My Home Theatre

It’s been a hiatus… I’ve been a bit busy lately, it’s summer time and all… I’ve been enjoying the beautiful weather with my family but I feel like I’m due, so here we go!

Home Theatre! This topic interest me big time, ever since I bought my “new” house 5 years ago I had been planning to do something nice in terms of an entertainment space. The space I had in my mind was a bit different then your typical audio/videophile types dream of but it’s what I dream’t of at this stage in my life.

I will be the first to admit that this post is late to the game, and I anticipate to upgrade my projector and receiver to native 4k within the next 6-8 months. I have my eye on you Optoma UHD60!

Coming from my previous house (a shoebox) I had a big room to actually call my mancave, a 25’x16′ room. The picture below is pretty unflattering… and it only shows the room from one angle, but this is all I could find for the time being… This was a couple days after we moved in. In hindsight I should’ve taken more before and after photos for this project.

mancave_before-1

Here is the original conceptual design of what I envisioned the room to actually become.

mancave-schematic

First step was to build the A/V closet and shelving, the closet did not exist originally so I had to rip out some drywall and attach into the existing framing. Here is a before picture of where I put the closet in.

AVcloset-before

Here are some pictures of the AV closet build out. The shelf design I found on another site, if I can find it again I will give them a kudos link, man is it a solid design – homemade shelf that can hold a ton of weight and gear. All of the supplies for the shelf I purchased at Canadian Tire and Rona. All of the cabling, connectors, wall plates and in ceiling speakers I purchased through Monoprice.

 

Here are pictures of what it looks like today, don’t mind the mess I have a few kids.

Projector Mount

If you look at the projector mount picture below you’re probably saying wow that’s a crazy mount is this guy a nutcase? Actually it’s pretty much mandatory in my mind to design something like this if the projector is going to be installed in a basement like setting.

When I originally mounted the projector I was truly a newbie… I affixed it directly on the floor joists, what a mistake. The feedback was vicious and the projector was bouncing like no tomorrow… and when it started to bounce it really didn’t recover quickly since there was nothing to absorb the movement that reverberated off the joists.

This is something I came up with through trial and error, this works for me, it doesn’t eliminate movement entirely, if my kids are bouncing off the walls upstairs it will shake, but it’s absorbed quickly by this design and I can rest well knowing that my investment is safe. To date I have almost 5000 lamp hours using this rig and the projector and lamp still lives on.

I used a large piece of MDF that spans three joists, I tapped into the joists using 2 1/2″ wood screws. From there I lined up where the projector was going to be mounted and penciled in four pilot holes where the bolts were going to be installed. These four bolts affix the actual mount to the MDF base, they are 3/8″ in width in my application, the bolts are fairly long I believe around 3 1/2″. I used several washers, rubber grommets and springs as you can see from the photo, these items are doing a lot of the hard work to minimize any vibration and impact.

projector-mount

Projector

At the end of 2012 I was on the hunt for the right projector for me. I didn’t want to spend a ton but I wanted a projector that was a good bang for the buck, but mandatory was good input lag and 3D. I stumbled across the BenQ W1070 Home Theatre DLP Projector. It’s a great unit, I’ve been using it now for almost 5 years, so it’s done really, really well… no issues whatsoever.benq_w1070

 

Screen

I went the Do-It-Yourself route. After abundant research I ended up using the following for the screen paint:

Sherwin Williams ProClassic Smooth Enamel Satin Finish Extra White – 6260 UNIQUE GRAY. I don’t believe Sherwin Williams carries this formulation anymore.

Down the line I believe I will switch to an actual screen for my next projector install. Don’t get me wrong the paint is great and a money saver, but I found that it cannot cover imperfections in your actual drywall. If you look close enough you can pick up on these subtle things while the unit is on.

I used a somewhat dark color for the rest of the wall around the screen. Sherwin Williams Classic 99 Satin Finish Extra White – 6549 ASH VIOLET.

The screen is approximately 110″ measured diagonally.

Screen Frame

I used 2 1/2″ MDF trim I mitered the corners at 45 degrees and installed L shaped hinges on the back side. I primed and painted with flat black paint and used brad nailer to affix it to the wall.

