XBMC now Kodi on the Raspberry Pi B+ First Impressions

01 August, 2014 19:41 CST6CDT

I have been using a WD TV Live for my media center for the past few months. Before that I was using XBMC on a desktop with a very long HDMI cable. I just picked up the new Raspberry Pi B+ model and installed RaspBMC (XBMC) on it, purchased a VC-1 and MPEG-2 license, and the machine works better than I had imagined - better than my desktop performance of XBMC.

I will still use the WD for proprietary services like Netflix, Pandora, and the like of Android screen casting. $40 bucks ($35 Pi & $5 hardware decoding) for a media center, excluding storage!  Since purchasing the WD TV Live (HD) I had been saying to myself "now I know why people have more than one" while still putting the option of two media devices to the far side of my plans.  Raspberry Pi recently released a new hardware revision, the B+ with 4 USB ports, a dedicated power supply for the analog audio output, micro SD slot replacing the SD standard, additional GPIO pins, and lower power consumption allowing the Pi to run with as little as 900mA via micro USB.  With this hardware revision so fresh off the board I decided it was a good point to grab one and have a little fun.

Since I didn't have a micro SD card of a class that would perform at its best, I went the route of using a USB thumbdrive for the OS and XBMC installation.  A micro SD card is still required to boot from and contains the kernel, kernel modules; the boot process is all done here.  The RaspBMC install of the debian based Linux distribution and the XBMC package all went on a thumb drive for the best performance I could achieve with what was readily available around me.

Right off the bat I disabled services I knew I would not need using the RaspBMC application lauchable from XBMC.  I left two services open, SSH (using Dropbear), and lircd.  For now I could probably disable lirc since I do not have an IR receiver.  I added '-g' to Dropbear to deny root login.  The login user is 'pi' with a password 'raspbmc' as the default password.  The password can be changed using the XBMC RaspBMC integrated program.  The 'pi' user is sudo capable, using 'sudo -s', for root operations.  A couple of the services I disabled include FTP, and an SMB server.  XBMC is capable of accessing SMB/CIFS shares remotely and can act as an SMB server internally aside from Samba.  I found out happily that many of the services are started with the xinetd TCP wrapper.  This is so the server applications are only loaded into memory once a connection is made to a service port leaving more resources available to XBMC.

The only internal change I had made other than adding '-g' to Dropbear in the 'ssh' configuration file for xinetd was to add a local NTP server to the NTPD (network time protocol) and remove a few external NTP server declerations.  I must say that having five NTP servers using iburst from an NTP pool might be a bit overkill.  Other than time, the installation is tight!  Once RaspBMC is installed, their is no need for the general user to worry much about any of my modifications, as XBMC is mostly ready to be pointed to your media locations and rock your entertainment room.  Speaking of media, with the Raspberry now sporting 4 USB ports (3 available in a USB installation), you are able to expand the local media collection with additional hardware.

Before putzing around in depth too much, I sprung for the VC1 and MPG2 hardware decoding keys.  While h.264 and x.264 is an open to use standard, about a 3rd of my library would benefit from the GPU VC1 hardware decoding.  I plan on adding an external DVD drive to playback media so the MPEG-2 codec will be of use in the future.  Both codecs were just over five dollars total.  All that was needed to purchase the licenses was the serial number of the board.  This can be found with 'cat /proc/cpuinfo' in an SSH session with the last line displaying the serial number of the board.  I imagine you can find this through the XBMC program in addition.  The keys may be entered into the XBMC program addon or in the config.txt file located in /boot if you are using an SSH terminal.

The boot-up time with the extra services disabled is around 10 seconds from cold.  XBMC launches and is ready for use in just a few seconds.  Navigation is fluid, as the RaspBMC team has this distribution right on button with minimizing overhead and bloat.  RaspBMC used the HDMI CEC link right out of the box so I am able to use my TV remote for XBMC navigation.  I personally prefer the Android application 'Yatse' for XBMC navigation.  Infrared devices may be added for navigation if they are compatible with lirc and are connected using a USB port or the GPIO pins.  A standard keyboard and a mouse works well also if you so choose.

