Winamp, Setpoint, Logitech S510, Delta 66, and Volume

I have a Logitech S510 keyboard/mouse setup. It’s pretty nice. It has all sorts of fancy pants multimedia keys and reprogrammable keys. I like it.

But, I also have a fancy pants soundcard– an M-audio Delta 66 to be precise. This soundcard doesn’t use the normal Windows audio mixer. It instead uses a special audio mixer provided as part of the drivers.

For some reason, the M-audio mixer doesn’t respond to standard multimedia keys, probably because the mixer is a bit more complicated than a simple level slider. So, getting the volume controls on the keyboard to control the volume on my system was an impossibility.

I decided to go for the next best solution: Reprogram the keyboard to control WinAmp directly. Here’s how I did it.

I assume you have Setpoint (the Logitech drivers) installed and functioning. Now you need to install a program called UberOptions, which allows you a lot of flexibility to reprogram the multimedia keys. Hear over to this page and download and install UberOptions.

Once that is installed, head into Setpoint. Click My Keyboard and then scroll to the bottom of the list of available keys. You will see a Plus, a Minus, and a Mute key.

Click on the Plus key, and then on the right side click Other and then Select Function. Scroll to Keys:F15. Repeat the process for the Minus key, assigning it to Keys:F13. Repeat one more time for Mute, assigning it to Keys:F14. Apply the changes and you’re done with Setpoint.

Now we have to setup Winamp. First, we have to add mute hotkey functionality to Winamp (can you believe it’s not included?), so click here to download the Winamp Mute Hotkey.

Now open up Winamp, and click Options -> Preferences -> Global Hotkeys. I like to delete all of the extra hotkeys that I don’t specifically program myself, so go ahead and do that if you want.

Now it is just a matter of using your multimedia keys as the global hotkey commands in Winamp. Select Playback: Volume Up and click in the hotkey field. Push the Volume Up key on your keyboard, and then Add. It should assign it keystroke 0×660000. Repeat for Playback: Volume Down (0×640000) and Playback: Mute (0×650000).

Close the preferences, and you should be all set. Your volume keys on your keyboard will now control the volume in Winamp.


Dell 1905FP Review

NOTE: You can find the driver for the Dell 1905FP right here. That way, you don’t have to read my crappy review (although it would make my day if you did!).

Well, my monitor arrived on Thursday. The guy from DHL dropped it of nice and early, around 10:30 AM I believe. I opened up the box, and proceeded to set the monitor up.

The monitor comes in two pieces– the base and the screen. Connecting the two is as simple as pushing them together the proper way. Since LCDs seem fairly delicate and since the screen of this size is bulky, it seems that you have to be extra careful when assembling the monitor. It was a fairly easy process to get it together.

The monitor came with a regular 9-pin monitor cable hooked up to it. I don’t know what kind of people Dell has putting these wires on, but they must have the world’s strongest fingers! I had to use the screwdriver blade of my pocketknife to get the cable off. Popping the DVI cable on the monitor was pretty easy, although big hands like mine made it a bit difficult to screw the cable down nice and snug.

Once I got it hooked up and switched my video card to activate the DVI, the monitor lit up. Let me tell you, this thing is bright! It has an 800:1 contrast ratio, and a brightness of 250.

As I adjusted the monitor, I realized that I really liked the ability to move the monitor in just about any direction I please. This monitor can go down as low as about four inches off the desk, all the way up to probably about 10 inches above! It tilts back and forth and rotates to the left and to the right as well.

One of the best features is rotating the monitor from landscape mode into portrait mode. This is so cool. I find myself rotating the screen orientation around quite a bit depending on what I am doing. For example, if I am viewing photographs, I like landscape mode. If I am designing a template for a webpage, I like portrait mode. It is very nice.

Last night, I thought I had found a bad pixel on the monitor. I noticed a white spot on just about all of my pictures while poking around in Picasa. So today, I set the desktop background at a bunch of different colors, and checked for dead pixels. I didn’t see any.

