I am tired!

So I spent most of the day (at work) and night setting up this site. If you haven’t figured this out yet, this is actually my first attempt at any form of a what you could call a website with an actual domain name. I asked around and got some recommendations for hosting services and everyone pretty much said Dream Host. So the first thing I did was setup a dream host account, which honestly wasn’t all that painful, pretty easy actually. After getting the dream host account all setup, it was time to register a domain. Picking the domain name was kind of a difficult one, I’ve though about different domains for a while now. I hang out in IRC pretty much all the damn time, specially at work, makes the day go by faster. One of the IRC rooms I hang out in is #MNSCC on talk.null0.org where I hang out with fellow geeks/car guys who all are just as bored at work as I am, so we keep each other company while at work. So in IRC we tend to give each other shit and give nick names to each other and in IRC my nick name is the “Professor” because when anyone talks about A/V and home theater gear I always have to get involved. So one day they just started calling me the “Professor” and it just stuck. With that nick name I started doing word plays off of it, doing thesaurus searches based off of the name professor, and one word that kept on popping up was maven.

For those of you that don’t know what maven means, Maven: an expert or connoisseur.

So being from Minnesota and the fact that I love Minnesota and the fact that Maven.com was already taken, I settled for the next best thing and thats where I came to choose mnmaven.com for my domain.

So now with hosting taken care of, the domain registered and pointing towards the correct dns servers it was time to start setting up the the website. I knew I didn’t want to build this site from scratch (I suck at programming) so I started looking around for templates that I could use. I started asking around for suggestions and came upon Word Press (which is what you see now) and found out that dream host did one touch installs for word press, so really it was a no brainer.

So after a few minutes I was up and running with the default template for word press. I wasn’t liking the default template so I went on a mission trying to find a simple, clean, easy to use template and I stumbled upon this template Fast Loadz (with some help of a friend)

After getting the template loaded I went to work adjusting the CSS file to adjust the color scheme to the way I wanted. Fooling around with the colors and figuring out which part of code in the CSS file made which parts change, I finally came to what you see now.

I then started messing around with the widgets, adding the picasa widget to rotate images from my public gallery hosted with picasa (google’s free image hosting service). I then added an even calendar, friends links, last.fm play list, and tag listings. The ability to add and remove widgets to the page with word press is extremely easy and that is just the way I like it. I don’t want to be spending hours on end coding by hand, I’ll leave that to people who acutally like doing that shit, I just can’t stand it. I don’t mind editing code, like I did with the CSS files, but creating something from scratch, just isn’t appealing to me, maybe I do have ADD like my wife says I do, who knows, I just know I don’t like coding.

While I was spending all of this time getting the website up and running, making it look half way presentable, and getting the color scheme, widgets, ect… all up and running, I never had time to watch any tv today, so I made sure my HTPC/DVR was set to record the shows I was going to be missing. Which leads me into my next topic, my Home Theater PC or HTPC for short.

A while ago I dove head first into A/V, Home Theater, and Home Audio. I was always interested in audio, stereo’s, tv’s, video games, ect… In college is where it really first began. My sophmore year of college I moved from the dorms to the apartments on campus, the apartment was two bedrooms, with two people per room, so we had a total of four guys that lived in this small ass apartment in Heaney Hall. Thankfully we scored a first floor room, on the front side of the building so it was easy to move in (and easy to sneak shit out if the RA stopped by). Anyways when I moved in I found that none of my roommates had a tv for our living room, so that weekend I drove back down to the cities to pick up my entertainment center, tv and stereo, but when I got home I had found that my brother’s had taken over my bedroom and turned it into a game room (PS1, N64, Sega) and had basically taken over my tv, so instead of starting WWIII my parents just gave me money to buy a new tv for my apartment. Score!

So I packed up my stereo, entertainment center and headed back to Duluth. I get there, drop off my stuff and headed straight for Best Buy. I get there and started shopping around, my parents had given me $500 for the tv, and I had some money saved up from the summer, and also a little left over after paying off my tuition and living expenses. With over a grand in hand I ended up buying a 32″ sony flat screen tv that was open box, then I picked up a sony 5.1 surround sound receiver/home theater in a box setups, and then picked up two KLH floor standing speakers with 15″ main driver and two tweeters, they were on sale for $99/pair. They didn’t keep the speakers in stock on the floor so a warehouse stock clerk had to bring the speakers up front and when they came up with only one box I said I was buying a pair of speakers so he ran back and grabbed me another box. As the casheir was ringing up my purchase, the KLH speakers, each box was ringing up for $99 per box. I then mentioned to the casheir that they were $99/pair, showed her the add in the paper, and she then corrected it, rang it up for $48.50 per box and I was then on my way with a new tv, new surround sound receiver, dvd player and new speakers.

I then get to my apartment and start un-packing, I got the tv setup, then the receiver and dvd player and finally went to the speakers. I opened up the first box and I then found out why the box’s were ringing up at $99/box, there were two speakers in the box. Yes that is right, two speakers. So basically I screwed Best Buy out of $100 and got two floor tower speakers for the price of one pair. If Best Buy wasn’t going to catch that, I wasn’t going to be the one to point it out either. I ended up keeping all four speakers and hooking them up to my new Sony Receiver, and watched my first dvd on the setup.

The audio alone blew me away, but that Sony Trinitron flat tube tv was amazing as well, and from there I was in love with home theater and home audio. Through out that year we were the “cool” guys with the awesome tv/audio setup so every Sunday my neighbors would flock to our room to watch football or play video games. It was fun seeing people enjoy something as much as I did.

