How I listen to podcasts in 2018

Me listening to podcasts in madrid

I had quite a bit of time to read and listen to podcasts during my holiday in Portugal and Spain. One of the posts I read was Adrian talking about current his tech stack.

But I thought it might be good to talk about how I finally sorted out my podcast setup as it includes many parts of my current tech stack.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks quite a lot. If I was still using last.fm I could likely quantify exactly how much but through my setup I’ll reveal a rough number at the end.

Listening devices

I listen to podcasts in the morning via Xbian running on Raspberry Pi 2 (considering switching to rasplex but Yaste remote supports Plex and Xbian as a audio endpoint/upnp renderer) which I bought a long while ago. This is setup in my room via ethernet and connected to a small amp and stereo speakers, one in my bedroom and one wired into the bathroom. I decided to do this after trying Bluetooth and FM speakers but they were just too quiet or unclear. Nothing beats a dedicated non-battery device. The wiring could do with a clean up. The Raspberry Pi is also connected to a audio splitter with one going to a FM transmitter.

This broadcasts to my little micro-hifi in the kitchen which I got from ebay over 10 years ago; its handy for multi-room synced audio without messing around (although I considered using a Chromecast audio and other things). The small amp in my room is connected to a TpLink HS100 smart switch meaning I can turn it off when leaving easily and quickly. I have only set it up for local wifi access not remote access, because frankly why would I need to this?

When not at home I use Google Pixel 2, I decided to get the 128gig version because I had enough of dealing with space issues. I have plex client installed and I have a plex pass (life time subscription), so can sync podcasts and audiobooks with ease. I do have it on my Nexus 7 and 5x too, but don’t carry them around much. I find Plex client is pretty good and doesn’t eat too much battery. Syncing seems seamless but with offline support sync support and 12gig of mobile 4G data. Because its using Plex at the backend, plex will save position no matter what device, as I’m logged in using the same account.

I also have Chrome Plex client on my laptop, meaning I can keep on listening when at work. Yes I listen to podcasts and audiobooks while working. I know many find this unthinkable but it works for me.

Plex Media Server

I’ve had Plex mediaserver running for quite a long time now and the advantages of having a gigabit internet connection and decent vpn (zerotier) means I can stream, sync or download podcasts and audiobooks without any fuss to my own devices. Plex media server keeps the position and checks for updates to the server filesystem.
Plex indexes the podcasts and audiobooks as audio and with some tweaking works quite well, although it can get confused when podcasts numbering and dates. It would be great if it had a audiobook and podcast indexer to pull much more metadata.

Podcatching

Unfortunately Plex media server doesn’t actually support podcasts which would be great if it did but its a pain to get working and not worth it for me. Especially because I have a complete Ubuntu stack its running on.
Because of this I use to download the podcasts from the web using a native ubuntu app. I tried Gpodder and Rhythmbox but they were resource hungry when downloading 30+ podcasts. Then tried VLC but it seemed over kill just to download podcasts. So tried some command line programs including Podfox and podcatcher. In the end I used Podget then setup a cron to trigger it every 2-4 hours. I also have Podget clean up the podcasts every 3 months.

One of the biggest things which drove me nuts was adding and updating rss feeds. Someone says you listen to the guilty feminist podcast, and would have to update server configs, etc. But using my Tiny tiny RSS install, I now have all the podcasts added to the master subscription list and generate a custom RSS feed aggregated for podcasts. I add the generated feed to Podget and the next time its updated, it will automatically add new items.

Because its done via TTRSS, it means I can add & remove the feed via any TTRSS client including the one my phone or using the web interface via my VPN (I only expose the web interface that way).

Small pieces loosely joined

It sounds like a lot of work but honestly it works well and means I can remove a part of it and it will still work. Remove Podget, could be replaced with anything including VLC, etc. Plex could be replaced with Emby or another mediaserver. TTRSS could be anything self-hosted. Using Plexpy to log is under my own terms and the data is only shared and useable by me.

I do wish I could get to this type of space with so much more of the services I use. Right now, I’m quite impressed with how smooth everything works.

Looking forward

I’m looking at a way to tag and generate a feed out of the tags in TTRSS, instead of adding it to a hierarchy. Sometimes a feed could fit between two or more places. I’d also like to improve plex’s indexing around podcasts and audiobooks. Podget generates a m3u playlist file but not found much use for these yet. I also wish the plex input for kodi was less heavy.

