Category Archives: Tech

Technology

Plex Media Server: You should be using it.

I started using Plex media server just over 1 year ago, and t first I was not sure if it would meet my needs. I wanted something that would organize my media and share it to multiple devices within my house. Now, I’m not saying that Plex is the only solution that does this, there are many others and I’ve used a few different options in the best, including Samsung Share Manager and Serviio media server, both of which worked fine most of the time, but they didn’t really jump off the stage as being above the rest of crowd.

Plex met a few conditions that I had that other solutions did not.

  • Allowed sharing with others outside my home
  • Allowed access to my content when away from home
  • Display posters/pictures of the media, along with a description of the movie or TV show.

Plex can be broken down into basically 2 parts. The first being the Media Server part, which you will need to stream to multiple devices in your house and allow sharing of your media. The second is the App or client, be it the Plex Home Theatre(US spelling is used on their website – Theater) or an app for IOS, Android or Windows phone.

I have Plex Media Server running on a spare desktop PC running Fedora Linux, and have 9 TB of disk in a raid 5 configuration, giving me 6 TB of space to store my media. I break down the organization into Kids Stuff, TV Shows (both SD and HD), Movies (again, both SD and HD) and Music. Of course, you can organize your media any way you like, but it came in handy with my method when setting up my folders within Plex and sharing with other users, I was able to restrict access for my daughter to only the Kids stuff.
Plex Media Server can also run on Windows (32 bit and 64 bit), FreeBSD (64 bit only) and MacOS, with the Linux offerings being 32 bit or 64 bit and available in Debian or RPM packages. It can also be installed on a variety of NAS systems.

Plex clients are not free for Android, IOS or Roku, but well worth the money, though if you want them for free, consider getting a Plex Pass, which gets early access to new features along with the clients for free. GoogleTV and Samsung Smart TV’s and Blu-ray players also have access to a Plex application. Since I mentioned Plex Pass, I should say that I purchased it, mostly for early access, multiuser support, the free application for Android and to support development of Plex. I bought a lifetime pass, but monthly and yearly subscriptions are available.
Plex Pass, well worth the investment.

 

 

I do not work for Plex, nor have I received any compensation from them what so ever, this is just my honest feedback on an awesome application that is worth checking out.

Someone needs to blog more

And that someone is me.

We’re already over 2 months into 2014 and this is my first entry of the year. I’m still adjusting to being a parent, and having less free time than before, but then, I don’t recall having much to begin with. Well, this someone has set a few goals for this year.

1. Learn JavaScript.

I have a desire to develop an application to do scheduling and generate a phone list for search and rescue. It needs to allow administrators to add, edit and manage the user information, generate a weekly schedule (for either 1 or 2 crews) and generate a phone list, which can be viewed online or emailed to members of a distribution list. I discovered that Google has a custom script engine, and decided that using Google Drive, Docs and Scripts to complete this would be a good learning experience. I’ve begun working on the tutorials available at www.codecademy.com.

2. Switch from my laptop to a Chromebook.

90% of what I use my laptop for is online. I purchased a Dell Inspiron 14 back in August 2011, partly for me to use while watching TV, and since at the time my wife was off work for 3 months after having knee replacement surgery. I am also a big fan of Google, so why not a Chromebook? Selection is still a bit limited in Canada, but the prices for the devices seem right, ranging from around $199 to $349. I think I want to get one of the 13″ displays, so that narrows the options down a lot, pretty much the HP Chromebook 14, the Toshiba Chromebook or (if I’m a little crazy) the Pixel.

3. Get Google Glass.

It may seem a strange goal, but I want to be one of those people wearing Google Glass. I see potential to use it for work, navigation, and I’d like to figure out the logistics of using it while flying a plane. Think about it, it could be handy for general aviation navigation, landing approach plate overlays, and could even be handy for aerial search and rescue. Since the device is not available in Canada yet and still costs $1,500 USD, this could be pushed back until next year. NOTE: If anyone that currently has Glass, wants to donate their pair, hit me up (leighATleighcDOTcom). I suspect getting Glass to fit with an aviation headset is going to be real tricky/fun.

Router switching on my FibreOp connection

Dear Aliant,
The provided ActionTec R1000H router is… well… crap… at least for anyone like me.
Regards,
Power User.

[singlepic id=15 w=320 h=240 float=left] Say hello to the ActionTec R1000H gigabit, 4-port router with wireless N and HPNA support. It’s designed for FTTH (Fibre To The Home), and is Aliants choice for FibreOp installs. The ActionTec connects into the ONT (Optical Network Terminal) where the Fibre line terminates inside the house, via ethernet cable. If you also signed up for FibreOP TV, then your receiver(s) will also connect to the ActionTec, either via Cat5 or with the HPNA connection. [singlepic id=17 w=320 h=240 float=right]You also get 4 (3 if 1 is used for TV) gigbit lan ports to wire up your desktops, laptops, and other devices. The router also has wireless N, with a decent output level, for strong reception where ever you might need a good wireless connection.