So, I went back and looked at my pictures, and sure enough, the dead pixel was back. I took a screenshot and took a look, and the dead pixel is actually on the image, and not caused by the monitor. The only thing I can deduce is that my digital camera, a Kodak DX-6490, has a dead pixel on the sensor. Oh well. I’ve taken over 10,000 pictures with it, so I guess I can excuse one dead pixel! It really is a great camera. Unfortunately, Kodak won’t release any firmware updates to address some outstanding issues with the camera, and I would recommend against it and Kodak products altogether as a result. But anyway, this is about the monitor.

One thing I about which I am unsure is the color. It is bright, and it is brilliant, no doubt about that. It almost seems too bright, though. If I compare it to my old CRT, which had very good color I thought, the colors are all noticeably brighter. Like a lot. I’m sure that I just need to calibrate it properly, so if anybody knows of any good sites to direct me on how to properly calibrate an LCD, let me know.

There are some parts of this monitor I think are a bit weak. For example, the monitor driver is nowhere to be found on the disk. It contains only documentation. I downloaded the driver from the Dell website here.

Another weak point is that there is no easy way to rotate the video on the screen when you physically rotate the screen. I had to assign a hotkey using my video card software so that I can change the orientation of the monitor on the fly.

Some people would say that a 20ms response time is a weak point, but for me, it really isn’t a big deal. I don’t watch DVDs, and I don’t really play games. I use my PC mostly for productivity. I manage, arrange, and edit digital photos. I design websites and graphics. I write PHP scripts. None of this requires a fast response time, but they all require a nice, high-quality image.

The last weak point has to do with the built-in USB hub. Yeah, it is a nifty little feature, putting a USB hub in the monitor. The bad part, though, is that when I hit the power button on my monitor, it does the windows “bing-bong” telling me that the USB hub has been disconnected. When I power it back up, I get the “bong-bing” twice– once for the USB hub, and once for the mouse that is connected to it! Annoying!

Anyway, if you can find a good deal on this monitor, I recommend it. I will definitely be looking for another one in a few months so Jaime can have a nice big screen too.

That’s all I’ve got. :)


NOTE: You can find the driver for the Dell 1905FP right here. That way, you don’t have to read my crappy review (although it would make my day if you did!).

New Monitor On The Way

I really do enjoy this.

I purchased yet another LCD monitor tonight. This will be the fifth LCD monitor that I have ordered. Take note, however, that I have never had any of these sales actually complete. The company always finds one way or another to weasel out of their end of the deal.

I have a very good feeling about this one.

From time to time, Dell releases coupon codes. Much of the time, you are only allowed to use one coupon code per order, but sometimes they allow you to use multiple coupons. They release these coupon codes intentionally, and they expect to fulfill the orders.

So, here is the deal:
DELL<br />
UltraSharp 1905FP

Total list price with shipping and tax: $573.41

+ $479.00 (Dell UltraSharp 1905FP 19-inch Flat Panel Monitor with Height Adjustable Stand)
- $205.97 (20% off + 23% off coupon on Flat Panels)
+ $25.95 (DVI Extension Cable – padding)
- $5.19 (20% off Accessories)
- $60.00 ($60 off $500 purchase coupon)
+ $36 (Overnight Shipping)
- $36 (Free Overnight Shipping)
+ $14.03 (Tax)

This monitor had very good reviews, and is quite possibly the same monitor as the Samsung 193P, which is very well reviewed.

Dell has confirmed the order, given me an order number, charged my credit card, and given me an estimated ship date of August 1st (odd considering it is overnight shipping).

I guess it is only a matter of time before they cancel this one! :P

Edit Sept-8-06: No more commenting on this one. Too much spam a comin’ down the ‘ol tubes.

Drivers or Video Card?

Well, I’m having a bit of trouble with my computer. I try to repair computers for a living, and I usually do pretty good job of fixing whatever may be the problem. Before I go spending a bunch of money on a new video card, I figured I would run my situation past the geekier readers of my blog to see if there is anything obvious that I am missing.

