Archives for the month of: January, 2013

If you are not already aware, Bitcasa is a service that promises Infinite storage for what will be $10/month.

The pricing and business model they have created is based on the idea that they can encrypt everything in such a way that if you have a copy of “ubuntu-12.10-desktop-amd64.iso”, and other users have a copy of “ubuntu-12.10-desktop-amd64.iso”, then Bitcasa only stores 1 ‘encrypted’ copy, thus saving hard drive space.

I use the term ‘encrypted’, because

when we talk about media, there is a potential issue;

if you were to download “Life of Pi (DVDscr)” (the most pirated movie this week, according to the spectacular people at TorrentFreak), and the MPAA downloads the same copy, they can approach Bitcasa and Bitcasa has the technology to see every person with this file in their infinite folder, even though the encryption means they cannot see ‘inside’ the file.

There are a few sneaky things we could potentially do to make up for this pitfall, but at least two of them mean we’d sacrifice Bitcasa the company in order to use Bitcasa the service.

As far as testing goes, I ran Bitcasa on my headless server ( thanks Matt Harrison ), and uploaded 200GB for testing. It took a couple of days on our 15/15Mbps connection,

and within the first 5 minutes of testing it actually works as well as the videos made it seem;

without giving it time to cache content, I was able to watch and scan through a 4GB 720p mkv with maybe 3 seconds between opening it and seeing the first frame of video.

Very interesting…

Doubly interesting if/when we get a version of Bitcasa that runs directly on the RasPi…

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So, we didn’t meet the goal, and as I said before, this means I’m going to focus on something else for the time being.

.. and that’s ok.

We still believe that a cloud-based media server is a great idea, especially with the benefits to security, and if the solution can be about $20 a month.

And for the time being that’s going on the back burner.

I may personally try a few things over the coming months, posting as I go, and maybe we’ll pick this up again during hibernation season.

On the Raspberry Pi front, there are some very promising projects to focus on.

It looks like Android on the RasPi is dead in the water due to Broadcom’s pretend-open-source drivers for the GPU (they only let it accelerate video, not any other sort of GPU task), and this has shuffled some development talent on to more rewarding (and interesting) projects.

We’ve got pyplex, continued work with XBMC, crazy storage options, and even some work on creating a version of OpenELEC that runs a RasPi-optimized version of Plex/HT (Plex Home Theater).

Expect the next phase of Raspberry Pi HTPC to be evolutionary, not so much revolutionary; I’ll keep up to date guides for anything I’m actively working on, and keep you posted as more interesting things develop.

One interesting thing to note, since we’ve now had a Roku for a while; there have been a few times where HD content could not be transcoded fast enough, and we flipped over to the Raspberry in order to watch it in smooth full quality; the Roku seems to be artificially limited by what level of h.264 it supports, whereas the Raspberry comes in like a lightweight fighter, ready to dodge each punch and deliver more power than it looks like it’s capable of.

I said that if we had at least 15 people in by the 21st.

There are only a few more hours until that deadline is up, and we’re almost there.

What we’re looking to accomplish:

  1. A server that downloads automatically, as soon as each episode is online
  2. the metadata is then automatically applied, and it becomes available to watch
  3. currently, the plan is to download everything in HD, and then shrink it if you want to watch it on a smaller device or with a weaker connection
  4. we plan to support all sorts of devices: RasPi, Roku, Laptops/Desktops, smart TVs, android, iPhone/iPad/iPad mini, and even a web interface for on the fly content grabbing
  5. everything will be documented on this blog, and in the private mailing list, so that anyone can set up a similar system

It’s worth noting as well, that so far the system would let you download anything you can watch, without drm or strange barriers thrown in your way.
Also, no ads. That means no popups, popunders, banners, etc.

There are all sorts of really interesting things to try as we really push the limits of what’s possible…

If you want in, send at least $20usd via PayPal to linkingparents@gmail.com.
If we do not hit 15, then all money will be refunded and I’ll move on to something else.

In case you’re curious, here’s a little background on why I’m a good choice for this project;
I’ve been in tech for over quite a few years, and have been running a server at home for almost all of that time. 90% of the work of the server has always been media, with quality climbing up slowly every time a new codec is released or I get my hands on more capable technology.
9-5 (or 6-9+), I’ve always worked best when directly plugged in to business owners on one side, and large-scale server setups on the other. This has given me the skills of strong documentation and communication. Usually going overboard on documenting the technical parts so that I can translate for the non-technical people more easily.
This will be my first community-funded project, and also the first public project that has grown organically from a personal project that really begs to be done right, from the ground up.
I’m looking forward to the journey, and to watching personal media take flight in to the clouds. (don’t worry; cheesy analogies are not standard lol)

MEGA Launched today to much interest (500,000 accounts created already), and with the inspiring statement that “The Internet belongs to no man, industry, or government”.

The idea is simple to explain, complicated to pull off: Let people store whatever they want, and make it encrypted in such a way that no one can see the data unless that single user decides it.

This, of course, means that MEGA can’t see it, nor can any government agency in the world.

Interesting.. You said something about video?

To keep the blog on task, the question is: Will this work for all my video?

4TB of storage for $29.99/mo is decent enough to consider, if it means never having to think about security again.
Home movies, recordings for court cases, and hypothetically: even movies that the MPAA does not want you to have.

However, as it stands, MEGA does not fit in to any solution for actually watching video content.

To be fair; this is just not what it’s made for.

The way it works means that in order to view any file stored on mega, it must first be downloaded to your computer, then decrypted.

