Plex with Synology DS918+ NAS for home media

28. July 2018 22:19 by Cameron in NAS  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

I realized that I was going to quickly outgrow my desktop PC's storage for use with Plex once I started ripping my 4K UHD Blu-ray disks. To remedy this, I recently purchased a Synology DS918+ NAS for handling storage of my files and TV/movie collection. I purchased the DS918+ because of it supporting four drives, expandability options (expand up to 5 more drives), and its processor for Plex transcoding.

To start, I installed three 4TB Seagate IronWolf NAS hard drives and configured to use Synology's hybrid RAID. I will be adding a fourth 4TB hard drive later this summer. With the hybrid RAID option, I can have mixed hard drive sizes in my array and upgrade the disks gradually. The main requirement is that I have two of the largest disks in the array. I will probably upgrade all of these drives to 8TB at some point, but it shouldn't be right away.

I have been thoroughly enjoying Plex and having my TV shows, movies, and music available anywhere in the world. I ripped all of my audio CDs with iTunes and copied over all of the albums I bought on iTunes too. I also bought an HDHomerun Prime to record cable TV and save to the NAS. I record with my home theater PC and strip out commercials with MCEBuddy and Comskip. After recording, MCEBuddy copies the files to my NAS for archiving.

I am strongly considering cancelling Hulu and Spotify in favor of my own libraries. I think Hulu is less necessary when you can record your own TV shows and watch them at your own leisure. In regards to Spotify, I hardly listen to much of the new stuff out there and it would be cheaper to buy an album on occasion to support individual artists. Spotify doesn't pay artists very much for music played.

It takes a bit of patience to rip a large movie collection. However, all you need is a PC with a Blu-ray drive and MakeMKV to save the rips directly to your NAS. You can rip everything from DVD to UHD Blu-ray with MakeMKV. Ripping UHD Blu-ray is more challenging as it requires specific drives with specific firmware. However, the process isn't too bad after you've patched your drive's firmware (assuming you have a newer drive). Ripping audio CDs is very quick since they contain at most 700MB of data.

With Plex for Windows, I am able to play UHD mkvs on my 4K SDR TV with HDR to SDR tone mapping. As far as I know, the Windows application is the only client capable of tone mapping. Most UHD releases also come with 1080p releases, but I must say that the tone mapped colors are much more vivid than their 1080p SDR equivalents. I jumped on the 4K TV bandwagon before HDR was readily available, but I will be getting an HDR10/Dolby Vision TV at some point in the near future. At that point,tone mapping will not be needed.

Since getting all of this setup, I have been extremely happy with my purchases. There is a bit of an upfront cost with all of the equipment, but the features in Plex make this worth every penny. Whether you're just beginning to build a movie library or you've been collecting a while, Plex is a good way to get your collection preserved and make it available anywhere in the world.

Tevo Tarantula Update!

24. May 2018 10:42 by Cameron in 3D Printing  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

It's been nearly 2 months since my last update, but I have been busy printing and tweaking! I have printed a few gifts for my family (small jewelry boxes) and I've printed some upgrades to the printer. Since my last post, I installed the dual-y rail upgrade and began using PEI as my build surface. Since the dual-y rail upgrade, my bed has been much more stable. I am also running my printer from an MKS Gen L board with TMC2208 drivers. The TMC2208 drivers are drop in replacements for the stock A4988 drivers and much more efficiently than my previous DRV8825 drivers.

I think there is something strange with my frame though as my prints are just a slight bit slanted. I will likely need to do some frame stabilization upgrades in the near future to resolve this issue. I will likely go with more aluminum extrusions in order to ensure that my frame is rigid and straight up and down. I have 3d printed spacers for the dual-y rails, but I think these aren't perfect so I would like to fix this with a frame upgrade.

Printing on PEI has been a dream come true. I no longer have bed adhesion issues. I have only been printing PLA on PEI so far, but I will be getting into trying PETG soon. I had printed PETG directly on a sheet of borosilicate glass previously, however, the PETG bonded too strongly with the glass and when I removed the part, it took small chunk of glass. This chunk of glass was very small, but if I continued printing PETG that way, I could have ended up with a very uneven build surface. I have heard that PETG sticks very hard to PEI, but I will need to do some experimentation to see!

