Pseudo Review: RasPlex + Hifiberry And Some Serious Audio On The Cheap

 

rasplex hifiberry dacpluspro
That little green light is more than go-go, baby!

Can a non-audiophile still hear great audio? Can a music-lover of old music still get some jams through his/her head in these digital times without breaking the bank? Do those guys that spend all that money as “audiophiles” give you the creeps? Indeed. Money. Audio. How much you got?

Because I spend too much money on other expensive stuff, I’ve never really prioritised audio in my life–even though I love listening to music. I learned a long time ago that you don’t have to dish out huge sums of cash to hear good replicated music. That said, I can’t go more than a few days without listening to something that either soothes me, rocks me or moves me. A good drink and some Jazz while cooking is heaven. Am I wrong? And so. Unlike most young folk today, I can’t listen to music through headphones–whether in-ear or over-ear. If you see me out and about with Beckett, the killer pug, and I’ve always got earbuds stuck in my head–I’m listening to podcasts! The problem with headphones and earbuds is the feeling I get with so little space between my ears and what moves air. Headphones make music not only sound weird but feel weird, too. If that makes me old fashion, then get this. I have come to love today’s modern digital music consume-to-survive world. Even though I don’t buy much music anymore–and I can’t stand most all of the music made nowadays, I’m good. Reason? I have a digitised music library that contains everything I need. Whether it’s The Beatles (the greatest album ever is Abby Roads), Beethoven (9th!) or some esoteric Jazz, I’m good. Really good. Seriously. And that’s not all. For all practical purposes, dear worst-reader, I completely missed the CD revolution, too. I couldn’t afford the equipment back then. Since the 70s I have consumed music by borrowing, sharing or trading. In fact, till about fifteen years ago, I had never even owned a sound system with speakers. But I digress.

As digital music took over by the mid 90s–along with the Internetwebs–I was still catching up on the CD revolution. Of course, at least two-thirds of the CDs I have, were all acquired pre-owned or traded. Like in the days with cassettes and albums, digital music was made for sharing. For those who consider sharing piracy, first: fuck you. Second: I still have most of the CDs I ripped in a box in my basement. I never once downloaded anything from Napster–even though I admire greatly what they were trying to do. (Note: I will never buy anything Metallica for what that $hitty band did to young people who just wanted to share music.) I did make a few downloads from BitTorrent, though. (Note: it was all part of research!) Anyhoo. I have a nice digital library of music that spans most of the 20th century. Oh, and I have two version of that library. One version is in FLAC and the other, to appease me wife’s demand for media singularity and simplicity, is iTunes compatible.

Let’s move on to the pseudo-review, shall we?

As you’ll note in the pic above, I am currently using two streaming devices for our home media. For amplification (and in order to avoid those awful sound bars, which my wife wanted after I got rid of our AVR krapp) I’m using a TEAC A-HO1 integrated amp and DAC. Here’s a review of it. I got it last year after selling my hundred pound multi-channel AVR system, 7 speakers, and one 700 watt subwoofer. I’m not even gonna worst-write how little money I got for all that krapp–which says a lot about the state of the audio equipment industry. But get this. I would have almost given it away. If I ever have to wire up five, six or seven speakers again and then try to configure an AVR for a room… I’m gonna shoot myself with your gun.

Amp and sound.

The TEAC is connected to some really, really cool Audioengine P4 speakers (not pictured). We have a fairly small living room and I’ve never once regretted having these “bookshelf” speakers–which are actually in bookshelves that surround my flatscreen TV. They are fantastic speakers and I got them on a über-great-deal from shopping on the Interwebnets. They move the air more than enough to make sound very, very enjoyable.

Streaming boxes.

For iTunes we have the AppleTV(3) connected via HDMI to the TV. The optical-out of the TV is connected to the optical-in of the TEAC. This works fine–except for the fact that one is locked into the Apple world. Which also means no high-end audio and/or limited access to my own higher-end audio files. The ATV can’t play FLAC files.

Also connected to the TV via HDMI is my RaspberryPi 2 Model B+, and connected to that is a Hifiberry DAC+Pro. This is a bit more complicated than the ATV. The HDMI of the RaspberryPi also delivers audio to the TV, and, as with the ATV, the TV converts audio signals to the TEAC’s optical-in. Again, for simplicity, I have chosen not to use the ATV’s optical out–which does produce better audio than the TV. That said, we want something more than any of these optical options, don’t we?

Analogue Audio Galore.

The Hifiberry is where the real magic happens. For less than a hundred Euros–the software, RasPlex, is free btw–the Raspberry Pi is a fantastic DAC. It actually converts and, where applicable, upscales audio and then delivers that as analog right and left stereo to the TEAC’s analog-in cinch ports. The Hifiberry DAC+ and “pro” designation means that it has the same type of chips used in high-end DACs. You can opt for a non “pro” version of the Hifiberry if you prefer to save a buck or three. But I couldn’t resist the gold cinch connectors! Nomatter.

Btw, I’ve had the RaspberryPi+Hifiberry for two years or so. I gave up on it when I first got it because I couldn’t get the drivers to work properly. Even though the HDMI of the Raspberry Pi spits out audio, it’s not half as good as what this thing spits out with the Hifiberry card attached. And so. The other day, while bored out of my early-retirement mind and while fiddling through a junk box of old gadgets, I decided to google whether or not they finally fixed the driver issue. Alas! They did. I re-installed the newest version of RasPlex on a 16GB micros SD card. I also had to fiddle with the config.txt file a bit. Then you have to tell RasPlex, using the UI, to route audio through the Hifiberry daughter card… Boom, baby! That little green light (pic above) lights up bright and shinny.