Very much a “file locker” where everything is locked away safe until you need it, then it’s locked again when you walk away with whatever you came for.

Of course, this means that streaming files is completely out, and it’ll take some serious work (assuming anyone is interested in doing the work)  before there’s a program that can talk to MEGA, download the file, decrypt it, then show it to you.

For now, everything is accessed through the browser, and while there is an API, it’s going to really come in to it’s own for encrypting communication, not static files.

I’m going to try it out, simply because it’s worth seeing how it’s done, but to be honest; it just doesn’t fit in to anything I do right now, and it won’t until it’s as seamless as Dropbox or Bitcasa, with mobile apps and everything.

 

 

Aside from all this, there is one thing I want to say about the Terms of use and Privacy policy:
There have been some people saying that it’s worrying that MEGA collects and stores IP addresses, communication logs, site usage, etc. People have also expressed concern that MEGA does so to help serve advertising.
While there have been scares before, and I understand the initial hesitation; the way that MEGA works means that theoretically they could collect every shred of data they have access to, and still never have any idea what you have in your files, or even what the files are named.
In my opinion, it’s better for them to own up to being a for-profit company (which they are), while building a solution that cannot be policed.

A very interesting idea that’s in the queue for testing, is to tie in the external server to a service like bitcasa, using the server for file renaming, processing, and transcoding, and having the bulk of videos in the “infinite” storage.

This opens so many doors…

  1. Trying to find the right seedbox for your Plex server, but 1TB+ of storage is an extra $40? No problem!
  2. If you need to move servers; No problem!
  3. Need more horsepower for sharing personal videos? Add more servers to the same bitcasa folder!
  4. Want to tweak like crazy? Run the server off a smaller SSD: No Problem.

Of course, there are still unknowns, which is the best part

And, it’s being tested for Plex servers right now, meaning it’s mature enough to get our hands dirty with.

And, sometime soon, we’ll see how the landscape evolves when Mega brings storage back with a new focus on personal encryption.

 

I’m excited for 2013 to unfold.. Are you in?

Note: The testbed for all this still needs a few more people to chip in by sending at least $20 each via PayPal to linkingparents@gmail.com (refunds if we don’t meet the minimum).
Once we reach the goal, we’re setting up a seedbox-based media server, and documenting the whole thing so anyone else can do it!

I wanted to cover some of the details of the seedbox media server so we can all get excited about the possibilities.

The short:

When we have it set up, it will mean a ‘cloud server’ that automatically downloads the shows that you choose, and serves them to you on any device that supports Plex. This includes the RasPi.

You let me know which shows you watch, and the second a new episode gets online, we’ll make sure the file transfers properly, and is ready for you.

This means that you don’t have to use your home connection for downloading, don’t have to put the time in to hunting shows down or organizing, and don’t need anything more than a small device, a good screen, and an internet connection.

Of course, we’ll look at storing backlogs, and downloading an entire series if you want to check out something new.

The other fun bits that we’re thinking about:

The big reasons I personally want this instead of (or in addition to) Netflix/Other services are:

  • No need to wait for new episodes to hit Netflix (this can take months)
  • Video looks much better: With a small enough user base and the right home connection, it’s possible to watch shows in full-quality 720p, or even in some cases 1080p.
    We find Netflix to be blocky compared to a commonplace x264 served via Plex.
  • Killer Seedboxes can have 100Mbps or 1000Mbps speeds: that’s 6 seconds to download a 30min show in razor-sharp 720p,
  • It’s even possible to push out a notification, so that if you’re chomping at the bit to watch Walking Dead, but you’re not home; you know the minute it can be streamed in full quality from your iPhone to a friend’s AppleTV. (Or through your android device via HDMI).

 

And to Recap the deal:

If 15 people to send at least $20 each to linkingparents@gmail.com via paypal, we’ll set up a seedbox-based media server. If we don’t meet that number by January 21st, I’ll refund and focus on something else.

 

Here’s something else that sethmccumber and I have been working on:
Can you spot the console?

LegoRasNES-Teaser

Cartridge-loaded SD cards are sooooo handy!

With the NZB scene in flux, it’s more and more complicated to sort out the details in order to have a smooth and automatic experience (aka; our favourite). Plex is also making rapid progress, and there has been some very promising work with using the RasPi as a Plex client.

With everything where it is, it’s time to start

Everyone has been pulling in their votes, and there have been some excellent insights to go along with it; now we get to act.

There are 3 hosting services that are excellent possibilities, and in order to dive in for real testing I need to know if you’re serious about this;

If 15 people sign up by sending at least $20 via PayPal to linkingparents@gmail.com, then these people will be the core, ready to try out all the crazy ideas we come up with before settling on the ideals that work for everyone.

Obviously the ongoing costs are monthly (where it gets sustainable looks to be about $20/mo), and if you send the minimum of $20, I’ll personally make sure you get at least 2 months out of it (lots of time for testing and the start of the new tv season).

If we’re successful, then by the end there will be a continually updated guide (or wiki) about how to roll your own seedbox media system, and step into the freedom from bandwidth issues, ISP notices, home-server resources, and the other annoying time-sinks.

And, of course, with Plex on the raspberry, we’re getting closer and closer to a solution that just means a seedbox and a RasPi plugged in to any tv that doesn’t already support Plex.

In case you skimmed;

if 15 people to send at least $20 each to linkingparents@gmail.com , we’ll set up a seedbox-based media server. If we don’t meet that number by January 21st, I’ll refund and focus on something else.