From the latest Plex newsletter…

October 29, 2015 4:53pm
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I thought this was pretty cool the way this was handled!

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I wish I could do the same to get my hands on the @justlaugh handle – it’s currently owned by either a teenage girl from Chile or a spammer posing as one. Either way, they haven’t posted in 3 years. I tried reaching out via the Facebook profile that’s liked to Twitter, but never got a response. Oh well.

IVR Dueling

October 9, 2015 1:07pm
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Ok, so this kind of amused me just now – calling my bank with a simple question about payments…

Me: *presses 0 for an operator*

IVR: I’ll connect you to a customer service representative, but first, please say a quick phrase to describe what you’re calling about…

Me: payment question

IVR: Ok, payments – I can help you with that! Would you like to…

Me: NO!!!

IVR: Ok, I’ll connect you to a representative…

Plex Streaming 101

October 6, 2015 4:56pm
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For Plex proponents like myself, this video is a nice, simple walkthrough of the ways that Plex Media Server streams media to different devices both in your home and abroad.

I’ve been lucky up to this point in that the main devices that we use Plex on at home are two Samsung TVs and Plex Home Theater on my computer, all of which support DirectPlay. So far this has been a good configuration for us because even adding my sister-in-law remotely who occasionally needs to transcode due to receiving Internet speed, it hasn’t really affected simultaneous playback here at home. Nonetheless, I can see beefier processing power in our future eventually to help from buffering if we add any more relatives connecting in the same manner who all want to watch at the same time.

But hopefully by then I’ll have justified the bump up to a swanky rack-mount server boasting a sexy RAID configuration and a new motherboard that supports multiple processors! 😉

So I stumbled across this website called the Library of Babel last night, and it’s kind of freaky.

Essentially they’ve created an algorithm that has created every combination of letters … ever. Or at least up to 3,200 characters, for starters. But it’s all indexed, so whatever you type, there’s a page in this vast library that already says whatever you were going to say…

Like – this last paragraph that I just wrote – it can be found here:

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Or even just completely made up nonsense that’s disappointingly not actually true:

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Apparently the site is based on a short story by an author from Argentina written in 1941, well before the Internet was ever a public notion, which is kind of crazy to think of the notion prior to the architecture being available to actually make it a reality … a futurist in the true sense of the word!

Now granted, despite having a computer that can literally generate any text that could ever be conceived, it still takes the creativity of humans to bring the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to be consumable by mankind … the crux of having everything is that you’ve got the literary classics surrounded by an almost infinite amount of garbage unless you already know what you’re searching for.

Even looking at only samples of 3,200 characters, the library currently contains 104677 books of information, whereas there are estimated to be approx. 130 million books published in modern history today … to say that the meaningful texts available represent only a fraction of a fraction of the everything that this algorithm creates…

…but it’s still kind of a neat concept from a technical perspective, nonetheless.

The Technology Around Us

May 25, 2015 7:19pm
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I’ve found myself taking notice over the last couple of days – especially with the purchase of our new car – just how seamless some of my favorite technologies are becoming around us, and I kind of like it.

For example in the car – the brand new car that we got just before going on vacation last week is the first car I’ve had with Bluetooth, plus it came with those cool keyless entry key fobs so the car can be started with the push of a button as long as the key is present, meaning that all I have to do is toss my phone and keys in the center console and when I start the car, it automatically re-pairs my phone and connects to Pandora or whatever music I was playing before.

Or with my media collection, now spanning music, movies, and TV Shows – not only can everything play on any device around the house via a simple Plex app, even when we’re out and about I can placate the child with Fraggle Rock or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that streams to my laptop from our media server back home – all with just a wifi connection.

Even simply with my working space on my computer – a decade ago I had my laptop, and then I had a separate desktop that had some of my beefier apps that wouldn’t run on my laptop, and I would keep my writing and other critical files on a flash drive that I’d shuffle between wherever I was working at the time. Now I just have a MacBook Air that serves as both, and for the first time in forever all of my stuff is properly backed up multiple times to the cloud and my own personal server automatically.

