March 31, 2010

March 31st Stream

twitter (feed #3)
RT @JustinLibrarian: Listen to the "Makes Justin The Librarian Wanna Dance" station. Your butt will shake. (http://bit.ly/91cEYg) #pandora [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @JustinLibrarian: Listen to the "Makes Justin The Librarian Wanna Dance" station. Your butt will shake. (http://bit.ly/91cEYg) #pandora

twitter (feed #3)
@JustinLibrarian I <3 the idea of an #ala10 soundtrack. what’s the best resource for building a playlist? [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @papertyger 2010 Arthur C Clarke awards shortlist announced. http://is.gd/b7JRF #clarkeaward (librarians, check your collections! ~yl)
– Katie Dunneback (younglibrarian) http://twitter.com/younglibrarian/statuses/11371377414

delicious (feed #4)

"While this idea is not original and ALA has hosted similar events, I still feel like the time is right for an annual Gaming in Libraries conference. There are so many issues to address: Collection Development, Literary elements of gaming, diversity issues, how gaming can be used as an advocacy tool, gaming & information literacy, gaming across the curriculum (and gaming as a teaching tool), gaming as way to boost circulating materials collections, gaming as a marketing tool, LoFi gaming (board & card games)….. We could also expand it to Gaming in Schools & Libraries Conference, which would more than double the opportunities for both conference programs and attendance….. Here’s my questions: Is the time right? Would you attend? If your library didn’t sponsor your attendance, would you still be interested? "

twitter (feed #3)
I <3 #ALAmembers RT @LibrarianJP: JOIN the official ALA Connect group "ALA Dance Party" http://connect.ala.org/node/98658 [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

I

delicious (feed #4)

@shifted @LibrarianJP If there was a way to get Morris Day and The Time at #ala10, then this could be a party. http://bit.ly/bgLmns
– Justin Hoenke (JustinLibrarian) http://twitter.com/JustinLibrarian/statuses/11376208546

twitter (feed #3)
RT @atul: RT @jdsutter My story on why Internet is 4 times faster in South Korea than in the U.S.: http://on.cnn.com/a6dFf2 tip @techmeme [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @atul: RT @jdsutter My story on why Internet is 4 times faster in South Korea than in the U.S.: http://on.cnn.com/a6dFf2 tip @techmeme

twitter (feed #3)
twitter (feed #3)
RT @deirdrereid: Good advice, interesting perspective. RT @topfermented: The difference btw Twitter & Facebook http://bit.ly/d0G5bF [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @deirdrereid: Good advice, interesting perspective. RT @topfermented: The difference btw Twitter & Facebook http://bit.ly/d0G5bF

twitter (feed #3)
RT @Katrinskaya: Map of average broadband speeds worldwide. Notice the ‘grey’ spots. http://bit.ly/dsCMyv (via @irexmedia) [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @Katrinskaya: Map of average broadband speeds worldwide. Notice the grey spots. http://bit.ly/dsCMyv (via @irexmedia)

flickr (feed #5)
Shared 10 photos.

11:56 pm Comments Off on March 31st Stream

March 30, 2010

March 30th Stream

twitter (feed #3)
RT @awd: My B’day wish: I wish for all eligible ALA voters to vote today [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
#ALAmembers – John C. would like ur feedback abt the new membership pages. pls send feedback to jchrastka [at] ala.org http://bit.ly/ab0a3U [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

#ALAmembers – John C. would like ur feedback abt the new membership pages. pls send feedback to jchrastka [at] ala.org http://bit.ly/ab0a3U

twitter (feed #3)
RT @ALA_TechSource: Presentation on Unconferences in Public Libraries posted by @Lonewolfmls http://bit.ly/awwz9Y [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @ALA_TechSource: Presentation on Unconferences in Public Libraries posted by @Lonewolfmls http://bit.ly/awwz9Y

twitter (feed #3)
new TSL post: Living in My Cloud http://bit.ly/dvq0Ab [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

new TSL post: Living in My Cloud http://bit.ly/dvq0Ab

twitter (feed #3)
RT @dcagle: Really liked this cartoon on civil discourse being "Treaded On" http://bit.ly/9rpPDI #tcot #p2 [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @dcagle: Really liked this cartoon on civil discourse being "Treaded On" http://bit.ly/9rpPDI #tcot #p2

twitter (feed #3)
RT @acarvin: RT @UniqueVisitor: A rant re Like/Become a Fan: Hey Facebook, Exactly WTF Is Going On Here? http://bit.ly/bQk1xP [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @acarvin: RT @UniqueVisitor: A rant re Like/Become a Fan: Hey Facebook, Exactly WTF Is Going On Here? http://bit.ly/bQk1xP

flickr (feed #5)
Shared 20 photos.

