Playtesting the world’s largest VR holodeck

Words by Samuel Tate, photos by Cade Dhiem

I’m sitting in the foyer of a warehouse in Fitzroy, staring at a machine gun’s schematics, its blue light pulsing from a digital display. I’m about to get dropped into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where I need to fight through hordes of zombies to recover a ship that has been hijacked by anti-vaxxer terrorists.

They strap a back-pack on me, hand me a serious looking gun, and then lower an Oculus Rift onto my face. As it covers my eyes the cement room becomes small metal chamber out of a sci-fi war movie (so a Tom Cruise movie). I look down and see I’ve got a soldier’s body, holding a gun that moves wherever I move mine. I look to my left, and what was a giant empty space the size of a basketball arena has become a shooting range.

I probably should have listened a bit harder when he explained how the gun worked.

I probably should have listened a bit harder when he explained how the gun worked.

This isn’t a nightmarish dream I had after a eating too much cheese, this is Zero Latency. It’s a 400sqm virtual reality playspace, known by Star Trek fans world over as a holodeck. Players are decked out with an Oculus Rift, an AlienWare alpha (a super-compact computer) and a serious looking gun. Players are then tracked by over 126 Playstation Eyes which map your physical position and put it in the game. This is free roam, multiplayer, wireless virtual reality, and it’s in Melbourne.

I’ve actually visited Zero Latency before, when it was a crazy idea in a small studio. It was pretty cool, but it was about 5 sqm, and the guys had to stand around me to make sure I didn’t run into walls. They demoed it at Pause Fest last year, with a line out the door, but the experience was essentially static, and limited. They’ve since successfully run a Pozible campaign for $25,000, to put 400 melbournites through their virtual paces. Recently they received a million dollars in venture capital, allowing them to build out their vision of the arcade of the future.

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MFW I’m in a dystopian sci-fi hellscape

Back to (virtual) reality

So I leave the firing range, and proceed with caution, the photographer has put down his camera and picked up a gun to partner with me. As we edge past burning cars and barrels, the first wave of enemies emerge, with zombies shambling and crawling towards me. I pick them off easily at first, but they just keep coming. Finally the throng dies down and I go to finish off a crawler execution style. I pull the trigger and the instructor’s half ignored advice comes back to me, “re-load early, re-load often”.

Before the zombie does any damage, my partner takes it out, saving my virtual life. The physical act of reloading, sharing the space with other players, and the ability to walk around and experience a digital space in such a way, creates an incredible sense of immersion that overcomes the limitations of what is essentially first generation technology.

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Now I imagined we’d be in a play space mapped to the square room, but what was really interesting was the way they created complex maps using something called a “tumble-turn”. You reach a waypoint, as with any game, and then the map turns around, and directs you to turn as well. This means that in the physical space while you are walking back and forth, in the game you can proceed in a linear fashion, or weave through hallways.

We cleared the level in 40 minutes, passing through courtyards, construction zones, office buildings and ruins, to get to the dropship and get the fuck out. But what really struck me was a point where we came through a shattered office wall out on to to a ledge. We’d taken a lift or two and I looked over the edge and realised we were maybe ten stories up. I had a dizzying wave of vertigo, and gulped as I realised I needed to walk across a tiny bridge of debris.

Now zombies and terrorists don’t scare me, but heights do. Despite everything my brain was telling me, my instincts said I was in distinct danger; the wind whistling past my face, my gut dropping as I peered over the side. I wanted to laugh it off and run (I was surrounded by cool guys) but my legs would only let me inch forward. I later found out they actually turn on a fan at that point to add to the experience.

Headsets off

Afterwards I catch up with Tim, the CEO of Zero Latency, to talk about what drove them to build the experience, and where they see it headed. He tells me they are now in their first generation of commercial play spaces, and are working with partners to bring the technology to similar spaces around the world. Tim wants to see people in large play spaces like this all around the world.

