Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Backing Up DVDs

Needed to back up some DVDs and the following process worked nicely (for a system that I only had command line access to):

Install Process Dependencies:

apt-get install libdvd-pkg
apt-get install vobcopy
apt-get install handbrake-cli

mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
vobcopy -l -o /vob/dir -i /VIDEO_TS/ -M

HandBrakeCLI -i /vob/dir/<file>.vob -t 0 (to check vob file contents)
HandBrakeCLI -i /vob/dir/<file>.vob -o movie.mp4 -e x264 -q 20 -B 160 -t 1 -5 -O -m
umount /mnt/cdrom

Reference for HandBrakeCLI commands: 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Raspberry Pi Media Center for Your Car

The Raspberry Pi got me super excited to try to figure out how to make my own media center form my car that could be controlled by my cellphone.  Below are the steps I followed to set mine up.

Equipment list and estimated cost (total ~$160):
I know DVD players with two screens are cheaper and probably have better video resolution.  The advantages here are that we don't have to be reaching back and load new DVDs throughout the trip, we don't have to bring a binder of DVDs with us, and most of all it was a fun project.

After I got Xbian installed on the Pi, I had to figure out how to get the phone to control it.  I didn't want to have to bring a wireless router with me and create a mini-network.  I came across a post that explains how to make the Edimax nano usb adapter an access point (Xbian recognizes the device automatically).  Then, you just have to have your phone connect to the access point to control it.

Essentially, run the following commands:
  1. apt-get install bridge-utils hostapd
  2. wget
  3. unzip
  4. sudo mv /usr/sbin/hostapd /usr/sbin/hostapd.bak
  5. sudo mv hostapd /usr/sbin/hostapd.edimax
  6. sudo ln -sf /usr/sbin/hostapd.edimax /usr/sbin/hostapd
  7. sudo chown root.root /usr/sbin/hostapd
  8. sudo chmod 755 /usr/sbin/hostapd
Place the following in /etc/hostapd/hostapd.conf:
ssid=<SSID HERE>
Reboot and uncomment the following line in the /etc/default/hostapd file:
I didn't want to bridge the wireless and wired network interfaces (which is what the above-linked tutorial shows), I just wanted a wireless access point, so the following was all I needed in the /etc/network/interfaces file:

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet dhcp
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet static

The Yatse remote ended up working best for me.

Adding the HDD so I could browse the movies on it from my phone was a little tricky.  On the Pi, under Videos > Files, the HDD likely shows up there and you can select movies from the file structure, but that won't display the files on your phone. If you want to control it from the front passenger seat, you'll need to select "Add Videos" instead of your HDD, and then select the folder containing the Movies. Then in Yatse, that Folder should show up under Files/Playlists in the Left slide-out menu.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Downloading Undownloadable Videos

Chapter 9 in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual had 2 suggested videos to watch, but neither had a download link on them to put on a USB drive that I could stick in the TV that I would check out from the library!

The following forum pointed me in the right direction -

Basically, use Internet Download Manager to download the movie (once you start playing the movie, a "Download Video" button appears in the bottom left.  This will download the movie into .flv format.  This format doesn't work on our TV's, so I had to convert it to mp4 using XviD4PSP to convert it from .flv to .mp4.  It didn't take too long and the videos came out just right!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Updated: Re-routing Shipments from a Purchase

Update:  I ended up finding out that the packages never made it to my old address and the FedEx Ground package ended up getting damaged in transit and was sent back.  I emailed them (remembering the nightmare of talking to them) and surprisingly everything worked out.  I got a full refund and was able to reorder everything.  The FedEx ground option was $20 more expensive, but they happily gave me the less expensive price for it.  I was really surprised.  So, if you can, work through email, that's probably why they make it difficult to find the number, because they don't trust their own phone customer reps.


I recently had the unpleasant experience of trying to re-route a shipment from via FedEx Ground and SmartPost.  Walmart was not very helpful at all (I wasn't totally surprised, but still disappointed).  I had to dial 1-800-966-6546 and then select option 2 and then option 4 (for order cancellation) and then hit 0 three times in order to get a human on the phone.  (Pressing 0 three times at any other point of the call got me disconnected).

They first directed me to FedEx (since I had already received tracking numbers).  FedEx said that Walmart owns the shipment and is the only one that can re-route it.  So I called Walmart back, they gave me the same go around (that I had to call FedEx).  I proceeded to tell them that I spoke with FedEx and that I was told that Walmart was responsible since the purchase was made through them and that FedEx was only the carrier.  The Walmart rep said OK and supposedly cancelled the order and told me that I should receive an email notice about it all in the next 20 minutes.

