Rancilio Silvia Reservoir Replacement (Hack version)

I'm not a fan of plastic leaching into liquids that I consume, or things that can't be run through the dishwasher, which makes me, by definition, a sworn enemy of the Rancilio Silvia water reservoir.

rancilio-silvia-reservoir-OEM.jpg


Here is the OEM reservoir which is confirmed by Rancilio to be hand-wash only.

rancilio-silvia-reservoir-OEM-detail.jpg


A close-up view reveals the tragic flaw: a completely unnecessary bump that prevents normal hand-washing with a brush or sponge. Since this is not dishwasher safe you'll have to go to extreme lengths to clean it properly.

The reservoir is suspended from the roof of the enclosure but there is a shelf inside that you could place an alternative reservoir in. The dimensions of the reservoir area are 3" x 7.5" x 7.5". While nobody makes a Rancilio-specific replacement reservoir, florists carry rectangular glass vases which would work just fine. I found one that was 2.5" x 6" x 6" which was smaller but acceptable as it still holds 2 pints and has enough room around it to easily pull it out for cleaning.


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Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on January 23, 2014 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

iOS 7 The only changes that really matter

By this point most iOS owners have upgraded to the newest system: iOS 7. There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth over the "radical" interface changes and no clear consensus of whether it was too much or not enough.

After spending some time with it I've decided that these are the only things that matter:

Better:


  • Auto-updating of apps might seem like a small thing, but it's actually huge. Your device shouldn't require constant intervention and this feature saves dozens of interactions a week by automating a process that you would normally do, and be bored by.

  • I don't know about you guys but work plays a big role in my life and my workday starts on Monday. As such, when I look at a calendar I want it to visually group my weekend together and begin when my life shifts from play to work--on Monday. After 7 years you can now (finally) change the calendar to do this like you could on your desktop

Worse:


  • Light, airy and flat is the aesthetic du jour which is all well and fine but removing all buttons from the interface was a UI 101 no-no. While the debate is still open about skeuomorphism and whether it adds to detracts from an interface, dropping buttons was simply wrong. Buttons do more than make something digital appear analog--they define the visual limits under which a tap, click or swipe will be recognized and acted upon, as well as alert you to whether or not the text can be interacted with at all! When presented in a row they visually tidy it up by making all of the elements a uniform height. As iOS 7 stands today, using plain text (sometimes of differing size and boldness) is a train wreck and something I was very surprised to see coming out of Cupertino.


Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on January 17, 2014 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Third Party evasi0n confirmation: iPhone 4S, iOS 6.1, Sprint PCS

Just a quick post to say that the tool released by http://evasi0n.com/ worked successfully to jailbreak my iPhone 4S.

Here is the process I followed:

  1. Back up iPhone using iTunes
  2. Update iPhone to iOS 6.1 using iTunes
  3. Turn off encryption on iPhone backup (if enabled)
  4. Back up iPhone again
  5. Run evasi0n app. It will tell you what it's doing and what to expect after it completes and passes the remainder of the installation over to your iPhone to complete

These guys have done a very good job and the app is surprisingly clean and well designed. Once my phone was liberated I downloaded MyWi via the Cydia app store (which is installed as part of the jailbreak) which you can use to share your cellular connection with other devices over wifi, bluetooth and USB.

Here is a speed test result for sharing of NYC Sprint 3G over wifi. Note that the icon in the upper left changes when using MyWi:

mywi-sprint-3G-NYC-sm.png

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on February 5, 2013 | Comments (0)

How to avoid duplicate IMAP mail folders

Recently I was chatting with an iPhone 5 user who was frustrated by having multiple IMAP folders for his Drafts, Sent and Trash items. If you keep your email filed neatly this can certainly be frustrating as you may have to look in two (or more!) places to find your mail if you switch devices.

duplicate-email-folder-types.png

This problem isn't unique to iPhones; every email program has it's own naming scheme for folders and they almost never match what mail servers use. The good news is that they all have settings you can change to re-map their defaults to match your mail server.

On an iPhone 4, iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 you would navigate here:

Settings -> Mail, Contacts and Calendars -> (Your email account) -> Account -> Advanced

...and then tap on each of the folders--you will be given a list of folders on your server to choose from. Once you make a selection your iPhone will put mail in that folder instead of the one that it created with the different name.

choose-IMAP-folders-on-iPhone.png

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on January 11, 2013 | Comments (1)

New York City Water Test 2013

Due to a suspected case of fluorosis in the family we picked up a fluoride testing kit. Since they were available we also picked up tests for bacteria, lead, pesticide, nitrate, nitrite, pH, hardness and chlorine.