Some of the brains behind the world’s first Holodeck

Some of the brains behind the world’s first Holodeck

They started out creating scary experiences, but after feedback from their Pozible campaign they are now shifting to a focus on more fun, cooperative levels, where people have to work as a team, recreating the arcade style outing, but with a futuristic twist. Tim describes his perfect  gaming experience as a large scale Battlefield or Call of Duty style multiplayer map, with people in the shared spaces like the current one, but networked together, and situated all around the world.

My heart is still racing as I say my goodbyes. Switching from what my brain started to accept was a crisis situation, to an interview setting on some nice couches, creates a cognitive dissonance like no other. Tim says that “even the biggest skeptics, who after 5-10 minutes of adjustment feel they get a handle on the situation, will suddenly get a fright, and duck or run”, he chuckles, “no matter how everyone goes in, they come out bewildered.”

The only thing I’d add is exhilarated.. and a bit puffed out.

Trying to figure out exactly what’s real.

Trying to figure out exactly what’s real.

Setting up a VPN in 4 steps

You want to download torrents but you’re worried about getting tracked? What you want is a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN anonymises your computer’s address (or IP) by encrypting and rerouting your data through a network. Sounds hard? It isn’t. Here are the 4 steps to get one running.

1 – Get Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access(PIA) are a VPN service provider. These guys are solid and I’ve used them for quite some time. It’s $40 a year and they are top rated for both service and protecting user data.

Get it here

2 – Download and install the PIA client

This is the program that PIA provide that lets you log in to your PIA account and connects your computer to the VPN. They have Mac, PC and mobile phone clients, which means you can install, login and run the VPN on multiple devices with very little set up.

Download the client

3 – Get your login details from your email

They will send you a link to your email which will contain your username (which will be different from your email address) and your password. If you do get stuck they’ve got great support.

Get help

4 – Open the PIA client and log in

Simply open the PIA client you downloaded and input your username and password. When you see the little black robot in your task bar you’ll know your IP is obscured and you can download all the torrents you want. Now I’m gonna go watch Game of Thrones.

Click here for more in depth tips on how to avoid meta data tracking and some analysis of the tensions around the issue.

 

Getting U.S pricing on Australian XBOX store using bitcoin

Australians pay extra in the XBOX store, for no other reason than archaic DRM and international copyright laws. Back in the day when there was extra distribution costs it made sense.  Now we’re senselessly paying extra for digital content because someone can’t forgo their distribution or licensing fees.

You could set your billing address to the US, but you can’t use an Australian credit card. Luckily Microsoft now takes bitcoin, and since it is relatively easy to get and use bitcoin(BTC) in Australia, you can now get US prices on the XBOX store.

Below I’ve done a little walk through on how to do it. It goes through switching regions, getting a bitcoin wallet and using it to get microsoft credit. This same process would generally apply to similar situations with other companies who take BTC.

ffe27c92-3ce0-4c90-8059-c79f23f0dd43-2GETTING SETUP

1 – Log in to your web XBOX account and switch regions

2 – Switch regions on your XBOX itself

3 – Set up a bitcoin wallet

info-2-xxlBitcoin is a form of digital currency, used as an alternative payment network by companies like Microsoft. In this instance I used coinjar because you can hold an AUD balance and then pay a bitcoin amount from it. This means you don’t have to worry about the price of bitcoin. There’s tonnes of options so do your research.

Wallet

TOPPING UP

Use BPAY to top up your bitcoin wallet

You can keep a balance in AUD and pay directly from aud bucket to a bitcoin address when getting credits.

Get your account ready for bitcoin

1 – go to payment and billing

litlte2 – switch AU account to new nearly created US account

3 – go to payment options

4 – select microsoft account and then redeem bitcoins

Below is a payment screen from a bitcoin payment processor. They work out how much $100 USD is worth in BTC, then display a QR with an amount to pay and an address to pay to.  If you pay within 15 minutes the account will credit USD to your account.

blerk

Pay from your wallet

1 – go to coinjar and select payments

2 – choose bucket to pay from (AUD or BTC)

3 – copy the bitcoin address and amount from the microsoft payments page, then paste to coinjar, hit review and confirm

blerg copy

4 – confirm and hit pay now.

payment

When you go back to live you will have the USD credit, and access to USD pricing.

