Day 248 – Upgrades and Installs

I completely lost track of time. And I was almost about to go to bed without posting. So just a quick update…

Two more parcels arrived today; one containing 16GB of SO-DIMM memory and one containing an external USB3 BluRay player.

The memory is for the QNAP to eventually support running VMs and web servers on the box. It was a little tricky to install; after taking the outer casing off it became clear immediately I was going to need some help finding the memory sockets. They were in fact on what was clearly the motherboard, but they are somewhat obscured behind cables to the front of the device. It is theoretically possible to install the memory by just taking out the drive caddies and going by touch… but I’m not that skilled. With the case off I could at least see what I was aiming for.

With that out of the way, I have moved the unit to a more permanent home in the study, and as we speak about 1.5TB of essential files from the previous NAS is slowly trickling into its new home.

In the mean time I’ve also updated some software packages on the new QNAP, and I’ve added a Plex server. Took me a few tries to get the download to work, but it looks like a really slick solution. And I’ve already managed to connect a Windows 8 app and my Android to the back-end, where I can reach some of the audio files that have already moved across. So far so good.

The BluRay player took a bit of effort too; apparently Windows 8 no longer comes bundled with codecs for DVD/BluRay, because Microsoft is trying to avoid the licensing fees for these codecs in a world that revolves ever more around streaming rather than physical media. I’ve re-installed my trusty AnyDVD HD, and VLC has no trouble playing discs now. So that’s officially sorted too.

I cannot remember what’s next.
Time for bed.

Day 247 – Cleaning Inside the Box

I’ve got my Thursday night fun all lined up for me here. Some people go out for dates, drinks or parties… I’m detailing my PC case. To be fair, I don’t think my back/neck/shoulder-complex (the new axis of evil) would allow me to enjoy any of those other options, and in the end this’ll make me back some of the money that has gone into the laptop I’m writing this post on.

I don’t know if there is a better way to do this that I’m not familiar with, but cleaning my PC is a bit of an ordeal. I bought the case 5-6 years ago I think. I bought sturdy and big because once you have a good roomy case you never need another one. And this has proven true for my PC needs. A good case and a good power supply can outlast many re-builds of the internals of a PC and are probably the two elements most worth not skimping on.

On the down-side, a good quality case also has proven to have many awkward nooks and crannies.

It has six 3.5″ internal drive bays arrayed 3-and-3 with a 12″ fan in between. This is great for keeping them cool with solid and quiet airflow. But this also collects tons of very fine dust on both removable drive cages.

Similarly, there is an intake vent that goes *through* my case from side-to-side which has another 12″ fan directed at the GPU slot to get it plenty of fresh outside-the-case-air to keep it working optimally. But again, this ends up with a lot of fine dust inside the case.

And the problem with all of this is… the big plexiglass window in the side of my case showing off all that wonderful dust. I originally wanted a solid case-side, but at the time I wanted it quick and only the model with the window was in stock. It’s a nice marketable detail, but it’s not good for the I-don’t-care-about-dust part of my personality. Because I do care when I can see 2mm of it over all the innards of my case.

I’m not enough of a gamer… or I’m not sufficiently OCD… to actually clean this out with any kind of routine. For the most part I clean when I happen to move the case for some reason or another and wads of dust fall off the sides.

The fateful decision I made to want a whisper-quiet PC also doesn’t help. It has 12″ fans all over the place. From memory there are 5 in total, sucking air through this 11.2kg monstrosity and keeping it so well cooled that on a hot summery day I can cool my legs by resting them against the icy 2mm of aluminium that make up its body.

Yes. It’s a very solid case.

And so well-made. All edges are machined to be rounded, and all the major parts come apart without the use of a screwdriver. It’s a pleasure to open up and work inside. But alas. I’ve come to a point where I’d rather not, and just rely on a ready-made boxed solution that I can comfortably carry around with me. LAN games are fun. Lugging 11kg of aluminium around: less so. And that’s not counting the 27″ Dell monitor that goes with that particular social activity.

No. As much as I’ll miss the beauty of the well-made case, and the promise of infinite upgrade-ability, I am happy with the choice I have made.

Other than the inevitable cleaning inside all those little well-rounded corners.
That I could very easily live without.

Day 246 – Timeline

Voltaren is my magic potion; it seems to have been all my back needed to mostly unlock. I don’t quite have full range of motion yet, but I also don’t have any real pain left. Tonight I’ll take another tablet so I have a good night’s sleep, and another in the morning so I can get back to work tomorrow.

