What is 5G and What Can it Be Used For?

A friend of mine recently asked me what 5G is all about. I did my best to give him a quick summary off the top of my head, but honestly, these videos do a much better job. So I shared them with him, and I’m doing so here as well.

Mr Mobile’s 5G Test Drive
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1D6w-7Zav8

5G Test Drive Part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3Oq0j5nHQ

Marques Brownlee – 5G Explained
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CTUs_2hq6Y

Wall Street Journal – We Tested 5G Across America. It’s Crazy Fast—and a Hot Mess
https://www.wsj.com/articles/all-the-reasons-not-to-buy-a-5g-phone-right-now-11563467389?redirect=amp

Ars Technica – 5G on the horizon: Here’s what it is and what’s coming
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/12/5g-wont-change-everything-or-at-least-probably-not-your-things/

How to Backup DVDs and Stream Them on Plex to Watch On Your Roku

Let me be perfectly clear: I am absolutely NOT promoting the idea of piracy here, nor sharing the DVD content online or in any way, redistributing, or selling the DVDs or content in any way.

Over the years, my family and I have collected countless TV series and movies on DVD and they’ve been taking up room on shelves. Over the years, we (Dad and I) have been slowly going through them and ripping many of them to our computers for backup purposes, and more recently to stream via the Plex app to our Roku devices to watch on our TVs. DVDs can take up a lot of space, and they get scratched easily.

After Dad passed a little over 3 years ago, I have continued that tradition. It’s a tedious and time consuming process, but has allowed us to donate a lot of them to second hand stores after we’ve ripped them. We can’t be bothered to try and sell them online, and we’re not sure it’s even legal to do.

Most recently, I got The Rifleman series on DVD from a seller on eBay. Here is the process I used to rip them – again, solely for backup purposes and for streaming to our own TVs using Plex and Roku.

The program I use to rip the DVDs to my hard drive is MakeMKV. It’s free. Start by clicking ‘File’, then ‘Open disc’, then select the DVD drive.

MakeMKV will then scan the DVD for content.

Next, MakeMKV will show the content it has found categorized as each ‘title’ or episode. All titles will be selected by default. I recommend leaving that alone. Then under ‘Output folder’ click the folder icon and tell MakeMKV where to rip the contents of the DVD to as individual episodes in MKV format. Then click the hard drive icon with the green arrow under ‘Make MKV’.

On this screen, MakeMKV is ripping the individual episodes to your hard drive. Once that’s done, close MakeMKV and open Handbrake to convert the MKV files to MP4 (M4V) format, which will stream easier on Plex, and be a MUCH smaller file size in M4V format. (1.XGB vs 150MB+)

Open Handbrake, click ‘Open Source’, then ‘File’.

Navigate to the folder and MKV files you want to convert to MP4 (M4V) format, and click ‘open’.

Handbrake has now loaded that MKV file. Simply click ‘Browse’ on the bottom right to tell it where to save the MP4 (M4V) file. Then click ‘Add to Queue’, then ‘Start Queue’.

The conversion process will take some time (5-10 minutes in my experience) depending on the size of the file you’re converting. You can see the real-time progress in detail at the bottom.

Repeat this process for every MKV file you want to convert. That being said, you can also do a ‘Batch Scan’ and add multiple episodes to the Queue and Handbrake will do them all, but you MUST tell it where to save each converted file using the two-step process below.

To convert many MKV files to M4V format at once, click ‘Open Source’ then ‘Batch Scan’. Then select ‘Title’, and one by one (no way around this), click them, then ‘Browse’ to tell Handbrake where to save each M4V file, then ‘Add to Queue’, and repeat the process for each episode. Then click ‘Start Queue’, and go have coffee or lunch or something. It’s going to take a while. You can do other things on your computer at the same time, but I wouldn’t recommend anything intensive as to take it easy on your computer.

Once all your MKV files are converted to M4V format, the files will have a MUCH smaller file size. This screenshot and the next one illustrate that. The MKV file is 1.84GB. The M4V file is 178MB. Significantly smaller.

This step is optional, but once you convert all the files to M4V format, I suggest deleting the MKV files to free up a lot of hard drive space.

Once you’ve finished converting all of your DVDs from each season of a TV show, you will NEED to organize them into folders for each series, season, and name them appropriately for Plex to know what to do with them. For example, Season 1 Episode 1 could be ‘S01E01’. I do this manually, but there might be a program that will do it for you. This also allows Plex to pull information from IMDB for the TV series and each episode.

Open Plex on your “server”, or the computer running Plex that your media is stored on. Scroll down on the left pane, and click ‘Libraries’. Then click ‘Add Library’.

Click the category of media that you want to apply to the media folder you want Plex to use, and give it a name in Plex, then click ‘Next’.

On this screen, browse to the folder on your computer you want to add to Plex.

This is an example of what Show Page might look like after it’s added and you browse to it within Plex.

(You may notice it looks like I’ve ripped a lot of stuff in the left pane. That’s honestly not the case. It just shows multiple folders I’ve added from stuff I’ve ripped over the years and haven’t organized as well as I should. Once I better organize it on my computer and in Plex, less will show up there.)