Feel free to posts other services this works for. Happy gaming.

Implications of Australian Bitcoin Tax Ruling

The ATO finally released their draft paper on bitcoin in Australia and its tax treatment.  It provides a lot of clarity and sometimes it’s easy to forget  how far we’ve come, to the point where governments around the world are having serious discussions about it.  However there were some troubling potential outcomes.

Firstly it must be understood that the ruling is a draft, and that every aspect, from CGT to GST has an invitation to comment,  the contact details for the party you must submit your comment to are at the bottom of this piece.  

Secondly this is in no way legal advice, and you should consult a professional when considering how to manage your affairs.

You can find a summary of the position here as well as links to the draft papers. 

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

Bitcoin is to be treated as an Asset for the purposes of CGT.  This means that if you sell bitcoin and there is an increase in value you must pay tax on the sale price, less the cost base (the amount you paid for it).  This comes as no surprise.  Frankly the only reason that money is excluded (aside from complexity), is that it deprecates in value, so you’d be able to write off inflation against your cost base.

The most interesting thing here is that transactions with a cost base under 10k are exempt, this means that you avoid the ‘micro-capital gain’ situation, which would occur if you were to spend bitcoin that had increased in value on a coffee or a pair of fancy shoes.

Income

Employees receiving bitcoin in lieu of fiat for wages need to pay tax on the bitcoin based on the market value at the time of payment. There isn’t a lot of clarity about what happens if that bitcoin then subsequently goes up in value, however it could be assumed the difference will be added to your taxable income.

There are also potential fringe benefit implications for employers paying out in bitcoin, though this would only arise if the bitcoin didn’t fall into the employee’s taxable income.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

While most of the rulings were to be expected the most contentious issue is the GST implications.  The ATO has ruled that the supply of bitcoin is a taxable supply for the purposes of the GST act.  This means that a 10% GST applies. The problems arise because they assert that it doesn’t fall under any exemptions.  For example the supply of money, vouchers or derivatives are all expressly excluded from GST under the tax act.

This may cause issues for merchants who accept bitcoin, who may have an issue when they on sell it (i.e conversion) as the paper suggests this is another taxable supply, effectively causing merchant to pay double GST.  Major bitcoin businesses in Australia have stated this may force them to take operations off shore, which will have the effect of actually reducing the ATO’s revenue.

This may also affect the way bitcoin is distributed by exchanges in Australia, as they may be required to apply GST to the supply of bitcoin to consumers, effectively making bitcoin (a transactional token) 10% more expensive in Australia than anywhere else in the world.  The UK did something similar in applying VAT to bitcoin, but they quickly back-pedalled as they clearly realised the potential innovation and subsequent economic growth that can come from supporting a new technology that disrupts finance.

ATO and the law 

It needs to be pointed out that this is not a new law, or one written by the ATO, this is their interpretation of the law as it stands today.   For this position to be changed they would need to add an exclusion or extend an existing one, for example by successfully arguing that bitcoin falls under the definition of money for the purposes of the act.  This change then needs to move through parliament, who aren’t exactly progressive at the best of times.

Have your say 

Remember, this is a draft interpretation and application of the law.  While all the other aspects were expected, the implications of their GST interpretation may have a stifling effect on this burgeoning new technology in Australia.

By creating double GST on bitcoin transactions the ATO is double dipping, and diminishing the potential of this more efficient payment protocol.  Their proscriptive application of the law means Australia will miss out on the chance to take advantage of bitcoin’s efficiencies, and all the economic benefits that it may bring.

As set out in appendix 2 of the Draft Goods and Services Tax Ruling, you can speak to the person taking comments about the GST implications with the contact details below.  If you are impacted we recommend you let them know the implications this ruling will have on your business.

