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Running the Lattice of Convenience

Music: 

New Order - 5 8 6

Since posting about the week of 1983 TV Guide viewing, I've had questions from some people wondering about the storage and other hardware and software we use for our media library. It's really not very complicated to do, though I do have preferences and recommendations.

So here's what we've got.

Motivation:

Mainly I don't like the level of control streaming companies have. That they monitor everything we do, and that stuff comes and goes from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime on their timeline, not mine. I don't like the concept of paying for things like Spotify so that I can rent access to music I already own.

I realized like 15 years ago that while we often spent $200/$300 per week on CDs earlier in our marriage, Natalie and I were drifting away from actually listening to it much, because who wants to dig around for a CD to hear one song, then move to another CD. Ultimately, the same applies to movies, we have lots of DVDs, and I don't want to have to dig through booklets just to watch a couple of James Bond movies.

It's super easy to maintain, and we like being able to watch Saturday morning cartoons, "Nick-at-Nite" or throw on music videos while we play arcade games and eat pizza. Once up and running, it's all pretty much push-button access to all the media we like.

Media:

- 2000-2500 CDs (Maybe 200GB of music)

- Couple hundred movies, really probably not as many as most people.

- Lots of TV shows. Space-wise, this is where it adds up fast when you're ripping a box-set of 10 seasons of some show.

- Commercials, mainly from the '80s and '90s, but I'll grab anything fun that strikes us.

- Music videos. We have an overall collection of around 2000, and a subgroup of about 700 which represent "'80s arcade or pizza place" music. That's music that was just ubiquitous when we were growing up in the '80s and early '90s, and you heard it all the time whether you liked it or not. I've since come to appreciate these songs and bands in a way I didn't when I was a dickhead punk kid.

So all told, there's about a 5TB library of stuff, mainly TV shows, but also a decent music library that needs to get maintained and served.

Hardware:

- Ripping machines - Mainly, all I need is the maximum number of DVD trays I can get my hands on. There's nothing special here. My tools work on Mac or Linux so I can work wherever. We have one main Mac Pro that has 2x 8TB drives mirrored which hold the master copy of the media collection.

- NAS - Seagate GoFlex Home from like 10 years ago. I think I originally bought this with a 1TB drive, and have since upgraded it twice, which is kind of a massive pain. Now it's got an 8TB drive which has a copy of the media library from our main machine. I'll get into the pros and cons of this thing below.

- Raspberry Pi - I have a multi-use RaspberryPi which does various tasks to make things convenient and optimizing TV viewing. There are a handful of scripts which create random playlists every night for various categories of music videos, TV shows (Sitcoms, 'BritBox', 'Nick-at-Nite'), etc. It also runs mt-daapd, which I'll get into below.

- Amazon Fire Sticks - We have a couple of them. I'm not super impressed with their 8GB storage limit, but I'm definitely happy enough for the money they cost. They're cheap, around $20 now, and they do what they say on the box. Play video. I have side-loaded Kodi 17.x, but they seem not to quite have the resources for 18.x, though I'm really not sure why not. It's just slower.

- The Shitphone Army - I've got obsolete phones (Samsung Galaxy S4-ish) around the house and decent speakers set up so we can have music playing while doing the dishes for example.

Software:

- Kodi - I mentioned Kodi, which is just an excellent Free Software media library manager. Kodi gets /such/ a bad rap because of all the malware infected pirate boxes for sale, but you never see much from people who actually use it to manage a locally stored library of media they own. Can't recommend it enough. Get familiar with customizing menus in Kodi and making home-screen buttons linking directly to playlists. It's worth it and makes it look nice and easy to use.

- mt-daapd - I'm running out of patience with music streaming, though everything does work right now. MT-Daapd just basically serves up a library of music using the DAAP protocol, which used to be used by iTunes

- DAAP (Android app) - This could be great, but it seems to be completely un-maintained, and somewhat recently moved from being open source to closed, so unless I have an off-line copy of the source, there go my dreams of updating it. But it works well on the Shitphone Army and on the road so we can basically stream from anywhere. Other DAAP players for Android are pretty much all paid applications, and none of them seem to work better particularly than DAAP.