Our tests were performed on the Upper West Side in Manhattan on December 31, 2012.

Bacteria Test: Positive**
Fluoride Test: 0.02 mg/L (Too low to be effective --Acceptable range: 0.8 mg/L to 1.2 *†)
Lead Test: Negative
Pesticide Test: Negative
Total Nitrate Test: 1 ppm. (Acceptable range: Below 10 ppm)
Nitrite Test: ~0.2 ppm. (Acceptable range: Below 1 ppm)
pH Test: 7.0. (Acceptable range: 6.5 to 8.5)
Hardness Test: 50 ppm. (Acceptable range: 50 ppm or less)
Chlorine Test: 0. (Acceptable range: Below 4 ppm)

NYC-tap-water-bacteria-test-2013.png Bacteria test: Yellow = Positive. Purple = Negative.


1-lead-pesticide-test-OK.jpg

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BACTERIA TEST:
** Bacteria test is for Coliform Bacteria which is fairly broad. To know the specific danger, if any, further and more specific testing is needed.

Bacteria test was run at Silver Lake Research Corporation in Monrovia, California.

FLUORIDE LEVELS:
* In 2009 "The optimal fluoride level in New York State is 1.0 mg/L. This level provides the most benefit to oral health. This is achieved when the fluoride level in finished water is maintained in the control range of 0.8 to 1.2 mg/L. Targeting the lower end of the control range, instead of 1.0 mg/l, can substantially reduce the benefit provided to the community, as the benefits of fluoridation are lost when fluoride levels drop below the optimal level." Source: NY Health Department.

† DEP is one of the many water suppliers in New York State that treats drinking water with a controlled, low level of fluoride for consumer dental health protection. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fluoride is very effective in preventing cavities when present in drinking water at an optimal range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. The New York City Health Code requires a fluoride concentration of 1.0
mg/L, and the NYSDOH maximum contaminant level (MCL) for fluoride is 2.2 mg/L." Source: 2011 NYC Water Report

"On January 13, 2011, the United States Department of Health and Human Services requested public comment on its proposal to lower the optimal fluoride target dose to 0.7 mg/L. In response NYSDOH issued guidance to public water supplies indicating that water suppliers in New York State could reduce the optimal fluoride target dose to 0.8 mg/L. Based on these developments the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene authorized DEP to lower the target dose for fluoride to 0.8 mg/L. This dosage change took effect on February 14, 2012."

Fluroride Tests were run at Environmental Laboratories, Inc. in Madison Indiana.

###

Fluoride test kit: http://www.discovertesting.com/products/display_products.sd?iid=3219&catid=7&loc=show&headTitle=Fluoride%20Test

Other water test kits: http://www.discovertesting.com/products/display_products_overviews.sd?iid=30&headtitle=Do%20It%20Yourself

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on December 31, 2012 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Installing MTR (My Traceroute) on Mac OS 10.8

MTR s a great command-line tool for figuring out where a network is having problems between you and a host you are trying to reach.

With each version of the Mac OS the tools required to use it move. Here are the pieces and steps I assembled from various points on the interwebs.

Gather the pieces you need.

  1. MTR is available for free from BitWizard: ftp://ftp.bitwizard.nl/mtr/
  2. You will also need the latest XCode which you can download via the App Store on your computer
  3. Open XCode and go to Preferences -> Downloads and install "Command Line Tools"

Installing

To get things to compile on a Mac your instructions will diverge from the README slightly. On the command line:

  1. export LDFLAGS="-lresolv"
  2. ./configure --prefix=/usr --without-gtk
  3. make
  4. sudo make install

BAM. You should be good to go. To try it out, type:

  • mtr hausinteractive.com

You should see a screen something like this:

mtr-os-10.8-sm.png

Sources:

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on December 28, 2012 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

iPhone: Slowing Changes ≠ Stagnant water-It means Apple has made the right design choices

So I've been suspiciously glancing over at this iPhone on my desk for about a week now, waiting for it to do something to annoy me like my Android phone and...nothing.