 

Have your say

Due date:

3 October 2014

Contact officer:

Hoa Do

Email address:

hoa.do@ato.gov.au

Telephone:

(08) 9268 5171

Facsimile:

(08) 9268 8371

Address:

Australian Taxation Office

GPO Box 9977

Perth WA 6848

Let’s Build Our Own Internet, With Blackjack and Hookers

**Originally published on Project-Grey but we shut it down because it was too hard and we were scared a phone would catch on fire and kill someones baby** 

dad

The Pirate Bay, delving further into the anti-censorship battle, may have just invented a new type of internet, hosted peer-to-peer, and maintained using the Bitcoin protocol.

Love them or hate them, The Pirate Bay are always ahead of the curve when it comes to digital rights, especially when it comes to copyright, DRM and censorship. Now I’m not one to say ‘they give me free shit, awesome hur dur’. Artist remuneration is important to me and in many senses TPB circumvents this. But the current copyright system is broken. Fractions of the dollar go to the artists, and the archaic content distribution models mean lots of content can’t be seen legally without a 100 channels of cable or a $40 DVD.

Media pirates

People consume media differently and the market largely hasn’t caught up. Progressive media groups, like Netflix, actually use TPB stats to work out what programs to book. It’s acknowledged that freely distributing your content is a great way to get exposed. Most bands will seed a torrent in the hopes it goes viral. So clearly there’s merit to the model.

 

bluthe

“Thanks Pirate Bay”

Now if all TPB did was make it easier for people to OD on Game Of Thrones I’d still be impressed. Their fractured cloud hosted solutions and domain hopping have been a beacon of hope to everyone that feels uncomfortable with bolder and bolder attempts to centralise and regulate an internet built by and for free thinkers.

But what matters now is what they’re doing to bypass censorship.

Thought police

You see the internet, and its contents, is a bit like an ocean. It’s huge, it’s untamed, it has dangerous disgusting depths and beautiful vistas. More and more however you, the user, are shunted onto the tourist beaches for your own good. You don’t even see “no access” signs for the areas that aren’t safe.  Through the wizardry of IP blocking they make it so you can’t even see they where there. So instead you paddle in the shallows, reading 9gag and sharing snapchats of your cats hat.

TPB’s first step was the pirate bay browser, very similar to the tor browser, however without IP masking (so you aren’t anonymous). This browser means users aren’t limited in their access because of their location.

It’s not just China that limits it’s internet access, most countries live in a media bubble, from blocking access to movies and shows because licensing doesn’t allow it, to restricting the news that is readily available. The people in office aren’t even being subtle anymore.  Consider the porn filter in the UK: they are restricting content based on the views of a moral minority who happen to hold political (and one would assume economic) power. If you think this is going to be anything other than more prevalent in the near future, or at this doesn’t effect you, then you need a better understanding of the role of free speech in government accountability.

 

Fangelse-for-Pirate-Bay

The buccaneers behind pirate bay.

 

Fighting back

However even with IP masking, governments can still get right to the source, and block an IP address, confiscate servers, basically killing a website. All well and good to stop child porn and nuclear warhead plans from being distributed, however this is also more than likely to be used to silence boat rockers, dissidents and anyone that challenges the current politico-economic paradigm that keeps the suits in limos. Consider Wikkileaks, who have been under attack merely for holding the governments own actions up to the light for scrutiny.

The way TPB are addressing this will be a decentralised, peer to peer internet.

You heard me right.

This means domain blocking is impossible, server seizure can’t be achieved and the powers that be can’t do everything in their power to limit free speech that challenges the political or economic status quo.

Decentralise everything

p2pThe way it works is that it stores a sites indexable data when on your computer, so you host little chunks of the sites you visit, in much the same way as people host chunks of data when maintaining a seed for a torrent file.

Users will be able to register their ‘domain’ using bitcoin, on a first come first serve basis, renewing every year. This means that even the registration system is decentralised, in fact relying on a completely different decentralised network. That is one hell of a built in redundancy

It will be using a fake DNS system but there is no real IP address to take down, as the database will be scattered across a global decentralised network of users. No points of failure and no centralised control mechanisms means it could become a very robust platform to maintain free speech.

There are issues, for example what happens if you host illegal content unwittingly, or what happens if the bulk of sites you use are very data hungry? The system has just been announced so further news may quash or exacerbate these concerns.

Do we need it?

