Using an Ubuntu 18.04 LTS VM for uploading pictures and video to Google Photos

Ubuntu Bionic Beaver

I’ve been taking a lot more video on the GoPro of late and there is even video that I haven’t even moved over to Google Photos yet and I’ve been struggling to find a good solution on how to upload all those videos without keeping my MacBook Pro on all night. Recently I upgraded my NAS (I blogged about it before) and now I have a ton of extra space on there. With that extra space and the RAM upgrade I was able to install a virtual machine. I chose Ubuntu Linux primarily because it was free and I had dabbled with it in the past. I had all these videos from Breckenridge on an external drive and the old way that I uploaded video was to mount the drive on the MacBook, go to Google Photos on the web, and then do a drag and drop. Since a lot of those videos are pretty big, it would take a long time for it to upload, sometimes days I’d leave that thing on.

Given that I have all this extra storage space, I thought, why not load the videos on the NAS and then fire up the VM and see if I can do it that way? The loading of the videos was only slightly problematic since my external drive is formatted for Mac and it can’t be read by my NAS when I plug it in directly. That forced me to transfer the video using the Mac to the NAS, that was fairly easy and quick. Only took 10 minutes for about 300GB which is fairly fast. The next part was a tad more difficult. I was familiar with mapping drives and everything with Windows but not Linux. Thankfully the GUI interface for Ubuntu is pretty easy and it saw my NAS as a network drive.

Let me just start out saying that the performance on the VM is pretty shitty when you’re using a browser to navigate. I think it would be way more responsive if I used it directly on a monitor but I don’t have the right plugs currently since its an older monitor that uses DVI and not HDMI. I got Google Photos up on Firefox in Ubuntu and started loading the photos and videos. Unfortunately I kept on getting script errors on the page (no clue why that was) but after rebooting the VM and starting over it seemed to be working for uploading the files. Given that the interface was really really slow I wasn’t able to put them in an album after the upload was complete. I was however able to leave the VM running while I went out to the movies and was able to close out of the browser tab with the VM and come back to it hours later.

After this experiment I think I have found at least my best way of getting all the videos from my trips up to Google Photos. instead of loading all the photos and video on my iPad for my next trip, I think I’m just going to leave it on my GoPro and wait until I get home to start reviewing and making combined videos. I don’t want to take a computer with me, just my iPad but transferring all that stuff is also a pain in the ass and I’d like to relax a bit more this trip.

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Goodbye Google Hangouts?

During my perusing of the inter web, I learned that Google might be killing off Google for us regular people and just letting it exist for enterprise customers. I’ve been using Google Hangouts for a while now, mainly I use it because of the integration with Google Voice. There is also the added benefit that I can talk to other people that use Google Hangouts that use it for enterprise customers.

I’m probably in the very small minority that still uses the application. I use my Google Voice number for work and for other things to try and keep the telemarketers away. The problem is, the telemarketers just call the Google Voice number instead. I also like the integration with Gmail and contacts in Gmail. It lets me message people via SMS or make phone calls. The best part is that its cross platform. I use it on my iPhone, iPad and through the web browser. In that way its a poor mans iMessage that I can use on Windows and OSX.

Recently Google brought back the Google Voice app back. It’s always been there but it was kind of neglected for a long time but it was recently updated. Probably in anticipation of eliminating Hangouts. I was attempting to use the web version but for some reason its not working right which is a shame. Hopefully they’ll fix the interface for it soon. It won’t be exactly the same as being able to use Hangouts, it won’t be available within Gmail which was a great feature in itself. I also heard that the app Allo is also potentially on the chopping block. That makes me wonder what consumers are going to use for chatting that can compete with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

You can use WhatsApp cross platform, but the person also needs to have the app installed. Hangouts is different in that its sending it via SMS so it doesn’t matter if the person has the app or not, your message will go through. I hope that Google gets its shit together and makes a converged chat platform for voice, video, and SMS that integrates with Gmail like Hangouts does right now but at least improves upon the concepts and design.

