Media Player Appliances

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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I have more pedestrian needs. A smart phone based remote control is a huge pain to wake up and unlock
If your phone doesn't already have a sensor to tell it when to use the lock screen, you can use Llama or something to establish when it should be running. Or just run your control off a tablet that probably seldom leaves your house anyway.
 

Howell

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I already have the Rii. The dogs knocked it off the couch and now several bits rattle around inside; and I have the Logitech in my Amazon cart so it looks like I'm on the right track. Still, that is one more device to keep health and charged. Is there no universal remote that can at least do IR and has a smallish built-in keyboard that is not a phone or tablet? We don't currently have tablets at home.

I'm unclear what you are describing about locking; my S4 locks on a timer. Plus I take it with me so the wife would be stuck. I'll take a look at llama.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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UPNP doesn't solve the problem I want to solve, which is to maintain the watched/unwatched status of items. Sharing library locations is trivial. I can do that with Plex or Emby as well, but in this case the specific issue is keeping people in one interface (there are addons for Plex and Emby inside Kodi, but they're more-or-less just UPNP clients at that point, which loses the benefit of Kodi's presentation).

Also, the guy who maintained Kodi for Android has ended his affiliation with the project and returned to his previous fork, SPMC, apparently because the Kodi maintainers don't want any Android-specific code in Kodi.
 

timwhit

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We bought a house and moved in on Sunday. We have in ceiling speakers connected to an older Denon receiver. I'd like to get some kind of appliance to play music with that can sit in the cabinet and be remotely controlled from an android phone or computer. I have all my music on a desktop that runs subsonic currently. Any ideas?
 

Stereodude

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Do you want to store the music on the appliance? IMHO, Kodi works pretty well for what you're asking for. You can map your music from the NAS or have it local on an external (or internal) drive to the Kodi box and control the Kodi box with Yatse from your Android phone. Kodi also has a web interface. I find the default web interface to be clunky, but since I don't use it I haven't bothered to investigate alternatives. I like the Chromebox for hardware, but the Rpi would work well too since you're not worried about video. Both can run OpenELEC or a flavor of it. There's also huge pile of Android boxes that can run Kodi, but I haven't tried any of them myself.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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Do we know what CPU would be required to transcode 5x 1080P streams? 4k streams?
Assuming Plex? A Haswell or newer i7 for 5x1080P@8Mbps or so. Most of the time, you're not going to need that because Plex will deliver the source file to a LAN client that's capable of playing it without transcoding. If your transcoding it for the web or shared non-local library access, there's a global governor on transcode settings which usually defaults to 720p/3Mbps. I ran out of clients before my 24-thread Sandy Bridge rig ran out of CPUs. Realistically, my outgoing bandwidth is the only limiting factor.

Local 4k video is really hard to come by outside porn and personal camera footage, so it's probably not a major concern, but even the poorly encoded stuff from Amazon and Nextflix is 15 - 20Mbps and probably HEVC. This is just a guess but I'd be shocked if a Skylake i7 could manage more than two streams, but I don't actually know if Plex engages available GPUs for transcoding.

timwhit said:
I'd like to get some kind of appliance to play music with that can sit in the cabinet and be remotely controlled from an android phone or computer. I have all my music on a desktop that runs subsonic currently. Any ideas?
I have an old tablet hanging on the wall in my bathroom that I most often control as a Plex client, though lately I've been using Kodi instead. Kodi definitely has a better presentation for music than Plex, but Plex has a couple "channels" (plugins for online content) that have historically worked better than Kodi's. In either case, it's exposed via an app and I just pick the thing I want to listen to and it comes out of the speakers in my bathroom, or the Kodi/Plex clients in my bedroom or living room. Neither Kodi nor Plex is quite as smart as I'd like it to be for music, but since Kodi gives me access to my underlying folder structure, it wins by default.
 

Howell

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So you are going to need hardware for the client, and you are also going to need software to play the files you access across the network. Have you thought about ease of use for the system?

