem:

Setting up a wireless adapter on Ubuntu server 12.04 LTS via CLI isn’t THAT easy. Plug’n'Play doesn’t simply work. Good thing there is Google. And a lot of helpful sites.

Target:

Insert the stick (or boot with it) and connect automaticly to the preferred network

Continue reading

A new project

Whoohaaa a new project from the university. David and I were assigned to the Computer Museum on the university campus. There we (and six other students) will be responsible to install, customize and deploy a tool called CollectiveAccess (Homepage). CA is a open source tool to register items, tag and mark them and then display them on a front end.

There were two teams of the terms before us, who already made some analysis, set up server and even made some sleek videos of some of the items. We’ll have to analyze which of their data is useful for us and which data can be abandoned.

In this project, we will work closely with the museology team of our university, so it’s a interdisciplinary project. We’ll have to see if we can help them with our skills

New term, new pain

A new term started today and so far nothing interesting happened. System management and analysis would be generally an interesting course, but till now it’s only a recapitulation of known facts, so everyone has the same level of knowledge.

The problem is: There are so many students here which seem to know everything, or at least think that they know everything. (Of course, only David knows everything). It’s interesting when they answer a mere rethorical question wrong and the lecturer tries to avoid to say: “That’s wrong”. Instead he comments the answers with a variety of versions like “Um, yes, in a certain way you could say that” or “Interesting idea, but not exactly what I was looking for”. And I think some of the students think they made an important statement.

But it’s the first day, I probably won’t see most of the other students again until the exam is on due.

Screenshot showing a recaptcha.php file in a filebrowser

Oh noez, Hackerz!!!!

Today I detected that one of my sites was hacked. Some punks got access to one of my webservers, added some files and altered some other files. Lucky me, on this webserver is php forbidden and they couldn’t do any harm.

But from the start:

I host the website for one of the local sport clubs. The website is static, showing only some pics, contact and legal stuff. Once a year there I make a short report how the website is doing and what I’ve done. The deadline for the report is next saturday and so I decided to look on the webserver. And what did I found there? A recaptcha.php file:

Screenshot showing a recaptcha.php file in a filebrowser

This is funny, ’cause php isn’t allowed on the server. And hence it won’t work… I downloaded the file and promptly my antivirus software alerted me, that there is a “PHP/Agent.FA” virus in the file. Now I’m curious.

In the file is a decrypted javaScript call to an russian webserver. Good for me, the service provider disabled all *.php files, returning only a message that php is disabled. So the JavaScript couldn’t be executed even once. But if the hacker got access to the server and could already upload files… maybe he altered some too!

He did. In my index file is a new <script>-tag. It’s 100 lines of obfuscated code, very complex and nested. After half’n'hour of starring at this horror, I decided to decode it.

I wrote a small program in java which translates the \x64 characters into more readable chars. After that I only had to follow the functions… Unfortunatly all functions where named “I”,”j”,”l” and so on…

Finaly, eager to know what this function was intended to do, I set up a virtual machine (without network), and executed the script. The function added a new iframe to the site which loaded a new website. I googled the site and got warnings all over… This one should load a virus to my pc…

So in theory some people could have been infected with viruses by my site. Disgusting thoughts… Good for me, the website wasn’t well programmed (not my fault ^^) and had a problem with the frame/noframes tags. This circumstance in combination with the generic nature of the attack saved saved the visitors of the site from viruses.

Conclusion:

I was blind to the risks of hackers. The password seemed to be to short/easy or was hacked… I reported the hack to the chairman of my club, uploaded a clean version of the website and altered the Password. Hopefully this is enough.