Archive | Technology

This is How I Built My Own Netflix At Home

Ever since we had kids our life changed 180 degrees. With the new responsibilities, my wife and I began spending more time at home, going out less, and naturally started watching more TV at our place.

At the beginning things were quite simple, whenever we had something interesting in mind I would go to some BitTorrent website, download the files, and then transfer them to a USB drive in order to watch them on TV. But as time went my collection became so big that I started losing of what’s on my hard drive, and having to use the USB stick each time I wanted to watch something became annoying. So I started searching for solutions and ended up building my own Netflix at home.

Using my mobile I currently can browse everything I have ever downloaded on a sleek and nice interface (like the one above), and it only takes a second to play whatever I want on my TV which isn’t even a smart one!

The reason I’m sharing how to do it is simply because the setup has always impressed my friends especially when they’re around to watch our favorite series, moreover it’s a convenient solution to control what your kids are watching instead of letting them browse YouTube and stumble upon horrible videos.

Anyway, here’s all you need to set it up.

A Faster Wi-Fi

Playing multimedia over your home network means you will need a relatively fast router. In my case the media I stream within my local network is almost all in Full HD resolution, so my home router has to cope with some good amount of bandwidth, which is why I opted to get a TP-Link Archer D5. It is a 1200Mbps ADSL modem router that runs on two channels simultaneously, a 300Mbps 2.4Ghz channel that I use for my older devices, and a 867Mbps 5.0Ghz channel that I dedicated for newer devices equipped with “fast” Wi-Fi adapters (802.11ac) and this is the channel that I use for media streaming to my TV. Another important detail to add is that it has Gigabit LAN ports.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A network storage is a hard drive that you connect to your home router via eithernet in order to acess your files from any device you have. Think of it as your own private Dropbox or Google Drive. The one I have is a 4TB Western Digital My Cloud box that I bought for ~$250 two years ago. Once you go past its easy setup, just map it to your computer in order for it to appear under “My Computer” (if you are using Windows) and from there on you can easily access it just like a regular drive to store your files on it. It’s very important for this storage box to also have a Gigabit ethernet port to ensure high speed file transfer.

A NAS is not mandatory for the setup to work though and you can rely on your computer hard drive instead, but with HD movies having an average size of 3-4GB you can never have enough storage. I personally have a Lenovo Yoga 900 laptop with 256GB storage, so instead of storing downloaded files locally I transfer them to the NAS instead.

Google Chromecast

I have a 46″ Samsung TV that I bought back in 2011 when smart TVs were not really a thing back then. Chromecast is a small device that you can plug to an HDMI port in your TV in order to be able to cast or mirror the things you see on your phone or laptop to the TV. It makes watching videos off the internet (whether on YouTube or reruns from TV websites) much cooler.

Plex Media Server

This is the software that does all the magic and you can download it for free from Plex.tv for both computers and mobiles. Setting up Plex is also quite easy, once your install it on your PC open it using your browser and point it to where you have all your media files stored (in my case the storage box), then just give it a bit of time to download the needed metadata which includes the plot of each movie or series episode you have, along with their posters and rating.

Putting it All Together

This is the easiest part, just lay back and make sure your computer is powered on since that’s where the Plex server will be running, and then launch the Plex app on your mobile to browse your catalog and cast whatever you want to your TV.

What happens in the background can be summarized as follows, your mobile communicates with the Plex server on your computer, orders it to fetch the desired movie from your network storage and to mirror it on your TV via Google Chromecast.

Tweaks

  • Instead of manually moving the new media files you download to the network drive, you can use small handy tools like SyncToy (using the option “contribute”) to automatically transfer newly downloaded files to the network.
  • Plex also has the capability to automatically download the matching subtitles for your media file, so you can turn on that option to save time searching on SubScene and the alike.
  • If you want to avoid keeping your computer on whenever you want to watch something, then you can buy a Raspberry Pi 3 (a small computer the size of a pack of cigarettes), install Plex server on it and then attach it to your router. This way you will make it act as a mini server on your network.
  • To avoid manually checking for new episode of your favorite series you can use special BitTorrent clients such as DuckieTV that can do this automatically for you.
  • Since Plex allows creation of multiple channels with different content each, I created a special channel for my little boy with cartoon and animated stuff and just taught him how to use the Plex App on his iPad. This way I can control what he watches and avoid these sick videos on YouTube.

And this is pretty much it! If you intend to build something similar and needed some help then just let me know in the comments.

6

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Already Available at Amhaz

The new Galaxy S8 and S8+ are set to be released on April 21st in the U.S. and on April 28th around the rest of the world. However, Amhaz is as usual a step ahead of the official resellers in Lebanon and is currently offering the two phones at City Centre and Bir El Abed for a ridiculous $950 and $1150. Still, as in the case with any new smartphone the prices should decrease by the day.

On the other hand, the official prices for the S8 and S8+ are set by Samsung Lebanon to $799 and $899 respectively, and you can pre-order your device while benefiting from free bundles by placing an order on their website.

I personally briefly passed by Samsung’s Dbayeh showroom today and found the S8 to be absolutely gorgeous, and I’m now having a hard time resisting the urge to get one even though my current S7 is still running perfectly. Disregarding all the phone features and specs, the infinity display alone is guaranteed to make you fall if in love with the S8.

Price wise, I expect Amhaz and other stores to soon start selling at a price lower than Samsung’s once the S8 is officially released, but after the issue I enountered with my old S7 Edge, if I’m buying the S8 then I will certainly get it from an authorized retailer because the official warranty is definitely worth it.

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Gadget Reviews by Zaher Hallab

zaher hallab

If there’s something we miss in the Lebanese blogosphere then it’s definitely tech or gadget review blogs. And that’s the gap Zaher Hallab is trying to fill with his new channel on YouTube.

I first met Zaher back in 2009 and have always known him as a tech geek, and given that he says things as they are, I believe he’s pretty much capable of providing reviews and opinions on new gadgets and devices.

His first published video is a review of the LG G5 and I can fairly say it was well executed except that it could have been made a bit shorter. I definitely recommend you subscribe to his channel for the new videos to come.

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Steve Wozniak is Coming to Beirut

steve wozniak

Yesterday I got an e-mail from the organizers of Banque du Liban Accelerate announcing that Steve Wozniak will be among the speakers in their 3rd annual international conference in November.

For those who know little about him, Steve Wozniak (or Woz) was one of the co-founders of Apple along with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne in 1976. He single-handedly developed the Apple I computer in the same year and then designed the Apple II in 1977 which became one of the first highly successful mass-produced personal computer, that’s why he’s considered a pioneer of the PC revolution in the 70s and 80s.

I know there are a dozens of YouTube videos featuring talks by Wozniak, but watching him live will definitely be an enriching experience for tech entrepreneurs.

BDL Accelerate is an innovation and startup conference that will take place at Forum de Beyrouth on November 3, 4, and 5, and attendees will be allowed admission for free. In addition to Wozniak, the organizers have so far announced  3 other speakers among which is Mike Butcher from TechCrunch.

For more information you can check BDLAccelerate.com.

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