From the World of Richard


Well by now I am sure that everyone has heard that the Plex forums have been hacked and that Plex sent out a notification to change your passwords. Interestingly enough, Plex did not just send out a notice, but included a link that you could click on that would take you directly to the spot where you could change your password. How nice of them!

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Of course, being the totally untrusting sort that I am, I totally disregarded the link in this email. My thought was – “Really, your going to send me a link that takes me directly to a password screen allowing me to change my password without first determining who I am by asking me my current password?” I did click on the link (after launching virtualbox and my sandbox protected OS) and it did, in fact, take me directly to a screen where I could seemingly change my password. No request was made to identify myself. So I decided that I would play it safe and login via the normal interface and change my password.

I did just that. I logged in (despite the notice saying that I could not do so) and changed my password. No big deal at all. Except that within minutes my Plex server went offline!

hummm….I could log in to my Plex server, I could see my shared libraries from my friends, I could watch movies from their server, but my server (aptly named Cinaplex) was no where to be found. So off to the Plex forums I went where I found…nothing. The Plex forums were down:

screen 2015-07-03 at 12.27.55 PM Well, that kind of set me back a little bit, but hey – I am sure I can figure this thing out in no time. I am sure it is something with my password on my server not linking with the password at Plex (I am a lifetime Plex Pass subscriber). So I am sure I just pop in to my local Plex server and change the password there. Well, again no luck. Nothing I tried allowed me to ‘see’ Cinaplex and gain access to the part to change the password. Why? I did not know (at the time). So I did what every good linux guys does…I beat my head about the system looking for a way to change the password when I could not gain access to the server portion of the interface. I ‘knew’ the server was up and operational. I could get to it’s local interface http://cinaplex:32400/web without any problems. I could see my shared libraries, I could stream movies and TV programs from those shared libraries but for some reason I could not get to my server settings.

So I decided to reinstall Plex. This is a very simple process made even easier by a script that I have that goes out each night and checks to make sure that I have the most current version of Plex. I overrode the safety and forced a new download and reinstalled Plex (a whopping 30 second ordeal) and guess what? Nothing. Nothing at all. Something was weird. So I did the very next best thing a linux person could do when confronted with a problem: I opened up Google.

It would see that I was not the only person that questioned the intelligence of clicking on a link that took you to a simple password change screen. It would appear in doing a password change the way I did it, it had someone unlinked my Plex server from my Plex Pass account and thus rendered my server worthless! But a simple password change on the server to match my new Plex password would fix me right up. Ah..but wait…I cannot get to my server settings for some reason. Then I saw it, a small note on a Redit post about needing to be on the same network as your server. I was not on the same network. I have my network VLANd with the Cinaplex and NAS on a totally separate network then the rest of my networking hardware and systems, and this was the reason I was unable to get to the server settings.

A quick ssh tunnel later (ssh ip_of_my_server -L 8888:localhost:32400)

And I was up and running by hitting the new url of my server: http://localhost:8888/web and resetting the password and linking the server back to Plex. Once I did that, everything was back up and running as it should be!

 

So as I said in an earlier post, I had decided to try Plex out for my ever expanding collection of movies and other streaming media. I started out by reading what I could about Plex. Having been a very early adopter of MythTV, I wanted to make sure my Plex experiences were a little bit better than those I had with MythTV. Granted, that was more than a few years ago.

So I downloaded and installed Plex onto a small Dell box and ripped a few of my blu-rays with MakeMKV and a trusty LG Blu-Ray player. I hooked it up, fired up a Plex client and before you know it I was watching my first movie via the plex server. I WAS HOOKED!

Over the next few days I spent time fiddling around with a few other programs to help round out my media server, download this, configuring that…there is an amazing wealth of information for stuff you can run to help with your media collections. Everything from TV shows, movies, music, etc.

One thing I did do was to purchase the lifetime Plex Pass. Plex was amazing stuff, I wanted to support its continued development.

