Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Instapaper

I find interesting content while using my phone, either from my6sense or by finding links on Twitter.  Often, I don't want to read the content on my phone, either because I don't have time, or the form factor of my phone doesn't make it easy to read long content, so I would save it for later reading.

I had used Gmail to save these urls.  I setup a filter to automatically archive and add a "Bookmark" label if the message came from one of my accounts, and it had the "bookmark" keyword in the subject.  This works well, though it the experience going through the bookmarks is not ideal.

The type of experience that I ideally would like would be similar to the New York Times Chrome App, and the Flipboard experience.  These present content in a clean, visually pleasing way.  The closest experience that I have seen to this, for bookmarks, is with Instapaper.

Instapaper is a service that lets you save pages for you to view later.  They have a bookmarklet that you can use to save any page that you are viewing in a browser.  When viewing the list of saved sites, the presentation is a simple list.  There are some interesting features, that I like:

  • When viewing content, you have the option to view a Text-only version, which strips all extraneous formatting.

  • You can have content downloaded in Kindle or ePub format


Monday, December 27, 2010

Auto-import for TripIt

I have used TripIt for a while, as it is pretty convenient way to track travel itineraries.  But, since I haven't had to travel for work in a while, I missed their announcement that they have added the ability to automatically import travel itineraries from Gmail accounts.

This removes the need to forward itineraries to TripIt, but I wonder how it will handle an email being archived before it has been imported into Tripit.







[via Lifehacker]

Monday, December 20, 2010

DoggCatcher

DoggCatcher is a very good podcast application for Android.  DoggCatcher supports audio and video feeds, as well as limited support for rss items that don't have enclosures. There are some features that make DoggCatcher a pretty good podcast application:

  1. You can browse several directories of podcasts, from with the application.

  2. Search for feeds

  3. Configure fetch and deletion settings globally, or for each feed.

  4. Configure download options to conserve battery usage.


The one feature that I would like to see added is to have queue of file that is manually managed.  I would like to be able to manually add content to a list, and be able to manage the playback order.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Godaddy Hosting

When I transitioned from the web server running in my house, I moved to a Virtual Private Server.  When that server had problems with connectivity, I moved to a Virtual Private Server with Godaddy.  This server worked very well for several years, but it started to need more maintenance that I want to do now.

Since I was really just using the VPS for a few WordPress installations and small web site, I decided to move it to a Godaddy Deluxe WordPress hosting plan.  The transfer of the sites went smoothly, but recently the server started returning 500 errors, when accessing simple web pages.  Since the hosting plan doesn't give you as much visibility into the processes that are running or access to the logs, as the VPS did, it hard to track down the problem.

I decided to move to more managed hosting.  I moved the blogs to WordPress.com.  Since the static sites are pretty simple, I decided to move them to Google Sites.

Amahi Home Server

Amahi is a project that looks like it could be a good home server solution for me. Amahi is a set of packages that installs on Red Hat Linux, and a service that allows cloud configuration of your server.

Many of the features that are available make Amahi a great solution for a home server:

  • Firefly media sever for streaming to iTunes

  • Built-in VPN server

  • File server

  • Folder replication with greyhole

  • Backup, both full disk (with PBA) and incremental backups (with client software)

  • Ability to install other applications.  I am interested in this for:

    • UPnP server, for streaming to Xbox

    • Squeezebox Server for playing audio to our Squeezeboxes




Friday, November 26, 2010

New storage solution

Our Windows Home Server machine has had some problems.  It seems that the drives in the external ESATA enclosure become inaccessible.  After a reboot everything works fine, and when I validate the drives, the results are fine.  I am thinking that the various interfaces are all potential points of failures.  We have 4 drives in the ex475 enclosure, 4 drives in the external ESATA enclosure, 2 drives in an external USB enclosure, and one more USB drive.  Each of those pieces of hardware may fail, and can cause the problems that I am having.

I was thinking about getting a server enclosure, that can support all the drives internally, when the Vail version of Windows Home Server is released.  I would take that as an opportunity to upgrade both the hardware and software, and not attempt to upgrade my existing server, and potentially have the upgrade fail.

But this week, Microsoft announced that the new version of Windows Home Server would not include Drive Extender.  There has been a large community reaction about this, and Microsoft has responded that they are looking into it, but I am not sure what their response would be.

I would install linux on a computer, and use RAID, but there are some downsides to it:

  1. Maintenance is not as easy with a consumer server product.  I don't want to manage software upgrades or package dependencies.

  2. RAID requires more drive management than I want to do.  With RAID, generally the drives in the pool to be the same size, and to be upgraded together.  Drive Extender allows any size drives to be used, and then added later if necessary.