Speakers

I opted for a 7.1 configuration, the front and center speakers I got a sweet deal on from Newegg, they were on clearance dirt cheap… I could not pass it up. I picked the JBL Studio 1 Series Studio 190 Front and Center speakers. For the subwoofer I went with the Klipsch KW-100, for the sides I went with Klipsch RS-62s. For the in ceiling I went with Monoprice 6-1/2 Inches Kevlar 2-Way In-Ceiling Speakers.

The in-ceiling speakers I cut a plywood template to hold the speaker since I have a drop ceiling with soft fiberglass tiles. The plywood template fits into the 2’x2′ grid and the grid take the weight of the speaker and not the tile.

For the Klipsch surround speakers, I mounted the speaker to a stud on opposing walls using a single screw.

I am not an audiophile but they sound good to me, most would recommend not mixing and matching, but really for me I was going with the best value/deal at the time as speakers can be really expensive for something better then bottom of the barrel.

AV Receiver

For the receiver I went with the Onkyo TX-NR616, I had never purchased an Onkyo before but I can say I have been really happy with it.

The receiver can not fully power my front speakers in it’s current 7.1 configuration, if I used 5.1 it can power them fully, but the sound is still good, I don’t pump it too often… just something to keep in mind if you are purchasing an AV unit.

The one issue I have had which seems to be some kind of glitch where HDMI switching stops working after the projector is turned off, it doesn’t happen all the time… it is a random thing. Simply recycling power on the receiver corrects the issue.

IR Repeater

For extending my IR remotes (satellite receiver, AV receiver, etc…) I went the cheap route. I picked up a USB powered IR repeater from Amazon – Neoteck IR Repeater Infrared Remote 1 Receiver 4 Emitters Control Kit. I just plugged it into my AV receiver’s USB port to get power, and I installed the IR receiver discreetly along the edge of my drop ceiling. It’s cheap but it does the job and I can close my cabinet if need be and not have to fight with pointing remotes directly at the device.

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Home Media – Part 4 – OSMC/KODI/XBMC

This is part 4 of a series of write ups called Home Media.

Part 1 – The NAS build

Part 2 – The Setup

Part 3 – The Rip

Now that you have a whole infrastructure setup for streaming in your house, what do you do?

First thing is first, you will need some sort of hardware. Be it an old laptop, a Odroid-C2 box, an Android Box or a Raspberry Pi3. Then you will be creating two xml files called Sources.xml and/or AdvancedSettings.xml. These two files are responsible for media sources and database connections respectively. With Advancedsettings in the mix you can also add an SQL instance to your setup.

The benefit to the SQL database is that if you have multiple devices in your home, you can pause your content in one room and resume it in another. Your library info is stored in one place, the databse, and can be easily backed up and restored using software such as HeidiSQL. Library updates can be performed using headless installations of KODI and are picked up by all other devices on the network connected to the DB.

Easiest way to run a headless installation of KODI is to use the LinuxServer.io docker container which they have created and is available from here https://github.com/linuxserver/docker-kodi-headless. This works well if you have a server at home. If you are running a Pi or Odroid device with KODI on it this might not be necessary, since these are always on low power devices. Potentially you can send all update requests to these boxes.

For Laptop and Android Boxes go to their respective app stores and install KODI. On Linux you have to install KODI manually. Head over to Kodi.TV and they have all the packages you need over there. For further installation instructions head over to the KODI wiki.

In this example I will be working with v17.x or K, code named Krypton. For the Odroid-C2 and RaspberryPi I suggest heading over to LibreELEC and grabbing the installation source from there. The equivalent LibreELEC version of KODI version 17 is 8.x. For the Odroid and RPi you will need to image the storage device, SD card or eMMC storage. On Windows use the Rufus software. Alternatively LibreELEC has built their own installation tool to install the OS on a storage device. For further installation instruction for LE suing their tool go to their wiki site. An alternative to LibreELEC is OpenELEC, this has builds for devices that Libre does not support.

Note that when you boot in to KODI for the first time, specifically LibreELEC, you should enable SAMBA and SSH. SAMBA will be useful for copying the xml files to your KODI box later on.

Installation:

Once you have installed Rufus and plugged your SD/eMMC card to your computer start Rufus and locate the drive letter that is the storage device of your choosing.