My next upgrades include a square frame (full base) with right angle mounts for my dual y-axis rails, stronger center brackets (replace the flimsy tiny metal brackets), z-axis supports, and potentially some feet out of TPU to absorb vibrations from the printer. My prints are currently at an acceptable quality level, but I do know, with the improvements I listed, my print quality can improve more.

At this point, I've spent enough money on the upgrades for this printer to where I could have just bought a Tevo Tornado or equivalent. However, these printers are more or less put together when you unpack them from the box. I have learned far more from putting together my Tevo Tarantula than by simply building a 90% complete printer.

My previous printer, the Monoprice Select Mini v2, although a good printer for most, is difficult to service (for beginners). I was, at the time, very much a beginner at 3d printing. It was a bit intimidating to take apart the Monoprice Select Mini v2 since I knew nothing about the internals of 3d printers. With my Tevo Tarantula, the entire build process with upgrades has been monumental in my understanding of 3d printing.

At some point, I would like to get a second 3d printer, but I will likely hold out for a full color 3d printer which mixes colors in realtime. At this time, full color printing is more of a luxury with a printer or extruder upgrade + printer costing upwards of $1000. We are on our way of this becoming more mainstream in the next year or so. For now, I am happy with my dual color/dual material Tevo Tarantula. In the meantime, I may explore painting my prints in post processing.

Update on Tevo Tarantula!

7. April 2018 16:27 by Cameron in 3D Printing  //  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments

It's been a little over a month since my last update on my Tevo Tarantula. All of the previous planned upgrades are now installed and I am fine tuning to get high quality prints.

My dual extruder and large bed upgrade kits arrived the last week of March and I got both configured in Marlin and reflashed the firmware. The large bed upgrade was easy enough once I moved the Y-endstop to the back of the aluminum extrusion and adjusted the X-gantry position. Once I had everything heated up to test my second extruder, I noticed that my second extruder driver wasn't tuned correctly and the motor was clicking and didn't extrude. I adjusted the voltage on the E1 driver (stupidly without a multimeter) and eventually I turned the potentiometer too much and it ultimately broke. Since I had the stock MKS 1.4 base board, the stepper drivers were integrated, and I couldn't replace them. Because of this, I had to order a replacement board if I wanted to use the second extruder.

I wanted to avoid issues with stepper drivers in the future and I ordered an MKS Gen L board which has replaceable drivers. I also ordered two sets of DRV8825 drivers (5 pack) so I could be sure to have backup drivers in case I needed them. As it would turn out, I did need them! I didn't realize that the drivers were cranked up to 1.6v when I powered on the printer. I burned through 3 of the extra 5 drivers before realizing I needed to configure the jumpers for each driver and adjust the voltage down to 0.75v (this time with a multimeter).

These DRV8825 drivers run much quieter than the stock A4988 drivers and before I replaced the drivers, I had installed stepper motor dampers on the X and Y axis. Now printing is extremely quiet! As a future upgrade, I am going to replace all of the stepper drivers with TMC2208s which should make the printer virtually silent aside from the fans. Maybe I can replace the fans at a later point to reduce noise. The great thing is that I can now run prints at all hours of the night and day with minimal noise.

I decided I would go for the dual-Y rail upgrade to provide more stability for the build plate and reduce ghosting in my prints. I still need to print all the necessary components for this upgrade, but it will be a huge improvement once implemented. After I install the dual-Y rail upgrade, I'm hoping this will be the last upgrade I need to make on this printer for a while. Of course, I will always be tuning little bits along the way to improve quality. Originally, I got into 3d printing to enable me to print enclosures for electronics projects for Raspberry Pi and Arduino. However, this has evolved way past that and I'm thoroughly enjoying the process of building/tuning the printer and creating neat prints. Many friends and family members have asked me to 3d print various objects for them as gifts or toys. I think that is really cool and I'm happy to do that for them. I've also helped troubleshoot issues on friends' DIY 3d printers with the knowledge that I've gained from working on my printer.

