Monthly Archives: December 2005

Man, DHL Kinda Sucks

I’ve been awaiting a package I ordered from Dell. It was supposedly picked up by “DHL”: from a distribution in Fontana, California on Tuesday the 27th in the early afternoon. The estimated delivery date was supposed to be today. The tracking information hasn’t changed since Tuesday, it’s still showing an estimated delivery date of today even though there isn’t any indication that it has even arrived in Seattle.

I realize that their front end might be lagging their logistics system, but it is now 5pm. I’ll be very suprised if it arrives before next Monday or Tuesday, at this point. I wonder when they’ll finally get around to updating their delivery estimate.

My theory, it fell of a truck and they still haven’t realized its gone.

Update (1/2/06):Three days later, they’ve finally updated the shipping info. My package is in f’ing Chehalis (half way to Portland). Estimated delivery date? Still 12/30/2005.

Another Update: A few months later, I order something else from Dell. It also ships via DHL. It also ends up being very late. I called Dell days after the package was due, which was also days after DHLs tracking system said it had arrived in Seattle. The Dell rep tells me that DHL has determined the package was lost and that a new one will be shipped out. A few days later, the package arrives, same tracking number and info as the original package.

I’m starting to suspect that Dell gets DHL to fudge the tracking information so that Dell can actually ship products days after they say they do.

Note: My wife uses DHL for pretty much all our personal packages and has been very happy with them.

Network Media Players: DLink DSM-320

As I mentioned a couple days back, I’m looking at “replacing my living room PC with a dedicated video player”: in order to waste less electricity and free hardware up for other purposes.

I’ve been looking around and it seems like things have improved a bit since I looked “a year ago”: DLink has an interesting product called the “DSM-320”: that seems to be going for ~$130, after rebate that does native decoding of various MPEG4 formats like Xvid. The native MPEG4 support is cool because it means that existing content doesn’t have to be transcoded on a PC and transported over the network. As a result, I should be able to stream video off my fileserver which uses a low power ~800MHz CPU. I’m also hoping that avoiding MPEG2 will mean that I can get smooth playback over my wireless network.

The DSM has some downsides. A big one is that its wireless network card doesn’t support WPA encryption, only the useless WEP, so I guess I’ll still need to use a WRT54G in my livingroom. It also sounds like video playback has been a bit wonky, but it sounds like the newest firmare versions have corrected a lot of glitches. The UI also sounds like it leaves something to be desired, but it looks like it will work well enough for our purposes.

It requires streaming media server software, but appearantly it adheres to some sort of standard, so I’m not limited to the software they provide, which is good, because I want to run the media server off my Linux box. On the downside, the most likely candidate, “Twonkyvision”: is 20 euros, adding significantly to the cost of the setup. It looks like at least part of the firmware for this thing is GPLed, so maybe someone will release support for playing media directly off a Samba share.

Another shortcoming is that the device doesn’t play AAC encoded audio (which I have a lot of since I’ve ripped all my CDs into AAC for my iPod), at least not without server-side transcoding, which is strange since the “Sigma chip it uses”: looks like it “supports AAC”:

For ~$130 (after rebate) it’s pretty tempting, but I’d hate to be stuck with it if it doesn’t work for me.
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Too Much Juice

I just counted, I have 4 computers in my house running at all times, each probably sucking as much power as a couple of light bulbs. Two are the desktop machines used by the humans in the household at random times during the day. One is a low-power mini-ITX machine working as a file-server and the other is hooked to the TV in the livingroom where it is occasionally used to watch downloaded video.

I’d shut the desktops down at night, but they backup to one another. The fileserver has software mirrored drives, but I like having multiple copies of things on multiple machines. The TV computer could probably be replaced with some sort of networked video player with faster startup and lower power consumption, but my encryped 802.11g network may be a little too flakey to be used to reliably play back high-quality video stored on another system.

I think I need to rethink my approach to backup and storage first, and then go from there. I want to be turning at least two of these things off every night.

$100 Laptop: Made in China by Taiwaneese Company

MIT Picks Maker of $100 Laptop – Yahoo! News
Taiwan’s Quanta, the world’s largest maker of notebook computers, will manufacture an ultra-low-cost laptop developed by Nicholas Negroponte, the chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

The article doesn’t mention that while Quanta is a Taiwaneese company, they’ve recently moved their “laptop production to mainland China”:, which, incidentally, is likely a major customer for the $100 laptop.

Related posts: “Intel’s Chief, Clueless”:

Update 7/4/2007: It was funny for a while but all these comments from people who seem to think I’m selling cheap laptops is getting really old. I’m turning off comments.