Skip Forward & Backward (Gestures In iTunes)

I have been using iTunes (on the Mac) and Podcasts (on the iPhone and iPad) to play my podcasts now that it actually syncs correctly. Side Note: I don’t know what they finally did to make it work , but thank you! On the iOS app you are given a convenient 15 second forward and back button to use when you are listening to podcasts, and it’s a very nice feature that you find in most podcast players. The problem is that when listening to podcasts using iTunes on the Mac, you only have the skip buttons, and that takes you to the next track (or podcast). This is not ideal at all for listening to podcasts, so I needed a way to add the 15 second, or any length for that matter, skip forward and backward functionality. I figured that AppleScript was my best bet for solving this problem so I did some searching around before diving in and reinventing the wheel, and came out with a couple good starting points. I found a couple different AppleScripts that did what I needed for the most part, so it was time to figure out how best to implement them for me. Check out the scripts and modify as needed to suit your needs.

I first started down the path of simply assigning scripts to fire when certain keyboard shortcuts were pressed using Keyboard Maestro. This absolutely worked, but it didn’t quite seem as fast or elegant as I would like. Then it dawned on me, I should use mouse gestures! I switched over to using an Apple Magic Trackpad about a month or so back and LOVE IT! Using BetterTouchTool, you can pretty much make up whatever you want with almost any input device to fire off all kinds of actions. The setup I chose is pretty simple. I decided to go with a fairly simple four finger swipe to the left or to the right. With this gesture I can now skip forward or backward with a simple gesture and it’s great! Also because this gesture is global, it can be done regardless of what application I am using.

There you have it, if you have been looking for a convenient way to skip forward and backward a predefined amount of time in iTunes, this could be the answer for you!

#nanowrimo2013

 Challenge: Write a novel…in a month! 

This is the challenge set every year by an organization called “National Novel Writing Month”, or “nanowrimo” for short. The idea is to start and finish a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I am not at all what someone would consider to be a “writer”. I have written some short stories in the past, a few pieces of poetry, and I enjoy creating blog posts nowadays, but that is the extent of my professional writing career. Not to mention, without my awesome editor, none of the items you read on this site would make complete sense!

I have looked at the nanowrimo website each year over the past several years, but this is the year I am actually thinking I really want to do it! I signed up for an account on http://nanowrimo.org and setup my profile!

As exciting as this is, I have to be realistic. 50,000 words is a ton of words! One thousand six hundred sixty six words a day, to be precise. My life’s schedule is not going to lend itself well to this, so I am making a bit of a tweak to the rules for my first go at this fun adventure. Instead of writing 50,000 words in November, I am shooting to clear 25,000. If I make it, then I will be stoked, and if I surpass it, I will feel completely awesome!

I am doing some preliminary planning of my story to set myself up for success. The idea of my story came to be while I was sitting in traffic on my way home a couple weeks ago. If I can execute successfully on this story, I think it is going to be very engaging and people will be into it!

If any of you are planning on engaging in this writing adventure, let me know in the comments. I can’t wait to see what happens!

Good luck to everyone,
Jason

The Internet! (prop)

You may or may not know about a show called “The IT Crowd”. If you do, then you already know what this is about, if you do not, go watch every single episode on Netflix right now! 🙂

I guess this is a spoiler if you have not seen the series, but it doesn’t really matter. Have you started watching yet? 🙂

I wanted to make a smaller scale version of the prop they used in the TV show in Season 3 Episode 4.

Behold!!

I am working on getting a parts list and wiring diagram put together to share!

It’s Time For a Proper HTPC! (Post 3of3: Everyday Use)

First we had The Planning phase.

Then, The Build phase.

And now, the Everyday Use phase. Let’s do this!

So, it has been just about 2 months that we have been using the final setup. For those of you who may not quite remember what the final setup was, here is a quick recap. We ended up going with a Mac mini running Plex Media Server combined with the Plex Client. For local storage we are using a 4 Bay Drobo.

Hardware PerspectiveFrom the beginning of this project my goal was to have one box that could do it all. No more switching between sources or using 4 different remotes. The Mac mini is that one box, with Plex as the gatekeeper to all media. We have a good amount of local media, movies and tv shows, that are all stored on the Drobo. The Mac mini has no problem at all playing back local media.

The newer Mac mini also has a nice extra bonus for those of us who want to use them as a HTPC, HDMI w/embedded audio on board! This means 1 simple HDMI connection from the Mac to the Television. Perfect!

There isn’t really a lot to say about the hardware since it is an all in one solution. The only other external hardware is a Samsung Blu-Ray drive in an external enclosure, attached via USB 2.0. We rarely, if ever, use physical discs, but should the need arise, this covers that. We do also have the TV hooked up to an OTA antenna that is called the WallTenna. It is completely dependent on your location, but if you have a good signal at your house it works great! It’s quite amazing how good the HD quality is that comes over the air for free!

Software PerspectiveAnother mandatory item for this project was the ability to control the whole system with a simple remote. I did NOT want a keyboard and mouse in the living room to control this thing. This meant some kind of Media Center front end. After using XBMC for a couple days, I just couldn’t get into it so I started looking at some alternatives. The alternative I decided on was Plex Media Center. It has a great user interface and has the ability to pull in content from local sources as well as a MASSIVE list of internet sources. The whole interface can be controlled with the simple and effective aluminum Apple remote. The same remote that you would use with an AppleTV. Plex also has mobile apps that allow for control of the media center, but also the ability to stream your content on your home server to your mobile device. The really neat part about this is that not only does it stream within your house to your mobile device but across the internet to anywhere! On the road and decided you want to watch a movie that is at home on your Drobo? No problem!

If you sign up for the “MyPlex” account, this is made even easier as you can use your account to access your content remotely, so you don’t have to deal with the sometimes messy port forwarding and firewall traversal within your home router/firewall. This sharing is extended even further if you decided to exchange servers with your friends and family. You are then able to access content from their servers and they can access yours. It becomes a social server of content for your friends and family to share. Very cool idea.

Plex has so many features, you would be reading this forever to hear about them all. Instead, I will link again to http://plexapp.com and you can look around at all the awesome stuff Plex has to offer!

It’s Time For a Proper HTPC! (Post 2of3: The Build)

After much planning and searching for the parts you saw in the last post, I have now now done a complete flip and changed the whole plan for the project!

The setup is now as follows:- Mac mini (2.3GHZ Core i5, 8GB Ram, Intel HD 3000 Graphics)- Drobo w/8TB of Storage Space- External Samsung Blu Ray Drive- Elgato EyeTV USB OTA Tuner- Walltenna OTA Antenna- Apple Remote- Plex Media Server / Client

Why did I change everything? Cost, size, reliability, and power consumption. I originally went with the PC build route thinking it would save some money, but that turned out to be false. The size of the Mac is microscopic compared to the giant Silverstone case. With the PC build, it would have to run Windows, and that was something I just didn’t want to deal with. Finally, being a HTPC, this machine needed to stay on 24×7 in order to be a true entertainment “ready anytime” kind of device. Even with a smaller 650W power supply, that was going to be a lot of power being consumed unnecessarily.

We are approaching the end of the first week of use and so far things are going remarkably well! Look for “Post 3of3: Details” in the coming weeks to see how we set it up, how it works day-to-day, and if it’s the right solution for you!