Categories
Gadgets

Setting Up Raspberry Pi As A Media Centre Device

In my last post, we looked into setting up the Raspberry Pi in general, and what that entails.

This article is gonna focus on setting it up as a Media Centre device.

I have lots of media (Music, Movies, TV Series, etc.) on my laptop and I’ve always wanted a stress free way to have that content available to me on all my devices, be it on my TV, iPad or Phone.

The perfect solution for this came in the form of Plex Media Server.

Plex Media Server

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Plex Media Server is a free (but closed source) Media server application that indexes and organizes all kinds of media from Music to TV shows, Movies, Anime, etc. It also downloads Album art, Show banners and other metadata, even down to TV Show theme music. Plex media server is very easy to setup and is available to install on all major OSes.

I run Ubuntu on my laptop, so naturally, that’s where I installed my Plex Media server instance. After installation, Plex Media server runs as a background service which autostarts on booting the system. It has a web UI (pictured above) for managing your media collection. Its all really straightforward and easy to follow. I did have a little issue where some of my media wasn’t being recognized, but after changing file permissions, I was able to fix that.

The initial indexing of my vast media collection took a while and at the end, about 1gb of data, but it was definitely worth it. Once I had plex setup as a media server on my laptop, I could then move on to setting it up on the Raspberry Pi.

RasPlex

RasPlexPlex doesn’t have an official Home Theatre app for the Raspberry pi (or Linux), even though they have one for iOS, Android, Windows and OSX.

Some fine folks over at RasPlex have fixed this though, by creating RasPlex which is based on OpenELEC, which is in turn based on XBMC, which the original Plex Home Theatre app is based on. So, they are all more or less the same. :D.

Installing RasPlex on the Raspberry Pi has been made quite easy by the RasPlex team. There are installers available for Windows, OSX and Linux. Once the Installers are downloaded, they can be used to download the latest version of RasPlex, and also flash it to a compatible 8gb SD card. Pop that SD card into the Raspberry Pi’s slot and voila!, you have a working install of RasPlex.

As long as your Raspberry Pi is connected to the same network as your Plex media server, RasPlex should detect your media collection and allow you to play media directly on your TV.

Issues

I ran into a major issue after setting up RasPlex on the Raspberry Pi. Although it worked just fine on the big TV in the sitting room while connected via HDMI, it refused to display a thing when connected via composite video to the smaller TV in the room. After a bit of googling, I discovered that RasPlex is configured to use HDMI only by default. I guess the developers assumed nobody would be using TVs without HDMI input in 2013. Thankfully, there’s a workaround and it only involves editing a text file. I did have to do the edit on a windows machine though (something to do with those pesky file ownership and permissions issue), but apart from that hickup, it was a quick fix.

Once that was done, the RasPlex displayed properly on the TV and once I got a “3.5mm audio jack to composite audio converter cable”, I could also get audio into the TV.

OpenELEC

Openelec

OpenELEC is another Media Centre platform available on the Pi. RasPlex is built on OpenELEC, as evidenced by the OpenELEC splash screen that comes up when booting RasPlex.

However, if you want something as close to running generic XBMC on your Raspberry Pi, OpenELEC is the way to go.

Installing OpenELEC, like most installations on the Raspberry Pi is as easy as flashing the image unto a memory card. There are instructions on how to do this for each platform on the OpenELEC wiki. I did this on my trusty Ubuntu laptop and it worked perfectly.

Booting up OpenELEC on the Pi takes you to a generic XBMC UI. Its clean and uncluttered.

My preferred solution, of the two, is RasPlex.

Controlling your Media Centre

Although the Raspberry Pi supports both USB Mouse and Keyboard, these are not ideal when dealing with a Media Centre platform. One would not like to get up to the TV in order to change the media playing.

Thankfully, this is remedied by a host of Remote applications available for both iOS and Android.

For RasPlex, my favourite remote app is simply called “Plex Remote”. Its a free app in the play store, and so long as your android device is connected to the same network as the Raspberry Pi, it detects your RasPlex instance immediately and allows you to control its UI and launch your media.

For OpenELEC, any plain old XBMC remote would work. There are several of them on the Play store, but I haven’t tried out any since I did not decide on using OpenELEC in the long run, so I can’t recommend one.

Miscellaneous

The solution above allowed me to elegantly stream my media collection from my laptop acting as the server the Raspberry Pi connected to my TV. However, at other times, I might want to stream the same content to my phone or tablet instead.

Plex has awesome applications for both iOS and Android that do just that. Both applications cost $4.99 on their individual stores. They automatically connect to the Plex server and allow you to stream your content directly to your device.

The centralized nature of the media ensures that you can do cool things like marking videos as “watched”, filtering videos by genre, and even resuming from your last position across all devices.

So, I can start watching a movie on my phone, and later on, go over to the TV and continue from exactly where I stopped the last time.

