Day 263 – Entertainment Stacks

Today I have been consumed with media cataloguing. I used to keep a Wunderlist instance with movies and series that we already own and intend to own. The one draw-back of using a to-do list for this, is that “ticking off” items does not result in meaningful behaviour in that context.

After a lot of hemming and hawing I decided to give Google Docs a try. A simple spread-sheet would surely do the trick. It got a little fancier than I had anticipated.

Stacks of Moves and Series
Stacks of Moves and Series

My memories of Google Sheets was hazy, and I was prepared to settle for a simple list of titles, a little meta-data, and an indication of whether the item was already bought or not.

Then my sense of exploration, and my management-induced Excel knowledge started leading me down a path of validation and conditional formatting. I now have greyed-out titles for items that are already bought, red warnings on meta-data that is missing from items that have been bought, columns to log Amazon/eBay pricing so that if I am in JB HiFi I can spot the actual bargains.

On top of that, the “Filter View” functionality is very helpful for flicking quickly between the list of “owned” and “not-yet-owned” items. Sadly, this feature does not exist in the Android version of Google Drive yet.

And that brings me to the final critical point; this sheet is very usable even on my tiny Android screen. I pinned it to the device so it keeps an offline copy synced in case I lose signal in the back of JB HiFi, and scrolling through the list of 900+ titles is actually very snappy.

Now I just need to have a hunt around the house, because although I think I’ve piled up all the discs, there is a conspicuous absence of “Modern Family” and “Sherlock”… there must be a few more discs hiding out somewhere.

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 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 114 – Highly Entertaining

I had to bail on my gym class tonight. My head was pounding about three tracks in despite the Panadol that Peter kindly donated to my cause around 4pm. I did a little cool-down on the treadmill to get some steps in, but I still didn’t feel quite right about it all.

Got a coffee on the way home.

Forgot the shopping.

You know, the usual.

Upon arriving home it becomes clear quickly that I’ll have to fend for myself tonight, so I decide to kill about three birds with one stone.

But What to Buy?!
But What to Buy?!

I have to get dinner anyway, so I may as well go window-shopping along the way. Whenever I am near a JB Hi-Fi, I just have to go in to see if there are any cheap BluRay movies/series that I must have. Nothing there tonight.

But I’ve also been looking to replace my entertainment solution in the living room. Currently I have a PC running the TV, and a Pioneer amplifier that I’ve had for about forever*.

I’ve settled on a solution where a QNAP NAS becomes my media server somewhere on the network, and I’ll get something-DLNA in the living room to stream all the movies/shows/music. As well as a dedicated BluRay player for sheer convenience.

Harman Kardon, with All The Connectors!
Harman Kardon, with All The Connectors!

I had looked at a Harman Kardon amplifier with a network port that can stream media. I decided to have a look at it In Real Life. I almost waved over staff to find out whether there was a deal to be had. But instead I walked away without it. I’m sure had I decided to ask for a deal, I’d probably have walked out with an amp.

But I kinda decided that I really should first find some form of Region-Free BluRay player. None of the JB models claimed this spec. I’ll probably buy a cheapie from Kogan online, and if it breaks I can re-evaluate then.

After all that, I wandered around a bit longer. The evening temperature was actually very nice out there, and there were a lot of people out and about enjoying it. I should have dragged someone along for an excuse to stay out longer, but alas… next time.

I also tried another few stores for the dark double-coat Cherry Ripe.

I have no idea what has happened to them, but nowhere seems to stock them anymore.

I hope they haven’t been discontinued.

Slightly dismayed I drove off forgetting my shopping and dinner. Which I fixed by swinging by Stanhope on the way home. I had a healthy** burger, and some kitty litter***, and headed home.

And now I’m contemplating more Panadol and an early night.
It’ll probably be another few hours before I actually do though.


* – Forever = <10 years
** – Okay, maybe health-ish … I mean, it had lettuce and a bun, right? And whatever that Oprego sauce is, bound to be dairy**** in that
*** – Not for the eats… I have very demanding owners that send me out shopping for their toilet
**** – I’m just wildly guessing here

Day 3 – Seeing RED

Last weekend I saw World War Zee at the cinema. Now, before anyone reads me my own rules, yes, last weekend is well before the 24 hour window I have allowed myself.

Bear with me.

I often do not find the trailers before a movie very convincing one way or another. Scratch that… most often it clarifies a whole bunch of movies I should not go see.

This time I was lucky; there were two good trailers.

First one is for Now You See Me, which looks like a fun cross between Ocean’s Eleven and The Prestige. I cannot say much more about that until I have a chance to actually see it when it is out.

Second one is for RED 2, which my friend immediately recognised as such. He was trying to recommend I watch RED, which I had not seen before, but that soon became a moot point.

2013-07-19-E

DAME HELEN F&*$%NG MIRREN casually dissolving a body in a bathtub while chatting to Bruce Willis. Followed a few shots later by a car chase where she wields double handguns out of opposite sides of a spinning vehicle. I HAVE TO SEE THIS.

Also, I have to see RED!

Which is exactly what I did tonight.

It’s a story of CIA operatives, cowardly Vice Presidents and obvious Villains. Nothing particularly special about the plot, except that it totally doesn’t take itself seriously.

This is an action movie filled with the most improbable moves and gun shots, taken so casually and with a big wink to the audience that there are times it is hard to contain a giggle.

2013-07-19-D

I’m glad I watched this.

Very glad.

And now I’m sad I have to wait till RED 2 is out, because I have to watch that too.