Monday, March 08, 2010

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

Yes, I know: I've been neglecting the hell out of this blog.
But look: pictures of my newest toys!

The Asus Eee Box EB 1012. The thing is tiny - and cute - and is now my dedicated home theater PC, which means I don't have to keep going through the rigmarole of hooking up the laptop on movie night, or relying on my old media extender (which worked fine, for most things, but didn't support a lot of file formats) to play videos on the TV.

The Logitech DiNovo Mini keyboard, which lets me control the Eee Box from the comfort of my recliner.

And the new stand I bought that matches my furniture a little better than the old one.

So far the Eee Box has been working pretty well, though there have been some weird issues with sound. Audio from music and video files is fine, but it doesn't play any Windows system sounds, except for the initial Windows login sound and the Media Center launch sound, though with those it doesn't play the whole thing, just the tail end. I'm not too concerned about it, though.
To optimize the streaming of videos over my network, I picked up some more powerline Ethernet adapters so that I could have a wired connection, which is faster than the wireless.
It also let me hook up my Blu-ray player to the network, so now I can do that "BD-Live" stuff if I want, and download firmware updates.
I had to buy two of the adapters - I couldn't find them sold separately - so I used the other one to hook my laptop's docking station into the wired network.
In the course of looking for an Ethernet cable for the docking station - at first I couldn't find one, but I realized that it was inconceivable that I didn't have an Ethernet cable lying around somewhere, and, in fact, I ended up finding two - I stumbled upon some speaker wire and the speakers from my old home theater system.
So I decided to finally get around to adding two speakers to my setup to take advantage of the 7.1 capabilities (for those who aren't A/V savvy, that means that I have 7 speakers + a sub-woofer).
That actually led me to discover some additional weirdness from the Eee Box: it thinks my rear surround speakers are my side surround speakers and vice versa.
Still, most of what I play on the Eee Box is just 2.1 stereo anyway, so, again, not too concerned.
While it tends to be fine once it starts going, the Eee Box was a bit sluggish at times, so I decided that I was going to bump up the RAM (it came with only 2 GB). Because it's 32-bit Windows 7, it's not able to actually utilize the 4 GB of RAM it can be upgraded to, so I considered just bumping it up to 3 GB, but then I decided to go with 4 on the 0ff-chance that I ever upgrade it to 64-bit Windows 7 (which I could; I still have an available license from that "family pack" I bought when 7 came out).
That was probably for the best, as Windows can recognize and use 3.5 GB, that leaves 3 GB available for the system after subtracting the .5 GB used by the graphics chip. If I'd only gone with 3 GB, I'd only have 2.5 GB of system memory.
Physically, the removal of the old and the installation of the new RAM was a breeze. In fact, it was probably the easiest I've ever encountered. While full-size desktops have more room, the space isn't always used efficiently, so there's always something in the way. Not so with the Eee Box, which has its RAM in its own little easily-accessible compartment.
However, once I booted it back up and checked the System Properties, it still said that I only had 2 GB. I made sure everything was seated correctly, and tried different configurations, but no joy.
So I did some Googling to confirm my suspicion that I had to do something in the BIOS. And that's when I ran face-first into the Law of Unintended Consequences.
The Eee Box has a great feature called "Fast Boot." Within seconds of turning it on, it's at the Windows login screen. The whole process from turning it on to being in Windows takes maybe 20 seconds (it can take more than a minute on my main system).
It does this bit of mojo by skipping over a lot of the superfluous steps of loading and checking the BIOS.
Unfortunately, one of those steps it skips is checking to see how much RAM is installed.
So, since it wasn't checking, it was booting up based on the assumption that there were 2 GB installed.
So I had to get into the BIOS and disable Fast Boot in order to force it to take stock of the change to the system.
It took me about a half an hour to manage to get into the BIOS, as it just kept hurtling headlong into booting the OS, totally ignoring my keystrokes. Ultimately I had to do this weird set of maneuvers that reminded me of trying to enter a cheat code into an old Nintendo system.
But at last I was successful, and the additional RAM has added considerable pep to the system.
So that's what's been occupying my time for the past few days.
On the blood sugar front, I seem to be doing pretty well. I hit a low of 76 on Friday, and so far since I cut back to 18 units of insulin rather than 24 the highest it's been is 105. It tends to hover just at or above 100. Hopefully that's a sign that I'll be able to get off the insulin entirely at some point.
In any case, I'll try to be less neglectful of this blog in the future.


Merlin T Wizard said...

Sounds like for what you got, the EEE Box let you off easy. If I were to install anything that expensive, cool, or functional, I would have gone through hours and hours of little issues before it was all working properly. The Universe must have something special stored up for you now.

Heimdall said...

Well, there was a lot of undocumented hassle with dealing with cords and speaker wire and the assembly of the new stand, and also, after the ease with which I installed the new RAM I was going to text you to tell you about how easy it was, which I realized was me just asking for trouble (which took the form of the BIOS issue).

Merlin T Wizard said...

That's more like it!