Archive for the ‘Blog’ category

HTPC Fun

February 13, 2013
A couple of years ago, Comcast decided to raise my cable bill to a rate that I wasn’t willing to pay. Long story short, we negotiated and we still have cable. However, ever since I have been looking for a way to position myself so that I could shut cable off and still consume TV shows and movies in a way that I wouldn’t miss cable. At the time, we had a Netflix subscription (both DVD and streaming) as well as quite a collection of movies and TV series on disc. I concluded that this would be enough to get us by without Comcast (if the need ever arose) but it seemed disjointed and difficult to manage. I started looking into an HTPC in order centralize all of our options.
My setup has evolved over the last few months but I now have a single server that serves multiple purposes. This server has several components that would allow us (in my opinion) to successfully leave Comcast if they tick me off enough.
These are the main requirements of my ideal HTPC:
  • Can display my media coherently and cohesively on our TV
  • Can make my media easily accessible to me and all of my devices
  • Can be torn down and rebuilt quickly and easily (from a software standpoint)
  • Must centralize my media experience for ease of use
Here are the components of my current solution:
  • Physical server (or computer) that contains the media and runs the software to make it run
  • Media files organized on the hard drive
  • XBMC for media center functions
  • Plex for media streaming functions
The physical server connects to my main TV through an HDMI cable. This allows me to minimize the total cost of my solution by allowing one computer to serve multiple functions (as opposed to having a separate storage server, media server, media center, etc). On the physical computer, I put all of my media files in uncompressed, mkv files. I make sure that the media files are named properly based on the type of media (TV show or movie). If the files aren’t named properly, you have to put a lot more work into fixing this in later steps. Also on this physical server, I have installed two pieces of software. The first software is called XBMC and is a media center software. It’s basic function is to play my media onto a connected TV effectively. I use XBMC because I find it easy to use and configure and I really like how it organizes my media for searching and perusing. The last component to my HTPC is a piece of software called Plex which makes my media available to any device I want. One example of this in action is that I can install the “Plex Channel” to my Roku box, and stream all of my media to any TV in my house (as long as the Roku is connected). Another example of this in action is watching my media in a hotel room by using the Plex app installed on my android tablet.
I’m going to dive into each of these components in detail in further blog posts if you’re interested.

What the what?

June 2, 2012

The past 36 hours have been interesting to say the least. After being sick for 2 weeks, Charlotte finally started to feel better earlier this week, then Thursday happened. She got sick again but it wasn’t a big deal. She hardly slept that night and we ended up putting her in bed with us around 5 AM Friday morning. Liz took her to the doctor and they were a little concerned about her heavy breathing so they admitted her to the hospital.

After a full day and a night in the hospital, she’s doing very well but her oxygen levels fall a little too low when she sleeps. They will keep her at the hospital and on oxygen until those levels come back up. We’re still not exactly sure what she has but the doctor is pretty sure it’s some sort of respiratory virus. It’s not RSV and probably not pneumonia. They’re not ruling out asthma but it’s not suspected.

It’s not the way we planned on spending this weekend but we’re chugging along. Charlotte has been very well behaved throughout the ordeal. It’s tough for her to fall asleep with all the hoses and tubes but she’s been her usually cheery self for the most part. Liz is doing amazing despite her little girl being in the hospital and the dogs are also doing well, thanks in no small part to our friend Beth who’s been letting them out and feeding them.

The doctor was hopeful that her levels will rise and that we’ll be able to go home tomorrow. 

1 Year Pictures

May 15, 2012

We recently had our pictures taken with Charlotte since she just turned 1 on April 17th. We haven’t received them yet but the photographer posted a few on her blog.

http://erikaaileen.blogspot.com/2012/05/joe-liz-and-charlotte.html

Meet Charlie. He needs a new home.

November 15, 2011

Charlie is 5-6 year old neutered male Tonkinese cat. He was found as a stray by my father-in-law about 5 years ago and we immediately took him in. He was raised with 3  dogs and knows how to hold his own. He enjoys cuddling with us when we watch TV and will sometimes sleep at my feet at the bottom of the bed. He is totally de-clawed. He also enjoys smelling your breath.

Why Charlie needs a new home:

Meet Charlotte. She is 7 months old and enjoys teething toys and bouncy seats. She is also a light sleeper. A very light sleeper. Her mother and I are now also, very light sleepers. Since Charlie is a cat, he is nocturnal by nature. When he gets exercise during the day he usually sleeps pretty well. When he doesn’t, he (like all cats) likes to prowl around the house scratching on stuff and announcing his presence with ‘meows’ and chirps. Not a good thing for a house full of light sleepers.

