Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Upgrading the TiVO series 3 Hard drive

This article has been updated to reflect changes in the Tivo Product range (In Australia) 

Tivo in Australia have a great product with the (Australian) TiVO.
mytivo.com.au

This story was originally about upgrading the 160GB version of TiVO to 1TB. If you have an older model with a small hard drive, then this is the article you want.

As of now (sep 2012) , there are 2 versions available, the TiVO XL ($699) with 1Terrabyte Hard Drive, and the TiVO 320 ($499). Truth is 1TB is enough to get alot done, but you could want more.. in my opinion, 320GB is not enough, depending on how much stuff you want to keep on it.


The TiVO software is streets ahead of any other media centre software, the ease of use and extra features are way ahead of the nearest competitor.

The free to air reception is among the best out of the units (around 10) I have tested.

The picture looks great, and it is able to deal different resolutions and simultaneous outputs with ease. One caveat, it will only go as high as 1080i, but I never had a problem with that, even on the big projector.

It runs more or less immediately out of the box, it updates itself, no viruses, no mucking around with drivers or firmware.

Best of all, once you have bought it, it has free support forever, ie no monthly fees.
Long story short, for around $700, it kicks the competitions arse (In my humble opinion).

There is no way to legitimately upgrade the Hard Drive in the TiVO, There used to be an external expansion available, but that is no longer on sale

Otherwise read on...
DISCLAIMER
Don't do this at all.
If you do it, you could wreck your TiVO, destroy the PC you are preparing the drive on, and wreck the new Hard drive.
Knowing the way the the crazy laws are going around these days, its probably illegal somewhere (or will be), and worst of all, if you screw it up, you will be the laughing stock of other techos, because it's not really that hard.
I totally disown any responsibility for whatever the heck you may do your TiVO after reading this, and I seriously do not care if you do or don't lose all your recorded episodes of whatever the hell you watch.

What you will need:
 
A TiVO series 3






A New (big) 3.5" Sata 2 Hard drive.



Like all Media Centres, I recommend the WD Greenpower range.
They rotate at a slower 5400rpm instead of standard 7200 rpm 3.5" Hard Drives, although you, (and more importantly the TiVO) won't notice, because they rotate slower, they run cooler and quieter, and have a longer life span. They actually run faster than older 160 or 320GB drives because of increased data density on the platters.
you can pick up a 2TB model for around $105, and a 3TB one for $155

A PC running windows with a spare SATA port and enough free space to (at least temporarily) copy all your existing data to. (Assuming you dont want to lose your existing data)

Rather than make an inferior version of the step by step instructions, I suggest you visit

http://www.mfslive.org/winmfs/index.html
And follow the instructions there...

In a nutshell you will;
 - Install mfslive on your PC
 - Remove the original drive from the tivo and connect it to a SATA port on your PC
 - From the PC use the "Backup Tivo Drive option to take a backup/image of the original Tivo Disk
 - Shutdown the Computer, remove the original TiVo drive and connect the new one.
 - Start up the computer.. DO NOT attempt to format or partition the new drive, mfslive will take care of all that)
 - Use "Restore Tivo Drive" and point to the image you took of the original.
 - winfs will notice any changes in the size to the new disk, and will update the image to take care of that (it may ask you to confirm).
 - when that is successful, shutdown the computer, plug the new drive into the Tivo, and you are good to go.

Review : Lamptron "FC Touch" versus Scythe "Kaze Server"

Head to Head review and comparison of two "automatic" fan controllers.

The Lamptron "FC Touch", and the Scythe "Kaze Server".

An "Intelligent" fan controller?
There are many fan controllers on the market, but surprisingly few of them have even the simplest of intelligence.
Most Fan Controllers are simply readouts for the temperature sensors, and "volume controls" for the fans, meaning YOU have to set the fan speed, which is tedious, and problems are inevitable (ie you will forget to turn up the fans when you are stressing your machine sooner or later).