I found (with some help from the internets on a few of them) a few weak points in the ActionTec router…
1 – No DHCP reservations. This sucks for users, like me, that have servers and devices with dedicated ip addresses.
2 – 1024 concurrent connection limit. This is no good for users, like me, that use torrents.
3 – Lacklustre QOS. Not much of a let down for me, but I was able to see a difference between 2 PC’s playing World of Warcraft.
4 – Software NAT. This added more load to the router while processing packet requests.

So, having followed a thread on Digitalhome.ca closely, I decided to go ahead with the purchase of an Asus RT-N56U. [singlepic id=16 w=320 h=240 float=left]This router overcomes the short comings of the ActionTec, along with looking a lot nicer. What really seals the deal, one of the other members on the DH forums took the time to customize the Asus factory firmware, to tag port 4 with the vlan for the FibreOP TV. So now I get all the feature of the ActionTec, with DHCP reservations, 30,000 concurrent connections, Intelligent QOS, Hardware NAT, UPnP file and print sharing, and bandwidth monitoring!

If you have FibreOp, I highly recommend switching to the Asus router.
You can find them at NCIX, CanadaComputers, FutureShop, MemoryExpress and more… or like me, you can snag one cheap on eBay.
A must read for anyone thinking of switching is here.

Why I’m buying into the Play 4 Free game model

By now, most people have heard of the ‘Play 4 Free’ gaming model. Basically, developers and publishers will put out a game, which costs the gamer nothing. Theses games may be supported by advertisements, backing from a major publisher, or even paid for premium content or extras. Now, I wouldn’t call this approach to games new, as it seems like a new take on the old Shareware methods of the 80’s and 90’s

So, some of the big players that have put out games that I have played, and am probably still playing, include EA, Funzio, Wargaming.net and Turbine. Yes I am including a few browser based games in the mix, partially because of the portability factor with them.

Let me start with Funzio. They are responsible for the browser based game Crime City, which I bumped into on Google+. It is also available in Facebook, and through the Apple iTunes store for iOS devices.

 

Next up, Turbine. They gave us Lord of the Rings Online, based on the J.R.R. Tolkien series of books. The game has decent graphics, DirectX 10 support, and does require a client download. They have also recently announced an upcoming expansion, Riders of Rohan, due out later this year.

Now, we’ll get into Wargaming.net. They responsible for World of Tanks. Who doesn’t want to drive around in a selection of WWII period tanks, blowing other players up. It does require a client download, but it’s worth it. The game has a tiered based system for upgrading to newer and larger tanks, and each tank can be customized with different guns, ammo, engines, etc. Wargaming.net has also announced that they are working on another WWII game called World of Planes… say hello to my next time vampire.

Lastly, I’ll mention the biggest name in the field… EA, but I won’t detail there products quite as much, as just list the ones that I play, or have played and enjoyed. My list of games that have garnered my attention include:
Lord of Ultima
Battlefield Heroes
Battlefield Play4Free
Tiger Woods Online
– Something that I cannot name due to having signed an NDA and it is still in closed beta.

And why do I like Play 4 Free type games so much? I don’t get tied to them like I did with Warcraft… I can play when I want, and for as little or as long as I want.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to login into World of Warcraft…

My crazy ideas – or – Am I just nuts?

[singlepic id=10 w=320 h=240 float=left] So, I have been struck with this crazy idea to setup my own online channel dedicated to technology in general, and of course get a corresponding website. This idea came to me after watching some recent episodes of commandN.tv, one of the online projects that Amber MacArthur does, not that I don’t like commandN, but I feel there are other areas that could use some coverage. Now, I’m a big fan of Linux, being a Fedora/RedHat user for the past 13 years, though I will openly admit to keeping a Windows machine for gaming (Blizzard, please port your games to Linux… please).

I’ve already come up with a cool name (This space removed to protect my wacky idea), but I’ve already found hurdle number 1… someone has the domain I want. I will also need to work with my current host, or look for a new one that will offer unlimited bandwidth, unlimited traffic, email, and (hopefully) cheap domain registration.I will probably also need to look into getting some decent A/V gear, although I’m sure I could get some decent video with my Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS, it probably won’t suffice for the audio. I will also need to get some other people to get involved in the project, and I have a few people in mind, who I think will get on board.

Well, I guess to get this crazy idea going, I’ll need to draw up a plan, present it to a few people, and then see if we can make it happen.. and then to free up some time to work on it.

To play on an old meme…
1 – Setup blog/website/youtube partner channel
2 – Get sponsors
3 – ???
4 – Profit!!