Plex Media server uses Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) to stream media across devices. Therefore, if for some reason, you don’t have $4.99 to give the Plex developers, you use one of the free UPnP applications available on android. I can confirm that BubbleUPnP does recognize the Plex server and allows you to play your media, but you do lose some of the cooler features such as the resume feature highlighted above.

Its nice to be able to setup your home media centre using the Raspberry Pi, and stream your content from a central server to multiple devices. However, sometimes, your media might be on your phone or tablet. One might not be inclined to first copy it to your server, index it, and then stream it.

Luckily, there are ways to stream content directly from your phone or tablet to your Raspberry Pi powered TV, and we will explore that in the next post!.

Categories
Lifestyle

The Fall Of The Family

There was a time when the rearing of our children was an act to be envied. It took the whole community, neighbourhood and the world at large.

If I misbehaved in school and had the misfortune of being flogged or given a dirty slap by a teacher; the incident had better not get back to my parents, especially dad! Dad viewed the punishment meted out as a slight to his parenting and oh, boy did I pray for heaven at such times!
Where I lived was demarcated by trees; we had no walls. This art of living fostered good neighbourliness. That wasn’t all; I was surrounded by at least four other mothers! Woe betide me if I was rude, lazy, disobedient or stubborn; the report didn’t have to get to my mother; either one of the four “mothers” would deal summarily with me!

Those were days of the smell of fresh bread baking, vanilla infused cakes or chocolate cookies permeating the air and our lunch boxes waiting to have them lovingly laid. During lunchtime, depending on the setting, we would (siblings and neighbours kids) sit down together to laugh, eat and even fight.

In as much as our parents were career oriented they had time to discipline. They did it so well most especially my mother. I would whisper to a relative or two my plans of escaping from this woman who obviously was not my mother. She would wake us up at 5.30am to sweep the expansive compound we lived on. Note, it had been swept neat by the gardener the previous day. I made my first “meal” eight. I was however, reprimanded for the match stick that ended up in my father’s mouth! Hey, it was my first attempt.

Birthday parties were a treat! We got to wear our Sunday best; those ballerina like dresses with lovely sashes as belts, complete with lace ruffled socks. The party songs were mainly nursery rhymes or just children sing-along songs.

Now fast forward to what we have these days. If your neighbour (in this sense, it just means someone who lives next door strictly), makes the mistake of trying to correct or reprimand your child; all hell will break loose; the teacher will get a beating from Daddy the Bull in front of the students, party times are mini clubs for kids-trashy inappropriate dressing; especially the girls at that young age, hairstyles that encourage early balding and was a torturous period for the girl, adult music danced to in such sexually suggestive ways it will shame your attempts! These parties have become self serving as it is all about the parents and their cronies. The financial lengths parents go to throw a “one in a kind” party, is embarrassing. The househelp/nanny/housemistress/housegirl/maid that during my time, took instructions from mummy and served mummy, now not only has Madam, but her brood as well to work for and take instructions from. Kai!

Portrait of Happy Family In ParkThe moral fibre of any society is foisted on the woman. Don’t argue. That is how nature determined it – the man is expected and required to fend for his family, he will spend long hours away from the home trying to create a comfortable life for his family. On the other hand, the woman being the vessel and the nurturer is expected and now more than ever to stay at home and nurture the children up till when they have wings to leave the coop. While some will argue that it sounds idealistic, others will fume stating equal rights and the emancipation of the woman, others will demand that a woman has dreams, desires and aspirations to fulfil; last but not least, this last group will question which part of the world I live in!! because as sure as hell, if I lived in Africa, no one has to tell me the issues the average woman faces.

Mummy is working equal hours as dad, so the kids are left with the nannies that need schooling and coaching too; the nannies are furnished with a tv, watching nothing except Africa Magic and Channel O. The kids are given everything they ask for and are not supervised: they can’t be-mum at work! When she does, she’s so tired she doesn’t have the mental presence to deal effectively with her kids. Anti-social behaviour is developed; their friends are their teachers and source of inspiration. TV and social network platforms are their mantra. Once the monster is formed and unleashed we blame everything and everyone (God included) except ourselves. Sexual promiscuity, permissiveness and perversion, abuse of drugs (remember the Codeine phase), smoking,(as if it is cool to have the stale smell of tobacco on your breath, hands and body), binge drinking(alcoholism), laziness, total bankrupt moral code(just look to the schools-cheating, bribing teachers, colleagues to pass exams), stealing, drug addiction(visit rehab centre Yaba, they have a waiting list), terrorism has recently been added. You will be shocked to know how early our kids are engaged in these acts.

We are wondering what happened to our families. This is what happened. We copied the West and got an aberration. Ok partly. We abdicated our responsibilities because we have to make ends meet. Then employed a retinue of servants do to everything-cook, clean, and rear the kids! Wondering, why that sounds familiar.

Don’t get me wrong-it is okay to get help to carry out the cooking and cleaning but not when it becomes the primary responsibility of the hired hand. It is the reality of our society. I hate it when I see an 8 or 9 year old (a baby) brought to take care of another baby!

