Media Player Appliances

blakerwry

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But the codec option is the real downfall for it.

Some quick reading into why DLNA choose MPEG2 as the only required format was for bandwidth reasons (especially over wireless) and CPU/APU power needed. It's only been in the last 2-3 yrs that good hardware decoding support for anything above MPEG2 has been around, and DLNA was launched over 8 yrs ago. So in that regard it makes some sense, but I do agree it would be nice for device manufacturers to start adding support for other codecs, especially those found in use with BR discs (eg VC-1 and H.264).

"The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from..." pretty much sums up the problem. MPEG2 is a fine format, it's used in DVDs and (older) Blu-Rays. The quality compression ratio may not be as good as some of the newer formats, but for high bitrate use in a LAN it is just as good (if not better) at producing a crisp/clear/vidid picture as anything else out there.

I really don't care if we all decide that MPEG2, VC-1, H.264, or WebM is the next best thing, but we could really do well to sort out this codec (and container) mess. Unfortunately, it's currently spilling over to HTML5 where each browser is deciding to back a different video and audio format. Meaning that website operators will likely need to store files in at least 2 different formats to ensure their audience can playback content.

Personally, I'd love to see a free, open, full featured containers and codecs like MKV, WebM video, and Vorbis audio take over. However, I'd happily concede to h264 and AC3 or AAC if that meant I could get a file from one guy and play it on a device from another guy without having to use special intermediary conversion process that requires a dedicated PC, reoccurring software costs, and reduced quality/functionality.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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In the end, that comes down to everyone wanting a piece of the pie. That's not going to change. Personally I want devices that are versatile enough to deal whatever is put in front of them. The devices that are best able to do that are computers with general purpose operating systems, not appliance systems. Until appliance systems are specifically made more like general purpose computers, it will always be that way.
 

ddrueding

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In the end, that comes down to everyone wanting a piece of the pie. That's not going to change. Personally I want devices that are versatile enough to deal whatever is put in front of them. The devices that are best able to do that are computers with general purpose operating systems, not appliance systems. Until appliance systems are specifically made more like general purpose computers, it will always be that way.

But this is a fundamental problem on it's own. IIRC, dedicated hardware decoders are way more efficient (cost and energy consumption) than a general purpose CPU is for the same task. If that is the case then we do need to settle on some codecs just so we can get the high efficiency decoding working in our low powered portable devices.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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It's not going to happen that way either because there can always be a vastly more efficient codec given sufficient CPU power.
 

blakerwry

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There used to be sensible reasons for choosing one codec over another. Legitimate concerns existed regarding precious storage capacity, limited network bandwidth, CPU power, etc. However, all these technical hurdles have been overcome. Now the quibble over codec comes down to principle and money.

Merc, you're right. They all want a piece of the pie. If a large distribution network like Apple's iTunes or Netflix wants that pie, I'm all for it if they can produce a good product at a fair price. So far no one has done it for me - Apple has too much DRM, Netflix doesn't have enough content, Vudu costs too much, etc

If one distributor can come up with the magic combination, then all the appliance players will support it and the problem will be solved. Perhaps in another 5 years...
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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Over the weekend, I got an LG Smart TV Upgrader for $50. For that money it has some stupid apps (meh) and offers DLNA support for streaming video. I've since found the Seagate/WD streaming video doohickeys on Ebay for not much more than the LG, but it's another interesting option.
 

ddrueding

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The new TV I have does DLNA directly with built-in WiFi. Still need to look into how to make that work. Ideally, I'd love for the TV to be able to just play video from a share on my Win7 machine.
 

Handruin

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The new TV I have does DLNA directly with built-in WiFi. Still need to look into how to make that work. Ideally, I'd love for the TV to be able to just play video from a share on my Win7 machine.

Try the demo of Mezzmo. I bought a license of it and it works well for me for streaming DLNA audio. It also supports video. You'll be able to extend the trial once, and then they'll send you a 30% off code. Even at $30, it's highly affordable especially if it meets your needs.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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I'm told that the Roku box is the thing to have if for some reason you want to watch sports. I don't know a damned thing about sports but apparently it streams wankball and baseball and stuff.

Remote controls for a lot of these things really, really suck.
 

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I'm now the owner of a Boxee box, a Seagate Freeagent Theater, a Popcorn Hour C200, and a Roku something-or-other. I built myself a Vortexbox, I have WHS machine and I've got an Xbox360 and a Wii as well.

Out of the stuff mentioned in this thread, the only major thing I didn't buy was a Dune Player. I thought about a Google TV from Logitech but in the end I decided not to go that route.

Right now it's all sitting in boxes in my office but I should have more things to say about this stuff soon.
 

MaxBurn

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I think with the PCH2 you don't need a dune. That supports bluray menus, truehd and dtshdma doesn't it? If it does definitely no need for dune.
 

Sol

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Will you be streaming through the browser on the Wii or using homebrew or just Netflix? As far as I know the Wii itself doesn't actually support streaming as such.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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The Popcorn Hour player does have the ability to play damned near anything, but the interface is slow to the point of aggravation and using the remote to type in share names and passwords could not be more miserable. I must admit that I haven't done much but play videos with it, but I didn't see a way to make it talk to Hulu, Netflix, Amazon or Pandora yet either. I should get the BD-ROM for it on Monday and at that point I'll have to re-evaluate.

The Vortexbox is perfect. It does exactly what it says it will. I had to type one command on a shell session to make everything go and essentially that's what it's done.

My little LG TV Upgrader is likewise super-simple, but it works beautifully with the Vortexbox.

