Einstein Update

As an active Apple Newton user, I love it when fellow users continue finding ways to improve the platform. This week Matthias Melcher deserves a huge “Great Job” from everyone. Matthias is the current maintainer of Einstein, the Newton Message Pad emulator. This week he released an updated version of the Android version of the emulator that included many improvements that increased the speed considerably.

After using the new release on both my Galaxy Nexus and a Nexus 7 I have to agree with the claims. The emulator is feels like it is running at about 90% the speed of my Newton 2000u. the Screen reaction seems to be a little slower than the real thing but given time can only improve. I could see an Android tablet with Einstein replacing my beloved green machine one day.

There are still some things to fix in Einstein. Sound doesn’t work, there is no way to set data in or out, and the app menu needs to fix for 4.0+ devices. Regardless, I think we are closer to realizing Paul Guyot’s original idea for Einstein.

If you would like to run Einstein on your Android device, please check out My previous post here.

Einstien Update Announcement: [NTLK] New version of Einstein for Android
Einstein Project Page: http://code.google.com/p/einstein/

Written on Message Pad 2000u

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Homemade NAS Box Part 3

Bittorrent Server

DISCLAIMER: Do not use file sharing to download copyrighted material.

Not much to say here. I installed μTorrent so that I would have a way to download media off bittorrent. Transmission was also a great choice for bittorrent client.

UPnP Server

The coolest thing I’ve did with this project was setup a UPnP media server. The concept was simple: music, pictures, and videos are stored on the server and shared over the UPnP network protocol. Devices, such as a PS3, can see the content on the server and play it without having to download and save locally. There are several commercial products available that allows you create a UPnP server including MediaLink, EyeConnect, and Twonky. Being the person who liked to take the hard route sometimes I decided to skip all of those and go straight to MediaTomb, the open source alternative.

  1. Install the XCode Development tools from Apple
  2. Download and install MacPorts
  3. Open a Terminal window and run all of the following commands as either “su” or “sudo”
  4. port selfupdate
  5. port install mediatomb
  6. Wait for MediaTomb and all of its dependencies to finish compiling
  7. Once compiling is complete you can start MediaTomb by running the command “mediatomb” (no su/sudo required)
  8. The output from the command will give you the web address to MediaTomb’s web interface. Using Safari or your browser of choice you can select what content you share with your media devices

For my setup I wanted to stream content to my PS3. To do that there was a change I had to make to MediaTomb’s config file that was located in ~/.mediatomb. All I had to do was uncomment the line that said <protocolInfo extend="yes"/>. I also decided to disable the ability of my PS3 to see every folder on the server. That required changing <pc-directory upnp-hide="no"/> to <pc-directory upnp-hide="yes"/>.

With MediaTomb I could also enable the use of on-the-fly media transcoding. In the event I had a file the PS3 could not play, a rule could be setup in the config file that would automatically convert the media to a more compatible format. Using this feature required a lot of testing to work out settings the PowerMac could handle. Also, because the media files are being transcoded in real time I lost the ability to pause, fast forward, and rewind on the PS3. In the end I decided to take a different approach and setup folder actions to convert only files I wanted.

MediaTomb Transcoding

I mentioned earlier that I had developed an alternative to MediaTomb’s built in transcoding feature for media files that didn’t play on the PS3. I stole the idea from Vuze, another bittorent client, which added its own UPnP server. In the event Vuze downloaded a file that wasn’t compatible with the PS3 it would re-encode the file completely and then share the new version instead of the non-compatible version.

I was able to accomplish almost the same functionality using FFMPEG, folder actions, and MediaTomb’s built-in directory scan feature. If I had a file that did not work then I moved it to a folder called “convert”. Attached to that folder was an Applescript action that would tell FFMPEG to covert the file to a new format and save it in another folder called “compatible”. I then configured MediaTomb to scan the “compatible” folder every hour for new files and make them available to the PS3. For everything to work I had to rebuild FFMPEG to include codecs for aac, mp3, x264, and xvid. Below is the commands for MacPortsid

port deactivate ffmpeg
port install -f ffmpeg +nonfree

Below are the applescripts I wrote for the folder actions. When a file dropped into a folder the action would initiate the script and start processing the file through FFMPEG. Based on testing I had done some video files only needed the audio re-encoded for the PS3. Others required a complete re-encode. I’ll admit the PowerMac didn’t have the power to re-encode at realtime speeds, but I normally let it take care of files during the night or while I was at work.

