WDTV Live Plus Update

This is an update to my previous WDTV Live Plus post way back in October. I gave this box a four out of five. It still is a great box because of all the updates that Western Digital have been pushing down, I thought I should add some more to the review.

The current version of the firmware is 1.04.31 dated April 12, 2011. This update and all previous updates have only increased our use of this trusty media box. Some of the improvements include an updated Netflix interface.
Netflix Interface 3.0
The old interface was fine as long as you could manage your Instant Queue. You would have to go online and add items to the queue and then when at your TV find them to play. Now the new interface allows you to manage your Instant Queue but also search the complete library. You really don’t need the Instant Queue anymore. This interface also adds support for Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and Subtitles.

Another internet streaming feature is CinemaNow.  This service allows you buy or rent movies and tv shows.  While this is similar to Netflix, CinemaNow is pay as you go and Netflix is a monthly charge.  It looks like CinemaNow’s content is more current than Netflix.  My family and I have not set up an account yet.  So I can’t speak to the quality versus Netflix quality.  One could continue the debate of monthly versus as-you-go also.

Other internet features include Blockbuster, Youtube, Mediafly, Flingo, PandoraTunein, Deezer, Live365, and Flickr.  There is still no support for PicasaWeb or Hulu.  The streaming of local content has only gotten better.  Support for DVD ISOs is worth mentioning.

So all and all, the WDTV Live Plus has become more and more solid.  We are glad we have it and can’t wait for future updates.

Enid Trail Funding Approved

This is an update to my previous post about Enid updating it’s city trail system. On Tuesday, April 19, the City unanimously approved the funding for Phase I & II.

Phase I is to continue west from Parkway Street to Oakwood Street with a spur going south to Hays Elementary School. Phase II will extend Phase I from Oakwood Street to Garland and continue the southern spur past Hays Elementary to Rupe Avenue. Some bonus construction will be added. A trail head restroom and parking lot on Cleveland Street will be built where the Rail Road Pass Trail will intersect.

I attended the City Council meeting to get more details of cost and construction but mostly to see which members were for and which were against. The City’s initial cost estimate for Phase I only was $1.5 million. And to include Phase II they were projecting over $2 million. The City wants to complete Phase I and II at the same time. But, alas, the Oklahoma DOT wants them done separately. Still the City found a way to fund Phase I and II with some added trail features for around $1.7 million. One of the savings, $30,000, was choosing concrete over asphalt for the trail surface.

Contracts where awarded and debt was paid for engineering services . Construction should start in less than 60 days. Commissioner Don Rose, member of the city park board, seems to be the ‘Commissioner in Charge’ for this project. But there was no real opposition to this trail system. This has been in the works and on everyone’s to-do list for a very long time. The discussion was really uneventful; no fireworks at all.

For more information, search the local newspaper, Enid News and Eagle.

Monthly Treat

A Sweet Dozen

It looks like this will become a regular monthly treat for us. On the first Wednesday of each month, CupcakesToGoGo is making the long trek to Enid. We typically order a dozen. It is like getting twelve different yummy slices of quality cake. They use a travel theme to name their little slices of heaven. Names like Chocolate Town, Route 66 Red Velvet and Canada Eh? are just a few examples. My favorites are the lemony Sunshine State Cake and the peanut butter I Heart PBC. Prices are what you would expect; $2.25 each and $25 for a dozen.

Give them a call at 405-330-2190 or email at with your pre-orders to guaranteed cupcakes when they visit. Then follow them on facebook or twitter to get updated on where in Enid they will be set up. Or if you can not wait, you can stop by the store and get your fix via their drive through window.

Enid Trail to be Updated

Plans for the expansion of Enid’s Trail system were reported in the March 14 edition of The Enid News and Eagle. Matt Davis, a member of the Enid Park Advisory Board, commented on the City’s plans for the next phase of the trail system. He said that costs will be covered jointly by the City and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The OK DOT has required that the trail system connect commercial, public, educational and governmental sites through out Enid. It should meet recreation and transportation needs.

You can find the complete plan (PDF) at the City of Enid’s Website. And looking at the maps this phase is just the beginning. This phase should connect the East Side with the West and likewise, the North and the South sides of Enid.

Initial work to be from Parkway in Indian Hills to Oakwood and then continue from Oakwood to Garland. This trail should follow and old rail road track that no longer exists but the right-of-way still exists. On the PDF this would be trail number 3, The Rail Road Pass Trail.

Future plans are for a trail that starts at the western end of The Rail Road Pass Trail and heads North into Cedar Ridge. Again, on the PDF, this is trail number 5, The Track West Trail. A trouble the planners and builders have is how to cross West Owen K. Garriot (US 412) safely. This is the last traffic light in town and drivers are eager to get up to full speed and get out of town.

Also on the City’s to-do list is trail number 9, The Channel Fairway Trail. Initial plans are for it to start close to midway of trail 3 and head North to Chestnut Ave and beyond to Crosslin Park using trail number 12. Number 12, The Farmland Express Trail, is a necessity. If you want to get to the Jumbo Foods shopping center from the South you must use Cleveland. This road is fast, 45 MPH, and narrow. This road is not safe. Having a trail that gets pedestrians and cyclist off Cleveland is a big deal. And it will be see lots of traffic.