I just added the Recode podcast while writing this post and I looking at my plex client on my Pixel 2. Podget downloaded all the episodes over my gigabit connection in about 6mins flat, the podget won’t remove them till a few months old but I can easily remove them via plex or directly from the file system over the VPN.

As promised, looking at Tautulli (what use to be PlexPy). Over the last 3 weeks I had 83 plays or 22 hrs 14 mins of playback.  The last podcast I listened to while on the Madrid Metro to the airport at 7:30am was Rob Reid’s Always on podcast – Episode 23: Rodney Brooks | Robotics & AI – Their Present & Future

Not enough detail?

If you are interested in any detail, just comment or tweet me for more info.

 

Could the Mycroft 2, be the perfect replacement for a Google home

I saw the Mycroft v2 recently and had a look through the kickstarter page to learn a little more.

MyCroft v1

It looks promising but after some research and some tweets, I remembered the mycroft.ai is something I looked at previously and was interested in installing on a RaspberryPi to see if I could create what I really need. Its one of my many projects I wanted to do with my holidays sometime. Its clear voice and hue lights could be very good, especially for guests but I don’t want google and philips to be involved in that process.

I also suggested mycroft and betty to Databox team, when we talked about voice in the living room of the future. It seems like a perfect match right?

Anyway, I think I might back the second one only because I don’t really want to do the hard work making it work on a Raspberry Pi.

Halt & Catch Fire Season 4 looks super good

Halt & Catch Fire
Halt & Catch fire has been one of those shows I’ve raved about over and over again.

This seems to be the final season and I have to give AMC credit for the great cinematography. Season 4 episode 1&2 was something you would see on breaking bad. Episode 3 was also good too, there are too many good things to say about the show really…

Oh Plex, why oh why?

XBMC media centre

I know the picture above isn’t Plex but rather XBMC/KODI but this shot sums up how I feel about Plex right now.

I have been using Plex server quite a bit and decided that I would snap up a lifetime PlexPlus pass a while ago. So I was pretty peed when they updated their policy around data collection. From Plex’s Highlights of what is changing:

Upcoming features and services involving third-party and ad-supported content will require Plex to collect and, in some cases, share information about the third-party content you are streaming. For clarity, third-party content is content that we deliver or stream to you that is not contained in your personal media library.

Ok thats annoying for me but not too much of pain as I don’t really use the Plex addons/plugins. I know others are more upset about this.

In order to understand the usage across the Plex ecosystem and how we need to improve, Plex will continue to collect usage statistics, such as device type, duration, bit rate, media format, resolution, and media type (music, photos, videos, etc.). We will no longer allow the option to opt out of this statistics collection. Again, we will not collect any information that identifies libraries, files, file names, and/or the specific content stored on your privately hosted Plex Media Servers. The only exception to this is when, and only to the extent, you use Plex with third-party services such as Sonos, Alexa, webhooks, and Last.fm.

We will no longer allow (including paid lifetime!) users to opt-out! Also usually when you get something like this, its anonymous data collection. I know later its makes it sound like anonymous but it never actually says this. I still need to read through the privacy policy in full again. But this feels like it might break a EU data law and for sure the ones coming soon. (Plex is based in Delware & Switzerland)

To be fair I’ve had a task to try out Emby for a long while, but this begs the question of what happens to my Plex pass and why don’t Plex share collected data with us? Luckily plex data portability isn’t such a pain. Also its another reason why most of my media consumption is through Kodi not Plex.

Exposition, versions and the story of sad API lookups?

Donnie Darko

I recently watched Donnie Darko again. Always loved that film so picked Donnie Darko out of my movies, only to find something wasn’t right. Killing Moon was gone in favor of Never tear us apart. I was watching the directors cut of Donnie Darko not the original cinematic cut. Without spoiling it, the directors cut is full of scene explainers which makes a great film suddenly a bore, this is called narrative exposition.

As someone else said

For me this movie was a masterpiece that the director ruined by changing the music and adding too many scenes/extensions.

The movie worked as is so everything he extended seemed to drag it. It’s 20 minutes longer as a result.

And I thought the opening upbeat song “the killing moon” was perfect instead of “never tear us apart”.
In story-telling, you start with “world in balance” (happy 80s) in order to create the contrast when things go array. So “Killing moon” was the a much better choice than “Never tear us apart.”

But whats painful about the whole thing is, looking at my movies. I find 2 donnie darkos. Both named the same, same cover art, fan art, etc. Its not till you look at the folder names you can see the difference. As you can imagine this is very frustrating as it leads to trial and error to get the one you want.