Apparently I have a year to find something new. I have confidence that at least Google Voice will continue since it does compete directly with Skype and WhatsApp. The only thing preventing me from totally trying to switch to something like WhatsApp is that it doesn’t have an iPad app. I think people have been asking for that for years but they just don’t want to do it. With Apple just owning tablets, it makes sense if they want to keep people interested in using the platform across devices.

Most of the big tech bloggers are covering this which is how I found out about it. I’ll continue to watch it over the next year since it impacts me and how I interact with others.

Alexa Life with the Echo Dot and UE Blast

Alexa has started to infest my home through the Echo Dot and now the UE Blast. I received the Echo Dot as a present for Christmas so that I could start experimenting with a voice assistant. A little while later, I received a UE Blast which has Alexa voice control while also being a really sweet speaker in its own right. My dog likes wires for some reason (that’s very cat like of her) so I got a nice mount for my Echo Dot so it can live in the living room without fear of being dropped (its been dropped twice already by the dog). The UE Blast lives in the office but its rarely on since my wife has no use for voice assistants and I don’t want Alexa listening to me upstairs.

My use cases for Alexa are pretty limited so far, its probably due to my not having a “smart home”. I don’t have the doorbell, thermostat, lights, or garage door opener that could be controlled by Alexa using my Echo Dot or my UE Blast. I definitely don’t shop with it, I’m still old school and I like to see what I’m buying first on the web and then maybe in a store before plunking down hard money. I think the main things that I use my Echo and UE Blast for is music and the weather. The weather is used to find out if I can go motorcycle riding on a given day, music is just for fun and to see if Alexa or Amazon can play the music we ask of it.

The far field mic’s are pretty good, they can hear me from across the room. Obviously the UE Blast has the better sound for music since its also technically a UE Boom with just WiFi and Alexa built in. To make the Echo Dot a little bit better, I paired it with my UE Boom so I can have good music from the Echo Dot, it just requires an extra step of actually turning the UE Boom on and pairing it but that’s a cinch to do. I just yell “Alexa, pair my Bluetooth speaker” and its done in seconds. The UE Blast I just tell it to play music. I used it at my father in laws place while everyone was asleep and it worked really well. I was able to play with the dog and ask Alexa stuff since I was able to connect to the WiFi. The Blast will be my “go to” speaker to bring on vacations if we want to have music wherever we are. It’s got some long battery life and with Alexa built in, it will be quite useful in hotel rooms and other spots like that.

I’ve generally discouraged my daughter from using Alexa too much, unlike Google I can’t really control who Alexa listens to for commands. I can’t count the number of times my daughter has over ridden my music by playing Frosty the Snowman just to mess with me. She has it down so that Alexa just has to hear “Alexa, play frosty!” And it automatically plays the song for her. I’m thinking that when she gets older, maybe I’ll get an Echo Dot for her room or something so that it can wake her up in the morning. I definitely won’t be having one of them in my bed room, I have enough iPhones and other Apple devices that have alarms to wake me up.

What’s becoming difficult is managing all the different devices I have now. For phones and tablets I’m all in on Apple, even my main computer for home is my MacBook Pro. I have Chromecasts and Apple TV’s that are attached to various TV’s. I keep Apple TV 3’s to do streaming from my Apple devices and the Chromecast for my NAS. I now have voice assistants from Amazon but they can’t do anything really since I don’t have a smart home but the music at least is pretty good. I don’t think I’m going to get a Home Pod, I’ve already started down this Alexa path so I might as well keep on going with it regarding voice assistance. With some IFTTT recipes I can technically integrate some things from Alexa to my iPhones and iPads. I was really tempted a few days ago with a sale on Google Home Mini’s but that would have complicated things even more at my home. I’m hoping that Alexa can start recognizing voices, then I can get a few more (maybe without the wife knowing)…….. but I still use Siri when I’m away from home because you know, she right there on my wrist and phone.