One of my latest prints before my last rebuild was of the Millennium Falcon (named Fillennium Malcon on Thingiverse). I am pretty happy with how it turned out and it now sits on my desk at work. I printed the model at 60% scale with Cura. It took roughly 4.5 hours to finish printing. I had one failed attempt trying to print at 40% scale and about 70% into the print, the part fell over onto the build plate. This was due to my not printing a proper raft. On my second run, I made sure to print a large raft to avoid the same thing from happening.

I will soon be looking into PVA as support material for more complex models with dissolvable supports. I just need to see about how to properly store PVA since it is very sensitive to humidity. Perhaps I can invest in a single spool enclosure for the PVA. Cura's support options for PVA are somewhat limited meaning that it can only designate supports to one extruder. This will result in using a lot of PVA to support larger objects. Simplify3D and Slic3r Prusa Edition have an option to print PVA on only the areas that touch the model and your primary material for the rest of the supports. I am still deciding whether I want to buy Simplify3D when Cura suits 95% of my needs for everyday printing. At the price tag of $150, it better have pretty compelling features for me to make the switch from Cura. If I see myself burning through my supply of PVA quickly, Simplify3D would pay for itself in the long run. Rolls of PVA run for $35-50 which would be less expensive over a long period of time with Simplify3D.

Update on Tevo Tarantula

3. March 2018 17:16 by Cameron in 3D Printing  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

The dual-z axis upgrade kit came in this past week and I've been working on tuning the two lead screws to move together. This has been slightly challenging since I have two z-axis motors which can move out of synchronization. This results in having to adjust the Z-offset on my hotend occasionally and re-calibrate the bed for better first layer adhesion. Since the lead screws are not perfectly aligned up and down, there is quite a lot of vibration which causes a loud screeching sound during bed leveling and homing. I have tried using a hand level to get the lead screws aligned properly, but this has been difficult.

Instead, I am going to try using a single motor pulley system to drive both lead screws. I will need to print new brackets for this setup. The motor is mounted inverted which will hopefully decrease the wobbling. I was able to source most of the parts needed for this upgrade from the United States. The only piece I couldn't find was the closed loop GT2 timing belt. I ordered two new lead screws in case either of the ones I had from Tevo were accidentally bent slightly. I am hopeful that this will make my z-axis virtually quiet and will also improve my print quality immensely.

I am using supasorn's belt tensioner and dual-z axis design from Thingiverse. You can find his profile here:

On both of his belt tensioner and dual-z axis pages, he has pictures of flawless 20mm calibration cubes. This is my ultimate goal after making these upgrades.

I ordered a dual-extruder kit and large bed kit from Tevo and hope to see those by late March/early April. In the meantime, I will be printing/tuning around the clock to get my workspace more organized. My desk is just covered in electronic boards and wires at the moment. I did finally manage to print the TUSH filament holder so I no longer have a ghetto filament holder setup.

Since I have my printer working well enough now, I thought I would try and print Maker's Muse Lattice Cube design. I made two separate scaled prints of the cube. The first attempt at printing the lattice cube did not work too well. I had scaled it to 25% in Cura, but the print came out a bit rough. There wasn't much room for the nozzle to move around freely at that scale. The cube nearly completed, but the nozzle got stuck on the top of the cube, near the end of the print, and I had to abort the print. In my second attempt, I scaled to 40% and printed with my silver PLA. The print took roughly an hour and the result is quite nice! After I tune my printer a bit more, I may try some of the more advanced designs.

I ordered some more colors of PLA filament (yellow, red, green). I would like to print all of the low poly designs (namely Pokemon to start) and I will be collecting different colors of PLA over the next few months. I would like to try some other materials soon, but I am not sure whether I want to try PETG or ABS. I am interested in flexible filament, but I'll need to modify my extruder to support those. I will be investing in PVA at some point in the near future too.