First test.

From a ripped blu-ray of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Raspberry Pi + Hifiberry streams from my Plex server via LAN crystal clear 1080p video including up (or is it down?) scaled DTS 5.1 audio to stereo and the TEAC releases what will make even an ageing grouch like me smile from ear to ear. Also. I’m really glad those boys at RasPlex got their software to the point that even I can set it up. Cool. Über cool.

Rant on.

-T

 

A Seminar About Beef, God-Knows-Where Nebraska, And My Personal Trail Of Tears

capon-chicken
Capon chickens drying, ageing, preparing their expensiveness.

As mentioned in a previous worst-post, as a b’day gift I was forced to attend a cooking seminar last weekend. I say ‘forced’ without the intention of holding a grudge against my better-half’s gift choice. It’s just that I’m already a damn fine cook so my initial reaction to such a gift must be a bit apprehensive. The combination of being a skeptic, a cynic and a self-aggrandising cook means that I have to suck-it-up like a buttercup when my wife gives me a b’day present. Then there’s the issue that if you’re gonna attend a steak cooking “seminar” hosted by a company that specialises in selling premium meat, which includes a four course meal, well, how much was this gonna cost? With that in mind, dear worst-reader, I rarely go out to eat anymore because I’m not only stingy but:

  1. Based on service and food quality, money paid to a restaurant is stupid money and I hate stupid money.
  2. Since being able to afford fine dinning in this life, I can count on one hand how many restaurants have impressed me in the past ten years.

(Seriously. One of the best places I’ve ever eaten was on Phi-Phi Island, Thailand. It was literally a shack where three lady-boys cooked and served the best fusion asian food I’ve ever eaten and it all only costs a few bucks. But I digress.)

I told my better half that she’s not really giving me a gift but instead lining the pockets of guy who thinks he knows beef. And then I said, “Schnooki, the problem is the guy giving the seminar is German.” There was a long pause. Trust me, dear worst-reader, when I say Germans don’t know beef. It’s über true. Of course, it’s not that they don’t eat beef. They do. It’s that, until recently, they have been clueless about even the simplest form of bovine consumption. If you don’t believe me then the next time your in the old country and get tired of driving your rental car a gazillion miles per hour on the Autobahn, go into any grocery store. There you’ll find that Germans still offer two cuts of beef. One is called the Rumpsteak and the other is called Huftsteak. Unless you’re trained to tell the difference, there is no difference in these two cuts of meat. These “steaks” are then usually cooked in a pan with some kind of grease and then served with potatoes and, if you’re lucky, garlic butter. It’s no wonder that Germans have a certain reputation in the world–that doesn’t include culinary prowess. Luckily, even at my bitter-old-age, I’m open to moments of entertainment that potentially could include subpar cooking. What the hell.

In order to protect the innocent I’m gonna refer to the company behind our recent steak cooking seminar as White Man Steak & Co.’s Evening of Red & Juicy or WSCERJ. The seminar itself takes place in the fancy foyer of an old, converted textile warehouse. This foyer can be changed into a kitchen by moving modular ovens, grills, stove-tops, etc. Because of the size of the foyer, though, the number of participants is limited to about twenty people. The seminar is already fully booked through most of 2017. So it was nice to find out that my better-half actually started planning my b’day present almost a half year in advance. This place is definitely fancy-fancy.

A small company, WSCERJ has about thirty or so employees that handle all the typical corporate krapp and a small staff of culinary experts that include two chefs, a sous chef, two butchers and a “food designer”. According to the owner, though, they were short staffed for this particular evening. That meant that the owner and his young daughter were our servers for the four course meal that integrated with the seminar. Later we learned that two of the people attending were also from a German industry magazine and were there to do a review. Needless to say, the owner was at the top of this game.

After a short tour of the facility that included offices, backrooms full of supplies and industrial refrigerators full of hanging beef, pork and chicken (see pic above), the owner of the company continued with a long-winded monologue about the greatness of product that only he is able to offer the German meat market. The key to his success, he claims, is the fact that he personally knows all his meat suppliers. Of the seven cuts of meat that were being featured and were also strewn out in front of us, four came from Germany and three from God-knows-where Nebraska. The absurdity of a sales-pitch combined with the frivolity of overpriced ingredients that were about to be cooked up in front of us was only matched by bullsh*t galore. Luckily the BS was quickly accompanied by food and plenty of drink.

The four courses meal was:

  • Tartar
  • Porkbelly
  • Beef Short Rib
  • A typical creamy dessert not worth mentioning.

