Pilbeam Engineering

A Little Bit of Everything

An Introduction to Plex

What is Plex?

Plex is actually a couple of applications for home theater. Plex Media Server is run on a computer that will handle the serving of content, while various other Plex applications will display the content. There are Plex apps for Android and iPhone, Apple TV, Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.  Even the venerable Raspberry Pi family of devices can be used as a Plex client, making it a low-power option to hook up to your television. The beauty of the Plex system is that from one server, content can be displayed and synchronized between many devices. 

The Plex Media Server web interface

Setup of the Plex media server, and access to some media is a prerequisite to using Plex. Up to date documentation on installing the Plex media server is available here. Once installed, you can add content of various types by pointing the Plex server to the locations where the files are. If the files are named correctly, Plex will automatically provide metadata and library functionality and present this information in a beautiful, clean interface.

How a movie looks on Plex

How a music album looks on Plex

Once the server is up and running, it will automatically be detected by client apps on the same local network. If you sign up for a Plex Pass, and if your server is reachable from the Internet (e.g., in a DMZ on your router), then you should also be able to get at the server's content from outside your network.

If you are like me, however, with a DSL modem and are cut off from the outside world by your ISP, then a valuable Plex Pass feature is Sync. Sync allows you to download to your Android or IOS device content from the Plex server for consumption later.

All in all, we love Plex for its flexibility and reliability. It has the ability to handle pretty much any file format you throw at it, and can transcode that content into the preferred format for any client. That such a software package is available for free and can be easily used by anyone is truly a boon to this media age!

Repairing a Craftsman Rider

My mother-in-law has a fairly substantial yard that does not lend itself well to push mowing. So, to make it easier, she has an older Craftsman riding mower. When we put it away last fall, we noticed the deck had fallen on one side. Ignoring it for the winter, it was now time to repair the issue! 

When I took a look at the mower this spring, I also noticed one of the rear tires was flat. 

The cause of the deck falling was a broken linkage between the lifting lever and the deck itself. A specially bent rod makes this connection, and it had broke. I ordered a replacement and installed it fairly easily - the hardest part is threading the rod from the deck up. Slip in a cotter pin and all is done.

Leveling the deck is done by adjusting a nut at the bottom of the link, and it requires either a deep socket or crescent wrench.

I was very fortunate that the rear tire took air after removing it from the mower, but I got it pumped up and put back on. Then I pushed the mower up to the house in order to recharge the battery.

Sadly, the engine would not kick over. I started checking everything - air filter (there were sunflower seeds in there!), fuel filter (looked clean), gas line - ah-ha! First, no gas came down the line when I removed the filter. I blew up the line until I could hear bubbles coming out of the tank. Nevertheless, the engine would still not start. I took off a cover on the side of the engine where the fuel line runs, and found this: 

Mouse nest! 

Mouse nest! 

After clearing out the mouse best, I came to the crux of the issue. 

The fuel line

The fuel line

The mice has chewed the fuel line, so the engine could not get any gas. I installed a new fuel line, which goes in very easily - a 25 inch long, 1/4 inch line needed no cutting when routed through the engine to the carbeurator. With this, and some oil in the engine, it started right up and ran like a champ!

I am using Seafoam in all my engines this year to help reduce carbon deposits and lubricate everything. So far it's working well and I hope to report further on this. 

Vegetables

We have been building raised beds and filling them just as quickly as the dirt settles into them! 

Four raised beds

Four raised beds

We now have one bed of strawberries, one bed of tomatoes, one bed of potatoes, and a bed with rhubarb, peppers, lettuce, and some other things. 

Each bed is four feet by eight feet in size, and one foot deep. They are constructed very simply. I build the ends first, using 2x3x2' stock, having cut a point at the end. I place two 1x6x4' between the two stakes and screw them down using some nice outdoor wood screws. Then I take my measurements and pound one assembled end in place. I use the 1x6x8' side the gauge where the other end should go, and pound the other end in place, ensuring that the sides will line up level when their installed. I level the sides and screw them into the ends. Then it's just a matter of filling them with dirt!

Ready to fill

Ready to fill

The baby likes to help with the loading

The baby likes to help with the loading

7 or 8 wheelbarrows full later and we're ready to plant. We bought a truckload of screened topsoil, so it's really easy to work with.  We stage everything on our picnic table before planting.

Plant distribution center

Plant distribution center

One of the keys to the raised bed is ensuring plenty of water. We give our plants a shot in the arm with some Miracle-Gro and soak them well with the hose. Last year, we had far too much rain (the reason for these beds)...but this year we seem to be a bit drier, which means now we rely on regular watering to keep things healthy.

The baby helps here too, even has a spoon for a shovel! 

The baby helps here too, even has a spoon for a shovel! 

So far things are going quite well with the raised bed approach, and weeding is no problem! 

In the meantime, I have some strawberries on the way! 

The little, blurry strawberry

The little, blurry strawberry