Despite occasional reminders of how dependent we’re becoming on connectivity – such as when I was sitting in iHOP just outside of Disney yesterday and Verizon couldn’t feed me a signal to tweet to save their skulls – I love to see the direction that some of my favorite tech is coming where it’s more and more a common, integrated part of our daily lives without the struggle that came from playing computers a decade ago … building servers that kind of worked, directories of mp3s being a media server, and who can forget those god awful CD-to-cassette adapters that we used to use to pump our brand new CDs into our cars on the go?!

It makes me feel more optimistic for something like NFC, which I didn’t really see the appeal of a few years ago, now that I’ve been using Apple Pay more actively to the point where I get frustrated with retailers that are stubbornly refusing to accept it. Back then when they talked about paying things with just my cell phone, it sounded like a stupid idea that would never take off, and then I got an iPhone and slowly our phones grew more and more from just personal communicators into the ultimate portable computer that we know today.

It makes me wonder if 10 years from now I’ll be ready to truly embrace the automated home that’s been preached at us for years to give us the ability to turn our lights on and off from anywhere in the world, if there was ever a reason that we might actually need to do that. I can already see the appeal for the same keyless entry that my car has extending to my front door, and you can buy a new doorknob that does that today! I think the next steps to continue bridging our devices – cameras, phones, tablets, PCs – are going to warm even more people up to the idea, so who knows what’ll be available in a few years when I’m ready to build my brand new dream house of my own – it’s starting to make that home of the future from the Carousel of Progress sound not just more attainable than ever, but more importantly more desirable than ever, too.

Hey, it’s a great big beautiful tomorrow! 😀

Kevin Rose and Leo Laporte

May 14, 2015 7:15pm
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I’ve had this episode of Foundation in which Kevin Rose interviews Leo Laporte earmarked for a while now, but I finally found some time this week to listen along and it was really enjoyable just listening to someone who’s as creatively passionate as Leo talking about his career at large and the road bumps that have slowed him down along the way, and even some of the challenges he faces today with trying to transform TWiT from The Leo Laporte Network into something that’ll actually give him a chance to take a vacation after a while!

I actually really respect both of these guys because like many, I was introduced to them when I switched to digital cable back at the turn of the millennium and suddenly this amazing channel called TechTV existed to embrace this geek culture which was only starting to really blossom as the Internet itself was beginning to take hold. I’ve always kind of considered TWiT to be my lifeline back into tech because even though I honestly don’t watch any of their shows very regularly, I know that whenever I’ve got a couple of hours to kill or need something to put on in the background while I’m pretending to be productive, TWiT just has this incredible wealth of tech content from all of these passionate hosts – Leo and the rest of the former Screen Savers crew included – and it’s always a good time to see what these guys are talking about and get my finger back on the pulse of what’s really going on in tech.

Ironically, one of my favorite TWiT memories still is a few years back now when Steve Jobs passed away and listening to TWiT’s live coverage and the sort of sense of community that it presented to help make sense of such a visionary’s passing as Steve’s happened to be…

After listening to this episode in its entirety, amusingly enough YouTube then recommended an episode of Triangulation (which is one of Leo’s shows) and in fact was one where the tables were turned and Leo pretty much did the same interview with Kevin in the hot seat! I mean, so much of TWiT sometimes is just listening to these guys reminisce about TechTV and their experiences from the other side of the camera, so both interviews are a lot of fun if you happen to be fans from The Screen Savers days or even just enjoy listening to passionate people talking about their craft! 😉

remembering the Power Glove…

February 11, 2015 1:51pm
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This video amused me when I came across it late last night because I totally had a Power Glove myself and like 100% of other Power Glove owners, unfortunately these teens’ experiences were pretty much par for the course!

I didn’t get mine when it first came out – in 1989 I had only had my Nintendo since the Christmas before, so I was much more interested in getting more games than a peripheral that costed nearly as much as the console itself did at the time. I want to say that my Power Glove was a birthday gift from one of my aunts 5-6 years later, mostly because they had found it on clearance at KB Toys back when they were still around, so for $20 it was worth a try…

And even though at the time the controller was pretty god-awful, it’s still kind of neat to look back and see where an attempt at motion controls first started because now here we are 25 years later and not only is the Wii pretty darned good at it, but you can even plug in a Kinect to your Xbox and use your whole body as a game controller! It doesn’t apply to all, or even most games, but the technology is still cool.