I still hope to fit in another massage, because I doubt the knots have disappeared.

  • 03:40 – I wake up in pain. My back is stiff as a plank again. I consider trying to fall asleep again, but instead do the smart thing and get some more Physiocreme on my neck and shoulders. I bunch up the pillow so my neck is well supported when I lie on my side.
  • 07:30 – Damn this alarm. My FitBit Flex is trying to wake me up by buzzing madly. It takes me three tries to tap it into quiet submission. Not ready to wake up yet. Fall back asleep.
  • 07:45 – Phone alarm goes off. Stiff. Sore. Tired after interrupted sleep. I have a look at my calendar on the phone and decide I can safely arrive into work a bit late if it’ll help me be functional and alert. I decide to rest up without alarm and hope for the best.
  • 08:42 – I wake up and miraculously feel a lot better. I try to lift my head. I cannot clear the pillow. This is not good; I need an alternate plan.
  • 09:09 – After considering my options I decide to carefully drive down to the end of the road to see a local doctor. Waiting room is completely redesigned since last time I’ve been here. I settle in for an hour+ wait as is usual here.
  • 09:47 – Great surprise! The doctor was plowing through the patients at a remarkable rate, and it only took me 30 minutes to get to the front of the queue. I get a prescription for some Voltaren with a reminder it’ll mess a little with my blood pressure. Also encouraged to do some gentle movement through the day so that the stiffness doesn’t get worse.
  • 10:20 – I have a Voltaren tablet over breakfast. Not sure what to expect, because apparently it makes some feel very ill; perhaps because of the blood pressure effects? I brace myself for whatever might come.
  • 10:54 – My QNAP delivery arrives. Manoeuvre it inside the door and leave it there for now. Back isn’t happy with the weight and do not want to make anything worse; this is definitely not “gentle movement”.
  • 11:18 – www.doge2048.com; it’s like time-travel, where you arrive in the future and realise that you haven’t done anything useful with the intervening time. I decide to do some careful neck-stretches for my muscles.
  • 11:34 – Finish reading transcript of Clinton’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me appearance; he has got a remarkably great sense of humour about himself. And an unrivalled instinct for My Little Pony apparently!?
  • 12:40 – Reading the latest news. Nothing interesting in the world so far. Even more wasted time than Doge2048.
  • 13:40 – Finish reading the news; I’d let it stack up for a week. Stretching seems a lot better now. Can move relatively well in every direction except turning my head right. I think I can get to work only taking left turns if I have to.
  • 14:30 – I snap out of a bout of mindlessly staring into space. I have no idea how long I’ve been sitting here, or what else I might have done with the last 50 minutes.
  • 14:54 – Finished removing any important files of my old PC; ready to format it now. As of right now I’m a 1 PC kinda guy. Feeling both scared and accomplished at the same time. Still waiting for regret to set in. Except, so far it seems that for the first time in a long time laptops have all the features in a single package that I actually care about.
  • 15:10 – As I’m carefully unpacking the dishwasher and using it as an opportunity to stretch my back and neck as I go along, it occurs to me… I need to accept I’m no longer 15; better get used to the body of a 21-yr-old *sigh*.
  • 16:04 – Doing some more light cleaning and stretching. It is after all Wednesday, and the place should look presentable for tonight. I feel a lot more mobile already, and I’m starting to wonder when a good time is to take the next tablet.
  • 16:38 – Old PC is reformatting. No going back now. It does need a clean before it can go on eBay though. Disgraceful amounts of grey dust.
  • 18:04 – I managed to unpack the QNAP. Really not that much to it, it seems; unpack box, plug in power cord, plug in network cable, insert harddisks, then wait…
  • 18:50 – Ken’s ETA for tonight; 7:10pm. Everything looks sufficiently tidy.
  • 19:10(ish) – Ken makes his appearance almost perfectly on the dot.
  • 19:3? – Snacks are arrayed on the coffee table, and I’m eating way too much soft cheese and chocolate. Also, Rose.
  • 20:?? – First board game comes out. Forbidden Island. Ken, Lexi, Abbey and I all safely escape at the very last minute. Beginner level. We’re very out of practice. But we’re also all winners already!
  • 21:?? – Kingdom Builder; tough set of rules and terrible terrain. Halfway through we have some chicken legs and roast vegetables for dinner. I manage to win by a mile by not letting myself get cornered. Ken made a strategic mistake at the start and ends distant last.
  • 23:?? – Tea and chocolate hot-cross-buns. I’m too full already, but I cannot stop myself from eating more. Wednesdays are terrible for the scales. Also, very tired now. Need to post though.
  • 00:16 – Finish typing post. Just need to go through and bold the times. Also, see if the proofread finds any egregious errors of spelling, grammar or style.
  • 00:20 – Oh, I had a header image for this post too… must edit.
  • 00:30 – Okay, all done now… PUBLISH!