Video Card Information

Current Card: SAPPHIRE RADEON 9200 128M DVI Radeon 9200 128MB DDR AGP 4X/8X Video Card
Purchased on: 3/29/2004 10:45:39 AM
Drivers: Catalyst 05.7 (newest available– upgraded last week)

Other System Information

OS: Windows XP Professional SP2
CPU: P4-2.8E, 800MHz FSB, Socket 478, 1MB Cache
HSF: Thermaltake XP-90, Nexus fan, Zalman Fanmate II, Arctic Silver 5
PSU: Rosewill RE501-SLV ATX 500W Power Supply
RAM: Patriot 1GB (2 x 512MB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Unbuffered
RAID0: 2x Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 6Y080M0 80GB 7200 RPM Serial ATA150
Sound: M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI Audio Interface Card
Case: SkyHawk MSR-4610 Silver 1.2mm All Aluminum ATX Mini Server Case
Cooling: 2x120mm, 2x90mm, round cables, fan controller, very clean wiring, decent aiflow1.


Click for larger image.

  • Started about 2 months ago.
  • Strange pixels at random locations.
  • Happens about once or twice a week.
  • Often follows return from standby
  • Has happened while actively using system (lightly)
  • Only known recovery is reboot.

So, it really seems to me that this is a video card issue of some sort. I was able to take the screenshot you see above, so I know it is not a monitor issue (unless Print Screen works much differently than I have been lead to believe).

So the question is whether or not it is drivers or the card itself.

I guess it could be heat acting upon the card. The card itself doesn’t have a fan on it, just a heat sink. So, I’ve got this nifty bracket that mounds on the screws that hold in the PCI cards. It holds a 120mm fan parallel to the side panel of the case, and blows air directly onto all of my cards.

My temps, while high, are not too far out of line for the system:

Room: 28.4c
Case: 47c
CPU: 51c
HD: 48c

It is a Prescott, after all. I know the case temps are high, and I attribute part of that to poor quality sensors in the incredibly cheap MSI motherboard, and partly to the lack of top fan on the case. I plan on putting a top vent on the case as soon as I find someone with a Dremel.

So, it is a tad hot on the video card, but it has direct airflow over it, with some coming from outside the case. I can’t imagine heat is the issue, but of course, I may be wrong.

So how about voltages, you ask? Maybe the video card isn’t getting the right voltages. Here they are:

VCORE: 1.38V
+3.3v: 3.18V
+5V: 5.05V
+12V: 12.46V

Alright, so the voltages are a bit off, but tolerable. You should have seen what they were when I had my old 350-watt PSU in there! I can’t imagine that voltages like these would be the cause.

Now I think I have heat and power covered. That leaves drivers and general card failure as my only options.

Since I am running the latest drivers, and this issue has happened with the current drivers, and my old driver (prompting the update), I would have to say my card is starting to fail. Unless I am missing something, I can’t really imagine any other cause.


Maybe This Monitor Deal Will Work

Well, I’m trying another monitor deal.

The last one from HP failed miserably. I didn’t get the monitor, and it took quite a while to get my money credited back to my account.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one.

I picked up two of these:

Benq T903 19″ LCD Monitor

They list for $369.99, and I bought two of them for $332.02. That is 55% off retail price!

Plus, there are rebates, but I can only do one I am sure.

I’ve got my receipt all printed and ready to go. I’ll be heading to Office Depot first thing tomorrow to attempt to pick them up.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Flat screen monitors

Well, I think it is finally time. I may have to break down and buy a flat screen monitor. Well, two actually.

See, Jaime and I sit at the same (large) desk. I’m on the left; she’s on the right. On the desk sits our identical (loud) keyboards, identical wireless mice, our mixing board, a set of speakers, our 1978 Bell Systems chocolate brown rotary dial telephone, and, the subject of this post, our two massive 17″ CRT monitors.

I have been anti-flatscreen for a long time. I still am.

Really, anyone who says their flatscreen has a nicer picture than a CRT is not telling the truth. It is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of physics. CRTs produce better pictures than LCDs. There is no disputing this.

Sure, some say that LCDs are brighter. Some say they have more contrast. Some say they just “look nicer.” But when it comes right down to it, a CRT can fire electrons at its phosphorous-coated screen at the speed of light, while LCD response time is measured in milliseconds. There is no contest.

But now that summer is upon us, Jaime and I are realizing that our office is a heat machine. Two PCs (6 hard drives!), two CRTs, a 19″ TV, two battery backups, a router, a cable modem, and a laser printer. That is our “minimum” equipment that is on when we are in the office.

So now we’ve decided that the number one heat source in the room is our monitors. Her monitor is warm to the touch. Mine is even warmer. Her monitor is a piece of crap. Mine is very nice. Both are going to be replaced with LCDs.