Of course its not just Donnie Darko, I also have the directors cut of Lock Stock, Human Traffic and a few others. Each are identical till watched.

I asked on Twitter about this issue and actually got a message back from themoviedb, which is wonderful to read and hear.

Certainly can’t wait for this to come, as there seems to be no real alternative to this trial and error method at the moment? I don’t envy creating the API point for this as, some films have so many versions and variations. What even counts as a version or variation?

Building your own private cloud?

Head in the clouds

I recently saw this from Gizmodo Australia, and read it with lots of interest.

Movies and TV shows come and go on Netflix on a regular basis, which means you might be half way through your favourite flick when it gets yanked from the service. The solution? Buy all your own content and set up your own private cloud-based streaming service you can get at from any computer or device.

The stand-out contender here is Plex, which we’ve recommended before. It’s new Plex Cloud service, now in beta, lets you use an Amazon cloud locker to store all your movies and shows and stream them from anywhere.

Previously, you had to host the files yourself, so that meant leaving a computer or network drive switched on all the time to get at your content over the web. With Plex Cloud that’s no longer necessary, though you do need to pay for a Plex Pass(from $US4.99 ($7) a month) and sign up for some Amazon storage (it’s $US59.99 ($79) a year for unlimited storage).

We’ve included a couple of other options if you’re not taken by Plex Cloud. They’re not quite as Netflix-like as Plex Cloud, but if you already pay for storage on these services then they’re good alternatives to consider.

Interestingly there was no mention of the friends sharing option which I have been using without the plex pass or plex cloud service. Its the advantage of self-hosting and having plenty of bandwidth at my disposal, but I like the fact you can also switch to have support from them too. Useful if your server goes down or something. This represents a more ideal solution.

I’ve always been interested in what happens when things are much more distributed. Plex is just the start, I already started looking into Emby and some other solutions for media. But for a long while I have been thinking about replacing some of the services I use which I believe I could run myself on my own server.

The whole owncloud thing has always interested me, but I’m weighing up having to be a sysadmin and my time. Although I found Docker which might take some of admin out of this in future. However I don’t want to replace everything, just the things I’m feeling less comfortable with (its about personal choice).

The ones I’m thinking about currently are Evernote, Last.FM and Instapaper.

Evernote I want to replace with something like simplenote (although I admit its not self hostable but my evernote’s recent restrictions have made me wonder why I pay for a pro account?). I looked at using Turtl but its not reliable and mature enough currently. On a related note, I’ve been tempted to install a GIT server at home. Then using a combination of GitignoreMindmup and some kind of GIT repository syncing between home install and Bitbucket; could be great for working on mindmups.

Last.FM with GNU.fm. I only use last.fm to scrobble/track my music playback. I also hooked up Libre.fm but noticed the actual server for libre.fm was just GNU.fm. It seems like a very simple service and useful when looking back for a song or podcast. Especially when placed in a calendar type system, it really triggers my memory. Its also worth noting the last.FM data lost recently has also made me wonder why I even need it. I mean I never use it for music discovery (as I found it rubbish) or anything else. I might as well dump my logs of usage to my google calendar?

41Mxf-vJwzL

I just discovered Wallabag to replace Instapaper. Before I was using readitlater which became Pocket. I switched to Instapaper because of the deliver a mobil ebook to kindle every morning feature (heck I pay for this feature). But since i’m considering a epaper display android tablet which means it could read anything including PDF, RSS, ePub and Mobi. Plus I wouldn’t lose my kindle books because the Amazon app will run on it too. Having a smarter epaper device will squeeze out instapaper and likely mean I will read even more than I currently do (well worth the investment). I still far prefer to read longer stuff on a epaper display.

Theres no doubt I’ll start running more on my own server in future, already considered Open VPN and Zeronet. I think the money saved from certain subscriptions will easily pay for the electricity of hosting it myself?

12th Aug, the date we’ve been waiting for…

I asked the question if anyone would want to see me date? But it was related to First Dates, now you get to see more than you expected… The undressed date some of you have been waiting for is… Friday 12th August. I got the email telling me it will be shown, and I will receive a DVD in the post after TX (transmission), which I was surprised about.

