Bye Bye TT-RSS

It was way back in 2013 that Google decided to shut down Google Reader. I had a rich list of RSS feeds that I read regularly and didn’t want to lose that experience, so I decided to switch to something I could host myself. At the time TT-RSS fit the bill nicely.

In the process of moving to a docker container managed server, I switched to the tt-rss image. Then at one point I went to pull an updated version of the image and discovered it had been deprecated.

This resulted in my digging around a little to see what options I had to get a docker version of TT-RSS. I did find that there is a maintained version of a container build, but it seems to be only for development purposes. It didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to make use of.

As I dug deeper, I came across some dirty laundry. This didn’t really give me a good feeling about the TT-RSS project as a whole. Then I came across someone who was quite opinionated about TT-RSS. Well, this is the internet and there are lots of opinions out there. Still, I’d formed my own opinion along the way and decided that TT-RSS is no longer for me.

What next? Well, I decided to make that a completely different post which I’ll get up soon. The nice thing about many of the RSS feed readers, TT-RSS included – is that they support the export/import of your feeds. This makes it easy to switch.

Continue reading “Bye Bye TT-RSS”

Windows 10 Family Controls

We wanted to relocate the computer the kids were using to a more visible location in the house, this is generally a good idea since you want to be able to casually keep tabs on what they are up to online. The older Dell PC we had was the classic desktop box plus paired up with an older LCD monitor. The WAF was low.

One nice thing about the current state (slow death) of Moores Law is that even older machines are totally fine for most users. My personal desktop machine is a decade old, and aside from some minor (cheap) upgrades it’s still just fine. So of course I looked on the local used market to see if there were any computers that met the criteria. I came across a nice All In One Dell computer – this combines the screen and computer as a single unit.

Adding more RAM and swapping the hard drive for a SSD breathed new life into this 5 year old machine, it’s still a little plunky but can play minecraft and browse the web like a champ. The built in microphone and camera has been very useful lately as video conferencing for school is the new reality.

My go-to OS install is Ubuntu. For most use, this is just fine. It’s what I configured this new machine to run, but I then ran into the dreaded “need X program to run for school” problem. Windows 10 came with this hardware and was an easy choice to install to get things working. Overall, the windows experience isn’t so bad. You need an existing Windows machine to build a recovery USB from, but after that you can install it easily onto a new drive. I had thankfully kept the original hard drive around, allowing me to boot Windows to get this process started.

Windows 10 really, really, wants you to get a ‘cloud’ account and control everything through that. It is possible to setup a local only account, but only after you fail to connect to the internet. Of course I took this route, disconnecting the internet via a little bit of router firewall magic.

Now, I’d like to set restrictions on use. I want to avoid the kids doing a 5am wake-up so they can get a little quality computer time (minecraft/youtube) going while I sleep until a much more reasonable time of the morning.

While again, the easy path here is for Windows to just use the cloud based account (they call these Microsoft accounts) to manage the family controls, you can setup some limits for local only accounts. You do need to break out the command line to do this, and you can only pick “on the hour” granularity. So you can let them start at 7am, or 8am for example – but not 7:15 or even 7:30.

The local controls just let you set on/off times for access. You can’t control how many hours they can use. This is useful, but so very limited. I finally caved in and created a Microsoft account and linked the user to the cloud.

There are still limitations that leave some things to be desired. If the account doesn’t actually log off, they still count this as screen time. This leads to the hour and change we allow per day, to basically be used up soon after the first session of screen time starts (because who ever logs off?).

Granting more time is easy enough, Microsoft will send you an email (to your linked parent account) asking for more time. I’ve also seen improvements over the time we’ve used it – activity reports are starting to flow in now, and you can limit time per application. Spending and even access to the e-Store are built in as well.

One last thing in this Windows 10 setup. While Edge has now moved to a Chrome based browser, using the Microsoft supplied browser wasn’t my first choice. I will say that the Family controls are better (or maybe more deeply) integrated into the Microsoft browser. I’m still a fan of Chrome and the whole Google experience, this might be mis-guided at this point in time, but it still works ok. Getting Chrome installed is easy, and keeping the computer logged into a Google account lets me pull interesting data out of the use of that browser. I do want to prevent incognito browsing, and it turns out there is a way to do that with Chrome.

