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How to: Convert an old PC into a home video streaming box

Use a powerful and free software called Openelec to help you take control of all your movies and TV shows.

Even with Netflix and Amazon Prime offering plenty of good video, many users still rely on their own collections of movies and TV shows stored on a computer or external hard disk. These files often end up scattered across locations, resulting in a sprawl of media that winds up becoming impossible to track.

Not anymore -- by using a powerful, free media-centric OS called Openelec, you can repurpose any old laptop, desktop (or even one of those palm-sized Raspberry Pi devices) as a dedicated media server. You'll be able to view all of your media in a visual showcase, complete with album art, artiste information, access to trailers and more -- all from the comfort of your sofa. Here's how to install Openelec on an old Intel/AMD laptop or desktop you might have lying around.

Step 1: Using your primary computer, head over to the Openelec website and download the stable release of Openelec for your relevant platform -- for a laptop or desktop it will be the 'x80 Generic Intel/AMD/Nvidia build'.

Step 2: Extract the file you downloaded using a program like 7zip.

Step 3: Insert a USB drive or SD card into your computer--Openelec OS will be installed to this device (remember it will erase the original contents.) Run a program like Win32DiskImager or Rufus USB Image Writer, select the Image file you extracted and specify the target drive letter for the USB/SD card to write the image to the drive.

Step 4: After the write process completes, remove the USB/SD card and insert it into the system you'll be using as your media server. When starting the computer, ensure that the boot sequence prioritizes the USB drive -- you may need to set this in BIOS by hitting 'Del' during startup.

Step 5: Now follow the on-screen instructions as Openelec formats the target drive and installs Openelec on the computer. When complete, reboot the system remembering to remove the USB drive you used to set it up. Openelec should now load, going through the initial setup screens -- remember you can even select shared folders on the network the computer is connected to.

When complete, you should now have a full-fledged media server running. Remember to install 'Kore' or the 'Official Kodi Remote' for Android and iOS phones respectively, enabling you to control your Openelec box right from your phone.

For more detailed information on setting up and installing Openelec on your computer, refer to these resources.

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How to Become a Painting Contractor

Are you interested in pursuing a career as a painting contractor? Before you actually make that leap you should know that there are quite a few steps that you need to take to get started.

1. Get your qualifications

The first thing that you should do is make sure you’re actually qualified to be a painting contractor. In the United States all painting contractors need to complete the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program.

Other countries and jurisdictions may have different requirements too – and you should look them up.

2. Apply for a license

If you’re going to be running a business or working as an independent painting contractor you’ll normally need to apply for a license. The regulations for licensing tend to vary by state, so you should look them up then apply.

3. Build up experience

Experience is crucial if you want to be a painting contractor, and it will help you to hone your skills and get a better idea of what the business is all about. It may be a good idea to take part in a painter’s apprenticeship, or sign on to work with a professional painting contractor before starting out on your own.

4. Get the tools you need

In order to work as a painting contractor you’ll need a wide range of tools including different types of rollers, sprayers, extension poles, ladders, brushes, sandpaper, and much more. On top of that you’ll also need a reliable supplier of various types of paint.

How to Become a Painting Contractor

If you intend to run a business there may be other business tools and software that you’ll want to prepare as well. It would be extremely useful to have paint estimating software in particular to help you estimate your costs.

5. Register your business

The process of registering a business as a painting contractor can be quite involved. Not only will you have to register the actual business, but you may have to pass your contractor’s certification exam, acquire liability insurance, purchase surety bonds, and fulfill other requirements.

Once again the exact requirements will vary from one jurisdiction to the next, so some research will be needed on your end.

6. Attend business classes

Make no mistake running your own business is no joke, and initially you may find it difficult to market your business, sign on potential clients, calculate project expenses, keep track of your accounts, and so on. If you have no prior experience, attending business classes or enrolling in a course of some sort may be a good idea.

That should give you a rough idea of what’s involved in becoming a painting contractor. As you can see it is mainly focused on working as an independent contractor or starting your own business, and you can skip those areas if you just want to start by pursuing an apprenticeship.

Although there is a lot involved in becoming a painting contractor, it is definitely an appealing career and one that is constantly in-demand.

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