Posts Tagged ‘iTunes’

OpenSolaris 2008.11 Upgrade Finished

December 20th, 2008 No comments

That was pretty easy. Here’s what I did…

  • downloaded OpenSolaris 2008.11 Live CD
  • burned ISO file to a CD
  • booted fileserver from Live CD
  • double-clicked “Install OpenSolaris” on desktop of Live CD
  • answered the install questions (time zone, username, etc.)
  • ran “Add More Software” which launches the package manager
  • installed the “nas-server” collection
  • rebooted (apparently some of the nas-server config files don’t load properly until a reboot)

Then from the command line, I did some magic to get my existing 5-drive RAIDZ pool mounted on the new OS. My zpool has the unimaginative name of “storage” which you will see in the following commands.

  • zpool import -f storage
  • zpool upgrade storage
  • zfs upgrade storage

Now that my zpool was mounted and ready for the cifs service, I had to enter a few more commands to get cifs running.

  • svcadm enable -r smb/server
  • smbadm join -w
  • zfs set sharesmb=on storage
  • sharemgr show -vp (just to check)

And that was that. I just love how simple these commands are now. A lot simpler than SAMBA, but we’ll see if the new cifs service is as stable and fast.

I still had to do a little chown and chmod work to get permissions right, but then everything was perfect. The mapped network drive on my PC fired right up without any changes, and the saved “connect to server” favorite on my Mac worked immediately as well.

I have iTunes set up so that its “iTunes Music” folder is on the fileserver. So now all is well there and I can continue to manage my library from my Mac laptop, but store all the music files on the server. I feel a little better knowing that RAIDZ is protecting all those media files from bitrot, but I still need to get some backup in place for my 500+GB media folder.

Next project will be to see if I can get Firefly running to share out my movies folder to the AppleTV.

Airport Update Fixes SMB Volume Drops

November 8th, 2008 No comments

I’ve been having intermittent issues with my MacBook dropping the connection to the SMB share on my Solaris server. It wasn’t bad enough for me to spend any time trying to troubleshoot it because a quick stop and start on the airport would usually allow me to mount the network volume again. The problem usually showed up a few times a week and never lasted more than a minute or two. My Windows PC, which is wired to the ethernet network, never had any issues with dropping this connection to the same SMB share.

After the AirPort Extreme Update 2008-004 that came out just a couple weeks ago, I haven’t had any problems at all. My connection to the share on the Solaris server has been rock solid. It’s one of those things that took me a while to notice, but after a week went by getting the disconnect message from the Finder I realized how nice it was to just have the connection work.

If you’re wondering why I care, it’s because I manage my iTunes library from my laptop, but have my iTunes music folder on the network share. All the content is stored there, but the library file (like an index of iTunes content) is on my MacBook. When iTunes can’t find the network volume, it saves any downloads (usually podcasts that download automatically) to the local volume on the MacBook. It’s simple to copy the content back into the assigned iTunes Music folder when it’s available, but running “Consolidate Content” takes a while and locks up iTunes while it runs.

I’m also extremely grateful for how the Finder was rewritten in Leopard to allow multi-threading for network shares. Anyone who’s had a Mac for more than a couple years will remember the pain of watching the beachball in the Finder when a network volume disappeared, or you put a notebook to sleep with a share mounted and then woke it up on another network and it spent eternity trying to figure out why this new network didn’t have the old network share available. I still occassionaly forget to put away my home network share when I leave, but now the Finder lets me know much more gracefully without any lockup of the computer while it figures out what I’ve done.

Anyways, thank you Apple for fixing this bug that looks like it was caused by the Airport driver.

Categories: Apple, Technology Tags: , , ,

Forget AppleTV – Mac mini as Video Server

March 10th, 2007 No comments

I ran across this podcast/article at HTGuys today. It gives a pretty good high-level description of a working home theater system that uses the Mac mini as the hub for video and audio. The system is primarily used for movie viewing (ripped from DVD’s) and the bulk of the conversation is about this, but it does mention recording TV as well.

This article highlights some of the advantages that the mini provides over the AppleTV. In particular, the mini allows for AC3 audio passthrough to your receiver for surround sound. There doesn’t appear to be a way to encode surround sound into AppleTV-compatible files. The mini also allows for the possibility of TV recording and central storage that can be shared out to the rest of the house (the AppleTV has a 40GB hard drive for caching content shared from another computer’s iTunes library). With a wired network, the system here is able to stream HD content to three computers at the same time.

