Lego Star Wars Razor Crest Time-lapse build

A few years ago I posted a time-lapse build of the Lego Millennium Falcon. This is my most recent undertaking. This build wasn’t as long as the previous – clocking in at about 4-5 hours compared to the Millennium Falcon’s 8 hours. Keep in mind that I’m also a slow builder, as I like to study these models as I put them together. I assume that the shorter build time is a result of the Razor Crest’s symmetry, rather than a result of having fewer pieces.

Why do I build Lego at my age? Lego is the only ‘toy’ that I continue to ‘play’ with. Building models is a long-time interest, and I highly recommend it (and other handy crafts) because it’s very meditative. The builds themselves are also fascinating. In my opinion, Lego models can teach you a lot about engineering and design. In my teaching, I’ve used Lego to illustrate problem solving and creativity. Each time I build a model, I learn something new about creating robust structures and working within limitations.

Finally beat KOTOR II after three years of Christmas holidays

Every time I visit my parents, I play a little bit of Knights of the Old Republic II on my original Xbox console. I picked up the game used many years ago and it sat idle after I went to university.

After 53 hours and 23 minutes of gameplay I finally beat it this Christmas holiday.

A few thoughts. While it’s very much like the first game, the level design isn’t as good. This could have been called Star Wars Backtrack. Lots of dead ends and empty rooms. The end of the game is also very tedious as it forces you to save every two minutes. I wouldn’t want to do it twice. Also the game just… ends. After defeating the final enemy (a Dark/Fallen Jedi) you take off in your ship – which got miraculously fixed after a devastating crash landing – just as the planet you were on explodes in the background. Overall the story was well done, if not piggybacking off the original.

No major revelations here. Just excited to have beaten it after all these years. In the game archive it goes…

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