When I see a woman driving on the sidewalk with three kids inside, I wonder what else she is planning to teach them; since she has just taught them impatience, shunting, indiscipline and breaking the law!!!

Rearing a human being to become a valuable contributing member of society that can function as an individual is one of the toughest jobs in the world with no magic formula. It is also one of the most rewarding. However, with everything in life there are basic steps adhered to that puts you are on the path to achieving a positive result. There are some individuals, for lack of a better word to use; I would say are destined to fall by the way side no matter your best efforts.

When a stay at home mother states that she is; she is viewed with pity; when you take your next leave please be a full time stay at home mom-don’t cheat. Let’s know if they are to be pitied or given a thumbs-up.

Career and businesswomen or a woman working to help support the husband have to know when to start, stop, and continue. Find a balance; simply put. Below I have written a few simple pointers: im no expert but they came to mind.

Cultivate a healthy respectable relationship with your child. I’m not talking about the Oyibo (white man) kind of parent-child relationship where the child ends up calling parent by name and putting themselves on the same pedestal as you. Know their friends and their parents. Interact with them, teach them to honour, respect themselves, their bodies and other people and their bodies. It is very important. Know where to draw the line with material acquisitions for them. Look, X’s father can buy the whole of the world for him but does that mean you should?? Must they have cell phones at 9? An Ipad at 11, designer clothes from babyhood to the point the kids even know?? Tvs in their room complete with cable tv, must have summers. Did you have all these things at the incubation of your life? They have everything and don’t know the value of anything. When they grow up they expect that life will hand them everything on the same gold platter!! Alas, they are in for a rude awakening! There is a time for everything.

Teach them the value of hard, honest work.

Build their self confidence and esteem. Let them know it is okay to be different. Try and spend at least one hour of quality time with them (one on one) everyday. This calls for major adjustment and sacrifice but the reward is eternal.

Spare the rod and spoil the child still rings true. I have told you; no listen to Oyibo o. See what has become of their youth!! And it is gradually happening to ours. The key is moderation, timing and creativity in discipline. I hated mum’s wooden spoon on my knuckles which was reserved for the gravest of offences.

Mums, sorry but we will need to make that sacrifice. Society and even religion blames the mother for a wayward child but praises the father for a good child!!! Not fair in my opinion, but it goes back to the roles nature has apportioned to us. You must learn to love both the good of the child and the bad! That’s the only way you will gain the confidence of your child. After all don’t you make mistakes? Affirm, encourage, support, listen, seek to understand, be firm and consistent in discipline. Also have a common front with your spouse/partner during discipline and decision taking.

Pray for and with your children.

Categories
Gadgets

3D TV Is Dead

At CES 2012, you couldn’t avoid 3D TVs, ugly polarizing goggles, and—because the viewer at home can not take part in the awesomeness that is 3D—those awful, so-realit’s-bursting-from-the-screen posters. At IFA 2012, the big midyear consumer electronics event in Berlin, it was clear that 3D TV was on its way out. Today, in the wake of CES 2013, 3D TV is dead.

Sure, there was still some 3D tech on display at CES if you looked for it, but the emphasis has now shifted to high-resolution 4K displays, OLED, image quality, and “smart” functionality. In short, Sony, Samsung, LG, Toshiba, and Panasonic have now decided to focus on actually improving their television technology. After three years of those companies pushing and peddling 3D TVs that are virtually devoid of any actual technological innovation, this is rather refreshing.

To the objective, cynical observer, 3D TV has always come across as a fad fabricated by TV makers and Hollywood to sell more TVs and Blu-ray discs. With box office receipts and DVD sales flagging, and LCD-based HDTVs reaching the saturation point, TV makers and Hollywood (understandably) decided that something had to change. And 3D was the perfect choice: It’s incredibly low-tech, but also a very strong differentiator. It took almost no effort on behalf of TV makers and production companies to make the jump to 3D, and yet consumers were forced to buy expensive, new TVs to enjoy the content—or, if you couldn’t afford a 3D TV, you finally had a reason to go to the movie theater.

Then there was the problem of actually convincing consumers that they wanted 3D content, that 3D content was inherently better than 2D, and that it was worth spending $1,500 on a new TV set. What followed was a massive marketing push, a lot of sexy 3D TVs, a slew of 3D movies (including re-releases of blockbusters such as Titanic), and the emergence of 3D TV channels. Despite all that, the growth of 3D TV has been slow. Most estimates peg it at just 20 to 30 percent market penetration as of the end of 2012—and there’s no telling whether those TVs are being used for 3D, or if they were purchased due to feature creep and/or consumer ignorance.

With Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and LG barely mentioning 3D TVs at CES, it would seem that the fad is finally over. This isn’t to say that 3D TV won’t stagger onward for a little longer—but it’s certainly lost its place as the next big thing. Whereas its predecessor, HDTV, took the world by storm, 3D simply failed to gain traction. It will now be replaced by 4K, 8K, OLED, and other technologies that actually push the envelope of content creation and consumption.

