View your media anywhere using Plex

View your media anywhere using Plex

I bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick a few months ago and love it. It is ultra fast, starts most shows instantly without having to buffer, and was super cheap.

The one thing I was missing was the ability to watch my other media, like DVDs and videos of my kids. The solution I settled on is called Plex. I also used Handbrake to get all of my DVDs onto my hard drive.

Plex is awesome. It works on everything: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, and more. It automatically determines if your media file is in a format that your device can understand, and if it isn’t Plex will transcode it to an appropriate format for you.

The first step is to install the server component. My desktop is always on so I just installed it there. This part is always free. Once the server is installed, you tell it where your media is located. This was also easy, but mainly because I hadn’t picked a folder structure for my files yet. It was easy to organize them in the way best suited for Plex. If you need help, check the step by step quick-start guide.

Plex automatically downloads media information for your files, such as the cast, director, artwork, MPAA rating, synopsis, etc… It even found info for most of my old church films.

Next you install the client app on whatever device you’ll be using. The client apps typically cost a few dollars, depending on the platform’s marketplace. For example, it is $4.99 in the Apple app store. It is often free in the Amazon app store, so you can get it for Android or Fire TV without paying anything.

There are also some premium features that you can choose to pay for on a subscription basis. The only premium feature that I find compelling is the ability to sync a file for offline viewing. We paid for a single month of Plex so we could sync a few movies to our iPad for a recent trip. Totally worth it.

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Add geotagging to any camera for free

Add geotagging to any camera for free

Ever since I got my DSLR, I’ve wanted to geotag my photos. Unfortunately, the GPS module for the Nikon D7000 is expensive, bulky, and has mixed reviews. Instead of using the bulky Nikon GPS unit, you can use your cell phone. This works for any brand of camera, even point and shoot models.

Synchronize the date/time

The first step is to make sure your cell phone and camera are set to the same date, time, and time zone. Syncing the time on the two devices will ensure your photos are tagged correctly.


Log your photo shoot

Before starting your photo shoot, start a GPS recording app, such as the free My Tracks. Wait to get a good GPS signal. Leave the app running during your entire shoot. This will track where you are with your camera.

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When you are done taking photos, save your GPS track to your computer. My Tracks makes this easy by syncing with your Google Drive. Sometimes this doesn’t work automatically and you need to choose the Export option. Open your Google Drive and download the file.

Convert your .kml to .gpx

My Tracks exports kml files. Most software expects a gpx file. To quickly and easily convert your kml to gpx, use the GPS Visualizer converter page.

Apply your track to your photos

I like to use Adobe Lightroom. If you don’t have Lightroom, you can use Pictomio for free.

In Lightroom, select the photos from your shoot in the Library section.

Go to the Map section, then load your gpx file by going to Map→Tracklog→Load Tracklog….


Click the tracklog icon and select Auto-Tag Selected Photo.


BAM! Your photos are now geotagged and you didn’t even have to buy anything! Yay!

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Did you know…?

Did you know…?

Did you know that today is National Trivia Day? Nobody is sure when it started or where it came from, but even Google knows about it.


In the spirit of National Trivia Day, here are a few interesting bits of trivia:

In Stargate SG-1, the actor that plays Daniel Jackson was picked because he did a perfect imitation of the character that played the role in the movie.  In season 2 of Stargate SG-1, Daniel’s wife is pregnant. Conveniently, this pregnancy was real and the actor that plays Daniel Jackson was the father.

In 1965, the Slumber Party Barbie came with a scale set to 110 pounds and a book that taught the secret to losing weight: don’t eat!

In 1980, the Mayor of Detroit presented Saddam Hussein with the key to the city.

Happy National Trivia Day! Feel free to share your favorite trivia in the comments.

Featured image is a creative commons licensed flickr photo shared by Mahender G.

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Anna’s YouTube channel

Anna’s YouTube channel

A few weeks ago Anna was having a blast teaching her mom how to make a necklace with some paper and string. It was so cute seeing her explain things that we decided to make a video of it. This quickly led to us making several videos, and deciding to make a whole YouTube channel.

She loves making videos! At least a few times a week she’ll randomly say her signature “Hi, I’m Anna!” as if she is making a video. She puts a lot of work into learning about our filming locations and topics so she can teach her viewers.

I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to mix video clips together, fix audio problems, do a bit of grading, and use my camera more effectively. I have a ton to learn, and a million dollars of equipment I’d love to buy, but it has been so fun so far. I’m using the Adobe Creative Cloud. It always amazes me at what can be done with just a few mouse clicks.

Her latest video was filmed at the Congaree National Park in South Carolina. We ran into problems with the weather (it was cold!), crowds, and noisy family members. But I think it turned out alright. Check it out on YouTube.


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Use BFG to completely remove a file from your git repo

Use BFG to completely remove a file from your git repo

I like to keep my blogs in git repos. For small blogs this works great, but for blogs with a ton of images this quickly becomes a problem. For example, my wife’s blog has 4GB of images. git isn’t really designed to handle that.

So I decided to take out the images. Specifically, I decided to exclude wp-content/uploads from her git repo. Just removing the images isn’t good enough, because they are saved in the history of the repo. For a quick and easy way to remove one or more files completely from git, use BFG.

These are the steps I took:

  1. Create a backup of my clone that has all the images in it. Always have a backup when doing something like this.
  2. Remove the files from git without deleting them locally: git rm -r –cached wp-content/uploads
  3. Add wp-content/uploads to my .gitignore
  4. Commit and push the changes.
  5. Download BFG. It is a jar so you’ll need java installed, too.
  6. For convenience, I created an alias in my .bashrc file: alias bfg=’java -jar /root/bfg-1.11.10.jar’
  7. Clone a bare repo: git clone –mirror git://
  8. Remove references to the images in the repo history: bfg –delete-folders uploads some-big-repo.git
  9. Purge the old files from the repo: git reflog expire –expire=now –all && git gc –prune=now –aggressive
  10. Push your changes into the remote repo: git push

The last step is to clone a fresh copy of the repo. You’ve modified the history of the repo, so you shouldn’t use any existing clones. Be careful not to lose your images! They aren’t in git anymore!

It is important to note that in step #8 you cannot use a full folder path. It won’t let you even if you try. So if you have something else called uploads or with uploads in the path that you’ve previously deleted, it’ll be wiped out, too.

It is also important to note that step #8 won’t do anything if you skip step #2. BFG makes the assumption that you don’t want to get rid of anything that is in your latest commit.

This also works great for removing sensitive information from a repo, for example if you commit a password to a public repo. BFG even lets you search and replace text, so you can simply replace an accidentally committed password with something else instead of deleting the files.

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Use pigz for ultra fast, parallel gzipping

Use pigz for ultra fast, parallel gzipping

gzip can be slow. Painfully slow. If you have a server with a bunch of processors then you can use pigz (pig-zee, or I guess pig-zed if you are Canadian) to utilize those processors.

Installation is easy: aptitude install pigz

Usage is also easy. For example, to tar and gzip /home/jacob using 3 processors, you could use this command: tar cf – -C / /home/jacob | pigz -p 3 > backup.tar.gz

I’m using this for some of my backup tasks and have dramatically cut down the time it takes for my backups to run. I’ve also used this a few times for bundling files up to move between servers.

Featured image creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by MIKI Yoshihito (´・ω・)

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