Meeting Notes - 10 February 2015

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Meeting Notes - 10 February 2015

Post by bdahm on Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:29 pm

CM Geeks - Notes

No free lunch - We’ve heard this expression time and again. It’s true. It’s equally true here. We don’t charge anything for our meetings, perhaps on the philosophy that you get what you pay for. Be that as it may, the River Market is providing us with a place to meet every week. They are providing us with parking, a projector and a screen and even a sound system for our videos. All they ask in return and all we ask in return is that you purchase something from the menu, even a cup of coffee or a soft drink. Information wants to be free; Food is something else. For those who may have eaten or are not hungry, a tip for the wait staff would be appreciated.

Miracle of Modern Technology
In what would have to be a miracle of modern technology, I was able to thread the needle and successfully do the demo, which had eluded me over the past two weeks. There were three elements that had to work together. First, all three devices, my iPhone 6, my MacBook Air and my Apple TV all had to be on the same network. I didn’t want to rely on the River Market’s network, which can be a little finicky at times, so I decided to tether my iphone’s internet connection and thus create a hotspot for the MacBook Air and the Apple TV. Then I used the AirPlay capability of my MacBook Air to display its screen to the projector through the Apple TV. This had worked well at home when I tested everything out and it worked perfectly during the meeting without having to re-enter any network passwords. The only thing that didn’t work was the sound going out of the MacBook Air’s earphone jack to the external speaker. Perhaps the extension cable I had recently bought for this purpose was not up to the task. Fortunately sound was not crucial to the demo.

Demo for Torrent Downloads
The demo was to show in real time how to use a search engine such as EZTV to find and download TV programs. Without reproducing the process here, let me just mention a couple of points. Regardless of which search engine you use, when presented with multiple download sites, the most efficient method would be to select the Magnet File, which uses a little “U” shaped icon. Most of the other sources only download a small index file to begin with. That file, in turn, would need to be opened in your torrent client. The Magnet File cuts out that first step and feeds the index file directly to your torrent client.

The other thing one can do is associate .torrent file types to your torrent client. I showed how this works with uTorrent, which I have found to be an excellent, multi-platform, bit torrent client. There are others.

I also mentioned that it is not so much bandwidth that determines how long it will take to download the torrent file, but the number of seeds (people who have already downloaded the file and are on-line at the time). The more seeds, the faster the download. I have found that the sweet spot as far as efficiency and speed is concerned seems to be 30+ seeds. For this reason I usually wait 8 to 12 hours after the torrent becomes available before attempting to down it. A 400 MB file will take less than 5 minutes under these conditions.  As a result I was able to show the file I had downloaded. The way I did this was to save the file to the Downloads folder on my MacBook Air. From there I imported it (MP4) into iTunes. I then played the video through my Apple TV to the projector. 

Since I had the Apple TV with me, I briefly showed some of it’s features, which include access to iTunes content, movies, TV shows, photos, etc. Apple TV is getting a little long in the tooth as there have been no major upgrades for several years. The current version, selling for $99 is capable of processing 1080p content and passing it on to your TV via an HDMI cable. Currently Apple TV is in its third generation, though I have my second generation Apple TV since September of 2011 and it has served me well. Typically I download torrent files to my Mac Mini then import them into iTunes on the Mac. From there anything can be streamed over my home network to the Apple TV located in another room with the TV. I can control what gets shown via a small remote, which has a few simple controls. One of the nice things about the remote is that I can stop, pause, and rewind what I am watching at any time. There are rumors that a new Apple TV will be released in the Fall, which will allow for games (you can do this now from other Apple devices such as iPhone, iPad and MacBook) by using AirPlay. Also rumored is that it will become a center for HomeKit apps which can control various functions in the home, such as lights and other appliances. 

There are several other media boxes on the market, Roku being the most popular along with Google’s ChromeCast and Amazon FireTV. 

The End of Boredom
Now that so many people have smartphones with them at all times, it’s hard to be bored. Standing in line, waiting for someone, whenever one has a few free moments, one can pull out the smartphone, check one’s email, social media, Facebook, Twitter, surf the web or even read a book.

While there are some obvious benefits to this, I read an article this week, which said there are also some drawbacks. It seems that boredom is a wonderfully creative tool. It’s at these times of boredom, when we daydream, that some of our most creative and imaginative activity occurs. There are numerous accounts of people who have had great insights when doing something has mundane as taking a shower. Perhaps it is the soothing white noise of the shower or the repetitive almost automatic activity of taking a shower, which frees our minds and gives flight to our imagination. One can only wonder what the effect of constantly being bombarded with data, data overload, will have on the creative process.

Well, that should give you some food for thought, so with that, I’m going to call this a wrap. Catch you next week.


-Bill 

bdahm
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