Tag Archives: Hardware

The Chest Case Mod Project – Part III

The Chest Case mod project has been moving forward! If all goes as planned (which it rarely does), the final assembly will be tomorrow!

First off, I made two errors while making the design:

  1. I forgot to take the cables into account
  2. I forgot to take the cables into account
To start, the HDD/SSD cage will have to be moved from behind the PSU. Since the PSU is modular, meaning you can attach and remove the power cables, the removable cables are taking slightly more vertical space due to the connectors to the PSU. This means I’m about 1 cm short of fitting the drive cage in the planned space. I will therefore relocate it higher up, elevated partly inside the chest lid. It will still not be visible when the lid is closed, but will be the first thing you see if you open it.
Secondly, I did not study the physical component design of the motherboard before starting this project. All the motherboards I have ever used in the past when building computers have had their HDD (ATA/SATA) sockets flat on the top of the motherboard. This one has it on the side, on the opposite side of the rear panel where the USB, audio etc. ports are. That means that the SATA cables won’t fit unless I open a hole in the front of the chest for this very purpose. All angled SATA connectors are angled the wrong way, pointing down to the bottom of the chest. Or so I thought, after trying the three different kinds I had at home. After some scouting I did however find SATA cables with inverted angles, meaning the actual cable would point straight up. The space for the connector was still too tight though, only leaving a few millimeters to the edge, where it would be impossible to fit any connectors at all.  However, carefully grinding down part of the front board of the chest from the inside proved to give just enough space to fit the cables. I did have to be very careful when grinding though, as the front board is only about 4 mm thick. When done, the board was only about 1 mm thick in the area where the SATA ports are.
Other than that, I have drilled, filed, grinded, polished and cut the case to have all the openings it needs to have, from air vents for the fans to a large opening for the PSU and motherboard rear panel.
Today I did some last revisions to fit the video card that was slightly to high when fitting it, and finished off with staining all the cuts and holes (“Dark Oak” dye), and also applying it to the surrounding chest panels for it to blend in better.
Tomorrow I will pick up the inverted SATA cables and a proper version of Windows 7, and I’m hoping to have the entire computer up and running tomorrow or the day after that.

Edit: All done!

New Host, New Server, New Everything

You might have noticed this page being down for about two weeks. 
That's because I decided to move from my self-hosted solution with a server in the apartment to a professional hosting solution. I've been thinking about this to and from for a few years now, but what set it all in motion was the fact that I am going to move in about two months (more on that later).  I didn't want to worry about the mail server being down while moving, setting up the DNS to to a new IP address etc. In retrospect, the server would probably be down less time if I had just stuck with the previous solution. But this also gives an additional peace of mind if there were to be a hardware breakdown or power outage at home during a vacation etc. 
Since the domain name killersnail.com has been down for about two weeks, any mails sent to me or the other people with killersnail.com addresses has NOT been delivered.
I'm sorry about that, but there is not much I can do. That domain name is still not fully functional, so emails will still not be up. Meanwhile, you can reach me by simply writing a comment to this post. If I know you and it's of a personal nature, just leave your name and address (will not be seen by others) and I'll contact you by other means. 
So, how did the transfer go? Well, I first signed up with One.com. Big mistake. After reading through a lot, they seemed like a good choice with good pricing. So I went ahead and transferred the main domain name (killersnail.com) there, since it was the one most important to get transferred first on account on being the mail server as well. Then I was going to transfer my other domain names (like frankjohansson.com), to add to the same account, acting as CNAME aliases. 
Turns out they can't handle that. Basically every other serious web hosting company offers the ability to add several domain names to one web hotel, except One.com. They COULD do it, but then I would have to pay for web hosting for each domain name, and the domain names would likely just be redirects instead of aliases. In other words, the price went up 8 times. 
Yes, I know I have many domain names, but they are not all for me.
So I asked for a refund, on account on their 15-day money-back guarantee, as well as the domain name unlock code so that I would be able to transfer the domain name to another host as soon as possible. Their support department told me that I had to send all my bank details to their British office in order to get my money back, and I could not get the domain transfer unlock code until everything else was processed. The details I had to send them were:
  • Bank name
  • Bank address
  • Account number
  • Name on the account
  • Swift code
  • Iban number
  • Clearing number for the bank. 

So I sent it all to their british office as instructed, and asked for the domain name unlock code again at the same time.

