TSA "Dressing the Part"

Coming home from Emerging Technologies (great conference), saw this flyer at the airport. In case you can't read it, it says: "TSA [the Transportation Security Administration] Thanks you for packing smart, dressing the part and being set to go." I am curious about what the TSA means by "dressing the part." The flyer doesn't give any clues, it just lists some things to pack and not. A quick search for TSA and "dressing the part" on Google reveals a helpful hint from travel agents Carlson Wagonlit: "Appearance matters [-]
Dressing the part also helps as more expensive tickets often correlate to senior-level executives. Business casual attire is likely fine but not jeans."
I'm sure that's not what the TSA means by "dressing the part." But... what do they mean?

ShiftCasting not PodCasting

Seems to me that podcasting got off to a bad start with its name. The name is too narrow on two fronts. First, we don't all have iPods. At least one of us doesn't: me. Second, 'casting - which is really short for broadcasting - isn't only about sound, it's also about video and text and images. PodCasting sounds like broadcasting sound to others with iPods. If that was all this "revolution" was about I wouldn't be interested. So, I think we need a new name. How about: "shiftcasting." Narrowcasting is also not a bad one, and often used, but narrowcasting sounds more like broadcasting (real-time consumption) to a smaller set of people.
So, that's the name rant, but the real purpose of this post is to outline some of the key tech steps / alternatives / issues to making that broader concept work in practice. Mostly I am doing this now so that I'll have to write these components and get it working for myself on my decidedly non-pod setup -- the iRiver H340. Hopefully its also useful for others.
Steps, alternatives and issues in shiftcasting:

  1. Get a recommendation of content
    • an RSS/Atom Feed
    • a list of recomendations, that may not be unique resources
    • recurring searches?
    • news outlets?
    • what someone else looks at or shifts
    • what groups do

  2. Get the content itself
    • http and other straight get
    • bittorrent or p2p
    • tv / radio
    • netflix? or other purchase?
    • searching to figure out what ambiguous stuff is and how to get it
    • making sure you're not geting the same stuff twice
    • arbitrage, get the stuff the best way

  3. Format the content for the device

    • downsampling
    • resizing
    • transcoding (both change in format and change in media -- mpeg2 to mpeg4 and text to speech)
    • summarizing and excerpting
    • removing cruft

  4. Put the content on the device

    • be intelligent about what is on there
    • may need to queue for distribution later
    • may need to generate some sort of "format" for writing to the player (folders? playlists?)
    • would be great to also know what was looked at or "played" -- maybe ratings too

SliMP3 on MythTV

MythTV's built in music player is fine but not nearly as good as the Slim Devices system. Like MythTV, Slim uses a server/client(s) architecture [look to the graphic at the bottom of that page]. Slim's server is an open source marvel that has just graduated to version six and has a bunch of great plugins that do everything from reading RSS to listening to the Internet Archive's great collection of concert and other free recordings. It's clients range from slim's own fabulous hardware versions to the open source software version called SoftSqueeze (because slim's new hardware players have been called Squeezeboxes). Can't say enough good things about slim devices and wanted to use SoftSqueeze on my KnoppMyth-based MythTV. Here I'll explain how to get that done.

  1. Get slimserver. Set it up following the instructions in the download. I use the tar file.

    1. Download the tar.gz (otherwise known as the Perl Source Code)
    2. Untar it with:
      tar -xvzf FILENAME.tar.gz
    3. Change to the slimserver directory with:
    4. Start the slimserver with:
      ./slimserver.pl --daemon
      (this puts it in daemon mode, be sure that your music directory is accessible for the user running slimserver)
    5. Set the options with your favorite browser, for me:
      firefox http://SLIMSERVER.IP.ADDRESS:9000/
      (most importantly, change the server settings -> music folder to the appropriate folder on your system)

  2. Get java. This is actually the hardest step. If you don't have java installed, it is a bit of a pain to get it set up. Follow the directions here.
  3. Get SoftSqueeze. You can get it by opening your favorite browser to the following URL on your slimserver http://SLIMSERVER.IP.ADDRESS:9000/html/softsqueeze/softsqueeze.jnlp but the most recent version will be at SourceForge, also you'll need the jar to incorporate it into the mythtv menus. Unzip it into its own directory somewhere that your mythtv user can access. For me:
    mkdir /home/mythtv/SoftSqueeze
    cd /home/mythtv/SoftSqueeze

  4. Make sure softsqueeze works by running it from the command line.
    java -jar SoftSqueeze.jar
    Edit the basic and networking settings to suit your purposes. For me that means setting the SlimServer hostname to the IP of my slimserver and turning on SSH tunnelling. Your mileage may vary. If you have the server on the same box as the client, you can use localhost as the server name and don't need tunnelling. When you are done, click OK, and you should see a SoftSqueeze player that you can navigate with the arrow keys. Once you have verified that, press 'Q' to quit. Of course, there is a handy guide to the SoftSqueeze keys.
  5. Change your mythtv menu structure to accomodate SoftSqueeze. For me, I added the following to the file /usr/share/mythtv/mainmenu.xml:
     <text>Play Music</text>
     <action>EXEC /usr/bin/java -jar /home/mythtv/SoftSqueeze/SoftSqueeze.jar</action>

  6. Enjoy.

The one extra feature I would love to have implemented in SoftSqueeze is the ability to specify keys differently from the defaults. Then I could match them up with the ones I use in mythtv already. As it is, I have to use my keyboard and remember another set of keys, which is less than ideal.