If Drive Extender is not part of the next version of Windows Home Server, I want to find a different NAS solution.  Maybe a ReadyNAS or a Drobo will work for me.  I just need to find one that has enough storage space for me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Moved to WordPress.com

In March, I moved my blog from a self-managed WordPress.org installation to a WordPress.org hosting managed by Godaddy.  I haven't been happy with performance of that installation, so I decided to find a different hosting solution.

I decided to move my blogs to WordPress.com.  With this hosting, I wont need to manage any upgrades to the software, but I can let WordPress.com manage the bandwidth and server load.  The transfer to WordPress.com went smoothly, and I paid the $12 to allow a custom domain to be used.

When transitioning from WordPress.org, there are some differences that I met:

  • You can't install arbitrary templates or plugins

  • If you have multiple blogs associated with your WordPress.com account, you can't have different display names for your posts on each accounts.  (You could probably create multiple WordPress.com accounts.)

  • It seems like WordPress.com strips the html that can be used in the text widget.

Interesting Kinect features/behaviors

We got a Kinect a few weeks ago, and have really been enjoying it.  There are some interesting features/behavior of the implementation:

  • You can sign into your Xbox Live account with facial recognition, but if you have a PIN on your profile, you will only be logged into your local profile, but not logged in online.

  • While some games let use your avatar while playing, and some will use facial recognition to log into your account, I haven't seen any game that will correctly choose a show more than one avatar, when two people are playing.

  • You are not able to use voice or hand controls to do everything in the dashboard.  For example:

    • You can't use voice or use your body to control Netflix playback

    • You can't open the DVD tray with your voice.



  • You should definitely plan on redoing the KinectID calibration multiple times, to make the facial recognition work well.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

PlayOn on Roku

I have mentioned PlayOn before, as the way that we are getting a lot of our television content.  We use PlayOn to view content from Hulu and SyFy channel. Since PlayOn is a UPnP server , we are able to play this content on our Xbox or on our Media Center PC.

It looks like Roku is getting access to PlayOn content.  The addition of the content that Roku already had, the addition of  PlayOn, makes Roku a credible solution for cancelling cable or satellite service.

I am not sure if once you set the Roku up to access PlayOn content, if you need to leave the PC running to access the content.

my6sense

I subscribe to a lot of content feeds.  I have over 700 subscribed feeds in Google Reader, and follow about 500 people in Twitter (I mainly use twitter to find interesting content).  I has gotten hard for me to sift through the content feed to find things that I am interested in.  my6sense is an interesting app/web service to read content.  It's goal it to make content that is relevant for you easier to find.  So far, I am impressed with how well it presents content that I am interested in.

When you first install the application, you either log into your my6sense account.  Then you can associate your Twitter, Google Buzz, and Facebook accounts with the application.  In addition to the social network feeds, you can also your Google Reader subscriptions into the applicaiton.  At that point, you are able to view the content from those various feeds, like any feed reader.

As you start to read & interact with the content, my6sense starts to build up an idea of what interests you.  It looks like the application take several things into account when determining what you are interested in:

  • Which articles you read vs which ones you skip over

  • Which ones you share with others.  (Since my6sense is a Twitter, Google Buzz, and Facebook client, you can share directly from the application.

  • Since the my6sense android application implements the ACTION_SEND intent, for the various social network services, I assume that sharing content though my6sense from other applications will affect my "interests".


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Uninstalled SqueezeCenter from Windows Home Server

A while ago Logitech released a version of SqueezeCenter for Windows Home Server.  It was nice to install it on our server, and not have to worry about keeping another computer running, just for access to our music.  I have been having a problem with the installation though.  If the server is restarted, the SqueezeCenter is not able to successfully startup.  It appeared that the SqueezeSQL service wasn't starting fast enough so SqueezeCenter service wasn't able to connect to the database.

Since we are using Window Media Center, we have a faster computer that is always running, that can be used to run the SqueezeCenter software. The music is still on the server, so there is more network traffic when playing local content, but things are working pretty well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Unsubscribe.com

On Friday, I heard about the Unsubscribe.com service.  This service is supposed to make it easy to unsubscribe from mailing lists. I beloved that their service knows about the various mailing lost software commonly used,  and knows what actions are required to unsubscribe from a list managed by each.


Since the charge for the premium level of their service, I hope that they also will help unsubscribe from lists where manual steps are required.