I gave Android a really good go and like a good hacker I tinkered it to the point of perfection: rooted, tethered, underclocked for battery life, a complete toolkit of apps and utilities. Then it started to show its terminal flaws: Sometimes calendars and contacts wouldn't sync. Swype was theoretically superior but after a year I still seemed to be "training" it. Scrolling was choppy. SSL mail cert support is shit. After 5 years you still had to run your own equalizer app to have decent bass. When you plugged in headphones it thought you wanted to voice dial someone. Finally, after moving most apps to the SD card due to need for space the use of it burned it out, leaving me with a mostly gimped device.

iPhone-4S-with-bumper.jpg iPhone sitting quietly, waiting for input and only bothering you with things you want to be bothered by. Photo Credit: Yutaka Tsutano

Like the currents of the ocean, people migrate to and from different devices and as I understand it there is a move towards android due to some apparent stagnation of innovation at Apple.

I'll agree that Apple has been playing catch-up with a number of services, including the forthcoming turn-by-turn maps, but at the end of the day, changes tend to slow as you reach the best solutions in a given area.

If you're watching movies and extra inch of screen size doesn't make a difference but once you turn Avengers off navigating around your phone does; the iPhone is still superior for one-handed navigation with most sized hands.

While the "freedom" to have widgets is nice, I found over time that I turned them all off, one-by-one because they offered no advantages and ultimately made my phone slower. (A few examples include the weather widget which you can add to your iPhone lock screen when jailbroken and photo gallery widget which is more quickly accessed by just going to your damned photos)

As I sit here working I actually feel a little less on-edge since getting the iPhone. I hadn't realized the overall effect of all of these little daily frustrations, and to be liberated of them is amazing.

Looking ahead, I know the new iPhone is literally right around the corner but I've always been annoyed by widescreen devices. Since my 4S will run iOS 6 I feel no buyers remorse in missing out on the new model. Instead, I'm relieved to have something that just gets out of my way and works when I ask it to.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on August 17, 2012 | Comments (0)

Your Online Security: Don't forget to look at where you are

While many aspects of your online security are out of your control (hackers breaking into your bank, a website that you shopped at previously, etc.) a few are.

You have been repeatedly reminded to choose strong passwords and not to click on links in email. I'm here to remind you to also read the URLs of sites that you end up at. Phishing schemes are getting very good and they (along with other coincidental situations) can get even the best of us.

Here is how I came to give away my twitter login this week:

First, let me say that I am rarely on Twitter. I mainly use it for #bashtagging. Last week I needed some customer service from a company and discovered that they have moved their support from email to twitter. Fine. I asked my question and waited for the answer. A day later I wondered what had happened and checked my junk mail folder--there it was.

Clearly the easiest way to have a conversation is to have these notifications come to my inbox and for me to click on the link to reply. After a couple of training clicks in Apple Mail the flow started working.

Shortly after this hurdle was removed I received another message from a friend via twitter using a perfectly matched Twitter template. Real logos, real and proper use of English, etc. Not thinking much of it I clicked the link and was taken to a perfect replica of a twitter login page.

I did not question that I had to log in because I had an incognito browser window open at the time which I was using to compare the logged-in version of a website to the anonymous-visitor version. When you are running an incognito window it does not use any of your saved cookies and you will be asked to log into websites you visit, even if they allow persistent cookies.

Since I was in one of those rush modes I typed in my login and it failed. I looked at the address bar (which I do 99.999% of the time) and lo and behold, it was not twitter.com, it was twitire.com, harborers of spam and god knows what else. Fuck.

So I got to spend the evening double-checking all of the logins for all of my online services and make changes as needed so these guys don't get to be me.

While many ISPs will probably have this domain blocked soon enough, the takeaway lesson is: The Internet is kind of like New York: one wrong turn and you can find yourself very quickly in a bad neighborhood. Make sure to read the street signs as you go.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 8, 2012 | Comments (0)

Getting the advertised life out of a battery should not require long, convoluted instructions

An open letter to battery manufacturers and makers of devices that use batteries:

I'm sorry to have to break this to you but nobody reads your instructions and properly calibrates their batteries which is why everyone is so angry at you.

Please consider:


  1. Shipping batteries charged and calibrated

  2. Putting a "calibrate" button on your charger/device that just does the however many discharge to whatever %/recharge cycles you want, followed by turning on a green light when done

Thanks.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on April 2, 2012 | Comments (0)

Update Swype on HTC Evo 4G (rooted)

So the Sprint stock ROMs have Skype baked in which is great, except that version 2.50 has this "feature" that forces the replacement of numbers with things like "2moro" and "4ever". If you ever do things like type numbers, this will quickly make you want to turn this keyboard OFF.