I haven't messed with the Boxee yet. That's on the agenda for tomorrow.
 

MaxBurn

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the interface is slow to the point of aggravation and using the remote to type in share names and passwords could not be more miserable.

Similar complaint with my Dune 3.0, but it does work.

My friend didn't like my last TV because it took too long to change channels. I guess I'm just not sensitive to a little lag.
 

Bookmage

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From your selection the popcorn hour is the more popular one cuz it plays everything....
havent heard of the vortexbox... ill have to look into that...

For the record, Ive used the WD Live and the Brightview Cinematube. http://www.brite-view.com/cinematube.php The WD Live has a nice smooth interface, but couldnt play all the formats I wanted... interface is similar to the PS3 and the Windows Media Player...
The cinematube plays about 90% of all the video formats, but the interface is simplistic. My mom can work it though once I connected to the CIFS share. It's a pain to search through a bunch of folders/files and theres no quick way to jump ahead in videos, but it works pretty well. I picked up a $10 compatible wifi adapter and it works fine in a corner of the house...
I have decided however, nothing beats XBMC on a small pc, so ill be building that using a real HTPC for my main room, and move the Cinematube to secondary rooms. I remember looking at the Boxee some time ago and had to rule out for stability issues... it might be better now and i might revisit it...
 

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Good points regarding the Boxee:

The remote is excellent. It's small, has only three buttons on one side and a full qwerty keyboard on the other.

It has a fast user interface.

It hooked in to Netflix with no hassle at all and has a slick UI for presenting content from TV network web sites.

On the other hand, it only played three of the first five videos I pointed at it, and it's pretty expensive ($200) compared to the ($100) Roku player. Boxee is also available free as a media center application for Windows computers. In the end I don't think it's worth $200.
 

ddrueding

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For my more technically literate friends a computer is the way to go, but I am tempted to get a Boxee for the less sophisticated, if only for the remote with keyboard. Is it different video formats that it won't handle? Or different codecs? Resolutions?
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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what type of videos did it not play?

They're just .avi files that I "found."
I haven't seriously investigated the matter.

I do know that neither the Boxee nor PCH has any problem with stuff made with Handbrake, and since I'm doing this as a class and won't exactly be advocating building one's media collection the bittorrent way, that's perfectly fine.
 

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Apparently, I now have to decide on and purchase a wider range of technology. Rather than replacing classroom machines like I wanted, my company is instead buying a bunch of tablets, cell phones, cameras, X10 equipment and other toys.

Maybe I can at least put some notebooks in there.
 

ddrueding

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I ended up buying a Boxee Box for the back room. It has handled everything I've thrown at it, from MakeMKV'd BluRays to TPB'd Formula One races.

It's wireless range sucks, but that doesn't matter as wireless isn't capable of high quality HD content anyway.

Merc, that does sound like fun. Building a curriculum around it will be a PITA, but I do enjoy my toys.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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Sounds like you guys will be staying in place with the charter school surrounding you, taking all the parking spots?

They're offering us one month's rent to leave and no moving expenses to vacate a lease with four years left. I think we're staying put and open just to spite those people.
 

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Either Mezzmo doesn't work very well when you throw 7TB of movies at it or else it can't handle a nested folder structure.
 

Handruin

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I have about 100GB of music in a nested folder structure and it handles that fine. It could be the excessive 7TB of movies that it doesn't like?
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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I have about 100GB of music in a nested folder structure and it handles that fine. It could be the excessive 7TB of movies that it doesn't like?

Could be. It looks like it's only offering the stuff that had files in top-level folders though.
 

ddrueding

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Boxee is handling my tv shows amazingly well. Identifying shows, grouping them by season, and giving full blurbs and art. Fantastic.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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And so, a little over two days after I started, Mezzmo finally presents the full list of stuff on my little WHS via DLNA...

Which means dozens and dozens of files that are named "S1E01 - something" without any organizing folder structure.

I must be doing something wrong with setting up the libraries.
 

MaxBurn

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I have always stored things in well named folders and file names, that helped me so much when my movies barfed and messed things up. Now it's all I deal with and I really don't care about all the extra info/covers that I could have.
 

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I have always stored things in well named folders and file names, that helped me so much when my movies barfed and messed things up. Now it's all I deal with and I really don't care about all the extra info/covers that I could have.

Oh, the folder structure if there.

\TV Shows\Show Name\Season#\files
\Movies\Genre\Series\files

etc.

Mezzmo just doesn't seem to present it through DLNA. My choices for browsing are "All Files", "File Type", "Recently Added", "Year" and "Last 50 Played."
 

Handruin

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Oh, the folder structure if there.

\TV Shows\Show Name\Season#\files
\Movies\Genre\Series\files

etc.

Mezzmo just doesn't seem to present it through DLNA. My choices for browsing are "All Files", "File Type", "Recently Added", "Year" and "Last 50 Played."

Maybe it doesn't present it for movies, but I know for certain it present a directory structure for music. When I browse through my music in my Marantz (DLNA), I always browse by folder and it lists the folder structure correctly for my music.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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When I was messing with it at first, I was happy to just have a flat grouping of files, but with almost 19,000 video files it's not going to fly like that.

I do see that music works in a somewhat more acceptable way.

Some of my nicer appliances can browse SMB networks natively, but none of them seem to handle Volume Mount points even though they're seamless for Windows SMB clients; a root folder containing the mount points shows up as empty on the Boxee and Popcorn Hour but properly contains three drives' worth of subfolders when I look using a Windows machine.
 
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