Day 245 – Play Music

A tale of slowly lessening misery.

I thought my stiff neck and back would benefit from a good nights’ sleep. Instead I spent a night mostly flat on my back, because rolling over was just too painful to be worthwhile. I woke up worse than when I fell asleep.

Luckily I had decided despite my best hopes to book a session for my back this morning. But it quickly became clear that my hope to make it to the office by 10am was a slightly over-optimistic fantasy. And although I knew it was inevitable, it took me till about noon before I wistfully cancelled my gym class for the evening. Telling myself it’s for the best is cold comfort when between a Melbourne trip and this back I have done maybe 2-3 classes in the last two weeks.

So instead, I spent my day with heat packs, sitting as upright as I could in front of my laptop, letting the heat seep in and carefully stretching the range of the mobility in my neck. I can now do from almost over my left shoulder (with some pulling) to almost over my right (with some more pulling), and down almost touching my chin to my sternum. I should at least be able to sleep normally.

And I made myself “useful” by moving the last vestiges of important data around so that this laptop can feel like home.
And I moved all my tracks from Spotify into Google Music, and then changed over my subscriptions.

I really like the Google Music UI. It feels more useful for discovering stuff than Spotify ever was. And as a bonus I spent most of the day with music in my ears, which is a great way to forget about how useless I am right now.

Though for some reason, it has decided that my “I’m feeling lucky” radio station consists of classical music. I may have to re-train it a bit after I cleared out my previously uploaded tracks. Clearly the sheer volume has given it slightly the wrong impression of what best to surprise me with. Oh, wow… look at that… “Refresh Station” fixed it in one go. On to New Adventures!

Day 244 – Locked Up

It wasn’t too bad this morning. A little sore, but that’s not inconceivable when a massage has just gotten major knots out of my back/neck/shoulders. I joked a bit about feeling worse than before the massage and how backwards this progress felt to me.

I guess I knew I had to cancel my gym class during the departmental presentation by the CIO. I was sitting with my head swivelled to the right to watch the monitor for the video-conference… and I was resting it on my left arm. When I decided to have a look at the clock I felt twangs of pain as I gingerly moved my neck back to facing front on.

Okay. Like that is it?

I spent the rest of the working day being very careful not to put too much pressure on anything and to try and not tense up unduly. I bailed on the 5pm gym class. I went home and got Physiocreme’d, which was burning ice and a wonderful distraction. The rest of the evening has featured a lot of Poirot and heat packs around my neck. I don’t recall ever having had anything like this.

I wonder if a brief massage would do more good or harm at this stage. I may wait out the morning to decide though.

Day 243 – My Media Solution

Today I was stuck in media-land. Consumption, contemplation, cataloguing.

The day looked promising when I briefly opened my eyes to see the sunshine before closing them again to catch some more sleep. Wet’n’Wild was going to have to wait till I woke up properly. By the time I woke up the second and final time the sky was getting a little cloudy, but never mind.

By the time I made it to Michel’s for my coffee the sky had torn itself to pieces and was dumping truckloads of water all over the place. So much for outside, pivot to inside. Cold weather goes well with media consumption, hot food, hot beverages.

I brought a haul from JB HiFi home. I love their stacking discounts. 20% off all media in-store. Added on top of buy-2-get-1-free and buy-GoT-S3-get-50%-off deals. I walked out with a small tower of BluRays and intent to make a big dent.

I’m not entirely sure when the weather changed again into a sunny evening, but it might have been somewhere during Skyfall. By that point I didn’t really feel sufficiently motivated to do anything else with the last hour of daylight left.

What I did do during all this media consumption; lots of research.

As I was driving home earlier in the day an episode of Hanselminutes came on my podcast player. It was an interview with the developer of Plex; multimedia-player-extraordinare. I had played with Plex in the past, but it has come a ways since then and is still growing on by the sounds of it.

