Media storage & sorting

It’s been a long time (over a year in fact) since I last blogged about my home AV setup, and I left the last post on a real cliffhanger – how do I sort and store all these videos? Well, wait in suspense no longer, because here’s the answer!

Firstly, a bit about the storage – for a while, I have crammed more and more hard-drives into a single old desktop machine that I re-purposed to be my media centre/SVN repository/Tomcat/Apache/seedbox/etc, but it was getting to the point where I had files spread across 3 different drives, and no redundancy in the event of drive failure. Given I’ve had more than a few drives die on me recently, some sort of recovery strategy was becoming very necessary. We’re not talking small size requirements here either – somehow I’ve managed to accrue over 4TB of videos, music, pictures and other files. With these requirements in mind, I went shopping for some sort of Network Attached Storage style of device, but with more of a DIY edge to it. Having looked closely at Drobo and the like, I decided I’d rather have full control of the OS and RAID setup; the idea of not knowing what’s going on under-the-hood, and not being able to recover the data apart from on another Drobo, was not appealing at all. I ended up getting a HP ProLiant N40L Microserver, sadly well after the ยฃ100 rebate ended, but still at a very good price for a decent specification of machine and a nicely engineered case. I moved the 250GB system drive to the optical drive bay as documented here, in went three 3TB hard drives, on went a fresh copy of Ubuntu 12.04.2 server, and I was away. The fourth drive port on the ProLiant is left empty for now, with a view to putting in another 3TB drive when I eventually run out of space again.

I’ve heard interesting things about ZFS recently, but decided to stick with what I know, and set up a RAID5 array across the three disks, giving me 6TB usable space, and allowing for the failure of any single disk. This arrayis then shared over NFS so that my other server can access to add files, and my Mac Mini (running XBMC) can access the content to display on the TV.

So, travelling back to the end of my last post on my home media setup – how do we sort the files we’ve downloaded to keep them in an OCD-friendly manner? The answer – SortTV. This program is one that I wish I had found years ago, it does a fantastic job of looking up program metadata on various sites (IMDB and TheTVDB I believe) and then moving files into sub-folders per-programme and -series, or per-movie, and also downloading artwork for XBMC and the like to show. I’m not going to go into much more detail on how I set this up, there are great instructions available on configuring it for your system. One recommendation I will make is to use something like trickle to limit the bandwidth available for moving when you’re using NFS, otherwise it can grind things to a halt if moving several large files. I ended up with the following in my crontab:

30 * * * * trickle -s -d 100 -u 500 perl /path/to/sorttv/sorttv.pl

So that’s it! I think I’ve finally reached the end of this mini-series on how my home AV setup works, more than 2 years after I first set out writing it. I’m sure I’ll be back on the subject at some point soon though, something is bound to break…

My take on the Kindle

For those of you kept in suspense since my last blog post – I bought the Mac! Managed to pick up a second hand Mac Mini from eBay on a second chance offer that was a bit of a steal! Got it fully up and running using Synergy and a KVM switch, but that’s another blog for another day…

Latest purchase is the new Amazon Kindle. They’ve really nailed down the price (nearly under ยฃ100 for the WiFi only version now), and the quantity and quality of books on there seems to be going from strength to strength. Basically, I wanted a device that I can sit in bed and read on without messing up my eyes, and also carry with me for odd moments where a book would come in handy. Having textbooks on there as well would be a huge bonus, saving on weight and cash! I’ve been meaning to get back into reading books for a long time, and am really glad I bought a Kindle – I’ve hardly put it down since!

First book I bought was Nikki Sixx’s book – ‘The Heroin Diaries‘ – it’s an absolutely fascinating view into the mind of a drug addict, as the main bulk of the book is a diary that he was keeping at the time, interspersed with stories and dialogue from the people close to him. I’d thoroughly recommend it! The buying process on the device is nowhere near as awkward as I anticipated either, the menus do flow quite nicely. I’m yet to try it with any textbooks (waiting to see what I need to read up on this year!), but I’m sure that even if I can get one course textbook on it, it’ll be a lifesaver in terms of weight!

