One Remote to Rule them All

Keyword loading incase anyone else tries to find this: I have a Pioneer VSX-919AH receiver driving a Panasonic TH-42PV60A plasma TV over HDMI. I access my movies and TV from a Raspberry Pi II running OpenELEC Kodi (formerly XBMC).

The TV has its own remote; the receiver has its own remote and to control the Pi I use an Apple Remote connected to a Flirc USB dongle. That’s too many remotes, and on top of it all, the circuit board in the Pioneer receiver’s remote has been damaged meaning I squeeze it at the right angle to get a contact. Argh.

To solve this I bought a few replacement Pioneer remotes from eBay, but the AXD7616 worked the best and most closely matched the broken one through B2B marketing software.

The new remote is used to drive a variety of Pioneer receivers, including the VSX-LX55. Reading the manual for that device shows that you can configure a few smart options on the remote allowing it to control other devices. This is exactly what I wanted.

There’s dedicated TV controls, which I programmed for my Panasonic screen as follows:

  1. Press and hold RCU SETUP and 1 for 1 second.
  2. Press TV CTRL.
  3. Enter 0008, the first 4-digit Panasonic TV code found at the end of the manual.
  4. Press RCU SETUP.

Throw away the TV remote as it’s now redundant.

To control Kodi I need to do a few things. Firstly, the receiver has a feature called “Direct Function” which will allow you to send operating functions to the device without the receiver changing to it as an input source. Convoluted? I read this passage from the manual a dozen times before I was sure it would do what I wanted:

You can use the direct function feature to control one component using the remotecontrol while at the same time, using your receiver to playback a different component. This could let you, for example, use the remote control to set up and listen to a CD on the receiver, and then use the remote control to rewind a tape in your VCR while you continue to listen to your CD player.
When direct function is on, any component you select (using the input function buttons) will be selected by both the receiver and the remote control. When you turn direct function off, you can operate the remote control without affect- ing the receiver.

Turn it off for the Blu-ray Disc player:

  1. Press and hold RCU SETUP and 5 for 3 seconds.
  2. Press BD.
  3. Press 0 to turn Direct Function off.
  4. Press RCU SETUP.

I chose BD to be the device reference for Kodi, even though it’s connected via HDMI. I cycle the HDMI button until the right input is selected and then hit BD to tell the receiver that I will be sending it commands for the Blu-ray Disc player, but not to change inputs to that device.

Lastly, I needed to load up the Flirc software to program the USB dongle. I used the same process above to program the BD input to a generic Sony DVD player (code 2009) and I was ready to teach the Flirc new tricks.

The only interesting part here is to enable “Sequence Modifiers” via the Advanced menu. Without this function selected, when the remote sends an IR command to the Flirc the device prefix (the part of the signal that identifies it as a Sony DVD player) is registered as the actual command (up, down, enter, play, pause etc). This results in Flirc reporting that the input is already assigned to another button. Checking this box meant I could map all the keys I wanted, including the directional pad and all multimedia keys without issue.

Quality of Service on a Draytek 2820Vn

I have a Draytek Vigor2820Vn at home that provides ADSL 2+ services (until the NBN rollout is completed in our area later this year). We get a steady 14 Mbit downstream and 0.8MBit upstream from that device to iiNet. Since becoming a heavy user of Usenet we have suffered from the problem of network saturation, as lifeline (our SABnzbd and torrent host) sucks down maximum bandwidth from the news servers. I knew that the router has quality of service and bandwidth limitation features built in, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I experimented with them in an effort to solve the problem. Now that I have, it might be useful for others to know how.

First things first, shoot over to the Draytek support site and download the latest firmware for the device. I was running from November 2010 and is the latest, released in October 2012. Note that the release notes for recommended upgrading to first if you’re running an older firmware as the web user interface changed between releases, and using as a stepping stone is the  approved upgrade path. You can download older firmwares, including, from the Draytek FTP server.

With the shiny new firmware freshly installed I dug about in the Bandwidth Management menu options, knowing that either bandwidth Limit or Quality of Service would be what I wanted.

Bandwidth Limit is used, from what I can tell, to dedicate a maximum amount of bandwidth to an IP on the network. I want almost the opposite of that, and so after further digging I worked out that it was Quality of Service that I needed to investigate further.

