Create your own bugdet Home Theater PC with Linux

A Home Theater PC (HTPC) or media PC is a convergence device that combines the functions of a personal computer and a media center software application which feature video and music playback, and usually also has digital video recorder functionality. It normally has a 10-foot user interface and is typically connected to a television or other large-screen computer display, and is often used as a digital photo, music, video player, TV receiver and digital video recorder, and normally controlled with a remote control.

The general goal of an HTPC is usually to combine many or all components of a home theater set-up into a single machine that will be located where the home entertainment system is desired. An HTPC system is typically controlled with a remote control for controlling the main interface although you can always use just a keyboard and mouse to control the PC.

There are basically 2 types of HTPCs. One is a dedicated and usually expensive stand alone and proprietary complete Media Center PCs manufactured by companies such as Apple (Apple TV), HP, Dell and Gateway and the other is basically any regular IBM compatible PC fitted with an open source or proprietary media player software such as XBMC, MythTV, Boxee and GeexboX.

If you have an old, unused PC lying around your house, you can basically build yourself a budget, open-sourced, Linux-based HTPC of your own with minimum budget. Just install any one of the popular Linux-based media player OS such as XBMC, Mythbuntu or GeexboX on that PC, hooked it up to your TV via a VGA cable and you're ready to watch most types of video formats on your PC. If you'd like to record video from your TV, just install a video capture card on your PC and it will record them straight to the hard drive. Below are 3 of the popular Linux-based media player OS that I've tried and used at home.

XBMC is an award-winning free and open source software media player and entertainment hub for digital media. Originally created for the Xbox, XBMC is now available for install on Linux, Mac OSX and also Windows. And if you can also load XBMC from a live CD without installing any files to your PC.
While XBMC functions very well as a standard media player application for your computer, it has been designed to be the perfect companion for your HTPC. Supporting an almost endless range of remote controls, and combined with its beautiful interface and powerful skinning engine, XBMC feels very natural to use from the couch and is the ideal solution for your home theater.
Currently XBMC can be used to play almost all popular audio and video formats around. It was designed for network playback, so you can stream your multimedia from anywhere in the house or directly from the internet using practically any protocol available.
XBMC can play CDs and DVDs directly from the disk or image file, almost all popular archive formats from your hard drive, and even files inside ZIP and RAR archives. It will even scan all of your media and automatically create a personalized library complete with box covers, descriptions, and fanart. There are playlist and slideshow functions, a weather forecast feature and many audio visualizations. Once installed, your computer will become a fully functional multimedia jukebox.

XBMC is by far the most complete and popular open-source media center that I've found so far. However, the minimum hardware requirement for XBMC is quite high compared to the other HTPCs that I've tried. Recommended hardware to install XBMC is Pentium IV processor with 512MB of RAM.

Mythbuntu is a flavour of MythTV media player software specially created for Ubuntu Linux. It can be used to prepare a standalone system or for integration with an existing MythTV network. MythTV itself is a hugely popular media player software comparable to Microsoft's Windows Media Center, Apple's Front Row, Boxee and also XBMC.
Mythbuntu uses the XFCE4 desktop. All unnecessary standard Ubuntu applications such as OpenOffice, Evolution, and a full Gnome desktop are not installed in a default Mythbuntu install. If at any time a user wants to, they can install ubuntu-desktop, kubuntu-desktop, or xubuntu-desktop and add a full desktop onto their installation. This can easily be done via the Mythbuntu Control Centre.
Like XBMC, Mythbuntu can play virtually any type of video and audio file formats, stream from a network location and connect to online based TV service such as Hulu and Netflix. The minimum requirement for Mythbuntu is similar to XBMC which is any Pentium IV or similar processor and 512MB RAM.
The installation process is a little bit complicated for the average user. There's the frontend and backend server and I still can't get my Mythbuntu installation to play my video files from a network location. Still, if you have time and patience to tinker around with XFCE and command lines then maybe Mythbuntu is the perfect solution for your HTPC.


GeeXboX is really small but powerful Linux-based standalone media player. It can play all kinds of video and audio formats including MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4 movies, DivX, XviD, H.264 files, RealMedia and Windows Media movies, OggMedia streams, Matroska streams, audio streams like MP3, Ogg/Vorbis, WAV (AudioCD), AC3, DTS, MusePack, FLAC and many more.
GeeXboX is a full operating system, running under Linux and based on the excellent MPlayer. No need for a hard drive, you just have to put the GeeXboX bootable CD into the CD-Drive of any Pentium-class or Apple Macintosh computer to boot it.

