Sunday, March 27, 2011

catching up

(I've tried to write this "catching up" post several times in the last two years but I clearly lack blogging discipline.)


Here are some things I have done / am working on / am thinking about, categorized by my usual obsessions:


Tablet / collaboration stuff:

·         I now have a ThinkPad X201 Tablet at work, and just a few weeks ago expensed an Intel SSD and loaded our new corporate Win7 x64 image on it. It's incredibly fast and I can get almost 2 hours on the small battery, I'd probably get 6 to 8 on the big battery but haven't tested.

·         I know I have been blogging for years about how SharePoint is a crappy repository for OneNote notebooks, but in the OneNote/SharePoint 2010 world, I can declare this fixed. My main notebook at work lives in SharePoint and it has NEVER locked up on me when every previous incarnation of SharePoint has within the first day locked up. And I have both my home PC and my tablet syncing this notebook at all times. Can't really comment on how stable it is with active multiuser editing, but for my needs it has been great.


Media Center / video conversions:

·         I replaced my iPod 5G ("Video") with a 2nd-gen 32GB iPod Touch. In Apple's classic "whatever you buy now, suck it up and realize that something better will be coming out within 3 months" fashion, this purchase caused me to miss multitasking by a few months and the Retina display by about 18 months. I also began harboring iPhone envy because of the great browser and Facebook app (I shamefully admit that in summer 2009 it didn't really occur to me that an iPod Touch could run iPhone apps or be used as a browser) but patiently waited its release on Verizon. But now I hear that the June/July iPhone 5 release will be worth waiting for, and so I am waiting for it. If that release is AT&T-only, and its improvements pushed to Verizon like 11 months from now, I will have to think about what to do. I currently carry a Blackberry Tour along with the iPod Touch, pretty much everywhere, and I recognize that it's a little ridiculous to have both devices when my employer does not enforce the use of any particular device.

·         This past summer, I replaced my Linksys DMA 2100 with an XBOX 360 Slim. My home network has had its ups and downs (wireless sometimes has issues, then I installed powerline and it was great for awhile but then starting crapping out during video playback, then I switched back to wireless and turned on WMM and things have been fine, except when my router (Linksys WRT610N) has run for about two months, heats up, and resets itself to factory defaults so it needs to be reconfigured) but the XBOX has been a much better extender than the DMA. Only issue is that I never turned off the DMA, so when I have network problems or problems with my Media Center PC, it can fail to log in. I also enjoyed playing the Call of Duty series, but am too old and unfamiliar with the controller to not get pwned online.

·         My last post was pretty popular regarding MKV conversion to iPod but now it can be told: I use EncodeHD for all on-demand iPod conversion, and I stole the ffmpeg command line out of its log file to use to automate my MKV to M4V conversion for the iPod. Comment if you want the command line or just download EncodeHD, get a couple of MKVs of the shows you watch and convert them to your preferred format, and look at the command lines it chooses. They were all similar enough that I just use the same one.

·         Since I have an XBOX now, I have an additional option for watching HD content when DVRMSToolBox fails to convert an MKV to DVR-MS. EncodeHD has a profile for an XBOX 360, which converts to an MP4 of some sort. This format is playable both in Media Center as well as through the XBOX native "video library" function. Since I have noticed some shows have a tendency to fail to convert in DVRMSToolBox, I adjusted my scripts to place these files in a folder instead of moving to the Media Center PC for conversion to DVR-MS. My technique for looking at a bunch of EncodeHD-generated ffmpeg command lines didn't work even for TV shows as these command lines were sufficiently different, and factoring in the occasional movie made it impossible to generate my own command line that worked consistently. Then I noticed something in a 2-year-old EncodeHD changelog, which is that EncodeHD can be launched from the command line to encode! So this is what I now do:

o    SABNZBd post-processing batch files have some "rules" that send non-DVR-MS-encodeable files to an XBOX temp directory

o    A Scheduled Task runs a batch file every 10m to check that directory for files; if they exist it launches EncodeHD to convert the file for XBOX

o    That batch file then moves the MKV elsewhere in case something happens (it fails something like 25% of the time because it attempts to launch EncodeHD while the file is still being copied from the other PC, so it's not "complete" yet and EncodeHD doesn't know what to do with it)


Photo / sync / backup stuff:

·         I am using the latest Windows Live Photo Gallery combined with Windows Live Mesh to replicate pictures among several PCs so that we can tag the best pictures, write commentary in the Caption field, and then post them to Flickr. What's new since my last post on the topic is that, besides being now having Windows 7 on all computers in the house, I have been using the native functionality of Photo Gallery to upload to Flickr. Except for a few times, though this has NEVER accepted the file name as the title of the picture in Flickr (it repeats the caption), so that I have to fix every picture after I upload it, which has begun annoying me enough recently that I am considering other tactics. But Photo Gallery has such a nice interface to find tagged items (e.g. I tag pictures to post with "flickr" so I can easily select just those pictures for upload) that I put up with it. Hoping for a fix.

·         Live Mesh seems widely complained about on its MS forum but my complaint is one I don't think I've ever found another complaint about, let alone an explanation - it is incapable of recognizing file moves or reorganization or the bringing online of a new PC that already has a copy of those files. The effect is that I have a large number of duplicate, triplicate and in some cases quadruplicate pictures and I don't really know how I can efficiently get rid of them all without looking at each pair/threesome/etc. to make sure I'm not losing commentary or person or descriptive tags. This is one of my projects and I am making slow progress at it.

·         I suppose everyone knows that Mozy jacked up their price from $55/yr "unlimited" to a pay-per-GB price. In my case, it will go up to $110 or something, which is more than I'm willing to pay. I actually went as far as to inventory what all of the 100GB or so I am backing up: 44GB of pictures, 38GB of videos, 11GB in My Documents, and I'm not sure what all else. Probably dealing with duplicates will save some space but not enough to not get bent over by the new pricing plan on Mozy. So I am not sure if I will find another cloud backup provider (my colleague who referred me to Mozy in the first place has switched to BackBlaze) or if I will find a small repository for My Documents and then continue to use Live Mesh to replicate the rest between PCs in my apartment and periodically take a hard drive to work or to our basement storage closet in case of fire or something.


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