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Weekend summary

This was a (mostly) very nice weekend.  On Friday afternoon/evening we had some guests over for dinner and got to watch a movie, which was great.  Our kids had a great time playing together and we all had a great time.  Saturday I got a ton of downloaded shows and movies burned to DVD.  Something I’d been putting off for quite some time.  I was able to free up lots of much needed hard drive space.  Liz had a fundraiser thing for her MOPS group to go to at the St. Pete Times Forum working on the floor at a vendor’s booth.  She got home early becasue there was no business that night.  They still got paid which was good.  I seem to recall getting to rest a lot on Saturday and Sunday.  Sunday I continued to burn movies to DVD and the kids got to play outside since it was a little warmer (abotu 65). 

   Its been chilly here the last few days, and all this week the highs are only around 60ish.  Today I think the high will be mid 50’s.  I’ve completely adjusted to Florida living now, and cannot tolerate temperatures below 70 degrees anymore.  I’m still trying to find a scientific explanation for this.  When I lived in the MD/DE area, I’d never even put on a jacket till the temperatures went below 40.  But in our Florida room, I was able to sit there with the afternoon sun coming through the glass windows and warming me up nicely.  It felt great!  I sat there with Abby and watched the cloud formations and tried to find shapes in the clouds.

The Great Speaker Hunt

I recently decided that I’d like to replace the older surround sound speakers currently installed on my multimedia PC at home. Since I don’t have cable or DirecTV or any other paid TV Service, I use my multimedia PC to download/watch any shows or movies (not counting DVDs) that I want to see. This works out great for me, and the quality is amazing. My multimedia machine is a 1.8GHz AMD system, with 512MB of RAM, a 400GB hard drive, and Realtek HD Audio processor. I checked out my system specs and found that if I bought a really nice set of surround sound speakers, I’d probably need a new sound card. I like the Realtek HD audio, but the physical outputs on the motherboard are limited. I won’t have enough outputs to power a decent speaker set in 5.1 surround. So I went online and took over an hour to decide on a new sound card. I ended up getting the Creative Audigy EAX PCI. Its not an expensive card, but should deliver good quality 5.1 6 channel audio to my living room. Now the hunt is on for a good speaker set, I want to get something thats 5.1 surround, has 2 right channels, 2 front channels, a center channel/sub. I need something with a remote for volume control. I also want something if possible, on stands, so I won’t have to worry about finding temporary stands or mounting stuff on the wall.

I think I found a few sets on eBay that look pretty nice, and are fairly affordable. I don’t really need a receiver, because I won’t be using it for any radio or with any other inputs. All my multimedia comes from my multimedia PC, so as long as whatever I get connects to my multimedia PC, I’m set. I don’t want to go overboard either, since I won’t be using them to their full potential till we either move to a more secluded area, or the kids are older. We live in a close neighborhood, so I don’t want to make too much noise! I’ll try to put together some kind of diagram and spec listing for my multimedia PC and home theatre system once its complete.

My Birthday

Items I’d like to get:
1. External standalone DVD recorder for my Tivo
2. Some blank DVD +R Dual layer media
3. A new scanner for my PC (sheet feed)
4. 500GB hard drive (way too expensive!)
5. Model Kits (like star trek ship models)
6. One of those big styrofoam airplane kits (the big one)
7. A small trampoline (maybe, but not at our current house)
8. A ladder for my pool I got that I never setup last summer!
9. Gift cards to stores like Best Buy, Curcuit city, etc.
10. Restaurant gift cards, like to TGI Fridays and Wendy’s

Things I want to do before I die!
1. Take a cruise (to the carribbean or somewhere really tropical – must have crystal blue water and hammock)
2. Ride a jetski (or wave runner, I don’t wan to stand up and ride).
3. Go parasailing (at the beach, maybe clearwater beach, my favorite).
4. Take a propeller cart ride, or whatever its called, on 75N they have a gocart thing with a propeller and parachute. I’d love to ride one of those!
5. Go to New York with Liz and hit a broadway show and eat at nice restaurants all dressed up!
6. Go to a comedy club in Tampa
7. Go to a jazz club for dinner with Liz (in Tampa)
8. Go on a dinner cruise with Liz (in Tampa)
9. Go see an IMAX movie
10. Go to Arizona to see the grand canyon
11. Take Liz to Niagra Falls (maybe the kids too 😉
12. Go to an international destination, like Paris or Italy,, somewhere romantic (maybe take a river cruise on one of those long thin boats)
13. Take my family to Disney in Orlando
14. Go on a submarine ride (no clue where you can do this)
15. Try water skiing (or boarding)
16. Lie in a hammock on a tropical beach, sipping on a fruit drink in the warm breeze, with nothing but the sun, the sand and the sounds of the waves….Ahhhhhhhhh
17. Take my kids to a water park
18. Take each of my kids somewhere special or cool, one at a time, just them and me. Even a far away place.

I’m sure I’ll think of more, and probably update this list later….

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Backups backups backups

After about 9 years of being in IT, I’ve learned how important backups are. I’ve experienced data loss due to not having a good backup several times. It really is worth it to have a good backup plan. Whether at work or at home. At home, I’ve got two 2003 servers, two XP desktops and I always make sure I at least make a ghost image of each one, with just the bare OS and again with all the software I need loaded. For example, my home PC, last night I was having troubles due to some beta software I installed (foolishly). I had planned to use my other XP desktop for software testing, but never seem to do that. The junk always goes on my primary PC, after all its faster and resist crashing longer than the slower desktop. So anyway, long story short, I decide to restore a ghost image of my Home PC with all the software loaded on it. Since I have a domain, my user accounts are still OK, I keep all my data on separate drives and network locations, so I won’t loose anything. But there always seems to be something you forget. Items like desktop downloads, favorites, RSS feeds, etc. now I couldn’t get windows explorer to work long enough to copy anything, so I got out my trusty Knoppix 3.9 bootable CD, inserted my thumb drive, and off I went, I was able to use Linux to get my data off my drive, before I reloaded the ghost image. I finally around 11pm, got all the stuff copied over and my ghost image restored. All I had to do was setup our desktop profiles again, like setting up outlook, and redirecting the my documents folder. Then I was done. So I’m all back up and running, thanks to having a good backup strategy. It only took 4 minutes to restore the ghost image, if I had to reinstall windows and all my apps manually, it would have taken hours! I use NTBACKUP to backup my two servers. The other desktop I don’t care about and will likely give away soon anyway.

Once I lost 2 years of data on a Novell Netware server I had at home. I decided I’d break a mirrored volume in Netware, forgetting I had stuff on it. Once it was broken, my data was gone. Boo hoo hoo. I was recently using a Dell PowerVault NAS 705N for my storage needs, but its a little slow, it was RAID5 which was good, but I decided to sell it, so now its listed on eBay. I hope I can sell it and get another 400GB hard drive. I have about 1TB of storage space in my PC right now. I need it too, I’ve got 200GB of normal data, like CD images, software, downloads, documents, etc. Then I have lost of multimedia, like music, movies, home video recordings and such that take up a lot of space. So I need to get one more drive and that should do it for now. My only concern now is that if any one of these drives fail, I loose all my data, and I don’t have a location on my network with storage large enough to store all that data if I were to back it up. I thought about getting a tape drive, but don’t want to spend the money (that I don’t have) on a tape backup solution which would likely not be large enough to hold all my stuff on a single tape anyway.
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