The Southgate Lane Trail, number 13, travels from Meadowlake Park in South Central Enid to Vance Air Force Base will remove travelers off South Cleveland. Presently, there are lots of cyclist and runners who get to Vance on South Cleveland. While this stretch is a bit wider than up North it is just as fast. I have to commend the City for wanting to make Cleveland safer. I know that I will be a heavy user of this part of the trail system.

And to connect the South East side of Enid, they are building the Government Gateway Trail, number 15. This will start on the far East end of number 3 and turn North towards East Owen K. Garriot and Independence Avenue. The City plans to use the Old Santa Fe Depot as a trail headquarters. This is a local land mark and shares parking with our farmer’s market. This will be the first leg to allow people to get to Enid’s downtown. Like many towns, the downtown holds government buildings as well as shops and convention centers.

In my opinion, the City is doing the right thing. Giving it’s citizens the choice and liberty to get around town safely is outstanding. As transportation cost keep rising having choice on how one can ‘get around town’ is forward thinking. Once this trail system is complete, people can choose from their our personal automobile, taxi service, the Transfer Bus system and this trail system.

School Spotlight

On February 21, Madi and Marli gave a quick speech to the local school board.  They informed them about the ‘going-ons’ at their school.  They also made a public plea for support for their upcoming trip to Washington D.C.  The school board meeting was televised and I got lucky and captured it.  Here’s a peek.  This clip is almost eight minutes long and remember that school board meetings are kinda boring.

Not Your Typical Sports Talk

On February 23, Enid High Constitution Team appeared on Enid Sports Talk Live on KCRC 1390 AM Radio. I capured the recording and tried my best to clean it up. Remember, this is AM radio. It can be noisy at times. Both clips are about ten minutes long.

In Part 1, Matthew Holtzen, teacher and coach, answers questions about what the Constitution Team is all about, Fund Raising for Washington D.C. and his students.


Download MP3

In Part 2, Kendra Wills, Marli Sussmann and Madi Sussmann take questions about how they compete, how they got interested in Constitution Team and their excitement about Nationals.


Download MP3

Again, sorry for the audio quality and I hope you enjoy the show.

HDHomeRun by SiliconDust

I hate looking at my cable bill every month.  Who wouldn’t want to ‘Cut the Cable’.  I have always known that the best High Definition Television picture could be had by using an over the air antenna. Where I live, that’s 80 miles to the transmitter sites. So I needed a long-range or fringe antenna. And it had to be up above my home’s roof ridge.

After watching Iyaz Akhtar on This Old Nerd, gave me the tools to make this pipe dream a reality. I mentioned the tuner Iyaz finally settled on, the HDHomeRun, and a friend said I could use his old antenna. I ordered it up and initially installed the antenna in my attic. Ran the RG6 cable to my network and downloaded the software from the Ubuntu Repository.

HDHomeRun

A word about the HDHomeRun. It takes either an Over The Air (OTA) or QAM unencrypted cable TV signal and converts it to a MPEG video stream. This stream can be easily handled by popular DVR software packages. Most notable are Windows Media Center, MythTV, and VLC. I have to say that the Windows Media Center, with the free channel guide, is the way I am leaning when I build my (HTPC) Home Theater PC. The interface is easy and nice.  And it comes standard with either Windows Vista or Windows 7.  It has the Partner Approval Factor. But I don’t have a HTPC just yet.

When the HDHomeRun arrived it was easy to install to my home network. basically just plug it in and do a channel scan. It had marginal signal strength and quality with my antenna in the attic. But now I knew it was going to work. Up to the roof top I go. Once it was in the ‘clear’, I was getting all the channels without any trouble at all.

The only real trouble was the user interface. Using the Linux software, it was taking to many clicks just to tune in a channel. There is no way that anyone other than me was going to use this. So I had to write something that took advantage to command line interface that the HDHomeRun provides.

I dove into the manual and a myriad of google searches. I got a crude bash script that allowed me to tune the HDHomeRun. But still, my wife and kids are not going to use a bash script! I needed a make this as simple and easy as could be. I needed a be able to get this down to a mouse click.

I found that you can use zenity to give your bash scripts a GUI. I rewrote the bash script for only the channels I wanted and dropped an icon on the task bar for quick starting.  Now VLC is the Swiss Army Knife of media players. It can and will play about anything you throw at it. And if you are crafty enough it can stream it over your local network. But I wanted a cleaner interface. I decided on mplayer.

I am cheap. I use old hardware for my computers. mplayer is going to need all the help it can. I edited the mplayer config file to buffer for eight meg. That did the trick. No added buffering.

Here is the latest version of my script.  It still is pretty crude.  I am no professional programmer –Not even close.  And remember, this is suited for the channels available in my area.  If you use this, you will have to edit most of it.  I share it with you as a guide, of sorts.

My bash script for tuning the HDHomeRun

And a screen shot from my netbook, yes my netbook, showing the channel selection interface and a mplayer displaying live free television!

Screen Shot
My TV Tuner Script and mplayer

Now this hack puts me one step closer to ditching my cable bill.  I haven’t yet.  Mostly due to those one or two shows I just can’t get over the internet that are only available on cable.  But soon…