As much as I’d like to dump my cable DVR and roll my own, I still can’t make up my mind which approach to take. More and more, I see disadvantages to the AppleTV approach.

QuickTime 7.1.5 Now Includes “Export Movie to Apple TV”

March 6th, 2007 No comments

Apple released an update to iTunes and QuickTime today to add some new features and fix a few bugs. One of the new things that showed up in QuickTime is the ability to export a movie to Apple TV. I need to play around with it a bit more, but it appears to use a higher bitrate (around 2Mbps for my short sample)
and it sets the file type and creator on the resulting export so that it imports into iTunes.

My first experiment isn’t definitive because I started with a H.264 file. I’ll try working with a DVD rip later and update the comments for this post with the specs on the completed file.

Pin the (Long) Tail on the Colts

February 7th, 2007 No comments

The Super Bowl highlights are up on the iTunes Store (which still has DRM) and this reminds me again that the producers of sports programming are missing a huge opportunity to cash in on the Long Tail Effect. Look, I could care less about Peyton Manning (the shameless shill!) and the Colts. I was rooting for the Chargers this year (my wife is from San Diego and we visit every summer). Still, I’m sure that there are dozens of Colts fans that will buy the highlight video from the iTunes Store to remember their team’s victory. Bears fans probably won’t be interested, except to watch the first 12 seconds a few times and dream about next year.

But I’d sure like to own highlight films of my hometown San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl victories under Joe Montana and Steve Young. Shoot, even a “Road to the Super Bowl” special featuring “The Catch” would be fun to own. Then I’d still like to get a video of UCSB winning this year’s College Cup (Go Gauchos!) and maybe some classic games too. Yeah, classic all-time sports matchups on the iTunes Store – are you feeling me now? Read more…

Garageband for 5th Graders

February 2nd, 2007 No comments

Last week I had a chance to help out a teacher that was using the Mac lab at their school to do some very cool things with 5th graders on a science project about the solar system. Their teacher had put together some resources about the solar system and I was there only to help show them how to put all that information into a podcast.

These kids, mostly 10 and 11, spent the period recording their narration of the info they had compiled on the solar system with the built-in microphone on the Intel Core Duo 17″ iMacs they were using. With Garageband, it was really easy for them to record and then go back and insert additional comments to introduce each “chapter” in their narration. Once they were done recording the “voice talent” for their narration, we had them drop in little “intro” and “outro” sound effects / loops as well. The kids had a lot of fun picking out loops to spice up their presentation.

Once the audio was set, the kids then dropped in pictures to illustrate what they were talking about in their podcast. In typical Apple fashion, all they had to do was drop the image from the folder in the Finder right on top of the tracks in Garageband. To place the image at a certain timecode in the podcast, you just click and drag. Once in place, the kids dragged the edges of the image placeholder to make it appear on screen for a shorter or longer time. They were able to listen to their podcast (thank goodness we had headphones for all 25 kids!) and then visually move the images to the appropriate spot in the podcast so that they appeared when they were talking about that topic. It was dead simple and incredibly fun to watch how easily these kids were able to manipulate the content to produce their very own podcast about the sun and the planets in our solar system, complete with pictures.

While simple, it was a really powerful illustration of how technology can enhance learning for young kids. The podcast was merely a way for the kids to interact with the content and really own the material that they were putting together. One of the frustrations with projects like these is that sometimes the technology becomes the focus of the lesson and managing the tools actually gets in the way of the content you are trying to teach. Here is where Apple shines, of course. The technology behind Garageband just faded into the background as this group of 10 and 11 year-olds was able to manipulate all the information they had put together in a way that will help them retain what they have learned.

It was a great experience and makes me really excited about the future of education and technology (my two favorite things!).

Note to teachers: This lesson could be adapted to older students by having them research a topic, write the script, and find pictures on their own. It can also be used to have students find examples of a principle, technique, or strategy where everyone will have unique material that all connects to a common theme. You could then host all of the podcasts or publish them to the iTunes Store for the other students to explore.

Free Vortex demo on iTunes Store

January 30th, 2007 No comments

I religiously download all the freebies from the iTunes Store every Tuesday. Today, there are a few new items, including a free demo of Vortex, an iPod game (if you’ve got a 5G video iPod). This is the first time that I can recall seeing a free iPod game on the iTunes store. Personally, I think it’s great. The previews on the iTunes Store give you a small clip of the game in action, but I’d rather play a couple levels before I decide to plunk down $4.99.