In Rufus click the drop down list and select DD Image, then to the right of it click the image icon.

Rufus will prompt for a file with a Open selection window. Select the appropriate image and click Open.

It will warn you about erasing all the data on the storage device, accept the prompt and let Rufus run through it’s thing.

Once complete close Rufus and check that your file structure of the SD card look something like the above. The storage device is now ready to be plugged into your hardware and you can proceed to boot it.

Database:

Install the database of your choice. I use MariaDB, it’s a free open source SQL software. It was forked after MySQL was bought out by Oracle. I run this in a docker on my home server. However you like to proceed pick the installation of your choice.

The docker container is available on the Docker hub and can be found here: https://hub.docker.com/_/mariadb/

To run the docker with persistent storage run the following docker commands.

First you need to pull the installation.

docker pull mariadb:latest

An alternative to the latest tag you can use the versions available on the site, 5, 10… etc. Then you will need to run the docker using the docker run command. It will look something like the follwing.

docker run -d –restart=always –net=bridge –name mariadb -v /my/own/datadir:/var/lib/mysql -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=SomePassword -e MYSQL_USER=kodi -e MYSQL_PASSWORD=kodi -p 3306:3306 mariadb:latest

For Unraid 6 you can use a Docker MariaDB template available here:

https://github.com/Exist2Resist/docker-templates/tree/master/exist2resist

There are 3 key commands you need to execute on the database after you have installed it. You can find the database installation instructions for various OS versions on the KODI wiki.

Make sure after you setup a sa or root user on the database you write down the password. After this log into the database and run the following 3 commands.

  1. Type in: CREATE USER 'kodi' IDENTIFIED BY 'kodi'; and press return
  2. Type in: GRANT ALL ON *.* TO 'kodi'; and press return
  3. Type in: flush privileges; and press return

These commands create a user with the name kodi and password kodi. This will be used in your KODI installations via the advancedsettings.xml file to connect to the database.

sources.xml:

The sources file is used to connect KODI to your network shares and sources for your media and music. A sources file has the <sources></sources> tags at the beginning and end of the file and should look something like the following…

smb: stands for samba, your other option would be nfs which is the file sharing protocol in linux. Also if you notice the above shares are accessible to anyone on the local network. If you want to password protect these shares go ahead but you will need to change the <path>, using the example above to smb://username:password@Tower/Music/.

The sections (<music>), name (<name>) and path(<path>) are all mandatory in the example above. Every other field is optional.

Note that if you are using a database to store the media information you do not need the sources.xml file on all your instances of Kodi. You will only need both files on the instance which updates the library and database. All other instances only need to connect to the database. The database contains a files table which has an idPath column that stores the path to the files.

For further detail on the sources xml you can head over to the KODI wiki, http://kodi.wiki/view/Sources.xml

Note that with the database in the mix you should enable the option to wait for network before starting KODI. This is only available in OpenELEC and LibreELEC builds of KODI. I have not been able to find this in the vanilla KODI, but that should not matter as more than likely these installations will usually run on a box that requires manual KODI start anyways.

advancedsettings.xml:

The advanced settings file has the <advancedsettings></advancedsettings> tags at the beginning and end of the file and below is an example of what the advancedsettings.xml should look like. This file is very fickle and it has a lot of options it can take. Use the example below as a starting point.

<videodatabase> and <musicdatabase> point to an sql instance via the IP address username and password. Default port for sql is always 3306.

Also if you want to pause and resume your playback at different locations in your home, include the <importwatchedstate> and <importresumepoint> tags and set them to true under the <videolibrary> tag. Under the same tag <backgroundupdate> updates the library without any popups of notifications. <recentlyaddeditems> sets the amount of new items that will be visible under the TV Shows and Movies sections. Default I believe is 25, you can set this to whatever.

In version 17+ of KODI the cache tag is pretty important. If you are experiencing the odd buffering interruption while watching content from your file server set this option and have all content buffer.

In previous versions of KODI this option was set under the network tag. Sections 2.8.4 and 2.8.3 of the Advancedsettings.xml wiki, respectively.

