The Intel NUC and Roon as My Music System

Figure 1: Intel NUC running Roon Core

Figure 1: Intel NUC running Roon Core

I have been using Roon to manage and play my music collection and it’s wonderful.

I wrote a little about my first impressions here. In fact, I like it so much that I paid the $499 fee for a lifetime subscription. This seems steep only until you consider it as a critical component of an audio system. (See how I rationalize?).

Figure 2: Roon Player running on my iMac

Figure 2: Roon Player running on my iMac

For the first couple of weeks I ran Roon “Core”, the brains of the system, on my iMac. This worked fine, but I wanted to offload the processing and storage to a dedicated device.

Enter Roon Optimized Core Kit, which is a custom Linux build (RoonServer) created specifically to run Roon Core on your own hardware. In my case, that hardware is the Intel NUC7i3BNH. The NUC is a tiny, headless, silent server perfect for running ROCK.

All of my music is stored on the NUC’s internal SSD drive. I don’t have a large library, but if I run out of room, I can easily plug one or more larger USB drives into the NUC and tell Roon Core where the music is stored on them. Roon manages all of my music regardless of where it’s stored. When I buy new music I only need to copy the files to the shared Roon drive and it’s automatically sorted, indexed, and fed into Roon’s music database.

The Roon Core software running on the NUC is managed via a web control panel. Once the initial installation is done, everything can be done headlessly. Updates to ROCK are done right within the Player app. Considering several moving parts, some rather technical, this has all worked flawlessly so far.

Figure 3: Roon's web control panel

Figure 3: Roon's web control panel

Using Roon, I can easily control all of my music, stored anywhere, using any device, and play it on any combination of HomePod, Sonos, and dedicated amplifier. If I get bored with my own music collection, Roon’s integration with the Tidal streaming music service gives me access to any music I could ever want, using the same system.

It’s pretty great.

Hugo Page Bundles

I haven’t paid much attention to Hugo’s Page Bundles since they were introduced, but I should have. Page Bundles let me put a blog post’s images and other assets in the same folder as the original Markdown file. This means the images for a post ride along right next to the post rather than way over there in the /static/img/2018 folder. Over the long term that should be handy.

Also, thanks to Kaushal Modi for pointing out that his ox-hugo package already supports Page Bundles.

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:EXPORT_FILE_NAME: index
:EXPORT_HUGO_SLUG: hugo-bundles
:EXPORT_HUGO_BUNDLE: 2018/2018-05-24_hugo-bundles

Nice.

Packed The First of Many Boxes

I’m getting married next year. This means I’ll be selling my house and moving. I’ve been in this house since 2001, so I’m rather well entrenched.

I’m excited about the change, but I’m not looking forward to going through everything I own and deciding what to do with it. I may need a little Marie Kondō magic.

There’s no great rush, but I’ve just packed the first box of books. Of course I’m keeping all the books.

It’s begun!

Posting with ox-hugo so far

I’m a few days into using ox-hugo for publishing blog posts and so far it’s been great. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but I’m finding it to be worth it.

Here’s what the source Org-mode file looks like right now.

I like it!

Things I Write With

As someone who loves writing with analog tools, I have always switched willy nilly between pens, pencils, notebooks, types of paper, etc. I never seemed to find any consistent patterns. The past year has, finally, found me settling on a pretty stable set of writing tools.

It goes like this:

For day-to-day note taking, I use a pencil. Go figure, right? I tried using the Blackwings, which are wildly popular with the fancy pencil set. They write well enough, but they’re too long and no one talks about the elephant in the room; that big, clumsy, eraser with the sharp metal bits. They look funny and feel icky, so I switched to something I have grown to love - the Mitsu-bishi Hi-uni and 9850 pencils. They write at least as well as the Blackwings, cost less, and hold a point better.

For my daily updates in the Hobonichi Techo, I’m still in love with the Staedtler Pigment Liners. The fine, black, crisp line works great on the small pages of Tomoe River paper.

And for anything “fancy” like letters, postcards, or long-form journaling, I have settled on two fountain pens; The TWSBI Diamond 580 and the Pelikan M400.

I’m pretty happy with these choices. It’s been months since I’ve struggled with deciding what to write with.

Don MacAskill's AMA Reinforces My Optimism About Flickr

Don MacAskill, Reddit:

But Flickr isn’t Instagram and, under my watch, it won’t ever be. Flickr is all about a long-lasting, deep, abiding photographer community. It’s not about showing a photo to quickly gather some likes & comments today, only to never have that photo be seen again. It’s about engaging in visual storytelling that lasts forever.

I’m not interested in competing with Instagram and Snapchat, so if that’s your definition of “social” then my answer is no.

The possibilities around SmugMug’s purchase of Flickr has me so very excited. This Reddit AMA with MacAskill makes me feel even better about it.

Blue Apron after Five Years

I started receiving meals from Blue Apron five years ago today. For someone who’s been living alone, meal delivery services are wonderful. I hate shopping, I never know what to shop for anyway, and I’m not a great cook. When I do shop I’m forced to buy more than I need and things get thrown away. Or I just buy hot dogs and stuff to make nachos and desserts.

