I am Netatalk you are Netatalk we are Netatalk

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?  Or does it spend all weekend working out Ubuntu 8.04 command line shell commands to make a beautiful thing happen?  Namely, mount an Apple Time Capsule share over ethernet via Samba/CIFS and and then serve the data via mt-daapd to iTunes and Airport Express.  All from the command line baby.  Yeah.  Compile that package of Netatalk with libcrack2 and ssl. Talk to me dirty with inexplicable buffer writes in  vi baby.  And you’ll do a lot of apt-get.  And if you’re lucky you’ll do a few apt-get purge(s) thrown in there for good measure.

What about mounting the Time Capsule in Ubuntu?  Shouldn’t that be simple beans? You know, smbclient, smbfs, and GO right? It just works.  Hah. Apple doesn’t exactly have a support page for this sort of thing.  The crux of it for me was the domain=workgroup option, and figuring out that with Netatalk everything referenced .local addresses no the local IPs for some reason.  Whatever.  The FLAC flows now.  OGG, wavpac, you name it, this little Linux machine can serve it to iTunes whole.  No more dealing with that cursed iTunes XML library.  Unless of course you want to put music on your iPod.  I still don’t have that part completely figured out.  My feeling is you copy and add music as you want it on your iPod.

Firefly Transcodes FLAC > .WAV for iTunes & Airtunes

So I bit the bullet and ordered a couple of Airport Express base stations so that I can finally listen to music over both ethernet and 802.11n.  A small miracle, the old Dell P3 is able to transcode the FLAC on a USB hard disk drive attached to the Time Capsule (a Samba share via Bonjour in Windows XP mind you) and serve it via Firefly to the iTunes (as uncompressed .WAV with track info) on our Mac laptops.  So now, when I get the Airport Express base stations it should be a matter of selecting both “kitchen” and “living room” in the Airtunes settings and bingo bango, I’m done. Music everywhere.  If I’m ever flush I could use an iPod touch or iPhone to remote control via the mobile interface, however, I’m holding out until they offer 802.11n 5 GHz as a feature.  I don’t understand how Apple could push so hard for 802.11n and then not have it on the products that are supposed to integrate into the “home media system”.  So I think this is it.  It’s the end of the odyssey.  If Z’s in the kitchen with her laptop she can select music from the MP3 library via her iTunes, or if I want to listen to FLAC I select the Firefly Share.  Simple as that, really.

Still Not Ice Climbing – but lets build a MythTV!

Sadly my Saturdays and Sundays have not been filled with ice climbing trips to hidden frozen waterfalls of the Northeast.  My hand feels better despite having a small gash where it hit the edge of the BMW car door. I imagine I’ll be able to go back to the MPHC climbing gym soon.  

I miss the outdoor rock.  Ryan, Josh and I went on a few climbing trips before it got cold and before weddings and Texas.  Ryan has photos of us climbing in the Gunks and Brewster, NY available here: http://picasaweb.google.com/ryanwesleywebb these are just a sampling.

 

Peterskill - Mark, Josh

Peterskill - Mark, Josh

Ryan in Peterskill

Ryan in Peterskill

Ryan, Ice Pond

Ryan, Ice Pond

 

Mark's hand Ice Pond

Mark's hand, Ice Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent most of yesterday reading about MythTV.  If you feel like setting up an open source home DVR (TiVo like) then Mythbuntu or KnoppMyth seem to be a couple good stable options for creating a home Linux TV recording solution.  Obviously this will only work if your signal is “free and clear”. Dish, DirecTV, ComCast, Time Warner and basically any cable or satellite provider, encrypts all premium content.  So on the one hand, local network channels and basic cable should be “free and clear” (over digital cable local channels are usually free using QAM) but with satellite it’s more likely you’ll need to rent the DVR from them.  The only reason I’ve been considering it is because I’ve needed some sort of iTunes server back-end (see my Firefly MT-DAAPD post) and it might as well DVR network HD shows we want to watch.  Also, our ATSC tuner is old (2nd or 3rd generation) and I think the latest 5th or 6th gen tuner chipset should allow us to get all the local HD broadcast channels without fussing with the antenna. 

