xbmc

My Essential Mac Apps

While many would claim the imminent end of desktop software (at the benefit of mobile and web apps), my daily use of technology is still largely defined by the “classic” software I use, from old staples to new arrivals. In 2010, many great Mac apps continued to improve, and there were even some notable newcomers. Here’s a roundup of the Mac apps I regularly use, with a focus on what I used a lot over the past 12 months (in no particular order).

Plex, free
Plex has long been the best media manager on the Mac, and with the long-awaited release of Plex 9, the developers have outdone themselves, while further distinguishing Plex from its source, XBMC. Plex 9 is absolutely the best media manager on the Mac (or on any system, I would say), giving media collections the beautiful presentation and organization they deserve.

Notational Velocity, free
Notational Velocity is a staple among Mac aficionados, but I only recently became acquainted with it. It’s now become essential, and contains content as diverse as lecture notes, book summaries, quotes, ideas, lists, writing projects (this was written in Notational Velocity, mostly while on a plane), random thoughts, references and more. Simplenote sync keeps my notes with me at all times (thanks to the iPhone app), and anything I think of on-the-go is synced to my computer. Simply put, Notational Velocity has allowed me to organize my mind.

Quick Search Box, free
Developed in party by Nicholas Jitkoff, the same guy responsible for Quicksilver, Quick Search Box provides easy access to everything on my computer. Mostly I just use it to search my computer (it uses Spotlight’s excellent index, and includes Google Chrome bookmarks), and as an application launcher. It also keeps a clipboard history (but I use Jumpcut), and can manipulate files, so I’ll sometimes use it to move a file. There’s some very cool system integration: aside from clipboard history and the ability to manipulate files (get info, show in finder, move, rename, etc.), it provides access to menu items of all open programs, as well as things like “Empty Trash.” There’s some integration with Google’s cloud services, like the option to upload files to Google Docs, and the inclusion of Google Docs files in search.

Picasa, free
Picasa’s not the best photo manager, and I’ve had plenty of issues with it. But it is one of the best free photo managers. And I like that, unlike some programs, almost all the metadata is written to the photo itself, so each file is self-contained, instead of relying on specific software (and folders are created in Finder for groups of photos). Geotagged location, tags, and description are all managed through the EXIF data. Unfortunately, Picasa is still missing features and there are some persistent issues, and new features are not very actively developed. I worry that Google’s focus on the cloud will cause Picasa to be ignored, at least as a self-contained photo manager (two of the most significant updates in the last year were integration with Picnik, the online photo editing site Google recently acquired, and better integration with Picasa Web). I’d love if Google were to open source Picasa and let the community develop it.

Hugin, free
Hugin is incredible software. It allows the creation of seamless panoramas from adjacent photos, and it’s very advanced. All that’s needed from the user is a set of decent photos and a few nudges in the right direction, and Hugin does most of the work. Hugin is actively developed as well, and while the interface may not win any prizes, the technology is impressive. With the latest release (at the end of 2010), the developers write that “For the first time Hugin can be considered feature-complete.”

Bean, free
Simple and effective word processing. While a lack of footnotes and similar advanced features prevents Bean from being the only word processor I use, it remains my go-to text editor (aside from Notational Velocity), and for almost everything, it’s exactly what I need, without being too much.

Preview, pre-installed
Preview is my default image and PDF viewer. It’s lightweight and fast, and perfect for everyday use.

Skim, free
When I want a bit more options when working with PDFs, I open Skim. It’s an excellent PDF viewer, with a focus on notating files — adding text notes, highlighting, etc. It provides a searchable index of all notes and highlighted sections in a pane on the right. Everything is exportable in a number of formats as well.

Sparrow, free while in beta, freemium after
I’ve always avoided mail software, as Gmail’s web interface is sufficient for my needs, but I was won over by Sparrow (released in beta in October), which sports a beautiful and minimalist interface, while including most of Gmail’s features (notably missing is Priority Inbox, but the developers are considering adding it). Sparrow is one of the first apps to bring elements of an iOS interface to Mac OS X. Even in beta, it’s already very promising.

Transmission, free
A well-designed, feature-rich, minimalist BitTorrent client. The popular uTorrent was recently released for Mac OS X, but Transmission remains my default (and favorite).

