Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Safari 3.1 for windows security risk

As windows iTunes user will know by now, the new 3.1 version of the webbrowser from apple called "safari" is out for windows. After it has been almost forced upon your pc when updating iTunes, it now has a big BIG security hole in it too.

The hole is a web address hack which allows a hacker to “falsify the web address and enter another page or content". This essentially means that even though you see a trusted URL in the browser address bar, the web page could be displaying unauthorised content that could put your PC at risk.

There goes your bank account then. As even IE7 is a lot safer than safari i would strongly recommend not using safari on your windows setup. Opera is probably the safest as it is the least used, and quite good browser.

Apple has to keep in mind that OSX is your friendly neigborhood, you know the kind where you can walk at night as a single woman, while windows is warzone kind where everyone is out to get you. Of course apple has no comments and no patches yet..

Media center hardware selection

Media center are for geeks is the common attitude, and maybe that is true as selecting the hardware, building it and most importantly installing and maintaining the software is quite chore. However there are hardly alternatives if you want to view video content in all different formats that you can find on the internet.

If you plan to pay for all your bluray's and dvd's then it is probably better to forget about a media center pc. In that case just run to the store and pick up a sony ps3, but only if you have a tv/beamer with a hdmi input. My "old" plasma screen does not have hdmi input, i have to make due with component video (ypbpr). The ps3 supports that but it will not upscale dvd content to 720p not will it display bluray with 720. No no as hollywood is scared that you could copy the good stuff, you only get 480p output from your hd stuff.

So if you have "old" equipment without hdmi input and you want to view HD content that you did not pay for, there is really one option left : The pc media center.

What do you need :

A nice looking box to put the pc in ; you do not want to have a midi tower next to your nice looking flatscreen tv now do you ? These hifi like boxes can be quite expensive. There are a few reasonable priced ones, i can recommend the following :

Lian li pc-c35 : Nice slim line case, only supports low profile cards
Thermaltake bach : Nice big size full atx media case, support standard hardware

Keep in mind that with the lian you have to get a uAtx board preferably with onboard video because of the very low profile of this case. The lian does come with a powersupply and looks like a high end dvd player.

Selecting the motherboard :

We are looking for an all in one solution, video, sound, hdmi on just one board. Currently the one to recommend is the gigabyte ga-ma69gm-s2h amd board. This is one of the very few boards that comes with a component video out ! Also very important is the onboard sound chip which supports DTS connect. DTS connect allows us to play back the 5.1 wmapro sound that is in many of the hd movies that you can find on the internet.

Wmapro is the sound standard of hidef wmv files. Only a few select receivers can understand that audio stream. The soundchip on the S2H board will convert the wmapro 5.1 stream into a DTS 5.1 stream and output it through spdif to your receiver. This is one of the very few boards where you do not have to run ac3filter to get decent spdif output !

The board also has a x1250 chipset from amd, which allows us to have smooth 720p and 1080p output (with some special software, read it in the next installment of the media center series on this blog).

Remote control :

This one is very simple : The microsoft remote control for media centers is not too expensive and works without any setup hassle !

Cpu And memory :

This is the simple part, as we plan to run vista mce we need 2gb 800mhz ddr2 memory. This is very cheap at the moment. For out cpu any amd x2 from the 3800+ to the 6000+ will do. No need to go overboard, the x2-3800+ is already enough.

Now we have the box, the board, and the components. Only thing left to choose is a harddisk and a dvd reader. Any will do of course, but i recommend a quiet seagate perpendicular drive.

Next in media centers : software selection and setup.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Safari forced onto windows itunes users

When you have iTunes installed on your windows pc, and have the apple software update running, something fishy is going to happen to you if you do not watch out.

Apple's software update will install it's webbrowser Safari without asking you ! The list of software updates lists it, and it is selected by default, of course you can unselect it however most users rely on the software updates to function normally and click "Yes" without reading.

This drive by tactic is really bad, as users rely on software updates to do just that : Update software that they already have. Users do not expect their pc's to be hijacked so that apple can install it's latest crappy browser. Safari on the mac is ok, but lets face it, on the pc it is not.