QoS can be used to ensure minimum service levels for various applications (or rather, protocols) and is commonly used in conjunection with VOIP on the 2820Vn. In my case it’s a much simpler problem to solve – traffic to all IPs other that lifeline should take priority, but lifeline can use all the bandwidth if nobody else is. To create this formula I edited the Class 1 Class Rule and added a rule that matched all IPs within the range – (which is everything other than lifeline). This rule matches any Remote Address, any DiffServ CodePoint and any Service Type. I named Class Rule 1 “Preferred” and saved it. Back on the QoS admin page I setup the WAN1 rule and enabled QoS in both directions. I allocated 95% bandwidth to “Preferred”, 1% each to Class 2 and 3, and left 3% for Others.

My testing showed that this setup worked perfectly for the scenario when any other host on our network (wired or wireless) required bandwidth it was diverted from lifeline until it was no longer required, at which point lifeline maxed out the link again. No more lagging YouTube videos or slow web pages!

I went back and added some additional rules to handle remote access into my network, namely the web applications that I use to manage the downloading, and SSH. These rules include lifeline in the preferred pool for those protocols only. Connecting my laptop to the iPhone’s LTE showed the desired effects when coming into our network too.

With how easy QoS was to setup and configure on the Draytek it makes me regret not looking into it in more detail sooner. Furthermore, when the NBN gets lit up on my street I’ll be looking to Draytek for router options (though I do love using pfSense).

Ups and Downs

My friend Daniel recently posted a blog article where he dissected some of his feelings about being a grappler and the stagnation that sometimes accompanies this. Go and read it, then come back here.

I’m sure it’s a topic that I’ve written about before, but in the interest of not polluting my current views, I’m not going to re-read any of my writing, or direct you to. I want to investigate it now (as a purple belt with a single brown stripe who’s been training for about 8 years).

Many grapplers will tell you about the walls that they hit during their career where they feel like progress has stalled and the grind isn’t worth the gains anymore. It might be following a belt promotion or unrelated, but it often starts with a day away here and there that turns into a week off the mats, which devolves into a month and then it’s Christmas and you’re commenting to others about how you’ll be back next year. I’ve seen it happen numerous times, to various types of characters with a multitude of daily pressures and stresses. It’s a common occurrence around the blue belt promotion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is considered the first significant coloured belt. This belt is often earned after two or three years of training and the effort required to achieve it is often compared to a black belt in a more traditional art like karate or taekwondo. It’s a big deal, and for some, it provides a good opportunity to exit the sport with an accomplishment in hand. I’ve heard it thrown around that 50% of the grapplers who get their blue belt don’t begin working towards their purple the next day, which seems about right to me.

Like anything, 8 years is a long time to devote yourself to any pursuit, be it sports or otherwise. BJJ is no different. How many people do you know that have played football for 8 years, or cricket, basketball or any other sport? None of my friends outside BJJ have consistently devoted themselves to their sporting endeavours as much as I have to BJJ, that I can think of. I know a few climbers but at best they get up a wall or outside once a fortnight. It’s not a critiscism – life gets in the way, as they say.

And I think that’s an important thing to remember – life gets in the way of everything. Unless you’re training BJJ full time (and that would mean you earn a living teaching, most likely) then you will have work, family and a myriad of other things jostling for your time, and in many cases, getting it.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to always remember that BJJ should always be providing you with a challenge and equally rewarding you for attempting to solve its puzzles. Note that I believe the rewards should be attached to the losses as well as the wins and in many cases it’s not even an on-the-mat reward. My biggest reward last year was a sorry drive home feeling like I didn’t represent myself accurately and let my ego get in the way. That led to a conversation and a cleansing of sorts, which is now blossoming into a mutual respect on and off the mats. It was a serious growth in my character and one that I attribute to BJJ alone. It wasn’t a new technique; it was a genuine growth realisation. Ask me about it some time.

If you’re not getting the love from BJJ, maybe it’s a good time to take a break. Think of BJJ like a relationship – maybe you’re just not that into her anymore, even though you really want to be (on some level). Maybe a few months apart will reignite the spark or maybe it’ll prove to you that space is a good thing.