3D TV

Hollywood, being the ancient, bureaucratic, litigious behemoth it is, moves a lot slower than the technology industry.

It will be interesting to see how Hollywood reacts to this shift. Hollywood, being the ancient, bureaucratic, litigious behemoth that it is, moves a lot slower than the technology industry; now that it’s on the 3D bandwagon, it won’t quickly jump off again. This could be an issue because, though theater intake still accounts for a large proportion of the movie industry’s revenue, it makes little sense to create 3D movies if there’s no TV at home capable of playing them.

One thing that might save 3D TV is that the tech will eventually become a commodity—3D will be just another bullet point on the box. In that case, it won’t really matter what format a TV show, movie, or game comes in, as long as you don’t mind wearing 3D glasses. Or, perhaps, the future of 3D TV lies in glasses-free 3D: Philips recently showed off a 60-inch 4K TV that can apparently display 3D visuals to up to ten people, without glasses.

In other domains, too, 3D is still finding its feet. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of 3D smartphones or monitors, and technologies such as Nvidia’s 3D Vision. It will also be interesting to see how the upcoming class of game consoles pan out, as their specifications were probably hammered out in 2012, during 3D’s (fabricated) heyday. With the current emphasis on controller-free, movement-based input, the addition of a third dimension makes a little more sense. It is possible that 3D TV could be saved by next-generation consoles and glasses-free 3D, almost as a collateral afterthought, but it’s unlikely.

In the short term, however, 3D TV has lost its steam—assuming it had any in the first place.

In the short term, however, 3D TV has lost its steam—assuming it had any in the first place. Given the inherent inadequacies of glasses-on 3D—poor viewing angles, awful color and contrast, nausea and headaches—I don’t think this should really come as a surprise to anyone. It was only a matter of time until we woke up and realized that 3D TV was never more than faux innovation, foisted upon the ignorant masses in a cheap attempt to boost revenues.

Source : PCMAG

Categories
Entertainment Gadgets

One-For-All Universal Remote Controllers

The big screen remote controller was the first to give up the ghost, followed closely by that of the home theatre. Both are LG brands and are out of warranty.

For six months after that, i had to leave the comfort of my couch to operate these appliances. It was not much fun.

Eventually, i decided to pick up a replacement remote controller at the nearby mall. The Game store in The Palms mall, Lekki (Nigeria) usually stock most of these accessories and i was not disappointed.

I had never heard of the brand, “One for All“, but i was particularly attracted to this particular universal remote controller on display, thanks to its attractive packaging and design. It is very stylishly built and oozed of quality but a bit pricey at about N7,300 (US$45).

It is indeed a very good product for the price you pay. The fit and feel of this remote is very nice. Expectedly, it was not South African made like a lot of products in that store, it was made in The Netherlands.

Christened “SmartControl” – it is a remote controller that promises to be easy to set up, easy to use and with a bunch of simple macros that let you complete Herculean tasks like switching on your TV, Blu-ray player and home cinema system at the touch of a single button.

Setting it up was not particularly a breeze but eventually i got it done – controlling my DSTV cable decoder, TV and HiFI from a single remote. The controller has 6 configurable buttons to control a total of 6 devices, however, you have a ton of Manufacturers and models of  appliances to choose from. I would be very shocked if there is a single device that can not be controlled with this device so long as it is a Television, Cable Decoder, DVD Player, MP3 Player, Amplifiers or Game controller.

The downside of this device is that it does not come with any batteries bundled with it and sometimes, programming it can be a pain but that can happen with any programmable remote with such a setup.

SmartControl

Categories
Articles Entertainment Gadgets Mobile

Set Up Your Own Home Theater

In this era of digital video and music downloads, most are restricted to consuming these forms of entertainment by being glued to their mobile devices. Not very convenient, at least for me.

The LG brand of electronics is quite popular in Nigeria and its home theater receiver does a good job in playing back these media files. However, it suffers a major limitation of supporting very few media file formats. Probably equally worrisome is the fact that it does not recognize any hard disk not formatted in FAT32 format.

Welcome to the future, the world of Home Theatre PCs (HTPC).

I love messing with installations and settings, connecting whatever gadget i have to big screen TVs, for the fun of it. However, dabbling into HTPC seems more of a neccessity now, than just some passing fancy. My spouse doesn’t share my enthusiasm though, content with watching her cable TV.

Anyway, I have set up a media center that satisfies my geek cravings and is actually easy-to-use for non-nerds too. Here’s what I pieced together:

Desktop / Laptop PC
Your existing modern laptop would do. However, i prefer to have a dedicated laptop just for Home Theatre viewing. i retrieved an old laptop dedicated just for this purpose. The laptop must have a HDMI port.