So, my question for anyone who is reading (is anyone reading?) is: where the hell can I get a good, cheap LCD? Surely I don’t have to purchase two Dell systems that include LCDs and sell the actual PCs on Ebay just so I can get a good deal on a flat screen.

I’m looking for two 17″ LCDs. I’ve got about $400 to spend. I do not buy from or

Anyone have any good connections on LCDs?


Cool Computers

No, not that kind of cool. I am talking about cool in terms of temperature here. :P

My computer is hot. Very hot. Can you blame it, though? I run the hell out of it, heavily exercising every little bit of hardware. And because it is hot, it is also loud. The fans, oh how they hum!

Here’s what I’ve got:

Pentium 4 – 2.8E (Prescott core, Hyper-Threading, 800Mhz FSB, 1MB L2 cache)
Motherboard: MSI PT880 NEO-LSR
RAM: Patriot 1GB (2 x 512MB) PC3200 Dual Channel DDR (2-3-2-5-T1)
HD: 2 x Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 80GB 7200 RPM SATA150 (RAID0)
Video: Sapphire Radeon 9200 128MB
Sound: M-Audio Audiophile 2496
Optical: Toshiba SD-R5112 DVD-R/RW
TV Tuner: WinTV Go!
Fans: 4x80mm
Case: Raidmax ATX268WUP Blue Steel Gaming Tower
PSU: Raidmax KY-450ATX 350watt
Heatsink & Fan: Stock w/ Arctic Silver 5

Looking over the specs, it seems like a pretty good system, and it is. It does just about everything I need, and quickly at that. But I have definite concerns when it comes to the power supply, the case, and heatsink & fan.

Put simply, the power supply is weak. The label reads 24, 27, and 10 on the +3.3v, +5v, and +12v rails. So, the +3.3v and +5 rails are probably good enough. They are well within margins at idle and under load. But the +12v rail scares me. My CPU alone uses over 100 watts of +12v power, so that doesn’t leave much room to power my drives!

The lack of +12 power is causing problems, it seems. My computer case is hot to the touch by the power supply. What I suspect is happening is that the computer is using more power than the +12v rail is supposed to put out, and that is in turn causing excessive heat and poor efficiency. All I know for sure is that the CoolerMaster 80mm fan I put in the power supply is spinning as fast as it can, and it is vibrating my brain.

Here is the power supply I’m considering: Link. It’s from a relatively unknown brand, but it has great numbers: +3.3v = 28A, +5v = 26A, +12v1 = 17A, +12v2 = 17A.

It’s got more than enough power, and, as long as it is within the allowances, it should serve me just fine. I may just have to cross my fingers and order it.

The next problem is the case in general. It has mounts for four fans at the front-bottom of the case, but there are no intake holes! That makes no sense now, does it? Well, it is right where my hard drives sit, so I’ve got two 80mm fans setup to blow on them. Next, the side fans. There are two 80mm fans mounted on the side of the case. I’ve got the one that is by the hard drives blowing hot air out, and the one near the back of the case blowing in.

But that just doesn’t cut it. The only exhaust fan at the back of the case is the one in the overheated power supply, the one vibrating my brain. There is a mount for another fan, but it’s a 60mm mount. Who is going to use a screeching 60mm fan!? Not me.

This case is a wreck for a high-heat system.

The replacement for my case has already been chosen. Check it out here: Link. It is priced at $28, and I have a $5 off coupon.

That’s right– it’s a decent quality, all aluminum, removable motherboard, toolless chassis case for under $25. I would expect that simply replacing my current case with this case would substantially reduce the heat contained within my system (but not the heat produced by the system).

The last point of concern is the heatsink & fan. The stock Intel HSF is crap! My fan usually hums along at about 5,100 RPM, and it makes my computer sound like a vacuum. Small fans and high RPMs drive me nuts, and so I need a replacement.

I am on a big-fan-means-less-noise kick, so I am looking at getting one of these: Link This thing is huge– over 12 cm wide– but it also operates at incredibly low volumes, and with absolutely no vibration. I won’t be getting it from NewEgg, though– Froogle is full of places that beat NewEgg by $10 or more.