Here is what a particular season of a TV show might look like in Plex.

That’s it. It’s really not very complicated, just a few steps involved. If you do it a few times, you’ll get used to it. This was certainly a learned process, so I’m happy to share my experiences. 🙂

A Cool Little Story About an Old Smartphone, Dropbox, and Sharing Photos

Mom traveled back to Alberta last month for a few days to help our family decide what was be moved to our place in British Columbia, and what was being sold or donated, and to start the process of listing our Alberta house for sale.

She took the above photos using my old phone, which the Dropbox app automatically uploaded to the “Camera Uploads” folder in my Dropbox account, which then synchronized with the “Camera Uploads” Dropbox folder on my computer in British Columbia within minutes. Later on the phone, she walked around to the different rooms and we discussed the items and decided what to do with them.

We were both very impressed with how well that process worked, so I wanted to share it with you!

Obviously, the phone she used had to be connected to the house’s WiFi network in order for the Dropbox app to upload the photos. In our case it was done last Summer before we moved to BC.

Dropbox doesn’t automatically (last I checked) enable camera photo uploads by default, so this feature must be turned on. You can do that by going into “settings”, then…

Tap on “Camera Uploads”, then…

Then tap the slider to “on” to enable Camera Uploads, which then creates the “Camera Uploads” folder in your Dropbox, and linked computers.

Once the photos were done uploading and synchronizing (within minutes), I moved them all to “Photos of Leduc Stuff” folder I created in my Dropbox for easy viewing.

It’s worth noting here that Mom is one of the least tech-savvy people you could ever meet. So for her to take photos and know they simply showed up on my computer impressed both of us. All she had to do was take the photos. Technology and Dropbox did the rest. Beautiful. And stress-free. That was worth what I’m paying this year for Dropbox alone.

You can do this easily with the free version of Dropbox, but overall space is limited to 2GB, which isn’t much nowadays. I pay $120 per year for 1TB. I currently use under 200GB as a self-proclaimed Dropbox “power user”. I’d be happier paying half that for 500GB, which I doubt I’ll come close to, but those options don’t exist yet.

That said, I absolutely recommend Dropbox to everyone, as I have for many years. If you’re thinking of moving and need to share photos in the same way we did, I strongly recommend it. That said, you can also share specific photos and folders with non-Dropbox users via a privately shared link via email, Facebook, etc. Simply right click on the file or folder and click ‘Copy Dropbox link”, and share it as you see fit. 🙂

This Data Transfer Issue is a Head Scratcher

I’ve been facing a very unusual issue when transferring data to and from external hard drive docks and enclosures. It’s been happening for months now, with no plausible reason, or solution.

Regardless of computer or hard drive in each external enclosure, Windows 10 will only transfer data in “spurts”, For example: 130 Mbps for 1 minute at a time or longer, then falls to 0kbps, then randomly seconds or minutes later, back up to 130Mbps or higher, then down to 0kbps, and that pattern continues repeatedly. Sometimes I even need to turn off the enclosure, wait 10 seconds, and turn it back on, and resume the transfer, which continues to occur in the same rhythm. Very odd, but I’m not really in a rush to transfer the data, so it’s fine, and I’m happy it’s at least transferring.

When I use an external hard drive dock (have tried a few), I’m able to transfer data from any of my regular hard drives, regardless of hard drive dock used, to either of my desktop computers, or laptop, with no problem. But when I try to transfer data from any of my computers to any hard drive I put in my docks, every time it works for a few seconds, then the transfer rate drops to 0.0kbps, and the Windows dialog box just says it’s “calculating”, but when using a hard drive dock, the transfer rate does NOT increase and decrease in the pattern described above. After several minutes of clearly doing nothing, and I have to stop the transfer or end the task in Task Manager.

The issue doesn’t seem to be isolated to any particular hard drives, docks, or Windows 10, though to be fair, I don’t use any other operating system, so I can’t test others.

I contacted Memory Express, who I’ve known and trusted for years, and bought all 3 of my computers from, and they’re as baffled as I am about this issue, and claim it’s the first time they’ve heard of it.

So, I guess I’ll live with it for the foreseeable future until future online research miraculously provides some sort of solution.

Do you have any thoughts or possible solutions I can try? Please contact me. 🙂

Why I Love My Pebble Time Watch

I love my Pebble Time Watch! have used a Pebble Time smart watch for a couple of years now. I’ve been tempted at times to get a more expensive smart watch, but the majority of the ones I looked at have many more features (often with a heavy focus on fitness apps), along with other “bells and whistles”, that I simply don’t need or want.

I honestly only want my smart watch to act as a watch, give me the date and time, current weather is a nice bonus, and give me quick at-a-glance notifications for phone calls, texts, and Facebook Messenger (you can choose other apps). It doesn’t make sounds, it just vibrates. That’s it, and it’s all I need. To be fair, the Pebble app does offer fitness-related features for the Time, but they’re known to be poor quality, and I disable them anyway.

Pebble itself went out of business, but you can still find the Pebble app in the iOS app store. It is no longer available on Google Play because the app hasn’t been updated for a couple of years, so it was removed.