I signed up for an account, and then when I got to the step where I needed to install the browser plugin, I stopped. The Chrome browser plugin requested permission to my data from mail.google.com. I didn't see a way to restrict the access to one account. Since I can't verify what information it accesses, and there are certain accounts on which I want to make sure that no unauthorized access happen, I will not install the plugin.


What Unsubscribe.com should do is create a Google Apps Marketplace application. Then I could install it on the account that I am interested in trying out the service, and none of the other accounts could be compromised.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Harmony 900

As I have mentioned before, we like the Harmony line of remotes, and have owned several of the models.  The buttons on the Harmony 890 remote that we have been using for the past several years started to fail.  Even though they don't seem to last, the Harmony remote line contains the best universal remote controls.

I decided to get the Harmony 900, as it is the replacement for the Harmony 890.  The Harmony 900 is a combination IR and RF remote, where it can control devices that are not in line of site of the remote.

The Harmony 900 uses the same web base configuration tool as the other remotes, but unfortunately I had to create a new account for this new remote as the tool wouldn't allow me to add the new remote to my existing account.  This required me to re-add all of my devices.

The IR repeater that is included in the Harmony 900 is different than the one included in the 890.  The IR repeaters include with the 890, could be attached directly to the devices to be controlled.  This helped improve the reliability of the remote signal reception.  The Harmony 900's IR repeaters are meant to sit on the shelf with the component itself.  This is not ideal for furnature where there isn't a door covering the equipment.  In my case, I had to disable the internal IR receiver on my Media Center PC, and use an external USB IR receiver located right next to the IR repeater.

So far the remote is working pretty well for us.  My wife is pleased as well, especially since pressing the buttons actually work.

Fitbit

A while ago I heard about the Fitbit on the Major Nelson podcast. The fitbit is a wearable device that you can use to track your fitness.  It syncs through your computer to upload data to the Fitbit service, where you can track your progress.

The fitbit is a multi-axis accelerometer based pedometer, but it the main draw is that it wirelessly syncs data to the service when you are in range of the base station.  Since it is a two way sync, data that you have entered on the website can affect the display on the fitbit itself.  For example, your height or stride length entered on the website will affect the total distance value shown on the device.

In addition to helping you track your fitness, the fitbit claims to be able track how well your sleep is.  Included in the fitbit package is an wristband.  To track your sleep, you put the fitbit in "sleep" mode, and then place it in the wristband.  I assume that the fitbit services calculates the quality of sleep from the percentage of time that the fitbit detects motion while in "sleep" mode.

There are one thing that I think that could be improved with yncing without a computer.  The computers that we use most are laptops that are normally not connected to USB devices, so these will not be useful for syncing.  And the desktop computers in our house are normally turned off. Using a cell phone would be a great solution. I see a few ways that this would work.

  1. Have the fitbit sync with a phone over bluetooth.  Fitbit could write an iPhone or Android application that would send the data to the fitbit server

  2. Replace the fitbit device with an iPhone or Android application, assuming that the application doesn't decrease battery life of the phone.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Network reorganization

I had been having problems with the reliablity of the Media Center Extender connection to the Media Center PC, from our bedroom.  Often, playback would pause, and I would have to reconnect to the PC.  This continued to happen even after switching to the Xbox.

I decide to reorganize my home network, to try and improve things.  I switched things around so all of the media related devices are on the same Gigabit ethernet switch.  Hopefully, this will help prevent bandwidth contention, when attempting to watch television or movies.



Next time I climb up to the attic, I need to label each of the ethernet cables, so I can know which room and port each go to.  Currently, it takes me a few tries to determine what is connected to each.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

android2cloud

android2cloud is a project similar to Chrome to Phone, but instead of sending links to your phone, instead you send urls from your phone to the browser on your computer.







I am not sure how often I will use it, as majority of the time that I am looking at the browser on my phone, I am not at my computer, and am most likely not logged in.  Ideally, the shared links would be queued, and the pages would open the next time that the browser is opened, but it looks like that doesn't happen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reinstalled Recorded TV Manager

Last year, I installed Recorded TV Manager to manage moving recording to my Windows Home server.  I stopped using it when the Power Pack 3 was made available for Windows Home Server, as it enabled archiving recordings automatically.  Also, Recorded TV Manager was not compatible with the recordings that Windows 7 made.

Unfortunately, the archiving feature that Power Pack 3 implemented didn't do anything to remove duplicate episodes, so I started to use a lot more space than was needed. Also, you are not able to specify different destination directories for the archived recordings, so you end up with one directory full of files.  I also never used the transcoding inPower Pack 3's archive recording feature.

Version 3.9.2 of Recorded TV Manager adds support for Windows 7's wtv recording files, so I decided to install the new version.  The instructions are very helpful for installing the Windows Home Server plugin, and the service that is needed to access the meta data from the wtv files.

