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Tag: mini

Mac Mini Upgrade

Posted by tomwiles at 5:04 PM on November 4, 2013

I have two Mac Mini’s — one of them I use as a computer, and the other I use as an over-the-air HD-DVR connected to my home theater.

I decided to upgrade the machine as I use as a computer to an SSD hard drive, replacing the stock 5400 RPM drive. I replaced it with a Crucial M500 240GB SATA 2.5-Inch 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive CT240M500SSD1 purchased via Amazon for $159.99.

Dismantling a Mac Mini is quite a bit above my comfort level, so I took everything to a local Mac dealer I’ve had very positive dealings with in the past and paid them to make the swap.

The results are nothing short of phenomenal. Restarting the machine to fully back up takes about 29 seconds. Curiously, starting the computer from pressing the power button to fully up takes 24 seconds. This is much, much faster than boot-up sequence with the original 5400 RPM hard drive installed,

The machine has 8 gigabytes of RAM installed. Even with that much RAM, the overall feel of the computer once booted up is quite snappy comparing it directly to the otherwise identical HD-DVR machine that is still running it’s original 5400 RPM stock drive.

Hands down the best bang-for-the buck upgrade for any computer is an SSD drive. The speed boost is stark and will make a huge difference even on a machine with only 2 gigabytes of installed RAM.

If you have an older machine, particularly a laptop that has a decent processor but is in need of a serious speed bump, consider an SSD drive.

SSD prices are still high compared to conventional spinning drives, however I’ve found that simply adjusting my thinking a bit makes SSD drives much more affordable. A 120 gigabyte SSD drive sells for around $100 on Amazon. In an era of giant, inexpensive conventional external hard drives and ubiquitous home networks, it makes much more sense to use those external drives as shared storage to store photos, videos and other media, and get away from the idea of storing stuff on the computer itself. By using a 120 or 240 gigabyte SSD as the boot drive, it becomes possible to enjoy a massive computer speed boost and move media off to networked or external storage.

Create Your Own TV Station

Posted by tomwiles at 10:22 PM on March 20, 2011

One of the problems with watching video podcasts as an alternative to conventional television is that you have typically and deliberately watch one video at a time. On longer videos it’s not as much of a problem, but with short videos that last 5 minutes or less you have to keep manually restarting the next video after the previous one has finished.

I now have three Mac Minis – one is an old somewhat underpowered Power PC Mac Mini that I’m using as a video podcast aggregator. I have that machine’s iTunes database located on a much larger shared drive that’s available to every machine on my home network. I’m subscribed to a variety of tech podcasts, most of them in the highest resolution file sizes available.

I have two other Mac Minis that are of the latest design. I have an “Eye TV” USB HD tuner connected to one that’s connected to a substantial external antenna. Depending on atmospheric conditions I can receive up to 18 channels counting the various digital sub channels. This enables the Mac Mini to function as a DVR.

The second Intel Mac Mini is in another room and the Eye TV software also loaded on it is able to work from the other Mac Mini’s shared recordings.

Today I discovered by accident when playing around with iTunes on one of the Intel Mac Minis that the shared videos show up in the shared playlists from other iTunes databases. So, in other words, I can pick a shared iTunes list from the Power PC Mac Mini’s shared iTunes and a list of video files shows up. Since the videos are in the list just like audio would be, I am able to start a video file playing and when one file ends it will immediately start playing the next video file on the list. This is particularly useful because I can start videos playing as I do other things and it will continue to play just as if it’s a TV station. This is quite a handy capability to have. The lack of an ability to set up continuous video playback has long been one of the Apple TV’s biggest shortcomings.

Periodically I go to the Power PC Mac Mini and delete the video files that have been played, since iTunes keeps a play count, so I always have fresh material to watch.

 

Shredding The Cord

Posted by tomwiles at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2011

Ah, my once-beloved Dish Network account – the thing I once thought I could never do without; the budget monster that consumed $100 per month, month after month, year after year. I agonized for months over the idea of simply killing it before finally pulling the plug.

It’s been the better part of a year since I put the budget-busting beast to rest and cancelled the account. Dish Network itself seemed to want to throw up as many roadblocks as possible to get me to change my mind. They wanted the LNB module off of my roof, in addition to the two receivers. I had 30 days to send the units back in the packing boxes they sent or they would make me pay full price for them.

I was able to talk the guy out of forcing me to climb up on my roof to retrieve the LNB, and I was able to get the two receivers sent back to them within the 30 days of cancellation. However, somehow they had in their billing system I had three receivers, not two. They sent return packaging for three units. I spent time on the phone with them to make sure this discrepancy was resolved, and they assured me it was.

Ooops, not so fast! A month or two later I got a letter from them stating I still owed them for a receiver and they intended to hit my bank account for the amount. A phone call to them resolved the issue and I haven’t heard a peep from them since.

How has life been without all of those channels? $ome part of me hate$ to admit it, but I haven’t missed it at all. I’ve got an Intel Mac Mini set up as a DVR for local over-the-air HD broadcasts, as well as a Netflix account and several other Internet-connected set top box viewing solutions.