A few more days passed, a few more movies ripped and I realized that I was getting hooked and that the small 2TB drive in my little Dell/Ubuntu 14 box was not going to be up for the task of being my Plex server. The first thing I needed to do was find an inexpensive way to store the movies now that I realized how much space they took. I know, I know, I could use handbrake and make them a lot smaller, but after playing around with it, I decided I ‘could’ see the difference with a compressed video and that with the new 4K TVs coming out, bigger is better!

Armed with my Plexpass I soon had Plex clients up and running on our XBox and PS. Soon after, I hit my first snag. I started to see problem with streaming movies at 1080p. After doing a little more digging, I realized that the little Dell box I was using was not up to the task of streaming multiple movies at full resolution. It was just fine with a single movie, but if my son started to stream a second movie, both suffered. So now I needed more space and more cpu power. Plex recommends 2000 Cpu marks per transcoding session and while I should have been able to stream directly, some of my devices needed transcoding.

SInce I needed extra space anyway, I figure I would get a nice little NAS that could also run Plex. After looking around for a unit, I decided on the QNap TS-670 Pro with 16GM of RAM and 6 Hitachi 3TB Hard Drives in a RAID6 configuration. This configuration gave me 10.79TB of usable space to store all of my media files. This unit also had an HDMI connection, the ability to expand the memory (which I did to 16GB), and the ability to add additional external exclosures.

QNAP 670

I choose to use the good folks at SimplyNAS to purchase my NAS although I did get the hard drives from Amazon as they were less expensive that way. All told, the total cost of the system delivered with almost 11TB of usable drive space was $2,435.00 – not too bad considering that it will hold all of my media files and will run Plex natively. It has a Core i3 processor and 16GB of RAM and handled three transcoding sessions with no real problems.

I did run into a problem however and that was that I vastly underestimated two things. The first was how many of my family would really want to be watching things on their own TVs or devices and the second was how much total drive space 2,000+ movies and 1,000+ TV episodes really takes. What I can tell you is that it does take a LOT more than 11TB!

 

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So now I need more space and more power! Imagine that!

But I have a plan…stay tuned for the next version of my Plex server setup!

 

 

So over the years I have collected an amazing number of DVDs and Blu-rays, music CDs and MP3s and various television show ‘sets”. Of course, keeping all of these tracked and in order, alphabetized and neat and clean is no small task. I have often found that I own more than one (and sometimes more than two) copies of the same movie! Nothing like spending money on something you don’t really need, especially since you already have one! My frustration boiled over when I found that I had somehow purchased a third copy of a movie I love. Enough was enough!

As a result, I decided that I needed to come up with a more ’21st Century’ approach to my movie/music/TV collection and started looking for the best tool for the job. Anyone familiar with Plex will have no-doubt heard of MythTV, XBMC (now Kodi), EMBY, and Windows Media Server just to name a few.  Jumping into the swamp of digital media servers and platforms is not for the faint-of-heart, or for someone that does not have a bunch of time to do some research and try different things out before committing.  Sure you can go out, buy a little NAS, hit a button or two and have any number of systems up and running, but really getting it where you like it and enjoy using it, plus getting your media all online so you can use it with you new platform takes quite a bit to make happen.

So to get started, I poked around and started reading up on the various forums, trying to see if any of my friends were running any specific type of platform, trying to figure out the best way to convert my DVDs and Blu-rays to digital format and then deciding how and where to park all of that data once I had done all of the media preparation. In the end, I chose Plex, not because it was the absolute best at all things, but because it did what ‘I’ needed and wanted it to do. Not wanting to get into a religious war over the various platforms like you see on some forums, I made a list of the things I wanted it to do and went from there. Some of those items included:

  • Had to run on Linux (Ubuntu or Gentoo preferred)
  • Good Forums for when I make stupid mistakes
  • Had to have clients for the following
    • Roku 2 & 3
    • XBox
    • Playstation
    • Visio TV
    • Web
    • iPhones
    • Android Phones
  • Be able to support multiple file formats natively
  • Support transcoding on the fly for all supported platforms
  • Support HD (1080p) material
  • Support family controls
  • And almost the most important – it had to support syncing of movies.

