Category Archives: Geek Stuff

Install Synology DS Video app on Amazon Fire TV (and Fire TV Stick)

I have Synology’s DS Video working on my Amazon Fire TV and it works great. I have confirmed that these instructions work for both the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick. In order for this to work I actually needed to do a number of things, so I will do my best to outline them here. At a high level what I did was:

  • Sideload DS Video app to my Fire TV to enable browsing of movie selection
  • Sideload VLC app to my Fire TV to enable video transcoding on the Fire TV
  • Sideload Llama to my Fire TV  to enable home screen icon access to DS Video
  • Pushed file changes so that the appropriate icons showed up on my Fire TV home screen

My steps are based on using a Mac, similar instructions for PC are available at sideloadfiretv.com.

Step 1: Enable ADB Debugging to allow for sideloading

  1. On Fire TV go to Settings > System > Developer Options
  2. Then turn ADB Debugging on

Step 2: Connect to your Fire TV from your Mac

  1. On Fire TV get your IP address by going to Settings > System > About > Network
    Note: Write down the IP address, you’ll need to reference it later
  2. Unzip ADB platform tools (download platform-tools) to your desktop
  3. Open Terminal (just type Term in finder and it will come right up)
  4. Once in terminal, type the following and then hit enter:
    cd /Users/YourUserName/Desktop/platform-tools
    note:YourUserName is your mac user name
  5. This will bring you into the Platform-tools folder, from here now type and then hit enter:
    ./adb connect IPADDRESS
    Note: IPADDRESS is the address we wrote down earlier from your Fire TV

Step 3: Sideload apps onto the Fire TV

  1. Load up a web browser and download the following APK files to your dekstop:
    DS Video – (link to find the latest DS Video APKs)
    VLC (you need something to play all those different video formats) – To download the VLC APK you need to follow a multi-step process:

      1. Get the most recent VLC Play Store URL (Google Play link for VLC)
      2. Go to an APK Downloader (I use Evozi’s APK Downloader)
      3. Generate a link with the downloader and then download the APK

    Llama (optional, use if you want a home screen icon for DS Video) – You can download the Llama APK here

  2. Go back to your Terminal session and install each application by entering in the following command:
    ./adb install /Users/YourUserName/Desktop/filename.apk
    note:YourUserName is your mac user name
  3. You will know the install was completed successfully when you see a message about the install details and the word Success.
  4. Now that the DS Video application is on your Fire TV you can load it by going to Settings > Applications and clicking on DS Video.

Step 4 (Optional): Want to launch the DS Video app from the Home Screen? I used the steps found at http://sideloadfiretv.com/add-kodi-xbmc-icon-to-fire-tvs-home-screen/ and modified it a little so that I could do this with DS Video instead of Kodi XBMC.

  1. On the Fire TV go to Apps > Categories > Entertainment and search for and install “Classic TV”
  2. Open Classic TV app to verify that it worked, and then return to the home screen
  3. You need Llama to trick the Fire TV (so if you haven’t already installed it, return back to Step 3 first and do that before continuing)
    1. Go to Settings > Applications > Manage All Installed Applications and launch Llama
    2. In Llama go to the Events tab and then click the + button
    3. Now click the Add Condition button, trigger event based on Active Application
    4. Now select Choose an App and choose Classic TV and hit ok.
    5. Next you need to select Add Action and select Run Application
    6. Select DS Video
  4. Return to the home screen and launch Classic TV. Because the event was created DS Video will run instead.

Step 5 (Super Optional): Change the Classic TV icon to be a DS Video icon.

1. You will need DS Video Thumbnails and Previews, to make it easy here is the thumbnail and preview icons I used. Right-click both DS Video icons and save the images to your desktop (do not change the default file name):

DS Video Thumbnail Icon

File must be named: thumbnail_43127692f3ed9671e079492a40a450bbd51543bd84d74bba24baf55fe7e06afa.png

DS Video Preview Icon

File must be named: preview_84a70e233a1a6d1ac0d93d2e9f1f2de0e7c2d64d289f1e6f17434fe4c3752717.png

2.In your Terminal session we now need to replace the Classic TV icons with the DS Video icons by running the following 2 commands:

./adb push /Users/YOURUSERNAME/Desktop/thumbnail_43127692f3ed9671e079492a40a450bbd51543bd84d74bba24baf55fe7e06afa.png /sdcard/.imagecache/com.amazon.venezia/com.adrise.profilms/B00IPRAZB4/

./adb push /Users/YOURUSERNAME/Desktop/preview_84a70e233a1a6d1ac0d93d2e9f1f2de0e7c2d64d289f1e6f17434fe4c3752717.png /sdcard/.imagecache/com.amazon.venezia/com.adrise.profilms/B00IPRAZB4/

note:YourUserName is your mac user name

3. Now you need to reboot your Fire TV in order for the settings to take place. You can do this by Pressing and holding the Select and Play buttons down on the Fire TV remote for 5 seconds. Once it reboots the DS Video icon should appear. For it to work for me I actually had to launch the app, and then back out in order for it to show up correctly.

