Last.fm, wot is dis?

Holy shit a new post.  Yeah I dunno, the feeling hit me tonight to write some shit so here we are.  And it’s gonna be a pretty awesome post, just a heads up.

Music is great, I think we can all agree.  When we’re feeling like shit, we put on some tunes.  When we’re feeling awesome, we put on some tunes.  Travelling, driving, working, relaxing – it’s always there.  I won’t try to psychoanalyze why our brains like the repetition of beats and sounds, but there’s something to say that we’ve been making music for most of our existence.  From banging on drums and tapping your hand on your desk, to playing a real physical instrument or an electronic software instrument, it’s as old as we are.

Now more than likely, you have a music library of some sort.  It could be a library of CDs, or a meticulously organized folder of tunes on your computer, or a group of playlists hosted by some music streaming service (Spotify I love you).  But one thing most people don’t think about, is how cool it is to analyze your listening habits.  Enter, Last.fm.

I’m a massive sucker for stats and shit like that.  I check in to movies and TV shows I’m watching (see that Twitter feed on the right?  All automatic), but I also record what music I’m listening to as I listen to it.  This is called scrobbling, and it stems back to the mid-2000s when I first got started.  Last.fm is what the service is called now, back in the day I think it used to be Audioscrobbler?  It’s free, and it integrates with most music players out there.

It’s neat because at the end of the year you can see what your listening habits were that year:

Yeah, so I listened to over 10,000 songs in 2017, an average of 28 per day, and a total of 25 days, 5 hours of listening time.  Pretty crazy, and you can go back year by year and get the same info.

It’s interesting because if you’re curious what you listened to on this day sayyyyyy, 3 years ago, you can:

There was a lot of the same shit I listen to today.  But there’s a few gems in there I haven’t listened to since.  It’s pretty cool.  It can also show you some embarrassing shit, like the obscene amount of the Battlefield 4 soundtrack I listened to on this day, January 26, 2015.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for information like this.  It’s fun to look back and see where I was, what I was listening to.  Sometimes it’s depressing, like a song that brings back bad memories or a song that reminds you of better times.  Meanwhile it could be invigorating, like rediscovering a song or an album that you totally forgot exists.

The nice part is Last.fm is free to sign up, and you can immediately link it to your Spotify account here, under settings:

But there’s an even better way, which links Last.fm with Spotify, and works completely agnostically from what client you’re using.  Xbox, Android, iOS, computer, web, even your Amazon Echo.  They will all scrobble if you use the Spotify Scrobbling (Beta) plugin:

https://www.last.fm/settings/applications

Pretty slick shit.  I tried it this evening and it scrobbles everything, you just need to remember to turn off the above mentioned client-based scrobbling.

Check it out audiophiles, you won’t be disappointed.

Shut your damn Pi-hole

At some point in your life, you might have heard about a device called a Raspberry Pi.  It’s a relatively small SoC (System on a Chip) that’s an entire computer.  Processor, memory, network interface, the whole shebang.  Well there’s a project out there called Pi-hole, which is a piece of software that you run on said Raspberry Pi.  What it does is something pretty awesome – it turns your Pi into a hardware-based, network-wide ad blocker.

Yep.  This shit is bonkers.  Now, on Raspberry Pis, the OS they run is called Raspbian, which is just a specialized distro of Debian Linux.  And ya know what that means – Pi-hole can be ran in a VM running a Debian-based distro.  After I did some research, I took the plunge, fired up a CentOS VM, and installed it with a single command:

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

That’s it.

Configuration-wise it’s pretty simple.  Usually when your computer queries a websites DNS information, it does so to your router.  With a Pi-hole in place, you modify your DHCP information to provide the Pi-hole’s IP as your network’s DNS server.  The Pi-hole then, in turn, forwards requests to your router as expected.

All your clients ask the Pi-hole for website IPs, and if it doesn’t have them, it asks your router.

Now from here, the Pi-hole has a list of blacklisted IPs.  If you load a website and any of those sites have an embedded ad that matches one of those blacklisted IPs?  It returns nothing to your browser and doesn’t even load the ad itself.  It’s really quite beautiful.

The absolutely awesome part of this solution running network-wide is that it blankets every single one of your devices.  Your phone, your PC, your Xbox, TV, Roku, anything.  No need for plugins or any of that jazz anymore, and because it doesn’t even load the ad, your network’s bandwidth use is potentially less.

Another plus is it actually blocks YouTube ads from playing.  I was watching some shit on YouTube through my Roku yesterday, and it would spin for a second like it was trying to load an ad, then just cut straight to the video I wanted.  It’s pretty slick.

And if you’re the type that likes to see logs and statistics – there’s a GUI that shows what the Pi-hole has been doing.  Logs for blocked and allowed connections.  Graphs showing forwarded and cached DNS requests.  It’s fantastic, and the ability to run on a relatively slim VM (1 vCPU, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB HDD), how can you beat that kind of functionality?

Link to the good stuff.