The backend server can run on a QNAP. There are front-end apps available for PC, Windows 8, Android, iOS, Chromecast… play can pause and resume between devices; when you start playing on the TV and run out of time, you can pause and then resume on your tablet from where you left off. It keeps track of who has seen what and what they liked. There is a recommendation system between users. It sounds very much like the solution I’m looking for.

And then there is Chromecast… a $35 plug-in HDMI device for the TV that integrates with Android apps and can connect to Plex as well. When you have a Chromecast connected to your WiFi, and your Android is playing a YouTube video on that same WiFi, it will have an additional “cast” button that instantly transfers the playback from the mobile to the TV.

So now I know exactly what I need for my solution:

  • A QNAP 870 Pro (as per previous post)
  • Plex server installed on the QNAP
  • Plex client for Android on my mobile
  • Plex client for Windows 8 on my laptop
  • Chromecast plugged into the TV
  • Investigate moving from Spotify to Google Music

Oh yes, … I almost forgot. Other than the cost per track including the Australia Tax, Google Music will probably do the job I want from a music store as well. $12 a month streaming of any tracks in the catalogue. Purchase tracks that I want to keep for on the QNAP. And for any music the store does not stock, Google gives room to upload 20,000 tracks that I have ripped myself; plenty to supplement tricky artists.

Now I just need to put all the pieces together.

Day 242 – Requirements

Not much thinking today either.

My gym routine this morning was a bit shorter than it usually is. My first class in the morning made it abundantly clear that I shouldn’t attempt the second class, and the instructor insisted on the same fairly forcefully. Somewhere along the way on my trip to Melbourne I have done something that knotted some muscles in my left hip.

So I just walked out 30 minutes on the treadmills to cool down a bit before my gym-shower.

As a result of cutting one class I got to my massage appointment a good 40 minutes too early so I reclined the car seat and listened to an episode of Nerdist while I waited for time to pass.

The massage was very helpful. Apparently it was not just my hip, but also my left leg, my lower back and my neck that were in equally bad shape. The work on the leg was too intense to relax through, but even the painful pressure felt good in its own way. The back and neck however were sufficiently soothing that I threatened to fall asleep (again? I think I actually may have snored briefly once).

The rest of the day was spent not achieving much around the house.

And I’m glad I wasn’t tempted to go to Wet’n’Wild, because the storm that rolled through around 4pm would have been a serious spoiler to any fun I might have hoped to have had.

Instead I watched some TV and pondered bulk data storage, personal data privacy, backups and life journalling. I may draw some sketches over a movie tonight; I have some ideas I’d like to develop out to see where the tricky parts are. I more and more just want to own my own information, thankyouverymuch. So first, requirements.

Day 241 – H.S.H.

Home-sweet-home.

Dinner from the chicken shop down the road; I think they were humouring me because they were clearly intending to close just as I arrived. Three burgers and some wedges.

And now doing some chores to decompress if you could believe it. Been a very intense Melbourne trip this time around, so looking forward to the weekend. Once I earn it. Chores. Without too much thinking.

Thinking can wait till tomorrow.

Day 240 – Nitro!

Tonight ended really well… and I now know exactly what my next ice-cream-making purchase will have to be.

Dinner was a very solid Indian performance. But no dessert. So we wandered the streets of Melbourne in search of something good. It is remarkably hard to find just-desserts in Melbourne; clearly they aren’t very desserty people down here.

However…

When they do dessert, they do it spectacularly.

Stand Back! They are Going To Try Science!
Stand Back! They are Going To Try Science!

This gelato shop makes the gelato from scratch right in front of you. With Science! And Liquid Nitrogen!

Goopy delicious ingredients go in the mixing bowl. Mixing bowl starts. Liquid nitrogen gets poured in. Instant ice cream.

Day 239 – And A Show

Tonight was delicious.

We had walked all the way along the river till we ran out of riverside restaurants. Only to spot a spiral staircase leading up to even more options. We selected the very first at that stage.

Apparently there was a show on somewhere, because we got asked several times if we wanted the 3 Course Meal that everyone was having before their performance. I still do not know what was on; I just know we didn’t go to it.

We did choose the Three Course Meal though. I had the cottage cheese/beetroot starter. Trout with the most delicious sauce and a zesty salad with sweet mango pieces. And crème brûlée for dessert. The portions were just the right size and absolutely delicious.

Heading back along the river we were then treated to a surprise show over the river.

I still do not know what the occasion was, but it was a nice way to end the evening.