Disclaimer, Amazon links above are affiliate links. I earn credit off any purchases made from those links.

Edit Notes (3-1-15): Updated the Evozi link so that is correct. Also for those interested I have lately been playing around with the FiredTVLauncher to just use a custom UI instead of the out-of-the box FireTV interface. I must say it is much more functional. To date I have watched about 20 movies on the FireTV and overall the experience has been pretty good. I do wish the DScloud UI was a little more optimized for button navigation, but overall I am pretty happy with how it works.

FitBit Force Review/Warning

I have had the FitBit Force for several months now, but have been hesitant to do a formal review. I have been a huge fan of FitBit devices for some time now, with the FitBit Force being the third device of their I have owned. Back when they first came out I even wrote about using a FitBit One. When the Force came out I knew this was going to be the device for me! Finally a quality wrist wearable fitness tracker that integrated with the online experience of the fitbit.com website. I have to admit that I loved this device. I wore it all the time (except for showers and the pool), but basically anywhere I would go. The accuracy was good. The battery life was good. The fact that I was able to avoid losing it as easily as the FitBit one was GREAT, but then I got burned and haven’t wore it since.

FitBit Force rash the day I stopped wearing it.

Like I literally developed a burn-like rash where a certain part of the FitBit touched my skin. When I contacted FitBit they were helpful and offered me a full refund without question (but nothing else was offered)… At the time of writing this post FitBit has (sort of) acknowledged this “skin irritation” and even issued a recall to address the problem.

9 days after I stopped wearing the FitBit Force I still have the rash. I have been using a prescription to try and eliminate the traces of the rash, but so far it is as visible as it was when I stopped wearing the Force.

FitBit Force rash 9 days after I stopped wearing it

I will end up getting another wearable at some point, but this whole experience has me much more hesitant to jump into it right away.

Wordle of my twitter activity

I have been seeing several wordle clouds lately and thought it would be cool to do one of my Twitter posts over the last 2 years. I like that wordle lets you right click on words you want to remove (which I did with my username, months, and other common twitter words like reply, favorite, etc.). This is the end result:

jmtenny's twitter word cloud via wordle

looking now I see a few other common words were still left in (like summary), but overall I think it is a pretty accurate snapshot into my Twitter interactions.

Google Bought Nest? No!!

Look I have been a loyal Google user since day 1. I have also been a loyal Nest user since it came out (I even blogged about it here). So upon hearing that Google bought out Nest (here is a great article on the purchase at Gigaom) you would think that I would be super pleased, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

See Google already took a shot at energy monitoring with PowerMeter and failed. They shut the service down in September of 2011. And shutting things down is the primary reason that I am really alarmed and disappointed by this acquisition. My loyalty to Google has extended across its many product lines and far too often I have been completely burned by their desire to shut down a service. Services I had come to rely on: shut down. Services I used everyday: shutdown. Services I, in collaboration with a former employer, spent many man hours and many thousands of dollars to deploy: shutdown.

Google’s leadership has decided that instead of making the web a better place and profiting as a benefit, they would rather solely chase profits and eliminate lower margin solutions. I would be shocked if we don’t see a message like this at some point in the future:

Parody of Google Reader shutdown message applied to Nest website.
Parody of Google Reader shutdown message applied to Nest website.

 

About to get my Kombucha on!

Kombucha fermenting
Pictures of Kombucha fermenting. Pictures via getkombucha.com

So my friend Andrea has been brewing and drinking the stuff for ever. I have always really enjoyed drinking it as well when ever given the opportunity. I finally decided to jump in and brew some myself. Andrea pointed me to her mom’s blog about how to get started brewing Kombucha. I used this as a shopping list of what to buy and as soon as everything arrives I’ll get started. I hope to post some of my experiences with Kombucha here on the blog so please check back to see my progress.