Cache buffers the file in memory instead of the local storage. If you notice a lot of stutter on your streams, especially with version 17 if you add this sections the performance should greatly improve. Mind you if you have terrible internet and you are using external or http video sources there are no guarantees. If want to do this you will need to do some math first, use this bit calculator if you’d like, don’t trust google they mess the calculation and conversion up badly. But more on that later.

The cache section looks something like the following.

<cache>
<buffermode>1</buffermode>
<memorysize>477184000</memorysize>
<readfactor>10</readfactor>
</cache>

Buffer mode with value of 1 will cache any content streamed in KODI. Local or remote it doesn’t matter.

Memory size is where you will need to do some converting and calculating. So the max memory size depends on your system and this value can not exceed a third of your max free memory. So if your device is running while playing content with 300 MB of free memory your max memory size should be 100MB or 104857600 bytes. If you don’t adhere to the 1:3 ratio rule, there is a high probability that your box will crash.

Read factor is the speed at which the content gets buffered at or read into memory at. If a files average bit rate is 6MB/s, with a read factor of 10 the file will be read at 60MB/s into the cache buffer. Average bit rate multiplied by the read factor. Take your network bandwidth into consideration when calculating this. If not specified the default is 4.

For further details on the advancedsettings xml you can head over to the KODI wiki http://kodi.wiki/view/Advancedsettings.xml

File placement:

If you enabled SAMBA and SSH on your KODI device you can navigate to the Userdata share of the device and place both xml files there. Even though you don’t need both it is recommended that you do. The network name or IP will be required for you to navigate to the shared folder. You should have enabled SAMBA when you set up your KODI box. During said setup you gave the installation a name, if you kept it default navigating to \\LIBREELEC via file explorer should bring up the box’s shares.

Open up the Userdata folder and you should see some folders and 4 xml files.

Place both the XML files in here.

Alternatively you can SSH into your box using putty or similar software. Default user name is root and the password is libreelec.

Once in there you can use either vi or nano to create both the files and paste the contents. The location of where the file should be stored are as follows.

/storage/.kodi/userdata/

You can create the files manually by performing the following commands in SSH.

nano advancedsettings.xml

Then paste the contents of the file into the window and click ctrl + x, this will prompt you if you want to save the file, type in y and hit enter to confirm the file name.

Repeat the same for the sources file.

A very important step, you will need to set KODI to wait for the network when it boots if you are using a db connection. If you do not do this your library will not populate.

In your add-ons select the LibreELEC Configuration add on.

Then set the Wait for network… option and set it to 10 second. There has not been an instance where 10 seconds has not been enough for me.

Your KODI box should now be ready to go, reboot and enjoy.

QLED vs OLED, not the same tech.

Update: OLED is not without it’s issues. One issue is reverse vignette, this is where the screen appears darker on the inside than the outside. Vignette is an effect that you see in some photos and even in movies, inside is brighter than the outside. Sometimes done purposefully, other times it’s due to the use of a wide angle lens, it bends the light in such a manner that it creates the effect. You can remove reverse vignette on an OLED panel by adjusting the OLED light, contrast, and brightness of the screen. This is not noticeable in content however, and you really have to look for it in order to see it.

Vignette effect.

/Update.

I just saw what Samsung is charging for their new QLED TV sets, and are they insane? They are marketing their new television line as some form of LED technology, then pricing it similar to what LG is charging for their OLED sets. Well let me tell you, one is better than the other. I’m writing this article in the hopes that you won’t get fooled in to buying one of those over priced LCD screens from Samsung.

There are two types of OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technologies. W-OLED and RGB-OLED. Samsung bet all it’s money and research on RGB OLED, and lost. They have since dropped out of the OLED panel race. Due to RGB-OLED high price and degradation of the blue OLED pixel this technology proved to be too expensive to manufacture for large format displays. LG opted for the W-OLED or White Oled technology, which is a white LED with RGB filters. LG won, this is the perfect OLED technology for large format displays and soon other manufacturers will follow LG in their footsteps.

After dropping OLED panels as a display technology Samsung released new branding for their LCD panels, they called this QLED or Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode. The description of this technology is somewhat based on a lie or false promise. I believe this branding is meant to fool the consumer into believing they are buying something that the technology is not. There are no Light emitting diodes or LEDs inside the QLED panels. QLED is a passive LCD screen with a quantum dot colour filter and LED edge lighting. The only difference between QLED and an LCD/LED TVs (LED is an LCD panel with LED edge lighting) are the quantum dot filters, everything else is business as usual.

