Archives for posts with tag: XBMC

So, we didn’t meet the goal, and as I said before, this means I’m going to focus on something else for the time being.

.. and that’s ok.

We still believe that a cloud-based media server is a great idea, especially with the benefits to security, and if the solution can be about $20 a month.

And for the time being that’s going on the back burner.

I may personally try a few things over the coming months, posting as I go, and maybe we’ll pick this up again during hibernation season.

On the Raspberry Pi front, there are some very promising projects to focus on.

It looks like Android on the RasPi is dead in the water due to Broadcom’s pretend-open-source drivers for the GPU (they only let it accelerate video, not any other sort of GPU task), and this has shuffled some development talent on to more rewarding (and interesting) projects.

We’ve got pyplex, continued work with XBMC, crazy storage options, and even some work on creating a version of OpenELEC that runs a RasPi-optimized version of Plex/HT (Plex Home Theater).

Expect the next phase of Raspberry Pi HTPC to be evolutionary, not so much revolutionary; I’ll keep up to date guides for anything I’m actively working on, and keep you posted as more interesting things develop.

One interesting thing to note, since we’ve now had a Roku for a while; there have been a few times where HD content could not be transcoded fast enough, and we flipped over to the Raspberry in order to watch it in smooth full quality; the Roku seems to be artificially limited by what level of h.264 it supports, whereas the Raspberry comes in like a lightweight fighter, ready to dodge each punch and deliver more power than it looks like it’s capable of.

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With the NZB scene in flux, it’s more and more complicated to sort out the details in order to have a smooth and automatic experience (aka; our favourite). Plex is also making rapid progress, and there has been some very promising work with using the RasPi as a Plex client.

With everything where it is, it’s time to start

Everyone has been pulling in their votes, and there have been some excellent insights to go along with it; now we get to act.

There are 3 hosting services that are excellent possibilities, and in order to dive in for real testing I need to know if you’re serious about this;

If 15 people sign up by sending at least $20 via PayPal to linkingparents@gmail.com, then these people will be the core, ready to try out all the crazy ideas we come up with before settling on the ideals that work for everyone.

Obviously the ongoing costs are monthly (where it gets sustainable looks to be about $20/mo), and if you send the minimum of $20, I’ll personally make sure you get at least 2 months out of it (lots of time for testing and the start of the new tv season).

If we’re successful, then by the end there will be a continually updated guide (or wiki) about how to roll your own seedbox media system, and step into the freedom from bandwidth issues, ISP notices, home-server resources, and the other annoying time-sinks.

And, of course, with Plex on the raspberry, we’re getting closer and closer to a solution that just means a seedbox and a RasPi plugged in to any tv that doesn’t already support Plex.

In case you skimmed;

if 15 people to send at least $20 each to linkingparents@gmail.com , we’ll set up a seedbox-based media server. If we don’t meet that number by January 21st, I’ll refund and focus on something else.

I’ve created a new page on Pseudo Parental Control with Plex.

This is currently a high-level overview of how we handle parental control with 4 kids, the Raspberry, a couple computers, iOS devices, and a Roku.

So;

Big news! (via XBMC DevCon 2012 – Vienna)

First, is that the Raspberry Pi “side project” is officially merged with the XBMC code base!

This means that going forward, it’s going to feel less and less like a hack to run XBMC on the raspberry: Power in numbers!
Second:

MPEG2 and VC-1 codecs are available for purchase!

This means that unencrypted DVD rips will play just as excellently as h264 does.
VC-1 also means you can do the HD wmv files that were distributed, as well as the ones that are created when windows media centre records TV.

Check out this short guide for more detail.
And, for something completely out of the blue:

PVR SUPPORT ALL AROUND!!

Now that h264 encode is supported (a misunderstanding about licensing was resolved), we see official PVR support in XBMC, OpenELEC, Raspbian (and thus Raspbmc).

When I saw this, my reaction was “hubbaWUH??” Thinking of the little RasPi as a media player, recorder, and server is stunning!

