Archive for November, 2009

Plex and the ultimate media center setup

1

(10/10)

I’ve been using XBMC on my old Xbox as a media center for a few years now and it has served me well. In fact, it is still serving me well, but it doesn’t have the horsepower to get HD content onto my TV. It also doesn’t have some of the features that I’m after in a media center.

Plex for Mac

Plex for Mac

Some time ago I started playing with the free app Plex (Plex was born out of XBMC) on my iMac at home and I was very impressed with what it could do. The only problem was that my iMac was nowhere near my TV and it is used for all sorts of things other than watching movies or listening to music.

I lost interest in the application as I didn’t see a way to integrate it with my existing media setup. I was sad to see it go as the interface was really slick, it worked with the Apple remote (it actually doesn’t work with the mouse at all 🙂 and it was exceptionally good at going to sites like imdb.com and tv.com to fetch movie posters, box art, plot outlines and theme music.


I’m now in the process of putting together a new setup which I think is the ultimate combination of features and cost.

An older Mac mini

An older Mac mini

You can pick up an older Mac mini with the appropriate video adapter for a pretty decent price and it will easily deliver the goodness I’m after (just make sure that it has at least a 1.8Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo if you want HD). It will run Mac OS X and will boot straight into Plex. I’ll use an Apple remote (with a view to upgrade to a Logitech Harmony at some point) to control the whole setup, with the option to use a wireless keyboard and mouse if I need to hop onto the Internet or use iTunes. I use my iMac as a NAS (it has Terabytes of external firewire storage courtesy of Lacie) so all I’ll have to do is point the Plex at my “Movies”, “TV Series” and “Music” shares and it will do the rest. Depending on the size of your media library it will take some time for Plex to go and fetch all the stuff it needs from the Internet to populate its database with the relevant text, images and sound and then you’re set. Sit back on the couch and enjoy.

Logitech Harmony

Logitech Harmony


Whenever you add something to your media library, Plex automatically detects it and goes and fetches everything it needs. For TV shows it automatically sorts everything into seasons, it keeps track of what you’ve already watched and plays the theme music in the background while you’re choosing and episode.

Plex also has plug-ins for just about every decent media service on the Internet: Hulu, TED, BBC iPlayer, Youtube, Flickr and iPhoto, just to name few. So even if you don’t have your own media on a local server, you have access to hours of entertainment at your fingertips.

 

It almost seems to easy, but with the initial testing I’ve done and reports from other people on the Internet, I’m confident that it will be money well spent and will see me well into the future.

 

Plex showing you everything you need to know about BSG

Plex showing you everything you need to know about BSG

QOTD: Hans Callesen

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Hans Callesen: “Unemployment doesn’t keep office hours.”

Modern Warfare 2: It’s gonna be awesome

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I know there are people complaining about the lack of dedicated servers for the PC version along with other whinging about possibly killing civilians by mistake, but who cares ?!? This is going to be awesome. If you plan on playing online with your buddies over the next few months you will have to own a copy of this, because this is what all the cool kids are going to be playing.



Protect your iPhone

3

(9/10)

I’ve never really been a fan of cell phone covers or cases. Usually because you end up compromising on the functionality of your device or you end up doubling its size. My 2G iPhone ended up looking like a expensive German bathroom fitting that had been attacked by a child with an angle grinder. Not a pretty site, but I never saw a cover that appealed to me. Mind you, I wasn’t really trying very hard to find one.

I was determined not to let my shiny new iPhone 3GS suffer the same fate. I saw a few covers that didn’t look too bad and decided to head out on a Saturday morning to pick one up. I was quickly reminded why doing your own research online and then ordering from an e-tailer is always the best option. All the staff in all the stores I went to were completely useless. I was really impressed with how little they knew about the products they had for sale in their respective stores.

In the last store I visited (why is it always the last store you go to ???) I finally found something that I liked. A little surprising as the cover was completely different to what I originally had in mind for my 3GS. As soon as I saw it I got flashbacks of Portal. It was brilliant white with grey buttons and hugged my iPhone like they were made for each other – which they obviously were.