QLED sounds like OLED, but OLED it is not. While the W-OLED and QLED technologies on paper may look and sound the same, the name is where this similarity ends. I believe that Samsung QLED technology is inferior to LGs OLED and Samsung will lose a lot of market share due to it’s price and the underlying technology of using LCD panels.

OLED is an emitting technology, each pixel is capable of producing it’s own light. Benefits to this are that OLED panels have infinite contrast ratios as each pixel can be individually turned off and on. Blacks are true black, similar to what plasma and crt televisions were capable of offering in the past. OLED is a natural replacement for Plasma Television owners and Home Theater enthusiasts. OLED screens can be viewed in a bright room, even when you have sunlight hitting the screen.

QLED on the other hand is a LCD panel with a passive colour filter(quantum dot layer) and an edge LED array which is used as a back light for the screen. If sunlight hits your screen it renders the image unwatchable. QLED sets might be held to a higher production standard than normal LCD panels however they still come with issues such as banding, light bleed, uniformity concerns, and motion blur. Even with local dimming that QLED panels possess, they have a lot of light bleed. In bright rooms, unlike OLED, QLED screens wash out and become unwatchable. In dark rooms the light bleed from the back light detracts from the viewing experience.

OLED sets have virtually no motion blur, no light bleed, no banding, near perfect uniformity, and are perfect for viewing at an angle with virtually no colour shift. I say virtually because sometimes the light refraction coating on top of the screen can make whites appear with a slight pink/purple tint. This happens primarily when viewing the screen at an angle. The tint shift effect of the refraction coating is not very significant, and even with this shortcoming of the LG OLED screens they still look much better than any high end LCD panel I have laid eyes on. Have a look at the picture it demonstrates the coating tint shit effect. Note the left side of the screen is slightly warmer than the right side.

Yes quantum dots much like OLED do produce more saturated colours. But at the price Samsung wants to charge for a set you are better off picking up an OLED set from 2016. The 2016 LG B6 series can be picked up for around $ 2500 USD, and I guarantee you the picture quality is better than anything Samsung can offer for twice the price in their QLED lineup. Sony and others are also getting into the OLED Television game and some more sets are on the way to market. OLED prices are being driven down and they are becoming more affordable. QLED might soon be a technology of the past. If Samsung is not able to decrease the price and improve the quality of QLED displays OLED will be the clear winner. Even with some of the OLED shortcomings, such as brightness fading, this technology has a lot more benefits than QLED. I use mine as a monitor too, while there is some image retention I have not noticed it and retention on W-OLED is not permanent. OLED sets are closer to the picture quality of CRT and Plasma televisions than any LCD on the market right now. Also SDR (vs HDR on Samsung) content looks much better on an OLED panel.

The bottom line is Samsung could not afford to stay in the OLED game with their RGB-OLED tech. Now Samsung is trying to sell you an inferior technology marketed as something that it can not compete with. W-OLED screens are cheaper to produce and produce a better visual experience.

Update: There have been some cases of Burin-in with LG OLED TVs. The culprit is the colour Yellow and some derivatives of it. So Red and Green can also cause the issue, the closer to yellow these colours get the worse the problem. LG is denying any warranty claims on Burn-In on the OLED screens. Same issue is plaguing the Google Pixel 2 that carries LGs OLED screens.

So if you own a LG, Sony, or Panasonic OLED TV, one way to prevent burn in with yellow colour is turning your TVs OLED light down below 40, also change your compensation cycle to run every 2 hours instead of 4. TV channels with static colour logos are not a good fit for these TVs.

Having said this, OLED picture quality is still superior and for movie and series watching is amazing. Be aware of these short comings and like most consumers that bought Plasma TVs you can avoid the burn-in.

For more information on this issue head over to this AVSForum thread.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_dot_display

https://www.oled-info.com/oled-tv

http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/english/news/industry/2891-w-oled-vs-rgb-oled-samsung-lg-show-different-techs-large-displays-ces-2014

Whatcha talkin’ bout? FOO! Setting up proper fail over in a Cluster.

