As I wrote a few days ago in Private Cloud Computing, I’ve been playing around with ways of creating my own private cloud computing environment. Yesterday while working at home I came up with an improvement in my setup. At first I was accessing the work files on my HP Mini 5101 using Windows File Sharing. It worked OK, but I soon realized that when I hit the road again (I’m in NJ right now at a client site) that this scheme would quickly breakdown. So, I installed Windows Live Sync on my HP and our monster LX6810 desktop system and set them both up to automatically sync my work files between the two systems. This free software keeps all of the files completely in sync between the two machines, and it even works over the Internet and through corporate file walls. I verified this by logging into the LX6810 from my HP Mini using LogMeIn, and sure enough all the files I’ve been working on here in NJ have been updated in WV, too!
My family is a huge fan of Netflix. Not only does it give us Blu-Ray movie rentals by mail for a set monthly price, they also offer a large library of movies and TV show episodes that can be streamed to a computer or, via the Roku device, onto an HD TV. All for no extra charge over the normal monthly rental fee. We own a Roku box and use it regularly with our 52″ HD TV.
One thing sorely missed about their video streaming service is an iPhone viewer. Netflix has allegedly reported that they may, or may not, provide such software – and if they do it appears that it’s not coming anytime soon. I really wanted to be able to watch such videos when traveling. Sometimes I do so in my hotel room on my HP Mini 5101 netbook, but I also wanted to be able to do so at airports while waiting for planes, or even on a plane. What to do?
I have now come up with a solution. The picture above shows an episode of Showtime’s Dexter playing on my iPhone. Dexter is one of the many TV shows that have episodes available for streaming from Netflix. This episode is now stored on my iPhone as a Quicktime movie.
Making this happen involved using two programs on our Gateway LX6810, one that costs $39.95 and one that’s free. The first is Replay Video Capture. It does just what its name implies – it will capture any video playing on the screen of your Windows PC and save it as an MPEG 2 file. It’s very easy to use and certainly works great with the Netflix PC Streaming Video Player.
Alas, iTunes won’t import MPEG 2 videos. So, I next used the free MPG to MP4 Converter program to get the file into a format usable by iTunes.
That’s it. After running the Replay Video Capture file through the MPG to MP4 Converter, I just had to use the “Import File Into Library…” command in iTunes, sync my iPhone, and I was watching the start of the Dexter episode on my iPhone. I’ll be watching the complete episode tomorrow when I board a plane to NYC. I’m looking forward to being able to do so with more Dexter episodes, and many other Netflix streaming videos.
Netflix, as far as I’m concerned you can now take your time creating an iPhone Streaming Video viewer. I don’t need it anymore!
There has been a lot of discussion on the Web lately regarding public cloud computing – that is, using such public Web-based services as Google Documents to make information readily available to users over a variety of computing platforms: smartphones, netbooks, laptops, desktops, etc. Well, today I’ve been working with a variation of cloud computing that I think is just as valuable: private cloud computing.
With public cloud computing you are relying on servers outside of your control with your data traveling over the public Internet. With private cloud computing you access resources directly under your control over a private network. Today I implemented and very effectively used a simple private cloud computing environment, and I’m extremely happy with the results!
So, how did I do it, and why did I want to do it at all? Well, as most of you know my primary work computer is an HP Mini 5101. It’s a great machine for a traveling consultant in that it’s small, light, and sufficiently powerful for all of the tasks I need to perform at my client sites. It does have some limitations though: small keyboard, small screen, and limited computing horsepower. I also have an extremely powerful desktop system in my home: a Gateway LX6810 Dual-Core Quad Processor system with 8 GB of memory, a full-size keyboard and wireless mouse, and a 24″ widescreen LCD monitor. It’s lots nicer to use for almost any computing task than the little HP.
This week I’m working at home and so I can use the Gateway system, but all of my work files and specialized software are on the little HP netbook. So I set up a simple private cloud environment that would allow me to use both systems: the HP Mini would act as a file and application server, while the Gateway would serve as my main machine and user interface into my private cloud.
Setting up this private cloud was extremely simple. First, I just enabled sharing of my work directory on the HP Mini so that I could transparently access my work files from the Gateway over my home Ethernet/WiFi network. Next, I utilized software that I had previously installed on both systems: LogMeIn. This allowed me to access the HP from the Gateway remotely and run any application on it that I didn’t have on the Gateway. Viola: a very nicely functioning private cloud environment!
OK, well my computing environment likely falls well short of the typical cloud computing architecture, but nevertheless I am now able to enjoy many of its benefits in my own home office. Don’t underestimate the power of this simple approach, it’s offering me incredible flexibility and usefulness. If you use multiple computers, you might want to investigate setting up a similar private cloud computing environment for yourself!
I recently purchased LogMeIn Ignition for my iPhone when it was on sale for 1/2 price. It’s a bit expensive at $29.95, but far more of a value at the $14.95 sale price. I’m extremely happy with the program and it works amazingly well. I’ve logged onto both my Gateway LX6810 Quad-Processor system (MONSTER) which runs Vista and my little HP Mini 5101 network running XP, and the program allows easy remote control of both systems. I’m finding it especially handy as a remote tech support tool for my family’s use of MONSTER when I’m traveling on business.
If you really need remote access to PCs from your iPhone, then LogMeIn Ignition is probably worth even the full price – it works that well. If your need isn’t quite that pressing you may want to keep an eye out for any future sales of this very well done program.
My wife Rosemarie (that’s her above!) recently received her certification as a professional make-up artist, and so I’ve been helping her set up a Web site for displaying her portfolio of work (Fabulousity). In the process of doing so we’ve discovered two amazing freeware programs for performing image manipulation and processing: GIMP and FastStone Photo Resizer. If you need to do any kind of image work and have zero budget for software, be sure to check out these two programs!
We recently purchased a monster computer for less than $500 from Woot – a refurbished Gateway LX6810 Media Center. This bad boy has 4 Intel Dual-Core CPUs, 8 GB of RAM, and a 640 GB RAID disk array. It’s also got an HD tuner (complete with remote), HDMI and DVI outputs, a host of USB ports – and boy does it fly. It came with Vista Home Premium and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Vista actually seem fast. Based on a Consumer Reports recommendation I bought a Viewsonic 24-inch widescreen LCD monitor to go with this system and it provides a wonderful quality 1920 X 1080 (HDTV resolution) graphical interface to us.
We’ve just started experimenting with utilizing all of the capabilities of this monster system, but it’s already amazing to have so much computer power running right in our home!