NAVIGON is no more!

Curious thing when I was checking my NAVIGON app last week, there was a message that I sort of just clicked through but it bothered me so I checked the website, to my surprise Garmin decided to kill all their iOS navigation apps. I have had NAVIGON on my phone since the days of the 3GS and it used to be my go to app for navigation in my car. Apparently I’m allowed to use it for another 2 years until there will be no more map updates. That’s kind of sad but it’s expected since in the age of unlimited data, you only need Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze.

I remember the software being a crazy price. I think I paid $79.00 for all of North America. Truthfully it was one of my better purchases due to all the travel I do for work. At the time maps kinda sucked on the iPhone and NAVIGON was more accurate. Over the years I got frustrated with the software due to its interface and lack of search capability. In recent years I’ve relied on 3 apps for navigation and with the final death of NAVIGON I’ll be able to reclaim about 100mb of space on my phone and a tile space.

I’ll admit that having an offline map is useful but Google has this and I have another app called Ulmon that does offline maps. It doesn’t really do turn by turn but I won’t get lost either which is the main point. For it’s time, NAVIGON was freaking awesome and prevented me from getting lost most of the time. Before I had unlimited data it was useful to have he map preloaded on the phone so I wouldn’t use up my data plan. I just might keep the software on my phone for the next two years mainly because I paid for it so I might as well use it if the need arises. By then I should be ready to upgrade my iPhone 7 to something else.

Bringing my 10 year old desktop back to life with an SSD

Way back in 2007 I bought a desktop computer from Beat Buy.  I nice shiny desktop with a quad core processor and 3GB of RAM.  It even had 2 hard drives that equaled 500GB of storage!  Being it was the early 2000’s I was still of the mindset that tower computers were best.  At the time it was awesome, I had Windows XP Media Center installed and it was my media hub with all my music, videos, and files.

Fast forward about 10 years and a hard drive replacement later and the computer is still chugging along but at a very slow pace compared to my 2017 MacBook Pro.  I installed Windows 10 Professional but even with a clean install it took forever to boot up and launch programs and that’s with almost no programs installed.  Chrome was a dog and took its sweet time to load web pages.  Some of my past posts have chronicled how I put an SSD into my 2011 MacBook Pro but since that computer died, I took out the SSD and just had it lying around.  I tried using it as a backup for my NAS but it was too small.  I then decided to clone my Windows computer but how to do it?

Google to the rescue! I found an article that had some instructions on how to use Clonezilla (which is free) to clone a hard drive to an SSD.  A lot of the commands were like old DOS prompts that I experienced throughout the years but I made a few errors trying to do the clone.  

Major Fail: I should have unhooked all of the hard drives to prevent cloning to the wrong drive.  I had a backup of my data drive but as luck would have it I cloned my Windows dricento the data drive.  That kinda pissed me off.

The second time around I unhooked everything except for what I was going to use and it worked like a charm.  All my apps and settings were there and things launched like lightning comparatively speaking to using a regular hard drive.  However I did notice that the drive partitioned itself!  Weak!  I really wanted a full 1TB system drive but after thinking about it, it really didn’t matter.  It’s not like I was going to keep data on my SSD, that’s what my NAS and cloud storage accounts were for. I also had a backup which I’m probably never going to access since it’s all old stuff that I may one day look at.  After rummaging through some settings I set up the data partition and decided to do some speed comparisons (more user experience than actual data collection and comparisons). 

The boot up to Windows 10 was awesomely fast and the login was almost instantaneous!  I launched Chrome and didn’t have any real issues.  The programs that load on start up still took a little time but it was way faster than before.  Now am I going to use my desktop over my MacBook Pro?  Probably not since it’s in the office and I mostly work in the dining room these days.  The MacBook Pro is also still way faster and I’ve gotten used to using the touchpad and my gestures for navigation.  It will benefit my wife who uses the desktop more than I do.  At least now she will be able to get things done quickly rather than waiting for things to load.  Using the SSD has definitely extended the life of my desktop, maybe it will run for another 10 years or until Microsoft stops supporting the hardware in it.