You can also download it from websites like APKPure. Android will ask your permission to install it, but it’s perfectly safe and will work just fine.

Thankfully FitBit has allowed to work independently of their servers. They no longer update the app, but it does work. It still asks you to create a Pebble account (which you can no longer do, but that step can be easily skipped and isn’t required to use the app) when you first start the app.

The app communicates with your Pebble just fine via Bluetooth, where you can configure settings and choose a watch face you like. The app doesn’t come with many options, but you can easily (at this point) download a free app (Pebble App Store backup) that contains a store of sorts, but links to third party downloads of user-created watch faces, which can be imported easily into the Pebble app. Pretty straight forward for the most part.

My favorite watch face app is called Aspire. It’s free to use for 24 hours, then requires $0.99USD (via Paypal) to use it forever, which I was happy to pay. It’s a great watch face!

Besides loving the Aspire watch face itself, the extensive settings for the watch face definitely make it worth the dollar spent. Other free watch faces I tried are seriously lacking in comparison.

So, despite the fact that the Pebble company itself went out of business (bought by FitBit, who then basically killed it), I noticed there are many on eBay (at this point) who are selling “new” (unopened, never used) Pebble watches, including the Time, so I bought two of them, which roughly equals the cost of buying one of the more expensive smart watches, depending on the watch. That said, both the original Pebble watch that I no longer use, and the Time, do exactly what I need and nothing more, so I feel it’s a sound investment. In the years to come, I may need buy another kind of smart watch, but for now, I’m a happy Pebble user.

My Experience So Far with the Amazon Fire HD 10

I have had a Galaxy Tab A for 2 years, but keep running out of storage space for apps on the internal memory of 16GB (it supports a MicroSD card. I’ll cover the issue regarding that a bit later in this post). Beyond the Samsung and Android system files and built-in apps, it doesn’t leave much left for my apps and their data, never mind photos or videos.

During the holidays, I noticed that the Amazon Fire HD 10 was on sale for $199 for the 64GB model. After doing some research, I discovered that aside from the camera, the Fire HD is very similar to the Tab A. So I bought one. It arrived, and I am so far very happy with it.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is made by, well, Amazon, so obviously they want you to use Amazon apps and services. However, they based Fire OS on Android. And it was surprisingly easy to install the Google Play Store and apps. A HUGE thank you to TechJunkie.com’s incredibly helpful step by step article (I’ll go a little more in depth on that in a moment) on how to do that! Now Amazon and Google Play peacefully co-exist on my tablet!

As you can see above, the Tab A only comes with 16GB of internal storage. Android OS files, Samsung files and apps, and just a few commonly used apps and their data take up a whopping 10.4GB of that! You’ll also notice that the MicroSD card is hardly being used, because most apps, and/or the Tab A itself, don’t allow for apps to be moved to the MicroSD card. So unless you want to put photos, videos, and other files on it, it sits mostly unused.

Case in point: Facebook. It’s one of a handful of apps that actually allow you to move it’s files to the MicroSD card.

As you can see, Google Play can certainly be installed on the Fire HD 10. It’s a pretty straightforward process, too. Just follow the step by step instructions here. They recommend downloading and using File Commander (free, ad supported) to navigate to the 4 files (should be in the ‘Downloads’ folder) you need to download and install. I recommend that as well.

You can find File Commander in the Amazon app store.

Next, you’ll need to allow “installation of apps from unknown sources”. Don’t let that scare you. You’ll be prompted every in the future to approve (or not) any apps that you (hopefully) want to install. In this case, we’re installing trusted services and apps from Google, so you’ll be fine. You can also disable this after you install Google Play on the Fire HD 10, along with any Google Play apps you want. I would just leave it alone, though.

Once you have downloaded the 4 Google Play-related APK files to your Fire HD 10, simple tap them *in order*, as indicated above and below (Manager, Framework, Services, Store). The Fire HD 10 will indicate what you are about to install before you do it, so don’t worry too much.

After you install those 4 items, restart your Fire HD for good measure. Turn it off (hold down the power/sleep button on the top). Wait ten seconds, then press and hol the button again for a few seconds to turn it back on.

You will now see the Google Play Store icon on your Home Screen. If you don’t, swipe up on the screen to see all apps.

When you open the Google Play Store for the first time, you’ll be prompted to login to your Google account. After that, it will send you to the Play Store, and you’re done. You can start installing apps.

I’m a heavy user of Firefox, so that was one the Google Play apps I installed.

Another thing worth mentioning is that I found out you can’t add web page “shortcuts” to the Fire HD Home Screen, like you can on many other Android devices. No idea why, but you can’t. So the quickest workaround is to create Firefox Bookmarks. Tap the Address Bar and tap ‘Bookmarks’, or tap the three dots in the upper right hand corner and tap ‘Bookmarks’. So, a couple of extra taps, but it gets the job done.

I strongly recommend setting up a Lock Screen Passcode as well, just for the sake of general security.

That’s my experience and thoughts regarding the Amazon Fire HD 10 up to this point. I’ll update this post as I think of more. Thanks for reading. 🙂