Trying out Plex

The black Friday deals were so good this year that I was able to pick up a portable 2TB drive on eBay.  I decided to make a copy of my media drive and attach it to my desktop computer and install Plex Media server on it.  I’ve been trying it out for the past week or so and overall its pretty good.  It was able to correctly name and add movie posters to the videos that I have but it missed a few here and there and some of them are incorrect but thats not really a big deal to me since I know what its supposed to be.

I can’t change some of the media data so that it can correct itself but overall its ok.  I bought the Plex Media player for my iPhone so that I could try it out on the road but I haven’t really done that yet since it requires my home computer being on.  My computer is about seven years old so it probably sucks down a lot of power so I’ve only been using it while I’ve been at home.  So far its been working like a charm.  It connects to my Chromecast just fine and I can also run it off of my iPhone and airplay it to my Apple TV.  My home computer sounds like its struggling a little bit as it decodes the videos but I don’t see any slow down on the Chromecast when I play my vidoes at 720P.

I did add in my music too to my Plex account but I haven’t tried using that yet.  I’ll give it a try during the next two weeks while I’m off from work.  What I really wanted was a NAS that would support Plex but it was just too expensive for a backup solution and a media server.  I’m thinking that I should probably just get a micro PC or a Mac Mini and make it a home media server (no backups) and use it for iTunes and for Plex. This way I don’t have to turn it off all the time and I’ll have a central location to put all my files.  I can run a time machine backup of the machine too which should be fairly helpful.

I’ll have to wait a bit until that can happen, right now the desktop should do just fine and I have enough Netflix movies and shows to binge watch while on the road but its definitely coming in handy at home when I want to watch a new movie i’ve acquired.  Until then, i’m going to enjoy being able to stream all my movies at home to my TV or my iPad.

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Winter Cleaning for the MacBook Pro

Normally people use Spring as the season to clean things up since its the time that people can leave their houses after Winter. Since I’m cleaning up my MacBook Pro and its sunny in Florida, I figure why not use my daughters nap times to do some cleaning up. I know where most of the clutter is on my MacBook. It consists of videos, pictures, and music. I have accumulated a lot of crap over the years and I know that with all my backups and switching from my windows desktop to my MacBook a lot of my clutter came with me and I just haven’t had the time or inclination to clean it up. The event that is prompting me to do some cleanup is that I have less than 150GB left on my hard drive. I prefer to have an ample cushion of free space so I’m looking for ways to eliminate some waste.

Part 1: Eliminate Movies from iTunes

iTunes 11

I have a lot of movies and TV show episodes on iTunes to say the least. A lot of them won’t make it to my iPhone or iPad these days because its available on Netflix except for a few choice movies that I simply must have because I watch them all the time at home or on the road. By far this is the easiest place to eliminate stuff because I was a little more careful in selecting videos to transfer to my Mac when I was moving files. I think I eliminated enough stuff to eventually save me 10 gigs. Granted that’s maybe 10 full blown movies but those 10 gigs comprised of a lot of TV episodes for shows I don’t watch often so that wasn’t too bad.

Part 2: Eliminate Music from iTunes

Ahh this is where things start to get really challenging. My music collection is quite large (well at least I think so) and I know there are a lot of duplicate songs all over the place and there songs encoded in different formats. This exercise was more tedious since there was no good way to actually do this task. I generally like to keep only MP3 files in my collection unless its the only copy of the song that I have. iTunes also doesn’t have a column that shows the path of the song on your hard drive. You have to use Get Info and then look at where the song resides. In a lot of cases I had 2-3 copies of entire albums that just took up a ton of space. I know I didn’t get everything but after about an hour I cleaned out another 5 gigs of crap from my drive. Not bad really considering your average song is only 5MB.

Part 3: Eliminate Duplicate Pictures

Duplicate Annihilator

This is the toughest one of all.  All my pictures are naturally saved in iPhoto.  A lot of video that I take with my iPhone is also saved here.  I also sync my wife’s iPhone to my account on the MacBook as well since she’s always on my account anyway (I have all the useful programs on my profile).  I also imported every picture I had on my desktop into iPhoto with reckless abandon.  A lot of pictures look alike when you’re just eye balling it and I don’t want to accidentally delete something that might be valuable.  To assist with this endeavor, I had to do some research on the internet to find a way to get rid of my duplicates.  Enter Duplicate Annihilator.  This was mentioned on some of the Apple news sites I track as well as on eHow.com.  What the program does is that it uses an algorithm to determine if there are duplicate pictures in your iPhoto library and tags a comment in them (I chose “duplicate”, imaginative isn’t it?) to find out which ones were were duplicates so that I can promptly delete them.  I suspect there will be tons of them in the library.  I have lots of overlap with my folders from my desktop and the biggest offender will probably be the pictures of my cats since I took literally thousands of pics of them before I had to give them up.  My wife and I also send pictures to each other that we save to our phones and later sync with the MacBook so there will be lots of duplicates that way as well that will require elimination.  I’m looking at the program and right now it will take about 10 hours to sift through approximately 34210 pictures and videos that I’ve taken since I first got a digital camera in 2002 (maybe it was sooner than that?  I don’t know…. I’m getting old and can’t remember stuff like I used to)