- Scripts A handful of poorly written scripts for ripping DVDs and maintenance of the library (below)

Recommendations:

Players - While the Fire Sticks work great, they're really very dependent on having constant access to Amazon. Were I installing mainly a Kodi machine, it would be much better to use a Raspberry Pi either with a direct-connected drive or mounting a network share. It's super easy to set up with ready-to-go disk images which boot straight into Kodi.

Playlists - Create lots of playlists. Playlists and randomizing things are two things that Kodi is terrible at, so I don't try to make it do it. These scripts run nightly on the Raspberry Pi and make .M3Us for us.

Filenames - Have a good naming convention. All my playlists are M3Us of just lists of files. That means that you don't get Kodi's metadata database with the pretty titles and descriptions, and so the files must be named descriptively enough that you can tell what episode you're looking at from the list of filenames. My template is "Name of the Show - S02E25 - Title of the Episode". Kodi's scrapers work well with that format and it makes it easy enough to fire up the Nick-at-Nite playlist and decide where to jump in.

At various times, I've considered parsing a copy of the Kodi database to suck out the metadata and add it in before the file location. In an M3U, that looks like this:

#EXTINF:185,Ian Dury & The Blockheads - There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards
/mnt/eSata/filestore/CDs/Ian Dury & The Blockheads/Ian Dury And The Blockheads The Best Of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll/17 There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards.mp3

It seems like having all that sqlite stuff happening would add a lot of overhead to generating playlists, and having well-named files saves me from having to worry about it, so I haven't bothered.

Storage - Though I use a "Home NAS" product that overall I've been pretty happy with, it does irritate me. Consumer market stuff is /so/ proprietary that it's quite hard to just get to the Linux system beneath and customize it the way you see fit. Specifically in the case of the GoFlex, "rooting" it even involved replacing Seagate's customized version of SSH with a vanilla one. Screw that up and you brick the device. I also run into network bottleneck issues with that thing. While you can enable jumbo frames, for instance, when syncing new content the CPU gets pegged, I believe I'm running out of network or disk buffer, which is kind of unacceptable in a NAS device.

Building it today, I'd just use a Raspberry Pi 3 with a USB drive enclosure. For the time being, my growth curve is still (barely) pacing along with the largest "reasonably priced" drives on the market. My ceiling is about $200 per drive when I do upgrades, because I am a very cheap man.

I have no opinion on consumer RAID arrays. I can only imagine consumer RAID based NASs come with all the shit I hate about the GoFlex. Yes, I'm biased against consumer grade garbage tech and that's probably not going to change. I'll have to buy one someday I'm sure, but for now it's all being kept simple.

Backups Keep backups. While I have multiple copies of everything, it does make me somewhat nervous that the only part of the media library currently being backed up off-site is the MP3 collection. That's got to change, and rsync is your friend. Ultimately I'll probably end up upgrading my home Internet from 20Mb/2Mb to something which will allow me to sync over a VPN tunnel to somewhere off-site (friend's house, work...).

Sample Scripts:

Here are some samples of the shitty bash scripts that run this whole nonsense. I know the better ways to write these, but the fastest possible way to hammer these out worked well enough and there's no way I'm going to bother going back and fixing them to be honest.

Rip CDs

I use an application called MAX on the Mac to rip CDs. I think its usefulness might be coming to an end, and I'm not sure what to do about that. It uses (used?) MusicBrainz database to automatically fingerprint and tag discs, but the last CD I ripped it seemed to have problems. You can run iTunes side by side with Max and drag the metadata over from there, so maybe that works well enough?

Anyway, I use that because I rip to both 320k CBR MP3 and FLAC. I have a shitload of stuff that really should be re-ripped since they're 128k and no FLAC, but I've so far been unmotivated to do so.

