Raspberry Pi Media Centre

R-Pi Logo

After a long wait for delivery, I finally received my Raspberry Pi just before Christmas.  Although the Raspberry Pi is being used for all sorts of interesting projects, my first project is to set the Raspberry Pi up as a networked media centre pc, with remote control from a smart phone.  This will essentially turn an old, dumb TV into a smart TV.

Raspberry Pi

Existing Media Server 

I already have a Windows 8 Media Centre PC, connected to a 42″ Kogan TV, which handles Live TV and recording, plus storage of movies, TV and music files.  Live TV signals are handled using a Winfast DTV200DS dual digital TV tuner.

XBMC Screen

This Windows 8 PC runs XBMC 11 (Eden) with PVR support, and is called AMD-XBMC.  It has a static IP address of 192.168.1.3

I setup AMD-XBMC to allow remote control using port 9999.

Installed MediaPortal TV Server to stream Live TV to other instances of XBMC.

 

Raspberry Pi

SanDisk Ultra 16GB SD CardThe Raspberry Pi comes with 2x USB ports, which will be populated with a TP-Link WN821N 300M Wireless adapter, a Logitech MK320 Wireless KB/Mouse dongle.

Using the Windows 8 PC, I downloaded and installed Raspbmc on to a 16GB Class 10 SD Card.  Although a little more expensive, a Class 10 SD Card is designed for HD Video use.

 

Raspbmc Logo

After installing Raspbmc, I inserted the SD Card into the Raspberry Pi and booted it.  After the normal Raspbmc setup procedure, XBMC started and I renamed this instance of XBMC to Pi-XBMC.

I assigned a static IP address to the Pi-XBMC of 192.168.1.4 using the Router administration page, and setup network details inside XBMC.

I purchased licence keys for MPG and WMV codecs from Raspberry Pi store, which cost AU$4.85.  I input the codec details into the Raspbmc settings inside XBMC, which updates the Raspberry Pi’s config.txt file.

I setup Pi-XBMC to allow remote control using port 9999.

 

Toshiba L650 Laptop

I also have a Toshiba L650 Laptop running Ubuntu 12.04 which will be used to display media at times.

xbmc logo

I downloaded and installed XBMC (Frodo) and named this instance of XBMC as Toshy-XBMC.

I assigned a static IP address to the Toshy-XBMC of 192.168.1.5 using the Router administration page.

I setup Toshy-XBMC to allow remote control using port 9999.

 

Samsung Galaxy S2XBMC Remote

I am controlling the XBMC using a Samsung Galaxy S2, running the Official XBMC Remote app for Android.

XBMC Remote logo

Within the XBMC Remote app, I setup AMD-XBMC on 192.168.1.3, the Pi-XBMC on 192.168.1.4, and the TOSHY-XBMC on 192.168.1.5 – with all 3 using port 9999.

I note that the XBMC Remote app is still in Beta form and therefore has a few error messages popping up on screen from time to time, but remote control functionality is perfect.

 

Currently streaming media from AMD-XBMC to Pi-XBMC, using the smart phone as a remote control.

[Project in progress – updates to come]

 

Merry Christmas 2012

 Merry Christmas 2012
Tailormade IT Solutions would like to sincerely thank all our customers for their business in 2012, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2013.

 

Tailormade IT Solutions will close on the following days:
Tuesday 25th December 2012, Wednesday 26th December 2012 and Tuesday 1st Jan 2013.

My New Years Resolution for 2013 is that everyone keeps a backup of their important data !

Reason: It’s likely that Ransomware will continue to spread in 2013, and the only effective solution is to have a backup, that is not normally connected to the PC.

Symantec Whitepaper: Ransomware a growing menace

After infecting your PC, ransomware can encrypt your personal data and then display a message encouraging you to pay for the data to be un-encrypted.  Some messages say your PC has been locked by police due to downloading illegal material, and you must pay a fine before your data will be released, earning the bad guys $5 million a year.

AFP-Ransomware

Click picture to zoom in

 

It’s quick and easy to get a decent backup in place, using online storage, or a USB drive and some automated backup software.  This protects your important data from ransomware and/or Hard Drive failures.