I also took this as the opportunity to organize the recorded content that is on the share on the Windows Home Server. I moved some of the archived content to a share that has folder duplication enabled, and for content that I don't care about losing, I left it in a share that doesn't have duplication enabled.

Xbox 360 in bedroom

A while ago, I mentioned that my wife bought me the new slim Xbox 360. I was trying to decide where I wanted to set up the old Xbox.  We have been using Linksys Media Center Extenders on each of the other TVs around the house, to give them access to the content on the Media Center.  But the Linksys extenders do not support other content like Netflix streaming.

I decided to set up the Xbox in our bedroom.  (And got the OK from my wife too.)  I have configured it to automatically start up in Media Center Extender mode when the Xbox starts up.  Since I want to access our Netflix streaming account from the Xbox, I created a Xbox Live Gold account for the Xbox, and associated my Netflix account to this Xbox account.

With this setup, I can access:

  • Live and Recorded TV from the Media Center

  • Netflix streaming content

  • DVD content

  • Content from the Zune Video marketplace

  • Hulu, Youtube, and other internet streaming content through the PlayOn server running on the Media Center


Also, we will be able to play games on this Xbox.  (Most likely only when my wife has her woman's group over)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Windows Support Mode

After spending several hours repairing my wife's grandmother's computer from a trojan infection, I realized that, unless I want to spend more time on support, there needs to be a better solution for helping family members on their computers.

In this case, me wife's Grandmother has several behaviors that increase the likelihood that she will be infected.

  1. She installs random software that she downloads from the Internet.

  2. She often runs her programs using "Run as Administrator"


I am tempted to remove Windows from these computers, and install Ubuntu, but I think that this would be a steep learning curve for her, and I would still need to set up a way for her to run windows programs (Wine or VMWare)

If I had more time to dedicate to support, I could change her account to a non-Administrator account level.  But then, everytime she wanted to install some softeare, or run a Windows Update that prompts for administrator access, I would have to do that.  Unfortunately, we are local to her, and I don't have the time to manage all of these things remotely.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Windows Home Server Restore

Last weekend, I decided to upgrade the hard drive on our Dell XPS m1330.  I was pleasently surprised how easy it was to remove and replace the hard drive from the laptop.  Since I use Windows Home Server to back up all of our computers, I was expecting a similarly easy time to restore the data to the new hard drive.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

I booted the computer with the Window Home Server PC restore CD, with the laptop connected to the network, and attempted to have the restore software find the sever, but the software wasn't able to find the server.  It turns out that the restore CD didn't have the drivers for the ethernet interface.  The restore software can load any needed drivers from a floppy or usb drive.  I copied the contents of the CD that contains the drivers for the m1330 onto a thumb drive, and when the software searched for any needed drivers, it wasn't able to find any.

It turns out that Dell didn't put the ATA or ethernet drivers on the driver CD for the m1330.  I was able to download those drivers manually and put them on a thumb drive, and was able to restore the data to the new drive.

Now, I will just label the and keep the thumb drive for whenever I need to restore that computer

Chrome to Phone

Chrome to Phone is a pretty cool project.  With this Chrome extension and Android applicaiton, you can send links to web pages to your phone.  I use this for:

  • Sending a location from Google Maps to your phone, where you can easily get start navigating to the destination

  • Sending web page url to the phone, where it can be viewed

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Xbox 360 "slim"

My wife and kids bought me  a new Xbox 360 "slim" for Father's Day.  So far, I like the hardware, especially how much quieter it is when compared to my older Xbox 360.

The setup/transfer went pretty easy, especially since the software to transfer data from the old hard drive is included on the new Xbox.  (You do need to purchase the Xbox 360 transfer cable.)  All content was transferred, except for the games that had been installed on the hard drive.  Even though the content was transferred, it was still licensed to my old Xbox.  (The DRM on the Xbox licenses content to the Xbox where the content was purchased, and the Xbox Live account.)

Since I want the content to be playable when my Xbox Live account is not logged in, I needed to transfer the licenses to the new Xbox.  Microsoft has a tool where you can transfer the licenses for your content to a different Xbox.  Unfortunately, after you transfer the licenses, you need to redownload the content.  The download manager on the Xbox only allows 30 items to be added to the queue.  So I re-downloaded the games, but haven't redownloaded the Rock Band tracks that I had purchased.