Most motherboards have some control over fans, and mostly they are clumsy

To me it seems natural that the fan control should be completely separate of not just the Operating system, but even the BIOS of the Motherboard.

Queue the independent intelligent controller. It keeps the fans slow and quiet when the PC is running cool, and when things start to heat up, it speeds the fans up.

These are the two controllers I have found that fit the bill.
Both do the trick, neither are perfect.

SCYTHE Kaze Server 

 

 

 

 

http://www.scythe-usa.com/product/acc/061/ks01_detail.html u

Supports up to 4 separate fans and sensors


LAMPTRON Touch













http://lamptron.com/products/view/Fan_Controller_Touch
Supports up to 6 separate fans and sensors.


Installation

SCYTHE Kaze Server

Connecting the fans
is really annoying with the Kaze server.
To connect the fans, you need to use the included "extension" cables which you can plug a 3pin (or 4 pin - it ignores the 4th) fan into.







For some reason the extension cables change the connector type from the standard fan connector into another type. I have seen the type on some Video card fans, Im not sure what it is called, it should be called "annoying".
Unlike standard 3pin fan connectors, this type are tiny, and "lock" into place, which makes them difficult to both install, and remove. Scythe have not made this any easier by cramming the sockets  into the corner of the unit  under the display unit.
While the first of the four fan extensions can be installed with just your fingers (if you concentrate), once one is in, the other three required the use of a tiny screw driver just to get them plugged in. Getting them out is a nightmare... its a weird maneuver that requires the deft use of two simultaneous small screwdrivers, while gently pulling the cable... which is impossible... so after 15 minutes and a drink you just yank them out by the cord.. I think I broke one doing just that.
Once, you have done the (up to) 4 connectors, suddenly have all this extraneous cable you have to put somewhere... not a big deal in a full size case, but working mainly with Micro-ATX boards as I do, every square cm is vital, and in this case the extra cabling is awkward and messy.
The "extensions" supplied are all 70cms long, which is longer than most fan cables, but you have to use them because of the non standard fan connector type.








Connecting the power -
Just because they could, Scythe also changed the power plug from the standard Molex type to a similar type to the "annoying" type they use for fans.. also with a strangely long extension cable.
By Comparison, The Lamptron used standard 3 pin fan sockets and molex for power, and was simple and easy.

The BEEEEP!
The Scythe has a built "audible alarm" in case a fan shuts off for no reason (like say you damaged the cable extender when you yanked it out). This alarm is loud and piercing... Think smoke alarm, except one day that might inform you of something more important than burnt toast...
I know the unit is called the "Kaze Server", but Enterprise servers havent beeped over failed fans since the nineties..
Anyhow there is a jumper to pull out to avoid being woken in the middle of the night thinking the house is on fire.


Setting up/ Configuring.









The Scythe Kaze Server
The trick with the Scythe is to realise the knob pushes in (as well as turns) to change the mode (yes it took me a while).
Once that is sorted the Scythe was intuitive and simple to tweak. getting each of the fans running as slow as possible when their sensor is below the threshold.
Fan RPM and sensor temperature for all four fans are visible at once making getting the settings "just right" very easy.
There is an issue with the viewing angle on the Scythe, you pretty much have to stick your face right in front the display, or you cant read it. This is dissappointing since the "cheaper" Kaze models (the Kaze Master for example) have far better displays, which are multicoloured and easy to read from almost any angle. In the end this is not so important as once you have configured the unit for automatic you wont be looking at it much.



It would

Using


LAMPTRON Touch

http://lamptron.com/products/view/Fan_Controller_Touch
Supports up to  6 separate fans and sensors.

Pros
Standard fan connectors.
Direct Molex connection for power

Cons
Automatic mode too sensitive
Only displays info on one fan/sensor at once.
Programming a bit clumsy


SCYTHE Kaze Server

http://www.scythe-usa.com/product/acc/061/ks01_detail.html

Supports up to 4 separate fans and sensors

Pros
Displays all fan and sensor status at once
Gradual fan response

Cons
Small display viewing angle
Crazy fan/power connector extension cables change connection type.
 makes installing a real pain.