Any potential updates to swype will be bundled with ROM updates sent from Sprint. To date only one has come, which was the one that broke everything. What's more, if you try to update your version manually to 3.26 the next time you reboot you will be greeted with repeated pop-ups that look like this:

force_close.png

If your phone is rooted and you're running a "Stock" Sprint ROM you can switch out of the old swype and install the new. Here are the steps that worked for us on our HTC Evo 4G running Sprint OTA 4.22.651.2:

  1. Uninstall all versions of swype.app you can find (if any). Look in your regular apps and in /system/app*
  2. Delete /system/lib/libSwypeCore.2.50.72.20895.so*
  3. Delete /data/data/com.swype.android.inputmethod*
  4. Pull your battery and restart phone (a normal restart with "fast boot" may not clear everything)
  5. Sign up for the public swype beta and download/run the installer to get the latest and greatest
  6. Install swype and activate it

NOTES:
* When directing you to /system and /data I presume that you have some method to get there as well as to alter the files there. I personally use RootExplorer, but you can use anything you're comfortable with.

Sources:

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on December 2, 2011 | Comments (0)

How to remote control your Mac without iChat or VNC

Many of you may be familiar already with iChat's screen sharing option. It is easy to use, is safe (encrypts data being transferred over the network) and uses some unicorn dust to make the screen draws ultra fast.

This works fine if you want to see someone else's screen, but what if you want to control the screen of one of your other computers that are unattended?

While VNC works, you don't have to get VNC software.

I was rooting around my computer and happened upon this in

Hard Drive -> System -> Library -> CoreServices:

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It appears that Apple's "screen sharing" is not baked completely into iChat. Instead, it is a standalone app that is called. You can take this app, drag it to your doc, and run all by itself!

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The app itself is definitely no-frills. There are no bookmarks and very few settings but for most purposes it's fine.

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You can use this to connect to any machine with a VNC server running, or any Mac that has "Screen Sharing" turned on in System Preferences -> Sharing -> Screen Sharing

If connecting mac-to-mac you will get to enjoy the same speed benefits of compression, otherwise it will use the standard VNC communication.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on September 4, 2010 | Comments (0)

QuickPWN (root) your android phone in one click!*

unleash-android-potential.gif With the explosion of makes, models and software revision numbers finding a way to root YOUR particular android phone has become complicated and convoluted at best.

Most instructions, once found, include a dozen steps including downloading and running the Android developer kit, tons of command line voodoo, and choosing a full custom ROM that may or may not have all of the functionality that your stock phone came with.

The bulk of the work being done that is worth mention has been happening at the XDA Developers forum.

I recently found this little gem bured in the HTC Hero section: a proper one-click rooting method for stock Android phones!

The post is found here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=753910 and we're so excited about this technique that that we're hosting a mirror here:


apk.png


 Universal Android Root 1.6.1 (load this link in your android browser).


Instructions:

  1. Download the Universal Android Root application from your phone's web browser
  2. Install, and run the software
  3. Tap "root"
  4. wait ~30 seconds, the program will give you status updates as well as confirmation when complete
  5. reboot your phone

Once your phone is rooted you will be able to download and install apps from the market that are "for root users only". Examples of things you can do:

  • take screen shots
  • share your mobile connection with your computers via wifi
  • do full system backups to your SD card
  • over/underclock your phone for performace/better battery life
  • install custom ROMS to run the newest releases of android, for better performance, etc.
  • MORE!
Supported Phones (name and Android version number):
  • Google Nexus One 2.2
  • Acer Liquid 2.1
  • Dell Streak 2.1
  • Motorola Milestone 2.1
  • Motorola XT701
  • Motorola XT800 2.1
  • Motorola ME511
  • HTC Hero 2.1
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini pro
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i
  • T-Mobile G1 1.6
  • HTC Magic 32A 1.5
  • HTC Magic 32B 1.6
  • Mytouch 3G (3.5mm)
  • Mytouch 3G Slide (v1.6.1 seems to put the phone into reboot loop)
  • LG Ally
  • Droid X
  • Vibo A688 1.6
Phones NOT supported: 
  • Samsung i9000 (Galaxy S)
  • Samsung i6500U
  • HuaWei U8220
  • HTC Desire / Legend / Wildfire

