Blog post: ‘Pro’ in name only? How the term has changed in the post-pc era

Excerpt: “Devices labeled with the term “pro” come with a lot of expectations. The idea of a pro user is well defined in the desktop and laptop computing space. But, pro mobile devices (such as phones and tablets) are less well defined. This is problematic because devices that support the pro moniker cannot separate themselves from consumer grade options except in price – making the term a meaningless standard. Unlike their PC counterparts, they mobile devices are held back by the limitations of their respective app software and operating systems.”

Article link: http://bit.ly/2JhWQa7

New Raspberry Pi Open Source Media Center setup

I’ve been using a Raspberry Pi as my media centre PC for about four years. I like the idea of having a computer hooked up to my TV for playing local media. For Netflix, I use my (now ‘obsolete’) Wii U.

Previously, I had a dedicated media server (running Open Media Vault). The Pi was a ‘front end’ of sorts for that server and it ran OpenELEC (a Pi variant of Kodi).

Unfortunately, I had to change this long-standing setup. The server bit the dust – likely an electronic short. This new setup is a less complicated replacement and kind of an experiment to see if I can function without the dedicated server. Also, OpenELEC, as a platform, has fallen out of favour so I’m using Open Source Media Centre (a fork of the ELEC) which has a slicker interface and better support.

Hardware

The hardware setup is pretty simple. I have a Raspberry Pi 2 and a 1TB WD Red Drive. For those at home, a Pi 3 will give you better performance.

The hard drive, which is designed for network-attached storage, has been put into a nice enclosure which doesn’t require any tools. This allows me to swap out the storage easily (say if the drive dies). The drive is formatted to exFAT so I can write to the disk using Windows or macOS.

Pi 2 (left) and drive inside the enclosure (right).
Here you can see how the enclosure works. Flip-top gives you easy access to the drive. This setup can’t really sit vertically. Also has a very smooth-feeling power button on top.
This is the external drive closed. Has kind of a cool look.
I control the system using a cheap wireless keyboard-mouse combo from Logitech.

The nice thing about this setup is how easy it was. Both the Pi and drive/enclosure have external power. To make them talk to each other, you just plug the drive into one of the Pi’s USB ports. Done.

When it’s all hooked up for the first time, it’s a little messy. Plugged into the Pi, is an ethernet cable (highly recommended over wireless), the keyboard/mouse dongle, and USB cable for the drive. For this Pi, I bought a power supply that has an on/off switch. I highly recommend this, as it allows you to setup your hardware without automatically starting up the Pi.

Again, you can see the dedicated power cables for the Pi (on the left) and the drive (bottom).
Looks a little leaner from this side 😉

When you boot OSMC for the first time you’ll get a blue screen (of life?) with the operating system logo.

To make this hardware setup more visually attractive, I put both the Pi and drive behind my DVD player. In the dark, all you can really see is the blue and red lights.

The interface is very intuitive and I recommend using the Kodi interface Estuary. There are lots of add-ons for OSMC for YouTube, TWiT, Food Network, etc.

Connecting over the network

Once you have the hardware hooked up, it’s pretty simple to connect to OSMC over the network using SAMBA. From my Mac, I can see the Pi and the external drive from the Finder. This is a great feature because it allows you to transfer new files to the Pi over your local network.

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 1.24.55 PM

That’s about it!

Resources

OSMC using Raspberry Pi Guide

OSMC download

My process for qualitative web research

I’m a bit of a research methods geek. As I’ve become more familiar with qualitative methods and coding data, there’s a few tricks I’ve learned which I’ll discuss today. Disclaimer: I’m not a methods “expert” (though I’m not sure many people are), and I developed this approach from experience and exhaustive reading 👨🏼‍💻 of the academic literature.

I enjoy working with both numbers (quantitative data) and documents (qualitative data). Qualitative methods are interesting because they provide the researcher an enormous amount of flexibility, and the data often provides a great depth of understanding. The downside to qualitative approaches are that they’re a bit fuzzy. There’s also A LOT of qualitative techniques. You have to be comfortable with loose approaches to analyzing data and, occasionally, creating your own method – usually derived from one or more existing approaches – to fit your project. However, while the methods can be flexible, it’s important to employ your method as consistently as possible.

First, some background. I’m currently conducting a content/policy analysis of Open Education Resources Policy in Western Canada. You don’t have to know what that is. What’s important is that my data is 100% web documents. There are no experiments to run, no statistics to gather, and no people to interview. (Well… I chose not to interview this time around).

Within the documents I collected, I’m looking for snippets of text that make mention of my topic and I’m assigning those snippets a “code.” If you’re not familiar with coding I’ve included a couple of solid resources:

So, here’s what I’m looking at…

This is one of my Excel sheets. I prefer to organize data I’ve found using Excel because programs such as NVivo don’t seem as flexible. Each row is a separate document and the columns label the information in each cell.

Tip 1: Colour Code and Prioritize

It looks like a mess, I know, but there’s a logic. Green rows means I’ve read and coded the document. White rows mean that I’ve skipped those documents for now. These docs might be useful, but certain types of documents are hit or miss with regards to relevance. Conversely, others are DEFINITELY what I want. Time is precious, so working in order of relevance, not chronological, is key.

At this point you might be thinking “What a waste of time! Why collect irrelevant documents?” But, wait!

Tip 2: Collect everything you find as you go, and deal with it later

Time is precious, and it’s likely I’m going to do a “similar” project on the same topic (because it’s interesting). Re-finding documents I’ve already come across is a waste of time, so it’s best to collect them as you find them. Always be thinking of how documents could be useful to you one, two, three, or ten-years down the road. All documents that could be useful later are indicated by the dark blue cells on the left. This process also helps limit the scope of what you analyze. A minute saved is a minute earned? (I just made that up).

Tip 3: Multiple Excel sheets!

It’s imperative to have multiple sheets when coding with Excel. Snippets of text are on the left, and a code is assigned to each snippet.

Text snippets and codes are blurred because… it’s not ready yet!

I also have the document details on the right, in the same format as the previous sheet. Some people don’t agree with this approach because you’re not separating yourself from the documents when creating themes from your codes. My work around is to cover up these details when I organize my codes into themes. Just temporarily shade cells you don’t want to see in black. Problem solved!