Beyond the fact that tartar shouldn’t be made from a bull’s rump, the first course was ruined by too much sauce and too much salad accompaniment. The only thing that saved it was the canned caviar that topped it off. In fact, I ate all the fish eggs but left most of the tartar and rest behind. I also kept it to myself that I could make better tartar by buying some half decent hamburger meat at the grocery store and throwing a raw egg yolk on it accompanied by some white pepper. It’s just wrong, nomatter who the bull is, to use rump for tartar. The second course was sous vide pork belly that was briefly grilled just before serving which made the upper layer of fat nice and crispy. Not a bad dish but, to me, it isn’t the right thing to follow tartar. The beef short rib was ok, but that’s about it. Forget the dessert. Seriously. Forget it.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. Or have I succeeded in fooling you that I’m trying to write a review? Nomatter. It was between the 2nd and 3rd course of the meal that the real seminar took place. As I said, there were seven different cuts of meat on the counter when we arrived. The rump was cut into large pieces by the two chefs and then given to those who volunteered to turn it into tartar with knives and cutting boards. What a mistake, eh! The tartar sucked. Two other “aged” steaks were then cooked and served as appetiser finger food in a glass of beef broth and butter. It was awful. A third cut of meat was not actually beef but instead two pork steaks. The owner went into an extended diatribe about how pork is the new steak–as long as you buy it from him and his supplier. The owner then added that he wanted to offer capon chicken (see pic) in the mix but none of his birds were ready yet. The remaining four cuts of meat, all of which were from Rex and his über ranch in God-knows-where Nebraska, were the crème de la crème of the evening. There were two lean cuts of Bison, one thick Wagyu t-bone and one thick Kobe. All of these meats were cooked in pans on a stove using fat and butter and then sliced up and given to the seminar participants for taste testing. The pork was awful and should accompany the dessert in the bin. I didn’t get any of the Wagyu t-bone, but I assume it was good. The Bison was fantastic–and it is the only meat I plan on ordering from this company. And, just before the sous chef started cooking the Kobe, I asked if he would cut me a thin, sashimi style slice so that I could try it raw. He did and I consumed it and it was good.

But here’s the thing.

While explaining the ins and outs of the best beef in the world coming from a supplier in God-knows-where Nebraska (probably) named Rex, that he obviously enjoys visiting and fraternising with, the owner of WSCERJ seems to have gotten naively mixed up with some American style white-supremacy BS a’la Faux Newz. How do I know this? Well, for starters, the American Indians that died because of the greed European mentality that was conquering North America (at the time) didn’t die from starvation.

Whaaaaaaaaaaa….

That’s right, dear worst-reader. During a seminar about how to consume beef, most of which comes from my beloved (and missed) grand united mistakes of #americant, a full grown family man who is running a vibrant and flourishing business in Germany, actually believes–because of what he has been told–that American Indians died from starvation and not from genocide. It was at this point I raised my hand, put down my drink, and interrupted the host of his seminar. I gayly told him and the audience that I was more than happy to eventually purchase some of his product but he should refrain from making comments about things he heard from some white guy in God-knows-where Nebraska. There was a brief silence in the room. Then the owner of WSCERJ commented about the movie Dances With Wolves and I marched off to the bathroom to gather myself.

Upon returning to the foyer and the seminar, I was met at the entry by the sous chef. He was a young bull of a man from what used to be the former East Germany. I joked with him during the evening that he should be a linebacker and play American football. He smiled and obviously approved of my flattery. But before I could re-enter the seminar we had the following discourse:

Sous-chef: Tell me, do you like Donald Trump?

Moi: He’s ok. A bit over-rated both in the good and the bad. But ok.

Sous-chef: I think he’s much better than Hillary. You know Germany has a female president…

Moi: Chancellor, you mean.

Sous-chef: Yes. Whatever. You see how she let in so many migrants? Not good. That’s why I like Trump. He’s right, you know.

Moi: Ah, yeah, sure. As long as he doesn’t go on some crazy war path like George W. Bush, he might be alright.

Sous-chef: Exactly. Trump good. (He drags his knuckles returning to his place in the foyer-kitchen.)

And so. Dear worst-reader. There you have it. The world is amassing and mobilising knuckle draggers from all over and in all corners. I’m faced with them in the heart of prosperous middle Germania and God-knows-where… else.

Bon appetite.

Rant on.

-t

Pseudo Review Of Jura's Impressa J85 And Its Passage To India

Jura Impressa J85

Here are five ways, according to worstwriter, how one can make coffee. Of course there are other ways but these are the only ones that matter.

  1. Moka Pot (the only alternative to a high pressure machine for espresso)
  2. French Press (great for breakfast or afternoon quickie)
  3. Espresso (number one but also expensive)
  4. Instant (seriously, I drink it every once-a-once to keep me grounded and prefer it over filter coffee; I’ve always got a supply somewhere)

We bought a new Jura J85 to replace our ageing Jura S7. Reason? We wanted a new & youthful machine to accompany us on our passage to India. Although the S7 was still in good working condition, we figured it was probably better to replace it with a new one instead of having to face the reality of parts and maintenance in India. Luckily I got my lovely sister to buy the S7 off us cheap–so it’s still kind of in the family. Since she lives in Frankfurt, she’ll always have access to maintaining it. Gee, I wonder if she still has it or if she turned around a sold it for more? Nomatter.

In our household a proper espresso dispenser is an absolute must. Since this is our third Jura, it’s obvious that we know what we want–and what we’re willing to pay to have it. Jura is supposed to be the Mercedes of Kaffeevolautomaten aka fully automatic coffee/espresso machines. At the least, Jura seems to charge more than any other maker. If pushed in the corner about comparing it to other brands, I’d probably always go with the Jura. If you’re addicted to espresso based beverages and can afford the addiction, these machines take on a meaning of their own, a meaning that transcends gimmicks or brands, perhaps even life itself.

Getting rid of the old.

We bought the S7 at a discount from a dealer in Wiesbaden almost ten years ago. It was a model at the end of its life-cycle and the dealer needed to get rid of inventory. For the price we paid, it was a good deal. Eventually we even added one of those fancy external milk coolers from Jura but that thing went bust after only two years of use. Something about the refrigerator mechanism going bad and it wasn’t worth replacing. After the experience with S7, though, which followed a lower-end model, I’ve concluded that these machines–from Jura!–only last about five years in a condition that does not warrant a lot of nickels and dimes to keep it going. That said, compared to other brands, I’d still go with the Jura as I don’t think those other brands are worth what they cost.