11:57 pm Comments Off on March 30th Stream

Living in My Cloud

This weekend, I did something really cool (for me). I got to watch a March Madness game on my TV that CBS wasn’t showing in my local market on my TV, without paying the cable company. Life is full of short victories, and this is one of mine. More importantly, I realized I’m living in the heavenly jukebox I used to talk about in my presentations years ago.

I’ve been actively building my cloud for the last six months, but I’ve been building towards this for the last ten years. The caveat is that the way I’ve built this setup works for me, and one-size definitely doesn’t fit all. I’m lucky to have the resources to build my cloud, and I know most people won’t go to these lengths to get more media. It should all be easier and work better than it does in 2010, but there’s no one really great solution yet (that I know of).

Why a cloud?

It started last August when I decided it was time to investigate a centralized backup solution, a way to listen to our music collection from anywhere, and the ability to listen to different music in different rooms of the house. In my ideal world, I also wanted similar access for video, a way to easily watch internet video (eg, YouTube, Hulu) on my TV, and the ability to stream Netflix to my TV. The offsite storage is important to me (I used to backup to Mozy, but I also want to own my data, and the idea of replicating sensitive documents on servers owned by companies focused on the bottom line (Dropbox, Microsoft Live, etc.) wasn’t very appealing to me.

I did a lot of research and couldn’t find anything that let me do everything, but Windows Home Server software came close, so I purchased an HP Mediasmart EX485 server. As the name implies, the Mediasmart series is designed to give consumers access to their media from anywhere. It comes with Windows Home Server software pre-installed and out of the box, it’s supposed to do the following things:

  • Backup all of the computers on your network automatically on a schedule you set. This includes differential backups and restores.
  • Periodically grab media from all of those computers and copy it to the server.
  • Maintain your router and DNS settings so that your server is accessible from outside of your network.
  • Give you access to all of your documents, files, music, and video from anywhere.

I say “supposedly,” because I’ve never been able to get the media collector to work consistently, and the interface to the music collection is under-described by the term “sucks.” I had to rip most of my CDs for the first time at a higher bitrate, so I just ended up copying files to the server manually in big chunks. I’m also the main person in the house who purchases music, so I can maintain that routine pretty easily.

My Jukebox in the Cloud (so named by Deanna)

The interface problems and lack of functionality were bigger issues, though. For example, there’s no way to get details about songs, rate them, or create playlists, all of which is pretty unforgivable in a product designed specifically for consumers. After further research, I installed Orb, which is some pretty cool, free software that does a big piece of what Windows Home Server does. It gives you remote access to files, music, pictures, and video on the computer where it’s installed, plus you can manage internet radio stations, favorite songs, rate songs, create playlists, and create a dashboard view. Did I mention it’s free? If you have a computer you always leave on, you can emulate some of my setup for free using this software.


My music library in Orb

Where Windows Home Server beats Orb is in its ability to update port forwarding on the router automatically, backup all of the computers on your network, and offer a RAID solution for that storage. I have 400GB+ of files, music, pictures, and video on one 750GB drive, but I was able to drop in a second drive, and the software automatically started mirroring files to it for redundancy. That part was pretty amazing, and I can access all of those files remotely, whether that means at work or in different rooms in the house. Pretty sweet.

Connecting the server to the home system

That was all well and good, but I also wanted to play music without having to queue it up on a laptop first, which meant we needed a way to get the server content to play through the home theater system. Plus, we wanted to start streaming Netflix videos to watch on the TV, as opposed to our computers. I again started doing research, which led me to the discovery that the Xbox 360 that was just sitting on the shelf (we play more Wii than Xbox) was actually a solution waiting for us to recognize it.

Because the server and Xbox are both Microsoft products, they talk to each other pretty easily. This opened up a whole new world for us, because now we could show any picture and play any music or video from the server on the big HDTV and the sound through the audio receiver and 5.1 surround-sound system without the need for a computer in between. In addition, the Xbox gives us that desired access to Netflix, Pandora, and even Last.FM through the existing system. I can also create my playlists in Orb via a web browser and play them through the Xbox. More sweetness.


Watching “Battlestar Galactica” via Netflix’s streaming service through the Xbox on the HDTV

My biggest complaint about this setup is that the Xbox isn’t designed to be a media center, even though it has all of that functionality built into it. This means the interface isn’t very good here, either (no playlists, incomplete display of metadata, long lists to scroll through), but I didn’t have to buy any additional equipment, so that was a big plus. If Microsoft ever decides to spend time working on interfaces, it would have some killer products for the consumer market.