All in all, this should hopefully reduce the noise of my system to just about nothing. It’s going to be great!

Rebate Center – My New Project

Well, I’ve got myself a new project. I am building a web application that helps people keep track of rebates they submit.

I originally started building this out of necessity– I send a lot of rebates, and have to maintain mass amounts of paperwork in order to keep them all straight. It got to be too much trouble, and I decided I needed a better way to track them.

Sure, I could setup a simple spreadsheet and keep track of them just fine, but that is not my style. I need to do it much bigger and much better than a simple little spreadsheet.

I need reminders. I need statistics. I need someone to take my hand and walk me through the process of completing my rebates. I need a webapp.

So, I started the coding on this yesterday. Let me give you a little bit of background on my coding and my coding skills.

I first started coding PHP in July of 2002 as we prepared for the launch of America’s Debate. I had several years worth of basic HTML experience, and PHP was a natural progression for me.

It started simple, with my first hack as simple as taking an IP address (from the online list), and making it a link to the Arin WhoIs search. It was really simple.

I eventually built my skills to the point where AD runs a heavily modified version of IPB. Granted, the core functionality remains the same, but the creature comforts we have at America’s Debate as a staff and as a membership blow the doors off many other web forums.

As Invision versions progressed, so did my PHP skills. I went from making simple hacks to making nearly full-blown webapps. One example of which I am most proud is the America’s Debate Resources Directory. That took me several months to develop, and, in my opinion, blows the doors off the Invison Top Site List.

The InvisionTSL is a good script (judging from a user experience, I haven’t seen the code), but it just isn’t meant for a directory. Sure, it can be used as one, but that is not the original intent of the developer. Why anyone would waste their time coding a top site list, I haven’t a clue. But they did, so I made my own.

The InvisionTSL also seems to be a bit bulky. It takes 7 queries to complete a pageload, quite a bit considering the base Invision Power Board index.php takes only 4 queries. My Resource Directory script doesn’t add a single query to the pageload– it’s all cached. And, even when extra queries are required, they are ultra-optimized (the best I can) and run very, very fast.

The next most proud accomplishment I have made is the API/CMS that we use at AD. I basically made my own API/CMS (Application Programming Interface/Content Management System) to get data out of the forum backend and into the website’s front end. It is a very robust script that takes very little overhead to run. Every detail of the non-forum pages at AD is run through a permission filter, and every page is custom-built for the user based on those permissions. It’s a pretty damn slick setup if you ask me.

So, my PHP abilities have greatly increased. From modifying a simple string of text into a link to development of a full-blown resource script and API/CMS, I would say I have learned a bit, and improved a great deal.

So now, The Rebate Center.

I haven’t decided what to name it yet, nor do I really have any good idead for the name. I have only been able to find one other site doing what I plan on doing, and they have a decent domain:

Fortunately for me, just having a decent domain doesn’t make you the best at what you do. Their software is horrible. Their design is infantile. Their site is obtrusive. Their motives are not clear. That is why their site seems to be failing.

I, on the other hand, have an Internet history. People know who I am because of AD, and if they don’t, they can easily find out. They know I’m not necessarily in it for the money, although I wouldn’t turn it down, either. They know that I’m not about to send SPAM to my users, nor am I going to sell their information to the highest bidder.

People know me from my blog (well, at least one or two do). They know I am just a regular person, not a corporation looking to score fast money on the backs of unsuspecting visitors. And they know I am “The Deal King.”

I think my service will be a bit more trustworthy and dependable than the other rebate tracking site.

So, without further delay, I present to you several screenshots of my development work in progress:

Rebate Center Home Add Rebate Open Rebates Closed Rebates

Feel free to post any questions or comments, domain name suggestions, or random thoughts. I am going to try to document my progress here in this post. :)

Edit Sep. 11, 2006: Too… Much… Spam…. Comments closed. Sorry.

Must… hack… software…

For some reason, I can’t seem to keep from monkeying with the works of any php script I get in my greasy little hands (note: my hands are not really greasy, or little, and my php skills are significantly greater than those of the average monkey).

Take the script that powers this blog, WordPress. All in all, it’s a very nice script. It’s got some features I would never use, but it’s also got some weak points. Sure, it has a nice plugin system so you can add what you need, but is it really a plugin if I have to edit files and manually run sql queries? I don’t think so.