In a world where the original ideals of a free internet are being consumed by data discrimination, PRISM, the NSA and the TPP, this pirate web may be one of the few places where true subversive discussion can occur. It may just halt part of a concerted effort to turn the net into a homogenised tracking device, used to buy iPads and photograph food, whilst being spied on and lied to.

While people may ask why it is needed, it must be remembered that a benign government only stays so under constant scrutiny and absolute accountability to the governed. This can only occur where there is a completely unfettered platform for free speech and sharing to occur.

Love them or hate them, but what The Pirate Bay have done, are doing and will do with the peer to peer protocol may be key to your political freedoms and human rights in the future.

X

@samueltates

Oculus Unboxed – Sock Rocked

** Originally published on Project- Grey till we shut it down because we don’t know how to business**

Finally getting to use an Oculus was as surreal as it was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, the visual display and it’s interaction and communication with my physical movements was near on flawless.  The sensation of looking at a basketball in a Spanish villa and hearing my girlfriends voice suddenly emerge from it as she insisted that I give her a turn was startling and I won’t soon forget the sudden horror I felt as I started climbing up a medieval roller-coaster and remembered I’m terrified of heights.

But it was totally worth it for the adrenaline, and as a bonus I didn’t have the health and safety concerns that I normally associate with roller-coasters. Also I didn’t have to buy an overpriced showbag. But it was disappointing because I could taste the potential, much like I did with my first 32mb colour phone, and I know that it’s still so far from where it’s going. But it’s going to be a damn pretty ride and I’ll buy every model along the way.

IMG_20130726_134639_grandeMy first impressions: obviously the bulk and the constraints of wires made it less than comfortable initially, and strapping it to my head didn’t feel very natural. But it sat very well and immediately encompassed me in the low-res, dev-kit reality. I looked up, and I was looking at a roof, I looked left, and saw a doorway. I spent a while trying to circle strafe as I pride myself on this, got tangled and nearly smashed the computer. It was so immersive that I nearly immediately forgot where I was, so directions from the others were off putting, as they seemed to come from nowhere. I’ve read that it was disorienting, but as someone who walks around in a state of constant disorientation at the best of times, this was easy to adjust to.

There was virtually no lag and it felt seamless, though using the head as a mouse, and the WASD set up for manoeuvring took a little bit to get used to. I tried the roller-coaster, which was just being still and looking around, and a model house, where you can explore. It had a garden on a cliff side, with butterflies and dappled sunlight peeking through dew soaked trees beautiful enough to make a grown man blog. When I took it off I felt sick, but I wasn’t sure if it was the balancing tubes in my ear canals being out of whack with the world, or just the sheer devastation of not being able to go home to an Oculus.

IMG_20130726_132146_grandeSuffice to say it was truly an amazing experience. Something I’ve waited for and dreamed of since a child. But it was a dev kit in the office, with no games per say, just environments to explore while standing up, balancing a keyboard and wearing what could loosely be described as a low res refrigerator on my head. Being able to play with the Oculus for a little while was like letting the fat kid lick the cake spoon and then sending him outside to eat grass.

I had to unclutch my hands and put it back on a bench and go back to the stupid normal world, knowing that it’d be a few years before I was plugging this bad boy into an X-box, stepping onto a capacitive rotating floor pedestal, and having my movement tracked by Kinect, as I fought to return glory to the Dragonborn and balance to Skyrim.

To be honest though, if I had Skyrim with the Oculus right now my life would probably be ruined.  They’d find me dead from dehydration, with a muscular neck and a god damned smile on my face.

Zombies in your living room – A fully immersive Oculus experience

IMG_1189_copy_2_177a08cb-e5a0-4413-ba1a-d273fc961878

**Originally published on Project-Grey before we shut the fucker down because it was too much work**

The Oculus Rift is a game changer. It is the first truly immersive 3D virtual reality experience. I’ve seen it modded for Skyrim, I’ve wet my pants on the rollercoaster, and seen artists use it to create virtual displays for their work. The only problem is the cables. No matter how vivid the visuals are; on a mountain top, with the sun dappling your face, you’re still holding a controller, strapped to a computer like a horse to a feedbag.  3 guys couched in the warehouse district of Melbourne are poised to change that.

