XBMC & Other Shenanigans
XBMC 13 and Kodi

Back, sort of!

It’s been a while since I had some time to post on my blog, I apologize.  I have a few things I want to put videos out for but have not had time to.  I did want to make note of a few things though:

XBMC 13/13.1/13.2

So XBMC 13 came out and after a few bumpy starts, we are now up on version 13.2.  I really love what the guys at XBMC have done.  It runs as stable as ever, but they also implemented a lot of enhancements.  Hi10 video now actually plays back without stuttering (I have a video showing this with Knights of Sidonia).  The difference in playback was staggering.  If you haven’t upgraded, please do so.  It is totally worth it.  I did a clean reinstall of 13.1 beta at the time, and then upgraded to 13.1 release.  I have not had a chance yet to upgrade to 13.2 but it should be relatively easy.  See here.

Skin Changes for XBMC 13

Oh I was a bit disappointed with the new version of Aeon Nox in XBMC 13.  While it was by far my favorite skin in 12, it is just not the same in 13.  I tried to install the older version of the skin on 13 but did not have much luck.  If you look at the customizing Aeon Nox video I posted, a lot of these features are gone in 13 as of the last time I checked a few weeks ago.  If they are back the skin would be awesome again but it was just not quite the same last I checked.  I am still looking for other alternatives.  Aeon MPQ wasn’t too bad either, but it was almost too complex.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to hit me up.

New Name - Kodi

Well I guess it had to happen sooner or later.  After reading the article on the main XBMC website it makes sense.  I really hope the devs can carry on the great accomplishments they have made over the last few years with XBMC under the new moniker.

GOOGLE CHOMECAST IMPRESSIONS

Hi guys, as promised I finally got around to making a Chromecast Impressions video.  I talk about what Google’s $35 Chromecast is, a little bit about what is under the hood, and then show startup, Youtube playback, Netflix, and Google Play Music playback.

INTERNET ONLY (FOR NOW)

Currently the Chromecast plays back Internet only content.  There are some hacks where people were able to write a Java based webserver that ran in their desktop Chrome applications, but I did not see a way to use that yet as a solution for playing back your local media.  It may be a possibility soon though.

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

If you check out the end of the video, I say that I think that if you are looking for a comprehensive media playback solution you should look somewhere else, but honestly, the Chromecast is not bad for $35.  If you are just looking to turn any old TV in your house into a smart TV the Chromecast is definitely a cheap choice, and while it still does not have a lot of support from vendors other than Google, companies such as HBO, Pandora and Hulu have announced support.

I would suggest if you are interested in being able to play back Internet only content, grab one.  If you are looking at something to playback you local library, skip this one, and look somewhere else.

Google Chromecast - Impressions Coming Soon

One of my coworkers told me about the Google Chromecast on Wednesday, and we were able to get one shipped to us with next day shipping from Amazon by Thursday.  I’ve been playing with it for a little bit and hope to put together a small video by the end of next week showing what you can do with it!  Stay tuned if you are interested in it.


For now, if you want to know more about it, here’s some links, including a tear down, and a comparison between the Chromecast and AirPlay

OUYA IMPRESSIONS VIDEO

Hey guys, I finally got around to checking out the $99 Android powered gaming console called the OUYA.  At first sight this may seem like the perfect mix of entertainment and home theater system, and it actually does a pretty good job.

IMPRESSIONS

As always I ran the little Tegra 3 powered device through my usual set of tests and it did actually pretty good.  I had installed the version of Android that XBMC has linked in their download section, and unfortuantely as some people on YouTube pointed out it does not use HW acceleration in that particular version.  I updated to a newer release that includes HW acceleration and the OUYA performed much better, playing back the 1080p and 720p content that it struggled with before.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

The box definitely has some great upsides: it is cheap, plays android games, and runs XBMC pretty well.  I personally would not buy one, due to the lack of built in storage space, the fact that I really do not like using a controller as the remote, and that it crashed quite a lot, even with the release version and not the hw accelerated beta.  Overall, if you are looking at getting an OUYA anyways to play games on, XBMC will be a nice addition.

XBMC 12.2 - No Homerun Fix Yet…But coming in XBMC 13

In case anyone was curious if the recent update to XBMC 12 fixed the upnp streaming problem introduced in XBMC 12.1, I have to report that it unfortunately did not fix it.  The item appears to be on track for getting fixed in XBMC 13 though, as can be seen on this bugfix ticket: http://trac.xbmc.org/ticket/14204

CUSTOMIZING XBMC - AEON NOX

I finally was able to put together a new video about how you can customize XBMC using the Aeon Nox skin.  The video covers how you can customize the main menu by moving things around, removing items you do not want, changing backgrounds, and adding custom items.  Next I talk about how you can change the way your TV/movie libraries look and finally how to use movie sets to clean up your library a little bit.

CUSTOM PLAYLIST

In my video I talked a little bit about creating a playlist and adding it to the menu.  This is really useful if you want to create an item on the menu that brings you to the all animated movies, or as the example showed, a menu item that only shows comedy movies.

To do so, just do this:

  1. On the XBMC menu select VIDEO
  2. Select “Playlists”
  3. Click “New smart playlist…”
  4. Pick the type of playlist you want (for example “tv shows”)
  5. Name your playlist - for example “All Animated Movies”
  6. Click on “New rule…” and start writing the rule you want, for example: “Match items where Genre is Animation”

Once you have the playlist created, you can use it to access all your animated movies, or other items you would like.