I wrote a bunch of stuff to move all the output files around and update iTunes libraries. Honestly I don't rip a whole lot of new music, which is a shame and which I should really fix.

Rip DVDs

DVD ripping is a lot more fragile than it should be. Good software like Handbrake are bullied into removing the ability to rip protected DVDs, and things are being pushed toward the commercial. I use mencoder in the script below.

DVD titles are sketchy at best, and as far as I know, you can't really fingerprint a DVD and scrape titles in the way you can with CDs. So I do what I can. I take whatever title the DVD presents and make an output directory based on that name plus a timestamp. That way if you're doing a whole box set and all the DVD titles are the same they're at least writing out to separate directories and not overwriting each other.

As far as file-naming, unfortuantely we don't live in the future yet and that's all down to manually renaming each output file. I use the information from TVDB, not IMDB, since that's the default library used by Kodi's scrapers. Sometimes the order of things is different between that and IMDB (production order vs airing order vs DVD order issues plague this whole enterprise).

#! /bin/bash

timestamp=`date +%m%d%Y%H%M`
pid="$$"
caffeinate -w $pid

id=$(drutil status |grep -m1 -o '/dev/disk[0-9]*')
if [ -z "$id" ]; then
echo "No Media Inserted"
else
name=`df | grep "$id" |grep -o /Volumes.* | awk -F "Volumes\/" '{print $2}' | sed 's/ /_/g'`

fi
name=`df | grep "$id" |grep -o /Volumes.* | awk -F "Volumes\/" '{print $2}' | sed 's/ /_/g'`
echo $name
dir="$name-$timestamp"
mkdir /Volumes/Filestore/dvdrip-output/$dir

echo $dir

for title in {1..100}
do
/Applications/mencoder dvd://$title -alang en -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vhq:vbitrate="1200" -vf scale -zoom -xy 640 -oac mp3lame -lameopts br=128 -o /Volumes/Filestore/dvdrip-output/$dir/$title.avi
done
chmod -R 775 /Volumes/Filestore/dvdrip-output/$dir

Playlist Script

The simplest Music Videos one below just looks at one directory of videos and one directory of TV commercials and randomizes all the content into an M3U. The more complicated ones have dozens of directories, and I'm sure I'm doing this array-building the wrong way. I'm sure I could have a text file with the un-escaped directory names I want and read that to build the array, either way, it really doesn't matter because if I want to add a TV series, I still have to edit a file, so this works fine. I've also thought about having a file in each directory like ".tags" that I search for terms in, like "comedy,nickatnite,british" and build the array from that, I dunno, sounds like work.

#! /bin/bash

array=`find ./ -type f;
find ../../Commercials -type f`

printf '%s\n' "${array[@]}" | sort -R | grep -v dvd_extras | grep -v "./$" | grep -v "\.m3u" | grep -v -i ds_store | grep -v ".nzb" | grep -v ".srt" > full-collection-random.m3u

- rsync the TV library. I have several of these, one for TV shows, one for movies, music videos, mp3s etc. It's just somewhat faster to only sync the thing I'm actually adding content to, rather than have to stat the entire library every time I rip a single DVD. The TV show sync tool also deals with the playlists, which are actually created on the NAS drive, so they have to be copied local before syncing or else they'll just get destroyed every day.

This checks to see if the NAS volume is mounted, if not it will mount it and re-run the script.

#! /bin/bash

mounted=`cat /Users/xrayspx/xrayspx-fs01/.touchfile`

if [ "$mounted" == "1" ]
then

cp ~/xrayspx-fs01/Common/TV\ Shows/1\ -\ Playlists/* /Volumes/Filestore/Common/TV\ Shows/1\ -\ Playlists/

rsync --progress -a --delete /Volumes/Filestore/Common/TV\ Shows/ ~/xrayspx-fs01/Common/TV\ Shows/

~/bin/umounter.sh
exit 1
else
mount -t smbfs //192.168.0.2/filestore ~/xrayspx-fs01/
~/bin/synctv
fi

xrayspx's picture

My Life Is Going To Suck Without Net Neutrality

Music: 

There are so many things I do which are likely to suffer with Net Neutrality's loss.

