Archives for category: Raspberry Pi

Now that we’ve been testing the Raspberry Pi as a media client, there are some Greats and some Not So Greats…

Greats:

  • Small
  • Super light on power
  • Wicked graphics chip for video playback
  • Flexible (the kids can learn how stuff works and how it breaks, and trying something completely new is just a matter of a new SD card, and that only scratches the surface of the amazing projects being worked on. Android, puredata, GL shaders, just to name a couple…)
  • Technically a full computer
  • Enthused community
  • PseudoTV (To be honest, this has kept me plugging away for much longer than I expected – there’s a benefit to just hitting up your own channels)

Not So Greats:

  • Needs a TV with CEC and HDMI to really shine (without those, there is a hardware barrier (new remote? or keyboard? mouse?), and a software barrier (Downmixing DTS continues to be an issue with volume level problems and outright stuttering due to software decode. To be fair, it’s the way the analog audio chip was designed that’s hurting everyone Edit: Thanks to XBMC officially bringing RasPi in to the fold, this was resolved on the firmware level by the amazing popcornmix just days after I filed the bug report with XBMC)
  • XBMC’s continued reluctance to offer a real Client-Server solution.. Syncing libraries involves a lot of setup, and this doesn’t even do half the stuff that Plex does
  • Speaking of Plex; Lack of Plex support is huge for me right now. I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself with 20+ hours invested in to shoehorning XBMC in to my previously butter-smooth Plex setup.
    PleXBMC is to be respected, but it’s limited by being between a rock and a hard place; XBMC shines when the library is populated locally, and Plex shines when the library is populated on the server.

Now, I’m in a new town,

and the inhabitants have not been exposed to good tech.. Fall is coming, and with this: hibernation.

So, I’m asking myself: what’s the best I can offer them?

To me, this is still Plex. With MyPlex, media is everywhere you want it to be without router setup or fiddling, and it transcodes 5.1 when necessary without the volume issues that plague software on the Raspberry Pi.

We’re testing the Roku boxes (Just got them up here in Canada), and after being spoiled, I can’t say I’m very happy with them.. No AirPlay support, adding unofficial channels is… non-intuitive…, no chance of Navi-X or PseudoTV.. However, they do Plex, Netflix, and Crackle (which I didn’t know I would enjoy) very well. Good remote, smooth interface, and analog out…

Android 4.0 is coming!

Sounds like a whole other angle of promise for turning the raspberry in to a “Connect it to every TV in the house” unit; The youtube videos are promising with youtube HD playback, a silky interaction with the UI, and mouse support.

Paired with Plex, and the Android Plex app, it sounds like a win-win.

I’m curious as well; what would the remote situation look like? I doubt there’s “Android Plex app remote” for iPhone… Maybe it registers as a myplex player; that would be spectacular. 🙂

Still playing pretty heavily in PseudoTV, and it’s definitely spoiled me quite a bit.

After over 7 years of not watching TV channels (besides the occasional FoodTV binge at a friend’s house), I now recognize the attraction to having “regular TV”, such as not having to specifically plan what to put on and not having to commit to watching something from the beginning.

It’s not for always, but it’s nice to have some times just purely to zone out a little.

Things of note so far that make PseudoTV happy:

  • Consider deleting all tvshow.nfo files before pulling the shows in to the XBMC library (this allows it to pull more categories from the internet)
  • Go through any video directories that you have set as Movies or TV Shows, and check for any orphans that did not show up in the library (in the file list: highlight > context menu > movie/show/episode information)
  • PseudoTV “directory channels” do not need the content to be in the library, however the script does not see files mounted through SFTP (other protocols may be affected as well). This can be resolved by mounting the share as a drive letter in windows or using the mount command in linux

Now at 22 channels, PseudoTV is a little less happy on the Raspberry Pi, but it’s as responsive as on the main laptop, which is fantastic 🙂

So, there have been a few changes in the last few days, constantly working on the House Acceptance Factor.

There’s an update to the Network Access stuff coming which will add some more information about speed, but for now: More tweaks!

  • Bumped up to arm_freq=900 (from 850 – there is still a lot of way to go for optimizing all the config.txt settings, but one test at a time) edit: had a couple crashes when doing the more intensive things, so brought this back to 850)
  • Disable Fanart (Settings > Skin > Background Options > enable “Hide Background Fanart”) – This actually made a tremendous difference, and is not missed that bad with analog out… we have a non-default background that the kids pick, and that helps
  • Disable “Recently Watched” (Settings > Skin > Home Window Options > disable “Show Recently Added Videos”) Note: while I notice a difference in performance, I actually keep this enabled because it’s a decent tradeoff for people waiting for the new shows.
  • Mentioned before: Disable reading thumbnails from the files (Settings > Video > disable “Extract thumbnail and video information”)

A quick AHA moment came today when I was witnessing how achingly slow the RasPi was browsing through TV shows (Choose title, count to 7, choose season, count to 7, choose episode, etc).

So, aha; Went straight to XBMC > Settings > Video > File and deselected ‘generate thumbnails’.
Note: If anyone with clout reads this; this should be default for RasPi installs.