If only Lucas could see us now! 😉

Living in the Future, 2015 Edition

January 5, 2015 8:20pm
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I’m a nostalgic guy, and especially when it comes to tech, sometimes I honestly just find myself in awe when I stop and think of how far things have come just here in my own modest lifetime.

Case in point – above is a screenshot of This Week in Tech, Leo Laporte’s sequel to TechTV after it merged with Comcast’s gaming channel and subsequently went belly up about a decade-ish ago? The show started as a simple podcast in a bar with some friends and has since grown into an entire network of technology-based programming, arguably better than TechTV was at its best (and probably more profitable!).

But that’s not the amazing part, believe it or not … well, it’s one of them! What really amazes me though is simply that what you’re looking at there is streaming HD video that I’m pulling through Plex onto my new 4k TV, and it looks beautiful.

This is a big deal to me because I first started watching Leo & his friends on TechTV when digital cable first rolled out to my neighborhood up in Northern Michigan, and at the time we were excited to get a whopping 1 Mbps down and I’m sure some fraction of that up! The package was about $100 for digital cable and broadband – I remember because I paid for it out of my own money when I still lived in my Mom’s basement.

Timeframe was probably around 2000-2001.

So now here we are 15 years later, and in comparison to how things were at the time we really are living in the future!

  • In 2001, we had just shrugged off the chains of dial-up in favor of high-speed broadband Internet.
  • In 2015, I have a 75 Mbps fiber line connected to my home that facilitates HD streaming and can download the equivalent of one optical CD-ROM from 2001 in less than a minute and a half!
  • In 2001, cell phones were just starting to become a thing – I think my voice-only Nokia candy bar phone had 100-minutes a month of air time.
  • In 2015, nobody uses their cell phones for calling anymore, but 4G speeds connect to that same Internet to give me access almost anywhere at speeds rivaling my home connection!
  • In 2001, HD was the new, new thing and for the first couple of years, Discovery HD Theater was how many of us justified buying our brand new, gigantic HD TVs.
  • In 2015, I just upgraded to a new 4k TV that has four times the resolution of HD, and even though there’s only one movie available for it in true 4k today, even just watching the trailer makes me drool for a copy of the full-res film to really see what this thing is capable of!

Technology has always been an exciting part of my life and today I find myself surrounded by more gadgets than ever, from advanced video game systems to tablets and smart phones to a new streaming media server right here in my own home. In a way, it’s just kind of crazy to be able to pull up TWiT on this ginormous 4k screen in my living room because 15 years ago I used to watch the same guy teaching me about tech stuff on an old TV setup next to my computer while I was building the very first version of Just Laugh.

…and ethernet cables spanned the floor because I hadn’t quite gotten wifi figured out on my laptop just yet!

It makes me wonder what the whole landscape is going to be like when Christopher gets to be in his teens, but then again, just like how *I* grew up on 8-bit consoles and an Apple II clone, my son is going to grow up in a world where you’re never really not connected to all of those people and all of that information.

In fact, by the time he’s old enough to notice that kind of stuff…

  • 75 Mbps Internet is going to feel slow to him.
  • The Nintendo Wii will be considered a retro video game console.
  • And it’s really going to drive him nuts that the cable company still doesn’t take those stupid lower resolution channels out of their line-up when better options are available!

As a wise man once said, it’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and I for one am kind of curious to see where the next 15-20 years actually takes us! 😉

48 Hours with my New iPhone

November 13, 2014 4:55pm
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After nearly a month and a half wait because apparently I’m not the only one who ordered one of these shiny, new iPhone 6s, they finally came in the mail Tuesday morning and the upgrade from my old phone was surprisingly seamless for both me and my wife’s phones, and I’ve got to say that I’m kind of loving it in a few ways that I hadn’t really been expecting!

So before this update, we were actually both still on our original iPhone 4s that we got when the iPhone first came to Verizon back in 2011. I had been through two of them, with one replaced literally days before the 1-year warranty was to expire, and even with my replacement now a couple of years later the lock button no longer works.

Remember this?