Handbrake, free
The classic DVD-ripping and video-encoding app, useful as ever.

Google Chrome, free
Google Chrome, my browser. Chrome is basically just a window to the web (and various “web apps”), but it’s an impressive and elegant window at that, and deserves a mention, as the single program I undoubtedly spend the most time using.

LibreOffice, free
I’ve resisted installing an office suite for some time, but with college’s demand for footnotes and presentations, along with the excitement of a re-invigorated and truly-open Office, I finally installed OpenOffice LibreOffice. It may be slow, cluttered and huge, but it gets the job done.

Flickr Uploadr, free
This program is far from perfect (and well past due for an update), but coupled with picasa2flickr, it has proved consistently useful for getting my photos from Picasa to Flickr, metadata and all.

Dictionary, pre-installed
Apple’s pre-installed Dictionary isn’t anything special, but quick and easy access to definitions and synonyms (just a right-click in many programs), even while offline, is invaluable (along with easy access from Quick Search Box).

iCal, pre-installed
I keep my school schedule in iCal, along with any other important events. It also includes Facebook events and television shows I watch (thanks to On-My.tv).

Backblaze, $5/month
I hastily signed up for an online backup service when I feared my drive was done for (and I didn’t have a hard drive to use), and I’ve used Backblaze ever since. The great thing about Backblaze is that I don’t have to think about it — it runs as a Preference pane, so my computer is always backed up remotely, and aside from the occasional peak to make sure everything’s running smoothly, I just let Backblaze do its thing. Not only is everything backed up online, but I’ve got versions going back 30 days, in case I need an earlier version of a file. It also provides online access to my computer’s hard drive from anywhere, since I can login and download any backed up file, any time. It’s $5 a month for unlimited space and bandwidth (you can even include external drives), so it’s well worth the price.

iStat Menus, $16
Bjango released version 3 of iStat Menus this year, and it’s continued to advance since then. The update also brought a price tag (it used to be free), but having constant access to network, memory and CPU usage from the menu bar is well worth $16. It’s great being able to glance up and see my download and upload speeds (or if I even have a network connection), or if a certain program is using too much processing power. I’ve even replaced the default battery and clock with the iStat Menus versions — the battery icon provides various details and a different look depending on the state (charging, charged, plugged in, etc.), and the clock gives me one-click access to a calendar, as well as the time in various (customizable) cities (not to mention sunrise, noon, sunset, moonrise and moonset times in each).

Jumpcut, free
This simple menu bar app provides a clipboard history, and allows copying of more than one thing at a time. It’s quite useful just as a back up, for those times when something important is overwritten by a thoughtless “copy,” or something used previously is needed again. The ability to copy many different pieces of text at once is incredibly valuable, especially when copying things like quotes, links, or tags (it’s also an easy way to paste something in plain text). There are more advanced clipboard managers like Ayluro’s Corkboard, but Jumpcut’s simple effectiveness is perfect for my needs.

CapSee, free
This simple utility adds a visual cue (like the one for volume, brightness, etc.) when the Caps Lock key is pressed. Never again type a sentence in all caps before realizing that Caps Lock is on.

HyperDock, free while in beta
A recent addition to the customization of my Mac, HyperDock is very useful for managing multiple windows in one app. Hovering over a dock icon provides a Windows 7-like popup of all open windows, which is a lot quicker than right-clicking.

MenuBar Countdown, free
Another simple menu bar app. Very useful when I want a basic countdown. Responsible for many well-cooked pastas.

The Unarchiver, free
A simple app for extracting archives with support for lots of formats, which I use as my default.

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Mobile Mobile phone Water Harm Repair service Recommendations

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Ripping DVD's The Easy Way On Windows 7 64 Bit

I am in the process of building a library to watch my DVD’s using XBMC. I used to have a dedicated Windows XP 32-bit lap top for this work and used Handbrake to copy and DVD43 would decrypt the DVD on the fly. Since I moved to Windows 7 x64, DVD43 no longer worked and my old computer died. I could make this a two step process by copying the DVD to an .iso, decrypting it in the process, and then copying to MP4. But that doubles my time. I am getting old. Doubling of my time is not a good thing.

Thanks to this post in the Handbrake forums, I am back in business.