A lot of people tried to dissuade me from getting one (Seb Payne & I were going to argue it out on Tech 107, but life got in the way!), saying that the Apple iPad was the way to go forwards, or to wait 12 months to see if colour e-ink displays come into the market. Buying an iPad is something that’s never even crossed my mind to date, the technology behind it is no different to my iPhone, which I have on my person most of the time, so buying a slightly steamrollered device that does the same job doesn’t make much sense to me! I do, however, want to see if colour e-ink displays will start to come of age soon, but I guess that (as with the Kindle) they’ll be extremely expensive on launch.

Well that’s my ยฃ0.02 on the matter of tablet computing (or whatever market you’d classify these devices in!), I’d better get doing something vaguely useful as opposed to writing blog posts. Dads & Lads camp with Cubs next weekend, and back up to Durham the week after to get prepared for the onslaught of Freshers week – can’t wait!!

Windows 7 on a Inspiron 510m

My ancient old knackered laptop (recently upgraded with a brand new 1Gb stick of RAM) had been running Ubuntu for a number of years, and was getting to the point where a OS re-install was necessary. I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed with the university wireless not playing nicely – so decided to give Windows 7 a try (since I can get it nice and free!)

Install was a breeze, OS booted fine first time, all drivers found and installed by Windows Update – apart from one…

Seems I was stuck with the 640×480 VGA resolution driver, Intel doesn’t think their 8XXGM series drivers work well with 7. Never fear – a bit of Googling revealed this site: http://www.groundstate.net/855GMWin7.html, which contains instructions for tricking 7 into installing the old drivers! Result! Although Seb may have had a slight point on this weeks Tech 107 (episode 3) about Macs being easier due to them not needing separate driver install. Ah well.

So – I’m now officially off Linux and 100% Windows again. Lets see how long it lasts this time!

Changes in 1.1.3

Well, I have to say I’m fairly impressed with the 1.1.3 update I blogged about earlier. Even after my PC crashed and then started the download all over again -.- urgh.

The "Find Me" service on Maps isn’t too brilliant it seems… it told me that I am currently somewhere in Poynton. Well duh!

The changing of the home screen is quite nice, however I don’t like the shakey effect when changing icons around – I think it looks tacky!

I’m yet to see movie rentals for the UK…

Multiple texts is a bonus though!

On another note – the "MacBook Air" has been shown off to the world (well… the people who were at MacWorld – I’m still waiting for the video to be released!). Not that I’d want a Mac anyway…

Lack of blogging

Well, you can all imagine why I’ve not been blogging much recently… I’ve got an iPhone!

Yes, almost 1 year to the day of it being announced at Macworld – I hold in my hand the epitome of cool.

The adverts really can’t show it at all, its an awesome bit of kit, only got a few complaints:

  • No multiple texts
  • No MMS
  • Headphone jack
  • Home button
  • Applications "crash" to the home screen quite often

Most problems should be fixed with the 1.1.3 update, however, which hopefully is out next week, being announced at MacWorld!

Anyway, back to life…

Got exams this week, had Maths C2 yesterday (went okay, thought of an answer as soon as I left the hall though ๐Ÿ™ there goes 5 marks). Got Physics resit and Maths C3 tomorrow – fun. I intend to have a fun time at Nic’s party tomorrow evening though – I may not make it home!

Handed in my Physics coursework, a month before I had to :o! I’ll wait and see if it comes back though, teacher’s still had my last piece for 3 months without marking it -.-

I’m rather depressed about going back to school, would much rather be off to Uni tomorrow!

On the subject of Uni – I’ve had offers from Kent, Nottingham and Edinburgh so far, and have interviews at York and Durham! Kent want me to visit though, which means a 6 hour journey on the train just to get there ๐Ÿ™ May have to drive… somehow!

Safari BETA

I have been trying out Safari for Windows XP over the past couple of days, and my initial reaction is one of absolute loathing.

According to Mr Jobs, HTML and Javascript loading times are nearly cut in half from the ever popular FireFox. This may be so, I have not tried their testing program, but what use is this when communication times are so slow!

From what I’ve seen, Safari takes a lot longer to process the actual request, making the improvement of HTML loading times un-noticeable.

If Apple want to dominate this market, at least put out a piece of software better or equal to the competition! However, in my opinion: the layout of Safari for Windows puts it on a par with, or even behind, IE7

Safari on Windows

Hasn’t Mr Jobs just shot himself in the foot?

He always bangs on about how “crap” Microsoft is… but now decides to release a version of his browsers for Windows…

Hypocrite.

Still… if you can’t beat them – join them ๐Ÿ˜€