Choice of Operating System
For this purpose, about any Windows or Linux Distribution would do. For my setup, my choice is Linux OS and, in particular, Zorin OS. Linux Mint distribution is equally good. My choice was decided mainly because of the stability of the Linux OS and the tons of media codec available to my distributions of choice, straight out of the box.

Supported codecs include the following:
– Video Files: AVI, MKV, TS, TP, TRP, M2TS, M2T, MPG, MP4, M4V, MOV, VOB, ISO, IFO, DAT, WMV, ASF, RM, RMVB, FLV
– Video Codecs: H.264/AVC, VC-1(WMV9-HD), MPEG1/2/4, DivX, Xvid, RV8/9/10
– Audio Formats: MP3, OGG, WMA, WAV, AAC, FLAC, AC3, DTS, True-HD, DTS-MA/HR
– Subtitles: SRT, SMI, SUB, SSA, IDX+SUB
– Photo Files: JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIF, PNG

WIFI Router
While not very necessary, it is recommended you hook up your laptop to your existing LAN. This is the backbone your remote controller would ride on. If you do not have an existing router, i will recommend you go for the ones using 802.11n standard. I use a Belkin brand.

HDMI Cable
You will most likely not find these cables in your street corner electrical stores. Big stores like GAME in The Palms Shopping Mall, Lagos have it in stock.

Smartphone Phone or Tablet
These mobile devices would serve as your remote controller. I use an Android Tablet. You can use a Blackberry or an Apple device too.

Media Center Software
Most swear by XBMC software, and i agree with them. Another popular and equally free option is the Windows Media Center. This , however, is only available on Windows OS. Download it here, it is free.

XBMC Mobile Software
A number of softwares are available, especially on Android platform. I recommend none, you will need to try them out to see which best suits your particular device. There is an official software from XBMC, but it does not work well for me.

Setup Process

The setup process is adequately captured by appstorm.net, which i have reproduced below;

Setting It Up: The PC Side

Thankfully, setting up XMBC to accept controls from your Android is quick and painless and requires little to no knowledge of the software.

XBMC is very customisable through the use of different skins. Some of these skins can alter the position of certain settings, and so for this guide I am going to be using the default theme that comes with XBMC. So, if you’re eager to change your skin but you still don’t know your away around the software, it may be wise to stay on the default skin until after the tutorial.

XBMC’s default skin that you will be presented with upon first startup

We will begin the setup by heading into the “System” menu and selecting the “Network” option. You will than be presented with a screen with lots of settings eager to be edited. Luckily for us, we need to edit very little on this screen. For a start you need to ensure that “Allow Control of XBMC via HTTP” is turned on. The settings underneath (username, port, and so on) need some minor editing. For most people Port 80 is just fine and you shouldn’t run into any trouble with it. The username by default is “xbmc”; feel free to leave it as this as you will never use it again after the initial setup process.

What your Network settings should look like before editing

The same applies also to the password field; you won’t need it again after the initial setup. For security’s sake I just used a simple password, so feel free to do so as well.

Under these options you will see “Allow Programs on Other Systems to Control XBMC” This also has to be selected as Android is classed as an “Other System” by XMBC and so for the connection to be allowed this needs to be selected.

Your Network settings should look somewhat similar to this

Once you have completed all of the above steps you’re ready to move on to the Android side of things.

Setting Up Android

To control XBMC using your Android phone you will need the official XBMC Remote app which is available from the Google Play Store. Once it’s downloaded just start it up and we can begin configuring the Android app to find your HTPC and issue commands to it.

Once the app has finished downloading and has been installed go ahead and open it. First, you’re going to need to set it up so that it can recognize your XBMC setup and tell it what to do. Luckily, this is very simple and in most cases the app will do it with little or no tinkering required.

To begin, upon starting the app you will be presented with an error dialog informing you that you have no servers set. Just accept this warning. Another warning will accompany it almost immediately after, but again just ignore it.

The two error messages you will encounter

Next, press the ‘Menu’ key on your device to open up a set of options. There will be three options; select the middle one, ‘Host Wizard’. (If this does not work, you can easily change to manual setup but it’s definitely worth giving the wizard a try!) You will need to enter a few basic details of your media center such as its name, the IP or hostname of the PC, and the port (probably 8080). If you find that you are puzzled by any of these details, just open up your XBMC installation on your PC and navigate to Network Settings. Here all of your details are presented.

Once you have completed that, you have successfully set up XBMC to be controlled by your Android phone.

Exploring XBMC

XBMC on PC is a sight to behold, especially when it comes to customization. From inside the app you can select from a large selection of themes, each of which changes every single detail about the software. This level of customization will feel familiar to veteran Android themers.  At the moment I’m using the theme Xperience1080. It is strongly based off the Metro UI and Xbox and personally I find it a pleasure to use (and perfect practice for when Windows 8 is released!)

The Xperience1080 Theme

Add-ons are also very popular amongst the XBMC community. You can get add-ons that do everything from playing a particular TV show’s theme song when you hover over it to telling you when any given TV show is next airing.