Observations

A very large percentage of TV programming is marketing presented as content. Much of what passes for entertainment depicts multitudes of dysfunctional drama queens assaulting and insulting the people around them. The more dysfunctional they are, the more likely it is the marketing messages will seep into the mesmerized minds of the audience. Even if one isn’t watching commercials, product placement and even behavior placement abounds. Viewers are being programmed to buy certain products, as well as behave in certain ways.

Think you can’t do without cable or satellite TV? Think again. I was paying $1,200 dollars a year for Dish Network. Multiply that by just 5 years and that’s a whopping $6,000 dollars for the privilege of being shaped and influenced by marketing messages so I would spend even more money.

Let’s go one step further. For many people TV is an addiction. These people are crack dealers in disguise. How else could it be that they can continue to raise their prices and people continue to pay ever more?

Let’s be honest. The vast majority of cable TV programming is less than worthless. Could that $6,000 dollars been better spent on higher-quality programming? Of course it could.

Tech Serendipity

Posted by tomwiles at 8:07 PM on October 19, 2010

Sometimes things no one ever thought of simply seem to come together. Services and devices end up being used to do things the individual inventors and designers couldn’t have imagined.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about attaching one of the new Mac Minis to one of my TV’s and utilizing it as a home theater PC as well as an over-the-air DVR to record high definition digital broadcasts from the local TV stations. A late Sunday afternoon trip to my local Best Buy and a Mac Mini was mine.

I sat the Mac Mini up with Eye TV and a USB HD tuner attached to my outdoor antenna. Depending on how I have the antenna rotated, I can receive upwards of 17 or more HD and digital broadcast channels. Of course, keep in mind that the Mini is on my home network, so I’ve got complete remote access in a number of different ways.

The Eye TV 3.4.1 software has easy iPhone/iPod/iPad/Apple TV file conversion, so I’m easily able to convert the files to the format of my choice.

A thought popped into my head. What if I converted the files to the iPhone format and put them into my Dropbox? I also have the Dropbox app for Android installed on my Sprint HTC Evo phone. Since I have an 8 gigabyte SD card installed with the possibility of going all the way up to a 32 gigabyte card if I wish, could I synch the exported iPhone files from my Dropbox on the computer to Dropbox on my phone?

To my surprise, I don’t even have to synch the exported iPhone videos to my phone – once they are synched to the Dropbox server, all I have to do is open the file from Dropbox on my phone and the file immediately starts streaming. If I’ve got a decent 3G Sprint cell signal, the video plays perfectly without a glitch.

So, I’m taking multiple different technologies, and using them in a way no single inventor or designer ever envisioned. I can record local TV programming from home, export it as an iPhone format file into my Dropbox folder, and stream the files to my phone. Pretty phenomenal stuff if you ask me.

For sure, there are other ways to accomplish the same end result, particularly if one has adequate bandwidth. For situations where bandwidth is limited and more variable, this solution works surprisingly well.

I Hate Rumors, Yet I Hate Thieves Even More

Posted by J Powers at 3:50 PM on April 19, 2010

*NOTE* Upon publishing this piece, another rumor had sprung up that Gizmodo paid $10,000 to gain access to the next generation iPhone.


There is one thing that really gets my goat when I read the news section – The inundation of  “Rumors”. One person says the right words on the right blog and everyone jumps on; Next thing you know, multiple articles on something that no-one has confirmation on.

With this weekend’s speculation took a new level as physical evidence of a certain Apple item was found. Instead of taking a couple pictures and reporting the item found, the device was dismantled and reviewed, then returned. We look at this as if it should be considered a criminal act, that is unless Apple takes full advantage of the rumors that happen…

Let’s review this weekend’s news – Someone was in a bar in California and all of a sudden looks down. They see someone else’s phone in a iPhone 3G phone case. Instead of taking that phone over to the bartender or police officer, they decide to open it up and see if they can rummage through to find a name. What they found was an iPhone that looked a little different than the current models. Could it be the next iPhone?

Well, that person then took the phone and somehow (since we don’t know the actual person that found it) Gizmodo got their hands on it and decided to disassemble the device. So would that be against the law to do?

Most people decide to use the “Finders, keepers – Losers, weepers” analogy. However, California has a statute on lost and unclaimed property. You can read the Civil Code Section 2080-2080.10 at Justica.com. Let’s take a look at the code and see how this applies.

The Civil Code:

Of course, before we move forward, I have to say I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. I can only interpret the codes as best as possible. I have called a few law offices to try and get some clarification, but the understanding is this: a Civil Code is not a law, but can result in legal action of some kind. Now, with that said:

2080. Any person who finds a thing lost is not bound to take charge of it, unless the person is otherwise required to do so by contract or law, but when the person does take charge of it he or she is thenceforward a depositary for the owner, with the rights and obligations of a depositary for hire. Any person or any public or private entity that finds and takes possession of any money, goods, things in action, or other personal property, or saves any domestic animal from harm, neglect, drowning, or starvation, shall, within a reasonable time, inform the owner, if known, and make restitution
without compensation, except a reasonable charge for saving and taking care of the property. Any person who takes possession of a live domestic animal shall provide for humane treatment of the animal.

