Saturday, June 2, 2018

YouTube Music

Looks Like I Have The New YouTube Music

So, I'd been expecting an email to let me into the new YouTube Music. Never got the email, but it turns out that somewhere behind the scenes, I did get access. My biggest concern about this whole new rollout is that I'd lose what I have in Google Play Music - My collection that I've been building for 30 years (format shifting my cassette tapes, CDs, and Vinyl to digital formats) stored in the cloud, and seamlessly merged with "rented" albums that I get with my subscription. A close second is that my listening suggestions would be influenced by the silly videos that I sometimes watch on YouTube, and finally, that I'd have random "fan created" nonsense included into my listening. These things are just a novelty to me, and I'm not interested in having them show up in my listening. 
I've started playing around with this thing, and I'm not yet impressed. 

First Thoughts

All of the information I'm seeing online indicates that my Google Play Music goodness will be merged into this new service...I feel a little better about things, but until I see it, I'm going to have reservations. 

The Good

I was able to add the new Ghost album to my collection and listen to that. Just that, without any videos. 

The Bad

  • The suggestions are based on my random watching of stupid YouTube videos - mostly useless.
  • No options to upload my personal library (yet).
  • No connection to my existing Google Play Music library - no listening history, no access to my existing uploads, no access to my existing purchased albums. 
  • No podcasts.
  • Across the board, 1 relevant suggestion - I broke with my normal YouTube habits, and checked out a video for one of the new tracks on the Ghost album. 
I suppose there is a reason they're trying to push this new service, but it's pretty clear that I am not the target audience. 


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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Watching The World Go By


#wallclock #zenofbeer
ZenOfBeer On Instagram
Keeping things alive on the blog with some things, until I get back around to actually writing my backlog of posts. Enjoy :)
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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Installing Crouton Again

Later that same day...

Finally got Crouton installed. Got Java installed. Went off to look for Android Studio...it's not supported on my hardware. Experiment done. 
I don't need the obnoxious beeping and security warnings every time I restart the thing, so back to the stable mode, it is. 


Looking for a usable dev box

So, I've recently purchased a Pixelbook. I know this thing has more than enough power to handle development work, should I desire to install Crouton. However, I do not desire to install Crouton. For this device, I'll wait till I can get Crostini installed and running. 
I also have a fairly beefy home computer, but I share it with my wife and daughter, so using that for dedicated development time is difficult. 
I have some old laptops...don't even go there. They take 10 minutes to boot, and once booted, are incredibly slow. 
I have access to my work laptop, but the fact is that even working from home, I don't really need it, so it annoys me that I have to carry that around with me just to do development work. 
With that said, I am now left with my old Asus C300 Chromebook. It's sitting around, gathering dust, and taking up space. A while back I had Crouton installed, but the security checks every time I booted got on my nerves enough, that I decided to go back to the regular mode and stop running Linux. I honestly don't recall how well that Chromebook did running Linux, so until I figure out something better to do with it, I'll reinstall Crouton on it and see if it's sufficient to do a little casual coding. 

With all of that said, one might wonder why a professional computer geek, like myself, doesn't just go out and buy a shiny new dev laptop all for myself. Well, to be perfectly honest, in addition to the fact that I did just dump a pretty coin on that Pixelbook, if I find myself with an extra $1000 or so, I'd rather do something like buy a new guitar, get a decent amp again, finish out my Iron Maiden vinyl collection in one fell swoop, or maybe even buy an electric lawn mower. It is what it is. I'm a geek when it suits me. Today, I'm not quite enough of a geek, so I'll try to re-purpose this old hardware. 
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Friday, April 27, 2018

Can't Respond Quickly Enough To Change

Sometimes I can't respond quickly enough to change...

I've been using Google Inbox almost since the release. I love the features, the ease of use, readability, and the list goes on. It's just great. 
Over the last couple of days Google made some significant updates to Gmail, so I thought I'd check it out. On the plus side, I like the additional features. On the minus side, It's gonna take me a dedicated week or two to remember how the damn thing works. 
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Sunday, April 15, 2018

iRig AND THE Gorilla

iRig UA and the Gorilla Amplifier

Gorilla GG-20
Years ago I used to do a little guitar playing. I played with a couple of friends in high school, after graduation I played with some different friends, did a short stint as a bass player, and somehow never became famous. After a while I got into having a real life, and being a musician became less of a priority. For a long time I completely stopped playing. After dragging my equipment around for years I finally decided to start getting rid of some of my old stuff. I got rid of a couple of amps, and an effects rack, but I could never bring myself to get rid of the guitars. I just kept them around so that I could look at them and feel guilty for not playing. Then, one day it happened. I started to get the bug to play again. I'd pick up a guitar, play a little bit, but it wasn't all that satisfying. Although it's technically possible to play an electric guitar without an amp, it's just not all that fun.

Time to buy an amp

Rock Box
As I mentioned, most of the gear I'd gotten rid of over the years were my amps. I'm rusty, like 20 years rusty, so it's kind of hard to justify spending much money on an amp. Plus, I'm playing alone, so I don't really need something that projects sound. If I could find a little something that would push to headphones or a portable speaker, I'd be all set. I remembered a little device called a Rock Box from way back when. It was a battery powered effects box that could be used to run into an amp, headphones, whatever. This would be perfect for my needs, but as far as I could tell, the Rock Box was something that had long since gone out of production. However, while searching I came across the iRig by IK Multimedia - IK Multimedia iRig UA universal guitar effects processor and interface for Android devices Get Yours Here! There was a problem. The version they had at the time was only
 