Here is what a 2 node fail over cluster should look like. Double network redundancy on the back end with each node and the SAN connecting to both back end switches.

selection_046

In order to setup proper cluster fail over the Server needs to be set to Fail Over Only (FOO). Remember that Windows has iSCSI volume size restrictions. So when you create volumes and LUNs on you SAN you need to limit the size. See link at end of article.

To do this you need a couple things, first you need to connect the iSCSI connection to both servers. Some SAN manufacturers have their own DMS drivers, which are usually a modified version of the Microsoft DSM driver. HP actually recommends using the Microsoft DSM.

The proper DSM is required in order to setup proper MPIO (Multipath Input and Output) on a cluster.

In short MPIO, is the multipath interconnect necessary for failover, it uses the DSM driver to achieve this. Generally the DSM driver is provided by the OS vendor, in this case Microsoft. This is also the HP recommended method of connecting to the SAN from Microsoft Windows, and most other manufacturers also use the Microsoft DSM driver.

Map iSCSI connections

First we need to properly map the iSCSI connections. Be aware that you will be mapping the same connection multiple times, this is necessary for failover. In the above example each server has 4 connections. 2 for the 20 subnet and 2 for the 30 subnet. Open up iSCSI Initiator and select the Discovery tab.

In the discovery tab add all 4 IP destinations, x.x.20.110, x.x.30.110, x.x.20.111, x.x.30.111.

Click the Discover Portal… button and add each one of those connections.

Next select the Targets tab, you should see the inactive iSCSI connection here.

Highlight the connection and click Connect. The HP SAN is setup with a single iSCSI connector and multiple LUNs. Some devices have multiple iSCSI connectors with a single LUN on each. Depending on the setup you might have to do this to each connector.

A Connect To Target window will pop up, check off Enable multi-path and click Advanced.

Under Local adapter select Microsoft iSCSI Initiator, for the Initiator IP select the IP for the Server, and the Target Portal IP should be one of the two IPs on the same subnet as the Initiator IP. It should look like the following.

selection_047

Now repeat these steps, highlight the same connection, click Connect, check of Enable multi-path, click Advanced…, rinse and repeat, this will map the other three connections.

10.10.20.4 -> 10.10.20.111, 10.10.30.6 ->  10.10.30.110, 10.10.30.6 -> 10.10.30.111.

If you click the Favourite targets tab you should see 4 similar targets. These are all the connections you just created for the one iSCSI target(iqn).

Set up Connection Fail Over

Next start the MPIO applet, Start > Run > mpiocpl your Vendor should be listed in the Devices: window. If it is not you will need to add it via the Discover Multi-Paths tab, others window. Highlight the Device Hardware and click Add. Say no to the reboot.  

selection_048

Next in the SPC-3 compliant window check off Add support for iSCSI devices and click Add. You will again be prompted to reboot. This time do so.

selection_049

If you run the command mpclaim -s -d in an admin CMD session you should see the connection now.

selection_050

Back in the iSCSC Initiator applet, if you highlight the iqn connection on the Targets tab and click Properties, Devices, and MPIO, you should see the Load Balance policy and all the paths that this connection can fail over to.

Your load balance policy will initially default to Round Robin change this to Fail Over Only. If you do this all but one connection should set to Active, all others will go into Standby. Click Apply.

Don’t worry if the connections don’t go into standby, just make sure that FOO is applied. Sometimes with multiple mapped disks this can happen.

selection_051

Now is you run the same mpclaim command your LB Policy should be changed to FOO (Fail Over Only). You will need to do this for each mapped disk.

selection_052

To change the Load Balancing policy to FOO run mpclaim with the -L and -M switch.

mpclaim.exe -L -M 1

The one at the end is indicative of a FOO LB policy, if a connection fails it will immediately fail over to the next one. This is for always on high demand systems.

Now if you run the -s -d switches you should see FOO under the LB policy.

selection_053

Now go into Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management and bring the iSCSI disk online and format them to NTFS. I had an instance where the disk wouldn’t come online even when I brought it online. If this is the case resize your LUN disks, they are too large.

Mpclaim determines the policy for the iSCSI connection. For more information on mpclaim go to Microsoft’s website and user the following reference https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee619743(v=ws.10).aspx

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd851699(v=ws.11).aspx

iSCSI and VHD/VHDX volume size restrictions.