While I was getting into home theater I was also getting really into computers as well. One night while watching tv I stumbled upon a tv show called The Screen Savers which was on Tech TV. After watching that tv show I became more and more interested in computers, and from watching that TV show I even got up the courage to build my own computer.

So the same year of getting into my first real Home Theater setup I also go really into computers and built my first computer. I learned about IRC, about pc video games, AIM, MSN, ICQ, ect… I found my next true love. Basically that year between m home theater obsession and computers I basically turned into a geek over night.

Now fast forward to some years later, I graduated college, got my first “real” job working for American Express making what I though was great money. I had gotten married the year before, my wife and I bought our first home, and I had some disposable income so I talked the wife into letting me re-do my home theater setup and buy my first HDTV.

I found out that one of my car club buddies worked at Ultimate Electronics and was able to hook me up with a “reasonable” discount. That night I purchased a 42″ rear projection Sony LCD tv. I also purchased a new Yamaha 7.1 surround sound receiver, Klipsch Reference Series main towers, center channel and rear surrounds. I ended up walking out of there with about seven grand worth of equipment. Not even caring about the receipt I got home and started hooking everything up.

At the time when I got the new equipment the basement in my town home wasn’t finished: See Here. So I ended up using one of the spare bed rooms and turned it into my mini home theater/tv room. Here is what the setup looked like: My First Home Theater

Soon After I got Comcast HD, with the HD DVR, however I was not liking the $13/month they were charging for the HD box. So I ended up taking it back after I found out about Cable Card and the fact that at the time comcast couldn’t charge for the cable card. So I got the cable card, retained my HD channels and it didn’t cost me an extra over what I was already paying to Comcast.

I also had an antenna hooked up to the ATSC Tuner of the TV which got me all the local channels in Digital, some of which were HD. Around the same time that I was figuring out all the the ways of getting HD into my tv I stumbled upon AVS Forum and ever since it has changed my life. I found out that I could combine my love of Home Theater with my other love of Computers and hook it up a computer to my tv and get HD into my tv. So having an old pc laying around since I had just upgraded my computer I went to work getting the cables, sound card, video card and software I needed to hook up my computer to my tv.

at the time my spare pc was a 2.4ghz 533mhz FSB P4, 512mb of ram, Nvidia 5700 Ultra, and an Asus mobo, which was perfect for what I needed. I went out to Mono Price and ordred the DVI to HDMI cable I needed (for a cheap price too) then got the spdif cable as well. Once it arrived I got it all hooked up and found out it wasn’t as simple as just hooking up a pc to a tv. I had things like Over Scan to deal with. I hadn’t realized that the resolution your PC uses isn’t the same as what a TV does. I then started doing my research and found a thread over at AVS forum for people dealing specifically with Sony TV’s and HTPC’s.

I learned how to get into the service menu of the tv, adjust the inputs so that I wouldn’t have over scan, and figured out how to get 1:1 pixel mapping so that I got the absolute best picture quality I could from the PC. At the same time I found out about FFDshow and how I could integrate FFDshow into my dvd playback and upscale dvd’s to near HD quality. So I spend hours on end re-fining the settings of FFDshow, tweaking it every which way, until I got an acceptable gain in image quality. So after getting that setup, playing back downloaded HD content, and upscaling my DVD’s I was pretty happy with what I had, however I missed having the HD DVR that comcast had, but I wasn’t willing to pay the extra monthly fee for it, so I started researching again, and found out that you could add Tuner cards to your pc and basically turn it into a DVR.

Since I already had a copy of windows media center edition 2005, though at the time I hadn’t known exactly what that was, I found out that it was an interface for turning your pc into a media player/DVR. So I went out and bought two tuner cards, one ATSC (off the air HD) and one NTSC (SD cable tv) and installed them into my HTPC. Spending the rest of the night figuring out what an Mpeg2 decoder was, and which one was the best, and then formating and re-installing windows by the morning I had a fully working HTPC DVR, DVD upscaling player, and a downloaded HD media playback system.

Eventually I would come to add more tuner cards to the pc, to the point right now where I have four ATSC tuners and two NTSC tuners, with 1TB of disk storage for all the recordings. Which basically takes this story into full circle. I recently added the last two ATSC tuners this fall to get ready for the season opener of fall tv. Last year I had a few recording conflicts and so I had to watch a few tv shows live, and I absolutely hated it. Once you got to DVRing all of your tv shows, you’ll never want to go back. So in order to prevent the recording conflicts I had to add a couple more tuner cards so that I would have enough for tuning conflicts as well as enough if I still wanted to watch live tv like sports or the news.

So while I was setting up this web site, I had setup my HTPC/DVR to record all of my tv shows, that way I could concentrate on this site, and not miss any of my tv shows. However in the pas I had always had to go down stairs turn on all my equipment, even my projector, to set the recordings, becuase Microsoft didn’t have an online feature for setting up recordings remotely, well they didn’t until I found Web Guide which now allows me to remotely log into my HTPC from any pc online and set recordings, stream recordings or even stream live tv if I wanted. So I logged into my HTPC with Web guide, set my recordings and logged back out and continued my work on this website. Got to love technology.

Tonight my HTPC recorded 5 shows which isn’t normal, but Jody (the Wife) wanted me to record a few shows for her as well. So my HTPC got a work out and this was the first time I was able to fully test how well 6 tuners would work in my setup, and I have to say it passed with flying colors, I couldn’t me more happy with the results.

Anyways it it getting late, and I am tired, and I think I’ve rambled on long enough.

- Josh