Max Barry: Machine Man

14 06 2009

You may think – given the title – that I consider Max Barry to be part robot.  But no.  Max is a wonderful Australian author that is, as far as I’m aware, totally human.  He’s currently writing a real-time serial story titled Machine Man and I’m really enjoying it.

This is a pretty cool concept.  Max is writing this story day-by-day and posting it straight to the web without publishers or anyone else getting in the way.  Like a blog but written by a talented author who’s committing to roughly a ‘page’ per day. 

The first 43 pages are free but then it’ll cost you US$6.95 to receive all the rest.  How many more pages are there?  No-one knows, not even Max, but I’m at page 63 now and there’s still a lot of legs left in the story (hehe, Machine Man readers will get the pun!).

More conventionally you could start by reading his books Company and Jennifer Government (I haven’t yet read Syrup but I’ll get to it).  Keep up the good stuff Max!

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MythTV: The Hardware

14 06 2009

I’ve blogged about my MythTV setup before.  MythTV is the system I use that lets me watch and record TV the way I want to.  View the channel guide, click to record a show.  Pause and rewind live TV.  Remove ads from recorded shows.  Myth does all this and (much) more and the software responsible for all this magic is free

The hardware is mostly a vanilla computer.  There’s a good chance you have an old PC lying around that you could turn into a MythTV system.  I often get asked (hi Adrian!) about what hardware I use and, since I recently upgraded some of the components, I thought I’d discuss it here on the blog.

Here are the specs of my current system:

  • Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz
  • Gigabyte 965P motherboard
  • 8GB RAM
  • Four hard drives for a total of 1.6TB storage
  • 2x Leadtek WinFast 1000 DVB TV tuners

Now this is well in excess of what you need to run a MythTV backend (though you will need a bit of grunt if you’re using the same PC as the frontend) but I also use the same computer for a number of other purposes.  And the only components I’ve paid for is the RAM, power supply and tuner cards – I’ve spent about $300 total.  The other parts I’ve just scrounged for over the years.

If you were building you own system from scratch you could get away with much less.  The specs of my original system:

  • Athlon 1.2GHz Thunderbird
  • ASUS A7V133-C motherboard
  • 512MB RAM
  • Two hard drives for a total of 240GB storage

Which was cutting-edge in 2000.  Although it was working a little hard the two main reasons for upgrading were 1) noisy primary hard drive and 2) no expansion left on the motherboard.  The older motherboards didn’t have many onboard features and my ASUS was no exception.  I had PCI cards for sound, video, USB2, SATA, 10/100 ethernet and by the time I’d added my first tuner card there was no expansion left.  Modern motherboards with onboard everything are wonderful for a Myth installation.

Anyways, if you want to know more please just ask!





iPhone 3GS

9 06 2009

The Apple WWDC is over and there were many announcements that interested me. Snow Leopard for US$29, a new MacBook Pro 15", a reduction in price to the MacBook Air (about time) and significant performance improvements to Safari.

But – more importantly – I want an iPhone 3GS!

The iPhone has matured to the point where it now does just about everything I want and does it better than just about any other device.  The 3GS will be on my shopping list as soon as it hits Australia.

Read more about the WWDC at Engadget or MacWorld.