That's it for now! I will continue to post updates as I make more progress. I am going to work on a beginner's guide to building/configuring/upgrading their Tevo Tarantula soon.

Progress with my Tevo Tarantula

11. February 2018 15:30 by Cameron in 3D Printing  //  Tags: , , , , ,   //   Comments

It's been a couple of weeks since my last update on the printer. Since my last update, I have received my aluminum brackets and replaced all of the original acrylic parts with their aluminum counter parts. The build is much sturdier than before. However, I have found that it is harder to get the bed manually leveled due to the rigidness of the frame. I'm in the process of getting a BL Touch sensor installed to allow for a less strict leveled bed. This should improve print quality and not require me to level the bed anymore. Previously with the acrylic parts, I could get away with less of a leveled bed and get high quality prints.

I've been trying to print pieces for my electronics enclosure, but the prints keep failing due to the large surface area and the bed not being perfectly level. Most of the time, the print would be fine until close to the end and then there would be some layer shifting that ruins the print. This is unfortunate because the part I'm trying to print takes 6-7 hours to print and most of the time I've set it to print over night. When I come back to the print in the morning, I find that the print has failed. I'm fairly confident that installing the BL Touch sensor should fix most of these issues.

I'm currently working through which version of the community firmware to install on my printer. I have Jim Brown's Easy Config based on Marlin 1.1, but for some reason, the BL Touch doesn't appear to work correctly for the Z-endstop and when I do the auto home mechanism, the print nozzle crashes into the bed. I'm going to try a few other firmware configurations available from the Facebook group. There are a few guides referring to the BL Touch and specific firmware releases. I'm fairly certain the BL Touch is not at fault because when I power on the printer, it deploys/retracts the sensor a few times. I expect that it's a firmware configuration issue and I should be able to get it working in the next few days.

I have a seconds Z-axis rod/motor kit coming from Tevo in the next couple of weeks. That should help with Z-axis stability and print quality. Most people say this is not necessary, but I don't think it will hurt. Once I have the BL Touch installed, I will do some before/after comparison prints with/without the dual Z-axis kit. I've also ordered a large bed sticker from Tevo to apply to a large bed that I will purchase from Amazon. I'm attempting to stay as stock as possible, but the kits from Tevo tend to be a bit more expensive and they take longer to ship from overseas than from a seller in the US. Eventually, I want to get a dual extruder upgrade, but I'm not sure if I will go with Tevo or source the parts separately from Amazon. I found a dual extruder kit on Amazon that is roughly half the price of Tevo's, but I would need to get a second extruder motor and part assembly. Because of the price of the individual components, it might just make more sense to get Tevo's kit. I'm mainly interested in printing complex models using PVA (water soluble) for supports and PLA/ABS/PETG for the model.

I will continue to post updates on the print quality and upgrades soon!

Beginning 3D Printing with the Tevo Tarantula

27. January 2018 17:24 by Cameron in 3D Printing  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments

After selling the Monoprice printer, I still wanted to venture into 3D printing, but I wanted something with more accessible parts if servicing is needed. I researched some DIY kits for a little while and ultimately chose the Tevo Tarantula. The Tevo Tarantula is a Chinese Prusa i3 clone I ordered from Gearbest and the printer kit arrived in about 10 days from Malaysia. Note, I had to get a shipping upgrade for the 10 day speed. Your mileage may vary depending on different shipping conditions. Once I had the printer in my possession, base assembly and calibration took about 15 hours. I struggled a little with the initial steps of getting the frame put together. Some other challenging parts of assembly included the T-nuts that were difficult to lock in place on the frame. They would tend to slide around and come lose after I had tightened up the bolts.

