Multimedia Library Server

I’ve always used iTunes to manage my sharing and remote playing of my media library within my home.

As you no doubt know, iTunes sucks at sharing/streaming media. I used iTunes because it was the path of least resistance despite all the verbal abuse I’ve hurled at it…it’s bloated, slow, crashes etc…but that’s a whole different article…. 😉

Enter Plex. My Padawan at work turned me on to the Plex Media Server and my media consumption has been upgraded beyond my wildest imagination.

Continue reading “Multimedia Library Server”

Oh Windows, why dost thou hate me so?

I understand, having a background in IT, programming and development and other complex systems, that complex systems are, well, complex.

I also understand where Windows came from. From version 1.x on the good old IBM PS/2 model 25. Yeah, I had one. One of the first “all in one” computers with, gasp, VGA….

I also had a Mac Plus…..that worked better….

My point being- Why is it that in 2014, I still have to wipe Windows 7 out to completely flush it? Why do we still have a registry? Shared DLLs? Why can’t I move an app from the programs folder and still have it work?

Oh wait, I can. If I used a Mac.

Microsoft missed the mark. Mac, even before it was Intel based was fully object oriented. Move an app from this drive to that one and it still worked with no complaints. No preference issues, no fuss no muss. Steve was on to something…..

Windows? Not so much. Today I’ve spent all day reloading Windows 7, applying hundreds of updates with hundreds more to go.

I really hope Windows 8 or 9 will fix this but probably not. I think I’m going to head back to Mac land. It costs more but frankly, I can have a Mac system up and running in about 2 hours. I’ve been dicking with windows updates for 4 hours and I haven’t even scratched the surface. Ouch.

I know, I know…make an image of your working system. I do. That doesn’t always make sense. TimeMachine anyone?

Time to reboot. More updates….

Silhouette America, inc. You Suck (now with less suck)

I try to keep my rants to a minimum but dear God in heaven this has me mad.

My side business is vinyl decal cutting and window clings. We use software and hardware from a variety of vendors but one vendor who I SHALL name here has screwed the pooch with their latest software update. Usually software updates are faster, leaner and more user friendly. Epic Fail.

Not only did Silhouette America, inc.  put out a new version but it is so radically different it took me a whole day to use it. Add to that the new saved files from it are THREE TIMES LARGER than the last version. Really? That’s an upgrade huh? Oh and don’t let me forget that the time it takes to cut the designs is now almost 4 times longer. WTF? The hardware is exactly the same as are the designs.

I depend on my cutting software that drives my cutters to be fast and efficient. Silhouette Studio Designer Edition v 2.9.45 was FAST. It worked. It had quirks, but cut times were fast and efficient. I didn’t have to click through 5 screens to set my cut settings.

Now with version 3.0.293, the UI is completely different, the cut options are nice but the “optimize for speed” is anything but. I can’t be the only one who’s noticed this. They conveniently have no way to discuss this with other users on their site…wonder why. I sent a support request. I seriously doubt they’ll get back. If they care they’ll fix this but I doubt it. They seem to have the same mentality as most software makers- pack in the features and who cares if it works (iTunes anyone?). Continue reading “Silhouette America, inc. You Suck (now with less suck)”

Holy SSL Batman…

Just for fun and, well, a learning experience I have SSL’d my site. Why? Why not.

Every good Infrastructure Engineer/Manager should know how and now I do. It was much simpler than I thought.

If you need a good, simple SSL certificate that will cost you nothing I recommend www.startssl.com They offer a simple Class 1 SSL certificate that is great for blogs and non-eCommerce platforms. They’re not as secure as Class 2 or 3 but you have to understand what the classes mean.

Basically a Class 1 doesn’t require any extensive proof of who you or your organization are. The other Classes verify more information about who is getting the certificate and what they’re doing with it. Since my site is just my useless thoughts, Class 1 is just fine.

Hit them up if you need a simple SSL cert. Class 1 certificates are free so if you’re experimenting that’s definitely the way to go.

More on what I did after the jump.

Continue reading “Holy SSL Batman…”

Time Warner. If you’re not laughing yet you will be.

I wish to God Almighty I was making this up. I have NEVER in my 20+ years as a network/infrastructure engineer said this to a customer. I haven’t even considered it. It was always a joke you told colleges but never, ever said with any honesty to a customer.

Time Warner said the following:

“Solar activity this time of year causes issues with internet and television service.” Continue reading “Time Warner. If you’re not laughing yet you will be.”

I really hate facebook

They’re everywhere. I hate the logo and everything that goes with it, the cookies, the scripts, the tracking etc etc. It was nice in the beginning but they’re out of control.

What to do….what to do.

Block them and do it creatively. There are LOTS of solutions for blocking them and their scripts and cookies.