I never received an email notice.  Three hours later I called them back and they told me to call FedEx as soon as they were in possession of the packages, since they were currently in transit.  That kind of made sense to me, since FedEx had the packages I could tell them to change the address.  I waited till the next morning and called FedEx.  They still told me that Walmart was the only one that could authorize the change since it's their product, but that they were going to try to do it from their end.  Kudos to FedEx.  Since one of my packages was shipped via FedEx ground, it could have the address changed easily, and would be re-routed once it hit the facility in the state of my previous residence (if there were any issues, they'd call me, and I'd potentially pay extra shipping charges).  If they needed Walmart's authorization to re-route it, I could call Walmart and tell them they need to provide that information to FedEx (I was given a Case ID to provide them for reference when they called Fed Ex.  The Case ID should have all the info needed).

SmartPost gets shipped to the recipient's local Post Office and is delivered from there.  I had a few other items that got shipped via this method.  There's nothing that can be done from Walmart or FedEx with that type of shipment.  So I had to hunt around for the phone number for my old local post office (they only give an 800 number on the website).  Google maps was good to me.  Luckily they told me they still forward all packages within a year of moving.

Here's to hoping that everything arrives.  I'll update this post once I get everything.  Hopefully this comes in handy for someone else.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lay Not This Thing to Our Charge! - Gideon and the NSA

Gideon is a person of great character in the Book of Mormon and for whom I have a lot of respect.  His strengths are very much needed in our leaders today.  One such account of his strength of character and wisdom is recounted here.

King Limhi and his people are enslaved to the Lamanites and are burdened with paying taxes to them to the amount of 50% of all they have and earn (this is taking place around 145-123 B.C. somewhere in Central America).  The Lamanites have "agreed" (they are historically not a very honorable people up to this point in time) to not fight the people of Limhi if they continue to pay their taxes.  

However, one day they come up against the people of Limhi to fight them.  Due to the great leadership and preparation of King Limhi, he was prepared and likely suspected something like this could/would happen and was able to soundly defeat the Lamanites (even though much more numerous) and also capture the King who was wounded and found among the dead.  It is without a doubt that God had helped them with this battle, knowing of their softening hearts.  (The people had previously been called to repentance by a prophet named Abinadi who was sentenced to death by Limhi's father, Noah.  As a result of their wickedness, the Lord reprieved them and let the Lamanites enslave them, to the end of softening their hearts and turning them back to Him.)

The Lamanite king is brought before Limhi (showing much restraint by his men by them not killing him on the spot for the unwarranted attack).  Limhi questions him about the attack, and the following ensues (Mosiah 20:15-17, emphasis added):
15 And now the king said: I have broken the oath because thy people did carry away the daughters of my people; therefore, in my anger I did cause my people to come up to war against thy people. 
16 And now Limhi had heard nothing concerning this matter; therefore he said: I will search among my people and whosoever has done this thing shall perish. Therefore he caused a search to be made among his people. 
17 Now when Gideon had heard these things, he being the king’s captain, he went forth and said unto the king: I pray thee forbear, and do not search this people, and lay not this thing to their charge.
King Limhi, does not immediately see the wrong in searching his people, or jumping to the conclusion that his people are likely guilty.  He is a good man, but only at his best when he listens to wise counsel from righteous men like Gideon.  Gideon persuades the king to not unlawfully/unethically search his people or assume them guilty.

This sounds awfully similar to what is happening today with the NSA surveillance leaks.  It seems that President Obama has not heeded any wise counsel to "forbear, and do not search this people" and is wrong in allowing this surveillance to take place.  With all the technology and skills available in the 21st century, there are better means to securing our nation than by infiltrating every phone call, video chat, emailpostal letters, undersea cable, social media content and content of mobile devices, etc. and requiring us to go through such ridiculous rituals at airport security checks.  Don't fall into the fallacy of, "I don't care if I'm monitored, I have nothing to hide."  We are not all terrorists, or even potential terrorists.  The fact that we are assumed to be terrorists is preposterous.

The laws passed so hastily after 9/11 were not clearly thought through.  Laws of such magnitude should not not be allowed passage so soon after a traumatizing event.  A cool-down period is necessary for wisdom to prevail.  Hopefully enough people will care about what is going on to call on their representatives to revisit these laws, make necessary changes, and allow the American people to live in peace and not in fear.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

AppleTV versus Roku

Having both a Roku XD and AppleTV (latest version) I've come to prefer the Roku.

Reasons Roku is better:

  • Amazon On Demand Video (including prime)
  • Plex (for streaming media)
    • AppleTV has iTunes, but I really don't like iTunes and don't own any other apple products
  • Loads of other channels
    • AppleTV is really lacking in the channel market
  • Less expensive, get a refurbished XD for $65!
  • Simpler menu structure
    • Apple seemed to have too many layers to get to a movie (particularly Netflix), I felt I had to click too many times.
If you have other Apple devices, you may prefer the AppleTV for it's integration, but if you don't, don't waste your money - unless you plan on modding it with XMBC when it's available (most likely what I'll do).