The Concept

Zero Latency is a development house specialising in immersive Virtual Reality.   Their “Inversion” project consists of a room set up with tracking cameras, an Oculus Rift linked to a fully wireless backpack, and trackable weapons.

What this means is that for the first time, you can walk around an empty room, and you’ll see a campsite, an alleyway, or whatever environment the Zero Latency boys want to drop you in.

Their flagship project, Zombie Fort: Smackdown, takes this immersive virtual reality experience and makes it absolutely terrifying.  To the point where I literally screamed like a little girl.

The Experience

Let me put you in the picture

You’re in an alleyway, you’re backed into a corner, and there’s no escape.  There’s a corpse on the ground, and a burning trashcan for light.  Ambient horror music sings through your ears.  You look up and notice how clear the stars are in the sky.

It’s funny, what you notice in times of crisis.  

Suddenly, on the wall across from the entrance to the alley, a silhouette twice your height lurches into view, followed by another.  The source:  Zombies.  At first, one or two start to shuffle around the corner.  You take a deep breath, and start headshotting.

inversion_promo_full_2_copy_f15dd0bf-8edb-440b-816b-8e8e8d9fba08

We all know that’s the only way to deal with a Zombie.  

All of a sudden the trickle of zombies has become a hoard.  You watch the bodies mount up and start to get your bearings, “this isn’t so bad, I might just make it” you think to yourself.  Sadly you didn’t notice the little alleyway entrance to your right.  You check your six in time and notice a zombies arm swinging at your head.  The reflexes that saved prehistoric men from predators kick in, and you duck, step to the right, and start firing.

inversion_promo_full_13_copy_5e3c2f7a-a7a0-41f6-a9bc-abe6f7a15fdb

Not just business people with a taste for brains either; hulking monsters, warped from decay, join the swarm.  The lights flicker, suddenly it’s just torchlight.  Your head shots turn to spray and pray.  Soon you know there is no escape, but you go down guns blazing.

The lights go up, the zombies disappear, and you take off the Oculus.  Suddenly you’re back in a warehouse, with pizza boxes, beer bottles and post it notes.  Three guys at a computer have just watched you prance around an empty room like you were in the scene from flashdance, but with machine guns.

Your heart is racing.  You finally remember to breathe.

Thoughts

IMG_1174_grandeWe all know what the Oculus can do by now, but the biggest leap Zero Latency have made is freeing you from cables, taking the controller out of your hand and replacing it with a gun.

This is the future.  This is the stuff you wanted VR to be in the 90’s when you put on a headset the size of a TV on your head and watched 3D polygons explode into pixels.

My previous experience with the Oculus was stifled by the use of a controller, and the restriction of wires.  With the Zero Latency wireless rig, movement tracking system and backpack I was literally ducking zombie swings, checking my six whilst clearing my 12, circle strafing, and screaming “blat blat blat” as I fired my final bullets.

Limitations exist within the space, and the format, but the guys have come up with some creative ways to expand the gaming universe and its functionality, so I can’t wait to see what comes next from Zero Latency.

Where can I try it?

You can actually demo this on February the 16th at PauseFest.  While the tickets are expensive they cover 4 days of the latest tech, digital and innovation.  There’s interactives like this, talks from industry leaders and a slew of displays.  You can also pay in bitcoin and the team have partnered with CoinJar to offer a bounty in bitcoin for zombie scalps.

Rancho1_by_Samuel_Richards_copy

So go to PauseFest, shoot zombies, win your ticket price back in Bitcoin, and go about your day knowing you had a taste of the future.

 

How to make your WD MyCloud Suck Less, or for SEO Purposes “Improving the performance of your WD MyCloud”

So I recently bought a WD MyCloud, after being pretty psyched about its feature set.  You can read about my expectations, reality, and subsequent soul searching here.  The issues came from massive lag when accessing it, or trying to use it in anyway.

What I also did is figure out how to make it suck less.  Basically there’s some processes that chunk it up and do sweet fuck all.