I run my own mail, web and cloud sharing services on a VPS that I maintain. Owncloud syncs all my devices, I use IMAP and webmail. I also run lots of "consumer" stuff for myself. I own 2500 CDs which I've ripped and share for my own personal use. I have playlists. I can connect with DAAP from my phone, and listen to my own CD collection, music I have paid for, Spotify style. I know people are saying "Spotify will work just fine", but what if I don't want to use Spotify?

This is all encrypted, personal connections. Nothing illegal is happening here. I'm not filesharing or streaming Torrents or any other grey-area services. It's just all my personal stuff, owned and manually copied myself, sharing to myself. No one gets ripped off here.

I can plug my Amazon Fire stick or Raspberry Pi into any TV and use Kodi to stream my own MP3s or movies, etc. I can use it to watch Amazon Prime or Netflix as well. Kodi also has a wealth of plugins to watch content from sources such as the PBS website. We all can watch Nova, or Julia Child, or even Antiques Roadshow over the Internet, for free, legally. This may all suffer when backbone providers and local ISPs can both decide which packets have priority over other traffic. PBS could be QOS'd out of the budgets of millions.

(Note *)I don't own a Nest or any other IOT garbage, but I have toyed with the idea of building my own, running on infrastructure I build. I don't want Google to know what temperature my house is right now. And I don't want some mass hack of 500 Million Nest users or idiot IOT Lightbulbs to let some Romanian turn my furnace off in the middle of February either.

So yeah, losing Net Neutrality could effectively disable all of this. Small hosts like me could be QoS'd off of the Internet entirely, unless we pay extra /at both ends/. Pay my hosting provider to pay their backbone providers to QoS my address at a decent speed. Then pay my consumer ISP to QoS my traffic so I can reach "The Good Internet", like they have do in Portugal.

This is going to cut my lifeline to my own data, hosted by me on my own machines. Am I going to have to pay an additional "Get Decent Internet Access Beyond Google, Spotify, Facebook and Twitter" fee to the Hampton Inn just so we don't get QoS'd away from our own stuff? It's bad enough that the individual hotel can effectively do this already today, but the hotels are at least limited by the fact that they're in competition with each other and if they have ridiculously shitty Internet that you can't check your mail over, well people would notice that. Backbone providers pretty much have no such direct consumer accountability. No one's going to say "well, fuck that I'm not going to route over AT&T anymore", they might say "Hilton has shitty Internet, I'm going to Marriott".

Some of the most demoralizing part of this is that the rule-makers just don't get it. I already know they don't care, but former FCC Chair Michael Powell's statement, which boils down to "You can still use Facebook, (Amazon) Alexa, Google and Instagram, just like you can now" is missing the point either deliberately or purposefully. That most "consumers" will be fine isn't the point. The point is that everyone be equal, and all traffic be routed equally.

* The risk to my information is proportional to the value an attacker places on the information. Could a state actor target my email server and read my mail? Yeah, the Equation Group or Fancy Bear or some Eastern European ID theft ring could probably exploit some flaw in whatever software serves my VPS, or flat out order the ISP to give them access to my stuff, but why? What does the NSA gain by ransacking my mail server? Not much. How about criminal attackers? However they /would/ expose 1.5 Billion Yahoo accounts all at once, and have that entire corpus of mail to search against, plus passwords they could use to try and attack everyone's bank account all at once.

xrayspx's picture

Twin Peaks Was Definitely In The Stargate Universe

Music: 

*** SPOILERS FOR BOTH STARGATE AND TWIN PEAKS (1990) ***

Natalie and I have watched all of Stargate from the movie through the last episode of SGU, having interleaved where appropriate so we were watching the different shows in the proper order with relation to each other (we did the same thing with all the Star Treks). We're just now watching Twin Peaks for the first time for either of us, because we'd always heard it was good, they're doing a new series, and because this is what we do. See also: Magnum, Miami Vice, Knight Rider, and any number of other 80s series we've gone all the way through.

