Notes by Akhil Saji


A method to download streaming video from any website

Have you ever encountered some web video you find immensely helpful but can't bookmark or save for later viewing? Most streaming plugins prevent saving of such video contents for later viewing; however, there are ways to save such content for offline viewing and personal consumption. Below is a technique I have used multiple times to save educational content for future offline viewing.

Step 1: Download Video Download Helper chrome extension
Once you have the extension installed, you can go to any streaming video content you wish to save and see if it is able to detect a streaming URL to copy. Once you find such content the plugin works on, move onto step 2.

Step 2: Install a downloader tool such as JDownloader On MacOS you can install jDownloader using brew brew install -cask jdownloader

Step 3: Paste the URL from the helper extension into jDownloader

Reminder: This method is solely for saving content for personal consumption, I do not endorse using such techniques to circumvent copyright law.


Editing EXIF Data in Photo Files

There is currently no easy way to edit EXIF data especially in batch fashion on Mac or iOS devices. Importing photos into your iCloud photo library with incorrect Date Time information can result in the disaster of your photo timeline being bombarded with photos from incorrect dates. I recently had to import a large number of photos into my iCloud photo library and encountered this exact issue. Unfortunately, the date time editing function seen in the Photos App on MacOS and iOS (see image > adjust date and time) does not actually change the original date time for an entire sequence of photos but rather applys an offset resulting in batch edits of photos leading to photos with incorrect timestamps into the future. After trying a multitude of free EXIF editing apps on the Mac App Store which all have paywalls or limits, I stumbled on exiftool, a command line focused tool for batch editing photo files.

Exiftool can be installed via Brew brew install exiftool.

To change the original date time of a large sequence of photos you will want to edit the Date/Time Original metadata tag by using the following command: exiftool "-DateTimeOriginal=YY:MM:DD HH:MM:SS" -r TargetFolder

The tool will change all the exifdata for the files you target and additionally will backup the original file in case errors are encountered. Changes can be viewed by running exiftool -common targetfile.jpg which will output something akin to the following:

File Name                       : file.JPG
File Size                       : 18 MB
Camera Model Name               : ILCE-9
Date/Time Original              : 2020:01:01 07:30:00
Image Size                      : 6000x4000
Quality                         : RAW + Extra Fine
Focal Length                    : 12.0 mm
Shutter Speed                   : 1/100
Aperture                        : 4.0
ISO                             : 1250
White Balance                   : Auto
Flash                           : Off, Did not fire


Home server project 2021


One of the items on my long term to-do list was to put my old hard drive collection to use by creating a network attached storage (NAS) machine. Over several upgrades over the past few years, I had amassed several 500gb-1tb drives both in 2.5' and 3.5' varieties that were collecting dust. The question quickly became- what was the cheapest and most cost effective way to build a NAS?. Specifically, many of the off the shelf solutions such as Synology carried out the duties of a NAS quite well; however, came with many downsides including the lack of multiple drive bays and quickly rising expense depending on how many drives it supported. Additionally, the many JBOD (just a bunch of disks) platforms that exist, despite being fairly cheap and supporting multiple drives, simply lack the network utility that a modern NAS can provide.


I quickly realized during my research that there simply weren't any off the shelf solutions on the market that would fit my requirements of: inexpensive, ability to utilize multiple small drives, and reasonable performance. At this point I had decided to build my own based on the Open Media Vault (OMV) platform. Based on Debian, OMV offers a plethora of features that any any modern off the shelf NAS will provide, although, with a slightly less intuitive user interface. The following is a breakdown of the parts I used and total cost.

Case: iStarUSA D213-mATX 2U Rackmount case ($0, purchased several years ago at NewEgg ~$45 USD)
PSU: 500W OCz ($0)
CPU: Intel G5400 ($54 @ Microcenter)
Motherboard: Gigabyte B365 DS3H ($70 @ Microcenter)
Memory: Crucial 8GB DDR4 ($25 @ Amazon)
Harddrives: Inland 128gb SATA SSD ($25 @ Microcenter) and $0 for 5tb of storage (5 drives ranging from 500gb-2tb)
Case fans: 80mm intake fans (~$6 @ Amazon)
Software: $0
Total: $186

As you can see, I managed to re-use many of the components I had laying around; however, even if I had bought all the components at the time of building my total cost would have still been in the $250-270 range which is still way beneath the price of the remotely comparable Synology DS220+ which is going for $299 on Amazon at the time of writing this article.

Part DS220+ Custom
CPU J4025 @ 2.0Ghz 2 threads Pentium Gold G5400 @ 3.7Ghz 4 threads
Memory 2gb DDR4 8gb DDR4
Storage 2 drive bays 6 SATA connectors → 6 potential drive bays
Network 2x1gb LAN 1x1gb LAN


Being the closest comparison off the shelf competitor, I used the DS220+ as my comparison point. From a performance, memory and storage aspect, my custom build was both cheaper and faster. Not to mention it also gives me the ability to replace and upgrades parts in the future as I see fit.

Now what are some downsides? I would be a liar if I said setting up OMV was anywhere near as simple and polished a process as Synology is. Unfortunately, despite all the developers best efforts, OMV is still a community developed project that still shows its roughness around the edges. Below are some of the issues I ran into while setting up the software.

  1. Upon installation finishing, I couldn't access the web gui despite the installer claiming I should be able to. This required me to connect via head and run omv-firstaid command from the terminal in order to reset the web gui as well as declare a static IP address.
  2. The process of setting up hard drives, creating a pool between the drives and creating shared folders is far from obvious. This process once again is made far simpler in Synology and just works. I plan to write a summary article on this soon to simply things for myself in the future.
  3. Upgrading drives can also result in unexpected issues. The week after installing OMV, I had upgraded one of my 500gb drives to a 4tb drive due to SMART errors suggesting the former would fail soon. I unmounted the drive and shut down the machine thinking a simple swap would be painless. Unfortunately I was wrong. OMV had issues booting and being a headless machine, as soon as I couldn't access the web gui I knew something was wrong. After an hour trouble shooting after connecting via head to the machine and being unsuccessful in fixing the issue; I ended up just re-installing the entire OS which fixed the issue. I doubt these kinds of issues plague Synology.


If you're in the market for a NAS and are even moderately technically capable (or willing to learn/experiment) I highly recommend going the custom route. If you want to build your own machine but want a bit more of a polished experience, I would recommend buying a copy of Unraid which is basically a significantly polished version of Linux NAS software devoid of the rough edges a community project like OMV has. I have a separate Unraid server and can attest to its quality. This all being said, OMV is an rock solid platform. Once up and running, the server chews through any task I throw at it. I currently have a docker instance running Plex which is able to transcode one or two 4K streams without a hiccup. I would bet the DS220+ can barely handle one.