Media Server Not Serving Your Media?

June 29, 2014

I have the Plex Media Server running on my 27″ iMac Desktop System, and stream videos stored on my Mac to my Android Tablet through my home WiFi system. I usually do this at night while in bed, watching a TV show or part of a movie just before I go to sleep. I noticed a few months ago that while I was watching a streaming video, it would routinely just stop and hang. Pressing the pause button with the video player app on my tablet and then the play button would only play the video segment for about 2-3 seconds before it halted again.

Thinking this problem might be with the video player, I tried a few others available for my Android tablet– same thing happened. I also tried using a different media server as a test, switching from Plex to Universal Media Server but I still got the same stoppage of video playing.

After some Googling, I discovered that my iMac Desktop system might be going into sleep mode and possibly shutting down my WiFi connection. However, under my Mac’s Preferences for “Energy Saver” it was set to never sleep for the computer and for the display to sleep after 45 minutes. Hmm, maybe the sleeping display setting did more than just turn off the display?

Well, something was stopping or preventing my media from streaming from my Mac, so I tried using a OSX command called caffinate to keep my Mac alive and awake when I was in bed watching my streaming videos. To do so, you would type in the UNIX command in a Terminal window,

caffeinate  -t  10800

Here, I’m telling my Mac to stay awake for 10,800 seconds (3 hrs) beginning when I initiated that command. Since I wanted this command to happen automatically everyday at 9 pm, I added it to the Crontab file on my system (Crontab was actually replaced by a process called launchd on the Mac OSX, but you can still use crontab settings). To make this change easier, I used a GUI called CronniX which looks like this,

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 6.04.58 AM

Here you see that I’m having that command start at 21 hours (9:00 pm) and it occurs everyday. The “&” symbol at the end of the command statement had the process running in the background. So far, this seems to have fixed my streaming video stoppage, so hopefully this is a permanent solution to my problem.

Amazon’s Fire Smartphone: Success or Flop?

June 22, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 8.31.36 AMIt’s been know for the last several months that Amazon would be coming out with a new smartphone for the masses. Very little was know about it, but people speculated that it would be released in a similar fashion as the Kindle Fire Tablet. That is, it would be a well constructed device running Amazon’s custom version of the Android OS, and sold for a below-market-value price. The thought being, Amazon would make up for the low price by getting people to use more of it’s paid services.

I was surprised to learn of the actual details of the “Fire Phone” after Amazon’s press release this week. Jeff Bezos talked about all the great technical wizardry of their new phone, with the 4 front facing cameras for head tracking and the “Dynamic Perspective” mode for a 3D screen display. The “FireFly” app was also touted as a way for this new phone to quickly identify bar codes, phone numbers, email address, etc. But in my opinion, all of this was gimmicky. Cool tech stuff, but still gimmicky for the general public.

All of these advanced features do make me wonder two things: (1) How much compute power is required to do the Dynamic Perspective, and at what cost to battery life? And (2) How much of the FireFly processing is done by the Amazon online servers and would require large amounts of data the user’s cell phone data plan? None of this was mentioned in the press release, but it makes me wonder what resources and cost is required to use this advanced technology.

The Fire Phone itself didn’t look very advanced from the outside. It actually reminded me of an minature 1st Generation Kindle Fire Table. It was smaller, but looked like a thick Kindle Fire. With other smartphone companies like Apple, HTC, and Samsung striving to make their phones thinner, lighter, and with less bezel area, I was surprised to see the Fire Phone looking so antiquated.

Finally, there’s the cost of the Fire Phone. I thought it would be priced below what comparable smartphones are selling for today (being heavily subsidized by Amazon), but it wasn’t. Instead, the cost seems on par with most Android Phones. This seems strange since the trend is to have cheaper smartphones (i.e., Motorola’s line of phone and OnePlus).

Will I consider switching to the Amazon Fire Phone. Even without seeing the phone in person, my answer is probably no. I’m perfectly happy with my current HTC One M7, and I anticipate my next phone to be lighter, have more battery life, thinner, and have more storage space and faster processor. Unfortunately for Amazon, that future phone is not the Fire Phone.

New Annoying Buzzword

June 20, 2014

Here’s a phrase that everyone I’ve come across is trying to work into any conversation: “Fair Enough”. Man, I hear that stupid phrase all the time– At work, on the radio, in podcasts, on the TV. It’s truly amazing how simple phrases catch on and people constantly use them while conversing.

At least the buzzword, “Redacted” is fading from people’s vocabulary…