How to Create a Dell Server Update Utility (SUU) ISO

In this example we are going to walk through the creation of a Dell SUU ISO for 64-bit Windows. The SUU is crucial if you are building out Dell servers as it updates firmware and drivers.

I find the Dell documentation isn’t overly helpful so I’ve put together this quick tutorial on how to create a customized Dell SUU ISO, keep in mind this tutorial creates a Windows based installation ISO.

1. Go and download the latest Dell Repository Manager if you do not have it installed already.
http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/systems-management/w/wiki/1767.dell-openmanage-repository-manager

2. Once installed find the icon on your Desktop and launch it.
icon

3. Once launched, you should be prompted to update some plugins, go ahead and do so. If you are prompted to update the Dell Online catalog do so as well.

4. Once the application has loaded, go to the menu bar and select Source > View Dell Online Catalog.
view_dell_catalog

5. If you have not updated the Dell Online Catalog, you should now be prompted to update, click Yes.
sync_db

6. Under Dup Format check off Windows 64-bit to narrow down the bundles.filter_catalog

7. Check off your System Bundles based on the models you’d like the ISO to support.

8. Once these are all selected click Create Deployment Tools.deployment_tools

9. A wizard will appear, select Create Server Update Utility (SUU) > SUU to ISO. Select Next.
create_suu

10. Accept the defaults on the Select Plug-ins Select Next. You will be prompted for the SUU export location, select a folder and click OK.
create_suu_2

11. On the Summary and Finish page, review the Selected Bundles and confirm that all the appropriate models have been selected for export. Click Finish if everything looks okay. The job will be added to the Jobs Queue where the progress can be seen.
create_suu_3

Fix and Repair a Dead Hard Drive

Everyone’s got a story about losing important data one way or another, whether it’s from the accidental deletion of some files, a stolen computer, or more commonly a failed hard drive.

To be honest I’ve never been a casualty to lost data, I always kept backups… probably too many backups… like backups of backups. To others it’s “a lot of work”, probably because they don’t have a good process/mechanism in place or they are “limited” technologically and that’s fair.

It’s never fun thinking about what you can’t get back when your hard drive goes belly up… but what if you could get it back and fairly painlessly. Well if your hard drive is dead, toast, caput, it just might be salvageable as I found out this week when a friend of my sister’s dropped off their hard drive to me to see if their life memories could be retrieved.

The hard drive is a Seagate, model ST31000528AS, it’s a 1 TB SATA 3.0Gb/s.IMG_20160422_125811

It would not power on at all, my first inclination was obviously something on the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) has gone awry. First things first, let’s remove the PCB so we can take a look at it. This may require a torx screw driver, most techies will have this on hand.IMG_20160422_195902
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Now the first place to check is the two diodes on the PCB. You want to check the resistance of each diode, if the resistance on either is very low then there is a good chance that removing the diode will resurrect your hard drive. The diodes act as a circuit protector (similar to a fuse), when there is a power surge it “takes one for the team”
to prevent damage to other circuitry.
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Notice when I test the first diode, the resistance is fairly high, it’s measuring approx 48K. This diode is OK.IMG_20160422_103230
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However, when I measure the 2nd diode the resistance is almost nil. This diode is bad.IMG_20160422_102258
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Simply desolder this diode, reassemble the PCB to the hard drive, cross your fingers and power it up.
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If it worked, great! Remember though, going forward you no longer have the circuit protection unless you replace the diode you removed. If for whatever reason there is another power surge you probably won’t be so lucky.

Now go and backup that hard drive so next time this happens you can get a good night’s sleep!

 

Install Dash Cam (Aukey DR-H1) in 2012 Honda Civic (9th Generation)

Recently there’s been a lot of buzz around Dash Cameras with many “interesting” videos popping up all over YouTube. As a techie it’s always cool to fiddle around with new stuff and I wanted to put such a camera into my daily commuter, a 2012 Honda Civic Sedan.

I wasn’t dying to get a dash cam, but it’s one of those techie things that if it falls in my wheel house I’m going to do it no matter what. And so, I was shopping on Amazon last week and I somehow came across a cheap covert dash cam for $79.99 CDN, and it had good reviews, so I thought hmm at this price it’s worth a shot. At higher price points I was much more reluctant to pull the trigger but this definitely seemed like a good value buy.

