Today, LoopPay announced that they were acquired by Samsung. This wasn’t entirely unforeseen, considering rumors have been popping up regarding LoopPay’s future integration with Samsung phones. The LoopPay system is a new technology that is tied to the current magnetic stripe credit card system. Using a small loop of wires in a special hardware device, the LoopPay devices essentially mimic the magnetic field caused by a swipe of a credit card, enabling mobile payments at nearly every existing credit card swipe terminal.
The device works like magic— simply place the Fob or Card next to the magnetic swipe slot on an existing credit card machine, press a button on your LoopPay, and the reader will act as if a physical card was swiped. I’ve owned one of these devices for a little over a month (specifically, the LoopPay Card) and it has worked flawlessly every time I’ve used it on a traditional terminal, but there’s one big problem that needs to be solved before LoopPay can become a major player in the mobile payments space.
NOOBS is a system designed by the Raspberry Pi foundation for installing operating systems onto your Raspberry Pi’s SD card. Not only are you able to install an operating system with a single click, but you can install it over a network or even install multiple operating systems on multiple partitions.
A couple days ago, the Raspberry Pi foundation released the Raspberry Pi 2. The Raspberry Pi 2 comes with some fantastic new features that I’m looking forward to utilizing, including an upgraded processor and RAM. Even better, the hardware comes in at the same $35 as the original model B.
I am a big fan of Plex Media Server— it has a great set of software, both server and client side, and is much easier to setup and use than alternatives such as XBMC. Attached to my ReadyNAS, my Plex server has access to 6 TB of storage.
I also have several Chromecast devices— they’re great little media streamer sticks that simply plug into your HDMI port on your TV. Using your phone as a remote, you can “cast” media from an app (such as Netflix, HBO, or Plex) and onto your TV. Chromecast also has a browser API, so Plex’s website also allows you to cast media to your local TVs.
There’s one major issue, however, in terms of compatibility between Plex and the Chromecast— and it’s not actually the Chromecast’s fault. Plex, for whatever reason, has decided to limit the maximum bitrate of a video file to 12 mbps when casting to a Chromecast device. If you have a powerful PC running as your Plex server, this is fine— the server software will transcode the higher bitrate videos on the fly to 12 mbps. But, I am using an old laptop that can barely transcode to 4 mbps, 720p video files, so the video playback stutters.
Plex claims this forced transcoding is due to “performance issues” with media over 12 mbps, but this is not true1. Not only have users casted media higher than 12 mbps from other apps, but I have successfully gotten around this hard coded limitation and streamed 20+ mbps video without a problem.
I am an enthusiastic user of Plex, but recently I discovered that they were making the poor choice of hard-coding a bitrate limitation in their Chromecast application. Essentially, this enforced a 12,000 kbps (~12 mbps) limitation on media, meaning that anything that has a higher bitrate would be transcoded. This isn’t a problem when you have a decent server running Plex, but I am running it on an old laptop that can barely keep up with 4 mbps transcodes.
I was able to get around the hard coded limitation (the technical how-I-did-it is also available), and you can do it to:
Ebola has been a big topic in the news lately, but just how bad is it, and how quickly is it spreading? As a part of a web programming course in the iSchool at the University of Washington, I developed an interactive visualization of the 2014 spread of the disease using D3 and web technologies.
Shortly after the sync applications were leaked early, Microsoft officially unveiled their latest wearable product— the Microsoft Band. The Band is not a smartwatch, but rather a fitness centered wearable device with several smartwatch-like features. The device’s claim to fame comes from its unique blend of 10 sensors that constantly input data and send it up to Microsoft’s new Health platform.
I recently purchased a diskless ReadyNAS 104 device from Netgear and filled it with a trio of WD Red 3 TB drives for my personal file storage. In this configuration, the NAS has a capacity of approximately 6 TB (one of the disks is used for parity), and houses backups of my files, photos, and home videos.
But, considering the device is attached to my apartment’s WiFi network, it’s not so useful outside of the premises. Netgear provides a client application called “ReadyNAS Remote”, which provides remote access to the NAS device presumably by relaying your traffic through one of their servers. However, this can be slow and potentially a security concern. As an alternative, I compiled ZeroTier One, a mesh VPN, to connect to my NAS remotely.
The world of Docker has had some very exciting releases lately. From the self-hosted PaaS Flynn having their first beta release, to the 1.0-and-beyond release of Docker itself, to the new Docker web UI from CenturyLink called Panamax and based on CoreOS, Docker has become easier to use for newcomers.
Today, I’ll briefly go over how to setup and use one of these tools—Panamax—and create your own application template to produce a fully internet-accessible web application that requires zero configuration.
Though HTTPS has been an option for my site for a little while now, I haven’t enforced it outside of various commerce related pages (e.g. the shopping cart). Starting now, not only is HTTPS required to browse my site, I’ve enabled the HSTS header to ensure that unencrypted connections are never allowed.