There are three parts to most MythTV setups, which could all be integrated into one system or distributed into three smaller systems:

  • The back-end is your dedicated server which should have low power and processing requirements.  I’ve been looking at the MSI Wind ‘Nettop barebones PC (MSI’s product page) which sells on Newegg for like $139.99.  It uses an intel Atom 1.6GHz processor with minimal power draw, I think around 35 Watts max, but you could probably optimize it to use somewhat less than this.  Obviously, HDTV content takes up a fair amount of disk space, so for starters lets say a 1.0 Terrabyte hard disk drive.
  • The actual TV tuner (which now ‘a days will need to be digital ATSC HDTV compatible, unless you still have analog cable) could be as simple as a PCI card in the back-end but something even cooler is the SiliconDust HDHomeRun.  This product is two ATSC tuners in one.  It transfers HD broadcasts from over-the-air (or QAM) to your server via ethernet.  It requires DHCP to obtain an IP address, but otherwise it’s just a little box with one 10/100 ethernet jack and two antenna inputs; ATSC to IP as it were. Your back-end will recognize it as two tuners in the setup. You could watch one while the other records or both could record simultaneously.
  • The front-end will be how you actually watch the content you have archived. Say you ripped all your DVD’s and you’ve been time-shifting several seasons of Top Chef, the “front-end” is what will do the heavy lifting of playback depending on the bit rate and resolution of the video.  It should look just like any other media playback menu.  From my reading, MPEG-2 is the optimal format to save content to (thankfully DVD and ATSC signals are already MPEG-2 so no transcoding is required) and MPEG-4/h.264 require more horsepower on your machine to playback smoothly.  My MacBook Pro Core Duo 2.0 GHz would be a fine front-end however I’d need to plug it in to watch shows.  I’d be able to watch live TV wirelessly on the laptop anywhere in the house though. Note: the Elgato EyeTV is another option for Mac OS X HDTV time shifting however it doesn’t have the front-end/back-end model, your laptop has to be on and plugged into the tuner to record.
Yup.  So that’s where I’m at.  I’ve already wired the 1GigE cable to the bedroom.  I still need to do a cable run to the kitchen, but that’s not really a priority.  I think having a small machine like the Wind PC in a closet would be a nice way to have both an iTunes server and a DVR.  Apparently MythWeb allows you to easily setup recording from your web browser, so you just login and set the shows you want to watch for the week and let the back-end do its job.  There are ways to “Sling” content to yourself if you’re out of town or something, but personally I think I could wait until I’m home, and besides most of the content by the big networks is instantly available online now for free viewing.

Firefly Media Server (not for television) FKA “mt-daapd” (but for iTunes)

I had looked at this product before, it’s a free GNU sourced media server project, as it’s used mostly for the RokuSoundBridge .  Recently I was pondering servers and looking into AirTunes via Airport Express wireless audio.  Airport Express (in its base configuration) require iTunes running to control where the audio is sent.  The slick thing since the advent of iPhone 2.0 and iPod Touch is the “Remote Software by Apple” which does what it says.  Your Apple TV, your Mac Mini server in the basement, anything connected to your 802.11/b/g network can be under its control via touch screen.  But back to Firefly Media Server.

Okay, say you have 3 rooms and in each room someone wants to listen to different music.  How?  Well, lets pretend again that on your home network you have a server where all the music is centrally located.  Firefly taps this by adding iTunes server compatibility through Bonjour networking.  On the old Dell XP machine it was a matter of installing Bonjour for Windows 1.04 and then the latest build of Firefly.  Right now over 802.11g I have two laptops listening to two different songs, where the Firefly shows up as a shared iTunes Library and amazingly the Dell still has enough resources to playback a separate FLAC audio stream over USB.  That makes 3 concurrent streams of audio, not bad for an old 900 MHz Pentium III.

I am not excited about taking the GREs.  That’s about all I can think of.  I ran 7 miles last Monday and climbed 3 other days last week.  The 7 mile run was too much.  Josh mentioned something about climbing trips in September.  It’s too much for me to think of right now and Ryan has been fing-jured.   On a completely unrelated mechanical note, I did do a little research into bit driver types for professional applications, as in putting two pieces of wood together with a screw.  The Phillips head was never  supposed to make it as far as it has.  From my reading, Canadian carpenters love the old square-Robertson drive. Hex and Torx also work better in high torque situations.  There is a better version of Phillips called the Pozidriv (I didn’t make that up) though it seems to be something of a hybrid Phillips with less public awareness.  The square bit will probably make its way into my tool box, though clearly we all can’t be Canadian woodsmen.