Anyway.

We're on Season 2, Episode 2 and have decided that a joke we've been making for a couple of episodes must be true. Major Briggs is absolutely General Hammond's cover ID.

Evidence:

- He's the only "obvious" military personnel in the town, and doesn't work very far away. Any other ranking military would have non-military covers, like O'Neill and Carter have on the show, not to mention Murray. Regular enlisted are not permitted to leave the base, which could well be the case on Stargate. Uniformed military on Stargate is only shown off-base if there's some actual emergency.

- It's the only thing that makes certain characters make sense. Log lady's messages, etc. The fact that Deputy Andy can't conceptualize how "tape" works, he's clearly either a Goa'uld or is just a straight up alien like a human from Abydos or something.

- Just started writing this when General Hammond started his talk about the fact that part of his extremely top secret job involves monitoring other galaxies with radio telescopes. Which is both sort of Carter's cover and obviously they do monitor Ori, Pegasus and whatever galaxies the SGU ship has seeded with gates or whatever.

I can absolutely imagine General Hammond having this talk with some random townie. The Ori could definitely be talking to the Log Lady through her log.

I've found that other people have had threads on this topic over the years, and I have to say, I love that it took an entire movie + multi-show franchise years after the fact to make sense of Twin Peaks.

Of course, if The Giant is actually an Arquillian, or Mr Homm, that would make Star Trek or MiB also de-facto Stargate spin-offs, which I can probably defend if I had to. But the Stargate Universe theory fits so, so well it refuses to be ignored.

xrayspx's picture

Satellite

Music: 

New York Dolls - Trash

This should buff right out. My old man's a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools...

Edit: Natalie took another one. There's this mounting plate on a collar attached to the main support. That whole thing is ruined. Also, I like the neighbor's pristine reference implementation in the background.

xrayspx's picture

Visit Your Drive-IN

Music: 

Milford has a great drive-in theater, it's in the middle of a corn field and everything. It's perfect. But in the ten years we've lived here we've only gone twice, since most movies suck. I remember we saw the Johnny Depp Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, with Fantastic Four, and we saw Snakes on a Plane with Talladega Nights (which is terrible). Natalie got to see a Harry Potter movie with some of our friends while I was out of town. The problem is that most movies suck, and we have no interest in comic book movies or live action cartoon remakes, which are the only things coming out now which are worthy of a drive in. (I would go see a Spider Man or Batman movie there I guess. I'm mainly thinking of Transformers movies and Iron Man movies).

A few weeks ago we were driving by and I said to Natalie "You know what they ought to do? They ought to show movies from the '70s and '80s, those movies were awesome and people would come watch them. I'm going to write a letter dammit. We were home 6 minutes later, I forgot about the letter.

Somehow they got the message. Tonight we watched Back to the Future and Jaws! We just happened to be driving by like 1 hour before the sun was down and Natalie saw the sign and we scrambled all fighters and made the snap judgment that we had to go do this. It's always a great time, eating concession stand food and supporting a wonderful local business in an industry that needs it.

The best thing was actually all the kids watching BTTF and loving the shit out of that movie. It lacks all the modern indicators of a blockbuster. No anthropomorphic animals, no animation, no CGI, no Michael Bay. But those kids all went nuts when George McFly punched out Biff. After the movie a parent was explaining that Marty was Michael J Fox, and I felt old.

Milford Drive-In has already made the leap to digital projection which is proving to be a hurdle that threatens to put many drive ins out of business. I'm glad they've been able to make that move and will be here for years to come.

So yeah, go watch movies, they close next weekend, and because of the unique way in which their website is designed and managed, I can't tell you what those movies will be. I believe the most reliable way to find out is probably to drive by the sign and look at it. Go give 'em your money, it's always worth it.

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