Because there are nine of us (including seven kids ranging from 9 to 24) having family control was very important, but for the exact same reason, having sync capability was just as important. We spend a lot of time flying around from place-to-place and having the ability for the kids to grab a movie or three was important to our peace of mind as the pilots doing the flying!

Another thing that lead me to the direction of Plex was that I had other ‘like minded’ techie friends that were using Plex. This means the ability to share information, ideas and solutions within a group of core friends. While not the ‘nail in the coffin’ it went a long way towards helping with the final decision. So Plex it was.

So over the next few weeks (ok, maybe months) I will attempt a good run down on my media server configuration including the front end systems, a little bit about the network side of the house, the backend storage and wat a story that is) including a 12TB QNap 670 and a 40TB Freenas system and how I put it all together to store thousands of my movies and TV programs and keep everyone happy in the process.

Stay Tuned!

 

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For those of you that have been around me for any length of time, you know that I am hooked on helicopters. I love airplanes for sure, but I crave my helicopter flight time and theincrediblesense of freedom and enjoyment that comes from flying helicopters. I love the rush of hovering, confined area landings, pinnacles, helicopter camping, pretty much anything to do with helicopter flying.

So it should come as no surprise that I tried (yes only tried) my hand at RC helicopters. I went through a good number of “Ready to Fly” helicoptersrangingfrom palm sized to the Axe CP series helicopters. I think I stillhavefive or six controllers laying around from all of the wrecks that I had and all of the helicopters that I purchased and tried to fly. Once thing that I found out is that just because you can fly a full sized ship, does not mean that you can fly an RC helicopter. So I gave up on the idea.

Then a fellow helicopter pilot and friend introduced me to one of his friends Ray. Ray knew how to fly the RC helicopters like no one else I had seen. We took the day and flew our helicopters (by invitation) to a remote RC helicopter field and spent the day watching all of the folks fly their helicopters. Ray was a master. Nitro and electric he made them hum. I found out that Ray is actually sponsored for his flying, and I can see why.

So Ray and I started up a conversation about me learning to fly RChelicopters. It started with what my eventual goals would be. In my mind, this was a no brainer, I would eventually like to be flying a 1/4 scale turbine powered MD500 like these shown below:

 

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The problem is that these machines can run upwards to $15,000 to $20,000 by the time you have them all built up and a real turbine jet engine installed. The engine alone is the cost of a small used car! The controller that I wanted – the cost of another small used car and then all of the other cool features that you may need (ok, want) all add up to a lot of investment. Since I had trouble keeping a $150 RC helicopter flying, I KNEW that I needed help long before attempting to tackle a project like this one.

So Ray suggested that I start with an electric helicopter, but not one of the small, ready-to-fly (RTF) helicopters, but one that we actually put together ourselves, with ourelectronicsand controllers, our batteries, our wiring, basically built to our exact specifications. Changes could be easily made byfabricatingparts on Ray’s 3D printer and then testing them out until it was just the way we liked it. Once Ray told me that he would help me become a real RC helicopter pilot without wrecking my investment in the process, I was hooked and ready to move forward.

The next step was to decide what my “learning” ship would consist of. I was thinking the Align 700 or 800, but Ray steered me toward the Goblin 770. It was an amazing looking ship and better yet, it was flybarless and pretty much all new technology. In addition, we could customize it any way that we wanted for what I was trying toaccomplish.

 

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So the Goblin 770 is on back order along with many of the parts I will need to put it all together. In the mean time, Ray suggested that I pick up a flight simulator and start playing around with that in my spare time until everything came arrived.

The controller I choose was the Futaba T-18MZ, a controller that would allow me to learn, but yet give me the awesome capabilities I would want tohavewith my 1/4 scale turbine when the time came.