Geexbox can be run from a Windows, Linux or Macintosh based computer. You can also simply boot from a live CD or USB stick and the program will be copied into your RAM and it everything will run from there, no need to install anything to your hard drive.
GeexBox is so small that you can even run it from a 400MHz Pentium II processor with 64MB of RAM where the software will only take 16MB of disk space. The installation and settings is really simple and easy to configure too compared to XBMC or Mythbuntu. I'd really recommend GeexboX to everyone especially for the beginners.
Building your very own HTPC can save you a lot of money and for geeks like me it can be very satisfying indeed. My current HTPC is running GeexboX, build from a 800MHz Pentium III PC with 128MB of RAM which I got literally free from a friend. All I need to buy is a regular VGA cable to hook it up to my LCD TV and I'm all set.

So you think you can dance?

Adam Farihin and his classmates dancing to the tune of Cik Mek Molek, originally performed by Dato' M. Daud Kilau.

Adam Farihin dancing to Cik Mek Molek from Afif Rais on Vimeo.

Tadika Cahayaku Seri Nilam Convocation Day 2009. Cyberjaya Lake Community Club, Cyberjaya, Selangor.

Kindergarten Graduation Day 2009

Last Saturday the kindergarten where Adam goes to held a little graduation and prize giving ceremony for its students. The ceremony was held at the Cyberjaya Lake Community Club in Cyberjaya.
Last year they held this ceremony at the South City Plaza mall so I was curious why they didn't hold the event there as well, or at least at any community hall in Equine Park or Serdang.
But once I got there, I immediately know why. This community club's hall and venue is so much better than any other halls in the district. It's air-conditioned, easily accessible with lots of facilities and they even got free WiFi for the visitors. It's the perfect venue for any events, big or small.
As always, there's the usual speech from the principal, the prize giving and graduation ceremony itself and some performance from all the students. Adam have been practising for this event with his friends for weeks and he's like so excited and rearing to go already.
Actually the graduation ceremony is for the 6 years old students only and Adam is only 5 years old this year. Still since he got 3rd place in class, he still get to go on stage to accept his prize. You can say I'm mighty proud to hear them announce Adam's name and see him there taking his prize.
What's more Adam was also selected to read out a story from his Peter & Jane text book out loud on the stage. Call me biased, but I think Adam read it really well compared to the others too! Well, what can I say... the gravy cannot pour far from the mashed potato. Something like that.
If you're wondering why he's dressed like some old guy, it's because he and his mates had to perform a dance to the tune of Dato' M. Daud Kilau's 'Cik Mek Molek'. So adorable and hilarious! 20 years from now, people is going to use this video to mock you my son :)
The kindergarten was also kind enough to give everyone else prizes just for being enrolled there. So we took this opportunity to get on stage and get our pictures taken with our kids.
Some of the parents who came. I must say most of the parents is very supportive of the kindergarten and their children judging by the huge attendance for the event. I must commend the kindergarten and the teachers for working so hard to make this happen. And they didn't even ask a penny from us.
I think everybody, the children, parent and also teachers had loads of fun at the event. The children especially looked like they really enjoyed themselves there. Although not as popular, glamorous (or expensive) as some of the other franchise kindergarten I know, Tadika Cahayaku Seri Nilam have done a really good job in teaching and educating my kid for the past one year. I can't recommend this kindergarten to everyone enough.

You can call this number 03 89452803 for enrollment details and more information.

Review: 2012

2012 is a disaster film based on the fictional 2012 phenomenon where the ancient Mayan folks from South America predicted the end of the end of the world somewhere before Christmas during that year. Actually the 2012 phenomenon is totally made up by Hollywood to promote the movie. The Mayan people never said anything is going to happen 3 years from now. No galactic alignment is going to happen, there's no black hole to devour us all and the planet is not going to tilt on it's orbit any time soon.
The movie starts when an American scientist named Adrian who suddenly realized that the sun has been emitting massive solar flare that's heating up the earth's core from the inside, frying the earth's crust on top of it that will cause apocalyptic earthquakes all over the world. Strangely enough the people living directly under the sun won't get affected much by these solar flares (well maybe they'll get a better tan or something but apart from that, none).
So this Adrian guy alerted the Chief of Staff named Anheuser who informed the President who in turn told the other G8 summit leaders about the impending disaster. After that the leaders of these 8 richest countries in the world agreed to build a couple of spaceships so that they can blast into space and survive the disaster (the rest of us is screwed). To finance this mega-project, they agreed to let any rich people of the world pay 1 billion Euros each to get a ticket on this spaceship.
Somehow this one guy named Jackson, found out about the upcoming disaster just before they were about to happen and managed to get his family on board a plane to China where the spaceship is built. Of course they didn't have a couple billion of Euros lying around the house but they'll worry about that latter and flew to China nevertheless. It's during this flight from San Francisco to China that we can see those major earthquakes and huge volcano eruptions as the whole world is blown into pieces.
Unfortunately the plane crashed somewhere near Tibet but lucky for them, they stumbled into this Buddhist monk who was kind enough to take them to join his engineer brother at the spaceship site and somehow get on board the ship. Well I thought they were really spaceships but they were actually just a couple of super-big modern day Noah's ark. Although they didn't pay any tickets, Jackson, his family and the Dalai Lama managed to sneak into the ship and survive the mountain-high tsunami that swept, destroyed and killed everybody and the rest of the world in one big swoop. In the end the 6 ships survived the doomsday and found dry land in South Africa where they disembarked and lived happily ever after. Well yeah, there were a little bit of drama before one of the ship set sail.