More video

This setup does almost everything on my original list, but I still wanted to be able to watch Hulu through the existing system, and I didn’t want to have to manually download YouTube videos to watch them on the TV. Looking around, I came across the amazing PlayOn software ($40), which was the final piece of our puzzle. By loading this software on the server, we gained the ability to watch Hulu, YouTube, and some custom PlayOn channels for The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and NCAA March Madness games on demand. Really sweet! This piece was a little bit more difficult, but it all works if you follow the instructions.


Picking an episode of “Modern Family” to watch from Hulu via PlayOn through the Xbox to the HDTV

Making it all easier to use

I then tied everything together with a hand-me-down Logitech Harmony remote to make it easy to manage all of the various pieces. The “watch TV” button turns on the TV to the right input, the audio receiver to the right input, and controls the cable box. The “watch a movie” button turns everything on with the right settings to watch a DVD, but pretty much everything else except the Wii runs through the “listen to music” button, because that’s what starts up the Xbox. This is especially helpful because without the universal remote, I’d probably be the only one in the house who’d be able to turn things on and off for different activities. Another big plus is that we can control the Xbox with easy-to-understand buttons, rather the game controller that came with the console. I can’t recommend a Logitech univeral remote highly enough.

Conclusion

For the most part, this is all working very well for us. We listen to our music a lot more, including at work, and sometimes the internet video piece really comes in handy (like during March Madness). We especially like streaming Netflix (which can also be done through the PlayOn software if you don’t have an Xbox). At this point, the biggest issue is that I still need a way to backup the server offsite, but I can’t find a reasonably priced service for this (most companies charge business-level prices because they haven’t yet recognized there’s a growing consumer market). Someone’s going to make a killing offering a consumer backup service for media, but that day hasn’t arrived yet. I’m looking at other workarounds right now, but I haven’t found an ideal solution. (Have you? Leave a comment!)

It’s been a long road to get to this point, but it’s exciting to have all of this geeky functionality working. In the future, I hope to get rid of a lot of paper by scanning it to the server, and I may investigate adding a TV tuner to record programs directly to the server and setting up printing over the internet to our home printer.

How you can do some of this

This is pretty geeky stuff, although most of the process was easier than I thought it would be. It’s also a Microsoft-centric approach, somewhat by accident. I still think Microsoft needs to do a better job with its interfaces before its home server/media center products could go mainstream. However, there are ways to do pieces of all of this easily, without Microsoft products, and sometimes even for free.

  • If you have a computer that you leave on all the time, you can stream music and video or access files from it for free by installing Orb. You can even hook up an external drive to that computer if you need more storage. (It works on Macs, too.)
  • If you have an old computer lying around or can pick one up cheap, you can purchase Windows Home Server for $99 and convert that machine into a home server. I only paid the $500 for the HP Mediasmart server for the convenience factor of having it pre-installed with the software and a 750GB hard drive. If I’d had more time, I might have built it myself.
  • You don’t need an Xbox to get content from the server to the TV/home theater system. Internet TVs and DVD players are on the market (everything will have access to the internet built-in eventually), and there’s middleware like the Roku. Because I was able to get the Xbox working in about 10 minutes, I didn’t investigate which of the other options might be best. Interestingly, TiVO is entering this market with its new TiVO Premiere box, but it’ll still require a monthly fee, which I wasn’t willing to pay. I don’t think it provides access to the user’s collection, although it does bring in all of that internet content.
  • There are also other ways to stream sites like Hulu and Netflix to your TV. You can install the PlayOn software on a regular computer (as opposed to a server) to watch those channels, but you’ll still need the middleware to get the stream to the TV. Of course, you can also just install PlayOn on a computer and watch the channels on that computer, or hook it up to a TV using an A/V cable. That’s what I used to do, but I wanted to be able to use my laptop while watching “TV.” Note that PlayOn will also work with a Nintendo Wii or Playstation 3.
  • Jason Griffey has written about using the Drobo system for backups. I probably would have gone this route if I didn’t also want the remote access to my media files. However, if you’re looking strictly for a backup solution or if you aren’t backup up your data, this is an excellent option.

What else have you tried? How are you building your cloud?


6:54 am Comments (6)

March 29, 2010

March 29th Stream

twitter (feed #3)
RT @laurasolomon: "Nobody uses the word “cyber” anymore, except people trying to scare you…" http://bit.ly/9XjZu8 [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)
Shared Cliocaching.