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Pre-election Circus

This is mostly a collection of quotes from a recent Glenn Greenwald article.  I highly recommend reading the entire article -

"As I’ve written about before, America’s election season degrades mainstream political discourse even beyond its usual lowly state. The worst attributes of our political culture — obsession with trivialities, the dominance of horserace “reporting,” and mindless partisan loyalties — become more pronounced than ever. Meanwhile, the actually consequential acts of the U.S. Government and the permanent power factions that control it — covert endless wars, consolidation of unchecked power, the rapid growth of the Surveillance State and the secrecy regime, massive inequalities in the legal system, continuous transfers of wealth from the disappearing middle class to large corporate conglomerates — drone on with even less attention paid than usual.

"Because most of those policies are fully bipartisan in nature, the election season — in which only issues that bestow partisan advantage receive attention — places them even further outside the realm of mainstream debate and scrutiny. For that reason, America’s elections ironically serve to obsfuscate political reality even more than it usually is.

"This would all be bad enough if “election season” were confined to a few months the way it is in most civilized countries. But in America, the fixation on presidential elections takes hold at least eighteen months before the actual election occurs, which means that more than 1/3 of a President’s term is conducted in the midst of (and is obscured by) the petty circus distractions of The Campaign. Thus, an unauthorized, potentially devastating covert war — both hot and cold — against Iran can be waged with virtually no debate, just as government control over the Internet can be inexorably advanced, because TV political shows are busy chattering away about Michele Bachmann’s latest gaffe and minute changes in Rick Perry’s polling numbers....

"The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with dronescluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

"He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

"Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed “a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes. The simple fact is that progressives are supporting a candidate for President who has done all of that — things liberalism has long held to be pernicious. I know it’s annoying and miserable to hear. Progressives like to think of themselves as the faction that stands for peace, opposes wars, believes in due process and civil liberties, distrusts the military-industrial complex, supports candidates who are devoted to individual rights, transparency and economic equality. All of these facts — like the history laid out by Stoller in that essay — negate that desired self-perception. These facts demonstrate that the leader progressives have empowered and will empower again has worked in direct opposition to those values and engaged in conduct that is nothing short of horrific. So there is an eagerness to avoid hearing about them, to pretend they don’t exist. And there’s a corresponding hostility toward those who point them out, who insist that they not be ignored.

"The parallel reality — the undeniable fact — is that all of these listed heinous views and actions from Barack Obama have been vehemently opposed and condemned by Ron Paul: and among the major GOP candidates, only by Ron Paul. For that reason, Paul’s candidacy forces progressives to face the hideous positions and actions of their candidate, of the person they want to empower for another four years. If Paul were not in the race or were not receiving attention, none of these issues would receive any attention because all the other major GOP candidates either agree with Obama on these matters or hold even worse views....

"There are very few political priorities, if there are any, more imperative than having an actual debate on issues of America’s imperialism; the suffocating secrecy of its government; the destruction of civil liberties which uniquely targets Muslims, including American Muslims; the corrupt role of the Fed; corporate control of government institutions by the nation’s oligarchs; its destructive blind support for Israel, and its failed and sadistic Drug War. More than anything, it’s crucial that choice be given to the electorate by subverting the two parties’ full-scale embrace of these hideous programs.

"I wish there were someone who did not have Ron Paul’s substantial baggage to achieve this. Before Paul announced his candidacy, I expressed hope in an Out Magazine profile that Gary Johnson would run for President and be the standard-bearer for these views, in the process scrambling bipartisan stasis on these questions. I did that not because I was endorsing his candidacy (as some low-level Democratic Party operative dishonestly tried to claim), but because, as a popular two-term Governor of New Mexico free of Paul’s disturbing history and associations, he seemed to me well-suited to force these debates to be had. But alas, Paul decided to run again, and Johnson — for reasons still very unclear — was forcibly excluded from media debates and rendered a non-person. Since then, Paul’s handling of the very legitimate questions surrounding those rancid newsletters has been disappointing in the extreme, and that has only served to obscure these vital debates and severely dilute the discourse-enhancing benefits of his candidacy."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting Credit Card Late Fees Waived

In the midst of swapping bank accounts and changing credit cards and payment methods, I missed a credit card payment.  It made me sick, I never miss payments!  While I was stressing out about whether it would affect my credit score, I decided to see what Ramit Sethi had to say about it.  I have his book and would recommend it to anyone and everyone who has to deal with personal finances (which should be everyone in the world that has the capacity to spend money and understand credit and investing).  One of his call scripts just helped me get the late fee waived, though the credit card company may have done that without me following his script, but the script gave me confidence.  Here's the first chapter of his book: