Media Centre and Apple Trailers

Before I got hooked on Media Centre I used to use an iMac and I never really got on with it, I’ guess I’ve always been a Windows guy at heart which worked out pretty well for me.  One thing that always impressed me was Frontrow, it was polished, worked well and had a great interface for viewing movie trailers direct from  As Windows 7 Media Centre blows the polish off Frontrow I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the latter functionality into Media Centre for a while and someone has perfected it.

I’ve used it in the past and been impressed though now it gives me armchair access to Apple trailers and also podcasts it’s here to stay.  It’s been a good week for my Media Centre, let’s hope it continues.


Zotac ION Windows 7 MC


So, since University I’ve been a fan of silent computing and a stickler for wasting power.  When I first heard about the ION chipset I thought that both my goals may come together in one package and early reviews seems positive, results I can now back up.

In the picture (right) you will see my “old” Media Centre, a 2.3GHz AMD dual core running on a 780G chipset, HDMI out and only one fan which was quiet at best.  It runs at about 40Watts while watching TV and slightly higher for HD content.  The only problem is that the 90Watt PSU tends to crap out at 100% CPU.  I figured it could be put to better use in a desktop machine and lo!  An excuse to buy a Zotac ION board, revive an old project and gain a new desktop PC at the same time.


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The picture above also shows the Zotac ION board (Atom N230, fanless, 2GB RAM) along with a 160GB hard disc and BD-ROM drive.  I  figured for £50 quid Blu-Ray was a no brainer!  It’s currently running without a case because all the parts had been delivered, I’m impatient and I’m no stranger to a computer running outside of a case as you can see from my Home Server prototype! (left)

The Zotac is currently in the same plastic chassis the Home Server used, it seemed a waste not to use it and keeps the board a little safer until its new case is complete.  I’ve put the Zotac through its paces this weekend watching and recording TV, listening to music and watching a number of BluRay discs.  So far I’m very impressed.



I installed the Windows 7 RC operating system because, well, why the hell not?  It installed in no time at all and after 20 minutes for the OS and a little longer for the latest drivers the system rating to the right was run.  Now, 2.2 isn’t great however the processor in this board (Atom N230) isn’t the important thing here, the GPU is going to be doing almost all the work.  Something it does very well.


P6220013 At 4.2 and 5.1 the graphics scored a lot higher than my previous media centre which topped out at 3.2 and 3.4.  Plugging the new machine into a power meter I discovered it runs at 30~35 Watts regardless of what you throw at it, live TV and BluRay included.  I have even got hibernation to work under Media Centre which I gave up on previously.

Many years ago I built the first incarnation of the Jukebox based on a project on where someone made a similar machine for listening to music and where I purchased my Mini-ITX boards from.

The picture to the left shows the case as it currently exists, awaiting an upgrade.  I’m planning on getting the lightstrips shining for the first time in a few years and hiding the remote receiver in there too along with the BD-ROM drive.  The nasty silver case underneath is an old case recently returned that will house the old Media Centre guts, after a good clean.  I think the Jukebox will be easier than cleaning the old case, years of dust await me though worth the work.


It’s been a while since I’ve got my hands dirty with such a project and longer still since I’ve done any electronics work.  The LED lightstrips and PIC based power button to use IR codes to bring the machine out of hibernation should keep me busy for a while and hopefully a lot of fun too.

Stay tuned for more.


Keegan Ales

No, this isn’t a post to announce my plans to open a brewery (not yet…) but to share a wonderful convergence of my hobbies I’ve found.

It’s a micro brewery in New York state called “Keegan Ales” and more importantly they also have an ice hockey team!  As a long suffering (until recently) fan of ice hockey this was too strange a coincidence not to note.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to visit them at some point in the future, sample so of their brews and maybe even catch a Growlers game!

Go Growlers!

Keegan’s Brew Boiler

I’ve been brewing my own beer on and off for a while now and I’ve decided it’s time to hack my brew boiler.  I brew my beer from a full mash rather than using kits which makes things a little more involved.  I could explain it but I’d never do as good as job as the Drunk Rhino video series, I’d recommend you give them a watch if you are interested in the specifics.

I have an Electrim homebrew boiler, it’s basically a big plastic bucket with a heating element and thermostat.  The plastic is quite thick as is has to withstand the high temperatures of the boil but it leaks heat making it less efficient.  To that end, a hacking I did go!

I bought a cheap camping mat and wrapped it around the boiler attached with good old duct tape.  A few weeks back I was visiting the Home Brew Shop in Farnborough and was lucky enough to find they had a hop strainer and sparging arm in stock, the latter rarer that rocking horse crap.  The strainer means that I no longer have to use a hop bag while boiling and after boiling the hops will drop to the bottom and act as a filter.  Which is nice.

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Not shown is the bottom of the boiler, I added a layer of insulation underneath as well.  Hopefully this will mean that I can get my boiler to mashing temperature and it should (hopefully) stay there for long enough for a decent mash.

Results in a future post.


New(ish) Welder

Our community at work never ceases to amaze me, I sent out an email asking if someone had an old arc welder they no longer used and within a few minutes I had a few people offering theirs up!

Just goes to show one mans junk is another mans treasure, now I just have to learn how to weld…

I have a few projects planned which I intend to write up and post details of here, so far I’ve planned to build a bike trailer, barrel rack and LCD TV mount.  Watch this space, though it may be a while as I haven’t power in my garage quite yet!