American Tobacco Campus in Durham for Google’s first stop on a tour around the country to demo Project Glass. After a 45 minute wait, I, along with 9 others, was led to a table of Chromebook Pixels where I filled out a photo release form. I was pretty surprised by how laid back and how few people were inside. If they wanted it to feel relaxed, they did a pretty good job.
Two Google Employees gave an informal demo to our group. One of the employees was demonstrating Glass and the other employee held an Android tablet. The Glass display was being screencast to the Android tablet. Unfortunately, the wifi didn’t seem up to the task of providing internet to all of the Glass devices, so they weren’t able to demo much. They tried to demo telling Glass that they were hungry (OK, Glass, Google I’m Hungry), telling us how it would find nearby places to eat, but the internet connection wasn’t even good enough for the speech recognition to work. The third time they tried it “I’m Hungry” appeared on the screen, but it couldn’t fetch any results. From that point, on they just focused on showing off the camera and video capabilities and described how the rest of the features worked.
We were then led over to a one of several stations to try Glass out for ourselves. Two more Googlers distributed the devices to us and helped anyone that was having issues fitting them and angling the screen. In the 7 minutes I had with the device, I couldn’t get any internet based features to work. There seems to be built in voice recognition to say “Google”, “Take a picture”, “Get directions to”, but once it prompts you for the what or where it seemed to be stuck trying to upload the request to Google voice recognition servers. I was able to look through the feed which had a few CNN articles, but the articles wouldn’t load either. That being said, another person in my group told me that one of their searches actually worked enough for them to be able to see some results.
I was very impressed with the quality of the display, and the laid back atmosphere, but it was pretty disappointing that wifi issues prevented me from being able to properly demo Glass. I have no idea if this was an issue all day, but it was the whole time I was there.
The Flirc I ordered finally came in today. Which is good, because I think my wife was getting pretty tired of using her iPhone to control the TV. I have an extra Apple Remote, which is what we’ve controlled XBMC with since 2008 when I bought my first Mac Mini. I was hoping that I could set it up to work the same way it did with XBMC on the jailbroken AppleTV and the Mac Mini.
I opened it up, and plugged it into front of my Intel NUC. Flirc has a plugin for XBMC that you can use to learn your remote. Conveniently, there is an Flirc repository so all I had to do was add http://xbmc.flirc.tv as a source in XBMC and then it was simply a matter of navigating to the addons section and installing it. The plugin was pretty straight forward and had me press the up, down, left, right, select, and back buttons. And it worked. I could control XBMC. However, long key presses weren’t working at all. And the controls during playback did not work the same as with the Apple TV and Mac.
To make long presses work, I had to get the beta firmware, which meant installing the software on my Mac. I plugged in the Flirc and opened the application. It automatically prompted me to update the firmware which only took about 30 seconds. Once it was done I plugged it back into the Intel NUC in my living room. I did not have to relearn the remote. Now I could hold down the buttons and easily scroll through all of my content. Unfortunately, a long keypress and a short keypress are still mapped to the same keyboard key so it wasn’t going to work exactly like it did on the Apple TV.
Since Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF) is always an issue in the sorts of things, I wanted to make it as close as possible. She only needs to pick something to watch, play/pause, and stop playback so not being able to pull up the context menu isn’t really an issue. The best solution I could come up with was to edit the keymap.xml in XBMC. I kept the default keys that Flirc mapped (the arrow keys, enter, and escape) and changed their actions in the FullscreenVideo context. All you need to do is download this file and save it in your XBMC userdata directory as keyboard.xml. You’ll have to restart XBMC after making any changes to the keymap for them to go into effect.
I’m probably going to change the escape key to Stop so that anybody in the house doesn’t get confused by the OSD. I can always bring it up with another remote or my iPhone. You can see the two lines I changed below.
I distinctly remember the first time that I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams’ writing style was so unlike anything I had ever read before. After devouring the rest of the five part trilogy and reading his other works I began searching for anything similar in style and humor. It took me a while, but I think I’ve a couple books that fit the bill.
First Contact: Or, It’s Later Than You Think by Evan Mandery
Combine humor and style of Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Woody Allen, and Monty Python and you’ve got this book. Aliens make contact with Earth and the President of the United States, who happens to be not entirely unlike George W. Bush, manages to bungle things quite a bit. In the process, forever changing the life of his attaché. Go ahead and pick up a copy. Remember, it’s later than you think.
