A new way to mount hard disks

I took some of my smaller computer stuff and mounted it in box frames. Here’s a load of processors and integrated circuits

3.5 and 2.5 hard disks mounted in a frame
Intel 286, 486, Pentium, AMD, MOS 6581 SID Chip, MOS 6510, plus other chips

And here’s some hard disks. Future plans for this include some way of powering the large one up.

A 3.5 inch hard disk and a 2.5 inch hard disk with the lids removed
A 3.5 inch hard disk and a 2.5 inch hard disk with the lids removed

Blaze Handheld Sega Megadrive Teardown

Front of PCB of Blaze Handheld Sega Megadrive
Front of PCB of Blaze Handheld Sega Megadrive

Over on my main website I’ve just posted a short series of photos detailing the dismantling of a Blaze hand-held Sega Megadrive games console. There’s not much in them, and the potential for hacking these is probably non existent, but it was amusing seeing just how little is inside one of these things.

Visit my main website to see the full set of photos.

Apple build quality strikes again

Cracked palm rest on Macbook Core2Duo
Cracked palm rest on Macbook Core2Duo

Back in April my Macbook developed a problem with its screen, requiring a visit to the Genius Bar to have it repaired.

Yesterday I discovered a crack in the palm rest of my Macbook. It seems to have happened where the lid presses against the palm rest. It also seems I’m not the only person to have this problem, as this forum post shows.

I’m off again to Meadowhall again then next weekend to take my Macbook off to the Genius Bar again. Fortunately my Mac is still in warranty. I’m a bit worried about the warranty running out in January and something else breaking. Problem is AppleCare costs £199 for a Macbook, which is quite expensive. I’ve been bitten with extended warranties before on an old laptop.

Server all sorted now

After spending all night and day shuffling data off old hard drives onto my new terabyte drive, everything is complete. Some of the drives in my server were really slow and it’s only because it was attached to my network that I never noticed. My main video drive, for example, was managing a whole 2 megabytes per second. It took ages to empty that!

After removing the five old drives and the ATA controller card the machine draws 100w of power. I have left the kill-a-watt plugged in permanently and will watch it out of mild interest. Strangely the UPS draws 50w with no load.

With all my data moved across I have 583GB of space free. This should do me for a few years if I remember to clean up and periodically delete accumulated junk.

For those of you who are interested, have some stats:

Disk /dev/sda: 1000.2 GB, 1000204886016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 121601 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1               1      121601   976760001   83  Linux

Attached devices:
Host: scsi0 Channel: 00 Id: 00 Lun: 00
  Vendor: ATA      Model: MAXTOR STM310003 Rev: MX15
  Type:   Direct-Access                    ANSI SCSI revision: 05

/dev/sda1:
 Timing cached reads:   578 MB in  2.00 seconds = 288.34 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads:  226 MB in  3.01 seconds =  74.98 MB/sec

One Terrorbyte of space! (or around 870GB if you can count properly)

Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda3              14G  2.0G   12G  15% /
varrun                221M  300K  220M   1% /var/run
varlock               221M     0  221M   0% /var/lock
procbususb            221M  120K  221M   1% /proc/bus/usb
udev                  221M  120K  221M   1% /dev
devshm                221M     0  221M   0% /dev/shm
/dev/hda1              99M   32M   63M  34% /boot
/dev/hdb1              58G   39G   19G  69% /data
/dev/hdc1              38G   12G   26G  32% /data/pub/pictures
/dev/hdd1              74G   54G   16G  78% /data/pub/audio
/dev/sda1             113G   57G   51G  53% /data/backups
/dev/sdb1             147G  131G  8.3G  95% /data/pub/video
/dev/sdc1             917G   17G  854G   2% /mnt

See the tiddly hard disks that are mostly full in that list? They’re all going to be removed and replaced with that nice, shiny 1TB drive. Rather than having six drives in my computer chewing away at my electricity bill, there will be two – a PATA boot drive and the SATA data drive.

Copying the data across takes quite a long time though.

Late night hacking

I’ve not done this in ages 🙂 Sat, in pieces, in my office is a Compaq 486 all-in-one PC that Amy has given to me. It came preloaded with Windows 3.11 and contains a network card. My aim was simple – get it on the network, then see if it would go on the Internet.

Getting it on the network was easy, all I had to do was install the Windows 3.11 TCP/IP update and configure it. The machine popped up on my network and managed to install Netscape 4.0 off my Linux server. It had no idea what to make of the long filenames, but coped very well.

I ran out of disk space, the tiny 100meg HDD only having 7 meg free. So out it went and in its place went a 256MB CF card in a CF-to-IDE converter. Some farting around with fdisk and xcopy gave me a neat clone of the original HDD that booted.

Netscape didn’t run too well on the weedy 486SX/25 CPU and with only 4 meg of ram it was constantly swapping to the disk. Fortunately I had 8 meg of ram in another old PC so in that went, bringing the machine up to 20 meg of ram and instantly the disk swapping stopped. But it was still quite slow overall, so out of the old 486 came its DX2/66 CPU.

And here’s the current state of things. The CPU is designed for a ZIF socket because DX2/66s need heatsinks and fans to keep them cool. Originally I got around this issue by supergluing the heatsink and fan to the top of the CPU. This worked, but the superglue has gone brittle and the heatsink fell off. My next plan is to somehow attach a Pentium MMX class CPU cooler and heatsink to the processor, probably using cable ties and luck.

It’s fun though, and it’s been ages since I sat up for half the night fiddling with a PC.

How I chipped my XBox

A Modchip installed inside an XBox
A Modchip installed inside an XBox

I’ve finally got around to writing up my experience chipping my XBox. Despite my troubles, chipping an XBox is an easy task that shouldn’t take more than half an hour. I was hampered by a damaged modchip and all the associated testing and trouble-shooting it took to diagnose this – although having to flex the chip to make it power up was a major hint something was not right.

Follow the story on my main website by visting my main website, or by clicking on the image. I’ve not written yet another “How to install an XBox modchip” document since what’s the point? The XBox is dead, chipping them isn’t the big novelty it used to be. Instead this is my experience chipping my XBox and how I trouble-shooted it. I learnt quite a bit and it was fun 🙂

XBox Modchip – WIN!

My replacement modchip arrived today. Installing it was easy, the only tricky bit being removing solder from the holes for the LCP. The pin header went on easily, and the new chip – an Xecuter 2.5 – started up correctly.

I recorded the installation in great detail – including the attempted installation of the broken modchip, and will upload and sort through them later on. The BIOS in the Xecuter is a much more advanced one than in the previous chip. It comes with the Linux-based FlashBIOS installed which has the wonderful feature of flashing over HTTP. A very easy and simple procedure, much better than burning a CD image.

Now, when the previous modcip didn’t work it was suggested by several people that I just softmod my XBox instead. I had a look, but since it requires specific versions of specific games and then a rather lengthy and complicated looking procedure – with the chance of making my XBox unbootable if I did it wrong, I decided to use a modchip. Finding places selling modchips for a 6 year old console is hard enough, but finding specific versions of specific games would seem to be even harder. Installing the modchip was very easy, the hardest part is soldering the D0 line.

I now have an XBox that boots XBMC and, once I’ve made up a longer ethernet cable, can sit in bed and watch films and listen to music across my network.