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Andrey Mikhalchuk’s Blog

Technoblog about life

Sep 27, 2013 rPlay rocks!

I’m currently beta-testing rPlay and this software totally rocks! What’s rPlay? Well, imagine yourself willing to share content of your iPhone or iPad screen with you family. There are couple ways to do this: you can get an Apple TV ($99) or … well, that’s actually it. AirPlay is a proprietary protocol so the number of options is actually extremely limited.

Last year a small revolution happened: Raspberry Pi got released to the markets. Raspi (short for Raspberry Pi) is awesome. For just $35 you can get a computer powerful enough to output 1080p video to your TV yet small enough to fit your pocket. There are currently dozen mostly Linux-based operating systems running on this computer and the platform is totally open (unlike Apple). Obviously it didn’t take long for hackers to implement AirPlay on Raspi so now for just $35 (well, plus SD card, cables, power supply, case, shipping = about $70) you can play music from any i-device to speakers attached to Raspi. Effectively you can turn Raspi into an Apple equivalent of AirPort Express, but not Apple TV.

For streaming video Apple uses slightly different functionality called AirPlay Mirroring and this protocol was not implemented on Raspi yet. Until now. Smart guys from VMLite finally figured out a way to mirror video from iPhone/iPad via Raspi to the TV. Not sure how long it took them to do this incredible work, but it actually works. Well, it is still in beta, but totally usable and shows great performance.

rPlay is a great tool for presentations, sharing Youtube videos with your friends and family or playing iPhone games on a large screen. Here are a few great features of this software:
- It supports both landscape and portrait mode (rotate your iPhone and the image on the TV will rotate as well)
- Has great video and sound synchronization – something a lot of streaming software lacks. Well, there is a half-second delay when you output sound via HDMI, but if you plug speakers via USB port all is in sync. I guess that’s why they call it beta.
- It is quite stable. I kept switching streaming from one iDevice to another and once it froze. But, again, this is beta and I kept beating it hard, so given the circumstances it is very solid even in beta-version
- One extra cool feature is a limited support for Google Chromecast. Personally I do not use it much as AirPlay covers it all but for Android users that’s some great news.

I already mentioned multiple times that the current version is in beta stage, so there are a fe quirks which hopefully will get resolved in the final version:
- the video and sound being not in sync when sound is played over HDMI (use USB sound output to fix this problem)
- Netflix 1080p streaming is not smooth enough. If you overclock Raspi it gets better, yet still not as smooth as being played without mirroring
And that’s basically it. I saw a lot of “final versions” being released with such minor defects. Microsoft would totally release it :) Still I’m really glad VMLite decided to keep polishing the software until perfect and can’t wait for the final product.

Sep 24, 2013 Fixing Verizon FiOS DNS Problems

Your superfancy FiOS internet link is getting flaky for no reason every now and then? The reason could be not the fiber-optic cable (which is awesome), but a problem with part of infrastructure called DNS servers. The DNS (Domain Name Resolution) servers are responsible for translating domain names such as google.com or yahoo.com into internet addresses computers use for sending traffic across the internet. When DNS is not working properly your web surfing becomes either slow or impossible.

I was debugging corporate email problems recently and besides many other interesting things was fixing the CEO’s complain about email not working from his home most of the time. Surprisingly the root cause of the problem was absolutely horrible reliability of FiOS DNS servers. For some reasons every other DNS lookup was ending up not knowing anything at all about our company’s domain. The solution to the problem is getting rid of FiOS DNS servers in you router configuration and replacing them with OpenDNS servers. That’s much easier to do than it sounds, I recommend doing that even if you don’t have DNS troubles in your home network yet. Some Internet research shown that many people are having sporadic problems with DNS while using FiOS and this recipe will solve some of them.

Let’s fix this …

Sep 13, 2013 ActionView::Template::Error (active_admin.css isn’t precompiled)

Just sepnt quite some time fixing infamous “ActionView::Template::Error (active_admin.css isn’t precompiled)” error on prod. Everything worked fine in dev environment but once I put the code on prod it broke. Couple websites proposed several solutions, but none of them worked for me. Finally a combination of difference recipes seemed to fix the problem. Here is how …

Sep 2, 2013 Apple’s review fraud prevention system is as useless as Amazon’s :(

I already was writing about fraudulent reviews on amazon.com. Just today found the same lame approache to reviews on app store. Developer Jackadam seems investing ton of money into the promotion of a program called “Dark Sky – Weather radar, Hyperlocal Forecasts, and …”. I found a very positive review about it on dealnews.com and decided to read user reviews. Take a look yourself: http://search.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZContentLink.woa/wa/link?path=apps%2fdarksky. There are ton of positive comments but also surprising number of one-start comments. This is very suspicious. But if you take a look at the timestamp of almost ALL 5-star reviews you will find they were all made on June 28th, while lower-rated reviews are randomly spreaded across the calendar. Isn’t that obvious that most if not all positive reviews are fake?

Why industry giants like appstore and amazon are not spending a tiniest fraction of their humongous revenue on protecting their customers is a mystery to me.

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