BJJ still challenges me and rewards me and it’s because of this I’m certain I’ll be back after my son is born. That’s certainly a time I want life to get in the way. When I do come back, I know I’ll see you there Daniel.

Running the Gauntlet

A successful grading in jiu jitsu results in a promotion of rank, be it either a minor promotion (stripe) or a major promotion (new coloured belt). It’s a big deal and is something that is normally celebrated, especially for those being awarded new belts. In my eight years of training I’ve received two belt promotions – firstly to blue belt in early 2008 and then to purple in May of 2011.

Over the years I’ve seen my coach and my club change a lot, and this is a good representation of how jiu jitsu itself is constantly growing and evolving. My very first lesson at The Academy resulted in my learning a basic armbar from mount. This is jiu jitsu 101 – a really basic movement that you’ll learn within the first few months.

Skip to 2:00 to see Rorian Gracie demonstrate this basic armbar, the way I first learnt it.

Except nothing in jiu jitsu is really basic; other than your understanding of a technique. As a result, I’ve seen this attack change over the years, and the way it’s been taught by my coach has evolved. The way he was taught seems so ancient and ineffective compared to how we’re doing things these days. I don’t think I’d enjoy training anywhere near as much as I do if I was at a club that didn’t grow as the sport grew.

This embrace of change has meant we try out lots of new things, and most of them are great. For example, our gradings (affectionatly called “Smash Sessions”) have changed format several times and now settled on a style that people love. It brings the affiliate clubs together and is an event everyone looks forward to. Everyone’s on the mat and everyone rolls hard, and we all love it. The old way of doing a grading was very systematic and very planned; now it’s much more free-flowing.

But not everything that changes I enjoy. A few months back a new practice (new to our club; not new to jiu jitsu as a whole) was trialed, and in my opinion, failed. The “running of the gauntlet” is a practice whereby new innitiates are welcomed to their rank. Two lines are formed and as the graduate walks through the passage they’re whipped by everyone else’s belts. It reminds me of American college hazing, and it’s not something I can relate to.

This isn’t our club, but you get the idea:

As a senior rank I took the opportunity to set an example, and partook in the exercise but specifically protested by lightly tapping the gauntlet runner on the back. Some people followed suit but too many for my liking took the opportunity to actually try and hurt someone. A free shot and a cheap shot.

That’s the exact opposite of what I want to get out of jiu jitsu, and to be honest I was embarrassed for our club. As an expectant parent, I was thinking about how I’d feel if my child was wanting to join a club that did this kind of thing. I later heard that there was serious protest from the women in our club too, who declared that under no circumstances would they be running any gauntlets. I can understand that, and considerin the serious gender bias we have towards men I’d like to see us lower as many barriers to entry as possible, rather than raise more.

Although there were rules around the process (don’t hit the face, no wild wind-up swings) these were largely ignored. Although most people showed some restraint and control it wasn’t always the case.

I don’t want to hurt my training partners; they’re people I genuinely care about (even the ones I don’t like ;) I don’t want to perpetuate the myth of the martial arts psycho. Or even worse – the bully.

A day later I spent half an hour on the phone with my coach after he invited me to discuss what I thought about the gauntlet. I told him everything I felt, and at the end of it he declared that it wasn’t something he saw the club doing again.

Was I just being a pussy? Maybe. I joke that if I wanted to hurt people I’d have started kickboxing instead, but there’s always some truth to every joke.

For me, there are two take away points here that are worth highlighting. Firstly, as the owner of the business and (now) an Australian black-belt champion, Adam is under no obligation to consider my opinion, but he did. I appreciated that a lot. I feel like it’s “my” club and he certainly reinforced that. Secondly, it’s important to note that unless we try new things we simply won’t advance. If we didn’t try new grading styles we wouldn’t have the awesome Smash Sessions we have now, and if we didn’t adapt our techniques to consider new grappling styles or trends then we wouldn’t advance jiu jitsu. Making the decision to try new things means you also run the risk of making mistakes. You can’t be scared of making mistakes, but you have to be able to admit them.

Making mistakes and learning from them is jiu jitsu. Nobody does jiu jitsu better than Adam Metcalf, and The Academy of Mixed Martial Arts.