Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dear Singaporeans, we regret to inform you that you have been outsourced

With all the sound and fury from Singaporeans over the issue of foreigners and (un)permanent residents, one has to ask what is the Government thinking? Normally conservative and risk averse, why would the PAP risk heartlander anger over a policy of importing foreign labour that is so clearly unpopular?

The answer lies not in an analysis of how governments react to public opinion in democracies – the description doesn’t fit. Rather, one needs to consider Singapore Inc. in all its glory to understand what is going on.

As a Family run enterprise, Singapore Inc. and its organs of administration are business oriented and pragmatic. Faced with a population that doesn’t want to work in an increasing number of job categories, indeed a population that has lost interest in even reproducing, the Family has been forced to do what any business in the same situation must do – outsource.

Since emptying the current incumbents from the Company housing flats (HDB) is troublesome, it is necessary to import labour to do the work that needs doing.

So all Singaporeans complaining about foreigners and PR’s, wake up and face reality – you have been outsourced.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Building the perfect music server

The latest addition to the Haunt is the Shuttle X27, a tiny Intel Atom-based box with an external 60 watt power supply. Like BEAST, it is all black, but with a tasteful silver highlight on the front.

With all the other PC's and laptops floating around the place, one might usefully ask, "why?"
There are of course two answers - "Not because we must, but because we can" and an invocation of Bell's Law - "There are only two reasons to buy things - your friends already have it, or your friends don't have it"

I have to blame Paul Chatfield for bringing to my attention a piece of software called VORTEXBOX., which can be found at http://www.vortexbox.org

This is a Fedora-based LINUX distribution that is specifically set up for running SqueezeBox Server, and for ripping CD's to FLAC and MP3. I was intrigued with the idea of having a low power, quiet box to take the place of the ReadyNAS (which proved too slow) or my main PC (which requires the PC to be left running and the software in the background at all times)

The Shuttle X27 as built, uses a mini-ITX motherboard with an Intel Atom 230 CPU, 2 gigs of memory, and a Hitachi 2.5" 500gb SATA drive. Everything is designed to be low power and passively cooled. Ironically, it is the Northbridge chipset that requires a fan, but this is inaudible. The case is heavy steel, perforated on the sides and top. The drive interface is SATA, but can only accommodate a laptop drive.

I chose not to put in a slim DVD drive, as I prefer to rip on the main PC using dbPoweramp.
I used an external USB DVD drive to load the Vortexbox ISO image downloaded from the site and burned to a CD. It installed automatically, just asking for the time zone and a root password.

After installation, the box can run headless - no keyboard, mouse or display required. Instead, access is by web browser and invoking the IP address. The administration GUI is clean and simple, with icons for each of the major tasks.

Squeezebox Server looks exactly the same as it does under Windows. The current release of Vortexbox is 0.9, and after installation, I only had to configure Squeezebox Server and change the Workgroup name under SAMBA (I did this by editing the smb.conf file, but the option to change is actually available from the GUI) in order to be visible with the rest of my Windows PC's.

Since Slim Devices has just updated Squeezebox Server to 7.4.1, I ran the Vortexbox update routine, which connected to the Internet and downloaded 120 updates from the Fedora and Vortexbox repositiories.

The final job was to move all my FLAC files over to the Vortexbox. This was accomplished with a simple drag and drop - and about 5 hours of waiting to move the 240gb of data.

It is hard to describe how simple and painless the whole process of creating this music server turned out to be. I am no Linux geek, and the only questions I had were answered in the FAQ and/or some quick googling.

The result is a small, low power, near silent, music server running SqueezeBox Server and supporting 5 Logitech Slim Devices units (two SqueezeBox 3, one Boom, one Transporter, and one Duet). Of course, you can also just play music by navigating to the FLAC directory on the Vortexbox and using Winamp or similar software.

A very satisfactory result.


FORM FACTOR Mini ITX Form Factor

PROCESSOR Intel Atom 230 CPU CPU on board

CHIPSET Intel 945GC + ICH7

MEMORY 1 x 240 pin DDR2 DIMM Slots, 2GB per DIMM (Max 2GB) DDR2 533MHz supported

VGA Intel GMA 950 256bit 3D engine with a powerful 400MHz core

DirectX 9 3D hardware acceleration

Dynamic Video Memory Technology(DVMT)3.0 supports up to 224MB of Video memory

AUDIO Realtek ALC662 5.1 Channel High Definition audio

ETHERNET Marvell 88E8056 IEEE 802.3u 100Base-T specification compliant

10MB/s,100MB/s,1GB/s Support Wake-On-LAN function

STORAGE INTERFACE (1) UltraDMA100 IDE channel Master from ICH7

(2) On-board SATA connector


(1) ATA100 bus master IDE connector

(1) ATX main power connector

(1) ATX 12V power connector

(3) 4pin fan connectors

FRONT PANEL Power-On button

BACK PANEL (1) PS/2 keyboard

(1) PS/2 Mouse

(1) Gigabit LAN port

(1) Serial port

(1) D-sub port

(1) DVI port

(4) USB 2.0 ports

(1) Front out connector

(1) Rear Surround out connector

(1) Center / Bass connector

EXPANSION BAY (1) 2.5' bay

(1) Slim ODD bay

DIMENSIONS 250(L)x185(W)x70(H) mm

POWER 60W Adapter

Input:100- 240V AC


XPC CD Driver(32/64bit)

(1) SATA cable

Other: Screws