Imagine that microsoft would pull the same trick on Apple users when updating ms-office on the apple ! You would be able to hear the screams of apple users all the way into dark Africa.

Shame on you Apple !

Friday, March 21, 2008

The cult of mac

Whether you are running a hackingtosh or sitting behind a real mac, you can be part of the cult of mac. If you want to be part of that cult is another matter entirely. However now you can also read about it, free and legal.

The book "The cult of mac" has been released in electronic form for free ! So the least you can do is download it and see if you can read a 280 page book on your screen, or if you go out and buy the death tree version because of serious eye strain.

That is the new way of luring people into buying books, give away the electronic version, and hoping that the reader will buy the paper one before they turn blind because of monitor stare !

Any you can download it with any torrent client and here it is - Click -

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Disaster hits, movie collection gone

Yesterday was a bit of a disaster, my media pc which is running on a beamer in my home cinema had a few problems. Vista decided that is was not genuine, which could well be true.. In my haste to patch vista i made quite a large mistake and erased the spanned partition that held 55+ HD movies.

I moved the harddisks to another pc and tried to make windows re-recognize the spanned volumes to no avail. Rebuilding the master boot record and trying to boot repair the vista install on the spanned volume also failed.

In the end i had no alternative as to reformat the drives and start fresh. As the Americans say : it's not a failure it's a learning moment ! What did i learn from this disaster ?

- Make backups
- Never ever use spanned volumes again
- Make backups
- Maybe pay for vista, or at least find a better crack
- Make backups
- Maybe start paying for movies
- Make backups

I will try to redownload all the lost content, but i am sure some movies are beyond the 70 days retention that i have with my usenet provider.

So there you go, spend more $$ on backup systems or maybe spend the same amount of $$ on bluray movies that you can actually buy...

In the comming days i'll write some on media center setups and hardware and software choices for that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dot mac account alternatives

Now that you have a hackingtosh running with leopard, another thing to add is the functionality of the dot mac account. As you might already know, .mac is quite expensive. In the EU it's 99 euro's a year while in the USA it's only 99 dollars a year. 99 Dollars is only 62 Euro's, so as usual apple want more profits from us poor Europeans.

However there are quite a few alternatives for all the extra's that .mac gives you. Some of them quite a bit better than the paid equivaltent from apple.

Here we go :

  • Storing photo's with .mac = Use flickr it's free.
  • iDisk = will give you 50 gigabytes of free storage, that's a lot better than apple's 10!
  • Mac mail = googlemail, will save all your mail all the time for free
  • Back to my mac = back to my mac through ichat and free
  • Sync = Sync data without mac and free of course
  • iCal online = Google calendar free and a bit better too
  • .mac homepage = this is ussually a part of your providers internet package

Of course the above will not give you the .mac intergration and some of the features require a bit more work. On the other hand you also get substancially more online storage with adrive and all for free remember.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Overclocked s3 sleep error solution

As i wrote in the ga-ep35-ds3r review, it has problems waking from s3 sleep when overclocked. As i was trying all kinds of options, i hit the solution :

  • On the main bios screen press ctrl-f1 to enable advanced options
  • Select the advanced bios features screen
  • Set the "No execute memory protect" to Disable (xd bit)

That's it no more bluescreens when waking from sleep when the fsb is over 300 ! As it is a motherboard/bios related the s3 solution works for both vista/xp. Strangely enough osx does not want to start with the XD bit set to disable, the apple boot screen comes up and then the board restarts. Running leopard on an overclocked ep35 is not a problem, but sleep mode will not function.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3R Review

Two days ago a new gigabyte motherboard a ga-ep35-ds3r, short : ep35, arrived. This as a replacement to my ageing, but still very fast, asrock conroexfire-esata2. Together with the ep35 i also got 2x2gb team elite ddr2-800 ram for the new motherboard. Why a new board when the old one is still wokring good ? Well i plan to buy a E8400 when they are available. That new 45nm cpu does not work on the old asrock, and i also had problems getting 4gb to work on the asrock. Furthermore the ep35 allows quite a bit of overclocking, so i can finnaly run my E6600 a bit faster. The asrock board is not suitable for overclocking.