TIS Logo

 

Using ReadyBoost

Need a cheap way to get more PC performance ?

 

ReadyBoost LogoReadyBoost is a feature built-in to Windows Vista and  Windows 7 and Windows 8, that enables you to use a USB drive/Memory card to give your PC a memory boost.

While it’s normally wiser to install additional memory, ReadyBoost is ideal people running older PC’s and laptops that are only capable of holding a small amount of memory – ie: Have a 1-2 GB RAM limit.

How does it work? When PC’s run low on memory (RAM) they can borrow some additional thinking space from the Hard Disk Drive – however most hard disk drives are mechanical and are slow compared to electronic memory, USB drives or Memory cards.  ReadyBoost enables your PC to use electronic media rather than mechanical hard disk space.

To start using ReadyBoost

Simply plug-in a spare (blank) USB drive in to your Computer and follow these prompts:

  • Click on ‘Computer’ and then right-click on your USB drive.
  • Now click ‘Properties’ and select the ReadyBoost tab, as shown below.

ReadyBoost Properties

  • Select ‘Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost’ and click ‘OK’.

 

You’re now making the most of Windows ReadyBoost features, harnessing the extra memory available to you in external USB devices to give your computer’s memory a boost and speed up its performance.

It can now borrow memory from your nominated USB drive rather than your hard drive, which is much faster.

TIS Logo

Notes:

  • Not all USB drives are capable of being used for ReadyBoost.
  • This feature is useful if your computer doesn’t have enough RAM.  If you do have enough RAM, ReadyBoost won’t really help.
  • If your computer has a hard disk that uses solid-state drive (SSD) technology, you might not see an option to speed up your computer with ReadyBoost when you plug-in a USB flash drive or flash memory card. This is because some SSD drives are so fast they’re unlikely to benefit from ReadyBoost.

 

Sharing Outlook Data

Sharing Outlook Data can be confusing and quite expensive, and a number of small business owners have asked how to share data between PCs running Microsoft Outlook.

 

In larger businesses, sharing Outlook data is normally performed by a Microsoft Exchange Server.  This allows for shared contacts, calendar and mail folders.  However the cost of Microsoft Exchange (US$708) makes this choice not viable for many smaller businesses.Vaita Logo

Tailormade IT Solutions to the rescue !

Tailormade IT Solutions has just signed a deal with Vaita, the makers of OSASync which is an add-in application for Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2010. 

This means you can now have the improved productivity of using shared Outlook data, for a fraction of the normal price.

 

For example, if you run a business with a Shop PC and a Laptop PC, this product will allow your business to view and record customer bookings on either PC (using a shared calendar) and update customer details on either PC (using shared contacts).

Outlook Shared Calendar using OSASync

 

There is also a FREE cut-down version called OsaSync Lite, which will share or synchronize your Outlook Contacts across 4 computers.

 

Cheaper Printing

Canon MX410

Canon Pixma MX410

New inkjet printers are very affordable, and include scanners and fax machines – but the cost of replacement ink cartridges soon ads up.

Canon Ink Combo

The Canon Pixma MX410 printer shown above normally uses Canon PG510 (Black) and CL511 (Colour) ink cartridges, available in a combo pack for $51.99 at OfficeWorks.

These cartridges contain just 9ml of precious ink, and have a page yield of 200-250 pages (approx), which is why they run out so often.

 

Looking for a cheaper option ?? 

I purchased a Rihac Constant Ink Supply Solution (CISS) for $115 which includes a 100ml refillable ink tank (pre-filled with High Grade UV Dye ink) which allows for countless refills.

Rihac CISS

Although a little fiddly to install initially, the system is mess free and the tank can be eventually be topped up using 100ml bottles of ink.

The savings speak for themselves.

According to Rihac, this system saves up to 90-95% on your printing costs!  “*Equivalent to approximately 60 standard cartridges. Epson cartridges have approximately 10 mls of usable ink inside. Our CISS allows you to print continuously. Epson cartridges are approximately $23.52 each (officeworks). Our CISS is pre-filled with 100mls of each coloured ink, so in dollar terms that is approximately $1,400.00 worth of cartridges if bought separately.”