After two days I got a reply, where they asked for the following details:

  • Bank name
  • Bank address
  • Account number
  • Name on the account
  • Swift code
  • Iban number
  • Clearing number for the bank.

AND MY ORIGINAL EMAIL WHERE ALL THIS WAS STATED WAS LISTED BELOW. They couldn’t possibly have read more than the subject of the email. I politely pointed out the fact that I have already provided all the necessary information, in the email they themselves replied to, and asked for my domain name unlock code a third time. A few hours later I finally got the code, and transferred it to another host. It then took a week after that before the transfer was actually approved by One.com.

Today I got a letter stating that the money I demanded back from one.com has been deposited into my bank account. From One.com in DUBAI. So I signed up for a service and paid a company in Sweden. I had to request the money back to a British company. I then get paid from a company in the United Arab Emirates. Tax evasion, anyone?

My new host, Surftown, have so far been great, and the support crew seems friendly. Getting a domain name unlock code from my previous DNS service, Loopia, took less than a second since you can do it yourself from their control panel. The entire transfer to Surftown from there took about 20 minutes. In comparison, One.com once again shows their lack of competence.  Surftown is a bit more expensive than One.com if you want the extra features I require (MySQL, PHP, support for multiple domain names etc). However, they currently have a campaign where you get all of this for only 10 SEK/day for the first year, so it’s actually cheaper right now.

In conclusion:

  • Domain transfer almost complete
  • Email not yet up, use comments in this post instead
  • One.com sucks monkey balls.

Driving license update

I have now been driving for a couple of weeks and am really making progress.

I have my written exam in about two weeks and I’m pretty confident that I will do well there. 65 questions in 50 minutes, where you have to have at least 52 correct answers.

The practical exam, which you can’t schedule until you have passed the written exam, has five parts.

It starts with a security check for the bike where you have to know how to check the all vital parts of the electrical system, breaks, wheels & tires, bearings and a bunch of other stuff.

After that is a low speed driving test, which looks something like this:

Swedish low speed test for motorcycle
Swedish low speed test for motorcycle - Full stop at each double cone.

The above should be done as slow as possible, no faster than you normally walk. I’ve got most of it under control, but needs some more polishing before final tests. For some reason I keep forgetting to keep my eyes up in the distance, which you need to do for proper balance (like a line dancer). I also need to remember to squeeze my thighs to the gas tank, to keep the body and bike balance together.

The high speed part looks like this:

Swedish high speed test for motorcycle
Swedish high speed test for motorcycle

Last time I tried this I instinctively used the front brake when turning around the last cone, and since the bike was leaning so much to be able to turn in that narrow space, I of course crashed. The knee pad took the blunt of the force, and I tore the fabric of the pants tore open (belonged to the traffic school). However, I strained my arm either when falling or when lifting the bike up (dry weight is 220kg/485lbs). That was about a week ago, and it still hurts a bit when lifting stuff. Anyway, need some more practice for this part.

After this comes the brake test, where you have to demonstrate hard, controlled brakes from 70km/h (45mph) and 90km/h (55mph), using both front and back brakes. I haven’t actually tried at those speeds yet, but I often lock the back brake (ABS not allowed) and forget to look up, same as in the low speed test, when braking from 50km/h (30mph). So some more practice needed here as well.

Last out is the traffic test, where you drive both inside and outside of a city towards a given target or directions given by radio through a variety of roads and streets with different traffic intensity. You will be judged by your driving position, selection of gear, attention, Eco driving and how you technically handle the bike. This part takes about 25 minutes.

But before I can even take the written exam, I have to take (and pass) a practical safety education, where you for 5 hours will be tested and teached about hard accelerations, braking from high speeds and driving independently. The idea is to learn not to overestimate your ability and the dangers of different road types. Gravel is a bitch in curves! This is scheduled one day before the written exam, so if I don’t pass I have to redo it. And pay another 1925 SEK for this, and another couple of hundred SEK for the written exam, which I will have to reschedule. Taking a driver’s license in Sweden is expensive, and most people spend at least 15000-20000 SEK altogether. Which is too bad, since then you don’t have any money left to buy a bike. 😉

Speaking of bikes, I have refined my wishlist a bit, and the following bikes are now the most interesting:

Suzuki VZ 800 Marauder
Suzuki VZ 800 Marauder

Kawasaki VN 800 Vulcan Classic
Kawasaki VN 800 Vulcan Classic

Kawasaki EN 500 Vulcan
Kawasaki EN 500 Vulcan

Yamaha 650 XVS Dragstar Classic
Yamaha 650 XVS Dragstar Classic

All bike pictures above are taken from Blocket.