Of course, these are all fresh and new, which means a bunch of bugs are going to be ironed out in the coming months – if this feature interests you, consider putting in the work to help smooth everything out; it would help a lot 🙂

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…

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.

Since this is post #1, I’m going to say a few things so you don’t have to hear them later, and for us to set the goals.

Thanks

Thank you to everyone involved in this entire process: all the way from the people who created XBMC years ago, everyone who still commits code to any of the branches and forks, the designers builders and pushers of RasPi, the stars of the forums, and the online communities that they are a part of, the countless people who work unofficially behind the scenes; metadata miners, admin staff, open source software producers of all kinds… The list is really endless, and I won’t pretend to think that I could voice the respect and gratitude that is due to everyone involved.

A special shout out to people who take action in order to make their visions come true; you are inspiring in every moment.

First of all

…this entire blog is entirely as a work station to work towards my ultimate goals; I’m making it public just in case other people find it useful – I’m very open to being told I’m wrong (if you can back it up), or to new avenues of thought that I had not considered.
If some part of you simply wants to be more right than me; use that to fuel your own search, and don’t put any unnecessary energy in to letting me know.

Where we’re going

A Raspberry Pi that sits comfortably connected to the TV, with no extra storage of it’s own, getting all it’s information from another computer on the network.

The ability to watch “TV Channels” (Not live TV, but from the amazing work done by PseudoTV)

The ability to use a physical remote, as well as iPhones, iPads, and any other compatible device

Kid-friendly: All PG13+ material locked away

Repeatable; Anyone should be able to do this by following step by step instructions, and adding additional Raspberry Pis (Raspberries?) should be as easy as getting the parts and plugging them in.

What we have so far

  • CANADA
  • Mini-ITX server with Ubuntu (currently 12.04 headless)
    • Sickbeard on port 8081
    • SABnzb+ on port 8080
    • a VIP subscription to NZBMatrix
    • Software setup with the help of daemox at ainer.net
    • Plex media server, connected to the automated system and serving every other device in the house
    • 4TB of storage (more storage is always a consideration)
  • Raspberry Pi
    • A KICKASS Minecraft style case made out of Lego (Thank you, Seth 🙂 )
    • Class 10, 8GB SD Card (last tested using “hdparm -tT /dev/mmcblk0” at  40.26 MB/sec reads, and 16.36 MB/sec writes)
    • Small, flexible, wired keyboard
    • Logitech travel mouse
  • an Analog TV with (count em!) 2 RCA Inputs
  • an iPhone 4
  • an iPhone 3GS
  • an iPad generation 1
  • a Macbook Pro
  • an old Mac Mini (G4)

Current Opportunities

Right now, the raspberry feels very sluggish. Based on youtube videos of other people running OpenELEC, my performance is similar, but definitely slower.

No physical remote; using the XBMC remote on the iPhone has a nice tactile feel that’s missing in most other remote apps, but it’s still not very happy with the setup. Also, while apps are cheap, handing an iOS device to a 5 year old and doing something else for an hour is not ideal.

Media Scraping is brutal: Using SMB to point OpenELEC to the same folders that Plex uses has a habit of breaking pretty consistently: thumbnail issues, metadata not properly grabbed when the unit crashes as I test different videos never seems to recover, many episodes are missing and don’t re-scrape, etc.

I’m entirely open to the idea that I’m not being patient enough with the scraping, but I have left it overnight on a few occasions.

PLEX: While I’m over-happy the the state of Plex media server, the metadata, how the iOS devices work, and everything else, there’s very minimal work being put towards an open-source linux solution, which means the best we can do right now is PleXBMC.
While the work done on PleXBMC is to be entirely respected, there’s a lot lost in translation: Any remote app does not show the Plex media since Plex media is not pulled in to the library, and it feels very much like XBMC is getting in the way every time I interact with it

I fully expect no one to be reading this in any sort of time frame, so I’m cutting the salutation – go read a post already! 🙂