After five years the S7 required yearly expensive “tune-ups” that often took months to complete. With that in mind, here’s your warning: Jura customer service and maintenance sucks! At least it did with our S7. My better half’s sister has the S9 model and she got much better service. Eventually, especially after warranty, you’re on your own with these highly complex über-plastic machines. I say “plastic” because I took apart our first Jura to see if I could fix it (I couldn’t) and was astonished at how the Jura people built these things. Other than the the place where the water is heated, everything, including where the water is pushed through the coffee, is f’n lego-quality plastic. I just didn’t expect that. But I digress. These machines are not all-weather machines. For example. After five years, the steamer gets harder and harder to unclog and the grinder seems to get louder and louder with every brew. All of that was a signal to not trust our ageing S7 for a move to India. It took us some time to warm up to the fact of having to replace it with a lower-end model. We were also shocked at current Jura pricing. Talk about stupid money! Luckily buying the new one online saved us a few bucks.

Coffee machine facet 1.

I will not forget the first espresso I drank out of the J85. It wasn’t as hot as what came out of the S7–and at the time I could compare them directly. But the low noise level of the grinder of the J85 made up for everything. Compared to the S7, the J85 is practically silent. After a few more coffees everything was as hot as it should be. Obviously the J85 needs to warm-up.

The screen on the J85 takes a bit of getting used to. It allows one to control all aspects of coffee delivery albeit with a not very intuitive button layout. There are buttons on the top of the machine that coincide with buttons on the side of the TFT screen which are on the front of the machine. Jura didn’t quite get it right with the mix of buttons and screen–but that’s neither here nor there. They all work as they should–once you get used to them.

The most important buttons are the ones on the top of the machine. At least one of these buttons is used most by me. It is the button in the middle of the flywheel which lights up red when the machine thinks the milk dispenser should be washed through. Since this machine makes at least six lattes every morning, that button is very useful.

The button to the left of the flywheel is labelled “P”. P stands for program–I guess. When you activate P the screen corresponds as the machine goes into a kind of maintenance mode. It’s here, for example, where you adjust how much water is used in the espresso. It’s also here that one can determine ONLY three levels of heat of the water. The old S7 allowed you determine the exact temperature of the water. You have to switch from using the top buttons to the small buttons on each side of the screen once maintenance mode is activated. Again, it takes a bit of getting used to.

Once you do get used to it, though, you can set how long milk is foamed. I think it’s cool that Jura decided to go with the amount of time and not volume when it comes to foaming milk. A thirty-second draw of milk makes more sense than 60ml. And get this, you can set a pause after foam delivery and before espresso delivery. This allows the foam to settle a bit, it actually thickens up in the pause, which means it absorbs the espresso better. Very cool.

I have to admit that when we packed everything in Germany for the big move, I was a bit nervous about our new coffee machine. I made sure to prep it for long storage, which is explained in the user manual. This basically just empties the machine of any excess water. I then repackaged it in its original box, styrofoam n’all. The device made the two month container trip without a scratch. I can’t tell you how relieved my better half was when she could finally make her first latte. Seriously! For the amount of coffee she drinks, making it out of pouches in hotels with powdered milk or via cheap French presses in furnished apartments–or even trekking to Starbucks–doesn’t quite cut it after two months of withdrawls.

Coffee machine facet 2.

We’ve owned three Juras so far. I’d buy the J85 twice more. Alone the way it rinses the milk foamer mechanism is brilliant. What this saves me on cleaning time compared to the Jura S7 is immeasurable. At first I thought the TFT screen to be overkill but I’ve since gotten used to it. After every third (or so) latte the J85 tells me, via the TFT screen and the lighting of buttons, to run water through the milk dispenser. I can’t say enough how cool this is. Even though I don’t drink milk based espresso beverages, I do have to maintain the machine for my better half. Milk is a mess to clean once it dries and cakes up. The S7 was a nightmare to clean. The J85 sets the bar high when it comes to raising my hopes that Jura is nearing some kind of self cleaning coffee machine utopia. My only wish is that in the future it makes a machine that will also automatically iron my shirts.

Relocating to India with a coffee machine? Seriously?

First. India is not a coffee country–at least not like #eurowasteland. Second, relocating means that you are dependent on the kindness of third world strangers when it comes to getting a coffee fix. This part of the developing world has yet to understand/grasp why the West was able to be so productive in the industrial age. Even trying an India-based competitor to Starbucks proved without a doubt that India has a way to go when it comes to coffee. In reality, when it comes to moving up the world status ladder, it’s all about booze AND f’n coffee, man! Seriously.

But why lug an overly expensive coffee machine to the third world?

The question is mute. As you may or may not know, India is somewhat extreme when it comes to centralised governance and state control. There is a nationalist slash protectionist thirty-percent-rule in India. The rule is thus: so that India can protect itself from being overwhelmed by outsiders, i.e. non Indian interests, thirty-percent of what a foreign business does here has to come from within India. Not a bad way to govern on the whole. Yet if you’re hooked on coffee like socialites are hooked on opiate pharmaceuticals, you may be in a pickle. So the big question we have to deal with soon is where do we get coffee beans? We brought with us a five month supply of Italian beans but what do we do after that? Yes, there is Starbucks, and I’m sure we’ll buy beans from them, but how long will our fix get fixed on krappy #americant influenced beans? Come on India, get yourself some fine roasting coffee beans. Quickly!

