Terrace and pergola project

This summer has mostly been spent in the garden. Our small terrace and pergola project proved to be much more extensive than I thought in the beginning. The part that took longest was making the foundations. It might be that we were a bit overcautious in terms of frost isolation, but it would had been shame if the entire construction would tilt to its side after the first proper winter. I think we moved more than eight tons of earth away Continue reading “Terrace and pergola project”

DYI: home sensor networks

Wireless thermometers

This is probably the most tightly budgeted version of moving towards a home sensor network. After comparing few real IP network solutions (and after testing one in our research project), I decided to stay away from them and rely on cheap consumer electronics to do those individual tasks that we need. Thus, to measure temperatures and moistures from various parts of our house, I got a weather centre from Clas Ohlson (a Nordic electronics chain) and few extra wireless sensor units. This particular model (UPM, model number 36-2384) can take four external sensors, all equipped with temperature and humidity sensors. And how to know what is the temperature in sauna? Clas Ohlson comes to help, again. Just pick up a wireless pair of oven thermometers (model number 34-6723), and there you go. And you have various alarm functions build in, too. But no centralised controls, full log files, remote controlling or other such sweet IT things, of course.

Vista sleep and power save states

Vista Home PremiumI had long wondered about the Vista power save schemes, and about sleep state — particularly that it did not exist; even when you tried to force the computer into sleep or hibernate, it would just wake up immediately, after a couple of seconds of flicker in screen. This weekend I finally got a half an hour and looked into this, and the problem was in BIOS settings. The default BIOS power save setting in most motherboards/BIOSes is S1 (POS, Power-On-Suspend), and that does not work with Vista. Vista expects the setting S3, which you need to set by pressing Del or F8 key during the power-up sequence, then use keyboard-only to navigate to the “Power” BIOS settings, and change S1 into S3; then press F10 or similar to save settings and exit/reboot. This was the way for me at least to get this damned Vista machine finally to get some sleep. For more, see e.g. these pages:

Topfield recordings into DivX

One of the essential utilities in the media ecology of our home is the PRV — personal video recorder with search functions and a hard disk. We have the Topfield TF5100PVR, suitable for the DVB-T standard we use here in Finland. Since ‘Toppy’ has a hard disk, but no CD/DVD burner, the media archiving has its challenges, though. I think I have now finally figured a process to transfer Topfield recordings into DivX files for archiving and sharing:

  1. use Altair or similar program to transfer the .REC files from Topfield into a personal computer (a short, high quality USB cable is a must for this)
  2. use ProjectX to demux the .REC stream into audio and video components. At this point it is also best to use ProjectX to edit the recording, trim it of extra materials etc. (More instructions in Finnish: http://fi.wikibooks.org/wiki/Topfield_TF5X00/Tallennusten_hallinta — project home page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/project-x)
  3. Now you have .M2V video and .MP2 audio files of the recording, and these need to be combined into MPEG-2 before it can be compressed further. I tried several solutions, but the only that worked was DVDAuthorGUI program, which takes m2v and mp2 as sources for a DVD project; after saved to a disk, go to VIDEO_TS subfolder, and identify a .VOB file that contains the sound and video of your recording. (It might be necessary to use VLC media player to see the file contents http://www.videolan.org/vlc/.) DVDAuthorGUI is here: http://download.videohelp.com/liquid217/dvdauthorgui.p and good (albeit Finnish) instructions here: http://fin.afterdawn.com/artikkelit/arkisto/dvd_authorointi_page_3.cfm — I tried also to use Nero for making .vob files, but could not get the audio in and synced.
  4. After this, it is only one stop away from DivX, for which you need a tool like Dr. DivX: http://labs.divx.com/DrDivXDownload — the point of DivX encoding is that it provides a rather high-quality compression of video recording, and there are many DVD players that support playing DivX files (you should check the supported codec versions though, and update your player firmware when necessary). You only need the .vob file as the source file for Dr. DivX, and can discard all other files from the DVDAuthorGUI folders.
  5. The output from Dr. DivX should now be the .divx file that you can use. Enjoy! (Thanks for guys at DVDPlaza.fi and AfterDawn.com for tips!)

Enable Remote Desktop Connection on Vista Home Premium

Edit: I have now made a patch zip file for Vista SP1 32bit available here: http://www.unet.fi/fransblog/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/termsrv_sp1.zip (NOTE: my file repository will be offline for some time from now on, hope you can find the file from elsewhere… hope it works for you, it did ok for my Home Premium SP1. However, note that I am not the original author of this hack, and can not offer any detailed technical help if something goes wrong; use only on your own responsibility, etc. Note that this does NOT work for the 64bit Vista.) — Note: commenting currently disabled (the thread is getting too long…)

There are many nice, but also quite many really irritating aspects to Windows Vista. Some are due to Microsoft intentionally crippling their own products. One of the most tiresome has been the disabling of Remote Desktop Connection. If you have to run down the stairs every time to check whether a particular process has ended or not, it gets old really quick, and double so when you realise that Vista Home Premium actually includes fully-featured Remote Desktop service, it is just broken by design. Here are the instructions to turn it back on — thanks a lot, guys!

Steps to Add Remote Desktop to Vista Home Premium:

1. Download termsrv.zip here
2. Extract Termsrv.zip to a temp directory
3. Start “Command Prompt” in Administrator mode (Run As Administrator)
4. Run the corresponding batch file for your Vista edition
5. Allow TCP Port 3389 on Windows Firewall or any other firewall product.
6. Done

See: TonyChan.Org Blogs – Remote Desktop on your Windows Vista Home Premium.