My Thoughts on the iPhone X

Apple unveiled the iPhone X yesterday, and I obviously had to do my due diligence since I’m all about that tech shit.

TL;DR – It’s junk.

I know a lot of people will hinge their mental well being on justifying why they want one, or why they’re going to buy one, and argue with me on this point.  So I’ll break down briefly why I think the iPhone X is trash.

Continue reading

Blogging Sucks

To be honest, a majority of the blogging I do on here is meaningless ranting.  There’s no summary or planning involved.  I shoot from the hip, if you will.  Sometimes it works out and people enjoy my rambling, other times it’s along the lines of “What the hell is he talking about?”  Meh, it’s all whatever.  I kinda had a plan for this particular post, but I got like halfway through and I realized that I had no idea what I was writing about.  Something about technology *durr hurr*…

But anyway, it’s been a long long time since I lasted blogged and I was thinking about why.  It’s because I’ve been so damn busy.  Side business work has really started taking off, and life at home has been turbulent but I look forward to what the future might hold.  Christmas is approaching (!!!!) and I can’t fricken wait.  For the first time ever, I think, I’m more excited to give this year than to receive.  It’s a strange shift, but I feel like that goes along with all the other changes I’ve gone through over the course of the last year and a half.  I’ve gotten a lot of presents for Allyssa, and I plan to get a few more presents for her family and mine.  It’s certainly the season for giving, and since there’s only been one day of any snow so far this season – I’m pretty much unable to complain about anything.

I finally finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.  It was incredibly well written, and it really gives you a non-sugar coated idea of what Steve was all about.  There was a lot of talk about the Microsoft/Apple view points on technology.  Especially that Apple’s gated garden where everything works together and they control the experience from start to finish.  Whereas Microsoft makes the product and let’s everyone else build onto it or build it into whatever.  Open versus closed.  I used to be in the open camp.  Windows was what I was used to, what I learned in school, and what I had grown up with.  That day in like 2001 when my parent’s brought home an indigo iMac was the first step that led me to where I am now.  I hated that iMac to begin with.  It was different, it operated differently, looked weird, etc, etc.  Pretty much the same arguments that everyone throws at the Mac camp – even now a days.  But since that was the only computer in the house that had an internet connection (Dreamcast, then Verizon dialup I think), I had to get used to it.

I was only 13 or 14 at that time, and I was just beginning to cultivate my tech knowledge.  The standards, the acronyms, the hardware.  I had my parent’s hand-me-down PC running a weird mashup of Windows 95/98SE that could barely run any new games that were out.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I was just getting into computers, I probably wouldn’t have given the Mac a chance.  Back then it was probably the 2nd or 3rd version of Mac OS X which wasn’t very impressive compared to 10.7 now.  As I started using that iMac more, I began to see the fundamental differences between Windows and OS X.  Ease of use, intuitiveness, and the fact that it just looks good at what it does.

I was planning on writing more, but some server stuff just came up at work so I’ll sign off for now.  Thanks for reading, beeyotches.

Time Machi… Damnit

When Apple introduced Time Machine, I was excited as hell.  I’ve had experience with other shitty forms of backups.  Burning to DVD, thumb drive, dragging and dropping, Iomega ZIP drives, tape backups, etc, etc, et-fuckin’-cetera.  When it comes down to it…

Backups SUCK.

They’re necessary, but they suck major ass.  Either they don’t work, they take too long, or they’re too complicated, or any number of other things.  Time Machine was like a single ray of hope to finally get out of that cycle of mediocrity.  Here’s how it works:

TM basically does it’s first, initial backup and copies everything to your backup disk.  This is the longest backup, as it is starting from scratch.  Subsequent backups only look at the “delta” files, or files that have changed or are new.  So basically, when you add a file, it backs it up.  When you modify a file, it backs it up.  If a file hasn’t changed, it leaves it in the file’s original location on the backup disk, but adds a “marker” or “link” to that file in the most recent backup.  So if you have a file that has never changed since your first backup, under any backups after the first, it’s a link that points to that first backup.  Awesome execution, for the record.  This is definitely the best way to handle backups.  If the file hasn’t changed, it doesn’t get backed up again.

The nice part with TM is that you can use a locally attached disk via USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt, or it can back up across your local network to either one of Apple’s own Time Capsule devices, or a third-party Network Accessible Storage unit.  For my situation, going with the NAS unit is fricken awesome since I have a laptop and I don’t wanna plop down and let my computer sit for a few minutes while it backs up.  I like portability and convenience, yeah buddy.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve ran into some problems with backing up across the network to my NAS unit.  It’ll become corrupted and tells me I need to delete all my backups and start fresh.  Not acceptable, especially since I have a few months worth of backups sitting on there.  Luckily I stumbled upon a website that walks you through verifying, fixing, and continuing to use your network Time Machine backups after that effing message shows up.

http://www.garth.org/archives/2011,08,27,169,169.html

Just giving that site a plug since his post fixed my issue and was a breeze to follow.