They iPhone Candyshell from Speck

They iPhone Candyshell from Speck

The Candyshell from Speck is a little pricey compared to some of the other covers that are available, coming in at around R350 depending on where you shop. It also comes with a screen protector (and a great little cloth to polish the screen before you apply it) which a lot of the other covers don’t have, not that they are expensive, but it’s great that I only had to buy a single product.

My 3GS now feels almost indestructible. The rubberised edges also give you that extra sense of security when you put it down on a hard surface or drop it. You can access all the buttons and the dock connector without any issues and the camera isn’t obstructed at all. I’ve also had zero issues with the phone overheating with the cover on.

If you love your iPhone and I know you do, buy it this cover and it will be with you till your next upgrade and beyond.

Borderlands – conquer it with your friends

0

(7/10)

I’m still not sure about Borderlands. I can’t really fault the game. The graphics are great, it makes me laugh and it’s built from the ground up for online co-op. It walks a fine line between a FPS and RPG, probably my two favorite genres, but there still just seems to be something missing. I’m probably only about 25% of the way through the game, almost all of which has been done with at least one buddy in co-op, but I haven’t had that, “I must lock myself in the house and play this until the neighbors complain about the smell” feeling.

borderlands-box

The story is also pretty cool. You are searching for a mythical vault that is packed with alien technology and secrets. I mean, who wouldn’t want to find that ! As with most RPG’s, you start off with miserable stats, miserable weapons, miserable everything really. You progress through the first 15 levels is pretty quick and if you spend your money wisely you can amass a fairly decent arsenal especially if you get lucky with one of the “daily specials” at the vending machines.

borderlands-crew

If I had my life over, I would probably wait to pick it up second hand, it is however a great way spend all night chatting to your buddies and making alien heads explode with your sniper rifle. Doesn’t really get much better than that.

Watch classic movies for free

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I thought this was pretty awesome when I stumbled upon it a few days ago. What the site has done is provide a smart interface to a library of classic movies that no longer have any copyright issues and are available on Google Video. You can search for specific titles or browse through a genre. The old school movie posters are a laugh and they feature a different set of movies based on the time of year or season.

Classic Cinema Online

Classic Cinema Online


So whether you’re in the mood for some classic animation or some really bad horror films, Classic Cinema Online has hundreds of films in dozens of categories and it’s all FREE !

The first thing that will put a grin on your face is the quality of the video – yes we really did used to watch stuff like that. Some of the acting is almost enough to put every movie in the comedy category.

Check it out.

Macheist warming up

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Macheist sounded their early warning system a few days ago. Claiming to have detected abnormal cosmic radiation levels. It seems that the countdown has begun. Navigating to correct galactic co-ordinates and sending out a solar tweet results in you getting a license for the disk visualisation application Daisy Disk worth $20.

Go to co-ordinates 151.7,174.4

Go to co-ordinates 151.7,174.4

I participated in the previous Macheist and scored a boot load of applications for $39 (retail value of apps was around $558). The concept gains momentum every year and I’m confident that this year the applications on offer will be better than ever.

Daisy Disk

Daisy Disk

The idea is simple, the guys over at Macheist set up a series of challenges that require you to do some serious detective work. They set up dummy web sites, embed stuff into images and generally make things super challenging. Never fear, you aren’t on your own and everyone participating in the event shares their successes. The bulk of the money raised goes to charity, some of it goes to the app developers and some obviously goes to Macheist – so this is all for a good cause.

It’s a heap of fun if you participate and even if you don’t, you still get all the listed apps. If you do decide to get a little more involved in the puzzle solving you unlock bonus apps that further increase the value of your loot.

There are usually a few bonus applications for first 25,000 people that sign up for the heist. The more people that join the cause the more apps are unlocked. From what I understand, the target had been reached every year for the past 3 years, so don’t worry about some of the apps not being unlocked.

Keep and eye on their website for further updates or follow them (@macheist) or me (@gordongreeff) on Twitter for more updates.

QOTD: Robert Pirsig

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Robert Pirsig: “‘There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology – the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn’t any good.’

(Via Quotes of the Day.)

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