I still have not seen a whole episode from the start to the finish uninterrupted. The press coverage has been interestingly negative but it still seems to hold a reasonable user rating in places. Had hoped to have a few friends around for a live showing, but it’s not going to happen at least till the DVD gets sent out or my friends work out how to copy from their Sky+ boxes. Undressed is also now on TVDB and themoviedb.

Unreal TV show

I may have a surprise in store along with the blog I wrote on the train back up to Manchester. It’s all very fitting as I watch season 2 of unreal (undressed/unreal, similar right?) and been thinking more about the manipulation in reality TV. Most people are very surprised when I tell them, it was all shot in one go with no interruptions except the screen asking questions and prompting what to do next.

The screen is kinda up or rather down?

Cubicgarden's home cinema

Thanks to a friend’s wife, we were able to get the IKEA tupplur projector screen up today (its really a 2 person job). On the evening I set the little panasonic projector back up and tried out Inception (what better?)

It works just as Ikea hackers and AV forums suggested and after another trip to IKEA, they finally had a extendable rod (they never had one previously) to pull the whole thing down. Unfortunally due to the change in living room layout, I can’t really have the projector on the bottom of the coffee table anymore (there is only so far keystone will go). But once positioned on top of the table and after dropping the resolution down to XGA instead of 1080p (the projector doesn’t really support anything over 1024×768 and tends to cut off the rest, but at least my Kodi machine outputs the same image to both outputs, meaning I don’t need to unplug or blank one screen each time)

So with all that in mind, there is one problem. The screen doesn’t seem to pull back up. This looks to be a problem that might mean refitting the screen again.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be standing on a the step ladder pulling the screen back up!

Data & stats from Plex Mediaserver

A while ago I wrote about having so much bandwidth from hyperoptic gigabit broadband, means I can now share my media collection with friends.

Its great but its interesting looking at the data my friends are generating through their use of my sever. But it’s not all super smooth, mainly due to my poor single core AMD Sempron 2800 processor doing transcoding on the fly. The biggest problem is the Xbox Plex client, which we discovered doesn’t support x.264 at all, meaning transcoding the whole thing is the only way to view anything. My poor CPU maxes out at 100% during the whole thing. This seems to be a massive bug bear for many people out there… I dread to think what happens with H.265 encoded media.

I installed PlexPy a while ago and decided it was time to have a look.

plexpy Screenshot from 2016-04-042

The Chromecast isn’t anywhere as bad but still triggers transcoding, but to be fair I’ve not really played with the settings but I think theres a way to force the chromecast to play directly (Directstream). Some Smart TVs seem quite happy to take the direct stream putting absolutely no strain on my CPU.

plexpy Screenshot from 2016-04-041

Because of the strain on my CPU, I’m considering changing my CPU to something better. I mean even a quad core or six core processor would be ideal.

Although part of me is thinking maybe I should block all client which require transcoding, or maybe just block the Xbox Plex client. This doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Sony Playstation, from first tests. But I also wonder about DTS, MKV and h.265?

plexpy Screenshot from 2016-04-045

I mean its not like its heavily used anyway. Sure my one friend will like that (smile). The Chromecast is far and away the biggest client and we tried the Xbox 360 once just to see if it was any better (which it wasn’t)

plexpy Screenshot from 2016-04-044

The other stats generated are quite interesting to look at…
For example when most of my friends watch my media by hour of the day and which day.

plexpy Screenshot from 2016-04-043

Theres much more interesting stats but of course privacy of my friends is the up most importance. Maybe I should craft a EULA (End User Licence Agreement)?

Its really interesting to think about the ethics of data when you are the provider.

Advantages of 1gig broadband: Plex media server

Plex Py

The advantage of having 1gig broadband (hyperfast) is the change of behaviour. Yes you can consume more and very quickly but its the symmetric nature which makes it interesting.

I have been running Plex media server for a while mainly to keep a track of my media, as I’m still running Kodi as the front ends.

One feature of plex media server is the ability to stream media to friends. Sitting on 1gig, I can share with a few close friends without even noticing. Its pretty seamless too, as long as they are using plex as a client. Luckily there are clients for many operating systems and devices including the xbox, playstation, firetv,  chromecast, etc.

Plex media server share

Its good, I once had 4 different friends watching media from my single core celeron server one evening. Did I notice? Nope, except when I noticed the activity indicator was lit up.

This got me thinking theres got be a way to visualise this stuff? Of course others have thought about the same and I installed Plex py.

Plex Py

Pretty cool eh?