These bikes all have the look I’m after, and even the smallest of them have well enough performance for a first bike. And even if many cc’s and a fat sound from the pipes are fun, they are not that important to me. More important for my first bike is maneuverability, reliability, comfort and price. I mean, after a year or two I can always trade up to 1600 cc if I feel I suddenly need to compensate for something. 😉

Driving license under way!

I have now finally signed up for motorcycle driving lessons at Slussens Trafikskola, and paid for 10x80min lessons in advance. I get money back for unused lessons, but a better price if I pay bulk. First driving lesson is in 4 weeks, and it might be earlier if the weather allows it. In three weeks I will also attend a 3½ hour safety lesson that is mandatory for the license.

I’m also considering buying som gear from C.A.F.D Motorcycle Armor, who has very good prices for clothes that apparently is made in the same factory and by the same people as Arlen Ness, just without the brand. I am however a bit skeptic to buying gear for several thousand without testing them first.  But when on a tight budget (I still need a bike!), there is only so much you can afford. If anyone have any other suggestions for cheap but good motorcycle gear (preferably in the Stockholm region), please leave a comment.

Regarding bikes, I have decided to wait with buying one until after getting my license. I have nobody to really practice driving with nearby, and it would mostly stand outside waiting for me without being used. Plus I can’t really afford one now unless I get one really cheap.

Anyway, I have narrowed down my list of potential bikes to the following (in order of  probability due to availability and price):

  • Kawasaki EN 500/750 Vulcan
  • Suzuki LS 650 Savage
  • Honda Shadow 600
  • Yamaha XVS Dragstar 650
  • Honda Black Widow 750

I have three requirements: It shouldn’t be to old (aiming for 1998-2001), it shouldn’t be to pricey (30’000 SEK is MAX what I will be able to afford, if even that), and it should have or be able to have a sissy bar since I will take M on vacations with it. Also, the lower the better as I’m not too tall.

Kawasaki EN 500 Vulcan
Kawasaki EN 500 Vulcan

Regarding Laundry – Part III

Short review: Hoover HNT 6614 top-loaded washing machine

I love it.

Hoover HNT 6614, installed and running
Hoover HNT 6614, installed and running

I love not having to go to the washing house with tons of laundry. I love not having to plan ahead and book time in advance when you need to wash your clothes. I love not having to clean up after others and worry about leftover deturgent, mud on the floor, filled up filters and and general yucky things.

I love that the Hoover is pretty silent, very energy preservant (A+), has short programs (less than half an hour) when needed and dries the clothes very well (1400 RPM spin cycle).

I love that it takes so little space yet manages a full load (6 kg) of laundry. I love that you can program it to start later, in case you want it to be just done by the time you get home from work or wake up.

I love not having to bend over and accidentally drag out other clean clothes on the floor when you try to pull out one shirt for hanging – top loaded is da shit!

Buying a washing machine was definitely worth it, and Hoover HNT 6614 is a very good choice.

To buy or not to buy – regarding laundry

For the last two years or so I’ve become increasingly irritated when doing the laundry.
What mostly bother me is the following:

  • About half the time people have been using twice the amount of detergent in the machine, resulting in leftovers that will go into the next wash that I have to clean up before doing my laundry. Since M has a very allergic skin we have to use a special non-allergic laundry detergent, and having to remove old lumps of strongly perfumed detergent isn’t fun.
  • People can’t read instructions. They often put powder detergent in the compartment for liquid detergent, resulting in it being completely clogged as this only uses a thin pipe for the detergent to pass. Which I have to clean.
  • People do not empty the fuzz from the tumbler-drier. Which I have to clean unless I want more fuzz, feathers and other stuff on our clothes.
  • People leave detergent powder on the clothes table used for folding clothes. Which I have to clean.
  • About everything that you should clean after laundry (machines, tables, floors…) is often dirty, sticky or powdery.

-So talk to your neighbors about it!

No can do. The wash house is shared on over 100 households, and the digital booking system doesn’t allow you to see who had the pass before you. And I doubt writing angry notes will help much.

