Saturday, 21 May 2011

T-Balancer BigNG .. return of the dusty controller.

No, this isn't a post about Thomas the Tank Engine.. this is a post about a USB programmable 4 channel Fan Controller, I know, I know.. but don't worry, Thomas is safe & having a rest.

This is a tale instead of what happens when you go hunting through a cupboard, and discover a bit of tech you had laying around, and think 'hey, I could probably use that to power the fans in the storage server', it probably happens to you every day... No? Well, you've missed out on all the fun then of discovering how to hook up drivers to your aging widget of choice, for your not so aging operating system..

Here's my tale of random pluggery =)

So, somewhere along the long riding road I've wandered in trying to create a silent media htpc, I bought one of these..

It's an attractive looking widget no? sort of might taste interesting if it were a sandwich.

1 Molex in, 4 fans out, 2 digital sensor buses, 2 usb ports, a loud beeper, and some glowy lights.. in red, not blue..

Want to know more? the website is over here.

At a quick glance, it's still for sale in a whole bunch of places, although it would seem the software hasn't had much love since around 2009ish.

I used to use this thing to manage all the case fans, cpu fan, and gpu fan in a tower case, to make it run pretty much silent when not under load, and to keep it decently cool. Also ran it in a home theatre pc managing the fans there, where I learned that just because you can control temps & fans, doesn't mean the system will be silent. Just means that 20 minutes into the film, the hair dryer will start getting louder.. not good.

Ok, so I figure I'll fire this thing back up, use it on the storage server.. 1st problem... where did I leave the manuals.. 2nd problem.. this thing came with like a gazillion cables, and I'm not sure where any of them are =)

I hooked it up to a usb cable.. a pretty red led comes on, and nothing happens, no new device detected. So I go download the software & try again, still nada.. hmm.. mebbe it needs power.. so I feed it some 4pin molex juice, and it seems happier, the software even detects it.

Great! lets see what it says then.. it seems the UI is now a server widget in my systray.. I find the client front end, and it wont start, wibblegoat.ocx issues. I wield my almighty sword of 'regsvr32' from an admin shell, and the issues dissolve ahead of me. The ui starts.. I tell it to update the firmware.. it agrees, dire warnings about this could brick the device, more dire warnings about am I really sure.. I click yes, it displays a progress bar.. it hits 100%.. it reboots.. and goes into OMG MY EARS ARE BLEEDING alarm mode. Utoh.

I try a few things, nothing seems to work, then suddenly it fixes itself, and it all seems to work again, ooookie.. The UI seems to have downloaded all the settings from the unit, which map to the old media pc, and it would appear the entire UI is in german, which is great, because I'm not.

I stumble through panels till I find the language select, it doesnt work.. I kill the UI, relauch it with admin privs, and now the language select works. Sometimes I despair ;-) then I notice some familiar looking cables on the floor, hey, there's one digital sensor, and one analog.. that's a start!

So eventually I figure out how to reset all the stuff, and when I discover the remaining cables, I can even try to wire it all up.. in the meantime, I've hit ebay for a bunch of spare stuff to help weld this all together.. if it goes anything like this widgets ressurection, I'll be there for at least 4 hours, have to figure out how to speak korean, and I'll need to install some software written for windows Me.

Wish me luck!

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