Unboxing the Belkin @TV

In planning a recent extended trip for the family, the issue of accessing our home DVR content came up in a conversation with my wife. I was going to go the industry standard Slingbox route, but decided to do some additional homework to see if the remote viewing market had evolved at all. I am also very weary of the 2 things that Slingbox users (including a number of friends) complain about (1. HIGH cost of add-ons such as a $30 iOS app and 2. The issue of boxes flaking out, usually due to patch problems) that I wanted to avoid.

Belkin's @TV Plus

Anyways, after some research I decided to go with the very budget friendly (around $130) Belkin @TV Plus – Mobile Television Anywhere. All in all it was fairly well received for being a newer device, seemed easy enough to setup, and the apps are more reasonable for iOS and Android (the tablet apps are free). I the device last night, so decided to share my experience so far….

 

 

 

Unboxing the Belkin @TV

First, let’s talk about the unboxing experience: everything inside the box is nicely arranged. The box has everything you would need in order to set this up: the power adapter, an Ethernet networking cable, component and composite cables, and an infrared blaster.

But there was no software included, just a link in the setup guide. As someone who generally likes a cloud-based setup, this didn’t bother me at first, but I found the @TV Plus setup to be a bit clunky.

Those who are unfamiliar with placeshifting (basically the concept of watching your content which is stored on one device but accessed from another place through another device) will likely be asking, why doesn’t the device support HDMI? Sadly, this is due to HDMI being somewhat unusable when placeshifting because of copy protection technology called HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection). Sure some placeshifting devices come with HDMI options (such as the Slingbox 500), but anytime HDCP is enabled, your stream will not work. Honestly though I have found the 480p via Component signal to be totally sufficient so far.

 

Setting up the Belkin @TV

Belkin @TV’s greatest weakness in my opinion is the setup. It is disjointed, the download is kind of large (at 80+MB, but I suppose if you intend to stream video you need a connection that can easily handle an 80+MB download easily), and honestly I found it a bit slow.

Hooking the @TV Plus up to my set top itself was very simple. 30 seconds after starting I was finished. But then to setup and install it I had to load up my computer (versus using any old devices with web access).

Belkin @TV Setup ScreenThe setup wizard on the PC verifies the network connection (and despite having the @TV connected to a wired Ethernet connection it still wanted to configure on my wireless network, which I thought was a little pointless). After (several minutes) waiting for the connection to establish it checked for the latest firmware and updated the device. I did appreciate that, it is nice to see they are following best practices for new devices with new customers and getting them up to date first.

All said and done (over a 50 Mb Internet connection) the setup wizard took about 15 minutes, perhaps I am somewhat spoiled by the near-real-time technology world we have been presented, but this just seemed too long and while not overly technical, I wouldn’t trust my parents (in their 50’s and 60’s) to properly setup this device.

One of the final steps during setup is setting up your username and password. Once you have done this, you are all set and ready to use your Belkin @TV.

 

Belkin @TV on Tablets and Smartphones

Next, you’ll likely want to setup a tablet and/or smartphone. There are Belkin @TV Apps on all of the standard app stores out there, the good new is that most of them are free! Here is is a breakdown of the various apps and pricing available:

 

Using the Belkin @TV Plus

Once the Belkin @TV Plus is setup and your devices are configured (which is basically entering the username/password to connect), the experience is simple and works very well. I had no issues streaming my set top to all my test devices. One thing that annoyed me a little was that out of the box the default video input on the @TV was Composite, so in order for HD content I had to go into the settings on each device and change the video input manually. This was particularly important to me because I have DirectTV and their guide controls (and DVR menus are not shown when the video input is set to Composite) so the only way I could access DVR and guide remotely was by switching to Component.

Overall the  Belkin @TV Player is simple and easy to use. I have tested from PC, Mac, iPad and Android Tablet. I have found  all of them worked similarly.

Streaming was pretty much flawless over my home network and honestly worked almost as well remotely. However, I have not tested over 3G or LTE, so I cannot speak to the quality (or impact on your data plan) over those methods.

 

Limitations for Belkin @TV

There were several Belkin @TV limitations that were uncovered during use:

First, as mentioned above the default video input is Composite, so there is an additional step (which might not be so obvious to the less technical user) in order to get a decent experience.

Second, is that the maximum resolution it provided with my setup was 720X480. If you are expecting higher end HD resolutions, you will be disappointed. For me this wasn’t such a big deal since my primary use will likely be over an iPad and the 480p was super watchable.

