media, windows comments edit

For my media center solution, I’m using a Windows Home Server as my primary storage for everything - music, photos, DVD images, videos, computer backups… the whole shmear. I love it. I bought the 1TB HP EX-475 model and did a few upgrades, adding memory and filling out the drive bays.

After ripping all of my movie DVDs to the server, I had about 470GB left

  • plenty for music and photos, but not enough for me to rip my TV DVDs to the server and have those available in the library.

I considered adding storage through USB drives, but they recommend only plugging directly into the server’s USB ports and not using a hub… and there are only four ports. I know I’m going to use one of them soon for off-site backups. So… how to add drives in a scalable fashion?

The answer: Use the eSATA port on the back of the home server.

I picked up a Rosewill RSV-S5 5-bay eSATA port multiplier and two 1TB WD Caviar Green drives on a great sale at NewEgg. Plugged the drives into the port multiplier, plugged the port multiplier into power, shut down the home server, connected the port multiplier to the home server, and powered on the port multiplier then the home server. No software to install, no fuss, no muss. After adding the drives to the storage on the home server, I’m up to 4.55TB total storage with 2.2TB free!

My WHS control panel: 4.55TB total, 2.2TB

The nice thing is I have three more eSATA bays free in the port multiplier so I can easily continue expanding. Plus I haven’t taken up the USB ports yet so I still have all of that to go, too. An easy upgrade that enables even easier future upgrades - you can’t beat it. Next to adding RAM, I’d say this is the most valuable thing you can do to your home server.

UPDATE 6/16/2010: Beware the WD Green drives. Only some of the model numbers perform well. I ended up replacing some of the ones I had bought when I originally wrote this post.

GeekSpeak comments edit

This process has been posted for Windows XP SP2 and Vista, but I tried both of those to no avail on this Windows 2003 system I’m working on. The idea: Replace standard Windows Notepad with Notepad2.

What I did to get it working:

  1. Logged in as Administrator.
  2. Downloaded Notepad2, extracted Notepad2.exe to my desktop, and renamed it notepad.exe.
  3. From the Vista instructions, I changed the owner of the file to the Administrators group.
  4. Made a backup copy of the original notepad.exe in C:\WINDOWS.
  5. Ran a batch file to copy the notepad.exe from my desktop into the SEVEN locations I found it under in the C:\WINDOWS folder.

Only by copying it literally over all seven of the locations I found it did the change finally take. Here’s the batch script that I ran from my desktop:

copy /y notepad.exe "%windir%\system32\dllcache\notepad.exe"
copy /y notepad.exe "%windir%\system32\notepad.exe"
copy /y notepad.exe "%windir%\notepad.exe"
copy /y notepad.exe "%windir%\$NtServicePackUninstall$\notepad.exe"
copy /y notepad.exe "%windir%\LastGood\notepad.exe"
copy /y notepad.exe "%windir%\LastGood\system32\notepad.exe"
copy /y notepad.exe "%windir%\ServicePackFiles\i386\notepad.exe"

It felt like the nuclear option to me, but it was the only way to make it work. (Should you choose to do this, you do so at your own risk - I’m not responsible if the system feels like you’re hacking it and sucks you in like in Tron or something.)

General Ramblings comments edit

I’m a big fan and avid user of Google Notebook. Unfortunately, they seem to be ending development on it, which means I need to find another place to store my notes. Google tells you to look at Google Bookmarks, Docs, Tasks (in GMail) and the SearchWiki feature as alternatives. Unfortunately, none of those are really general note-taking devices. Docs might come close, but I’m really not interested in writing full word processor style docs just to jot down a couple of lines on monitor specs or an HTML snippet.

I’ve looked at a few solutions but none of the current “notebook” style things seem to fit the bill. Here’s my criteria, in no particular order.

  • Bullet list support. I take most of my notes in bullet list format. It’s just my style. I need to be able to have multiple levels of bullet list accessible in the note editor and it needs to render correctly when I go back to read the note. You would be amazed at the lack of ability for this in most notebook products.
  • No client to install. I don’t want to have to install anything in order to be able to read or edit my notes.
  • No file synchronization. I don’t want to have to synchronize files from one place to another in order for the notes to be “current.” I’m never going to remember to do it and it’s just going to be frustrating.
  • Mobile accessibility. I need to be able to, at the very least, read the notes from my BlackBerry web browser. Not “Opera Mobile for BlackBerry,” not some mobile note app I have to install, but the actual crappy BlackBerry browser.
  • Free. I’m a single user who wants to keep some crap in a central spot. I’ll roll my own solution before I pay you $100/year for a notebook service. Yes, it’s OK if you throw unobtrusive ads into it the way GMail does.
  • Private. I’m not interested in making my private notebook into a publicly accessible record.

To be clear, all of these are requirements. You might have the best solution in the world, but if I have to synch up files to make sure the latest version is online or on my client, it’s not on my list. It could be the perfect note-taking application, but if I have to install something on the client machine to get it to work, forget it.

To that end, I have started looking at various notebook products and have yet to be swayed by any of them.

  • Evernote: The web client is horribly buggy. You might be able to create and edit notes with multiple bullet list levels, but it always ends up flattening the list back to one level. If you want to read and edit notes with real bullet lists in them, you have to install a fat client. This has been reported in the user forums but who knows when it’ll be fixed?
  • Zoho Notebook: The web client is decent if a bit confusing. Bullet lists are only supported at one level unless you add a special “document page” to your notebook that basically makes you edit your notes in an online word processor. Totally not mobile accessible.
  • OneNote: I use OneNote for work notes and like it, and it appears you can do some sort of synchronization if you integrate it with Office Live… but it still means I have to install OneNote on the client and I don’t recall seeing OneNote for BlackBerry.

I started thinking I might be getting mentally hemmed in by thinking in terms of “notebook products” and may need to think more in terms of “private wiki.” I think that’d work reasonably well, but it still needs to fit the same criteria, so something like TiddlyWiki won’t work because of the file synchronization requirement.

How do you keep your notes? Got any ideas on what I should do?

UPDATE 2/5/09: PBwiki worked through some technical difficulties and enabled my ability to log in with my BlackBerry 8330 Curve. Their free plan looks just right for me, so I think I’ll be moving to PBwiki. (I had originally discounted PBwiki because I didn’t find a free plan; turns out it’s just not easy to find info on their site for, but it exists.)

General Ramblings comments edit

Whenever I see really cool projects like this Portal gun, I always feel like maybe I should have taken metal shop in high school or something. It also makes me realize I have no idea how to work with materials of pretty much any substance. To that end, I’ve always thought about learning how to vacuum form plastic. There’s a great site I found on creating a cheap (<$50) vacuum former you can use at home. Might make some of these crafts achievable. There’s a great walkthrough on Instructables for it (by the same guy). Here’s the vacuum former in action: