This has got to be the most beautiful guitar instrumental ever performed.

Joe Satriani - Black Swans And Wormehold Wizards
I just received Joe Satriani’s new album in the mail. The biggest complaint about Satriani’s stuff has always been its narrowness. With each new (solo) album however, his style broadens and this new album is the best yet. Danny and I have second row seats for his show. Can’t wait!

This is a list of pieces my dad and I might use to make an HTPC with.

Here are some cases:
LUXA2 LVA20012N1Z Aluminum LM200 Micro ATX, Mini ITX Media Center/HTPC Case (Black/Silver)luxa2-lva20012n1z-aluminum-lm200-micro-atx-mini-itx-media-center-or-htpc-case-black-or-silver

Silverstone Aluminum Front SECC body mini Itx Htpc Computer Case LC05B (Black)silverstone-aluminum-front-secc-body-mini-itx-htpc-computer-case-lc05b-black

SILVERSTONE LC12S Silver Aluminum Mini-ITX Media Center / HTPC Casesilverstone-lc12s-silver-aluminum-mini-itx-media-center-or-htpc-case

ThermalTake VK81221N2U SD100 120W PS Mini-ITX Home Theater Chassis(Black)thermaltake-vk81221n2u-sd100-120w-ps-mini-itx-home-theater-chassisblack

Personally I’m leaning more to the LUXA2 LVA20012N1Z Aluminum LM200 Micro ATX, Mini ITX Media Center/HTPC Case (Black/Silver)

For a Motherboard, we are going to get the Zotac IONITX-B-E Intel Atom Nvidia ION Mini ITX MB. There was a Video Review on the sight we found it on.

For Memory we are trying to decide between 2GB and 4GB.

For a DVD/CD Reader/Writer we will look on Newegg for a good cheap one.

We will opt out of a TV-Tuner

For “interfacing” (i.e. controling), we will use something I found called the Logitech diNovo Mini. The diNovo Mini includes, Full QWERTY keyboard, Mouse Pad / Directional Pad, Lithium-Ion Battery life rated at 1-month/per charge, Backlighting (orange/green), Bluetooth 2.0 (30 foot range) and is Linux compatible.logitech-dinovo-mini

For the operating system, my dad has chosen Ubuntu 10.4.

For the Open Source Media Center Software we will use XBMC (formerly Xbox Media Center, but they no longer support the Xbox system). The default XBMC theme/skin is (if you ask me) boring. As a fix to this dilemma, I have found the Aeon Project. It is better looking, and seems easier to use, then the default theme.

Any input about anything would be greatly appreciated.

In keeping with the intellectual heights that this blog maintains, I offer the following bit of humor for reflection. I must warn you though, it may be a bit “high brow” for a few.

Seriously – it’s sheer genius!

While sipping a Margarita (and watching Doctor Who) and wondering when the book that I ordered, James West’s “Drinking with Calvin and Luther”, will arrive, I just received a response to an email I wrote to the local teaching elder of the Free Presbyterian Church of North America. The original email:

Dr. *******,

A friend of mine has introduced me to your teaching through your MP3 sermons (he listens to you on the radio on Sundays at 1). I’m just beginning to go through your Ephesians study – a book we have been covering in our recent men’s study.

I have a question regarding the FPCNA’s stance on abstinence that is not dealt with in the documentation on the site.

Since Jesus commands us to drink wine as part of the sacrament of communion, abstaining, even as a choice, is an outright refusal to keep the sacrament the way that it was instituted.

If the WCF is a standard of the FPCNA, do you explicitly take exception to 29.3 and 29.4?


Update: And then I get up first thing this morning (Sunday, April 25, 2010) and put on the latest Cato Daily Podcast, which is a discussion about the legacy of prohibition with respect to distribution channels for wine.

In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional or disciplinary response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[2]

I was posting in the comments section of various DailyKos articles. Anyone that’s been on the DailyKos comments sections understands the tone – I was certainly much less vitriolic than the vast majority of commenters while admittedly more than some.

On the healthcare issue I argued against the Obama plan and back my statements by posting sections of the proposed house bill as well as excerpts from publications written by advisors to the White House. Rather than answer me, I was banned as a troll.

It’s interesting what happens in a liberal den when you present facts and attempt a discussion. I previously defined a “fundamentalist” as those who “keep [ their ] worldview hermetically sealed and free from critical examination.” I don’t think there’s a better description of the Kos group than that.

My apologies for the many month hiatus. I’ve been swamped with other concerns lately. I do plan on posting a few pictures of our recent camping trip to Hyner, where Danny got his first tandem flight.

Egalitarian – asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life.

Misanthropy – hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind.

Well why not? If a devout Greek Orthodox with one of the pillars of his worldview resting on the concept of community in the mystical union of the church through the Eucharist could name his blog “The Ochlophobist” (which mean “one who has an aversion to a crowd”), why can’t I use the name “Egalitarian Misanthropy?”

This phrase struck me like a joke whose punch line takes a moment of reflection. But as much as I’ve been captivated by it in the way that it seems to so efficiently capture a cleanly delineated concept, and in the way that it seems to apply to my view of the contemporary political scene – at least I’m “egalitarian” in my criticism – I don’t think that I can leave it as the title of this blog.

One of Dostoevsky’s themes that’s stuck with me was the portrayal of the “caring” leftist who’s compassion extends to humanity in the abstract while it falls far short when considering particular individuals. In a sense then, I guess I am “misanthropic” in that I have a revulsion to the reification (see also, the fallacy of reification) of “mankind” as an abstract entity. Real individual people are much harder to have real compassion for, but that’s what really matters.

Of course, another friend recommended the name “a bunch of crap” which is probably more accurate. :-)

In the meantime I’ll leave the title for a short while.