Overall, I think 2012 is a darn good movie to watch. I never believed that anything would happen in 2012 and so should you so better get that out of your head before you see this one. And apart from the feel-good family love and humanity theme, the awesome visual effects used for this movie alone will totally blow you away. I mean it's not far-fetched to say that this is the best movie with CGI-effect I've watched this year. Plus you can only appreciate and feel all the cool visual and sound effects only if you watch it inside a real cinema. Would I recommend watching this movie? Absolutely yes!

Some notable notes about 2012 movie:

Nothing is going to happen in 2012. But if you are somehow convinced otherwise, start saving for that 1 billion Euro to board the ship (or spaceship) during the disaster.

I guess it would be politically correct for all movies to portray a black guy as the U.S President from now on.

The crazy conspiracy theory guy with the amateur radio has been right all along!

When the government said everything is alright, everything is NOT and start running for cover!

One way to survive the 20,000 feet giant tsunami caused by the huge earthquake is to hang around the summit of mount Everest. At least you can do that for less than a billion Euro.

I wish they would make a Proton or Perodua car with voice activated control like in the movie.

Exabytes Movie Day KL '09

This weekend, Exabytes, a Penang-based web hosting, email and dedicated server company treated their KL-based customers and members of the Exabytes forum with a free screening of 2012 movie at GSC One Utama.
I being a customer of Exabytes for nearly a year now also received the invite and didn't waste my chance to go see and join Exabytes Movie Day KL '09. After all, all we need to do is just bring our asses there and redeem the 2 free movie ticket along with the complimentary pop corn and drinks voucher.
The movie started around 5:30 PM and we grabbed our tickets at the redemption counter shortly after it opened at 3:45. There were hardly any queue at all but we did see a lot of people with orange Exabytes goody bags around the mall. The regular ticketing counter was overwhelmed with a huge crowd and long queues this Saturday evening so I guess we were lucky not having to go through all that.
Apparently Exabytes booked the whole number 2 screen for us and most of the seats were filled too. The movie 2012 was absolutely fantastic and I must thank Exabytes for now picking something lame like Pisau Cukur or This Is It.
The movie ran for two hours and we were like glued to our seats for the entire duration (yeah it was that awesome). Most of us patrons showed up with our grey clothing to redeem the mystery gift which is this awesome Exabytes piggy cow bank.

Many thanks to Exabytes for organizing this cool event. Can't wait for next year's one!

Get free 25GB Online Storage with SkyDrive

Windows Live SkyDrive is a free 25GB online storage space provided by Microsoft. All you need to do is sign in with your Windows Live ID or Hotmail/MSN user name and voila, you have 25GB of free online space. You can upload just about any file types to the SkyDrive but there's a 50MB limit per file.
You can also share your uploaded files with other people by creating a download link from your SkyDrive account. Head on to SkyDrive now to get your free 25GB online storage now.

Take note of everything with Evernote

Evernote is a web service and software application that allows users to collect notes and information. Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your notable life using your computer, phone, and the web.
Use Evernote to capture pretty much everything, type a text note, clip a web page, snap a photo, grab a screenshot, record voice and sound. Everything you capture is automatically processed, indexed, and made searchable. If you like, you can add tags or organize notes into different notebooks. Plus now you can also email and even tweet your notes to Evernote through your favourite email client and Twitter.
Evernote works across the computers and phones you use daily, allowing you to capture something in one place and then access it from another. You can download the Evernote software and install it on your Mac and PC, download it to your iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Mobile device or capture everything from the Evernote website itself.
One feature I find particularly useful is the web clip. If I find anything interesting and noteworthy on the web, I just click the Clip to Evernote bookmark on my toolbar and the whole web page will be saved to my default Evernote notebook. Later I can retrieve and read the saved web page from my PC, mobile phone or the Evernote website.
The free Evernote account allows you to upload 40MB worth of notes, web clips, pictures and sound every month. The premium account offers a generous 500MB data upload per month. Visit the Evernote website to sign up for a free account and download Evernote to your computer or mobile phone.