Yesterday I discovered it has an IR blaster – so I added a universal remote app and got the phone to turn my TV off and on. Wheee. I only ever watch TV from my HTPC – which doesn't have an IR receiver, so it's not very useful for controlling what I watch – but that was easily handled with Yatse, an XBMC Remote app that works over my home network. Goodbye living room mouse and keyboard.
It also turns on my air conditioners – but otherwise can't control them – apparently A/C's use funky IR signals. No great loss, we almost never use A/C anyway.
My big plan for the future is to use the phone as an IR remote for my camera – a Sony Nex 7 – which has no way to control it remotely other than by IR. Time lapse video's here I come!
Today I discovered the pre-installed Fitbit app. Apparently it will track how many calories I burn by counting the steps I take. Wheee. So I set up a weight loss plan (I'm trying to win a weight loss competition at work). The jury's out on whether the phone will help or not, but it can't hurt. I can't see it being very useful for tracking how many calories I burn when I get back to swimming, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
It was almost certainly a motherboard problem, and since it was about 6 years old (and it's almost impossible to buy a compatible replacement motherboard now) it's time to build a new HTPC. Huzzah!
As I was researching a new build it occurred to me that I have a perfectly good Raspberry Pi sitting in a box, going unused. I've always been skeptical about how well a RPi would work as an HTPC considering how under-powered it is – but there are a lot of people out there who use PRi's for just that purpose. I decided to give it a tryout while I continued to deliberate over the build of my future 'big' HTPC.
What can I say? I'm impressed. The setup was simple – I imaged OpenELEC (http://openelec.tv/) onto an SD card, popped it into the Pi, connected it to my TV by HDMI, fired it up and presto – fully functioning HTPC that booted directly into an XBMC media center. Everything "Just Worked"! Even wifi worked out-of-the-box using a little Edimax wifi adapter I bought along with the Pi. Considering I ended up going bald from pulling out my hair trying to get that adapter to work in Arch Linux, it was very impressive to see it work perfectly with OpenELEC.
It's been a few years since I played with XBMC and it took a bit of time with the XBMC wiki to set up, but overall it wasn't very difficult. It found my samba media shares easily and plays all the media I have thrown at it, over wifi, with no problems – including 1080p movies in mkv format. I have had a couple movies 'stutter' during play back, but I'm pretty sure that my crappy ISP-provided wifi router is to blame for that, not the Pi (my good router is hiding in another box, still unpacked after our recent move. I'm hoping that will solve the problem – if I ever find it).
Actually I've been so happy with how well the Pi is working I'm thinking of putting off building a 'big' HTPC for a while, and maybe investing in a decent 5.1 audio system instead. Time to do some more research…
OpenELEC Mediacenter – Home
Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center, or OpenELEC for short, is a small Linux distribution. Built from the ground up as a small platform to run software like XBMC. This is done to leave a small footprint as possible. And increase the quality of your experience in total.
Last weekend I splurged and bought an overly extravagant birthday present for myself, a new smartphone – an HTC One M8.
I only lasted a week… Yesterday I unlocked the bootloader, flashed a custom recovery and installed a new custom ROM – Android Revolution 7.0. Nothing like voiding the warranty on a brand new $700 phone, but hey, that's how I roll.
It all went smoothly following the instructions (more or less) on the xda-developers web site. Only a brief moment of panic when it seemed the phone wouldn't power on after flashing the ROM (turns out the phone was already on in recovery mode, but the screen had turned off after timing out – I just needed to tap the screen).
I did try to stick with the stock firmware, but what finally did it in was the pre-installed Twitter app that I couldn't remove. I haven't used Twitter in years (actually since Google Plus came along) and I hate being unable to remove apps I don't want.
Android Revolution doesn't actually change much, it's more or less the stock HTC firmware with the HTC Sense 6.0 overlay. It has some enhancements but the main advantage for me is it's rooted and I can get rid of pre-installed apps (so long Twitter). I'm still not sold on HTC Sense, but at least it's not horrible. I'll stick with it a bit before deciding whether to flash a Google Play Edition ROM and get pure Android.
One of the things I like most about being a teacher is when my students teach me something. Today a couple of my past students taught me that Jesus was in fact not a zombie, he was a lich. One of the things I like most about being a teacher is when my students teach me something. Today a couple of my past students taught me that Jesus was in fact not a zombie, he was a lich.