I need to a libdvdcss.dll. Download the Windows version of Gstreamer. Find the install directory. Copy libdvdcss-2.dll to the Handbrake installation directory. Rename it to libdvdcss.dll. Launch Handbrake. Alternatively, you can find a copy of libdvdcss-2.dll if you installed XBMC.

Standard disclaimer: Don’t do this for pirating. Fair Use only!

How to build a HTPC with XBMC and Ubuntu - part 3

Finally, we can setup XBMC, which is actually a trivial thing to do.

As we said, we will install the XBMC standalone, aka XBMC live. This is because we want to run just on top of X and the standalone version is just spot on.

Before we setup XBMC, a couple of final tweaks.

First, let’s create the xbmc user:

sudo adduser xbmc –gecos XBMC

and add it to a few groups:

sudo usermod –group adm,sudo,cdrom,floppy,audio,video,plugdev

Now, it turns out that there is no actual ppa for Ubuntu 11.10 from the XBMC team. We need to get it from another source. The XBMC team is kindly pointing us to this german page where we understand we need to run the following:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:nathan-renniewaldock/xbmc-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc-live

Now you want XBMC to autostart when you log on.

So, log off and log on again as the xbmc user we just created.

Then:

xinit xbmc-standalone

And you should be done!

My DELL pc now boots and in like 20 seconds I am greeted by the XBMC interface. This is really cool!

AUDIO OVER HDMI

The final touch is to send audio over the HDMI cable. This is what I did for my NVIDIA card.

First, install alsa and pulse audio:

sudo apt-get install alsa-utils pulseaudio

Then, you need to run alsamixer and make sure channels are not muted:

sudo alsamixer

Press F6 to select the NVIDIA card:

Select the NVIDIA card and then make sure the SPDIF channel is not muted - “MM”. If it is, just press “M” and check it goes to “00”:

You should now be OK.

Enjoy!

ATV2: XBMC Nightly Builds

After i got my Apple TV 2 jailbroken and installed XBMC on it I started to try and play some mkv files on it. I quickly discovered that it was pure misery. The movie wouldn’t buffer like they should and some wouldn’t even play. I startet googling and discovered a lot of people with the same problems as me. To get it fixed you have to install XBMC Nightly Builds. It has something to do with the lastes version of iOS. After it’s done the files will play like they should. You can see how to install it below.

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Serverbasierte Media Center Lösungen

Anfrage: Ich möchte meine Medien (Filme, Fotos, Musik) übersichtlich verwalten. Gibt es dafür eine serverbasierte Lösung, um mit verschiedenen Geräten auf die Daten zugreifen zu können?

Lösung: Ja, da gibt es zahlreiche Lösungen, die genau diesen Funktionsumfang haben. Eine übersichtliche Auflistung sogenannter DLNA Server gibt es unter http://www.rbgrn.net/content/21-how-to-choose-dlna-media-server-windows-mac-os-x-or-linux. DLNA ist ein Standard, um Mediendaten über Rechnergrenzen hinweg abzuspielen, z.B. auf Fernsehern, Smartphones oder Notebooks. Alternative Technologien sind AirPlay oder UPnP. Ein von uns häufig eingesetzter DLNA Server ist MythTV oder, wenn ein reines Abspielcenter ausreicht, XBMC.

Build a Media Center PC with XBMC

What is XBMC?

XBMC Media Center is an open source media center solution for playing videos, music and showing pictures from DVD, hard disk, server and streams from the net. XBMC categorizes and organizes the media in a really beautiful way. For example XBMC fetches information about a movie or TV shows from IMDB and gets fanart content for music, movies and puts it right onto your screen. XBMC was initially developed for Microsoft’s Gaming Console XBox - hence the original name XBox Media Center.

External image

You can scan your media library using so called “scrapers” which detect details about the movie / TV show by scanning the title of the file on your hard disk. XBMC automatically fetches the description, trailers, episode names and artists from the movies and TV shows, which you can use for searching afterwards - e. g. you can display all movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger at once! Awesome feature! It also loads the covers of your favorite music.

XBMC also has some other useful stuff like a weather plugin which shows the current weather in your city and region or an integrated RSS reader for displaying news. If you are nerdy enough you can easily extend XBMC according to your needs - by writing Python plugins.