Right now it has only scanned approximately 300 photos but its already found 46 duplicates which isn’t bad. This software wasn’t free and I love free software but it was less than $10 so I think it is well worth the investment if it finds a ton of crap that I can get rid of and clean up my hard drive in the process.

The last step is a step I technically do every few months which is to run CCleaner which I’ve been using for quite a while since I was on Windows XP.  CCleaner just crunches through your drive and looks for old log files and cache’s to eliminate.  This normally nets me a few hundred megs unless I don’t clean out my trash can in which it then nets me a few gigs.  It’s going to be a long time before this thing is finally cleaned up.  I’ll probably have to continue this tomorrow since it’ll be another 9 hours before its done looking for duplicates.  After that I have to determine what duplicates need to be removed from my computer which in itself will take a lot of manual effort.  It sounds like my daughter is awake so thats the end of this blog post!

Contemplating the iOS 4 Upgrade

I read recently that a new jailbreak has come out called jailbreakme.com for iOS4.  The coming of the jailbreak has gotten me thinking about finally doing the upgrade to iOS4 once again.  I initially refused to do the upgrade because I would lose all my jailbreak apps.  I don’t rely on a lot of them but stuff like MyWi has proved to be invaluable to me while I travel for work.  I wrote another post about what I wanted from iOS4 and those reasons are still valid but I’m still on the fence about doing an upgrade and a jailbreak.  I’ve also seen that iOS4.1 Beta 3 is floating around so you can bet that Apple is going to patch the iPhone fairly soon making the new jailbreak non functional again.

However, I really really want that universal inbox and I also want to have folders.  I can kind of get the same thing with Categories from Cydia but I want to have the official app from Apple for some odd reason.  The multiple Exchange Account thing would be super awesome too but I can get that with yet another jailbreak app!  LOL  What I can also do is just outright get a new iPhone as well.  I’m eligible for an upgrade to an iPhone 4 but my worry is that they will saddle me with a new data plan or something.  Another consideration I have is that LTE is not too far away and I would like to jump on the new network as soon as it comes out so I can enjoy 4G awesomeness.

Since I won’t be home this weekend, I’ll have to contemplate it a little bit more before making a final decision.  Maybe it will be time to actually take the plunge!  The only issue is that I have to upgrade my wife’s phone too and that will not be fun since I have to find a way to back up all her local data since she’s not using Outlook like I am.  OK time to continue pondering…..

LOL… just saw an update online that Apple has already developed a fix for the jailbreakme.com exploit.  Looks like I might not be upgrading after all to iOS4.  Too bad, I guess I’ll just wait for the new one if it ever comes.

iTunes 9

Apple recently released iTunes 9 along with a whole host of upgraded iPod’s that should be coming out soon.  There was also a small upgrade to the iPhone/iPod Touch firmware which I downloaded but I’m still looking for what changed.  The new iTunes is pretty slick but it keeps most of the same functionality.

The big improvements are the iTunes Store which got a much needed face lift.  It makes it easier to navigate to look for songs, apps, movies, etc.  I still think the best way to get music for my iPod is using the built in iTunes software on my iPod.  For some reason it just seems to be better than using the PC version.  I don’t know about the Mac version but I’m suspecting that both look pretty similar.

The best thing is that you can now manage what your iPhone/iPod Touch screens look like.  This was probably the single best feature of the entire upgrade because now I can use a PC to move apps around instead of having to drag it with my finger to other pages to re-arrange my apps to my liking.  There were some other major changes but I haven’t tried any of them out.  A lot of it revolves around the improved Genius function which will select music that is similar to what you normally listen to or mark with 5 stars or something like that.

One function that really interests me is this new home sharing function.  I watched the intro video and supposedly I can share my home library with my other computers that use the same user name and password for my iTunes account.  I only have my home desktop currently but I do have my work laptop.  I don’t really want to install it on my work laptop but I might try it on a virtual machine if I have enough room.

The new iPod Nano is super sweet with its new video camera and FM tuner.  The Touch is really unchanged except for increasing the storage to 64GB.  I’m guessing that if the iPod increased its storage capacity by 32GB, the iPhone can’t be far behind.  We’ll see what the next year brings.  Maybe iPhone will be in my future if there is that much storage on the iPhone 🙂