Coffee machine facet 3.

We’ve owned our new J85 for about five months now. Two of those months the device was stuck in a forty foot container that travelled from Köln>Maastricht>Singapore>Bangelore. Luckily it came through with flying colours and we’re enjoying life as much as anyone needing their/a fix. Although this is supposed to be a step down from the previous Jura model we owned–even though it was much more expensive than that model–Jura obviously put a lot of improvements into their new machines. I no longer regret not spending more money on a higher-end device. The most important thing about owning an espresso maker like this is that it must deliver great coffee with as little maintenance as possible. The J85 delivers on both so far. We’ll see how things go once we start nearing that five year mark. (Btw, we’re only supposed to be in India for three years.)

Rant on.

-Tommi

PS this is the second post initially written in mark-up. Cool.

A Very Beginner's Guide To Migrating & Hosting WordPress On AWS

wordpress

Update: After about a year of useage, as of the end of 2016, I’ve given up on AWS and moved my blog to wordpress.com. Reason? I was consistantly getting an error notification that my blog was “down”. This happened at least once a week. The only way to deal with the problem was to reboot my instance. According to the web, this is not an uncommon problem with self-hosted AWS blogs. The cause of this problem I’ve never figured out. WordPress claims that it’s a problem with AWS. AWS claims it’s a problem with wordpress. At this point I don’t care anymore. What is clear is that there is a level of complication at AWS that is dependent on paying AWS for any level of service–which renders the service a paid-service–NOT a free-tier service. I’m sure that more tech saavy blog users can deal with this issue but I’m obviously not one of them and although I can install wordpress on a server and get it running, I’m not about to start fiddling with win95-krapp like mySQL, i.e. the database system where wordpress stores blog content. Also. If you ask me what the problem really is and you’ll allow me to best-guess it, I’d say it’s this: once an AWS self-hosted, free-tier blog gets traffic AWS breaks the connection between wordpress and mySQL. Unless fixed within the code of your wordpress install and/or a few adjustments are made to your mySQL database, the problem creeps up everytime your blog gets too many hits. After trying and not getting any AWS tech-help it become obvious to me that in order to get things going without having to restart my blog every week, I’d have to go to a paid-tier level of useage with AWS. I concluded that if I had to start paying for this level of service at AWS that maybe I was in a bit over my head. In the mean-time, I’ve tried hosting my blog at Bluehost–but concluded that, although they had good service, I just didn’t feel like the whole back-end krapp of keeping my blog up. I’m now paying wordpress.com to host my blog. We’ll see how it goes. And now, on to the original post…


If at first you don’t succeed… rest before trying but most definitely try again. As mentioned here, I recently migrated worstwriter.com from 1und1 hosting to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Why? Well, nothing against 1und1 but the service I migrated to makes 1und1 look a bit old and dated–and AWS is much cheaper. In fact, unless I get a lot of traffic to my site, AWS is free. Plus, I am moving to India soon and I thought it better if I oriented my web content around a service that is a bit more international. But before I get into complaining about 1un1, here’s what I did to make this move. Good luck.

Step 1

  • Backup blog.
  • Put backup file in a safe place.
  • Install and use the WordPress (WP) plugin All-in-One WP Migration to export blog to download folder. Make sure it’s there and make sure you can find it.

Step 2

  • Sign up with AWS.
  • Go to EC2 and launch, setup Instance.
  • Pick your server. I picked Basic Amazon Linux. Go through the setup process following all the default settings. There are a couple areas where you have to name things and provide input regarding web hosting but all-in-all getting the Instance running is easy.
  • Here’s a great webpage that provides pics on how Instance setup is done.
  • Btw, “Instance” is just another word for Server.

Step 3

  • Migrate your domain names using AWS Route53. I was not only moving my website to a new host but I completely forgot about my domain names that were still at 1und1 when I started this.
  • With that in mind, this could just as well be step 2. This did cause me some problems later during my first install attempt. (That’s right. I went through all of this more than once.)

Step 4

  • Establish SSH connection using the Mac’s Terminal App.
  • Note: during Instance setup you are given a security “key” in the form of a file that you must download to your computer. Save this “key” on your computer and always know how to access it. Do not lose it or throw it away.
  • Use Terminal and the Linux chmod command to change the access rights of the key .pem file accordingly. Actually I’m not sure if this is required. I don’t think I did it on the second install. Oh well.

Step 5

  • Using your SSH terminal connection to your AWS Instace, install LAMP. Linux Apache MySQL PHP. This is where things get fun with the CLI. If you follow AWS documentation, though, it’s a no brainer. Seriously. I did this twice and it’s the easiest part of the whole thing.
  • Here’s a AWS LAMP install tutorial.
  • When this is done your webserver is running–but you’re far from home.

Step 6

  • Install WP.
  • This is where things get fun. And allow me to add this slight poke at WP.
  • Considering the requirements of launching a AWS Instance and then installing all the proper software for a webserver (LAMP), you would think that installing 7mb of files from WP would be a piece of cake. Well, it ain’t. This is the hardest part.
  • AWS tutorial installing WordPress.

Take a break. Don’t drink alcohol. Espresso. Espresso. Espresso with sugar.