"Geocaching, and its low-tech granny letterboxing, are a kind of hobby treasure hunt, massively multi-user hide-and-seek games played in the great outdoors. Basically, players hide caches or letterboxes in out of the way places, then other players use clues or maps or GPS coordinates to find them. The caches usually contain a logbook, so you can record your find, or a stamp or trinket you can keep to prove you found it. Eccentric Brits have been doing this since the 1800s, but the internet and inexpensive GPS devices turned the hobby into a phenomenon…. Why can’t we do this with historical research?… Call it clio-caching. Leave calling cards in card catalogs, plant trinkets and rewards in archive boxes, bury treasure in the textual layers of the past. Then share your clues: There’s a cache buried in the James Forrestal fonds at the Truman Presidential Library. Find the last letter Isaac Brock wrote before the Battle of Queenston Heights and you’ll find a prize." – via @copystar

delicious (feed #4)

"I think the key to successful future conferences, events and tradeshows are designing experiences that include elements of successful online games: achievement, competition, exploration, immersion and socialization."

twitter (feed #3)
RT @jajacobs: #FGIblog : NASA is archiving its social media posts http://freegovinfo.info/node/2952 [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @jajacobs: #FGIblog : NASA is archiving its social media posts http://freegovinfo.info/node/2952

twitter (feed #3)
this is pretty much my organizational philosophy, too. does it sound good for #ALA? http://bit.ly/am6hxb (via @alltop) [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

this is pretty much my organizational philosophy, too. does it sound good for #ALA? http://bit.ly/am6hxb (via @alltop)

twitter (feed #3)
RT @acarvin: Rosenstiel: 30% of people get their news from other people they follow via social media. #SoNM [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
sweet – thanks for sharing! RT @swissmiss: I’m using http://packrati.us to automatically bookmark the URLs I tweet. Check it out! [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

sweet – thanks for sharing! RT @swissmiss: Im using http://packrati.us to automatically bookmark the URLs I tweet. Check it out!

twitter (feed #3)
@dmcphi2 I finally got a chance to watch that video. it’s great- thanks 4 sharing it. (I also think in Jane’s analogy, libraries can=RL WoW) [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
RT @JustinLibrarian: http://bit.ly/9BpX28 Survey participants needed (ALA accredited MLS program or prospective LIS students) #alael10 [shifted]
delicious (feed #4)

RT @JustinLibrarian: http://bit.ly/9BpX28 Survey participants needed (ALA accredited MLS program or prospective LIS students) #alael10

delicious (feed #4)

Undergrad audience-responses on "How many copyrights have you infringed today?" "Should you be able to rip your DVDs?" http://bit.ly/9dB3cX
– Nancy Sims (CopyrightLibn) http://twitter.com/CopyrightLibn/statuses/11269090572

generic (feed #10)
flickr (feed #5)
Shared 20 photos.

11:57 pm Comments Off on March 29th Stream

March 28, 2010

March 28th Stream

delicious (feed #4)

"Short ribs usually mean a slow roast — but things heat up fast at Grill It with a quick and tasty Korean recipe for flanken cut short ribs. Bobby creates an exceptional Short Rib Salad with Grilled Scallion and Mint Salad, plus a Grilled Pineapple-Habanero Sauce. Spicy, sweet and hot! And since our guest is a pastry chef, don’t miss her Grilled Blackberry Hand Pies, perfect with any of your favorite berries, and Bobby blends up a big batch of Grilled Pineapple Milkshakes, the perfect way to end any yummy meal."

twitter (feed #3)
Stein: Bureaucrats Are Great, So Lay Off: http://bit.ly/c5pkgd [shifted]
flickr (feed #5)
Shared 7 photos.
twitter (feed #3)
I posted one of my first presentations about "information shifting" from 2001. my, how time flies http://bit.ly/ccJvy2 [shifted]

11:56 pm Comments Off on March 28th Stream

March 27, 2010

March 27th Stream

twitter (feed #3)
Need Some Help Making That iPad Decision? http://bit.ly/dA8Daj [shifted]
youtube (feed #7)
flickr (feed #5)
Shared 24 photos.

11:56 pm Comments Off on March 27th Stream

March 26, 2010

March 26th Stream

twitter (feed #3)
#alamembers: thx for election feedback. we’ve added a direct link to election info from the homepage & will add contact info for problems 🙂 [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
@JanieH I am! Let’s get the Battledecks party started [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
@ebethmoreau we deliberately randomize the list to make it fair. otherwise, the last half of the alphabet wouldn’t get a fair shake. [shifted]
generic (feed #10)
generic (feed #10)
generic (feed #10)
twitter (feed #3)
RT @ala_wo: Call now to support library funding! http://bit.ly/d1S0uM [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
@jeffjarvis did we end up working out a way to get you to #ala10? [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
@krynsky libraries [shifted]
twitter (feed #3)
@ranti I’m trying 😉 [shifted]
generic (feed #10)
twitter (feed #3)
yay! windows home server + xbox + playon means I can keep watching the n. iowa/michigan state game on tv instead of cbs #weliveinthefuture [shifted]

11:57 pm Comments Off on March 26th Stream

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