 

Rihac CISS - OutsideRihac CISS - Inside

Click on the pictures above to see the Rihac CISS installed.

 

The Rihac CISS works with a range of Brother, Canon, Epson & HP printers.  If you are looking for cheaper printing, I recommend using a Rihac Continuous Ink Supply Solution.

To see if your printer can use a Rihac CISS, visit: http://www.rihac.com.au/inklink8482-ciss-units-c-26.html

Microsoft Surface Tablets

Microsoft Surface

The Microsoft Surface tablet is due for release later this year, and will come in a ‘lite’ ARM processor version that runs Windows RT, and an Intel i5 chip version that will run the full Windows 8 desktop OS.

Microsoft recently previewed Windows 8 (see our post) and the new Surface tablet device.

Surface Specs (PDF)

 

Upgrading to faster USB

USB3.0 Logo

 

Are you tired of waiting around for data to finish copying to and from USB sticks ?

Wish your transfers and backups could be faster ? They probably can… You are most likely using an outdated USB 2.0 connection, and USB 3.0 offers speeds up to 10 times faster !

USB3.0 v USB2.0 speed graph

 

Tailormade I.T. Solutions can cheaply upgrade your current PC to USB 3.0 specifications, by adding a USB 3.0 expansion card to your computer system.

USB3.0 card

You can then enjoy the benefits of the new generation of USB 3.0 sticks/drives. USB 3.0 is also backwards compatible so all your old, slow USB 2.0 drives will work too.

More Info: http://tailormadeitsolutions.com.au/services/repairs

 

The dangers of password reuse

With so many passwords to remember now days, and increasing security about how long, how complex, and how often they must be changed – it’s no surprise many of us reuse the same password on multiple websites.

Many websites

 

Unfortunately a current trend of hackers is to publicize usernames/passwords obtained from hacking websites, by posting them online for all to see. People have taken the information and logged on to people’s personal sites: taking money from PayPal accounts, replacing dating site profile pictures with pornographic images, and engaging in chats using other people’s Facebook accounts.

 

Time to make technology work for you.

The following video shows two methods used and recommended by Tailormade IT Solutions to overcome this problem.

 

Fingerprint Scanner

By using a fingerprint scanner, you can store a variety of complex passwords and just logon to your PC and/or web sites with a swipe of your finger. A lot of new laptops come with fingerprint scanners, and for other users USB fingerprint scanners are available.

The big benefit of fingerprint scanners are:

 

Password File

Keeping a password file stored safely inside a TrueCrypt encrypted vault ensures that you have a backup/reference of them. TrueCrypt supports AES encryption (which is used by the US military to encrypt data up to the top secret level)

How safe is TrueCrypt: Lets look at a real world story.

The Brazilian National Institute of Criminology tried for five months to obtain access to the encrypted data of a Brazilian banker suspected of financial crimes without success, before turning over the job to code-breakers at the FBI in early 2009. US computer specialists also drew a blank even after 12 months of efforts to crack the code.
 

Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/28/brazil_banker_crypto_lock_out/

 

The big benefits of using TrueCrypt are:

  • All passwords are stored securely and can be accessed by remembering one password – the TrueCrypt password.
  • As the password file is located on a secure USB stick, it is transportable.

Available for Windows 7 / Vista / XP, Mac OSX, and Linux.

 

Print to PDF

Sharing files with family, friends and colleagues is easy, but what if they don’t have the appropriate software to view the content? The solution is to send them a PDF file rather than a Word, Excel, Photoshop or other file types.

PDF Creator logo

 

Although software to create and edit PDF files is quite expensive, you can install a virtual PDF printer for free. I use PDFCreator, which lets you choose the Print command in just about any application, and rather than printing to a piece of paper, you end up with a PDF file saved on your hard drive, ready to send.

 

Here’s how easy it is..

 

User Guide: http://www.pdfforge.org/content/create-pdf
Download PDFCreator