Here a bit about how Step 6 is the hardest. As noted (with pic) in this post, the biggest problem with WP install is being given the choice of where to install its files. This is totally confusing. I guess the choice is about whether or not you are gonna install more than one blog or if you’re a stickler for sub-directories. I still don’t know how sub-directories determine more than one blog but since I only want to get one running, the issue is mute. Anywho. After initially screwing this up and then thinking about it, this is what I’ve concluded about how to deal with this simple but devastating issue.

The Linux folder that Apache (the webserver) accesses when delivering http requests cannot change once it’s set–unless you want to configure Apache, too. No thanks! Therefore, you must install WordPress within the proper Apache directory. Hence, the AWS tutorial has you download WP with the wget command to your Instance root directory–where there is no Apache. Later on you have to move the WP folder to the proper Apache directory. Keep in mind, the way Apache is setup is that it will only deliver http requests from the Linux folder “/var/www/html”. Aghast!

Why AWS has you go through this directory mess during a simple single blog install makes no sense and is obviously confusing. If you make a wrong choice here, you basically kill the entire install when you setup WP. Also. When installing WP to a sub-directory (i.e. the Apache /html/directory) you are required to add that location to a WP-Config.php file. Why would a simple install of such a simple thing require the complexity of editing a .php file? And so. On my first install I got the directory right–probably because I didn’t think about it. But I screwed things up when I went through the WordPress setup. This also the area where I realised my domain names were still at 1und1.de. In the end, I did not want to access my site through some lengthy, computer generated URL. When I went to change that to worstwriter.com in WP>general>settings, I broke the whole thing because Apache couldn’t know where to find the html files. Aghast, aghast!

When I first made this mistake I thought I could fix it from within the WP>general>settings. Wrong! Then I tried to follow some other documentation after googling and requesting help from AWS support. That lead to actually going so far as to use the Linux nano editor to edit .php files. Again. It didt work. What a mess. Oh yeah. Aghast!

The only solution I could find to the problem was to terminate the whole Instance and start over. Which I did. What a waste, eh.

I repeated everything on a new Instance. I was very careful when choosing where to install WordPress in Step 6.

Step 7

  • Once WordPress is running, use All-in-One WP Migration plugin to upload/import the file you downloaded in Step 1.
  • Re-initiate your connection to WordPress.
  • Log-in
  • Bang.
  • Done.
  • Happy worstwriting, baby.

For those interested, here’s a pretty decent bunch of videos that I came across from two guys who mastered the struggle a bit better than me.

Rant on.

-Tommi

A Pattern Of Doom, Learning How-To Video, New Refurbished MacBook Air

Reviewing the news this morn. Bored of all the election bullsh*t. When I’m bored of the news I always find myself turning the dial (aka clicking other links). In this case, instead of gawking at pretty cars and pretty sailboats, I clicked through tech news feeds. In it I found something akin to a pattern. But before I get to that, this first. My better half gave me a GoPro for Xmas and with it a note: “Merry Xmas. Love you. Blah, blah, blah. This camera is for our scuba adventures–so no more excuses.” The problem is, I’m a text guy. I don’t know anything about video. But I have complained once or thrice about how we go to all these great dive places around the world and we’re the only ones without a camera or GoPro. Heck, if it weren’t for cellphone cameras I would still not own a means to take pictures. With that in mind, I take threats from my better half very serious. And so. In order to figure out how video works in this digital age and the fact that I won’t be scuba diving for at least another six months, I decided to find something else to do with my new toy. For starts, I made an unboxing and review video of another recent new toy, a 13″ MacBook Air (above). Why? Well, I’ve seen so many of them recently–on account I’ve been shopping for a new laptop. I thought that making a video, then getting the video from camera to Mac, editing it, adding audio/voice-over, is as good a project as any when it comes to learning how to do deal with future scuba material. The first result you can see above. But let me move on. §Allow me to rant about having just purchased yet another Apple product. My previous 2010 13″ MacBook Pro was the last of the Core2Duo, and it served me very, very well over the past five+ years. I was actually hoping to be able to replace a laptop with an iPad. Boy was I wrong. I bought a refurbished iPad4 about eighteen months ago. It came with iOS7 and it was great. (Stop giggling.) At first I was really tickled with the iPad. There was a short period while using it that I thought I could replace my ageing laptop with it. But then I followed Apple’s updates and by the time I got to iOS 8, doom set in. Also, I’ve been reading lately that Apple is having some problems selling iPads and iPhones. Allow me to thread this (see links below). The bad news is, I don’t give a hoot if Apple swims or drowns at this point. I’ve thrown so much cash at them over the past ten years, it’d be worth it watching them implode. Seriously. Apple is only the best of the worst (of a horrible industry). Second, I think I can tell you why Apple is having trouble (even though it’s trouble any modern corporation wishes they had). First, Apple screwed the pooch not recognising how the iPad should be more than just a digital consumption device. Second, OS updates constantly degrade the user experience to the point of not wanting to use it all. Third, because of the closed eco-system that supplies the iPad (and all iOS devices) software, I’m even more turned off. Today my iPad4 serves as a Kindle reader and an Amazon Prime video streamer. With iOS 9 the iPad is so slow it reminds me of my iPhone 4s–which I just replaced with a 6s–but I won’t do the same with an iPad. Obviously it cannot replace a laptop. Oh well. §The iPad debacle does raise a question: what should replace my old MacBook Pro? Long story short, I bought a refurbished 2015 13″ MacBook Air w/i7 cpu, 8GB ram and 250 super fast SSD. Fine and dandy, eh. So far so cool. Yet I couldn’t help but notice one thing through out the buyer’s process. I’m a bit of stickler for making these kinds of buys. Hence I really dig Apple’s refurbished website. I regularly watch both the US and German version of it. For at least two months I constantly watched the website to see if I could make a deal. Heck, I remember last spring that the US Apple refurbished site offered three and four year old 15″ MacBook Pros with up to $1000 off. I just couldn’t justifying buying such a workstation-like device. Unfortunately I didn’t get that lucky with the German site while shopping for something a bit more affordable. But I did notice that, of the 13″ MBAs that I wanted and were offered during two months prior to my purchase, they were always available. Could that mean Apple was unable sell Mac hardware through 2015? Or were there really that many people returning their new purchases? I won’t get into whether or not Apple is on its way back down the corporate rat-hole–but I do remember the 90’s before and after Steve Jobs. It’s just that, as far I’m concerned, iPads really suck these days and the only way to get you to buy one is if they make your old one obsolete. The same, btw, for iPhones–although I think Apple put more effort into making sure battery better controls those sales. Hence, the Apple Watch is a joke, the new iPhone battery case is an embarrassment and I also read that they already have AppleTV4s in the refurbished store. Yeah. Maybe things have peaked. §There is something odd going on in the tech world these days. I did a lot of shopping around before making my choice to buy an MBA. I looked at Dell’s XPS, Lenovo Thinkpads and even the Microsoft Surface. I was VERY impressed with Microsoft’s Surface device–until I looked at pricing and battery life. Almost two grand for a pseudo laptop slash tablet hybrid? $2000? Hello! In fact, for my use, the most competitively priced device that fit my needs is the refurbished MBA with high-specs and a 300€ discount. Ok, the monitor isn’t the newest thing around but it is more than adequate. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not a spec nut. I don’t need the latest and greatest processor, screen, ports, etc. Yet I was really surprised at the pricing and quality of laptop equipment out there. Which brings me to the pattern I think I saw this morning while going through recent technology news and figuring out whether or not I’ll be able to edit scuba video. §What the hell is going on with this industry? Is it in the middle of a flux, a paradigm shift, a cough and burp? Surface devices from behemoth Microsoft are plagued with firmware errors and they are priced as though Microsoft just invented computing. Dell devices are still boring as hell–although I thought the XPS was cool except for that 16:9 screen that looks like it belongs in a view finder of a video camera from 1994. I don’t trust Lenovo anymore as they’ve gotten too far away from the mystique they once had when I used Thinkpads while working for the man. The Google is manipulating https in order to secure future ad revenue. And then there’s the news that Twitter is in trouble? Really? Twitter? A company that allows the digital world to communicate with 140 characters can get itself into trouble? Ok. With that in mind, I need to get out of this post. I digress.