These posts should form a “tutorial of tutorials” of sorts. There are so many good tutorials out there that rather than simply create another one, I’m going to try to help navigate some of the ones that are already available. One of the shortcommings of the existing tutorials is that they don’t always explain why certain steps are taken. Nor do they provide the background information necessary to understand the bigger picture. I hope that these sets of posts will contribute in specifically these areas.

Some background

The XBox was simply not intended to run software that wasn’t condoned (approved, signed, sealed and delivered) by Microsoft, that is, it’s not meant to run “homebrew” (also called “unsigned code”), which the “XBox Media Center” is the premier example of. Microsoft took steps to prevent people from being able to run homebrew applications in the design of the XBox itself.

And so, here is one of the paths you can take to circumvent all of Microsoft’s efforts … :-)

Microsoft designed the XBox with two main hurdles preventing the running of homebrew. One is that the BIOS prevents the running of any unauthorized programs. The BIOS is the program that runs when the XBox starts up. It’s stored in a chip on the motherboard refered to as the EEPROM or Flash ROM. A good review of what the XBox BIOS does can be found in this article: Xbox Bios Introduction. The BIOS (which contains the kernel) makes sure that any program that runs is “digitally signed” by Microsoft.

In the EEPROM, along with (or embedded in, depending on how you look at it) the BIOS itself, is the “kernel.”

The kernel is the central component of most computer operating systems (OSs). Its responsibilities include managing the system’s resources and the communication between hardware and software components.

With respect to the XBox, the BIOS and the kernel are referred to interchangeably though this is technically not correct. Technically the BIOS is the start up program that, upon finishing, initiates and passes control to the kernel. In the case of the XBox the kernel is stored in the chip with the BIOS in an encrypted form. Part of what the BIOS does is decrypt the kernel stored in the chip and then run it.

Please keep in mind there is ambiguity, or at least overlapping concepts, in the usage of some of these terms in the tutorials, though in this writeup, I will try to be consistent in my terminology.

The second impediment designed by Microsoft is that the hard drive is locked to the BIOS. That means that the hard drive cannot be read from, or written to, unless it is first unlocked with the right password and key. The password and key are generated from some internal information like the serial number and version and some other pieces of information, resulting in a different password and key for every XBox out there.

The technique outlined below will circumvent both of these impediments.

Modding technique – “Softmod” and “Hotswap” overview

The modding technique I used, and the one that I will lead you through, is called a “softmod.” It’s called a “softmod” because it doesn’t require any changes to the hardware or the addition of any new chips to the motherboard (this is as opposed to a “hardmod”) and is done by exploiting weaknesses in the XBox kernel. A softmod fools the system into loading an alternative BIOS off of the disk rather than from the BIOS chip and is accomplished by replacing some of the system system files on the disk (in this case, the Xbox fonts). Once we’re running our own alternative BIOS we can run “homebrew.”

Legality This is the first place where the question of legality comes in. The program that loads the alternative BIOS requires Microsoft licensed tools in order to be built, so its distribution is illegal (I suggest you don’t distribute it). Whether possessing it is illegal or not, I’m not sure – again, check with a lawyer if you’re concerned, I’m not one. Also, the BIOS that gets loaded is likely a modified BIOS that was originally produced by Microsoft. I think this is less of an issue since you own a legal copy of the BIOS (if you own an XBox). Though again, I’m no lawyer.

There remains the problem of getting the softmod (the alternative BIOS and the means to load it) to the Xbox in order to exploit the operating sytem flaws previously mentioned. In its “retail” state, there is no way to get your own software to the Xbox in order to run it. As mentioned, there is a security protocol which locks the hard-drive so that it cannot operate outside of the Xbox, and there is no straightforward means to add any files that you may want while it remains inside an unmodified Xbox. There are two known solutions to this problem. One is called a “gamesave exploit” and the other is called a “hotswap.”

There are advantages and drawback of each. I chose the “hotswap” technique because I had everything I needed on hand. It’s tougher to come by the things needed for a gamesave exploit. For those interested in a gamesave exploit tutorial, take a look at this article: “How to Go from Xbox to Xbox Media Center in 30 minutes.” Another tutorial is “Krazie’s NDURE 1.1 Softmod with Action Replay and a USB Flash Drive.”

The other option is a “hotswap” and only requires a PC and some guts, and has the added benefit, free of charge, of a small but finite risk of permanent hardware damage to the PC and the Xbox. It involves letting the Xbox unlock the hard drive, and then while it and the PC are powered up, swapping the hard drive into the PC. It’s easier than it sounds and if you’re willing to take the (very real) risk (you have been warned), I’ll lead you through it in the next post.

If you decide you don’t want to take the risk inherent in a “hotswap” or you don’t have a spare PC, then follow the tutorials linked to in the previous paragraph and try the “gamesave” exploit techniques.

Since I’m going to be making an XBox Media Center for my Dad, I’m going to post the next steps in the XBox modification instructions during that process.

In the meantime, the fella’s over at doom9 have apparently just taken the first steps, and made the first real progress in cracking AACS – the scheme used to protect the content of the new HD-DVD (and also Blu-Ray) movies.

This story has only developed over the last few weeks but started with this post on the doom9 forum from “Muslix64.” Despite the skepticism, major media outlets (Reuters, etc. – actually, just google “Muslix64“) soon published stories about it. As if that wasn’t enough, Warner Bros (wrongly – of course) forced YouTube to remove the video Muslix64 released along with the source code for his hack (which has already seen several modifications).

But the proof is in; he (or she) has actually done it and a list of AACS cracked “Volume Keys” for different titles is growing on this forum post. AACS has mechanisms in place meant to limit the damage from the type of cracking that was done. Now it will remains to be seen whether or not they’re any good.

My money is on the hackers. :-)

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