Plex: Still Sucks

I have a desktop computer in my upstairs office. I have an HDTV in the downstairs living room. All I’ve ever wanted to do is stream video files from the computer to the TV, under two specific conditions: 1) I don’t want any kind of “app” running on the desktop PC; and 2) I don’t want to deal with any kind of “library” feature.

After researching for weeks, I decided on the WDTV Live, because it was the only one that met my two conditions.

As to the former, the WDTV Live was (at the time) the only streaming box I know of that supports SMB. Since I’d already shared my video folder to the local network, all I had to do was configure the WDTV Live to access my Wi-Fi network, then click Video > Choose Source > Network Shares > Windows Shares > [My Computer] > Video.

As for the latter, the WDTV Live has the ability to search for metadata and create a nice library of my videos. But since all I want to do is watch the video once and then delete or archive it, I like that all I have to do is download a video and make sure it’s in the correct folder: no adding it to (or removing it from) a library… in an app that has to run on my desktop PC 24×7.

I’ve had the WDTV Live for several years now, and the local video part of the device still works as good as ever. I download a video to my “Videos” folder, and it’s available instantly on the WDTV Live. The device plays almost any type of video file, except for WebM, gifv or flv (none of which are really used for TV shows or movies) and HEVC files (which are newer). DivX or XviD in an avi container, mp4, mkv containers, DVDs ripped as ISOs… the WDTV Live seems to play them all.

The WDTV Live also has a variety of streaming apps, too, like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and others. But Western Digital discontinued the WDTV Live in 2015, having not updated the firmware a long time before that. So many of these apps no longer work. So I have a box that can play any type of locally networked file… but can’t do Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu, Spotify, TuneIn or Pandora any more.

I asked for (and received) one of the new(ish) Chromecasts for Christmas. And it works OK, but has a strange bug: my Vizio smart TV loses connection to the device randomly. For 2-5 seconds the screen will go black and say “No Signal”. Sometimes it’ll happen three times in five minutes; other times it’ll only happen once every 2-3 hours. Since my Time Warner DVR and the WDTV Live have never had this problem, I thought the issue might be the Chromecast. So I ordered one of the new Roku Streaming Sticks.

Continue reading “Plex: Still Sucks”

Moving VirtualBox Machines

I have a client who makes extensive use of virtual machines for a remote office. Back when I set this up (almost a decade ago), I chose Microsoft’s Virtual PC because it was free (and VirtualBox didn’t exist yet). I let Virtual PC put the config files wherever it wanted under AppData, but I kept the VHD files in a folder called C:\VMs (for easy backup purposes).

Well, time passed, and Virtual PC seemed slow and creaky. So I switched the client over to VirtualBox. There was a bit of a learning curve with this: under Virtual PC, for example, I could easily make a copy of a VHD and attach that to a new virtual machine (for a new hire, for instance). You can’t do that in VirtualBox, at least not without getting “UUID already exists” errors. You can reset this from the command-line but… eh.

In VirtualBox, the easiest way to duplicate a virtual machine is to open the management console, right-click on an existing virtual machine and choose “Clone”. You can then choose a name for the new virtual machine, and an exact duplicate will be made. Only problem is, in my case, the new hard drive will be located in c:\users\[user]\Virtualbox VMs\[new VM name] instead of C:\VMs.

Of course, I could easily just edit the backup script to include the new location. But I like having all the virtual hard drives in one location. So how can you move the virtual hard drive?

For starters, make sure the virtual machine in question is powered off. Then click File > Virtual Media Manager. Right-click on the new hard drive you just created and click “Remove”. Click “Close”, then move the VDI\VHD to its new location. Back in the VirtualBox manager, right-click on the virtual machine and choose “Settings”. Choose “Storage”, then, under “Storage Tree”, click the “Add Hard Drive” icon (the one with a tiny hard drive and a + symbol). Then choose the VDI\VHD file you just moved. OK and close out of everything, and you should be good to go!

DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2016-17 Schedule!

The NFL released the official 2016-17 schedule today, and for the 14th straight year, I’ve got your Pittsburgh Steelers schedule ready to go!

There are a couple of very minor changes. I dropped “for Outlook” from the “branding”, since the calendar works with Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, iOS devices, and more. I also switched from “at” to the more traditional “vs” in the schedule. So instead of “Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers”, it now says “Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers”. I also continued putting asterisks next to (the many!) flex games this season.

The schedule is packaged in a single ZIP file. Please make sure to import the correct version into your calendaring software:

steelers_2016.csv is the Steelers schedule only, for Outlook\Yahoo!
steelers_2016.ics is the Steelers schedule only, for Gmail\iOS
steelers_nfl_2016.csv is the Steelers schedule and the NFL playoffs, for Outlook\Yahoo!
steelers_nfl_2016.ics is the Steelers schedule and the NFL playoffs, for Gmail\iOS

Click below to download:

Pittsburgh Steelers 2016-2017 Schedule

For more information (including complete instructions), click the “Continue Reading” link below!

Continue reading “DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2016-17 Schedule!”

One GREAT Mega Feature

You may have heard of Mega, a cloud storage service started by notorious hacker-turned-entrepreneur\wanted fugitive Kim Dotcom (Dotcom has since left the company).

Mega offers 50GB of storage space for free accounts, and also has a “MEGAsync” app for computers that synchronizes the cloud data to your local computer (like the Dropbox or OneDrive desktop apps). Like those services, Mega also has apps for Android and iOS that let you access your cloud drive anywhere, and also automatically upload photos taken with mobile devices to your cloud account.

One thing the Mega app does that no other mobile app does is… give you the option of keeping your photos’ original filenames. This may sound trivial, but it’s not. Here’s why:

Dropbox renames all the pictures you upload, and (last time I checked) it doesn’t give you the option to disable this. Dropbox’s official reason for doing this is because some devices name your pictures sequentially, as in IMG_01.JPG, IMG_02.JPG, IMG_03.JPG and so on. So if your software were to update, or if you upgraded your SD card, or if you got a replacement phone, the numbering might restart at IMG_01.JPG, causing problems for Dropbox. By renaming the pictures, Dropbox avoids this problem.

Which is great… until you want to manually back up your pictures. You attach your phone to your computer via USB, open the SD card via Explorer, and drag the photos to your Camera Uploads folder… instantly creating a giant mess of duplicates, because your computer doesn’t know that IMG_1234.JPG and 2015-06-25 17.34.10.JPG are the same picture. This is especially annoying if your mobile device already names pictures like Dropbox does, but does it just a bit differently. Because again, your computer doesn’t know that 2015-06-25 17.34.10.JPG (Dropbox) and 2015.06.25.173410.JPG (LG phone) is the same photograph.

Which is what makes Mega’s app so cool. Just open the app, go to Settings and scroll down to the Camera Uploads section:

Mega Photo Name Option
(click to embiggen)

Problem solved! The next time you want to manually back up your pictures, Windows will warn you about duplicates!