SEE ALSO : HOW TO SET UP A VPN IN 4 STEPS AND 5 MINUTES

****Do all this at your own risk.  I don’t care about you or the people you love****

Turning off the bastards

The steps below will turn off two processes, it involves accessing via hackery text looking stuff, but don’t be scared.  It also voids the warranty but you can factory reset and be like “I KNOW NUSSING”

1- Through your browser, go to http://wdmycloud.local/UI/

2- login and go to settings

3 – turn SSH on

4 – open terminal (or putty/linux terminal if you’re using windows)

6 – type “ssh root@(whatever IP address is of mycloud)” ( If you’re not sure how to find IP addresses of devices on your network look here)

7 – say yes

8-  password welc0me (the o is a zero but thats not clear with this font)

9 – Type /bin/sh /etc/rc2.d/S86wdphotodbmergerd stop – turns off shirttily written thumbnailer

10  – /bin/sh /etc/rc2.d/S85wdmcserverd stop – turns off piece of shirt mycloud indexing.

Basically these two piece of shit processes are terribly written and just blow the reasonablish hardwares brains out.

If you’ve got days when you won’t be using it, (i’m talking days upon days) let them run and it’ll finish indexing apparently.  Frankly I couldn’t be fucked not accessing my data for that long

de suckify twonky (the media server bit)

There’s another part, a media server, which takes the media and makes your devices be able to play it.  It basically is set to rescan itself any time a file is moved.  So anytime you change a bit, the whole thing just shuts itself down for some serious introspection.  Thankfully this is fixable.

1- through your browser, go to twonky (http://wdmycloud.local:9000/)

2- go to advanced

2- go to rescan intervals

3 – change it to 0

4- save (at bottom) this stops it scanning itself completely every time a file moves.

5- go and rescan your database

6 – for bonus points go to sharing section, and specify the media folers on your drive and the types of content they’ve got. (this will just make scanning more efficient when it does happen.

If you make changes to your file structure go back to advanced  and select rescan.

By removing these processes and following the above steps your NAS will work ok.

In summary the software is written terribly and you’re better off turning it off till they write some code that doesn’t melt this poor little nas’s brain.  This then becomes a reasonable hard drive and home solution, with reasonable media streaming .  It will deactivate the cloud bit till you let WDMCSERVER finish.  If your server restarts you will need to do all this again.  You can write code to automate it but thats another story for another day.

Any other tips/tricks to optimise this garbage bag of woe?  Comment below.

Rolling back the firmware.

I’ve yet to try this, I’m pretty drained, and have this thing working in a reasonable way, so I’m leaving this more as a note from myself, these instructions are straight from the forum.  Apparently the issue is the latest firmware (however I’ve been back historically and every update has been a litany of woe by the sounds of it).

Anyways, straight from the forum –  

1 – Download the following firmware version and unzip the .deb file (File sq-030401-230-20140415.deb.zip)  http://download.wdc.com/nas/sq-030401-230-20140415.deb.zip

2 – Then download Winscp and install it: http://winscp.net/eng/download.php 

3 – You need to “turn on SSH” from Settings > Network in Wd My Cloud web interface.

4- Now run Winscp program you have installed earlier. In the Login window

5 –  select “SFTP” in File protocol dropdown

6 –  Enter your My Cloud IP adress in the host name

7 –  The default usename is root and password is welc0me (its the number 0 in welcome and not letter O)

Once you login you will see 2 panes in the window.

8 – Go to the right pane and naviagte to the folder “etc”.

9 – Once in the “etc” folder scroll down to the bottom and you will see a file called “version”.

10 -Double click to ope the file and change the version name to 03.04.01-219 and save the file.

Thats all the SSH work. Now close and exit Winscp application.

11 – Reboot My Cloud. (Settings > Utilities > Device Maintenance > Reboot)

12 – After it has rebooted go into settings > firmware and click on “select from file”. Naigate to the sq-030401-230-20140415..deb file you have downloaded earlier and update.

13 – MKAE SURE TO TURN OFF AUTO UPDATE FIRMWARE.