Life with the AirPods

Over a year ago I bought an iPhone 7 and one of the missing features was the headphone jack. In truth this didn’t bother me too much, I had my Bose bluetooth headphones and I was fine with using the included lightning EarPods. Just recently I got a pair of AirPods and I must say that its been pretty awesome. I use them more than almost all of my other headphones (except for when I’m flying). They’re not very large so its portable, they have pretty decent sound like regular EarPods, and the best part is that they don’t have any wires. I think that last part is the most important since I like not being tethered anymore to my phone if possible.

I do bring the case with me everywhere, mainly so I have a place to put them away because I’m scared of losing one and these things aren’t cheap. The fact that they just pair with my iDevices is pretty sweet. I have had a few problems here and there with the sound when I take calls but its normally short lived. I also managed to pair it to my work laptop so I don’t need to use wired headphones when I am on WebEx or doing some training that has sound. Unfortunately activating them is a bit harder on a Windows 10 laptop compared to my MacBook Pro but it just means when I walk away from my laptop its not in any danger of flying off a table.

I’ve seen a lot of review videos about the AirPods and even tried out my fathers pair since he had them before I did. I’ll admit that it makes me look funny when I’m walking around with them but sine they are so common now in California I don’t look so weird. There aren’t as many people wearing them in FL so I still look a little funny there. I thought they were going to release a new version of the AirPods during the iPhone event but I was surprised that they did’t. I guess they didn’t need to release a W2 chip since the current version is pretty awesome.

The only reason to get rid of my AirPods will be because they won’t hold a charge anymore. I hope that won’t be for at least a few years, I need to get my money’s worth out of these things. They are truly useful for things like writing blog posts while watching Netflix, no wires to trip over!

Messing with my GoPro

I’ve recently been testing my GoPro with my motorcycle with some mixed results here and there.  Today was my latest test using my chest harness and putting it on  Time Lapse.  I think I need to make some adjustments to the Time Lapse mode when I go on rides because what was a 1 hour ride goes by in just 15 seconds when I spliced it all together on and posted it on YouTube.  Thats the first video that you’ll see on this post.

The second post is a few weeks ago when I was testing the suction cup mount that I put on the side of my bike.  It wasn’t bad but I don’t think it will stand up to riding around on the highway.  I only rode around my community but I’m still fearful that the GoPro will fall off my bike.  I’ve been playing with the idea of putting a mount on my helmet, the only thing is, once its on my helmet its never coming off.  It’s a big step for me to do that and I don’t really go anywhere interesting on my motorcycle anyway.  I’m more interested in using the GoPro for our family trips.  It worked especially well when we went skiing/snowboarding.  I was able to put the chest mount on and film my family skiing/snowboarding.

I even tried using my GoPro at the water park.  It worked like a charm there, although I have to flip the videos since right now they’re upside down.  I don’t know why that is but its a really easy fix in my view.  The great thing about the Hero Session 4 is that its already waterproof to a certain extent so I don’t have to worry about breaking the thing.  It’s a great little camera, sometimes I wish it wasn’t always shooting in wide angle but thats a limitation that I can live with.  I can always just use my iPhone as well for that sort of thing if I don’t want to shoot in wide angle.

I’ll be doing some other testing with it later, especially around the settings of the time lapses.  I use it for my daughters kung fu classes and graduation ceremonies because I have a stand for it and it works great.  The GoPro was definitely one of my better purchases (although I used points for it which makes it all that sweeter).  I think I’ll do another test tomorrow or this coming week when I’m off to Atlanta.  I want to get more proficient with the GoPro so I can chronicle my family through the years, especially my daughter as she grows up.