I hadn’t really put much thought into it because $300 x2 wasn’t exactly cash that we just had lying around, and then Verizon went and did this $200 for any iPhone trade-in, and here we are! It’s funny to look back and see that only three years ago I wrote this little love letter about getting my first iPhone, but now it’s time to throw that one to the curb and frankly, so far I think I made the right choice with putting the old horse down! 😉

What I like about the new phone…

  • Touch ID is a DREAM!!! I thought it was going to be terrible and pointless like most consumer-grade fingerprint ID hardware is, but they did a really good job with it when you consider the application for a phone. Despite my better judgment, I never had a PIN setup on my old phone because they’re a pain in the ass to enter whenever you want to do a single thing on it, but Touch ID makes it super simple – I ended up scanning in both index fingers and thumbs so no matter how I’m holding it, it’s easy to enter and so far it works great. And granted, in reality it may not be MacGyver-proof security, but for the random cases of somebody coming across my phone and not having my finger handy, it’s good enough for me!
  • It’s nice to feel speed again! Facebook in particular had gotten pretty horrible to use on my old phone, but it updates and posts like new again with a processor that’s several generations newer and twice as much RAM as my iPhone 4 used to have. I’ve already found myself re-exploring apps that I’d downloaded before and never really used while I was cleaning out some of the ones that I didn’t want. Plus, the camera is significantly better, so for those excited about what I eat for dinner but who were tired of straining through the darkness to see what anything was, look out!
  • It FEELS like a new phone. Because to be honest, I never really got amped up about the iPhone 4S or 5 because aside from a slightly larger display and better hardware, the previous upgrades didn’t really feel like new phones to me – or at least not enough to warrant dropping another $600 to replace both of ours. And I didn’t think that I’d like the new curved form factor to this one, but it’s really kind of growing on me – the screen is a third bigger, but not too big like some of the more recent Samsung Galaxy phones and even the iPhone 6 Plus, and my biggest critique is really that the lock button moved … which I suppose that I’ll get used to considering that mine’s been broken and I’ve been using AssistiveTouch for the last six months anyways!

In a way I feel kind of spoiled right now because it looks like this might not be the only splurging that we’re doing technology-wise this year and between now and Christmas I’ll likely have a couple of other new toys to play with that I’m really looking forward to as well! Then again, I suppose if I look back over the last couple of years, tech has really been kind of quiet in my life whereas I used to be building computers and rewiring home theater equipment and fighting with my home network all of the time! So it’s also been fun to re-explore technology over the last couple of days as I get used to the latest computer that I carry around in my pocket everywhere I go, giving me instant access to information, people, games, and so much more.

Siri: Living in the future is awesome! :mrgreen:

Steve Wozniak on Net Neutrality

May 12, 2014 3:40pm
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“The early Internet was so accidental, it also was free and open in this sense. The Internet has become as important as anything man has ever created. But those freedoms are being chipped away.”

This is a great open letter from the co-founder of Apple Computers, Steve Wozniak … it’s dated a few years ago, yet go figure that we’re still fighting these same battles, and consequently losing them quite rapidly.

The Internet will be such a different place in the next decade if ISPs are permitted to bill multiple times for the same services like they’re gunning for, and sometimes getting away with, today. Small publishers like myself can’t afford to pay toll charges to Verizon and Comcast and AT&T and Time Warner in addition to the charges that we pay for the same thing to our own hosting providers, and if you think today’s discussions are going to stop at the big players like Netflix and Google, then you’re delusional because once you have a precedence to charge extra for access, why not?!

ISPs don’t have anything to lose if millions of smaller sites simply aren’t on the Internet anymore or not. Pay up or disappear into the slow lanes – it doesn’t really matter to their bottom line once they’re allowed to do it. Give it a few years and for every Facebook and Netflix who gets coerced into paying for subscriber access and how many small sites will start disappearing by the thousands???

Businesses like the telecoms who have built their networks on taxpayer subsidies and short-changed us at every corner are the exact reason why we need Internet regulation because if left to the free market, we’d be back in the days of AOL and CompuServe where networks are isolated and nobody plays together with anybody else and my Internet isn’t actually the same as your Internet because it’s all about dollars and cents.

The Internet is much larger than that, and needs to remain open to all.

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