HDHomerun Prime Impressions (WMC & XBMC)

This video is an overview of what an HDHomerun Prime can do for you.  I talk about the initial setup, what you need to have to get it to work, and show you how you can use it to watch TV on Windows Media Center and XBMC.

WINDOWS MEDIA CENTER

Setup on WMC is super easy; once you have configured the HDHomerun and scanned for channels, just open WMC and do the first time setup.  Media Center will do the rest for you, and after downloading and installing a few more programs you will be up and running.  Recording TV is also super easy.

XBMC

Everyone’s favorite open source media center is a little bit more tricky.  First of all the recent 12.1 upgrade to XBMC broke the UPNP support that Silicondust just patched into the Homerun firmware.  Secondly, if you want to use XBMC to record or watch live tv using the funcionality added in Frodo you will need to install another piece of software that will interact with the Homerun on XBMC’s behalf.  We will call this software the recording backend. Then you need to configure a plugin on XBMC to interact with the recording backend.  Sounds complicated?  It is a little bit, but there is various different software out there that can get this accomplished for you.  I am hoping to cover that next.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really love my Homerun.  Being able to watch TV in high def on any of my computers in the house is very convenient, and you can even install the Homerun software on a laptop and watch TV that way without having to have a TV tuner in the laptop.

As far as recording and watching from within XBMC, it is still a little bit clunky at this point in time, but I am sure now that this support has been rolled into the main branch of XBMC it will steadily improve over the next couple of version.

News & Updates - Openelec 3.0 & HDHomerun Firmware Updates

Openelec 3.0 came out this week.  This is great news for people who love the slightly more streamlined branch of XBMC.  Openelec 3.0 is on the same feature set as XBMC 12.1.  Here’s a snippet of the official release:

OpenELEC 3.0 is built to support XBMC Frodo 12.1 and almost every part of the core OS has been updated and improved since the 2.0 release. The project now supports a broader range of mediacentre hardware than ever before, including dedicated OS images for the budget friendly Arctic MC001 and ultra-low-cost Raspberry Pi systems.

To read the whole release notes, please head over to Openelec.tv

I am also very happy about the fact that Silicondust, the makers of the HDhomerun Prime have moved their beta firmware from the HDhomerun Prime that supported DLNA/Upnp streaming into general release.  This means you can not use XBMC’s “UPNP” file type to tune your HDhomerun prime.  Very cool.

There is however one small problem; When XBMC 12.1 came out, apparently something got added/changes/patched that broke the UPNP streaming for the HDhomerun.  See the bugreport posted here.  I was able to verify that the UPNP streaming does in fact work on XBMC 12, but is broken on 12.1.  We’ll have to wait and see if that gets fixed soon.

If you have an HDHomerun and haven’t upgraded your firmware to support UPNP streaming, do it now by downloading the latest software version at the Silicondust website: http://www.silicondust.com/support/hdhomerun/downloads/

Stay tuned for my impressions video on the HDHomerun.  My camera has been giving me problems so I have not been able to get it completed yet.

Utorrent RSS Filter for MP4s Only - No Avis

One of the first posts I ever made was how to set up utorrent to download your favorite shows from an RSS feed.  Over the last couple of months it seems like a lot of people are releasing mp4 as the default format instead of avi’s.  Tvtorrents still post both avi and mp4 format files, but you do not want to download both of them.  In that case you can simply write the following filter in your filter settings, in the “Not:” text box:

*720p*|*complete*|*month*|*avi*|*indi*

Since the avi’s are usually released as indi, this should effectively filter them out, and you should only get mp4s.

Upgrading XBMCbuntu from 12.0 to 12.1 without reloading

UPDATE - My video guide is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TusVGE702rw

I just saw that XBMC 12.1 was released today.  While I do not necessarily use all the features they improved, I wanted to give the new Audio DB plugin a try so I decided to upgrade.

I went from 12.0 to 12.1 by upgrading over the Internet instead of doing a fresh install.  The guys at XBMC.org have posted a guide on their wiki, however, after following it, I got a Linux login screen instead of XBMC.  Turns out their wiki instructions are missing a command.

Here’s what you gotta do to upgrade:  If you are doing this remotely (via ssh) look up the IP address of the computer you are connecting to (you can do this under system -> hardware), or go to the a VTY by hitting CTRL+ALT+F1 on your keyboard.

Once you are at the command line I used these commands to upgrade:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install xbmc xbmc.bin
sudo reboot

You may be asked if you want to continue, or install/upgrade packages.  If you are asked, either hit enter to continue or Y to continue depending on the prompt.

Once you reboot, cross your fingers and your toes, and you should be able to get right back into XBMC.  If you got a login screen after following the steps on the official wiki article, go back to a command prompt and also run “sudo apt-get upgrade” then reboot.

I did a quick take, and 12.1 can work with 12.0 using the same MySQL backend, and the YouTube plugin works as well.  I did not have a chance to test much else!

Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions!


P.S. If you are interested in what 12.1 fixes, read the official brief here: http://xbmc.org/natethomas/2013/03/18/xbmc-12-1-now-even-better/