It was just announced that XBMC is being renamed to Kodi.  The team explains that XBMC no longer represents the software as it should.  XBMC, now Kodi is more of an entertainment center than it is just a media center.  Here is the announcement: http://xbmc.org/introducing-kodi-14/  They touch on the difficulty it will be for this new branding to propogate over the internet.  As I think about this name change, I also think of all the ports adopting a new identity - a difficult change for everyone.  Maybe RaspBMC will change to KodBMC, or maybe not.  I believe RaspBMC will be renaming to OSMC, an appropriate name for a multiple platform XBMC distribution.

A year ago I was writing...

The "92" Percent

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Dictionary.com - Godless is Godless Synonym

10 July, 2014 04:05 CST6CDT

Godless SynonymAccording to Dictionary.com, Godless is a synonym of Godless when used in profanity. Makes sense to me. I am a believer, as one definition of Godless on Dictionary.com is "wicked; evil; sinful" and the alternative is "having or acknowledging no god or deity; atheistic.". If I were to choose one whom is an atheist to be of profanity, then one whom believes in God must believe sin, evilness, or wickedness is a nature of God - if you are not Godless. If I were to believe wicked, evil, and sinful is of profanity, then I must choose to be an atheist, Godless, as to live by sin is Godless and to reject sin, evilness, or wickedness is Godless in itself. You can't choose both. It is absurd to use "profane" in relationship with "Godless", especially as a synonym, unless you intend to be cyclical. Cyclical is generally the flow in which God is introduced and Dictionary.com should use God as a pointer from such (cyclical).

Article & Comments   #Bullshit

Microsoft's Canadian Legal Fears

04 July, 2014 02:43 CST6CDT

A supreme leader of the Canadian judicial system ruled that anyone sending unsolicited e-mail to an e-mail address of a resident of Canada may be fined one million dollars.  This was ruled to be held to law by the world - Canadian supremacy permits such.  Cough..  This ruling has scared the socks off of many marketing departments at various companies.  Microsoft was taking no chances as the following e-mail excerpt from MS explains:

Title: Microsoft Security Notifications
Issued: June 27, 2014
Notice to IT professionals: As of July 1, 2014, due to changing governmental policies concerning the issuance of automated electronic messaging, Microsoft is suspending the use of email notifications that announce the following:

  • Security bulletin advance notifications
  • Security bulletin summaries
  • New security advisories and bulletins
  • Major and minor revisions to security advisories and bulletins

In lieu of email notifications, you can subscribe to one or more of the RSS feeds described on the Security TechCenter website.

Microsoft loosened a buckle and said fuck Canada on July 3rd, 2014 with the following excerpt of a retraction e-mail:

Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification for July 2014
Issued: July 3, 2014
Notice to IT Professionals: On June 27, 2014, we notified customers that we were suspending Microsoft security notifications by email due to changing Governmental policies concerning the issuance of automated electronic messaging. We have reviewed our processes and are resuming security notifications by email commencing with the release of this monthly Advanced Notification Service (ANS) mailing.

BSOD, lpr on fire, Abort - Retry - Fail, though mostly a logistical panic with vast humor.

Article & Comments   #Bullshit

HOWTO Force Spamassassin to Mark Mail As SPAM

30 June, 2014 13:05 CST6CDT

Spamassassin has default scores for Bayes results such as bayes_00 and bayes_99 where bayes_00 is mail thought as ham and bayes_99 is mail thought as spam from the local bayesian database.  Sometimes Spamassassin may know when an e-mail is spam though the overall score from the tests is not equal to or higher than the threshold to be tagged as such.