Rant on.

-Tommi

Links that motivated this post:

Review Refurbished MBA New Toy

MBA on sideNot For Sale

Although it may sound like it, I’m not selling anything. It’s just another boring morning of rain and grey weather and contemplation about tech. Also. The only form of sunshine this time of year (in Germania) is when a new toy arrives. And. What for a toy! With that in mind, this is more than just a toy. It it is, in fact, a tool-toy. Yes. It’s my worst-writing tool-toy. Or is it more than a tool? And you know the worst part about buying a new tool-toy? Between placing the online-order and finally receiving it, six days passed. Talk about consumer anxiety. I was going nuts. What was I to do with all the lonely empty space… without a tool-toy. Since I had to sell my old tool-toy before I could buy a new tool-toy, I was tool-toy-less for those waiting days. But that’s neither here nor there. Or? You know what else sucks in these days of happy technology consumption via the Interwebnets? UPS tracking numbers. Talk about useless technology. The only info UPS gave me was that my tool-toy arrived in Köln last Friday (ordered it on Wed). And since it didn’t make it to me on Friday, that meant, because UPS doesn’t deliver on Saturday, I had to wait till Monday without knowing if/when my toy was on… final approach. “All of this,” I thought, “just to save €300. Is it worth it?” (Short answer: f’n yes!)

UPS out kitchen window
Had to wait extra day simply because we were out of milk for cafe latte. Here’s delivery truck next day.

My new toy was supposed to arrive on Monday. I had spent the entire morning waiting, watching and counting all the delivery trucks that passed by my kitchen window. After lunch with no delivery, I took a chance and stepped out to the store around the corner to get some milk. My better-half has to have milk for her cafe latte every morning and we were clean out. I wasn’t gone but twenty-minutes. Have you already guessed what happened? When I got home there was that dumb-ass note on my door that I had just missed the UPS man. The note was time-stamped 13:05. I looked at my iPhone and it read 13:23. I had to wait a whole ‘nother night to get my new toy. Yeah, is it worth it?

The Trusty Old MBP

I’ve spent a good few months trying to figure what new portable computer to consume. Obviously it was going to be another Macbook. But which one. My trusty 2010 13″ MacBook Pro had done its job. I got five (six?) solid years out of it. Since last year, though, it was showing signs of a lifespan stretched. Although it worked OK with Apple’s latest MacOS, it had obviously reached its limit. The only thing that kept it going was upgraded RAM and an SSD. Still, there is no beating the reality of Apple and an industry’s lust for making hardware prematurely obsolete. A five year old computer just can’t handle all the new software. That said, I consider Apple’s Snow Leopard (10.6.8) operating system one of the best I’ve ever used and the fact that I could stretch this thing so long says a lot. A little side note. For the fun of it I installed Apple’s El Capitan on my old device last summer. Surprisingly, it worked. It certainly worked better than any of the other OS’s between Lion and Yosemite. Keep in mind, the most important thing for a laptop is battery life. In the end, after replacing the battery last year, I was still getting more than four solid hours of battery using El Capitan. But the speed, the speed, the lack of speed…

New or refurbished?