A few notes:
  • Don't let the versioning of this software fool you, this will NOT replace your current install of Android with 1.6
  • This does NOT change your install of Android to a custom ROM, it ONLY enables the root user, which you can do with what you wish
  • *This software is not actually titled quickPWN nor is it made by the talented fellas that make the official quickPWN software for iPhone jailbreaking. I have borrowed their term as the attention that software has attracted would lead many to begin their rooting search for android with searches such as "quickpwn android".
  • *The "one click" referred to in the title is the click after you have installed and are running the rooting app 
This is a fast moving realm so this post will get out-of-date quickly! Be sure to check for new versions and phone compatibility on the XDA forums. (Also direct all questions there).

Happy rooting!

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on August 29, 2010 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Watching and Recording HD video on Mac OS X

Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and High Definition (HD) programming have positively revolutionized entertainment, particularly for busy folks who can't always sit down at the time of broadcast to view their favorite show.

While DVRs are convenient, they certainly have limitations. Even after buying your Tivo you must pay a monthy fee to use it. If you get your DVR from your cable provider you must pay a monthly fee *and* you never own the device. Your DVRs can run out of space requiring that you delete shows that you may not want to. Your DVR will not allow you to export your shows and movies to DVD, iPhone or any other device in your household.

After months of torturous research and beta testing of software, I'm here to report how you can assemble a better-than-tivo experience with your Mac, all with equipment that you own and do not have to pay a monthly fee to run.

The easiest way to explain what you will need and how to piece it together is to follow the cables from your wall to your screen. In this article we'll be referring to the below diagram which you can click on to view in 1080p:

HD-on-mac-source-to-screen.png 1-source.png

Your HD signal can come from a number of sources. Because we're running our signal through our computer we will require some form of receiver to accept the television source and send it along to us via the correct cables. Here, we will presume that you have signed up for digital cable service, Direct TV or some paid service that provides HD channels as part of the package.

The back of your receiver will have a number of different outputs which we'll need to choose from in the next step.

2-video-out.png

As you'll soon see, the path to getting an HD signal through your computer is a treacherous one, littered with the bleached bones of old tech and modern MPAA booby traps.

First and foremost, a high definition signal carries a lot of information, cramming 1920x1080 pixels a frame through (for 1080p) or 1280x720 pixels (for 720p) so we will need a connection that is capable of carrying this data.

RCA
The RCA connector was introduced way back in the 1940s. The common "composite video" incarnation (yellow, red, white) is an analog connection that is limited to NTSC resolution of 720x480. FAIL: not enough bandwidth.

S-video
S-Video is a newer technology, introduced by JVC in 1987. It improved the quality of the picture being passed through, but still topped out at "standard resolution" NTSC. FAIL: not enough bandwidth.

Coaxial Cable
The Coaxial Cable is the line that brings the signal into your home or apartment if you subscribe to cable television. It clearly has the bandwidth but you run into a myriad of compatibility problems when you attempt to plug it into anything other than your receiver. At the time of writing elgato sells USB tuners that will accept only coax and will play and record "Clear QAM" video. If you live in a major city you do NOT have clear QAM -- instead you have encrypted or scrambled stations that must go through your cable box to be viewed. FAIL: Interference from encryption

HDMI
HDMI or High Definition Multimedia Interface is a high-bandwidth all-digital interface. These are the cables that electronics stores will try to sell you and for good reason: For devices that are compatible you get plug-and-play convenience and a beautiful distortion-and-noise-free picture. When I plugged my projector into my Mac the two devices communicated with each other and in System Preferences -> Displays my projector even showed up by name.

All of this convenience and quality hides the sinister (and deal-breaking) aspect of HDMI. HDMI uses HDCP to prevent recording of data. Remember the mess with DRM for music? Same thing here, but embedded into the devices and protocol itself--not the files. FAIL: DRM

component.png

Component Video
So we've seen that the old composite and s-video cables aren't capable of carrying the signal we need, and that coax and HDMI are riddled with DRM. Our savior comes in the form of what is often referred to as the "analog hole". The Component Video cables are capable of carrying an HD signal, but due to their analog nature, are INCAPABLE of carrying the broadcast flag that devices are supposed to identify and use to block recording.

3-encoder.png

There are a LOT of video encoders on the market from a myriad of companies. A few will accept the increasingly rare "Clear QAM" signal and record it without a loss in quality but as a practical matter, ALL of them are limited to NTSC 740x480 with the exception of one...

hauppauge-HD-PVR.png

Hauppauge HD-PVR
At the time of writing Hauppauge may be making the only consumer encoder on earth that accepts component video.

It manages to get by on a USB 2 connection by compressing the video using H.264 (the same codec used in Blu-Ray DVDs, Quicktime, iChat videos and more). Even with the help of this dedicated encoder, you still end up having massive processing needs which we'll cover a bit later.

4-software.png

Another easy part of the process is the software. Aside from elgato's eyeTV there pretty much isn't anything out there for Mac that works with the HD-PVR except for a wildly experimental version of MythTV and a command-line app.

Not that eyeTV will leave you wanting for much; it gives you the complete Tivo experience and then some. A quick rundown of key features include:

  • pausing and timeshifting live television
  • recording of television (or any component, composite or s-video input) to any Hard Drive you select
  • quick editor to remove commercials from recordings
  • export shows to any format including burning to DVD, ripping to quicktime or iPhone
  • remote scheduling of television through the titan tv website (free)
  • "smart scheduling" which will allow you to create playlists of recordings based on your preferences (for example: recording only new episodes of a particular show you watch every week)
The big caveat here is that you don't get all of the functionality you might want out-of-the-box. For legal reasons eyeTV can't write software to use the Hauppauge IR Blaster, which you affix to your cable/satellite box and use to change channels without using the television-provider's remote. You also can not use Hauppauge's remote--you must use a third party product such as ATI's Remote Wonder**.

Both the ZephIR and Remote Wonder require you to train them but it is worth the time. eyeTV can use the ZephIR to change channels for you while you're away so that it can perform scheduled recordings. With the Remote Wonder you can tap into eyeTV's time-shifting functions such as pausing live TV. You can also use it to control your Mac's DVD player, iTunes and more.

**The Remote Wonder product has been discontinued but is often available on eBay. The software works but is not a "Universal Binary" which means your computer will run it through Rosetta emulation. I am currently researching a more compatible solution (and encouraging our friends at elgato to get their act together and support the Hauppauge remote).

For those on Linux I understand MythTV is quite good and on Windows we've confirmed that SageTV works with the HD-PVR. We thought that the interface was pretty tortured, requiring 4x the clicks to perform the same functions using eyeTV. The software that comes with the HD-PVR is simply beyond hope. Even if you are a Windows user, expect to purchase additional software to use your device.

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As eluded to above, your encoder will work best when it is set to maximum quality. At the top settings it will be throwing 13.5Mbps of data at your computer to process. If I'm recording a show while watching it full-screen I use 80% of the CPU on my Mac Pro 2.66Ghz Quad Xeon. I record all of my shows to their own dedicated 1TB HD and have eyeTV set to use 1.5GB of RAM as it's scratch disk.

As I understand it, a number of people have been recording on their Mac Minis to some success, but many have to set their compression higher to prevent seeing dropped frames.

6-output.png

Once we have our video captured we need to send it out to be viewed. Here we run into the same problems we had with the input, minus the broadcast flag issue.

We will continue to disregard composite and s-video because of their bandwidth limitation, and will add to that list coax AND our previously favored component due to our graphics card not having these interfaces.

dvi-hdmi.png

As it turns out, DVI (standard on almost every graphics card sold today) and HDMI are THE SAME THING, except their plugs are physically different. You can pick up a DVI -> HDMI converter for cheap online at stores such as monoprice which will enable you to plug your HDMI projector or television into your graphics card with no conversion (or loss of quality) at all.

Audio is the one section that doesn't require a section: both RCA and Dolby Audio work fine. Plug and play.

7-screen.png

Finally, an easy part! When you buy your TV or projector just make sure it has an HDMI port and is listed as "HD". Ask your friendly sales rep if you aren't sure.

While each one of these sections could be a book in an of itself, and some tinkering will be required to get your home entertainment system dialed, this will at least lay out the different parts you will need to assemble to watch, record, and export HD video on your Mac.

At it's best you will have all of the convenience of the $10/month DVR plan through your cable provider but will have the freedom to do what you want with your content, and will own all of your own equipment to bring with you from home to home and from plan to plan.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 3, 2009 | Comments (7)

Tunneling with OS X for fun, security, and more

As an internet user used to freedom there are a number of good reasons to create tunnels. A few examples:


  • You are on a public or unprotected wireless network and you don't want people spying on you (or worse, potentially grabbing personal information if you are checking email, buying things online, or logging into any website)

  • You are on a network with a paranoid or unfair firewall that restricts your internet access

  • You are on the network run by a pesky system admin that snoops on his lusers

So what does a tunnel do? A tunnel is a secure connection made between your computer and another one that is located elsewhere. Instead of having your computer make its connections directly to the websites and services you are trying to reach ALL requests are encrypted and sent through the tunnel to the other computer, THEN relayed to the service you are trying to connect to. Your remote computer will receive the responses and send them back to you in an encrypted form.

So if someone is "watching" you making ordinary connections on a wireless network they will see you connecting to AOL (and probably grab your login), then maybe browse msn.com and cnn.com, etc. If someone tries to eavesdrop on your tunnel connection the most they will see is you making connections to one machine, all of which will be garbled and unreadable. In short: they'll have no idea what you are doing.

There are applications for Mac that supposedly create tunnels but they are hopelessly devoid of any form of documentation and from what I can tell, they are largely special-use tunnels for single apps.

As it was pointed out on paulstamatiou.com, all that you need to dig a tunnel is already built into OS X.

I found his method a little unsatisfying in the way that once the tunnel is open it provides you with...silence. There is no status to let you know that your tunnel is working. In reading the man file I've modified it a bit so that you can have a window that not only allows you to create your tunnel, but also gives you a realtime "pulse" for your tunnel.

In order to create a tunnel you will want to make sure you have two things:


  1. A Mac running OS X

  2. A computer to log into that is running any flavor of Unix or Linux with a static IP address. For my example I am going to create a tunnel between my MacBook Pro laptop and my Mac Pro desktop at home

Here is the walk-through:


First, to prepare the Mac Pro go into the System Preferences -> Sharing and turn on "Remote Login"
remote-login.gif

Next, on the MacBook Pro, open up a terminal window. This will start you out in your home directory. We're going to create a script that you can launch quickly whenever you need a tunnel. Type:

pico tunnel-home

This will create a text document that we'll put our script in to create a tunnel to our computer. Add this to the file:

#!/bin/sh

ssh -D 8080 -f -C -v -N yourname@YourIPaddressOrYourDomain.com

Hit Control-o to save the file. Then click Control-x to close pico.

to run your script type this into the terminal:

sh tunnel-home

...and hit return. This will fire up your tunnel. Since you chose "verbose" mode (-v) it will return results for every command your computer sends through the tunnel. With your display colors set correctly this is the part where you confound your friends by showing them that the matrix does exist, and that you are running it on your computer.

matrix.gif

Now there is one more step left, and that is to set your MacBook Pro to USE the tunnel we've opened up. In your System Preferences -> Network under "Location" choose "Duplicate Location" and name it the same thing with "Tunnel" at the end for easy reference.

Select this new network and choose the Advanced button...
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Then choose the "Proxies" tab, check the "SOCKS Proxy" box, enter in "localhost" under SOCKS proxy server and "8080" after the colon. Basically this tells your computer to funnel ALL network requests through your tunnel which is running on your machine (localhost) through port 8080 (an alternative http port).

socks.gif

Click OK, make sure your new network is selected and click "Apply". Everything on your computer should be happening through your tunnel.

To test to see if this is working you can visit http://www.whatismyipaddress.com. It should give you the IP address of your REMOTE computer instead of your local network address.

Happy surfing.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 1, 2009 | Comments (4)

Using Your Treo 755p as a modem on Mac OS X with Sprint PCS is silly easy

Look, I know that anyone caught walking around with a Palm/sprint phone today looks like a dinosaur but when you're on the road or when your cable internet flakes (and it will) you just can't beat USB Modem and a Treo or Centro on Sprint.

Gizmodo themselves have confirmed the speed and just look at how easy the setup is:

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After installing USB Modem, activating it, and plugging your phone into your Mac go to your System Preferences and your computer will see the new modem right away.

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2-phone#.gif
Enter #777 (there are instructions with the USB Modem software to use with other service providers)

3-advanced.gif
Identify your vendor and model...

4-additional-settings.gif
Change a few advanced settings (optional)...

5-success.gif
Success!

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on January 13, 2009 | Comments (0)

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