Blue Apron meals are always interesting, colorful, and delicious. They take some work to prepare, though. It seemed like I was always small-dicing what felt like 35 ingredients at every meal. So, I started looking for alternatives.

My sister had been using HomeChef and claimed the meals were super simple. I switched, and she was right. They also offered a two-meal/week plan. Blue Apron was limited to three meals. HomeChef also allowed me to choose between a nice variety of dishes each week. With Blue Apron I just took whatever they sent.

After nearly a year, I checked in on Blue Apron and found that they had made things simpler, now offer a two-meal plan, and have a decent selection of meals to choose from. I switched back and couldn’t be happier.

The photo above is of tonight’s dish, “Tokyo Beef & Rice Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Roasted Brocolli.” I used their photo here because mine didn’t turn out looking nearly that good, but it was delicious! So good in fact that it prompted me to write this post.

I’m happy to be back with Blue Apron. If you’re looking for a meal delivery service, I’d give the nod to Blue Apron, but you wouldn’t be disappointed with HomeChef either.

Org-Journal May Replace My Daybook.org File

The more I use Bastian Bechtold’s Org-journal the more I like it.

For the past few years I’ve kept a sort of “Daybook” using a datetree in a single Org-mode file. This works pretty well, but it’s always felt more suitable for shorter entries. I wanted something that would work with longer entries, so I tried Org-journal.

Org-journal uses one file per day. I first thought that this would make browsing my journal difficult, but it doesn’t. I find the built-in search to be easier to manage than using sparse trees or other search methods in an ordinary Org file.

I have found myself creating a journal entry using Org-journal for everything, including the things I’d normally put into my Daybook.

Org-journal even handles TODOs, and carries forward any unfinished TODOs from the previous day. It’s kind of like an automated Bullet Journal.

I export things I write each month to PDF files and print them out. (Yes, I’m that guy). With separate files for each day, I can do this by running something like cat 2018-05*.org > 2018-05-Journal.org and export the resulting file to a nicely-typeset PDF easily enough.

I’m not quite ready to completely let go of my habit of logging things into my Daybook, but the writing is on the wall.

Let's try using ox-hugo again

Last year, while looking for ways to create a blog using Org-mode, I ran across ox-hugo. It was clever, but I was uncomfortable with yet another layer of abstration between the source text and the rendered HTML. I may have gotten over that fear.

I’m slowly standardizing on using org-mode files for all of my writing. I’ll hate myself for this if I ever decide to stop using Emacs, but I’ll deal with that then.

Hugo has org-support built-in, but it only supports a subset of org-mode’s features. For example, URLs or org-formatted links in footnotes are not rendered as links in the final HTML files.

Ox-hugo works via the standard org-mode export dispatcher. The result is rendered as a normal Hugo Markdown file. This means that if I decide to stop using Org-mode for blog posts, or even move to another markdown-based site builder, all of my posts are still there and usable as-is.

Another nice feature is that all of my posts are in a single org-mode file, one subtree per post. I like this because I don’t have to create a properly-formatted markdown file in a specific folder in order to create a post. I just set the EXPORT_FILE_NAME property and ox-hugo takes in from there.

Of course I’m using a handy capture template, as provided by the ox-hugo docs. This lets me type C-c c h to quickly create a new draft post.

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(with-eval-after-load 'org-capture
  (defun org-hugo-new-subtree-post-capture-template ()
    "Returns `org-capture' template string for new Hugo post.
See `org-capture-templates' for more information."
    (let* ((title (read-from-minibuffer "Post Title: ")) ;Prompt to enter the post title
           (fname (org-hugo-slug title)))
      (mapconcat #'identity
                 `(
                   ,(concat "* TODO " title)
                   ":PROPERTIES:"
                   ,(concat ":EXPORT_FILE_NAME: " fname)
                   ":END:"
                   "%?\n")          ;Place the cursor here finally
                 "\n")))

  (add-to-list 'org-capture-templates
               '("h"                ;`org-capture' binding + h
                 "Hugo post"
                 entry
                 ;; It is assumed that below file is present in `org-directory'
                 ;; and that it has a "Blog Ideas" heading. It can even be a
                 ;; symlink pointing to the actual location of all-posts.org!
                 (file+olp "all-posts.org" "Blog Ideas")
                 (function org-hugo-new-subtree-post-capture-template))))

```

All subtrees marked as TODO are considered to be drafts. Toggling the status to DONE sets “draft = false” and also sets the publish date to the current time.

Tags are set just like normal org headings (e.g. “tag1:tag2”).

Being able to directly publish to my Hugo-based blog while still living in an Org-mode is pretty sweet.

Syncthing

Syncthing

I’ve been testing Syncthing as a replacement for Dropbox and so far it’s been great.

I am currently syncing over 25,000 files in 5 directories across two Macs and one Linux machine. It has worked nearly without a hitch. I say “nearly” because after changing the case of a few filenames those now show as “out of sync”. They synced fine but show as unsynced. I assume this is due to case-sensitive vs case-insensitive file systems. I’ll need to figure this out but it’s more an inconvenience than a problem1.

I’m still using Dropbox for things I’m sharing with others, and probably always will, but for things I don’t want anywhere near a “cloud”, Syncthing seems like a perfectly fine solution.


  1. The case-insensitive rename issue is known and tricky to solve. [return]