The Open Sign

Posted in Computer Science on November 2nd, 2013 by Michael

Fire Open

My wife and I went to Costco this morning, like most American couples do every Saturday. While we were there, I noticed a really cool “Open” sign. It flashes and does who knows what else. Mostly, I suspect it says “Open” in a very bright fashion.

I’ve been having a bit of trouble concentrating on business for the past nine months or so. Coincidentally, I’ve been self-employed for the past nine months or so. I find it comically easy to get distracted by, well, pretty much anything. And I find it frustratingly difficult to get back on task.

For example, I spent the entire day yesterday configuring Moe, my Mac Mini Plex server for the house. I copied a couple thousand songs from Curly, my trusty laptop over to Moe. Then I discovered I needed to configure the metadata, including embedded artwork for almost all of them. Found a free tool called Tagr that makes it easy. Highly recommended.

But that took hours and hours to get accomplished. Sure, now I can stream my own music library (at least the parts of it I actually like – why do I have so much music I don’t like? – am I the only one with thousands of songs in my music library that I never listen to?) to all the TVs in the house, but I got zero work accomplished yesterday.

On the one hand, I tell myself that’s the advantage of being self-employed. I can take a day off when I feel like it. But I guess I’m just a mean boss because I feel kind of bad about it the whole time. Stop nagging me, me!

Anyway, back to the “Open” sign. I figure I could buy it, put it in my office, and turn it on when I want to work. The flashing blue and red LEDs would remind me to keep my nose to the grindstone, my shoulder to the wheel, my ear to the tracks, and my eye on the ball. Kind of a difficult position to work in, but you know. An additional advantage to the sign would be that it would serve as an advisory to my wife and son that the brain is engaged. Not that it would stop wife from asking for help on her own projects – she’s battling a long-term illness and needs more help than she did before or will in the future. But it would serve as an advisory.

Plus, the bright lights might help keep me awake during my daily 2:00 slump. Seriously, I cannot stay awake at 2:00 PM. The strange thing is that my body somehow knows when it’s Daylight Savings Time and still falls asleep precisely at 2:00 PM. Don’t hate me.

apple

Speaking of Plex, I’ve been finally trying to get out of the iTunes/Apple TV ecosystem for my home video and audio services. I have a couple of very nice Roku players, including a super-cool Roku 3 in my living room. The other one covers the TV in my bedroom. All that was left was the TV in the office, which is still hooked up to my 2G Apple TV. The problem with this arrangement is that I still had to keep all the audio and video files in iTunes on Moe. The Rokus don’t demand that, but that one Apple TV certainly does. I had an old 1G Apple TV lying around the house doing nothing, so I decided to see if I could figure out a way to make it run Plex.

I couldn’t. But I did find an excellent solution that puts XBMC on the Apple TV, and it plays very well with the XBMC server on Moe. So that’s what I did. It’s called OpenELEC – Embedded Linux Entertainment Center – and it’s working great. I no longer have to keep iTunes running on Moe and I no longer have to add all my files to its increasingly horrible and slow interface. I swear, iTunes takes a minute or so per file just to set up the metadata that puts TV shows in the TV show section and movies in the Movie section. Before that, they all get imported as Home Movies. I’m not going to miss iTunes on Moe. Not one little bit.

atv-bootloader

Anyway. ELEC on Apple TV 1G is highly recommended. The machine has way more power than its native interface allows it to use. It can play pretty much any video file beautifully. Try it out.

Back to work.