In the bestselling and rightfully cult-inspiring tradition of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams comes First Contact—an hysterically funny satire about Presidential politics and intergalactic misunderstanding. This smart and biting novel by Evan Mandery—an author equally well-versed in the lives of the U.S. presidents, existential philosophy, and the Simpsons—offers much food for intellectual thought along with an all-you-can-eat buffet of laughs, as it chronicles the first close encounters between earthlings and a vastly superior extraterrestrial race from Rigel-Rigel. As the subtitle of First Contact so presciently informs us, “It’s Later than You Think.”
There’s a reviewer on Goodreads that described this book as “a giant one man show where every character is played by Zaphod Beeblebrox”, and I think that sums The Sheriff of Yrnameer up nicely. This one starts out a bit slow, but bear with it and you’ll be reading with a smile on your face. You’ll like this book if you enjoyed reading Zaphod Plays it Safe, and you were sad when Firefly cancelled.
In the spirit of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, The Sheriff of Yrnameer is sci-fi comedy at its best—mordant, raucously funny, and a thrilling page-turner.
Meet Cole: hapless space rogue and part-time smuggler. His sidekick just stole his girlfriend. The galaxy’s most hideous and feared bounty hunter wants to lay eggs in his brain. And the luxury space yacht Cole just hijacked turns out to be filled with interstellar do-gooders, one especially loathsome stowaway, and a cargo of freeze-dried orphans. Cole gathers a misfit crew for a desperate journey to the far reaches of the galaxy: the mysterious world of Yrnameer, the very last of the “your-name-heres”—planets without corporate sponsors. But little does Cole suspect that this legendary utopia is home to a band of outlaws bent on destroying the planet’s tiny, peaceful community.
To open up the NUC flip it upside down and remove the four screws. Then lift off the bottom. Since I’m using a USB thumb drive for storage, the only thing I need to install is the RAM. If you are installing a wireless card it goes in the PCI Express slot closest to the board. If you have an mSATA SSD, it goes in the other PCI Express slot. I installed on 4GB stick of RAM and then screwed the bottom back onto the case.
Setting up the Software
First you need to make the OpenELEC installer. Download the latest OpenELEC Stable – Intel x86_64 from here.
To make the installer from Windows, insert the USB drive you want to use for the OpenELEC installer. Unzip the file you just downloaded and run create_livestick.bat or create_livestick.exe. Enter the USB drive letter. You may be prompted to allow the program to make changes to your computer. Once it finishes safely room the USB drive.
To make the installer from Mac OS, insert the USB drive you want to use for the OpenELEC installer. Unzip the file you just downloaded and open Terminal. Run the following commands and follow the on screen instructions.
To make the installer from Linux, insert the USB drive you want to use for the OpenELEC installer, run the following commands, and then follow the onscreen instructions.
# find your USB device
sudo fdisk -l
# replace device with your USB device
sudo ./create_livestick [device]
Hook the NUC up to your television. Connect your USB OpenELEC installer drive. If your NUC doesn’t have an mSATA SSD connect the USB drive that will be running OpenELEC. You’ll need a keyboard plugged in during setup. Now press the power button. The installer should start automatically. If it doesn’t start on it’s own the power cycle the NUC, and press F10 as soon as you see the BIOS screen. This will let you tell the computer to boot from the OpenELEC installer drive. Choose Quick Install and then select the drive you want to install OpenELEC on. It may take a few minutes. When it’s done, you will get kicked back to the menu. Choose reboot and then remove your installer USB drive.
The Intel NUC is the perfect XBMC device. I bought the low end Celeron model, but it also comes in higher end i3 and i5 models. The Intel NUC kits are barebones sytems, so you’ll also need to buy some memory, storage, and a mickey mouse power cable.
Intel didn’t see fit to include the needed mickey mouse power cable, but they did decide to make a box that play the Intel Inside sound when you slide it open. You’ll see the sensor if you look at the bottom right corner of the picture below.
The Intel NUC DCCP847DYE has one USB 2.0 port on the front and two more on the back.
In addition to the USB ports, the back of the NUC has a Kensington security slot, gigabit ethernet port, and two HDMI 1.4a ports.
XBMC has a prominent role in my home, and for the last couple of years I’ve been running XBMC on jailbroken 2nd generation Apple TVs. For a while it worked well, but I was really pushing the little black boxes and with each successive Apple and XBMC update they’ve become slower and less stable. Browsing media was sluggish and the Apple TVs could only output 720p. It was time for an upgrade.
What was so great about the Apple TV is that it was small, silent, and power efficient. I wanted to maintain those aspects. My XBMC content is stored on server in a closet, and that server hosts my XBMC MySQL database. Which means I don’t need local storage, but network connectivity is important since everything is streamed from the server. I wanted something that could output 1080p so I could use the full resolution of the Panasonic Viera ST60 in my living room. Finally, I wanted it to cost less than what I could get from selling my jailbroken Apple TVs.