I do like the hardware on the new Xbox, for reasons other than how silent it runs.  Since HDMI and toslink optical are on board, I can now use HDMI and digital audio.  (There wasn't room with the placement of the ports to use both before.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

WordPress 3.0

Version 3.0 of WordPress was just released, and I have painlessly upgraded my blogs.  There are a few features that I am looking forward to using.

  • Ability to host multiple blogs on the same WordPress installation (I still need to see if it supports multiple domain, so my blogs don't have to be on the same domain.)

  • Ability to upgrade plugins in a batch.


http://v.wordpress.com/wp-content/plugins/video/flvplayer.swf?ver=1.21

HP Home Server Easter Egg

I took a look at my HP MediaSmart ex470 this morning, and I noticed that the drive lights were all blinking on and off in about a 1 second interval.  I was hoping that this wasn't an indication that all 4 drives or the motherboard was dying, and the manual didn't describe an error state that would cause the lights to blink in this pattern.

I then found this page that describes the easter egg that HP put into their software.  Somehow, this got enabled on my server.  (Maybe this gets enabled on Father's Day.)





Sunday, June 13, 2010

Automatic WordPress Backup

In this post, I mentioned that I was using Wordpress Database Backup to backup the databases from my WordPress installations.  I was using this too email myself the dumps of the databases.

I have switched to using the Automatic WordPress Backup.  This plugin will backup the themes, plugins, configuration files, uploaded files, and the dump of the database, to an Amazon S3 bucket.  You can configure the plugin to keep a number days or weeks of backups.

Sirius/XM on Android

Sirius/XM has released an Android application which allows you to listen to the satellite radio stations on your phone.  Once I downloaded the application, I was able to play all of the Sirius/XM station, over wifi and 3G.

Unfortunately, they decided not to put the application in the Android Market, but you have to download it manually.  This will mean that updates to the application will not be automatically shown to the user, when they become available.  Also, if you have to restore your phone, this application will not be automatically reinstalled.

The other problem that I have had with the application is that when the application loses the connection, it plays the data in the buffer, and continues to loop that audio.

I will probably pay for the premium streaming, once the free trial ends, as I like listening to this content at work.

[via MarketWatch]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On My Way

On My Way is an pretty cool Android application.  When you are going somewhere, and someone is expecting you, you can use On My Way.

When you launch On My Way, you can start sharing.  When you do that the application generates a url that you can share with people who are expecting you.  If they access that url, they will see an embedded map that shows your current location.

It would be very cool if you could also specify your destination in the app, so then the web page could also show your ETA.

My Movies for Android

A while ago, My Movies came out with an iPhone application that lets you sync the meta data of your movie collection to your phone.  This lets you see which movies that you own while you are out, so you can know whether you should rent or buy a movie.  This synchronization happens by the PC application syncing the collection to the My Movies online collection, and then your phone syncs from there.

They just released an Android application that has the same functionality.  This is yet another benefit of using My Movies to manage my movie collection.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Springpad

I have been using Remember the Milk and Evernote to keep track of things.  Remember the Milk is a great app to manage task lists, and Evernote is an application where notes, pictures or documents can be stored.  Both of these applications synchronize with cell phones, so you can access your data when you are not connected.

One way that I have been using these apps for is to keep track of things that I see or hear about will want to get later.  For example, when I see a video game, that I don't necessarily want to buy when it first comes out, I want to keep track of it so I can add it to my Goozex list later.  Also when interesting movies come out in the theater, I write them down, so I can remember to add them to my Netflix queue.

The problem with using Remember the Milk and Evernote is that, those entries are not typed.  So when I want to take a look at the items that I indicated some preference for, I need to remember what the item was from the name.  When I want to get one of the items, I need to manually do a search on various sites to get the item.

This post mentions Springpad, which looks like a very promising application.  I downloaded the application on my phone, and created an account, and was easily able to add items.  The best feature of Springpad, is once you add an item, it offers contextual actions.  For example, for a movie, you can purchase a ticket, purchase it from Amazon, stream it from Amazon or Netflix.  I also like the fact that I can choose to make my list public, and you can "follow" other people's list

There are a few things that I don't like, or I think could be done better.

  1. When you create an account, and add items, you start getting emails when some other Springpad user adds something that is in you list. I would want to opt-in to receiving the emails.  (You can opt out)

  2. By default, certain types of items in your list are public.  Once you add the items, you have to modify the sharing preference for each item already created

  3. I don't see why you would use Springpad for contacts or tasks.  I think that there are better tools for those data types.

  4. In the application on the phone, I would like it if it wasn't necessary to specify a data type to perform a search.






Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Movies Upgrade

I finally got around to upgrading my installation of My Movies to the latest version.  There are some new interesting features that were added:

I do wish they would do an Android application, or a mobile version of their Online Collection

Connecting blog to Google Buzz

This post on Google Buzz describes the steps required to connect your blog to Google Buzz, and have posts automatically imported into your Buzz feed.