Both units have annoying quirks, but each seem to have sorted out the quirks of the other which makes this comparison interesting.

CONCLUSION - SCYTHE Kaze Server hands down


Despite the significant problems with installation, Once the Kaze server is installed, it runs well,
This story is not yet finished, but basically The Scythe was a BASTARD to install with a host of uneccssary annoyances, but once it actually IS INSTALLED, it runs almost perfectly.

You can see all the temperatures and fan speeds at a glance (albiet you may have to touch your shoulder with your ear to actually see the "tunnel vision" display).  Once you get the idea that you can change the mode pressing the actual knob in,  It runs like a dream.


The temperature triggers are delayed

The Lamptron was easy to install




Going Dark: Introduction to Internet Privacy

This is the first in series of articles covering the process of making online internet activity as private as it can be.

Philosophy

I don't do anything illegal (except maybe crossing the road not at crossings).
I have no motivation legally to do any of this.
Privacy is a fundamental necessity of freedom of speech (and by association all  other aspects of freedom).
Over the past few years government rules have been forcing their way into the lives of ordinary citizens, and have lately been getting more intrusive and comprehensive.
When I first read "1984" by George Orwell (in about 1986) the descriptions of government surveillance were abhorrent, over the last 10 years in particular, government internet surveillance has become such a common topic, that the main stream seems to accept this as "the way things are going". This is not acceptable.

Addressing "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about"

Time and again you will hear this, it is a logical fallacy, within a non sequiter.
I use the curtains in my house, not because I am doing anything illegal, I just want privacy.
Once private information is recorded, it is only a matter of time before it falls into the wrong hands.
Even if it contains no evidence of illegal activity, it can be used against you.
Examples: Criminals can use the information to rob you electronically, or physically (work out when you are not home).
Evidence of legal but embarrassing activity can be/are used for blackmail (often forcing you into illegal activity... then they have got you).
Evidence of illegal activities by Friends can be used to extort action from you.
A good case study is the incriminating evidence the mafia in the US had on J. Edgar Hoover, which compelled him to ignore fundamental Mob activity through the 50s, 60s and 70s
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_edgar_hoover

This is all very well, but what is really important here is not so much the consequences, but the fundamentals of Freedom. I just want privacy for its own sake.

 Action

"Going Dark" on the internet means leaving no trace of your activities that can be traced or recorded.

These are the main tools I will look at;

TOR - A system for secure untrackable communications, if used correctly.
TrueCrypt - An open source encryption program that can scramble files so no-one can read them without a password.
HTTPS - Secure connections to Web servers from your browser.
OpenDNS - An independent source for Website address resolution.
Freenet - System of securely distributing files across the internet either publicly (standard) or only with Friends (Dark)
VPNs - not my preference for security/privacy, and Ill explain why, but they can be used.

General Security - Discussion topics.

Your home router/Wifi etc etc could probably be hacked within minutes even if you have done everything right.

Your computer could be infected/compromised and you would never know it.

Enough with the Torrents! borrow/swap  a DVD / BluRay with a friend or just buy the bloody things.

Your iPhone is nothing like secure and can never be made so.

Assume everything is compromised unless you specifically know it isnt.

OpenSource is the only reliable source of secure software.

Privacy friendly sites can still be legally compelled to give up your data even if they dont want to.







Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ten decent podcasts

Podcasts are great. For me it is radio for the 21st century.
The trick is finding shows that suit you.
This is list of the ones I enjoy at the moment.
There are others that I listen to, and ones that would have made the list in the past, but this sums up where I am at the moment.
They are in rough order, but it depends on the mood I'm in.
Themes: Science, Current Affairs, Skepticism, Discussion

Overview: If I could list only one, it would be this one.
What a privilege it is to have five such well educated, intelligent and humorous people discussing the big and small issues;
from nano technology to the limits of the universe.
from the workings of the immune system to who would win a fight between a monkey and an eagle.

