I’ve been really bad about keeping this blog up to date, but I’m going to try to post a little bit more frequently. Originally I started it as just a place for me to post things that I was coding, but I’d like to expand that to various different tech-related things that I’m working on or working against.
One of the things that I’ve been playing with lately is the Roku. I picked up one of these (an XD model) on sale at Amazon for around $60, and it’s been great. See, a while back I looked at how much I was paying Comcast and TiVo and the headaches involved, and determined that it wasn’t worth keeping the cable subscription. With the advent of iTunes and Amazon Unbox, I don’t see any need to pay for regular cable service when I can just buy the episodes I want instead. Especially with Netflix to fill in the gaps. The Roku works perfectly with Unbox and Netflix, which are the two primary ways I get content now (I occasionally buy something via iTunes, but in general I try to avoid them– their policy to not allow redownloading is something I don’t like. Video takes up a lot of space, and I’d much rather stream it than have to deal with storing it and backing it up myself. Word on the street is that Apple is looking to change that policy, but they need buy-in from the industry, so we’ll see what happens there.)
However, I do have some local content that I like to play on the TV, and I’ve been looking at the best ways to do that. Before I used to hook up my laptop and play files that way; it worked but now the HDMI port is used by the Roku and I don’t want to deal with plugging and unplugging equipment all the time. Enter two solutions: Gabby and Plex. Both have you set up a local media server and add a channel on the Roku which streams content from the media server. Both Gabby and Plex do transcoding (I believe both use ffmpeg behind the scenes; I know Plex does) so that you can play more than the few media formats the Roku directly supports. This has been an interesting experience as neither is really stable yet. The Plex Media Server for Windows is pretty new, but seems pretty stable; Gabby’s media server has had more than a few glitches and crashes (and I can’t get it to reliably start at boot time due the way it’s implemented in .NET). The Gabby devs are also the devs behind the Gabby Roku channel, since that’s the prime focus for them, whereas the Plex channel is actually developed by someone outside of the core Plex dev team. So I’ve been using both, and liking both, but so far I’m leaning a little bit more towards the Plex camp. Especially since they just announced the availability of the Plex Media Server for Linux. I got it up and running under my dual-boot box (Win Vista / Ubuntu 11.04), but it’s not working properly with the Roku channel. Not sure if that’s a Linux server issue or a Roku channel issue, but I’m sure it’ll get sorted out in a little bit. That gives me one less reason to boot into Windows. 🙂
Speaking of that, I’ve been spending a bit more under Linux in general of late. I find it’s a lot easier on the days that I’m working from home to have a full Linux environment at my fingertips than to run countless PuTTY sessions. Maybe it’s just in my head, but that’s the way it feels to me. I upgraded to Ubuntu Natty Narwhal a while back, which has the upside of Vim 7.3. The downside is that VPN connections seem to make my entire networking stack act weird. I opened a bug on it during the beta, but it’s lingering in limbo at this point. I definitely notice a difference between that system and my laptop, which is a Win Vista / Ubuntu 10.10 dual-boot.
After seeing a presentation on it at LinuxFest NorthWest, I finally buckled down and configured BackupPC on my NAS box (which runs Ubuntu 10.10). I just used the default Ubuntu packages for it, and spent some time configuring all my various machines to work with it. On the Linux side I just use rsync over ssh, and for the Windows boxes I use rsync via DeltaCopy. (The two things I’ll mention about the latter: you need to specifically allow port 873, aka rsyncd, in Windows Firewall. You also need to enable pings in Win Vista/Win7, which can be done via the command “netsh firewall set icmpsetting 8 enable”. Otherwise, even if DeltaCopy is working and the firewall allows it through, BackupPC won’t connect to the host because it’ll think it’s offline.) I’m still fine-tuning things, but it’s backing up around 350GB or so of data for me across like 8-10 machines. I thought for a bit about how to handle my dual-booting computers, and decided to just give them different names and identities between the different OSes. So my main machine is storm under Win Vista and lightning under Ubuntu; my laptop is typhoon under Vista and whirlwind under Ubuntu. I’ll have to figure out something for my netbook once I get the partitions straightened out on that so I can dual-boot that between 7 and Ubuntu.
I’ve also been doing some coding lately, specifically on StormChat. I’ve been working on it for years, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where I have someone else running it on their servers, instead of the only people running it being the people that I maintain it for. Granted, I did install it for Ad Astra, but still… it’s the first install not sitting on my servers. I’m working through the bug list, trying to triage it a bit and get things rolling again. There’s a lot left to be done; right now I wouldn’t really recommend it for anyone that’s not veryÂ adventurousÂ or without direct access to me to troubleshoot the things about it that only I know how to fix. I need to work on getting rid of the need for the server, fix/revamp the installer, and fix/revamp the admin console. Those are the three big-ticket items on that project.
I know that my WordPress plugins are really out of date at this point. Some people have reported that some of them still work, which is great to hear. I hope to find the time to sit down in the future and revisit each of them and determine if they need updates or if they can be retired.
I’ve also been playing around with RIFT lately; WoW just hasn’t been grabbing me lately. I tried getting it to run under Wine, but haven’t had much luck yet. If I do get it running, I’ll post how I did so.