This seems like a pretty good option, will let you know how it goes.

 

WD MyCloud Review – This thing sucks unless you are basically a hacker from a nineties movie.

So after swapping hard-drives between xboxes for the billionth time, remembering that season 2 of “Orange Is The New Black” is on the other hard drive then remembering that it was MKV and being forced to plug my computer in, I was like “fuck this, I’m getting some sort of home storage setup”.

I needed Media streaming, central data storage accessible by all devices via WiFi.  That was it.

Then I discovered the WD MyCloud.

wd mycloud

Killer features

– 4tb – ooh mumma
– linux based OS – sounds good
– dual core, 512 mb of ram (my phone’s more powerful but ok they must know what they’re doing).
– Remote access (think dropbox but with local storage).
– Super cheerful american youtubers saying how good it was.
– all devices can access it over wifi for storage
– DLAN and UPNP compatible so it can stream to xboxes and the like.

All this sounded rad, especially considering it was a feature set you’d normally have to get a server PC to have up and running.

So I ambled out and bought it because I’m impulsive and hadn’t been drinking for a month (dry July), so I had money to burn (I also bought a puppy, who will not be receiving a scathing review).

my new puppy, who has outperformed this NAS in nearly everyway

my new puppy, who has outperformed this NAS in nearly every way

I was soooo frickin excited to get it home.

Littany of suck

– No direct plug in from computer to modem.  Ethernet from computer to router, then to router to MyCloud. “so… ok… I can handle that”, I think to myself naively.
– You can plug USB 3.0 in (big plus as you can add up to 4tb capacity, it can even handle usb banks).
– However when you access via finder it passes the data from the hard drive attached to the MyCloud THROUGH THE COMPUTER AND OVER THE WIFI.  It literally goes through the MyCloud, through the router, through your computer, back through the router OVER WIFI into the MyCloud.
– Direct transfer was possible through their non retina optimised windows 95 piece of shit interface.

But hey, I got it working.   I painstakingly transferred all my media across, and eventually, despite only being able to do file management through their garbage bag interface, I had all my media in one place.

Ok lets get this mumma running.

…     “Fuck yeah.”

…                      “This works.”

Nekminit – Ninja turtles, every room of the house.

After two days of twiddling I say to my girlfriend “see, look how easy it is, no more swapping hard drives”.

Until it stops working.  Almost immediately.  I can’t even get in via SSH (greentext little hackery little thing for the unititated).  It’s just unresponsive.  Ok.  Reboot (IT pro).

Chunks like a bitch.  Every so often it works, but mostly it’s just unresponsive.

After spending some time on forums, what I find out was that there are two processes that run on the NAS that just destroy it.

Y U NO GOOD?

Basically, WD, being the software geniuses they are, hand over hugeee chunks of the processing power to:

– a process that indexes and creates thumbnails of every file (so you can scroll through their “MyCloud App” (ie garbage stinkwreck) and see pretty pictures.
– and another process that basically encodes the files or some shit for remote streaming.

All well and good, except for the fact that it completely destroys the functionality of the device for people that have large amounts of data.  While these processes are running it becomes completely unresponsive, laggy, and basically useless.

This is how I picture the two garbage bag processes that crunked my past week.

This is how I picture the two garbage bag processes that crunked my past week.

I have since come up with a little walkthrough on how to make this less terrible, so that people like me who bought it can step by step desuckify it – if that’s you then check it out here.

Final thoughts

This device could have it all, the hardware is solid, Twonky is a reasonable server, and the feature set is great.  The problem is, WD, in an attempt to jump onto too many bandwagons at once, have written software that is horrendously inneficient, and left the NAS basically broken without a huge amount of warranty voiding customisation.

Sure the dickheads in their stock photos probably only have ten video files and 100 pictures so all the processes, scanning, thumb-nailing and encoding only takes ten minutes, but I’ve got Shit tonnes of pirated media that I want in one spot, that I can get to anywhere in the house.

I’ve basically had to strip it of all its shitty software and use it as a mapped drive.

Thanks WD.

You suck

no potatoes