Not sure how you see it, dear worst-reader, but Apple hardware is stupid expensive. I mean, seriously. It’s really, really stupid expensive. Maybe I shouldn’t worst-write that based on the fact that my old MBP worked so well for so long. But then again, why not say it. If any industry proves that a free market doesn’t exist, it’s the personal computer industry. There’s only one chip (CPU) maker out there which means that Apple, Lenovo, Dell, etc. can charge stupid prices for things that should cost half of what they ask for them. In order to convince us that their stupid-priced stuff is worth it, they fill stores with all their junk PCs. And here I am buying yet another over-priced device. But I digress.

A few years back I discovered Apple’s refurbished program. Have to say, it’s pretty compelling. I’ve since bought an iPad4 (which is now obsolete because I followed Apple’s OS updates), an AppleTV3 and an Airport Express–all using the refurbished section of Apple’s online store. Oh, almost forgot. My sister-in-law moved from Windows to Mac last year and I convinced her to save about €400 on a refurbished previous-year 21″ iMac. She loves the thing. And get this. I set up the iMac for her and couldn’t believe that even though she paid for only 8GB of RAM, the device Apple sent her had 16GB in it. So I guess, in the end, she got a lot more than she paid for. (So much for overpriced krapp, eh.)

The Competition

After giving Dell and Lenovo a quick look–yes, there are times I miss Windows–I came to the following conclusion: I’m too deeply invested in the Apple eco-system. With that in mind, my budget dictated that I could get any of the entry level 13″ laptops Apple made. If I watched and waited for what Apple was offering refurbished, I might be able to get more. So which one? Here’s some thoughts against the MacBook Pro.

  1. Apple’s 13″ “pro” series isn’t really pro. The device doesn’t even have discrete graphics? Heck, even my old MBP had discrete graphics. After weeks of reading and watching various reviews, I was convinced that Apple, to protect its precious margins–and just like it’s done in the past–sacrificed too much for the new MBP hoping that the (smoke) screen will be enough to protect its margins. All in all, the only “pro” laptop Apple offers is the 15″ MBP–with discrete graphics. But that thing is priced way out of my league.
  2. The retina screen. Spent lots of time fiddling with it at various stores. Obviously it’s crisp, bright and full of colours. But is it worth it–especially in the basic configuration? The only time I can see pixels on a computer screen is when I get up close to it. To me, the reason to have a high-density pixel screen is for professional graphic work or on a device you hold close to your face. In fact, when fiddling around with the MBP retina display, I found myself squinting to be able to read any text on it. My eye doctor always told me that squinting is the worst. Even though I like the retina screen on my iPad4, the same thing on a laptop feels like overkill. Apple is good at overkill.
  3. Thunderbolt sucks. No, seriously. Thunderbolt sucks balls. But I’ve been there. Apple does this krapp all the time. They put all these ports and whatnot on their “pro” machines in the name of ingenuity and progress but most of it is just BS. Can you say Firewire? Look at the fiasco of USB vs any other connectors on computers. With the advent of USB-C it’s obvious that Apple’s Thunderbolt has failed. The only good thing about thunderbolt is that its compatible with mini-display port, which my old MBP had so I already have that cable.

The last MBA

Ok. I’m obviously leaning toward the MBA, the MacBook Air. The main reason: battery life. Can’t get enough battery in these things. Another reason for the MBA is the comfort. The MBP is difficult to type on for hours and hours. The edges cut into my wrists and hands. The MBA is perfect for typing. And let’s not forget the weight. This thing is so light I forget it’s on my lap. In fact, I have to put more effort into keeping my knees together so it doesn’t fall between my legs while I’m typing. It’s also cooler–as in temperature. My old MBP would heat up quite a bit and my lap would heat up with it. As far as the screen goes. I’m good with it. I can see the letters and the words and the buttons and fields and whatever it puts up. All in all, this is the most ergonomic machine I’ve ever put on my lap.

But here’s the biggest reason of all as to why I decided for a 2015 13″ MBA. I’m betting it’s the last one. The MBA series of ultrabooks hasn’t really changed since they arrived in 2010. Although a lot of people have criticised that, I’m not one of them. For one thing, I never buy first iteration Apple products. Those who do are willing and able beta testers and to them all I can say is: keep up the good consuming. You pave the way for those of us who can’t afford as much fun or who don’t live for the newest specs alone. Besides, I love the MBA design, even the silver bezel around the screen. All in all, with what I paid for the higher specs, a worthy choice of tool for the next few years.

toy arrived
Box in a box. The refurbished MBA packaging has no pic of the MBA on the box cover, there is only the words “MacBook Air” and  “Refurbished”. Apple could just as well write second-class on it, too. I guess. But none of that matters. It finally arrived. Rant on, baby.

 

Tommi’s 2015 13 MBA Specs

  • 8GB RAM,
  • 250GB über-fast SSD
  • i7 CPU.

After getting over the slowness of setting it up (software downloads, software updates, registrations, etc.) this thing is f’n blazing fast. For a writer that fiddles with a blog and types a lot, this is more than enough computer.

Rant on.

-Tommi