 

Screenshot of Belkin @TV Plus in use

@TV Start Screen on an Android Tablet
@TV Start Screen on an Android Tablet
@TV Remotely Accessing the DVR
@TV Remotely Accessing the DVR
@TV Live TV Viewing from a Tablet
@TV Live TV Viewing from a Tablet

Tenny’s final summary of the Belkin @TV Plus

There are not a lot of products in the placeshifting space and one product has really owned the market for the last 5+ years. Belkin’s entry into the space with the @TV Plus product offers consumers a great alternative that works quite well at a more reasonable price. Even though set up is clunky, I would recommend the product, the Belkin @TV Plus is a good device that does its job well.

Purchasing Options

I buy most of my tech from Amazon, so if you’re interested I would highly recommend doing the same. Here is my Affiliate link to the Belkin @TV Plus:

I miss my Android phone…

So I have been a loyal Android user since the iOS vs. Android smartphone war started. That being said a month ago, due to a new job, I switched (based on several recommendations)  to an iPhone 5. While I was super excited about somethings, namely having access to iOS-only apps such as Vine, I am not in love with the phone as much as so many others are.  Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t hate the phone, I just don’t love it either.

My biggest iPhone issues are as follows:

  • I miss the amount of Google integration I have on my Android devices. If I am a fan boy of anything I guess am a Google fan boy. Certain things work ok on iOS, such as gmail, gdrive, gvoice, ect… But others are missing altogether such as gTalk.
  • Speaking of, there is no great Google Talk app for iOS. There are a bunch of mediocre 3rd party apps (Vtok, IMO, IM+, and more…), but compared to Google official Talk app for Android, none come close.
  • Lack of iOS customization… I have always applauded Apple for locking things down so that people couldn’t ruin the experience that Apple was trying to provide them, but I want my customization!
  • Battery eater! Yes I know you need to turn off apps when you are not actively use them, but come on, you couldn’t build that intellegence into the iOS?

Again I don’t hate the iPhone or anything. Maybe I just miss how perfectly customized my Android phones were to my user needs. Maybe I am over looking something, but to me the iPhone seems second rate compared to Android.

The new role of Product Manager

Having been in the field of Product Management for the better part of 10 years now, I couldn’t help but appreciate this article on the evolving role of Product Manager in the work place posted by SVPG almost a year ago. While there is a certain inference to the start-up world in their post, it still has much relevance for any Product Manager (especially one that is in a technology sector such as myself). In fact, I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share my revision of their Old versus New Product Manager, I hope you enjoy:

  “Old” Product Manager “New” Product Manager
Where they fit in the Organization:  Marketing  Product (Product Management plus User Experience Design), a Peer to Technology and Marketing
Education:  MBA  Computer Science or User Experience Design
Spends Days:  Writing Requirements Documents  Product Discovery / Pursuing Minimum Viable Product
Learns About Customer Behavior:  With Focus Groups  With User Testing and A/B Testing
Makes Case For Project Funding Based On:  A Business Case  Customer and Product Discovery
Reads:  The Wall Street Journal  TechCrunch, GigaOM, Reddit, and a hundred other blogs
Deep Knowledge In:  How To Use Excel  Customers
Loves:  To Be The Boss  To Apply Technology To Solve Problems
Sits With:  “The Business”  Product Team (Designers and Developers)
When Things Don’t Go Well:  Blames The Developers  Blames Himself
Strives To Please: Stakeholders Customers
Makes Decisions Based On: Opinions Data
Communicates With Stakeholders: With PowerPoint With Prototypes
Attitude: Believes His Ideas Are Great Knows At Least Half of Ideas Won’t Work or will require change in order to work
Worries About: Competitors Taking Care Of Customers
Secret Weapon: Killer Features User Experience / Usability of product
Strives To Create: Profits Value (because it’s the best path to sustained profits)

Almost all of this list is borrowed from the SVPG post, but I did take liberties to throw my own additions where I felt it was most appropriate. I also don’t want to give any misconceptions here; this is not about a right versus wrong approach. This is about showing how the position has changed and is being viewed in up and coming organization. On a personal level I feel I am more of a hybrid of the two types, with an emphasis on the newer values. I feel I have successfully adapted to the old approach (perhaps more to conform than anything), but deep down it is hard to ignore the newer values that are so heavily rooted in customer experience.