My approach is to modify my hosts file and redirect as many of their domains as I can to the trash bin.

GREAT IDEA! But I wanted more. I wanted to be able to track how many times and what pages were getting data/sending data to them. Plus I wanted some simple indication that they had been blocked. Here’s what I did.

I setup a spot on my web server to accept the “redirects”. http://www.jeffw.net/nofb/index.html

If you go there you’ll get a page of little 21×21 pictures of a “No Facebook” icon. Cool!

The 21×21 pixel icon fits neatly where a news page might have a link out to facebook- thus you can see where in the page facebook got blocked.

My web logs also keep track of what pages/URLs were requested so I have some idea of where all these redirects were trying to go.

This is what I added to my hosts file in Windows 7:

54.243.181.94 www.facebook.com facebook.com static.ak.fbcdn.net 
54.243.181.94 www.static.ak.fbcdn.net login.facebook.com 
54.243.181.94 www.login.facebook.com fbcdn.net www.fbcdn.net 
54.243.181.94 fbcdn.com www.fbcdn.com static.ak.connect.facebook.com 
54.243.181.94 www.static.ak.connect.facebook.com
54.243.181.94 facebook.net www.facebook.net connect.facebook.net
54.243.181.94 m.facebook.net m.facebook.com

All those domains are now redirected to my server which happily accepts the connection, logs it and gives you a nice big page of “No Facebook” images.

99% of the time you’ll only see a few of the images because that’s all the space a web page will allocate to their “like” section. Good enough. If you see the little image you know it worked.

Now if you don’t want to send your redirects to me so I can collect data about what pages facebook is sending you to, you can easily replace my ip address with 127.0.0.1 which will redirect the links to your local computer. Since you probably don’t have a web server running you’ll get blank spaces instead of my little images.

I’ll update the hosts file entries as I find more that need to be blocked.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

My Data Sharing

Most people have a smart phone, a laptop or desktop and many are getting tablets. Brands, versions, “ecosystems” and connectivity options abound.

Some people choose to stay with one brand for all their devices. Take Apple for example. Apple can supply you with your phone, laptop, desktop and tablet. Going this route gives you incredible consistency in your visual interface and all the devices share data seemlesly. The software ecosystem (App Store) is heavily curated so you generally don’t have to worry about crap software.

Photos, emails, contacts and more are seemless across all of your devices.

Anyone who’s an Apple fan will tell you this is a great experience. Apple succeeded in that area.

Most of us however aren’t 100% Apple. Personally and in my family we’re all over the place.

I have a Windows 7 desktop (home grown), Windows XP laptops (Dell or Acer depending on my mood), Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S3) and an Apple iPad 3.

To the average person sharing data across this mess would be…well…a mess. But it doesn’t have to be.

The common services for all these devices are Google and Dropbox.

Google gives me email, contacts and calendars. Dropbox give me photos and files across all of them. (I know Google Drive could but it didn’t exist until after I established my very well working system)

I use a paid Dropbox account because I use it for backup and daily use but the free option may be enough for you.

My phone and iPad both upload their photos to Dropbox- thus my photos are not only backed up but available everywhere.

Google keeps my email, calendar and contacts in sync across them all. I even use Outlook on occasion on my desktop but I find that Google’s web interface is faster and easier in most cases.

Does it all work? Yup. Can it adapt? I believe so.

Now, I do have to give Apple some credit for iCloud though. I started out with an iPhone 3 upgraded to a 4 and then got bored with iPhones after I got an iPad. I didn’t see the point of my phone and tablet being able to do the same thing. Why not have a phone that could do more and compliment it with an iPad? (that’s a whole other story)

iCloud did a great job of keeping my email, contacts, calendars and photos in sync. BUT, because my desktop and laptops are Windows there was a lot of hair pulling with iCloud’s Windows desktop components. Granted- Apple only supports Windows because it HAS to, not because it wants to. I get it but they need to do a better job. Not everyone wants a Mac.

iCloud’s web email client however blows. It sucks. Really really bad. Google wins for web email clients.

Thus the switch to Google for my primary email, contact and calendar use was a no brainer. Plus it works better on more platforms.

Ultimately my preference is for what works for me. I like things that just work.

Things that just work however have degrees. If you’re willing to take the time to set it up you can make anything just work. If you have all Apple products- they just work. That’s a credit to Apple.

If you have all Android/Google products they just work- not as seemless but well enough.

If you have a mix it gets complicated but it can be done.

At this point in the tech world you can have what ever combination of devices you want and they can all play nice.

The only exception I can see to that are native apps. Apps are specific to the device or OS you’re using and it’s getting more fragmented and complicated every day. But that’s a whole other topic.