Digital media hub rework

So, for a couple years now, I’ve been using a Mac Mini in the living room for digital media, running Plex. And it’s been pretty decent. Some minor issues with Plex as the project matured (it’s built-in to certain LG TVs now, how cool), but overall a good solution.

All my ripped movies (from my own DVDs, of course) lived on a plain old Drobo with a random bunch of disks in it, hooked up to a baseline Dell server, shared to the Mini. Speedy, easy.

Until a couple weeks ago. My server bit the dust.  It won’t even POST, so I know fixing isn’t going to be on the cheap side. But I have this Mini I could use, except then how could I get movies to the TV? Ah, I know, a Roku.

I’d tried this before, about 3 weeks before they released the new (version 2) hardware. It didn’t work so good then, as there was no way to get my movies on Plex (in a wide variety of formats) to the Roku, so back it went.

Now, though, there’s a Plex channel for the thing, and it streams Netflix natively.  So I got one.  This one, in fact, the cheapest model they make. 720p and wireless N is about all I needed. HDMI out and AC in.

End results? It’s fantastic, and I wish I would have done it sooner. Software is excellent, and device quality is super. Output is clean and clear, and Netflix works tons better than with Plex. The Plex channel is even super, and that’s just in “beta” (developed by the Plex guys, not Roku).

If you’re on the fence about a media center thing, get one of these. Seriously. Less than 50 bucks and you’re all set with everything.

Run, now, DO IT.


SAX Parsing is annoying, SAXMachine makes it much less so

We’ve all been there. Gigantic XML file in need of parsing, regular DOM parsing exploderates RAM usage beyond any hope of completion, contemplating writing a SAX parser, and suicide.

Before you solve your XML parsing woes permanently, take a look at SAXMachine. It’s a Ruby DSL for SAX parsers.  It’s built on top of Nokogiri, which is already stupid fast and easy, and it makes writing a SAX parser so much easier.

I’m not going to give you an example, the README from the above link does a good enough job explaining.  For me, it took what had promised to be a multi-days long code spelunking odyssey and turned it into a few hour long errand. Bliss.

Just go read about it.

Home networking

I have a message to anybody building homes these days.

Make sure it’s fucking wired with CAT5 to every room that isn’t a bath room. Actually, you know what? Just pull it to every fucking room.

That’s it. It’s not hard. It’s not expensive to do when the fucking studs are all exposed and you’re wiring the house.

Go buy some spools of CAT5, or 6, or 6e, whatever, and put it in the walls.

Sure, most home buyers won’t care. They’ll go, “Oh, network, I’ll never use that” and you’ll eat the cost. But like I said, it’s a very small cost.

The home buyers that do care? They’ll buy from you over the other builders. Do you know why?

Go try and make a semi-complicated home network work (including streaming video to multiple sources) when there’s no wired network in place.

Go on, I’ll wait.


Good. How much did you have to spend and how many solutions did you try? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

Fucking wire the houses. It’s 2011, not 1911.

Mac app store, soon to be as locked down and as annoying as the ios app store

“Why the mac app store makes me sad”

So, news today (yesterday?) is that, very soon, any apps available in the Mac app store will be required to run in the app sandbox. My first thought is “hey, running in a sandbox sounds good for me as a user, right?”

Yeah, apparently not. The list of “entitlements” that apple offers is super small. And they have to be approved by Apple? I mean, what? WTF is this about? At the very most they should be showing a list of permissions that app wants (you know, just like the android market does) and letting me decide if that’s ok or not.

I mean, I love Apple’s hardware and (for the most part) software, but this whole Orwellian Big Brother thing they’ve got going on in regards to their various app stores is ridiculous.