Apr 11

An obscure discovery about using the xbox 360 as a windows extender

Gentle FTTA reader, if the title of this post means notta thing to you, you probably did not arrive via a search engine. Hopefully though, you’ll find some enjoyment from my colorful commentary on the journey of one man on a quest to watch Star Trek The Next Generation episode rips on his living room TV.

For the rest of you, anonymous tip seekers scouring the internets for possible solutions to an utterly frustrating and overly generalized error message, this info may help you.

“Connection Failure: The Xbox 360 could not connect to the Windows Media Center PC. Turn your Xbox 360 off then on again, and try to connect again.”

I attempted a plethora of configuration tweaks, tips and “fixes” to the windows firewall and registry, as gleamed from search engines google and bing*. All were no help until I stumbled upon this question “do you by chance have a fingerprint reader on this PC?”

Had I not spent hours learning how exactly Windows Media Center (WMC) “Extends” itself to the xbox 360 I would have completely overlooked the question. But since I now knew the ins and outs, *BOOM*, it became perfectly clear.

In short, the extender is simply a remote desktop connection to the single WMC application. And the stupid fingerprint reader on my Windows 7 ultimate laptop was preventing the login. Wasn’t there any error logs reporting (or hinting at least) this simple authentication failure in the windows event viewer? Nay!!

So finally, the solution: uninstalling the AuthenTec fingerprint software/driver (mine was provided by Lenovo for my X200). I lose the ability for fingerprint logins – at this point, SO what.

WMC via xbox 360!

Many hours were “invested” in troubleshooting this issue which could have easily been avoided given some better error reporting on either the xbox or windows side.

The real kicker is that I pretty much did this to myself; I must be a masochist. There is free software out there, like tversity, that do essentially the same thing for free. FREE. But since I have all this paid Microsoft shtuff (regardless if whether & what I actually paid…) I ought to use it, right!?

Feb 11

Coincidence or Acute Audience Targeting in Ads

Bargin and Luxury in an Ad pair

Targeting the Rich and Thrifty

Why did these two ads appear side by side as and when they did? Could they possibly have known I recently visited both slickdeals (thrift) and sites containing Mercedes (wealth) content?

Straight out the gate, this was likely coincidence. Disclosure: I work deep in the underbelly of internet advertising, and specifically on the audience segmentation and targeting technology that powers modern day website ad serving. The sheer amount of information exchange and processing required to match this up in-real-time in a cohesive and sale-able way is not (yet) happening.

Google is certainly close. And the more I think about it, the more I think this wasn’t coincidence at all. All the disparate information necessary to make the map is in their arsenal. They could have made this match.

A few factoids feeding the not-coincidence conclusion:

  • I primarily use Chrome
  • I am signed in to a Google account
  • I use Google search often
  • most every blog and site has Google Analytics
  • Ads were served by Google (adsense)

What do you think? Have we entered the era where even remnant banner ads speak specifically to our interests and tenancies?

Jan 11

Getting The Most out of Tools & Toys

I’ve always enjoyed wading through the underrated benefits-pool of owning just-sub mainstream products. My most recent two are an Android phone and a DLink file server (NAS). I left both “stock” for at least a month after purchase, satisfied with the performance provided out of box.

The devices, stock visuals:
* Samsung Epic 4G

* DLink DNS 323

Then the itch – spurred on by (profuse) reading of tweaks and hacks each device affords, that each can do more than what they do now – becomes unbearable. To scratch would appease but not without risk; each device will likely be void of warranty. Worse still is potentially “bricking” a device making it altogether unusable. Even with these consequences, temptation thrives and eventually overtakes.

Perhaps the greatest bit about these devices is that they are based on open source software. Getting to a Linux terminal shell (CLI) on either, is a relatively trivial task. Furthermore, due to the ease of stepping into such an accessible environment, the developer/enthusiast communities blossom.

Without having to write (or even look at) a line of code, both devices can be extended well beyond the consumer level they are marketed at. To tweak brings about such satisfaction, as deriving more function from form. The cost of which is a devotion of umpteen amounts of free time to push consumer hardware to its limits in exchange for paltry donations, “fame” and gratitude.

Even still, the software produced by these die-hards is dangerous. All the safeguards, QA, provided by these enterprise class companies with their tremendous R&D budgets, are effectively dissolved. When we step into rootshell, we leave the safe user level space established by the powers that be. But do we find glory or agony? Depending on the maturity of the community, generally the former.

And in my case? Most certainly the former. I had a few scares but all in all, both my NAS and phone are blazing far above stock. You’ve just got to be willing to put the time in and read read read. Don’t jump without reading everything there is to know about the “rooting” process. By the end, if you aren’t sure you fully understand what you are about to do, don’t.

The payoff, in screenshots from my phone:

ssh from my epic to the dns 323

May 10

Adding a desktop graphics card to a laptop

The bane of Integrated Graphics, as the last remaining major hitch to gaming on an otherwise fantastic computer, I made it my mission to find a solution. No longer will the crappy Intel graphics chip (X4500MHD aka GM45) hold me back from fully enjoying contemporary PC games. And just in time too – Starcraft II is just around the corner.

The solution is called a (DIY) ViDock (Video Dock). Subtract the DIY portion and you’ve got a commercial product made by villagetronic. After seeing how outrageous the price was – it was ~$400 – I dug a bit deeper. It turns out that the components that make up the ViDock are pretty simple and easily obtainable.

To guide me throughout the quest I utilized a vibrant DIY community on notebookreview forums spearheaded by a diligent fellow by the alias of nando4. His knowledge hsa allowed the DIY’r spirit to flourish in many, myself included. Plus, the current form in which the technology now exists, it doesn’t take a genius to do what we’ve done.

Interested in using a 3d graphics card such as one produced by ATI or Nvidia? Then read on for a step-by-step account how.
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