The camera I stumbled upon is an Aukey DR-H1, it’s a small well-built little camera. The camera supports up to 32 GB of micro SD storage and records at 1080p. It doesn’t have any fancy bells and whistles like some other cameras do (gps, etc) but I wasn’t going to use those anyways. To be honest I just wanted something that was a “set it and forget it” type of product, just for piece of mind. So let’s get to my install.

What’s in the box?

  • Dash Cam
  • Fuse Box Wiring Power Cable (with video out – which is used to customize settings)
  • Cigarette Lighter/12 Volt Accessory Power Cable
  • Manual + Registration Card (extends warranty by 6 months to 30 months warranty)

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Camera Closeup

It’s very small and covert when installed, seems solid with great build quality. As you can see it uses the 3M double-sided tape, so once you stick it, it should hold solidly.

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Initial Testing:

I wanted to go the fuse box route for installation, it’s much cleaner and routing the cable in the civic took minimal time, maybe 10 minutes max. In my opinion, the manual provided did not give great directions for installing the camera into the fuse box. As a first time dash cam installer I thought the camera could just operate on acc power (ignition 12 v), I didn’t understand why the camera needed constant 12v and acc (ignition) 12v so before installing the camera in the car I did some testing externally to better understand.

My testing came to the conclusion that the acc ignition power wire was basically a normally open switch, but when energized, it closed and the camera powered on. It made sense after playing with this, because if the camera were to work just off acc power it would never shut down cleanly unless it had some internal circuitry/battery. What I mean is when the car is turned off, the power to the camera would be cut immediately and the camera would not have had a chance to shut down gracefully. Through testing it was easy to see this, when the car was turned off the camera continued to run for about 3 seconds afterwards.

IMG_20160401_180749Constant voltage applied, note dash cam is powered off.

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Acc voltage applied, note dash cam is now powered on.

Fuse Box in Civic:

First order of business was to find constant 12v power and acc 12v power… so I pulled out the multi meter and found fuse location 10 (constant) and 23 (acc). There are obviously more possible locations and the ability to tap other spots as well but these worked for me.

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IMG_20160401_182319Here’s the successful test configuration with the supplied wiring.

Prepare Ground Wire and Locate Grounding Location

The only modification I had to make to the supplied wiring was to turn the black (ground) wire into a usable ground wire for installation. The process is quite simple, it just requires cutting the end of the cable and crimping on a more appropriate end.

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There are certainly many spots to ground this off, I picked a location that I thought was suitable for this application.

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Install the Dash Cam and Run the Wire

Now that we have everything ready to go, find a spot to stick the dash cam. The most common spot is right behind the rear view mirror so it does not obstruct your vision in any way. I chose to go right behind the mirror just on the right hand side.

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Run the wire… it seems daunting but really it’s rather simple as you will find out. I’ve marked the pictures in red to illustrate where the wire is running.

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Wire it up

As described early, this is wired to a 9th generation Honda Civic (model year 2012). Yellow wire (constant 12v) fuse 10, red wire (acc) fuse 23, black wire (ground).

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Configure Settings

Plug the yellow rca/composite wire into some kind of display. I didn’t have a free TV kicking around so I ended up having to make a custom rca cable with some left over cables I had lying around. I ran it to my TV inside and used Facetime to program it… funny I know but it worked well and rather quickly. This allowed me to configure a few settings, the most important being date/time. 2 other settings of value are the 720p/1080p and the 1, 3, or 5 minute length setting.

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File Size and Recording Capacity

I set my camera to use the 5 minute video length setting. I did some rough calculations and it appears that the camera can record a maximum of approximately 300 minutes of footage at 1080p. The camera is geared to roll over on it’s own, so it’s maintenance free.

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Final Thoughts

All in all it was fun little project, it didn’t break the bank and it was a good learning experience. Overall the camera is not too bad, at night it’s not the greatest but as I always say you get what you pay for.

I’ve taken some video and I have posted it up, enjoy and as a side note I’m sorry about the slightly distorted sound during the night-time clip, my music was a tad too loud.