What does that mean? Well, simply put, you must make an effort to find it’s owner. You should not expect any compensation other than any charges you incur for taking care of the item. For example: If it was a puppy you found, you should be compensated if you bought dog food, a collar or any other item that keeps the dog safe while you look for the owner.

Keep in mind the most likely owner of this device is Apple. Let’s continue:

2080.1. (a) If the owner is unknown or has not claimed the property, the person saving or finding the property shall, if the property is of the value of one hundred dollars ($100) or more, within a reasonable time turn the property over to the police department of the city or city and county, if found therein, or to the sheriff’s department of the county if found outside of city limits, and shall make an affidavit, stating when and where he or she found or saved the property, particularly describing it. If the property was saved, the affidavit shall state:

  1. From what and how it was saved.
  2. Whether the owner of the property is known to the affiant.
  3. That the affiant has not secreted, withheld, or disposed of any part of the property.
    1. The police department or the sheriff’s department shall notify the owner, if his or her identity is reasonably ascertainable, that it possesses the property and where it may be claimed. The police department or sheriff’s department may require payment by the owner of a reasonable charge to defray costs of storage and care of the property.

Well that means if the property is over $100, you need to turn it over to the police within a reasonable amount of time. They will then hold said item for a 90 day period as they find the owner.  If you know who the owner is, you should disclose that.  The police would then begin the search. In 2080.3, it says if the value is over $250, the police would then increase the search by placing an ad in the paper. That is, unless they do know who the item belongs to. That, once again, would be Apple.

Disassembly:

So instead of taking this device to the proper authorities, it was given to Gizmodo, who decided to disassemble and research it. They said so here:

We’re as skeptical—if not more—than all of you. We get false tips all the time. But after playing with it for about a week—the overall quality feels exactly like a finished final Apple phone—and disassembling this unit, there is so much evidence stacked in its favor, that there’s very little possibility that it’s a fake.

They go on to say they have been contacted by Apple and that the company wants the device back. Of course, we don’t know if that happened before or after Gizmodo took the week to disassemble and review the item. I would venture a guess that it was after the fact, otherwise, the phone would be retrieved within a few hours and we would have seen pictures only. Even if  the iPhone was a fake –  That would be for Apple to determine, not Gizmodo.

Profiting by Loss:

While it’s not direct profit, Engadget (who first posted pictures) and Gizmodo are apparently profiting on this device. Not by reward, but by reporting. Ad revenues from users coming on the site to look at the supposed next gen iPhone.

The Rumor Mill as News

Of course, this brought the Apple rumor mill a buzzing once again. Not as bad as the iPad, but still just as annoying. Google news has this article on their top news stories of the day.

Fact: I scan the news everyday looking for items to talk about. I don’t think I’ve seen a day in the last 6 months where an Apple rumor has not been in the top news stories. Why is that? Do we not have good news to talk about?

If you look at the Top stories of the Nation, U.S. or Local, rumors are not present – especially not every day for over 6 months. It seems that the only place the rumor mill really churns is on the Tech side. That is a trend that needs to stop.

Does Apple push the Rumor Mill?

When the iPad rumor really hit in December, Apple stock went up to $209 a share – $6.94 in one day. Today it sits at $243 – Down from Friday’s $251 / share price. This new rumor could push up Apple – and other stocks. For instance, if Gizmodo was to have thrown down a “4G” word in their article (which they did not, but other sites like PCWorld did), I would venture a guess to see Sprint get a big boost in the market.

Let’s speculate for a second. What if, instead of “finding” the new iPhone, an Apple exec sat in a bar with someone and said “Here is the new prototype. Make sure you get this into a reporter’s hands.” They then set the wheels rolling for new anticipation of the next big Apple device.

While that statement cannot be confirmed or denied, the end result is the same – Apple continues to top the Tech news with rumors.

When the Rumors Stop, will Apple come tumbling down?

A very good question to ponder. In the last 5 years, it seems Apple does have advantage when it comes to making rumors become news. We hear of rumors from other tech companies, but no one has had staying power than Apple has. So if Apple cannot spin a good rumor for a product, could we see the company start to take a major dive?

The Good Rumors with the Bad

Some of those rumors in the past never came to fruition. Remember the clamshell iPhone? How about the iPhone mini rumors – They even had a story where China was making mini phone cases in anticipation. I wonder if that company is still in existence…

The iPad rumor actually was around for over a year before Steve Jobs showed it off to the public. It didn’t really ramp up until December of 2009, where more confirmations could be made. However, if January 27 was to have come and gone without an iPad announced, we could have seen a different outcome – One where investors would be really upset.

While my humble opinion is that I don’t care for the rumor mill, it seems to drive the tech industry. Whereas someone can take another’s intellectual property and rip it apart before returning it, then they should face consequences to said actions. Google should stop allowing these rumors in their news feeds (unless they turn into actual news, example: If Gizmodo was charged for dismantling the device they found).

Alas, rumors – Especially Apple rumors – will continue. People will continue to “obtain” not-yet released items and report them. We will read and discuss. Rinse and repeat.