Kramer Ripley
compatible with iPhone, and I'm an Android user. There's a whole thing about support for sound processing on Android, and devices like this often won't work. Luckily, they soon followed up with the iRig UA that essentially took the original version of the iRig and added an external sound card for general Android support. I was excited because I now had a portable effects box that could output to my headphones or a small portable speaker, and I could jam. The additional features that I hadn't expected blew my mind. I thought I was in for distortion, reverb, and maybe chorus. I didn't expect several amps, different mic options, and several more effects pedals along with presets to help me get started in crafting a sound. Crazy cool. Add to that the multi-track recorder, and I've got a little recording studio in my pocket. It brought new life into the guitar that had been sitting in its case 
Epiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus
mocking me for years. After a while of just playing directly into the headphones I remembered that my parents still had my very first amplifier buried somewhere in their basement, so next time my family was visiting on vacation I went digging. I found it. A Gorilla GG-20. A little terrible sounding beginner practice amp. It's showing it's age with dust in the controls, but with a little cleaning I've gotten the amp functional. Being driven by the iRig UA, it actually sounds pretty damn good. That got me motivated to play more, actually learn some new skills, and add a new guitar to the collection. I'm pretty sure I'm still not going to realize the rock star dream, but all of the toys makes for a really fun little hobby.



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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Plex and Cutting the Cord

Cutting The Cord

dualHD TV Tuner
For quite a while now, we've been using the free version of Plex. If you haven't heard of it, it's a media library/server that you install on your home computer. It organizes your media library, and Chromecast you can access any of your shows/music/pictures from anywhere you like. Really cool, really simple to use, and it runs free on top of your existing infrastructure. They also have a paid service (subscription based, or a one time lifetime purchase) that gives you access to a few cooler features. One of those features is an over the air DVR and live TV program manager. This, naturally, requires that you buy a few more tools, so I haven't really been interested in trying it out.
using a phone client or a device like a
Recently, however, we stumbled across an all-in-one kit that seemed like it was worth trying. 

Cordcutter Bundle: HAUPPAUGE WinTV-dualHD TV Tuner + Mohu Leaf 50 Antenna + Plex Live TV & DVR – model 1662

The Hauppauge Cordcutter Bundle comes with everything you need to try out the premium features of Plex. 
  • WinTV (a software package that let's you watch TV with a TV tuner attached to your computer - not used for the Plex solution, but nice all the same)
  • DualHD TV Tuner - a USB TV tuner with two channels. This allows two channels to be viewed at the same time or two shows to be DVR'd at the same time, or a combination of watching one show and recording one show. 
  • Mohu Leaf 50 Antenna - a powered TV antenna to plug into the USB TV tuner
  • 3 Months of Plex Pass - the premium license to Plex that gives you access to all of the features, and serves to get you hooked on the service.
Setup was very simple. It was a matter of plugging the TV tuner into my computer, plugging the antenna into the tuner, and telling Plex (after putting in the code for the 3 months of premium) to scan for channels. From there, you get a program guide that lets you DVR shows you want to watch on your own time, or browse Plex for live TV stations. I'd seen some reviews saying that people had trouble making it work, but I've had no issues at all. My shows automatically record, I can watch them at my leisure, and I have live streaming HD TV if I want to watch that. 
I'm not thrilled with having to have a Plex subscription, so when my trial ends I'll just buy the lifetime license, but that's not such a bad deal, either. The license not only let's me control OTA TV, but it gives automatic syncing of photos from my phone to my server, OTA syncing of media from my server to my mobile devices if I'm planning on being somewhere that I don't have a data connection, and a few other features. 
If you've got a decent sized personal media collection, and still have a few shows on network TV that you watch, this is definitely something worth trying out. Because of my watching habits, it's been able to completely replace my Hulu subscription. 
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Friday, April 13, 2018

Audiobooks on Google Play

Finally - Audiobooks on Google Play

I've bought into the Google ecosystem. I'm all in, paying for the family plan to get Play Music All Access, YouTube Red (I admit I'd never pay for this on it's own, but whatever), Google Homes, Pixelbook, I'm all in. One major feature that has been missing for me is Audiobooks. Google Play Music is not an acceptable alternative. Yes, it will store your track position...Only on one computer, and only until you listen to another track or playlist. It won't differentiate between books and music, so if you've got a shuffle of your collection going on you might go from Iron Maiden's Powerslave right into chapter 18 of Stephen King's The Stand. So imagine my excitement when I start seeing the headlines: Audiobooks coming to Google Play! Finally, the day arrived, and I got to check it out. I went out, used some Google Play credits, and bought me a book. Since then, I haven't seen all that much in the media about it. The feature came online, and then sorta slipped into the background. So, what was it like?

Pros

There are a few reasons to like the service. It's all in the cloud, so you will have syncing across all of your devices. I can go from my phone to my Chromebook to my Google Home. There were some annoyances with each device asking to go back to where it left off, but for the most part keeping track of positions across devices worked pretty well.
Google home integration is pretty slick - Stumble into the kitchen in the morning to make coffee, tell Google to play my audiobook, and away we go. 
Of course, you can't ignore that it's Google, so your options are massive. 
Finally, no subscription. I have video subscriptions, audio subscriptions, I'm sick of subscriptions. Just let me buy crap. 

Cons

The big con really is the inability for me to upload my own audiobooks. Over the years I've spent more than a few dollars on audiobooks. I've got them on cassette, CD, digital format, all DRM free, and I like to listen to my collection from time to time. The biggest annoyance I have with audiobook players is that I have to copy files to my phone, and I can't sync status across devices. Google could solve this problem, but they don't have the ability to upload audiobooks in the same way that I can upload eBooks. 

Overall, the service is really nice. I'm just very annoyed that it doesn't allow me to use my own content. Oh, well. Off to Plex to see if I can make that work for my audiobook needs. 
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