We hate to come to this conclusion but our life has changed and Charlie is becoming too much for us to handle. He is a a great cat (and I’m not a cat person) and would make someone a very loving companion. He doesn’t take much effort to take care of (have you ever had a cat? clean litter, food, and water) and would come with everything he needs to survive. We aren’t asking for any compensation unless of course you’re wanting to make a fur coat out of him (then it’s $50 and a picture of the coat). If you have any questions, please contact me

Mr. Mom

September 8, 2011

Liz has been out of town since early Monday morning. She had the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania with our church’s worship team in order to lead worship at a college our senior pastor spoke at. This just left one problem… I had to take care of Charlotte.

All. by. myself.

It actually wasn’t all by myself; my mom watched her two of the three days. I did, however, take Wednesday off of work in order to spend the whole day with miss Charlotte.

God has blessed us greatly with such a good baby. Charlotte ate when she was supposed to, slept when she was supposed to and even woke up when she was supposed to. She was always smiling and rarely fussed unnecessarily. She was rolling over like a pro but she would rather stand (with my help) than do pretty much anything else. She’s makes noises that sound like wailing which I assume is the precursor to talking. Every time I would put her down for a nap, she would talk to me like there was no tomorrow. It was so fun to spend time with her in this way. But, I (and Charlotte) can’t wait for Liz to get home.

Charlotte was great for me (and all the others who watched her) but man am I worn out. She takes a lot of energy out of me and I don’t know how Liz takes care of her while taking such excellent care of the house, dogs and me! I am grateful for the experience and appreciate my loving wife trusting me with such a task. It was fun but man will I be glad when Liz gets home tonight.

#aweekwithoutmywife

July 17, 2011

My wife and 3 month old daughter are traveling with a friend (and their 6 month old son) to Florida to visit another friend (and her 7 month old twins). I was told that the trip down went great and that all of the kids took the time change in stride (they’re staying in Alabama which is on CDT). So far they’ve gone to the pool quite  a bit, eaten at the Oyster House and went shopping at an outlet mall.

So how have I survived without my wife for 4 days so far? First off, I miss her and Charlotte very much. However, before Liz left she baked me a cake, a cheesecake and a menu for the entire week. She also purchased all of the groceries necessary to support said menu.

I’ve also discovered that I am definitely not cut out for a bachelor’s life. I’ve been trying to hang out with friends and family to keep me company. Thursday I watched Scott Pilgrim with @madmup, Friday I visited my parents and Saturday I played Starcraft II with my dad all day. Sure I’ve got three dogs and a cat to keep me company but the summer heat pretty much zaps all of their energy. It’s been awfully quiet around here… too quiet. I find myself staring at the TV for hours on end. I’m also catching up on my Netflix queue of movies Liz would have little interest in (mostly action or quirky comedies). I’ve also decided that I will watch the original Star Wars trilogy at some point in the next three days (probably starting tomorrow after work).

I’ve always realized how lucky I am to have such an awesome wife but the point has been driven home this week. I’ve been trying to keep up with the dishes and laundry and realize how much I hate those jobs but my wife does them day after day and rarely makes a peep.

All in all I’m surviving. But I do miss my beautiful wife and daughter.

On the road again…

June 21, 2011

Yesterday was quite the unexpected day. I open the garage door to go to work and it looked like I was in the middle of a hurricane. I decided to honor my wife and wait until the storms passed before I set out for work. Man am I glad that I did.

Despite waiting for the storms before my departure, I fought severe winds and heavy rain once I got out of Tippecanoe county. Trees and power lines were down all over the place and deep water covered the roads in many places. After turning around twice and finding an alternate route to work, I arrived safely shortly before 10 AM. I was greeted at the door by the Plant Manager informing me we had lost power and that everyone was sent home for the day. I stuck around for a few minutes to shoot the breeze but soon climbed back into my car and trekked home.

On the way home I decided to try to meetup with a friend for lunch. Mark (@madmup) and I have been trying for weeks to arrange a lunch and I figured this was the perfect opportunity. He finally replied to my barrage of texts, tweets and phone calls and our lunch date was set.

The rest of the afternoon went swimmingly. I was able to spend some time with Liz (@lizlaughlove) and Charlotte (@CharlotteJoanna) before I was to help out with VBS later in the evening.

Around 3 I received a phone call that power was back on at the plant but guys on the floor were having trouble accessing a few services. I attempted to log into work but had no luck. I directed someone to the server closet and had them try to turn on the servers that failed to come back on with the power but had no luck. I called Jonathan (@jonathanesmith) and informed him that I had to drive into work and that I probably wouldn’t be back in time to help out with VBS (vacation bible school). I got back in the rabbit and drove to work for the second time.

The flooding was worse on the second trip but there were no downed trees to block my route. I arrived at work and was in shock as I opened up the server closet. All my servers were back on and operational. That was when I remembered that the battery backups won’t kick on the servers until they’re about 75% recharged. They had turned themselves on while I was driving. While I was at work, I verified that all of the systems and services had come online correctly and opened up some packages that had arrived for me. After 45 minutes I got back in my car and headed to church to help out for VBS.

I arrived at church in time to help out with practice and experience a power outage about 10 minutes before showtime. We recovered quickly and were able to start the show with no one the wiser.

God is good.