Oh yeah, the title is an homeage to the old Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, yeah these guys:
Rocky and Bullwinkle, the idea guys

SOPA / PIPA, and Gasoline too!

In Soviet Russia, Internet is a lie!
In Soviet Russia, Internet is lie!

Hopefully today’s ‘Blackout‘ by some of the biggest and most popular sites on the internet has brought more attention to the proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)and it’s senate counterpart PIPA (Protect IP Act)bill, that will effectively push the internet as we know it back 20 years, or as I like to call it, Dark Ages Online*.
I’ll give you my take on SOPA, and for the longer (and professionally written) opinion, check out this article from Gizmodo.
Basically, SOPA is designed to give motion picture, television and music companies the right to have any website they find that may contain copyrighted content, shut down. This is primarily designed to stop piracy, but has the potential will really give the MPAA and RIAA  free reign to do shut down legitimate websites without just cause. A good example of this would be a Youtube video of, let’s say a baby, dancing to a music video, let’s say for Beyonce, that you happen to record with your camera, then upload to Youtube. Now this video gets a lot of views, lets say 26 bazillion!, and also gets noticed by the RIAA. They would now be able to contact Youtubes hosting provider and have the site, not just the video, but the entire youtubeverse shut down. I call shenanigans!
Now take that last paragraph and multiply it by all websites that are hosted in the US, or use the most popular domain suffixes, think of .com, .edu, .net and .gov, and you will probably find that it works out to more than sixty-six percent of all the internet as we know it. These websites and domains could be shutdown.
Americans, please write to your congressional representatives and let them know that you will not stand for this. Everyone else, contact all your Amerifriends and educate them about SOPA, PIPA and internet freedom!
Btw, such a video does exist… and have like 26 bazillion views.

Oh yeah, I did mention Gasoline. My fill up wonders continue. I filled up on Tuesday, January 17th at my regular Esso in Fredericton, at my normal pump (Lucky number 7), and with a temperature hovering right around freezing… yeah, pump only stopped on me once. If you’re lost, see my previous musings about Esso pumps hating me and the further woes of filling up.

*Dark Ages Online – I should make a game about having dial up internet 20 years ago… maybe an MMO! Patent Pending!

Return of the Mac(roSoft) scammers.

Phising for Phools

Tonight, I got that now famous Windows scam call. Here goes the play-by-play, as best as I can recall.

Time: 6:43pm Atlantic Standard Time. (Try to picture the clock from 24 here…)

‘Riiiiinnnnnggggg…. Riiiinnnnnnggggg’

Me: Hello?

(Nothing for 10 seconds)

Me: Hello??

Caller: Hello, can I speak to Mr. Lich (Lady caller, with Indian accent)

Me: (Mr. Lich? like in Warcraft or something) I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.

Caller: umm, can I speak to the owner of 506-555-1212* (*not my real number)

Me: Speaking

Caller: Sir, I am calling from technical support, your computer is infected… blah blah blah… memory… files… virus… hard drive… internet…yadda yadda yadda** (** I bunch of meaningless technical babel meant to confuse most people)

Me: Oh my, and you are calling to help me?

Caller: Yes

Me: Ok, please go ahead.

Caller: Please turn on your pc

Me: Ok

At this point, I start a remote session to my Fedora 14 server, that I use for web design, ftp, and downloading files into a ‘safe’ zone. I wait 1-2 minutes to fake a slow start up… For reference, this is what my ‘Start’ button looks like in KDE.
Fedora Logo

Me: Ok, my computer is on

Caller: Down in the lower left hand corner, can you please to click on the Start Options button

Me: Ok, the one with the letter ‘F’ on it?

Caller: Yes, the Start Options button.

Me: In the lower left with the ‘F’ on it

Caller: No sir, with the Windows logo on it

Me: Mine has an ‘F’, like the Fedora logo

Caller: Sir, you have Windows?

Me: No, I have Fedora

Caller: Please hold sir.

(Put on hold for a minute)

Caller: Sir, so you have Fedora as your browser in Windows, right?

Me: No, I’m pretty sure the Fedora is my operating system

Caller: It is not Windows?

Me: No, I’m pretty sure it’s Linux.

Caller: ummm… please hold

(Put on hold again… really?)

Caller: So, you don’t have Windows?

Me: No, I use Fedora, and it is Linux

Caller: I have never heard of it (Me: What???? never heard of Linux? Fedora? WTF!!!)

Me: You can look it up at fedoraproject.org

Caller: Ok, thank you sir, fedoraproject… I can not help you with your computer, please have a good day.

Me: You too, and good luck.

‘Hang Up’

Hahaha, scam fail!
Now to prepare for the next round… Windows XP virtual machine, here I come!