Favourite episode: The one where Jay loses it over the possibility of information of other universes being present in background radiation.
Themes: History, discussion, insite.

Overview:

Favourite episode:
Episode 38: The fall of the Romain republic Episode II
Themes: Science, History, Popular culture.

Overview: Like listening to two best friends discussing interesting topics... actually thats what it is.

Well researched, interesting, thought provoking.

Favourite episode:
The Shotgun Shack episode is one of the latest, not particularly better than any of the others, but typically interesting and easy to listen to.
Themes:

Overview:

Favourite episode:
Themes:

Overview:

Favourite episode:
Essential listening for anyone in the IT industry.
Steve Gibson presents well rounded easy to understand presentations of the big issues in IT security, from analysis of hacking reports, to how your modem could be hacked, to how to build an operating system from scratch
Themes:

Overview:

Favourite episode:
Themes:

Overview:

Favourite episode:
Themes:

Overview:

Favourite episode:
Themes:

Overview:

Favourite episode:
Themes:

Overview:

Favourite episode:

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm so anti SOPA that I'm Pro-SOPA

Why the free world missed a trick in getting SOPA stopped, and why the people pushing SOPA are so stupid we might get the chance again (in fact it's probably inevitable).

As of the last couple of days it was announced that the SOPA and PIPA were shelved, much to the relief of the vast majority of informed internet users (including myself). However upon reflection I realised that given the way things actually would have turned out, It may well have been preferable for the act to go through.

Here are the facts as I see them. I can and will elaborate on each point, but just run with me here...

1) The people who wrote SOPA and PIPA are either adorably out of touch, mind numbingly stupid, or profoundly corrupt, or more likely some mix of all three. The point being they are probably incapable of setting a VCR, let alone understanding the issues of the internet well enough to just start messing with it. They certainly do not see any of the following issues..

2) The main "stick" in SOPA is based on delisting a site from DNS (the "phone book of the internet") .This will not work, and my short proof for this is that it has done nothing to stop spam.

3) SOPA enabled pretty much anyone to lay a complaint, and have it enforced without even notification, let alone due process. Con-men, people with fake medical treatments, dishonest financial advisers, even a simple commercial rival could shut down entire websites - without evidence.
In short, honest people would be forced off the internet

4) Although DNS is important to the internet, it is not essential. There are ways to override it, and there are certainly ways to do without it, but no-one really cares since it does the job without fuss.
If honest people were forced off DNS, alternative systems would spring up overnight, but unlike the existing systems, and due to their inherent clandestine nature would be locked down secure. Not only would it be difficult/impossible to trace data sources (using system designs like TOR) or alternate DNS systems, the systems would probably masquerade in such a way as it would be impossible to distinguish them from other internet traffic. Also (obviously) these systems would be beyond control of anyone (this is a good thing).

Conclusions
This means a new level of the internet would be created(or multiple versions of) that would be beyond the reach of any government (or Record label), or any legislation a redneck politician throws together. There would be issues, and probably annoying plugins, and various takedowns and cat and mouse games, but as long as there was an IP connection, there could be unfettered, unmonitored and uncontrolled communication, and isn't that what the internet was supposed to be about in the first place?

The truth is this legislation will return. The people with the money are too greedy and don't understand the technology. The politicians have no idea about the technology, and don't care about the people who elected them. Something will be forced through, sooner or later, and it will only take a few legitimate users being removed to get this ball rolling.

So what?
Illegal downloading is forcing this issue to a head, but it is an issue that we are fast approaching for other reasons.
Our right to privacy is not just being taken away, we are being put in a situation where we are obliged to give it away for free.
The tides of individual freedom are still receding, but they will turn, and a stupid action like the SOPA bill probably would have caused a reaction that would have significantly redressed the balance, or at least forced it to a head. We will need to wait for something like this again... but maybe not too long.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstien