Monthly Archives: September 2013

Raspberry Pi and download automation

OK, so I’ve had a Raspberry Pi Model 2 for a while. I installed Raspbian Wheezy on it when i first got it and played for a bit. Neat device, but I had no “real-world” application for using it.

Since last year, I’ve been getting closer and closer to cutting my cable TV out since I can get 90% of what I want to watch via Netflix, Hulu or torrents. I’ve been researching ways that I could locate most of what the wife and kid watch on cable via streaming or downloading and how I could automate the process so that they could just sit down and have what they wanted to watch available to them. Right now, when i download shows/movies I have to manually push them to the AppleTV so that they can be watched by them.

I usually watch stuff on my phone or Nexus so I don’t mind the process of copying the media to my devices or streaming it. The wife and kid like the ability to just turn on the TV and just consume. I also tend to download the TV shows that I watch and keep them for a while in case I want to watch them again in the future. Most of the shows that my wife watches are throwaways, meaning that chances are the shows will get watched and then discarded or maybe re-watched if there’s nothing on standard programming.  My daughter is hooked on old family shows and cartoons, which I’ve either ripped from DVD or streamed.

I thought a bit about what I wanted to do for this.  I have some RSS feeds that I monitor to get the TV shows that I like and watch regularly so the automation piece was a no brainer.  RSS all the way.  I’ve also been having issues with Utorrent crashing.  I run that system pretty much headless, so it becomes a problem when I don’t check on it regularly.

My requirements were pretty basic:

  • automation – I wanted the system to automatically download the shows I tell it to and sort them to folders as TV Show -> Season which is mapped as a source for XBMC on the AppleTV in the living room.
  • transparency – The system had to be pretty much maintenance free once it’s up and running.  I wanted to avoid having to constantly tweak and move files manually.
  • Low power consumption and noise – I was planning on putting this system into our entertainment center cabinet, so it had to be quiet and not jack up my power bill running a full PC rig.  An added benefit would be if the system was unobtrusive so it didn’t look too out of place if I couldn’t tuck it back into a corner and hide it.

Based on this, I started looking at using my Pi as the device.  There are a few distros that run Linux under the hood with an XBMC gui.  I figured that this might be the best solution, but after tinkering with it for a bit in testing, this is not the solution for me.  I have multiple media player devices and the AppleTV is already set up and in use in the living room.  I had hacked it when I first got it so that I could play non-apple media, add additional storage and other fun hacker-ish things.  I’ve not been disappointed.  XBMC on it is responsive and i’m able to map shared drives with no serious issues.

I started building the Pi with Xbian and installed Deluge and Flexget.  Seemed to be working pretty well.  Now to test out some automation.  A little stumbling with creating the config files for Flexget to do what I wanted, but ironed those out and set it up to download a few shows and see how it went.  Everything seemed to be going well, but after a few days, i found I couldn’t connect to Deluge with the thinclient from my Mac.  Tried restarting deluge as root to no avail.  Rebooted Pi and it started working again.  Let it run for a few more days and it happened again.   So, back to the drawing board.  The more I thought about what I wanted, i decided to pursue getting the Pi set up as a Linux desktop that would be a torrent downloader and NAS.

 

Update:  The Pi has been running as a torrent/NAS machine for the last few weeks without any major issues.

Gurkha cigars

I picked up a couple of sampler packs of Gurkha that were on special from Cigars International.

4 x Gurkha Centurian Double Perfecto (6″ x 60)
4 x Gurkha Warlord (6.75″ x 60)
4 x Gurkha Beast (6.5″ x 56)
4 x Gurkha Vintage Shaggy Gran Rothschild (6.5″ x 55)
4 x Gurkha Beauty (6.5″ x 56)
20 total cigars for around $40….not a bad deal considering that most of the Gurkha’s I’ve seen are anywhere from $7-10 a stick.

I’ve had the Centurion, the vintage Shaggy and the Beauty so far.

  • Centurion Double Perfecto – It was a decent smoke. Interesting shape. I’ve never smoked a Perfecto cigar before so that was a new experience for me. A little hard to get an even burn at first, but once it got past the taper at the head, it started burning a lot more evenly. Good flavor throughout, and it got a little more intense in the last third. Kinda spicy and a little earthy towards the end. Definitely going to enjoy going through the rest of those. At close to $10 a stick, i’ll be keeping on the lookout for these when heavily discounted or in sampler packs though.
  • Beauty – Not initially all that impressed, but it was a decent smoke. I’ve grown fond of medium to full bodied cigars of late and this was more on the milder side. The construction was pretty solid, although the draw was a bit tight until about the middle third. Good taste, but not much smoke volume. It did get to be a lot tastier in the last third however with more spice and woodiness coming out on the finish. At $12 a stick at most retailers, i’ll pass these up unless the price is ALOT lower.
  • Vintage Shaggy Gran Rothschild – This was a great smoke. Not a very pretty cigar as the head is unwrapped for about a half inch to 3/4 inch showing the binder and filler leaves. Toasted up very quickly and lit very well. Good smoke volume and excellent taste from start to finish. Construction was a little off in the last third as it started to come apart in the very last third, so that was kind of annoying, but it had a nice finish and pretty decent smoke volume. Not a horrible price at $7-8 a stick, but definitely not going to be buying these in singles.

Tonight, I’m trying out the Warlord. Nicaraguan filler, Connecticut binder and oily Nicaraguan wrapper. Very smooth draw and even burn. Good strength on this one too, definitely a little more punch to it than the others I’ve tried so far. These would definitely be one of my go-to sticks, but at roughly $6 per stick, they will have to be reserved for the occasional treat.

Cutting the cable cord…

For the last few years, i’ve been downloading and streaming approximately 90% of the tv that i use to watch via DVR or live. As technology has progressed, i’ve been moving closer and closer to completely eliminating my TV service altogether since the rates have been steadily increasing. This is especially frustrating as i’ve been a customer of my local telecom for the last 10+ years and can’t seem to get a good rate yet someone moving into the area can get the same service i do, but at a third of the price.

I’ve had numerous media players through the years (AppleTV 1st gen, Roku, Raspberry Pi, DVD/BluRay player that can play avi/divx/mp4, etc) and the only one that i’ve consistently come back to time and again is the AppleTV.

I’ve been able to hack it to play non-apple approved content, add an external USB drive to increase storage capacity, ssh into it and install various extra plugins.

The system is awesome and very intuitive for my young daughter and wife to use.

The main obstacle to me cutting the cable cord altogether is the wife and kid. They want to be able to watch live tv or at least watch programs on live tv when they want. I’m still planning on maintaining my internet service through my current provider which should allow me to get the very basic cable tv channels.

I have found a site that i think i’m going to model my set up after… Colin Waddell’s AppleTV Guide

it appears that he’s using transmission on the appletv to dl content via torrents and SABNZB to dl content from usenet, all on the appletv. gonna have to read up on this stuff and figure out how i can apply some of this to my home set up.

UPDATE:  Transmission isn’t suitable for my needs unfortunately, but I’ve gone the route of a home linux server and it seems to be working perfectly.