Anyway, I’ve had to hack this blog script a few times in the short period I’ve been using it. This weekend, my blog and Jaime’s Blog were hit by some loser spammer. He is linking to a site about online poker that is pure spiderbait. I really don’t know how he plans on profiting from it– he’s doesn’t even have an affiliate link. I guess he’s hoping to drive a bunch of traffic to the site, and then switch the content into something that will generate revenue. Or maybe he’s just an annoying prick.

He typically posts what appears to be a random line along with a link to his lame site. It’s probably a bot. Sure, WordPress can moderate the comments based on keyword, but I really don’t feel like spending my time denying comments just because some mope decided to add me to his list of people to annoy. So, I made a little hack that does a preg_match on the comments, email address, and website that checks for his domain. If it’s there, he gets forwarded to The FBI. That stopped him for about a week.

Now he’s gotten a bit more resourceful, and has started using trackbacks. Some of you may know what trackbacks are. For those of you who do, you are one step ahead of me. I think I get the basic concept, but I’m not really up to speed on how it works. Well, now comments submitted via trackbacks also run through my keyword module, and if the loser’s domain is listed, he gets an error.

He’ll probably find another way to get his comments posted, and I’ll hack up the code a bit more to shut him down again. What a waste of everyone’s time.

DIY Tube Amps

About four or five years ago, I stumbled upon the AX84 project. The folks over there have spent considerable time and effort in devising plans and schematics for average people to build their own guitar amplifier. They’ve got 8 designs ready to build/prototype, ranging from a simple 2-tube design, all the way up to a six tube monster that is designed around the plexi circuit.

I’ve been telling myself for a long time now that I would try to build my own amp, but I have either come up short on money or time and haven’t been able to do it. Now, though, I think I may be able to do this.

I repair computers for a living (well, try to, anyway), and I have a customer who is in his 80s. He knows that I’m interested in vintage electronics, and in particular anything with tubes in it. A couple of months back, he gave me an Eico amplifier, complete with tuner, phonograph, and speaker. He built the amplifier and speaker himself back in the 50s. It works, but needs some fresh tubes to put out at the level required for casual listening.

He also gave me a Hammond A0-15 speaker cabinet, which includes a massive tube amplifier. This thing has 10 tubes in it, and is quite the piece of work.

My plan is to gut the Hammond amp for parts, and use them to build my very own tube amplifier. It will take some time, and a lot of assistance from other people, but hopefully it will work in the end. I figure that using the parts from the old Hammond will get me more of a “vintage” tone when I’m done, but really, I have no clue.

I am really looking forward to having a true tube tone. I played my Ampeg VH-140C for about 10 years. It’s a solid state amp, and has way too much power. Who needs 140 watts? Certainly not me.

I replaced that amp with a Roland full frequency amp that I garbage picked about 8 months ago. It was broken, but a phone session with an electrical engineer friend and a bit of soldering fixed it up nicely. It’s a 4 channel amp, made for PA use or keyboard use. It’s pretty nice.

Right now I run my crappy Ibanez AX series into an Akai Shred-o-matic that uses a 12ax7 preamp tube for distortion. I picked it up for around $35 new on closeout, and it’s a pretty nice pedal. It can manage some good tone, but it’s not necessarily the tone I seek.

I play mostly blues, in the style of Buddy Guy or BB King. The guitarists out there are probably cringing at the thought of playing Buddy Guy style blues on an Ibanez, but for now it’s the best I’ve got. The other option is a Yamaha classical– nice guitar, but not bluesworthy.

In the next three months or so, I plan on getting my real guitar put back together. It’s a 1993 American Standard Strat that is currently disassembled in my closet. I had a coil on my bridge pickup break about three years ago (how I don’t know), and it has been disassembled ever since.

I have plans to pickup a set of Fender Texas Special pickups. These are the same pickups that come standard on the SRV Strat, and they offer a lot of midrange punch and a hefty dose of that beautiful Fender quack. I’ll be wiring that up to a Torres Engineering BluesKaster Wiring Harness. This harness includes a volume pot mod, a midrange boost/cut, and a tone pot called the “woman tone” cap. Out the door, I should be in under $200.

We’ll see how well this works out!