After I assembled everything and hooked up the electrical, I flashed Jim Brown's fork of Marlin 1.1 and went through the initial setup of the firmware and began the bed leveling. Be sure to copy/paste the example configuration from the repository over the existing configuration in Marlin. The bed leveling was a little difficult with the small thumb screws on the corners of the build plate. You can improve this design by printing plastic pieces to make the screws a bit larger for easier adjusting. I ran through the homing of the axes one at a time. When I got to the Z-axis homing, the acrylic bracket snapped in half and I was unable to continue without a new part or fixing the existing part. The good thing is that acrylic parts can be glued back together, but I recommend printing a new set of brackets or getting aluminum or carbon fiber replacements. I have ordered an aluminum set of brackets that I will use to replace the acrylic pieces. After I glued the acrylic Z-motor bracket back together, I was able to successfully get it re-installed onto the frame of the printer.

I leveled the bed one last time and printed a calibration cube. I had attempted to print from the supplied SD card directly from Marlin, however, I couldn't get a good print so I opted for Cura instead. Cura 3 has a profile for the Tevo Tarantula which is nice as I didn't have to configure too much to begin printing. In the near future, I will be using Octoprint to do printing remotely.

My upgrade journey is far from over! I have many improvements that I would like to print that will improve print quality and electrical safety. I plan to print a nice case for the screen (large full graphic screen), main board, power supply, mosfets (currently only have one for the heated bed), and Raspberry Pi 3 (Octoprint). The case will be good for cable management and keeping the dangerous high voltage power away from my hands. Currently, my printer is a bit of a hot mess with wires hanging all over (none are touching the print bed as that would be a fire hazard!) and the power supply has a small piece of plastic covering the exposed terminals for the electrical connections. I don't like the power supply design as it stands. I wish they had at least hardwired a power socket to cover up the exposed terminals.

I expect that printing these upgrades will take most of the week and I should have most upgrades in place soon! I will continue to post more updates for the printer!

The Short Life of my Monoprice Select Mini v2

27. January 2018 16:46 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

This past Christmas, I asked for a Monoprice Select Mini v2 printer. This printer is highly rated on Amazon and has little to no setup time required to begin printing. It comes pre-assembled and is ready to print using the provided models on the SD card or by using a USB cable with a PC. Being that this is a mini, the build volume is 120mmx120mmx120mm. It's a good starter printer if you want a low hassle entry into 3D printing.

I happily used the printer for about a week before I ended up damaging the printer by leaving a print unattended for a few hours. I came back home, after working out, and found a big pile of stringy filament on the corner of my desk. Additionally, the printer had gotten stuck and the motors were attempting to move beyond their physical capacity. I wanted to fix the printer by taking it apart to replace specific components, however, due to its pre-built nature, this was more difficult than I had hoped. I couldn't get to the stepper motors without taking the full base assembly apart. This was more involved than I wanted so I ended up selling the printer on eBay for parts.

I still do recommend this printer as a good starter printer. However, take my strong words of advice to not leave a print unattended as you never know what you might come back home to! If you were to setup Octoprint, you could monitor your prints remotely. Some higher end printers have crash detection, but these printers are easily 3-4 times more expensive than the MP Select Mini v2.

Small HTPC Build

16. December 2017 17:19 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments

I recently have had the itch to build a small PC that can fit in my entertainment center. This is mainly so I can play games that require wired controllers without having to provide 30ft long USB extension cords to my main desktop. To fit this need, I considered getting an Intel NUC based on the new Apollo Lake Atom processor, but ultimately I decided on an HP Pro 6200 SFF PC. The Intel NUC in the cheapest configuration isn't well suited for all of my current needs. I would have needed a NUC with an i5 or better for decent performance in more graphically demanding applications.

I bought the HP from eBay for a small $30! The original purchase from eBay included an Intel i3 2100 clocked at 3.10GHz and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. I just had to purchase a hard drive separately and then the computer was ready to use! This was an incredible deal which I couldn't pass up. After receiving the PC, I installed my 1TB HDD, upgraded the CPU to an Intel i5 2500 clocked at 3.30GHz, and installed an ASUS NVIDIA GT 1030 2GB low profile GPU. In total, the build cost me about $150 which is just a little more than the Intel NUC I had originally considered.