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So with all that in mind, Bob, Darryl and I along with a friend’s son flew up to Ontario on Saturday and attended the Academy of Model Aeronautics convention. WOW…a lot of very cool stuff there for sure, and easy way to spend a lot of money on a hobby that looks like it can cost as much as the real thing. In fact, you could get your helicopter private pilot’t certificate for much less than the cost of a nice turbine 1.4 scale. But there is no doubt that the cost of ownership for the RC is far less than the real thing.

Time will tell if it is anywhere near as fun. Stay tuned as I keep you up to date on my project and my learning!

Darryl and the boys

The weekend after Christmas afforded another great opportunity to load up the helicopters and head for the Arizona desert to get in some tent camping, helicopter style. In this case it was a newexperiencefor me as my best friend Darryl and his son Josh would be joining Tommy, Riley and me in a second helicopter. Our good friend Bob was allowing Darryl to borrow his helicopter so we could make this a two-ship, and hence a five person camping trip.

 

Leaving Deer Valley

My part of the trip started out at Deer Valley Airport (KDVT) located northwest of Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport. Tommy, Riley and I hoped aboard N756TB, my Mooney Bravo and pointed our noses westbound. We left just ahead of this little weather system that had been brooding to our North for a few hours. It was time to be on our way.

 

Riley’s first trip in the Mooney

Since this was Riley’s first trip in the Mooney, he got to ride shotgun on our way to Palomar Airport, our home base. (KCRQ) It was an amazing ride, some clouds and a beautiful sunset over the Salton Sea made for a great trip back to California.

The Salton Sea from 12,500′

The next morning, we packed up the boys and headed to our favorite waterhole in Escondido – Starbucks. After eating a wonderfulandnutritiouslybalanced meal, we headed for the airport. For the trip out, I would carry all of the camping supplied in the back seat of the 500 (since the Enstrom does not have a back seat and its baggage compartment had theauxiliaryfuel tank installed). I would take Riley as it was his first helicopter trip and Darryl would take Tommy and Josh in 18PD.

 

Josh, Tommy & Riley

 

On the way out to our camping spot, we landed in aravine just before arriving at Blythe airport to let the boysstretch their legs and get some fresh air. Long helicopter trips for people new to that style of travel and movement can be a bit much sometimes. The nice thing about the helicopters is you can pretty much land them anywhere, airport and runway not needed!

 

Our second ship – N18PD

 

 

A beautiful sunset

 

Once we landed at ourcampsiteand got everything set up, it was time to watch a beautiful sunset and get our campfire going. Darryl and I had already visited the new campsite, verified that there was no one around for many, many miles and set up a fire ring and collected a bunch of old, dead wood for use as fuel!

 

Enjoying the fire

 

We had a very enjoyable evening of camping. The boys hiked about, got some shooting lessons from the master himself (Darryl), stuck themselves with cacti pretty good (drawing blood in several cases) and generallyhada fantastic time. We brought all of our food, water, etc in with us and sat down for a nice meal made from Mountain Housedehydratedcamping food. It did not take long for our MSR multi-fule stove fueled by 100LL to boil the necessary water for the food. Anyone interested in camping should check out Mountain House, the food is absolutely amazing and the cost in very good.

 

Breakfast time…

 

After spending the night in 35 degree weather, we were up and about looking forsomethingwarm to drink. In actuality it was not bad at all since we had REI and Northface 20 degree sleeping bags. About the only thing the bags did not save us from was the ongoing snoring of Darryl which kept everyone (but him) awake through the night! The boys have all suggested a different tent on the other side of the landing zone for Darryl for our next trip!

 

A short stop on the way home

 

Heading back from the camp site to Carlsbad, we once again made a quick stop for some fresh air. The boys took the opportunity to scout around a bit and find some old cow bones which promptly went into their pockets.

 

Catching up on their sleep

 

Ah…on our way back to Deer Valley after a good weekend of camping. Tommy and Riley are both sleeping, the vibration and drone of the Mooney has that effect on some people, just ask my sister!

 

Joey in the Mooney

 

 

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