This is where the Spamassassin Shortcircuit plugin comes into good use.  The Shortcircuit plugin forces a message to be tagged as either ham or spam based on any test.  It is generally not a good idea to adjust the default scores of messages because you never know when their may be a false positive.  However Spamassassin 3.4.0 adds a bayes_999 score to the filtering system.  Basically bayes_999 means that it is 99.9% sure that the message is spam in addition to bayes_99, or 99% sure.  To prevent e-mail from hitting an Inbox that Spamassassin knows has a 99.9% spam probability (if well trained), I enabled Shortcircuit for the bayes_999 classifier.

Shortcircuit is a plugin, so you will need to comment-out or add the following to the local.pre file in your local Spamassassin configuration directory, usually /etc/mail/spamassassin:

loadplugin Mail::SpamAssassin::Plugin::Shortcircuit

Now that the plugin is enabled, you could add the following to the local.cf file for the bayes_999 Shortcircuit:

shortcircuit BAYES_999 spam

You will want to make sure Spamassassin is keen to your configuration changes by running:

spamassassin --lint

The default Shortcircuit spam score is 100 while ham is -100.  These scores may be altered with the "shortcircuit_spam_score" and "shortcircuit_ham_score" variables.  Shortcircuit may be applied to built-in and custom rules along with additional tflags such as allowing Spamassassin to learn from Shortcircuit ham or spam. 

As a note, all further tests will be skipped once Shortcircuit is matched unless specifically instructed not to.  A "shortcircuit=yes/no" variable will be added to the Spamassassin header.

Here is the Spamassassin reference for Shortcircuit: Spamassassin Shortcircuit

A year ago I was writing...

It is Squirrel Thursday! - The Great Squirrel Stampede
Rugged LG Optimus G Case

Article & Comments (1)   #Software, #Projects

A Look at the Aspire ET-S BDC Glassomizer

17 June, 2014 04:25 CST6CDT

Aspire ET-S BDC GlassomizerThe Aspire ET-S BDC Glassomizer is a new e-cig device in respect to a traditional e-cig cartomizer, tank, or clearomizer. The ET-S BDC is constructed from pyrex glass and metal. This glassomizer does not leak. Many other tanks are known to leak e-juice either because of an open (unsealed) design or from a cracked tank as a result from heat or certain e-juice consistencies. The metal drip tip has a tight screw seal and the bottom of the tank, where filled, is also a heavy metal threaded piece that creates a tight seal. In-between the drip tip and the bottom e-go threaded end of the glassomizer (uses outer e-go threading) is a pyrex glass tank with two slim windows that show the amount of e-juice left in this BDC tank. It holds just under 3ml of liquid and is spent in a consistent manner when used.  Holes are punched in the casing to allow an appropriate amount of drag even with non sealed e-go connections.

Wicks are commonly used with other tanks and must be watched to be certain e-liquid is properly absorbed so that it does not burn. Replacing wicks often requires specialized equipment and a steady hand to test resistance and assemble, therefor these do not provide an average e-cig user an easy decision when choosing among the many clearomizers, some of which are down right confusing to piece together.

BDC stands for “bottom dual coil” and the encased two coils may last an all day vaper two weeks or longer. The small encased dual coil heating elements come in a pack of 5, rated most commonly at 1.8, or 2.1ohm resistance. A pack of 5 replacement dual coil elements costs around ten dollars. This element is the fourth piece of this glassomizer. It is easily replaced by screwing it into the middle of the bottom base, the piece with the e-go threading for the battery.

The ET-S experience is bliss – it produces a massive amount of smooth vapor. A couple suggestions for those interested in giving this simple device a try: at 1.8ohm I have found batteries between 3.3 and 4 volts provides the greatest consistency, and at times very thin e-liquid may produce a gurgle if a very hard draw is taken or the battery output is too high. This is by far the best tank I have used and the most appropriate for on-the-go and storage in a pocket.

Random thought...  Update 2014-06-18: MyFreedomSmokes.com has Aspire BDC replacement heads, 5 pack, half price ($5.48) with coupon code HALFPRICE. Expires June 19th at midnight.

Article & Comments   #Technology

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