The components needed for a media center PC with XBMC

For using XBMC you don’t need a Media Center PC, you can actually download it for any operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) and test it directly on your desktop PC, notebook, Mac Book and so on. But if you want to have a really cool solution for your living room you need a media center pc which is capable of handling HD content.

My Media Center PC consists of the following components:

  • Aplus Case Cupid 2, Mini-ITX-Desktop (with card reader and power supply) - 75 Euros
  • Asrock Mainboard A330ION, with nVidia ION Chipset incl. Atom330 and 2xDDR3-1066 slots, a PCIexpress slot and USB ports as well as Onboard 5.1 Surround Sound - 119 Euros
  • 2048 MB Kingston Ram KVR1333D3N9/2G - 49 Euros
  • Samsung drive SN-S083C DVD-Burner, Slim-Line, in order to fit in the small Aplus Case - 49 Euros
  • Western Digital HDD WD10EADS, 3,5" with 1 TB memory and 7200 cycles per minute - 84 Euros
  • DeLock Slim SATA Kabel - 5 Euros

Without any peripheral devices such as keyboard and mouse you will need to pay 381 Euros totally (this prices are now one year old). I was very lazy too, so I paid an extra fee of 29 Euros to get that thing built together ;) In my opinion that’s a very small price for a Media Center PC - I think you will agree to that!

The software you need

Depending on what you want to do with your Media Center PC, you can either use Linux (it’s fast, small and nerdy) or a current version of Microsoft’s OS, Windows Vista or Windows 7 - the hardware is capable of running the most current version of Windows. When using Linux, please keep in mind that there are problems with creative chipsets (soundcard). You should connect the PC with the Television by using a HDMI-Cable.

After everything is installed and plugged in, you can now begin to download XBMC from xbmc.org. There are also a lot of skins for customizing XBMC according to your preferences. In the latest version there is an integrated download solution for such content.

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It’s pretty uncool to control XBMC with a keyboard or a mouse, so you should consider buying one of the following three devices: Wii-Mote controller, an iPhone / iPod or an Android Phone. If you buy a smartphone, you can use either the software solution for the iPhone or Android. There is also a solution in progress for iPad. 

Games

The media center PC is not only capable of playing videos and music. The following games can also be played on the hardware without any problems thanks to the nVidia ION Chipset:

  • Obscure 2
  • Civilization 4
  • Rise & Fall
  • Street Fighter 4 (low details and small resolution)
  • Age of Empires 2
  • Point and Click Adventures
  • You don’t know Jack 4
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2010

Video Demonstration

Meta Data for Clean Media Libraries

This weekend I’ve decided to do some house cleaning and reorganizing.

No, this doesn’t involve vacuuming, but it does involve a process known as “scraping”.

This weekend, I’m cleaning up all of my computer’s media files. Nearly one hundred gigabytes of music (some of which I’m looking to dump) and hundreds of gigabytes of video are sitting on my hard drive now, loosely named and somewhat organized.  By the end of the weekend, I will have removed all duplicates, I will have every media file organized in the same file structure, and I will have every file named with proper conventions.

That’s Step 1.

Step 2 is “scraping”– pulling down additional meta data like fan photos of recording artists and TV shows, proper names, albums, genres, etc associated with each file, and so on.  This are really two integrated steps– proper file naming and organizing makes pulling down data from the internet much easier, and pulling down proper data allows for easier file naming and organizing.

So far, the best tool I’ve found for this process is Musicbrainz’s Picard.  Musicbrainz is an open content music database which contains detailed meta data for just about any music you can imagine.  It works similar to programs like Shazam for the iPhone, creating a unique identifier from the data in the music file that it can match to a user-generated database. Picard taps into Musicbrainz data and looks for matches based on existing meta data in your files and the unique scans.  The end result is proper meta data assigned to all of your music.

The one disadvantage of Picard is that it doesn’t also scrape information from a site like Last.fm or AllMusic that has biographies, more detailed descriptions, and pictures.  I’m working on that step next.

There seem to be far more choices for file renaming and meta data scraping on the video front, but I’ve tried three solutions, none of which are seamless.  I’ll report back when I have found the best tools.

This is all in preparation for an eventual setup with an HTPC or front-end box like Boxee that taps into network shared (or even better, a NAS) to throw up all of my collection in high quality to my HD TV and surround sound.