I sold the AppleTVs on Amazon, and after they took their cut I had $320 to buy two new systems. For the living room I decided on an Intel NUC. It’s a small barebones kit quiet and power efficient. The Celeron model costs $165. With 4GB of RAM, a power cord, and a 16GB USB drive the total cost of the Intel NUC was $213. With $107 left I bought a Pivos Xios DS for the bedroom. Pivos is a sponsor of the XBMC project, and from what I’ve read on the XBMC forums, it’s a lot better as an XBMC appliance than the AppleTV 2. Since the Xios DS cost $100, I made $7 from replacing my ATV2s.
So I decided to switch back to Sony instead of upgrading to the Xbox One. I had an original Xbox and have had a 360 until about a month ago (when I sold it to help fund the PS4 purchase). So why did I switch?
The Last Generation
Let’s talk about exclusives for a moment. Mass Effect is the only Xbox exclusive from the last generation that could have swayed me in which console to buy, but that’s not even an exclusive anymore. Meanwhile, Sony has come out with exclusive after exclusive. I have seriously debated buying a PS3 just to be able to play Uncharted. E3 from this past year made it seem like the next generation is going to be just the same.
I don’t play video games a whole lot, and when I do it isn’t usually online so I don’t care a whole lot about multiplayer. Yes, I know that Xbox Live has rock solid multiplayer compared to Playstation Network, but why on earth should I have to pay for Xbox Live to use Netflix? Kind of scummy. I have an AppleTV that I use for Netflix anyway, so it doesn’t change things much for me, but no matter how you look at it, it’s kind of messed up. So what do I get for my $60 a year then? Basically, just the ability to play online. Meanwhile, Sony is giving multiple free games each much to PSN+ subscribers along with discounts on some downloadable titles. Sony doesn’t give just any old game. They give current and popular games like XCOM Enemy Unknown and Uncharted 3.
I had a Kinect, and while it was cool to control the Xbox by moving my hands and having it play videos by talking to it, the novelty wore out fast. Speaking of the Kinect, the only decent game was Dance Central. Meanwhile, there were quite a few decent games for the Playstation Move. Still, Microsoft insists on forcing everyone to not only buy a Kinect, but also to have it plugged in an on for the Xbox One to function. Is that really necessary? Maybe I could see where they were coming from if the first Kinect had been useful.
The Playstation Vita
Immediately after selling my Xbox 360 I bought a Playstation Vita. Why? For one, I still wanted something to play games on besides my iPhone or Mac. More important to me however, is Remote Play. All PS4 games are going to support Remote Play. Which for me means that if my wife wants to watch TV and I want to play a video game I can sit on the couch next to her and remotely play any PS4 game on the Vita.
I just want a console for playing games. I don’t care about feeding all my video sources through my Xbox, and I certainly don’t want to make it the centerpiece of my home theater. I would have decided on the Playstation 4 even if the consoles had been the same price, so the $100 difference and the whole used game debacle are just icing and reinforcement that I made the right decision.
For the last few years, I’ve used Usenet Server as my Usenet provider. They have an incredibly fast and reliable service.
It’s super cheap. The price $10/month or $95/year if you sign up through this link.
Unlimited Data. There are no monthly caps so you can download as much as you want.
1800+ days of retention
SSL encryption is included
Super fast – It can saturate my 30Mbps internet connection, so I can consistently download at 3.2 MB/s. My previous Usenet Provider was Astraweb, but I routinely had speed and completion issues. I just hate it took me so long to switch.
It’s been almost a year since NZBmatrix shut down and as of today there aren’t really any clear successors. NZBmatrix was great because of how well it was curated and the large community of users on the site. Today’s landscape of indexes is a lot different than it was during the reign of NZBmatrix. A multitude of smaller indexes have popped up, most of which are running on newznab. Which means that currently there are a lot of options. Most indexes run on newznab, so you might find that a lot of indexes look mostly the same. Here’s a short list of some you may want to check out.
Maybe you don’t care about the community aspect and just want a dependable index. Since most of the new indexes that have been popping up in the wake of NZBmatrix shutting down run on newznab anyway, you can set up your own index using the same software. Newznab is a web app that can run on Linux, Mac, or Windows. You can find out more here.
Some Other Options
Binsearch – Binsearch is a Usenet search engine. It indexes over 3000 groups, so chances are you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for
Know of any other great options? Tell me about it in the comments.