The Apple TV. If you haven’t had a chance to get your hands on the totally jailbreakable ‘Version 2’ of Steve Job’s unfinished “hobby” project.. the chances are you have an Apple Tv 3. And to be quite honest : If you live in a land that does not offer TV⁻Show rentals through the iTunes store .. the Apple TV is about as useless as swimming trunks in the desert. This totally battened down version of Apple’s entertainment hockey puck does not have a lot to offer aside from being able to stream the Knightwise.com podcast STRAIGHT to your living room. This alone would validate the purchase of said device .. but we would like something more.
Enter ‘airplay mirroring’ : The ability to playback the contents of your iPad screen on your TV. Of course Apple would not be apple if they didn’t ‘narrow down’ the list of devices that would be able to do this. Not because it wasn’t technically feasible . just because they want you to buy a new i-Device. If you have a more recent Mac you might be able to do it to, IF you are running Mountain Lion.. So what if you don’t ? Lets go for a few alternatives.
You don’t have a ‘recent’ version of Mountain Lion : “Beamer”.
Lets say you are NOT sporting the latest version of Mountain lion on your mac ? What if you STILL want to stream your movies ? Enter ” Beamer” A 12 dollar application that lets you do just that .. from any mac. Find them at beamer-app.com and chuck those “My little pony” video’s to the big screen. Unfortunately there is no PC version of this app.. so you will still need a mac.
You have Ios devices .. but no Apple TV : “XBMC.”
So what if you have a mac .. but no Apple TV ? Well as long as you have ‘a’ device hooked up to your tv that is capable of running XBMC, you are in luck : XBMC acts as an ‘airplay endpoint’ , enabling you to stream ‘Carebears’ from your iPad to your living room pc.
You’ve heard us talk lots of times about Virtualbox. Our FAVORITE free (as in ‘Gratis’) cross platform virtualisation software. As we mentioned in the previous podcast episode about “Proxmox” (a more serious virtualisation tool) the machines in our home with their I5 and i7 processors and “Gigglebytes” of ram .. are mostly idling around in a corner when you’re not playing Call of Duty (and perhaps you even do THAT on the Xbox) So lets give those machines something to DO ! Running a ‘dedicated’ solution like dropbox might just be a little too much, but perhaps you have some cycles to spare on another system that is also being used as a desktop ? Why not try Virtualbox.
As an example : Currently I have dragged my I7, 16 gigabyte’s of ram Mac Mini downstairs and hooked it up to our tv. Since it carries most of our media it was a little silly to have it running in my upstairs office and having to stream everything back to the TV using a second (front end) box. So now the little bugger sits in our media cabinet with some 4 terrabyte of USB Harddisks hooked up to it. Having it just sit there running OSX and acting as a mediaserver or fileserver was a waste of power and cpu cycles. So with virtualbox I gave it something to do. I installed Virtualbox, hooked up a big external usb drive and started cooking some VM’s.
Ubuntu 12.10 vm with LXDE : This is my ‘internal’ ubuntu desktop. I use it for running cronjobs, copy operations and scripts that are meant for internal use only. Its my ‘Secure box’. I’ve enabled the RDP server on it (a builtin function of Virtualbox) so I can cantrol the screen of the virtual machine from afar.
Ubuntu 12.10 vm with LXDE : The second machine has a torrent client running as does the ‘dirty deeds’ that need to be done on the internet. Insecure surfing, downloading and remote access via SSH are its main goals. Once a week I ‘roll back’ the machine to its original (clean) post install state with the “snapshot” function of Virtualbox.
Nas4Free : With a 1800 gigabyte virtual disk, this VIRTUAL machine acts as my main file storage system. So instead of putting my files on a disk and sharing them out via the file-sharing options on my (host) OSX system, I made a virtual machine of a linux application geared towards storage and filesharing … and put all of my files INSIDE a virtual machine. Performance is very good so far and the added perks to running Nas4free are going to be a topic for next weeks podcast.
In the end, controlling these virtual machines is a little messy sometimes. I mean you can’t just interrupt @Niejana when she is watching “Blood and Chrome” to say : Sorry about that, I need to mess with something on my Virtualbox and for that I need to use the TV ? You need ‘remote’ ways to manage that virtual machine situation.
Controlling the Virtual Machines. Remote controlling the virtual machines is easy. You can use the built in RDP server in Virtualbox to use an RDP client (on any operating system) to open up the remote machine. If you also want to access them from the outside, try installing Teamviewer on the Virtual Machine. If you are using a Linux operating system as your virtual machine you can enable the SSH Server and go in via the terminal.
Controlling Virtualbox. Unbeknown to many, virtualbox has a powerful set of terminal commands you can use. With a simple terminal window to my Mac (SSH) I can use the ‘VboxManage’ commands to do just about anything. Make a new virtual machine, clone a drive, resize a drive. Everything runs in the background and its a very very powerful tool. You can find the entire list of Virtualbox commands HERE.
Controlling Virtualbox with a web interface. Virtualbox also has a web interface that helps you control your virtualmachines. In a point and click way you can start and stop VM’s and do anything you can do on the ‘regular’ desktop window. Installing it might be a little chore (depending on the host operating system you use) but the results are pretty spiffy. Find the howto HERE.
And with those little tips you know can turn that headless box OR that powerful machine upstairs that is always on, but sometimes used by your kids for gaming… into your own personal datacenter. Don’t have the spare beige box for Proxmox ? Just have a desktop and want to get it to do some cool things ‘under the hood’. Want your own invisible datacenter ? Here you go ! Download Virtualbox NOW.
With the shiny fancy walled garden that OSX Mountain Lion is today, we sometimes forget what is under the hood. Apple’s minimalistic and well designed interface might be clutter free, but the downside of this “Designer kitchen of computing” is that there are not a lot of hints to what powers lurk beneath its glossy surface. Unlike cluttered Windows (and Linux) programs from days gone by, riddled with cascading menu’s and massive help files, you have to be “in the know’ to access some of the features.