Re-encoding only audio of a video file example:

on adding folder items to this_folder after receiving these_items
repeat with i in these_items
set {name:Nm} to (info for i)
set Nm to quoted form of Nm as string
set vFolder to quoted form of POSIX path of this_folder as string
set vSource to quoted form of POSIX path of i as string
try
do shell script "/opt/local/bin/ffmpeg -y -i " & vSource & " -vn -f mp3 -ab 192k -ac 2 -ar 44100 " & vFolder & "converted/" & Nm & ".mp3"
on error
display dialog "There was an error when re-encoding " & Nm
end try
end repeat
end adding folder items to

Re-encoding Audio and video example:

on adding folder items to this_folder after receiving these_items
repeat with i in these_items
set {name:Nm} to (info for i)
set Nm to quoted form of Nm as string
set vFolder to quoted form of POSIX path of this_folder as string
set vSource to quoted form of POSIX path of i as string
try
do shell script "/opt/local/bin/ffmpeg -y -i " & vSource & " -vcodec libxvid -vb 1000k -acodec libmp3lame -ar 44100 -ab 128k -ac 2 " & vFolder & "converted/" & Nm & ".avi"
on error
display dialog "There was an error when re-encoding " & Nm
end try
end repeat
end adding folder items to

Starting Meidatomb during startup:

  1. Created a plain text file with the command /opt/local/bin/mediatomb -d
  2. Save the file as mediatomb.command
  3. Open a terminal window
  4. Run the command chmod +x _folder_location_/mediatomb.command
  5. Open System Preferences and go to Accounts
  6. Select the account that auto logs in and select Login Items
  7. Add mediatomb.command

With enough time and patience I could create a start lauch daemon to take care of starting MediaTomb up as a service, but I took the lazy man’s approach.

Next time: Other odds and things

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Homemade NAS Box Part 2

it may have took more than 6 months but I am finally going to finish documenting my build of the homemade NAS Box. The project so far has turned out well. Right now I have it providing four main functions: Time Machine and Windows 7 backup, Bittorrent server, UPnP media server, and proxy server. In future posts I will provide more details.

OS Configuration

I decided to keep the partition layout in OS X simple. The OS would live on the 320GB hard drive. The 2TB drives would not have any special RAID configuration. Just one partition on each drive. Ideally I would have used 3x 2TB hard drives and configured them into a hardware RAID 5 configuration. That would have gave me 4TB of total storage with redundancy in the event one of the hard drives failed. Sadly the FirmTek SATA controller didn’t support any kind of hardware RAID and OS X didn’t support software RAID 5.

Backup Server

Creating a backup server was the easiest part to setup. On the server all I had to do was open up the Sharing System Preferences and enable AFP/SMB file sharing. Now the drives were available to other systems in my network. To get my Mac and Windows systems to use the network storage for backup required configuration on their end.

OS X:
Open up a terminal window and enter the following command.
defaults write com.apple.systempreferences TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1
Using network shares other than an Apple Time Capsule is completely unsupported by Apple. Users previously reported issues when a drive filled up, which caused their entire Time Machine backup to become corrupt. I’m uncertain if the the issues were ever resolved in 10.6 but to test I followed the advice of some and added a disk quota for the backup’s sparse bundle. Right now I’ve yet to hit the limit so I don’t know what to expect when I do.

Windows 7:
Windows Vista/7 came with a built in backup utility that allowed for the use of network shares as a storage location. That is great if it wasn’t for the fact Vista/7 also broke authentication when connecting to Windows shares hosted on OS X 10.5. The problem was remedied by making an edit to the system with “gpedit.msc”. Information was found at the following link: http://www.windowsreference.com/windows-7/unable-to-access-network-share-on-macos-x-from-windows-7/. With the authentication issues sorted out it was possible to configure Windows 7 to perform a full backup of the system drive on a regular basis.

Next Post: Media Sharing

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Newton Networking On-The-Go

A public service announcement from a fellow Newton nerd

Friends,
Do you surf the web on a mobile phone?
Do you find that experience too rich and interactive?
Do you wish for a simpler Internet experience while on the go?
What if I told you there was a way? A way to surf the Internet anywhere there is a cellular signal?
And do it from a Newton?

Introducing: WiFi Tether 3.1 Beta 11. Now with WiFi Tether you can turn your mobile phone into a mobile wifi hotspot and allow any wireless device to connect on the go.

How much would you be willing to pay for a product like this? $20? $50? $100? Now for an unlimited time you can have Wifi Tether 3.1 Beta 11 for the low price of $0.00. To prove how easy this product it I’m going to demonstrate on an Apple Newton 2000 MessagePad. Just watch:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Homemade NAS Box

So back in 2008 I started on a project to build a media/storage server. The whole thing was for a senior capstone project with lots of research, hours of configuring/testing, and finally presenting. Using Windows Home Server and FreeNAS I showed the pros and cons of each. Unfortunately I lived on campus so setting up a real server was frowned upon. Instead, everything was simulated using Windows Virtual Server running on my now gaming PC.

This year I thought it was time to finally build a physical media server and move all of my music, videos, and old documents off my PCs. The original plan was to build a server using a mini-ITX motherboard with 4 SATA ports, and 3x 2 terabyte hard drives in a RAID 5 configuration, stuffed inside the smallest case possible. The system, in theory, would sit behind my TV and share everything out using FreeNAS.

