despite the connotations of Celeron
Wednesday, January 21 2015
Today was day two of my latest cold-turkey caffeine experiment (the first since May of 2013). As it had been then, day two was harder than day one, with somewhat worse headaches, lethargy, and malaise throughout my body. Perhaps part of the problem was that I am still living on sandwiches full of seitan "brisket" from however many days ago.
My Ligthroom/Webapp client came over for another meeting at noon today, and because our conversational style is often contentious (if always ultimately jocular), I warned him beforehand about being off caffeine and quick to snap. Despite all that, the meeting went well.
As I've documented, I've maintained some form of media computer in the teevee room since July of 2010. I use it to watch all the files I download using Bittorrent, and, at least in recent iterations, it has worked fairly well (especially since I installed XBMC). But there have been some little problems that have bothered me. For one thing, I've never gotten smooth high-def playback with the wimpy low-energy processors I've been using (Atom 330s or, most recently, an AMD C-60). And for whatever reason, the audio quality from the C-60 motherboard was always terrible and apparently impossible to fix (I say this as someone whom nobody would consider an audio snob). So yesterday I'd taken delivery of the latest basis for a media computer, a Mini ITX board with a Celeron J1900 processor. Having been familiar with every Intel processor since the 8088, to me the Celeron brand connotes deliberate (and even unnecessary) crappiness, but the specs on the J1900 are impressive. It's a quad core processor with the processing power of a high-end Core 2 Duo, but with energy requirements less than those of an Atom 330. A box built around a J1900 uses something like 10 watts, which is about what the 20 megabyte hard drive on my first Macintosh used.
The first task was putting together a brand new case for the new motherboard. I could have used an existing case, but this new board uses a simple barrel jack for power and so doesn't require a full computer power supply. Using a case containing a power supply would have been a waste (and the cases small enough to be appropriate for a board this small all have tiny customized power supplies, which really should stay with the case that they came in). So I decided to do something I'd done once before: make a case for this motherboard out of a completely unrelated piece of equipment. The first time I did this was back in 1992, when I turned the aluminum chassis of an old eight inch floppy drive into a case for an Macintosh SI. This time, the old equipment I was hollowing out was an old external Syquest 40 megabyte drive (I don't remember where it came from, but I've never used it). I removed everything, including the fan and the power supply, and ground down some inconveniently-located and unremovable standoffs. Then I mapped out the location for new standoffs, drilled holes for them, and used disposable screws to tap threads in the holes so that I could install the new standoffs. The cluster of ports on the back of the motherboard almost perfectly fit the hole where the old 5.25 inch Syquest drive used to fit; all I had to do was grind out a hole for the DC barrel jack. I made a front panel out of clear plastic into which I installed a single pushbutton for turning the new computer on. Its name would be Barcelona.
XBMC has been renamed "Kodi," and so for an OS I installed KodiBuntu. A media computer doesn't require much in the way of local storage if all the actual media is on Network Attached Storage (NAS), so the only "drive" I gave Barcelona was a 16 gigabyte USB 3.0 thumb drive. It booted quickly enough from it for me to decide I can use the Solid State Drive (SSD) I'd bought for Barcelona in some other application.
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