So as you can see XBMC is a piece of software that has infinite possibilities! I hope you have fun playing around with it and you find some skins and add-ons that make the software and intuitive as possible for you.

Exploring the App

The ‘XBMC remote’ app contains a vast selection of features, so let’s take a look at some of its finest. The homescreen of the app is just a basic overview of what the app can do – tasks such as ‘Listen to your music’ and ‘Watch your TV shows’.

The main screen of XBMC remote and Watch TV view

The ‘Watch…’ options all contain a similar layout, and the layout is simply amazing. If you have covers configured on your XBMC setup they are all displayed on the app in an easy to use interface.

Overall it’s easy to see that this app is great and it definitely makes controlling XBMC a pleasure

Conclusion

If you’ve followed all of the instructions you should now have a beautiful and functional XBMC set. Now go ahead and search around for the latest skins and add-ons to enhance your experience even further! If you have any further questions just leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to provide a solution.

Categories
Entertainment

GoTV – Putting The Cart Before The Horse?

GOtvBy now, many would have heard about GoTV, the latest cable TV company in Nigeria and yet another subsidiary of Multichoice, the parent company of DSTV.

Multichoice is a South African company with a near monopoly of the Cable TV industry on the African continent. It has almost 5 million subscribers across the continent with Nigeria being the single country with the highest subscription.

DSTV’s business model can be summed up in this phrase, “No Mercy To Competition”.  They have been noted for muscling out all their competitors, no thanks to the huge resources at their disposal. And unfortunately, the Nigerian Government have not come out in anyway to legislate against their unwholesome practices.

Even though DSTV services is quite popular in Nigeria, it is on record that they have not been able to capture a significant percentage of the Nigerian populace. Excluding hardware fees and installation costs ,monthly subscription fees range from between N4,900 (US$30) to about N10,000 (US$60). Fees that are definitely out of the reach of most the 170 million residents of Nigeria.

A company came up and sought to fill this huge gap in this untapped market. This translated to a partnership between some Chinese entrepreneurs and Nigeria’s network station NTA. A company called Startimes was formed and offered cheap set top boxes and monthly subscription fees of about N1,000 (US$6).

Now, DSTV has decided to muscle out Startimes with its equally cheap cable packages, albeit with superior programming content.

However, in a bid to do this, they rolled out without their structure fully in place to cater for the yearnings of Lagos residents. Perhaps because of the high population density on Lagos mainland, their solution was to site their GoTV transmitters there, leaving the Island with poor reception. This has probably resulted in slow sales.

On inquiry from a sales lady on when a transmitter would be sited on Lagos Island, she replied “month end”. Let’s see how that plays out.

Well, we all know the Chinese for being masters at price wars. Let’s also see if they would fall to the South Africans’ monopolistic business antics.

Source

Categories
Hosting

What You Need to Know About SOPA

The Internet is in an uproar over the Stop Online Piracy Act. The battles lines are drawn. Big Media (the record labels, movie studios and TV networks) support the bill while Big Tech (search engines, open source platforms, social networks) oppose it. The bill, introduced to Congress by Representative Lamar Smith, is ostensibly supposed to give the Attorney General the ability to eliminate Internet piracy and to “protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. support of infringing sites.”

There is a lot that may be wrong with SOPA, but putting the power to censor the Internet into the hands of the government is chief among citizens’ concerns. The law would force Internet Service Providers and search engines to cut off access to infringing sites as well as give the government the ability to stop payment to those sites. How would SOPA work? What do you need to know about the bill? We take a deep dive into everything you need to know below.

How SOPA Would Work

SOPA (bill text) sets up a variety of ways for the U.S. government to block sites that are seen to be infringing on intellectual property. The bill is tailored towards the entertainment industry to protect movie studios, TV networks and record labels from having foreign websites illegally copying and distributing copyrighted works.

Along with the Protect IP Act of 2011, here are the ways the U.S. government can enforce the proposed laws.

1. Force ISPs to block access to Domain Name System servers to infringing foreign sites. Here is the pertinent portion of Section 102 of SOPA: A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address.

2. Force search providers to make such sites that have been flagged as infringing undiscoverable. Prevent the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order, or a portion of such site specified in the order, from being served as a direct hypertext link.

3. Force payments processors to shut down the ability for infringing sites to make money. Suspend its service from completing payment transactions involving customers located within the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and the payment account.

4. Force Internet advertisers to cease doing business with an infringing site. Prevent its service from providing advertisements to or relating to the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order or a portion of such site specified in the order.

Who would be affected by these mandates from the Attorney General? Foremost, Google. Items 2-4 would directly relate to properties owned or maintained by the search giant. Google is the largest search provider on the planet and has the largest Internet advertising business. It also acts in conjunction with payment processors for its Google Checkout application.

PayPal would also have to comply with notices to cease payments. As would VISA, MasterCard, American Express and other payment processors. Both Visa and MasterCard are on record for supporting SOPA.