The only downside right now is my single core server with 5400rpm drives (helps with the cooling) is rubbish at transcoding full HD content, especially burning in subtitles. Maybe its time for a server upgrade?

I’m also not certain about running everything through Plex, wondering what other solutions there might be which can work in a similar way.

Sharing is caring…

TV shows worth watching

I have been watching quite a few new TV shows recently.. Most are American. I won’t go into the details of how to watch them but let’s just say they are available if you look. This adds to Supergirl, Gotham, Limitless, The Flash, Better call Saul, First dates, etc…

Mel also blogged about a few shows which I’ll be honest most I disagree with (sense8 yes and Mr Robot yes – the rest I watched and wasn’t impressed with).

Lucifer

Lucifer crew

Suw pretty much covers Lucifer in a blog post (beware it contains spoliers!). I’ve been enjoying the series since I saw the pilot last year. I am worried it might go formulaic but so far, theres been enough variety to keep things ticking over. I’m expecting things to heat up soon, and Suw confirms this.

Suits (season 5)

Suits

Suits I’ve liked for a while but its not been anything to shout about. Its been ticking along for a while in mid-level drama mode. But this series finally Mike is on trial and the tension is back up again including lots of bits across the previous series. I would almost say skip to season 5 but you will miss all the references which is a shame.

Man seeking woman

Man Seeking Woman

I’m sure I’ve covered this before but it always makes me laugh. I was planning on using a part in my TEDxManchester talk but had to remove it due to time constrains. Its funny, short and quite smart about its points of references.

Master of none

Master of none

This recommendation came form Sarah who I recommended Man seeing woman too. Its actually similar in off the wall style as man seeking woman. One episode starts one way and then the very next one is totally different. I almost once restarted playing it, as I wasn’t sure it was correct. All from the mastermind of Aziz Ansari, the co-author of the excellent and funny modern romance. Can’t wait for season 2.

11.22.63

11.22.63

This came from my cousin, said I should check it out and I thought what on earth is this? After watching the first episode I was hooked… I replied saying its a cross between Looper, The Lost room and Vantage Point. I’m a sucker for time travel but what I also like is the focus on that era of time. The racism and sexism is all there and shocking through the lens of now, which pretty our man character is. This also confirms what I think when people say they would travel back in time and I say heck no…

My 2015 media consumption in review

My most watched fim of 2015

During my new year resolutions 2015 review, I pointed out that I couldn’t access my year in media without some serious development of Trakt’s API. Well 15 days too late for the review unfortunately.  I saw this on twitter…

Sure enough you can now see my 2015 review in media on the web.

Lots of quantified data for my media consumption…

For 2015…

  • 686 media items played
  • 669 hours of played media

Thats a lot of media use, even I have to admit, especially since, this is does not include documentaries, youtube, vimeo, ted, chromecast use, etc…

My TV genres for the year,
my tv genres of 2015

TV wise… My most watched show is Last week tonight with Jon Oliver with 37 plays or 18 hours, 30 minutes. Generally. I clocked up…

Ian’s home cinema starts here…?

Ian's home projector test
Testing using Inception of course…

I have always been a fan of home cinema and had a pro-logic cinema setup way way back. Heck I even remember when I bought my first DVD player (Creative Encore 5X) and use to buy Region 1 DVDs for upwards of £30. It was great when I finally got a Dolby Digital cinema receiver. Must have warn out my first DVD from Amazon, Twister.

Anyway I just bought a second hand projector so I can finally have cinema nights at mine. I did consider getting a bigger TV but honestly I don’t see the point. Its not like I’m bothered about 4k and I already have a 3D smart TV and never used the 3D or Smart feature ever. I mean why bother when I got KODI (new name for XBMC) and a Chromecast just incase. I’m also not keen on getting a much bigger TV as it blocks the great view I have of Manchester. So a projector and screen made a lot of sense.

The projector I bought is a small Panasonic PT-AE100E and can support 720p and 1080i resolutions over VGA and Component connections (no digital connections at all). Its not bad, little noisy but compact.  I tested it on my black blinds but I’ve already got plans to get the IKEA Tupplur at 180cm wide. Looking at IKEA hackers I’m certainly not the only one.

  • Films – check
  • Kodi box – check
  • Home Cinema receiver – check
  • Projector – check
  • Pull down projector screen – need to order
  • New corner sofa – need to order
  • Popcorn maker – check
  • Friends to enjoy everything. – TBC 🙂

Look out for Ian’s home cinema nights soon… not quite a dinner party but its close enough.