I wanted the PC to be powerful enough emulate everything from Atari to Wii/PS2/PSP so getting the GT 1030 was a must. I didn't get great performance on the Intel HD 2000 alone. It is important to note that if you're going to do this yourself, you need to consider power consumption and that these OEM PCs don't have standard upgradeable ATX or ITX PSUs. The HP Pro 6200 has a 240W PSU which is below the NVIDIA recommended 300W for a GT 1030. However, I haven't had any issues where the PC struggles with power delivery. The specs for the GT 1030 indicate that the card draws around 30W and my i5 draws around 95W. This leaves ~100W for the other components which should be sufficient. Because the GT 1030 is a low power card, it is also important to mention that it will only run at PCI Express x4 speeds, but this is plenty for light gaming, emulators, and video streaming. If you need full x16 speeds, you should consider building a mini ITX PC or micro ATX PC instead.

The advantage to going the route of old OEM PCs instead of starting from scratch is that you have less costs to get a base PC up and running. To build a similar configuration from scratch, it would easily cost 2-3 times as much, but you do have more options on CPU/mobo than OEM.

I still maintain my primary desktop PC for gaming/work that requires a beefier GPU, but this is a nice secondary PC that fits my needs for multimedia within my entertainment center. I will be creating some captures from the HP soon demonstrating performance of this build in terms of light gaming, Steam in-home streaming, emulators, and video streaming.

Raspberry Pi Dual 8mm Film Scanner

13. November 2017 12:32 by Cameron in Raspberry Pi  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

Last year for Christmas, I digitally captured all of my family's home movies from 8mm film, VHS tapes, and Hi8 tapes. The most straight forward was capturing the video tapes as all I needed was a Digital8 camcorder and a VHS VCR. The process for capturing the film was a bit more involved however. I setup a Kodak Ektasound Moviedeck 285 projector with its pop-out screen and recorded the projected image with a DSLR camera. The results of the capture are moderately decent. Some of the frames were overexposed and difficult to touch up in post processing.

Now about a year later, I am looking to refine my film capture process. I've seen several videos on YouTube of real-time capturing using expensive equipment and I've also seen several home-built setups doing frame by frame capturing. I know that solutions such as the Wolverine Film Scanner exist, but the production quality isn't super high and it saves videos at 30fps while 8mm film is typically 18fps or 24fps. Therefore, I wanted to embark on my own frame by frame scanner using a Rapsberry Pi 3.

Using an old dual 8 film editor (both Super 8 and standard 8mm), I have gutted most of the internals in order to fit a Raspberry Pi 3, 1080p camera (webcam or Pi cam depending on final OS used), and an LCD touch screen in place of the old rear-projection screen. For auto-feeding/rewinding the film, I will be attaching stepper motors to both film arms. I haven't finalized all of the details as of yet, but the general process will be to have the film advance 1 frame at a time and snap a high resolution image of the frame. At the end of the reel, it would be nice to be able to set it to automatically rewind, however, I might just manually rewind after resetting the film on the source reel.

I have been experimenting with Raspbian and Windows 10 IoT Core as potential operating systems for developing the solution. My main driver on using Windows over Raspbian at the moment is the ease of UI development and being able to use .NET/C# to control GPIO pins.

Please stay tuned as I'll be making regular blog posts on updates soon!

Lenovo x220 Hackintosh

14. October 2017 00:10 by Cameron in Hackintosh, Mac  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

I recently acquired a Lenovo x220 for $60 to make a nearly 100% compatible hackintosh laptop. The x220 series allows for custom BIOS to be flashed to remove the Wifi whitelist enforced by Lenovo and I was able to install a Broadcom AC wireless card. Following this guide,, I now have a 95% compatible hackintosh laptop. The only thing that doesn't work is the SD card reader which isn't a big deal. I have installed macOS High Sierra on my 256GB mSATA SSD and I've set up the machine for iOS development. I plan to use this machine until I can buy a Macbook Pro or equivalent in the near future. Since the Lenovo x220 was released in 2011, I imagine I have about 2 years before this machine is obsoleted by the newest macOS. I should by that point be able to replace the laptop or buy an official Macbook Pro.

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