Unfortunately, those plans have not worked out so now I’m falling back on an alternative. Why not take an old computer I already have and turn it into the storage I want?
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IM Chatting with a Newton

About two years ago I wrote a wiki article detailing how to setup a Newton to use Jabber as an instant messaging client for Yahoo, MSN, AIM, etc… Unfortunately that wiki no longer exists and the Internet Archive never backed up the pages. So I pulled out the old document I typed up and have reposted it here. I hope somebody finds it useful.

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The Theme of the Month

You know that person who is constantly changing the theme of their blog? I think I’ve turned into that guy. I’m playing around with different themes trying to find something simple and easy to read.

Sorry everybody, the current theme, Fusion, may not be the last.

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A New Way to Carry a Camera

Like many people today I like to enjoy the hobby of photography. While I certainly won’t make a career out of the photos I take, getting outside hiking with a camera is a fun pastime. Whether it is one tree changing colors before the rest or seeing deer and turkeys run through the forest, there is always something to photograph. Last year I took the opportunity to upgrade from Canon Powershot A630 to the Nikon D3000. I have to say the change has been welcomed fun. All of the controls are easier to access through the screen settings and dials. The larger lenses and sensor allow more light to be collected and therefore clearer pictures. The zoom control of the lenses is precise so I can perfectly frame a shot.

If I have to criticize the D3000 for one thing it would be the provided neck strap. While hiking the neck strap will rub my neck badly and cause it to sweat. Overall it’s just uncomfortable. It’s a little difficult upgrading from a camera that will fit in a cargo pocket to one that s constantly hanging from my neck. There has to be a better solution.

Thankfully, the local camera store here in Louisville has provided me the answer in the name of the BlackRapid RS-4 camera sling. Instead of camera hanging from my neck, the sling allows the camera to hang to my side much like messenger bag. The RS-4 is designed so the camera can be quickly swung up to my face for shots then just as easily return to my side. No longer do I have to deal with the uncomfortable neck strap that came with the D3000. Another great feature the products from BlackRapid have is they work with almost any camera. From small point-and-shoots to large SLR or video cameras all I have to do is screw the provided fastener into the tripod socket found on the bottom the camera.

After several hiking trips to local parks and forests I couldn’t be happier with the Black Rapid RS-4. For anybody looking at replacing the neck strap, wrist strap, or any other strap on their camera I highly recommend checking out the products from BlackRapid.

http://www.blackrapid.com/

Have fun,
Tony

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Website Back Up

I just found out today the website was down due to an error caused by the WordPress Mobile Pack plugin. It was nice to be unable to access any part of the site. But, now I’m back up and have to say thanks to Jeff Starr and his blog, Perishable Press. He had a great article explaining how one can disable WordPress plugins from withing the site database.

http://perishablepress.com/press/2008/02/18/quickly-disable-or-enable-all-wordpress-plugins-via-the-database/

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1997 OS Meets 2011 Hardware

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish there was a way to use my Newton on my phone or tablet?” Well now you can. For all of those Newton Users who have an Android device, you can now run the Einstein emulator.

Let me give you a little backstory. Back in 2005 Paul Guyot, a well-known and respected Newton programmer, released the first public version of his Newton emulator called Einstein. The original concept was to come up with a solution to make the Newton operating system hardware independent and possibly license the OS from Apple (1). That was going to open the way for new hardware and therefore keep the Newton platform alive. Unfortunately the project never got past the emulator step, but Paul continued to working and was able to build Einstein to run on OS X, Windows, and a few Linux tablets like the Nokia 770/800. In 2007 Einstein was released as open source software so other programmers could join in and help bring Newton OS to new devices. Once such programmer was Matthias Melcher (2).

Since 2007 Matthias has continued to work on Einstein to improve its speed, reliability, and functionality. 2011 has been particularly exciting because Matthias ported Einstein over to the iOS platform giving users the potential to run Newton OS on their iPhones and iPads. Unfortunately Apple rejected Einstein from being released in the App store and the iOS port is no longer being developed (3).

Now Matthias is working on an Android port of Einstein (4). An early build is available for download, but a lot of work still needs to be done to optimize the speed and reliability. Running the emulator on a Droid 1 is slow, but good enough to show off to friends. I personally can’t wait to see what happens to Einstein in the near future as devices get faster. What are you waiting for? Go dump the ROM off your Newton and get to emulating.

Have fun,
Tony

http://code.google.com/p/einstein/
(1) http://marc.info/?l=newtontalk&m=109452984605975&w=2
(2) http://marc.info/?l=newtontalk&m=118396241728586&w=2
(3) http://marc.info/?l=newtontalk&m=129745881308428&w=2
(4) http://matthiasm.com/einstein.html

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