Generally, it’s all about cleaning up after others in order to do our laundry that I’m tired of. So I’m thinking about buying my own washing machine.
A washing machine with A+ energy class costs about 5000 SEK including delivery and installation, so with the electrical cost and divided over 5 years (I have no idea how long you usually keep a washing machine so that is just a guess) it will cost about 25 SEK per week. After 5 years the cost drops to about 4 SEK / week based on todays electrical price. Water is included in the rent so that is not a problem.

The drawback is that it takes a bit of space and the clothes will have to dry in the apartment instead of in the washing house on the inner courtyard. On the other side I don’t have to go back and forth to the washing house on the inner courtyard every time. 😉 And I can wash whenever I need without having to book a time days ahead.

Has anyone ever regretted buying their own washing machine and prefer going to a washing room shared with hundreds of other people?

Update: http://www.lumien.se/regarding-laundry-part-ii/

The Raid Radio Case Mod – Finished!

The Raid Radio Case Mod is done!

Actually, it was done about two weeks ago, I just hadn’t taken the time to give you the update.

It is now working fine, but I might replace the PSU with a full-sized ATX one due to unacceptable noise levels in the current FSP AC-DC 200W SFX12V PSU. Hiper HPU-4S425 looks promising. The problem is that a full sized ATX won’t fit in the case if located where the current PSU is. I am thinking about placing it above the drive cage which would also giving it better airflow and hopefully lower RPM. The problem is that I would have to build a second floor in the cage, and I’m uncertain how it would affect airflow and temperatures for the drives and motherboard (already actively cooled).

We’ll see.

Wanna see? Have a look:

The Raid Radio Case Mod

New computer, new problems

Centrum radio as showed in the ad
Centrum radio as showed in the ad

After scrapping the Typewriter Project, I’ve been searching for a new case to house my new HTPC/NAS/Web server. I first bought a 50’s Centrum radio at the Tradera auction site. Unfortunately, when I got it the glass front was cracked and beyond salvation due to either bad packaging or bad handling by the delivery firm (or both).

I decided to replace it with plexiglass in front of a custom background printed on photo paper.

After having gutted the radio, cut and filed the plexiglass, measuring everything to a precise fit and ordering the parts, I browsed in to Tradera again. And almost fell in love. By that time there was 2 hours left with only one bidder for the auction of a Bakelite-cast Philips radio with room enough to fit everything I need for it. I won the auction paid 315 SEK for it, plus shipping.

Now I have received all parts for the computer except the radio itself and a slot-in DVD-drive that I ordered from eBay.

If you are not interested in technical mumbo jumbo, you can stop reading now.

Okay, you are still with me. 🙂

Centrum radio when it arrived
Centrum radio when it arrived

The parts

  • Jetway NC62K Mini-ITX Motherboard. Integrated Nvida Geforce 8200 graphics card, 4xSATA with RAID support.
  • AMD ATHLON 64 X2 5050E which I got almost 300SEK cheaper due to an error on the distributor’s part. I talked with the seller and he told me I would get the lower price anyway since I had already paid for it when the error was discovered.
  • 2 x Western Digital 1TB Caviar GP (I already have 2 x 500GB drives which I will add at a later time)
  • Kingston HyperX DDR2 2GB 800MHz CL5. Only one memory slot on the board, and it doesn’t seem to support more than 2GB-
  • LIAN-LI EX-34 drive cage/cooler. Since I am going to use a total of 4 HDD’s in a custom case, it is way easier to use a pre-built drive cage than build your own.
  • FSP AC-DC 200W SFX12V PSU. Since both the PSU, motherboard and the drives all have very low power consumption, this should be more than enough. Plus, it’s way smaller than a normal ATX-PSU which wouldn’t fit in the radio.
  • Slimline slot-in USB-powered CDRW/DVD drive.

The Problems

First I tried to install Windows XP (Professional N Edition). Since I am using the drives in a RAID-1 configuration, I pressed F6 when asked to provide the needed drivers.
If you didn’t already know, SCSI and RAID configurations in XP requires that you before installing insert a floppy with the needed drivers. The problem is that the motherboard (where the RAID controller is located) doesn’t have a floppy connector. To get around that, I prepared a USB stick using HP Drive Key Boot Utility, making the USB stick appear like a floppy (and only holding 1.44MB). Unfortunately, XP’s installation procedure refused to recognize the USB stick as a floppy and would not read the drivers from it. This ment there was no way for XP to find the drives where the installation should take place.

I then decided to slipstream the drivers onto a custom installation CD using nLite. This worked fine and the installation went fine. However, upon starting windows for the very first time, I got a short bluescreen followed by a reboot. This happened again and again and Windows simply wouldn’t start. What I didn’t know at the time was that since the RAID drivers wasn’t signed, Windows diecided to replace them with it’s own default drivers during the final stages of installation. These did of course not work with the RAID controller, resulting in the repeating crash.

After much frustration I decided to give up and try Windows 7 RC, which had been released some day before. I had used the WIndows 7 public beta on my Eee 1000H previously, but switched back to Xp after about a month. I convinced myself that the RC would be better and I would feel more comfortable with it. So after some hunting down, I found a good ISO, burned it and installed Windows 7 on the machine. No hassle with drivers were needed, Windows found the RAID array all by itself. However, some time after installing Windows I started to get messages about the RAID array dropping out. Removing and rebuilding the array helped for a while, but the error returned. By this time (around a full day) I was also getting sick of Window 7’s I-will-not-let-you-decide-anything-on-your-own-because-humans-can’t-be-trusted attitude. Since this will be both a web server and a NAS, I want full control of it. Most of all, I want to feel that I am in full control of it. So buh-bye Windows 7!

Philips radio as showed in the ad
Philips radio as showed in the ad

During this time, I had learned about the fault in my first slipstreamed XP CD and re-did it. Only this time, I instead of only adding my new RAID drivers I also removed XP’s default RAID drivers – Success! Installation went smooth, XP started as it should and no RAID error messages. For a while. Happy that everything was working as it should, I started to transfer files from the existing computers in the home network to the new computer (as this should now serve as file server). Copying some data, moving some. Stupid, stupid Frank. After a few hours, I rebooted the computer for some reason and noticed that the RAID controller during POST blinked red, stating that the array was degraded! I removed and re-added the drives from the array, but for some reason it refused to be rebuilt. What was worse, Windows now refused to start, giving bluescreens and rebooted every single time. I disconnected the drives from the motherboard computer and hooked them up to my other computer. During bootup, Windows wanted to check for consistency on the drives. Fine, I thought. Perhaps this will solve the problem. I went away from the computer and came back a while later, still doing the consistency check. Only the screen said “Deleting index $blablabla from blablabla” or something like that. I got some bad vibes but didn’t want to turn off the computer in the middle of that process. Windows then started, and the drives were almost empty.

Personal data I always keep backed up, so no worries there. What was really sour was that I lost about 250GB of movies and shows that I hadn’t watched yet. Many of them really hard to get, like Green Hornet (a TV show from 1966 starring among others Bruce Lee) or HD versions of various good movies. Plus all programs, games and other goodies. Well, what are you going to do – it’s not going to do anything good moping.

The real problem

After much searching and many, many forum threads later, I learned about TLER.

Apparently, it is quite common that a disk gets a read or write error under disk operations. When this happens on a normal desktop disk, the drive will enter a recovery cycle, attempting to repair, recover and reallocate the data. This cycle can take anywhere from less than a second to up to a couple of minutes. Since RAID controllers are designed to handle these errors by themselves, RAID-specific disks (often costing twice as much) have a feature called TLER, or Time Limited Error Recovery (name may vary with vendor), which prevents the hard drive from entering into a recovery cycle longer than 7 seconds. Without this feature, both the hard disk itself and the RAID controller will try to fix the problem at the same time.

Most RAID controllers will deactivate a disk in an array if it doesn’t respond in 8 to 15 seconds. Since my drives didn’t have TLER enabled, whenever they encountered a problem taking more time to fix than allowed by the controller, it would get thrown out of the RAID array. The remaining disk would keep on working as usual, and I would not be aware of the problem until the disks were completely unsynchronized. When rebuilding the RAID array without being able to synchronize, errors would occur and Windows would not boot.

The solution

Luckily, there is a small tool from Western Digital [Google] that enables you to turn on TLER their disks that normally has this disabled. I used the tool, and presto – no more problems! Too bad I didn’t know that before losing all that data and having to reinstall Windows yet another time.


I will hopefully get my radio some time this week so that I can put everything in it (right now the motherboard is mounted on a piece of plexi glass with distances in between. I would like to cut a slot in the top of the radio for feeding discs to the DVD reader, but I am a bit afraid of cutting in bakelite. Anyone have any experience? I don’t want to ruin it completely so I might be mounting the DVD drive under the radio instead, adding bigger rubber feet to it if needed.