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Turn an Old Computer into an XBMC Home Theater PC

XBMC (click for download and info) ismy favorite media center software. It’s free and it’s better than it’s paid alternatives thanks to a slick, customizable interface that plays all sorts of media from the majority of networked and local destinations. It can pull content from the web, tell you the weather, double as a retro video game console, and much more. What’s really great is that it can run on a super cheap, underpowered nettop. That may also mean your old computer is entirely adequate for the job. Either way, you’ll be up and running a home theater system that’s ahead of its time before you know it.

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MXQ Quad Core Android TV Box Jailbroken XBMC Fully Loaded Free Sports Film Movie

MXQ Quad Core Android TV Box Jailbroken XBMC Fully Loaded Free Sports Film Movie

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Windows ≠ Mac Os X

Söz verdiğim gibi bir yazı yazacaktım, ancak mac os x'i sağlıklı kurabilseydim. Aslında daha önce yaşadığım sorun tekrarlandı. Ekran kartım mac ile uyumlu çıkmadı. Aradan 2 ay geçmesine rağmen bu duruma uygun bir çözüm geliştirilmemiş. Belli başlı geçici çözümler de benim işime yaramayınca Windows'a geri dönmek zorunda kaldım.

Sonda söyleyeceğimi başta söyleyeyim: Windows Mac'ten daha iyi. En azından sistem uyumluluğu konusunda. Mac gibi donanım seçmiyor, iyi kötü, eski yeni demeden her sisteme kurulabiliyor. Bunun karşılığında bazı şeylerden feragat ediyor belki ama günümüzde bu kadar çeşitli donanım varken bence uyumluluk daha önemli.

Mac'te hep neyi sevdiğimi düşündüm. Stabil olması mı? Windows 7'de en az Snow Leopard kadar stabil. Arayüzü mü? Windows'a da istediğim arayüzü kurabiliyorum. Hatta rainmeter denen program ile (şu an kullanmasam da) arayüzde harikalar yaratmak mümkün. Dosya sistemi mi? Kesinlikle değil, çünkü Mac sizi baştan bilgisayar konusunda cahil ilan edip, birçok dosyayı değiştirmenizi engellemiş. Windows'ta ise istedğim dosyayı silip değiştirebilirim.

Aslında beğendiğim iki şeyi var. Birincisi font rendering dedikleri olay. Mac insanın gözüne daha güzel (soft, smooth) geliyor. Bunu windowsta da yapmanın yolları varmış. Henüz denemedim ancak en yakın zamanda deneyeceğim. İkincisi ise pencere yönetimi. 

Biliyorsunuz windows'ta her programın kendi penceresi var. Dos'tan geldikten sonra belki kullanışlılığı arttıran bir yöntem. Ancak Mac bu olaya farklı yaklaşmış. Windows'taki başlat menüsü, Mac'te ekranın en üstünde. Hem başlat menüsü olarak kullanılıyor, hem de her açılan program için otomatik olarak pencere oluyor. Hangi program o an aktifse onun pencere menüsü haline dönüşüyor. Hem yerden tasarruf, hem de kullanım kolaylığı sağlıyor. Bunu henüz windows'ta görmedim. İlerde de olacağını sanmam.

Tabi bir başka kolaylık olarak  dock kısmı var. Ancak windowsta da başarılı bir şekilde dock olarak kullanabileceğiniz programlar mevcut. Aklıma ilk gelenler rocketdock ve objectdock mesela.

Mac'in asıl çekiciliği ne bilmiyorum. Autocad düzgün çalışmıyor, catia vs gibi çizim programları ise hiç. Doğru düzgün oyun oynanmıyor, film izlemek için vlc ya da xbmc yoksa yandınız. Müzik dinlerken itunes güzel belki ama bana çok kompleks geliyor. İşin kötüsü daha basiti ne bilmiyorum. Ve en kötüsü ntfs diskleri tanımıyor. Sizin paralı satılan programlardan birini yüklemeniz gerekiyor.

Yine de mac'i bir kez deneyen birinin kolay kolay onu bırakamayacağını anlıyorum. Tamamen windowstan vazgeçemesem de, os x lion çıkıp benim donanımım ile uyumlu kextler yayınlanana kadar bir daha kurmaya kalkmayacağım.