This plugin for WordPress makes it very easy to claim your blog, without having to modify the template manually.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Deleted foursquare account

In my spring cleaning of my social networking accounts, I have decided to delete my foursquare account.  I tried both the iPhone and android foursquare applications and, personally, I don't find a use for it.  I don't really want to manually "check-in" to a place, just for the purpose of the check-in.

I haven't used Yelp's check-in feature, but I could see it being more useful than foursquare's, as I assume I could add a review at the same time.  Unfortunately, Yelp's check-in feature is not available in their Android application.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

VaultPress and WordPress backups

VaultPress is in interesting WordPress plugin/service.  You install a plugin and then their services offers the following features:

  • Automatic backup of your content that is hosted in WordPress

  • Automatic patching of your WordPress install


I think that the automatic backup of content is interesting, especially since the backup happens as soon as you add content.  I am not sure about the automatic patching of the WordPress installation.  I would be concerned about the plugin patching the WordPress installation to one that has a problem, without my knowledge.  For example, WordPress 2.9 had a problem with certain version of the curl library in PHP, and the 2.9.1 version fixed it.  When performing the patch manually, you have the opportunity to make sure that there aren't any reported problems.

Also, I am interested in seeing how a restore would work with this plugin.  For example, if my database got corrupt, how would I restore.  Also, how many previous revisions are kept in the backup.  Since they are saving any change made in the WordPress installation to the backup, this could also mean that any accidental/malicious deletion would also be automatically propagated.

Currently, I am just using the WordPress Database Backup plugin, and just having it email me the dumps of the database tables.  If I need to restore, I would just need to restore the database from the backup that I want.  The things that are not being backed-up in this process are any uploaded photos or the installation itself, but that is covered my my hosting provider.

[via Matt Cutts]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Friend Face

This is a great video from The IT Crowd television show, for the Friend Face social network.







Now, who wouldn't want to sign up for this?

Monday, March 29, 2010

FriendFeed account non-delete

As I mentioned in this previous post, I deleted my FriendFeed account.  I followed their directions to delete my account, got confirmation of the deletion, and I confirmed that I am not able to log back in.

The problem is that it appears that even after I deleted my account, new entries posted to my Twitter account are still being posted to my Facebook account, using the FriendFeed facebook application.

I had configured my FriendFeed account to import my Twitter feed, and had configured the FriendFeed facebook application to post my FriendFeed entries to Facebook.  But, I expected that when I deleted my FriendFeed account, that no more entries would appear in Facebook, especially since my FriendFeed account is supposedly "deleted".

FriendFeed should fix their service so if my account is deleted, they should stop processing any updates that had been associated with that account.  Until they fix it, make sure that you remove the FriendFeed Facebook application when you delete your FriendFeed account.

Moved to hosted WordPress

I have decided to move my blogs to Godaddy's host that comes with WordPress preinstalled/preconfigured.  Management is very easy, and I am now able to use WordPress' built in plugin update mechanism.  Also, Godaddy will manage update the WordPress install.

I was easily able to export the posts from my the WordPress installations on my Virtual Private Server, and import them into the new installation.  I was able to test the new setup, before changing my DNS records, so I was able to make sure everything was working before I made the switch.  

Deleted FriendFeed account

I just deleted my FriendFeed account.  When FriendFeed first came out, it was a great service to aggregate my online activity into a single feed.  I used this feature to aggregate my activity and post it to twitter and facebook.

I never really used the collaborative or social features of FriendFeed, mainly only a small subset of my social circle actually uses FriendFeed.

Now that pretty much any site, that I want to share activity from, supports Facebook or Twitter directly, there is less of a need to use FriendFeed.  In addition, sharing directly with Facebook from each site allows me to specify different permissions for each activity type.  For example, I can have my Netflix activity shared with my friends, and I can have my YouTube activity shared with everyone.  When using FriendFeed, I can only set the permission for all activity that is share via FriendFeed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Archiving Documents

A few months ago, we took a look at our filing cabinet in our office.  We have a lot of documents that we have saved, just in case we had a need for that information.  Unfortunately, over time the amount of paper continues to increase.  So I decided to look for a solution for me to digitize all of this content.

The Evernote blog had a post about Pixily/OfficeDrop.  This is a service where you can mail your documents in and they scan them and run OCR software.  Then they host the files in a digital locker, where you can search or organize them.  This seemd like a reasonable service, but it works best for scanning documents as you receive them.  In order for use to scan through our backlog of documents, it would have cost several hundred dollars.