Maybe I’ll pivot to the Microsoft browser at one point, it would give us even more Family control features.

Roku Premiere Review

Last year leading up to ‘Black Friday‘ we started to think about getting a modern console gaming system – our Nintendo Wii and PS3 were starting to feel a little dated both having been initially released in late 2006.

The Ps3 has been my blu-ray player, and streaming box at the heart of my home theatre. When I bought it, it was one of the best players you could get, and it was reasonably priced for the quality. I was frustrated earlier this year when the Plex app stopped working with the PS3 and it was clear that it would no longer be supported. We’d also noticed that Netflix was starting to feel like it took a long time to start up. The Amazon Prime app would also glitch out on the rare occasion.

We decided to get a Nintendo Switch, but that got me thinking about getting a new TV for the playroom so I could reclaim the theatre as my domain and have the after school game sessions happen somewhere else. This meant finally saying goodbye to the 24″ Sony Trinitron, it was still going strong 15yrs after we bought it.

The TV I picked was the TCL 55″ 4K Roku 55S423CA from CostCo. This is the 4-Series version of the set, but at the sub $400 price point it’s hard to go wrong. This is a 4k display: 3840 x 2160 = 8294400 pixels. If my math is right, that’s 20k pixels per dollar!

While I was looking forward to a modern TV, I had not really thought much about the ‘Smart TV’ features. I just wanted all those pixels. The TCL comes with Roku built in.


Yup, before I can even use the new TV I have to do a firmware upgrade and log into Roku, which also requires me to create an account. I’d much rather turn on my new toy and immediately get to use it, but it was a pretty smooth experience given it happened all over WiFi. You did need a second device to complete the setup (web browser), but at this point that’s not a bad assumption.

Once we get past the initial setup, the Roku TV experience is pretty slick overall. Netflix and Prime both appear to start faster than the PS3. While I initially purchased the TV primarily to be a game console display, it’s ended up being used to watch shows quite a bit. There is a fireplace in that room, as well as the treadmill where I often run and watch a movie.

Roku has a useful Android app, and that app supports local listening. This feature lets you redirect audio from the Roku to your android device (phone). Paired with a wireless bluetooth headset and I’ve got private listening.

With the PS3 starting to show its age, and the Roku feeling like a slick media player I began to think I should pick one up for the theatre. My requirements for such a device were:

  1. IR control – to integrate into the existing single remote setup
  2. SPDIF (optical or coaxial) output to feed the sound system
  3. Ideally wired networking

This make me think the Roku Ultra was the right choice, but frustratingly the Canadian devices are a subset of what was available in the US. I did think seriously about picking up the Ultra anyways, but concerns about getting an old stock (7th generation vs 8th),  software compatibility (Canada vs. US) and generally the hassle of actually buying one resulted in my picking the Roku Premiere.

The Premiere is an 8th generation device, is officially available in Canada, and is a really nice price point too. It only has one of the 3 requirements, but the Ultra only had 2. I did have a minor concern about the WiFi support not being dual band, but it turns out that hasn’t been a problem at all. I did find the wikipedia article helpful in finally arriving at a decision on which model to get.

If I can live without wired networking, I still need to get SPDIF output. This was easy to achieve with an add on HDMI box that stripped out the audio. The box I got is pictured in the top photo on the right. What is amusing is the back of the box.

This is very clearly a single box used to packaged multiple devices, and it suffers from some inaccuracies (no power supply required?). If I had to guess, the device I got was the HDV-M612. On Amazon it was advertised as “HDMI Audio Extractor HDMI to SPDIF/Toslink Coaxial 3.5mm Stereo Audio Splitter Converter with USB Interface for DVD HDTV STB Laptop PS4” – yeah, jam in all those keywords.

Aside from the suspicious packaging, the device itself was simple to setup. HDMI input, USB power, HDMI output, Coaxial SPDIF output. It has a small red LED indicating it’s powered, and it just works.

Maybe not surprising, but I thought it was pretty amazing that it was only 25hrs between ordering it on Amazon and having the two devices in my hands – with free shipping.

All in all, it was easy to setup and just works. The Roku experience is simpler than the PS3 and just works. It’s hard to argue with the quality and performance of the Premiere.