Also free this week…

Categories: Apple, Entertainment Tags: , , , , ,

Macworld 2007 recap

January 24th, 2007 No comments

Welll, I only scored 5/20 on my Macworld predictions. But then, I don’t think anybody anticipated that the entire keynote would be about AppleTV and the iPhone with no news about the Mac at all. What did I get right? Here’s a list…

  • Airport update to 802.11n (Airport Extreme)
  • Firmware update for 802.11n capable Macs (even though it’s going to cost $1.99)
  • iTV got a name (AppleTV) and a release date (February)
  • Another studio joined the iTunes store with full-length movies (Paramount)
  • iPhone

I’m also going to take credit for a long-shot prediction that Apple would create a product to compete with Microsoft Home Server. The new Airport has a new Airport Disk feature that allows you to turn it into a NAS device simply by plugging in a USB drive. The lack of gigabit ethernet still bugs me though.

That leaves 15 predictions of things that I still expect to see from Apple. I hope we hear about them soon, because I’m about to buy a new Mac and I was waiting on MWSF to make up my mind. Now I’m in a holding pattern waiting for the inevitable hardware updates and a Leopard release date.

Top 10 things we need from Apple’s iTV

December 27th, 2006 No comments

I’ve been thinking about what Jobs might have to show us at MWSF in just under two weeks now, and I’ve made my own list of features that the iTV would need to have to make it a killer product.

  1. Compatibility with MPEG-2, H.264 and VC-1. That includes all the variants of those codecs from video downloads on the iTunes Music Store, to personal rips, iMovie exports, etc.
  2. HD resolutions up to 1080p. There’s no reason not to support the best resolution possible when entering the game at this point.
  3. iTunes Music Store Integration. I understand that the iTV isn’t a full computer, but it would be nice to be able to preview and buy content right from the TV. If it’s to be stored on another computer in the house, then the iTV should talk to the other computer and tell it to download the content that was just purchased. It would also be nice to download it straight to the iTV and then copy to the computer later. It also needs to be treated as an authorized computer so I can play DRM protected files I purchased from the iTMS.
  4. iPod integration. I want to be able to plug my iPod into the iTV and have it give me a 10ft interface for my iPod content. I also want it to act as if I just docked my iPod into my computer (when it’s my own iTV) so it will sync over the network. When I’m at a friend’s house with an iTV, I want to show my home videos and play music from the iPod while it’s plugged in, like I could with an AV cable into the receiver. I don’t need to copy my music to my friend’s iTV or computer, I just want to be able to bring a photo slideshow of my kids (on my iPod) to my parents’ house and play it on their iTV without any hassle.
  5. Bonjour support. I want to plug the iTV into my home network and have it automatically discover my shared iTunes library and iPhoto albums. It should be a seamless out-of-box experience for Mac users. It would be ultra-cool if iTV would play nice with stand-alone TiVo’s and other Bonjour-enabled devices.
  6. New slideshow effects. The iTV should be able to autocreate slideshows from selected iPhoto albums and use a bunch of cool new transition effects that we haen’t seen on the iPod yet.
  7. New iTunes visualizations. Similarly, the iTV should have a bunch of extremely cool visualizations that we haven’t seen in iTunes yet. Make use of my HD widescreen set and blow me away with how cool it is to play music with my iTV hooked up to my surround sound receiver and HDTV. Make my friends jealous when they come over and we have music playing in the background during the party.
  8. Network support. I know wireless is a given, but I want draft-802.11n support now with the promise of a future upgrade to the 802.11n spec when it is finished. I guess this means I want a new Airport Express that also supports draft 802.11n. I also want gigabit ethernet.
  9. Mac integration. I want to be able to configure the iTV to pass along notices from my Mac (when I want) to pop-up new email notices, caller-ID from my phone line (if I have a modem on my Mac), task finished, streaming a DVD from the drive on my Mac to the iTV, and so on. Basically, I want Apple to reward me for owning both a Mac and an iTV and make me feel cool for doing so.
  10. Windows support. I know, I know, but for the iTV to be successful, most of these features should work with iTunes on Windows as well. Just like we saw the iPod take off when iTunes for Windows was released, we’ll see the same with the iTV if Windows users can also download movies from the iTMS and watch them on the iTV. Of course, Apple can use the cool integration features only available on the Mac as incentive for even more people to switch. Soon we’ll be talking about the iTV halo effect.

So that’s it. My wishlist for the iTV that would convince me to buy it. Did I forget anything? Tell me what you want to see in the iTV in the comments below.