XBMC does not use the GPU to process thumbnails, which means that every time you are browsing a folder, it’s using the underpowered CPU to read one file, render a frame, and compress that in to an image, then do that for every thing else on the screen.

Edit: I don’t have the coding skills to put in the work to make this happen, but what makes sense is to split off a thread that generates the thumbnails with absolute low priority and ability to be terminated instantly (when someone presses play, or changes folders). The UI should also stop caring altogether when the thread is sent off: it shouldn’t wait, but just check in passively later to see if it’s done.

How to Update OpenELEC and the Raspberry Pi Firmware Without Pulling the SD Card

Also, we re-learned how being bleeding edge can bite you as it teaches.

Thanks to

hippojay

We now have PleXBMC V2

Post: http://forums.plexapp.com/…/page__view__findpost__p__276659

Download: https://github.com/…/plugin.video.plexbmc-V2.zip

Features added:

  • myplex integration (this is the only way to connect to remote servers)
  • Fixes for TV section library refresh
  • Fixed for Plugins (I’ve tested a fair few and they seem to work)
  • Some fixes for non-refreshing artwork – however not 100% sure I have this one down (as XBMC waits 24 hours between checks)

Preliminary testing also shows that for analog RasPis, PleXBMC will transcode audio properly: voices are intact, the quiet parts are not too quiet, and the loud parts are not too loud on a 5.1 TV show.

Definitely not priority, but it’s on the list 🙂

Navi-X on the Raspberry Pi with hardware accelerated playback

After some initial testing of PseudoTV this morning, I was almost shocked at how well it worked on the RasPi; took less than 20 seconds to schedule (for testing, the library only has some kids shows and a dozen movies), and switching between channels was faster than selecting a video via the iOS remote.

Some audio issues with pops and clicks, and preliminary testing shows that it may mute when switching, but this feels like a good direction in the fight to keep cable off for the summer.

Now is the perfect time to kick start a project to get a very simple Plex client on Linux on the Raspberry Pi.

Similar functionality to the iOS app, and likely based on the work done by the OpenELEC team.

Unfortunately, I am not the person to do it: even the hour or so every few days to work on my own setup is scraping focus from other projects. I know that there are some great people and great teams out here that could find their voice through a project like this, so I’m happy to release it in to the wild. 🙂

Here’s Why:

The release of the Raspberry

  • We’re now passing the 75,000 unit mark.
  • Another shipment of 100,000 is already in the works and set for fall delivery.
  • No signs of slowing down.
  • More similar boards getting in to the game.

x264 Scene releases

  • The groups that allow us to device-shift content we already have recorded chose on Feb 20,2012 to change the encoding from Mpeg4 to x264 on all shows being released.
  • This cuts out a bunch of older device support, and pulls many people towards a new device (Devices left in the dust: Wii, Original Xbox, VCD players, lower-powered computers, and more I’m not thinking of).

Crowdfunding options (See: KickStarter)

  • RasPi has a huge mindshare, not least of which is because of the video showing it running XBMC way back when.
  • Media centres are common, but finding the right client for Plex has been tricky; there’s no Plex box, and as far as I am aware, there is no Plex client on any device that has an RCA video connection in addition to HDMI.
  • I have seen numerous posts about people being willing to pay for something that works.
  • IMO; Plex has the right idea from a user interface and interaction standpoint; MyPlex is awesome, streaming to all devices with synchronized play counts and transcoding when needed? Yes please.

Outsourcing Options

  • It’s easier than ever to hire great developers, there is even an option of having some of the stars of the forums on the payroll through something like odesk.com.
  • Once the UI is pared right down, the basics of the Plex Client make it an attainable short-term goal.

There’s even some money to be made

Sell Pre-loaded SD Cards

There has always been a market for people who take technically complicated solutions and package them in a simple way; selling an accessory kit with two options: “SD” (3x RCA output) or “HDTV” (HDMI), a preloaded (and approved) SD card with automatic updates, and a decent remote.

Even sell just the accessory kits: Partner with a drop-shipper so the only stock to be maintained are blank SD cards, and even that can be outsourced since it’s just a matter of imaging the card, testing it, and putting it in an envelope.

So, what could this look like?

Visually, I think the Plex team has done some amazing work, with a lot of thought behind everything, so I would definitely suggest teaming with them or at least getting their consent to shamelessly rip off the iOS version‘s design.

For functionality, these are some suggestions for starting points:

  • MyPlex Support (find servers and shows the device as a media player so that the plex iphone/ipad app can be used as a remote)
  • Animations to a minimum (700Mhz ARM after all)
  • Intelligence regarding SD card size (<2GB: disable caching by default, 8GB+; cache as much as possible in RAM-friendly formats, etc)
  • PMS needs to transcode audio from some HD files while leaving the video intact (DTS decoding chokes the CPU when it’s not doing passthrough)
  • Free download installer (a la OpenElec or Raspbmc)
  • On-device updates for Plex, and the RasPi kernel
  • And, maybe; access to overclocking profiles from within the advanced settings (changes the config.txt file with a warning of what happens when it’s flaky, as well as how to change it back if the device fails to boot)

Imagine your name in lights, and TVs around the world literally glowing with the work that you contributed to!