Box contents :

Beside getting the board, you will also find a quite large selection of extra's in the box of the ep35. You get 4 sata cables, 1 floppy cable, 1 ide
cable, manual, quickinstall guide, driver disk, a Sata backplate with cables. Quite a lot for a mid price board.

layout :

The layout has some problems as seem to be the standard nowadays. The IDE connector is at the extreme bottom of the board instead of next to the large power connector. This gives some problems with routing the big ide cable through the case. It is really better to swap it with the place of the floppy connector in the middle of the board.

Also the 12volt power connector is at the top left of the board, not a problem if you have a normal atx case where the powersupply is above the board, however if you have a coolermaster CM690 with the powersuppy on the bottom of the case you can run into some wiring problems. The thrid and final layout problem is the place of the connector of the audio front panel, this is at the left of the board instead of on the bottom, now i have a cable running over the hot 8800 gt.

Installation Vista / Leopard osx86 :

Installing was very easy, gigabyte includes a large quick install manual that is very understandable. So if you never assembled a pc before it is not that difficult to do. Vista + sp1 installed without any problems, and the drivers from the driver disk, or better the gigabyte website also.

As i already had a leopard install on my old board, i tried to start leopard with my new board and the old install on the harddisk. To my great suprise this worked ! Leopard start without any hickups, the only thing i had to do was install a .kext for the new onboard sound. This is really amazing as leopard is certainly not made to survice a new motherboard.

Bios :

The bios is very complete also due to the 2 sata controllers that are on the board. The intel ich9r chip takes care of 6 SATA connections with a possibilty of ide, ahci or mode modes. Adding to that is a gigabyte controller with a further 2 sata port and an ide port. This controller also allows ide, ahci and raid modes.

The overclocking section is very complete with easy to understand help and clear selection of parameters. You can have the board do it for you, or you can select each and every parameter yourself. The board allows you to store different overclocking profiles within the bios, so you do not have to remember all the settings instead you can save them under names like "overclocked", "normal", or any other selfmade name.

Flashing the bios has it's own selection on the ep35, so you do not have to boot from a dos floppy. Just insert a usb stick with the new bios and flash
it from the bios flash utility. Furthermore there is an option to have the ep35 make a shadowcopy of your os install. I did not check this as i normally make a backup of vista with the system backup utility in vista itself.

Special options :

On this board there is a power saving option that comes with a program for windows, i tested it and it functions quite well. It will save about 10-20 watts on the out-of-the-wall power needs. However the utility has a horrible large interface and cannot be used when you overclock. It's use is also quite limited.

Problems :

Well there is only one real problem with this board : As soon as you overclock over a FSB of 300, the sleep (s3) function will fail. The board will enter s3 mode without problem, but once you wake the board it will reboot every 5 seconds. The only way to get out of this loop is to cut the power and wait 10 seconds before switching it on again. You will only have this problem with overclocking or when you have one of the new E8xxx cpu's. Gigabyte is informed about this problem and i hope it will be solved in one of the comming bios updates.

The workaround is to have vista go into hibernate mode instead of sleep.

Overclocking :

My current e6600 runs normally at 266x9 mhz, i upped it to 333 x 9 for a cpu speed of 3ghz. The memory multiplier is set at 2,4 so you get a clean 800. This is rock stable, apart from the sleep problem. Xbech on leopard get's a nice a fast 189 score !

OSX leopard fresh install, kalyway :

Leopard works great on this box, the only thing to do is to patch the sound with the 889a kext. The rest works out of the box ! Super !

Conclusion :

All in all this is a good board in it's price class. It has tons of features and is very overclockable. If you don't care that you have to hibernate (xp/vista) or just shutdown (leopard) when overclocked, this board is a 9 out of 10. Hopefully the only issue will be solved with a new bios in the comming weeks.