Most of the ISPs are onboard with SOPA, including ComCast. That creates an interesting scenario as ComCast also owns NBC. If the power to block infringing sites is left with the ISPs, who is to tell them that they cannot block content that is perceived to be competing with its own?

Who Supports SOPA?

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee: Smith’s office wrote the bill and he is the primary sponsor. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the subcommittee on intellectual property, competition and the Internet of the House judiciary committee. Rep. Mel Watts, ranking member of the subcommittee on intellectual property, competition and the Internet of the House judiciary committee. Watts was the congressman that made the comments about not understanding how the Internet works. Rep. Howard Berman, member subcommittee on intellectual property, competition and the Internet of the House judiciary committee.

In addition to those four members of the House Judiciary, the Recording Industry Association of America, Most Picture Association of America, most of Hollywood and its various labor organizations (like the Directors Guild), support SOPA.

Gizmodo published the full list of companies that have signed on for support of SOPA. GoDaddy.com is a prominent name as it is a company with its fundamental nature tied to DNS. Prominent names include: Comcast, ABC, ESPN, CBS, Teamsters, Major League Baseball, Sony, Time Warner, Viacom and Warner Music.

Who Is Against SOPA?

Almost all of the major tech corporations are against SOPA. TechCrunch came up with a list of 40 companies that are opposing the bill and the companies that we would think would oppose it are present.

That includes:

Facebook, Google, eBay/PayPal, Foursquare, Kaspersky, Reddit, Mozilla, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo, Scribd, Quora, Github, Square, AOL.

In terms of politicos, the only major GOP presidential candidate to touch on the issue is Rep. Michelle Bachmann.

Here are the other major opponents: Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman on Oversight and Government reform and also on the House Judiciary Committee. He is the most prominent opponent and frequently tweets about SOPA/PIPA on his Twitter account. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, member House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, member subcommittee on intellectual property, competition and the Internet of the House judiciary committee. Rep. Jared Polis, the new “champion of the Internet.” Polis is the Judiciary Committee member who made several proposed changes to SOPA to make a court order necessary to take down a website. Rep. Mike Honda, aligned himself with Bachmann on SOPA and has been involved in technology legislation for more than a decade.

The top four representatives listed were the individuals responsible for the markups in the SOPA bill that brought two days of debate to the committee. Essentially, the proposed amendments acted as a filibuster (an intentional delay of vote caused by prolonged political debate) that caused the Judiciary Committee to postpone the debate until the next Congressional session.

Prominent think tank, The Heritage Foundation has come out against SOPA. This is significant as it has deep ties to the GOP and most of the representatives pushing for SOPA are Republicans.

What Are The Next Steps?

SOPA needs to make it out of the Congressional committee. This is likely to happen, according to Government 2.0 correspondent Alex Howard of O’Reilly Media (and sometimes ReadWriteWeb contributor). The next step will be on the House floor where all it needs is majority to make it through to the Senate. That will likely take until the middle of the spring and will give people a chance to complain to their Senators about the bill.

The key for SOPA will be to see if the Senate passes it with a 60-40 majority. If the Senate does pass SOPA by a two-thirds majority (67 votes), President Obama cannot veto the bill, which he would likely do in an election year where much of his campaign will be Internet focused.

PIPA comes up for debate on the Senate floor on the first day of the 2012 session, January 24th. The battle lines for PIPA will determine much of what subsequently happens to SOPA. Senator Harry Reid is going to introduce the bill to the Senate. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has promised to block it and filibuster the bill when it reaches debate.

Who & What To Watch

The reaction of the major tech companies. As Howard points out, Google, Facebook and Wikipedia have not put any messages against SOPA on their homepages. As three of the top 10 websites in the world, that message would reach nearly 100% of all Internet users. On the other hand, there are the major networks. All of the TV networks are supporters of the bill. How will they choose to cover the bill? Will they give it the same due diligence as other bills?

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Categories
Humor Lifestyle

Help Desk [Joke]

Just a nice little story to remember and think of when you think that your computer hates you!

This is a story from the Word Perfect Helpline which was transcribed from a recording monitoring the customer care department.

Needless to say the HelpDesk employee was fired; however, he is currently suing the WordPerfect organization for “Termination without Cause”.

Actual dialogue of a former WordPerfect Customer Support employee (now I know why they record these conversations).

“Ridge Hall computer assistance; may I help you?”

“Yes, well, I’m having trouble with WordPerfect.”

“What sort of trouble?”

“Well I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away”.

“Went away?”

“They disappeared.”

“Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“It’s blank; it won’t accept anything when I type.”

“Are you still in WordPerfect or did you get out?”

“Howdo I tell?”

“Can you see the C:prompt on the screen?”

“What’s a sea-prompt?”

“Never mind. Can you move your cursor around the screen?”

“There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type”.

“Does your monitor have a power indicator?”

“What’s a monitor?”

“It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it’s on?”

“I don’t know?”

“Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?”

“Yes, I think so”.

“Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into the wall.”

“Yes it is”

“When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?”

“No.”

“Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.”

“Okay, here it is.”

“Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back of your computer”.

“I can’t reach it.”

“Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?”

“No.”

“Even if you maybe put your knee on something and Lean way over?”

“Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle It’s because it’s dark.”

“Dark?”

“Yes the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.”

“Well, turn on the office light then.”

“I can’t.”

“No? Why not?”

“Because there’s a power failure.”

“A power…. A power failure? Aha, Okay, we’ve got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?”

“Well, yes I keep them in the closet.”

“Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.”

“Really? Is it that bad?”

“Yes, I’m afraid it is.”

“Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?”

“TELL THEM YOU ARE TOO FUCKING STUPID TO OWN A COMPUTER.”

– Posted using BlogPress

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

iPad App Review – Zinio

A new month comes with excitement and, usually, with a lot of expectations. Expectations of a better tomorrow, a tonic that keeps most of us going.

A new month also brings with it a flood of new magazine subscriptions, something i passionately look forward to. Thanks to the iPad Zinio app, i get all my magazines delivered to me straight to my iPad.

The Zinio app ($0.00) is one of the “must-have” apps available on the IOS (Apple), Android and the PC platforms. The app gives you access to about all the major magazines in the world at a much cheaper price than the print edition. But most importantly, it affords you the oppurtunity to have ALL your magazine subscriptions with you at all times, with no fear of accumulating a pile of paper. Isn’t that what they call going GREEN? I have been a subscriber since 2007 and Zinio showed their appreciation by sending a $5 coupon sometime in 2010. Yeah, it is small but you would be surprised that it is enough to pay for a year’s subscription of a few magazine titles. Unfortunately, i am yet to come across any Nigerian magazine subscription on Zinio and i strongly doubt if there is any.

My subscriptions include PCWorld, iPhoneLife, Readers’ Digest, Computer Active, Elle (Not for me, for the wifey!), PC Magazine and a bunch of single editions, mostly tech, magazines. I kind of stay away from the News and Financial magazines (Time, Business Week, etc), i get enough of those watching cable TV and reading news feeds.


The layout of magazines on the iPad is quite, should i say, interesting and kind of expose you to a much better magazine reading experience. Download size of a single magazine is usually in excess of 10MB with some magazines having download size much more than that. This can be a bit of a problem in Nigeria where internet speed is usually pathetic at best, however, you can start reading immediately while the magazine is being downloaded and once completely downloaded, the magazine is available to you offline and you have an option to sync it with iTunes on your PC. Yet another feature available in some magazines, like PCWorld, is the ability to transform an article to text format for easier reading and sharing. This feature is known as “Page to Text”. Some magazines even have video and audio content.

The October 2011 edition of PCWorld is out. As usual, i would be sharing some articles of interest on this blog. You can subscribe to our news feeds here to be notified of new posts.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Categories
Entertainment Humor

Miska Muska Mickeyyyy Mouse !!!

It has become something of a routine and it was that time of the month again this morning.

“Wale, the DSTv subscription would be due tomorrow …”
I kept quiet.
“Daddy, mama said  …”
“I have heard !”cutting off my 5 year old son
“Okay, so how much are you contributing this time”, addressing my wife.
“I don’t have any money”
I kept quiet.

You see, in an average African family, the man is regarded as the breadwinner and he is expected to foot, at least, most of the bills. Expectedly, with this responsibility comes some deference and preferential treatment in the home. Like you get to eat the biggest pieces of meat in the pot (yeah, we are still carnivores here), you get to have a final word on some (emphasis on Some, not all) issues, you do not have to do any house hold chores, ..

But one thing that has always bothered me is the Cable TV (DSTV) remote control. Who does the TV remote belong to? I do not think it is out of place for the man to own the remote, afterall he pays for it. Unfortunately, the reality is far from that. In my home, over time, i have been relegated to my man cave, with absolutely no claim to the TV remote. So much for “paying the piper and dictating the tune” you would say! But, really, i kind of think i am not alone in this. Why should we men continue to pay for what we do not enjoy?!

Three camps have been formed;

Camp 1 – The Wifey : Preference for E! Entertainment and any of those gossip channels, with a dose of the crime channels. Ummh. 😡
Camp 2 – The Boys : Cartoon channels, with preference for the one with blinding loud colours, Disney Junior Channel. Even my 16 month old son is already into Mickey Mouse; Miska Muska Mickeyyyy Mouse!!! Aaaaargghhhh!!!!
Camp 3 – Yours Truly : News & documentary channels. And no, i don’t do sports!

The few times i have put my foot down and insisted on watching my channels, it is usually with much discomfort. My kids have a way of making you feel very guilty. Within minutes, i hand back the remote and retire to the safety of my man cave. If only i had enough money for one of those dual channel subscriptions. 🙁

Oh well, i guess the battle is for another day. Where is my bank card?