We decided not to go with OfficeDrop, not only because of the cost of scanning our backlog of documents, but also for the cost of the service.  The amount of storage that you get, I feel, is not worth the monthly charge.

We decided to do the scanning ourselves.  We bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M document scanner to do the scanning.  This scanner will quickly scan a batch of multiple side documents.  The included software has some pretty useful features:

  1. Automatically detects the number of printed sides on a sheet

  2. OCR and creation of searchable PDFs


Comedy Central shows with PlayOn

I have been very happy with our setup now that we have cancelled our Comcast cable TV service.  For the shows that are not available on terrestrial television, the selection of content available on Hulu has been great.  Unfortunately, Comedy Central decided to pull their content from Hulu.

Today, I got an email from the PlayOn team, mentioning they they have added support for playing Comedy Central content, in addition to content from NCAA March Madness, MLB and Pandora.  I installed the update, and it works great.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Moving to hosted blog software? [update]

I am thinking about moving my blogs to a hosted blog software service like Wordpress.com or blogger.com. This would reduce the amount of work that I would need to do to keep the software up to date.  Currently, I need to manually upgrade my installation of WordPress when ever a new version comes out, or if new versions of the plugins are made available.

Also since don't have the ftp server enabled on my server, this would make adding/upgrading plugins a lot easier.

I am leaning towards WordPress.com, as it is an easy export of my blog into that server.  (I have already done this.)  I would just need to pay $10 to have my domain pointed to their servers.

Update:  I am going to stick with running WordPress on my own server.  There are several things that are missing from WordPress.com:

  1. You can't have a custom permalink format

  2. You can't upload themes or plugin (Adsense and Bad Behavior plugins are not available)

  3. If I don't want their ads, I need to pay an extra $30 a year.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Windows Media Center Setup

I have now been using my Windows Media Center setup without cable television signal for a few weeks now, and I am pretty happy with it.  I am not missing anything not having a cable source.  This is the description of my setup.

Over the Air Content


HDHomeRun


We are using a HDHomeRun Dual for our ATSC source.  The HDHomeRun allows me to keep the antenna in the attic, and the PC downstairs, without having to run a antenna drop down the several floors.  It will also be possible for us to add an additonal HDHomeRun if we want to add extra tuners.  The tuners on the HDHomeRun can also be used on other computers in the house, though I am not currently using that feature.

My recommendation for anyone using an HDHomeRun is to use Gigabit Ethernet for the drop between the main network switch and the Media Center PC.  When recording two 19Mbs ATSC streams, you will want to leave enough network bandwidth, so if anything is happening on you network, the video quality is not affected.  For example, on our Media Center I want to make sure that I can record two shows, while the Media Center is backed up, movie that is stored on the Windows Home Server is being watched one the Media Center, and some recorded content from the Media Center is being watched on one of the Media Center Extenders.

I was seeing some degradation of video quality when using 100 Mb Ethernet, but haven't had a problem since upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet.  I haven't upgrade my whole network to Gigabit, but that isn't a problem as most of the other devices can barely saturate a 100Mbs drop.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Personal Rating Store

This week I installed the Slacker Android application on my phone.  This version gives the user the ability to "cache" stations so you can listen to them when not connected to a network.  I really wasn't using this functionality to handle lack of service coverage, but to save battery, since my phone's radio doesn't need to turn on while playing a station.

While setting up and listening to the Slacker stations, I had to mark songs that I liked and didn't like.  This is the same thing that have done on my Pandora and Last.fm stations.  Unfortunately, Pandora and Last.fm do not let you export your ratings.

The same problem also exists for video.  For example, Netflix has a list of ratings that a user has given to DVDs, and Flixster has ratings that users have given to movies.

This got me thinking that there could be a be a better solution for the user.  A user should be able to delegate a "preference service" to maintain their ratings.  When a user signs into a service that would like access to a user's ratings, like Pandora or Netflix, they are prompted to grant permission for the new service to access the user's ratings.  If the user agrees, the user's ratings can be imported into the service.  The user could also grant the new service the ability to update their ratings, so for example if a user gives a rating to a movie in Netflix, it could update the users rating in the rating store.

Since we would want this connection to be easy to setup, the user shouldn't have to manually setup this linking.  One way to solve this is to extend the frederated login services to contain the uri for the user's rating store.  For example, this could be easily added to the OpenID record for the user returned when the user authenticates.

We would have have to agree on the name space for the rateable items.  I propose using Freebase ids as the unique identifiers.  Then services that use the ratings can map these ids to its own name space.

This idea would allow the user to quickly train new services with their ratings, as well as the ability to export their data.

Friday, February 26, 2010

CloudBerry Backup for WHS [updated]

HP appears to have dropped support for their online backup add-in for Window Home Server, HP created their online backup software for the ex47x and ex48x MediaSmart servers, but now are promoting other backup services for their current line of servers.  Their add-in used Amazon S3 for storage.  I have used JungleDisk on my desktop machines to backup, so I am pretty used to that storage system.  But since it that HP probably not continuing development, I wanted to find a solution to have an offsite backup for some of the files on the server, that would continue to be supported.

I am trying CloudBerry Backup for Windows Home Server.  This is very similar to HP's online backup add-in and the old JungleDisk Windows Home server.  CloudBerry lets you pick any share or a connected drive to backup.  Also you can set a time range when backups can happen.

I did have a problem after setting this up.  I has some paths on some of the shares that were too long for Windows (These were copied from my linux computer).  When CloudBerry encountered this error, it listed the error in the error email that was sent.

I will probably pay for CloudBerry Backup once the trial is over

tubeCore

A few weeks ago, I installed our networked ATSC tuner, and I disconnected our Comcast cable feed.  This has been working great, as we are able to get our network shows over the ATSC tuner, and movies and older shows over Netflix streaming.  The one thing that was missing is recent shows on cable channels.

I mentioned before several solutions on getting access to Hulu content in Media Center.  vmcPlayIt allowed you to play content from a PlayOn media server, but the UI didn't look good at all.  Then there are solutions that let you launch Hulu Desktop, like HuluDesktopWMC and Hulu Desktop Integration, but those have problem when switching back and forth between the applications.

tubeCore appears to be the best solution.  It is similar to vmcPlayIt, where it connects to a DNLA server like PlayOn, but the UI is a lot better.  The other good thing about tubeCore is that it is compatible with Media Center Extenders

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

HDHomeRun for Media Center

As I have mentioned before, I am looking to cancel our cable TV service.  This weekend I purchased a HDHomeRun Dual network tuner.  The HDHomeRun is an ATSC and QAM tuner that you connect to your network.  You are able to access the tuners with any Mac, PC or linux computer on the network.

I installed it in our attic, where our networking panel is, and the installation was very easy.  All I had to do was connect the antenna cables and connect the tuner to the network.  When I installed the software on one of my computers, I was able to scan for channels and make sure that the antenna was pointed in the right direction.

I was then able to install the tuner software on our Windows 7 Media Center.  The tuners were instantly recognized, and the Microsoft's program guide had all of the data for those channels.  The quality of video is very good.  I can tell that the video is not as compressed as it is through Comcast.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Android Apps

This post has a good list of Android applications. I think that ecosystem of Android application is really doing well.

Here is a list of the third party Android applicaitons that I have installed:

Setting up D-Link DAP-2553

Our Airport base stations were starting to die.  Every once in a while, the basestations would still broadcast the SSID, and wireless devices could still connect to them but wouldn't transmit any data to our wired network.  Since this was happening to both our Airport Express and Airport Extreme base stations, I assume that there was something, either on the wired network, or some RF interference that was causing them to lock up.

I took this opportunity to upgrade to a 802.11n base station, so I bought the D-Link DAP-2553.  This was one of the few dual-band, non-router, base stations.  Once I set it up,  things have been working a lot better than they were with the Apple base stations.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Avast! antivirus and HP Time Machine support

A while ago HP added Time Machine support to their MediaSmart servers.  I have mentioned previous problems getting Time Machine to back up to the server.  Since I had to restore the server, I had to re-setup the Time Machine drive.

This time I was having a hard time creating a volume large enough to back up all of my data.  The disc image creation would fail and state that there wasn't enough space on the server, even though that there was plenty.

In this post I mentioned that I was trying to uninstall Avast! antivirus and see what would happen.  It looks like Avast! was preventing me from creating a disc image large enough.  I believe that the scan was causing the reads to time out on the Mac, so the process just stopped.

Removing Avast! Antivirus from Window Home Server

I was having a problem creating some large disk images on my Windows Home Server from my Mac.  I thought that the Avast! antivirus could be causing some problems with this.  So I decided to try uninstalling it, and seeing if I could create the files.  Unfortunately, attempting to uninstall it from the Add-in screen of the Windows Home Server or from the Add/Remove Programs from the Control panel failed.

This post has a some steps that worked for me to uninstall Avast! antivirus.  It looks like the disk image creation is also working better without Avast!, so I probably will not reinstall it.