If you are able to have a back-end system running then you can have a lighter client for the front end. For that I'd recommend Plex server and Plex client at the TV. If you can not have a back-end system then you will need a bit beefier front end. You could run the Plex server or Kodi at the TV in that case.

PS, Congrats on the purchase.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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My preference most of the time is Kodi for presentation and direct file playback, Plex for wide "appliance" client support and external access. Plex used to have fully featured Netflix and Youtube clients and could directly play content from Comedy Central and a few news sites, but the API keys for a lot of that stuff was revoked or somehow rendered unusable at the same time that there's been a real surge in Kodi addons for the same purpose.

With regard to a control interface, IIRC Music Pump and Yatse can both operate a remote Kodi system even sans display, so they make a lot of sense for someone with phones or tablets sitting around. With Plex, you can more or less just tell one client to play something on another client, although the specifics of how well that works depends on the client in question.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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Android can mount password protected shares? I thought there were issues with that with regards to Kodi.
They were fixed a couple versions ago. You can configure a Source, which can be a top-level directory, and specify libraries underneath it. It doesn't do a great job of hiding passwords from other potential users, but it's not like your Kodi install is portable anyway.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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Keep in mind that Plex now has an option to optimize movies/videos into preset resolutions to help offset real-time transcoding. I do not believe Plex offers and GPU offloading at this time for transcoding.
A pretty serious down side to that is that at that point you're maintaining multiple copies of files (or maybe deleting high quality copies because some of your clients are lame). I know that's the suggested solution for ARM-based Plex servers but it's not like it's hard to come by a lease-returned i3 desktop that can handle a couple 1080p streams.

Another word about running a Plex Server, especially one that shares and transcodes a lot of content: Plex needs a big chunk of space to run, and it's better if it's running on an SSD. My "big" server has about 21TB of shared content, for which Plex has about 25GB of amassed metadata and another ~8GB of cached files in its transcoding directory, plus another 5GB of random crap (logs, old versions of files, addons et al). The smaller server I just looked at only has about 12TB of stuff, for which it has just under 16GB of metadata and 2.5GB of cached files. It's not much different from running a AAA studio game, but it's definitely disk-intensive and it's something you have to budget some space for.
 

Howell

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I suppose this is as good a thread as any.


I'm working on cleaning up the area around my TV from cables, devices and even furniture. A closet is directly behind the wall the TV is mounted on and I would like to just pass all of the cables straight through a smallish hole (3-4") and arrange them in the closet. I'm looking for something to clean up the hole edges and especially bridge the interior wall gap. I could use something like this low-voltage media box but I would prefer something that allows a straight pass-through. Maybe similar to how 2 halves of a doggy dog fit together. Any sources?
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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Something I noticed this morning: if you let your FireTV update to its most recent software version, it now puts Kodi on the Recent Apps carousel. That makes alternative launchers like FireStarter or shortcut hacks like using Llama conditions a lot less necessary.
 
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Step 1 : Reconsider.
I've been reconsidering for 6 years. I'm not going to do something against code, but I'm surprised that there isn't a product that would allow cables to pass through a rated firewall. Steel sleeved with an expanding foam to seal fumes? Tempted to run a conduit outside, past the firewall externally, and then back in.
 

Howell

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We use fireblock at work to fill the vertical risers between floors. This is a residential version but you have not stated whether your application is residential or commercial.


I have not read the codes related to residential firewalls or penetrations but the residental product listing above is "Recognized as an alternate fireblocking material for residential construction; tested according to ASTM E84, ASTM E814 (Modified), UL 1715". For what its worth Wikipedia references the NFPA and says "Penetrations – Penetrations through fire walls, such as for pipes and cables, must be protected with a listed firestop assembly designed to prevent the spread of fire through wall penetrations. Penetrations (holes) must not defeat the structural integrity of the wall, such that the wall cannot withstand the prescribed fire duration without threat of collapse."


This should help with process: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firestop.
 

Clocker

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I used to use Kodi on my FireTV because, at the time, the Plex app did not support 5.1 audio. With the latest updates to Plex & the Fire, it appears surround sound is working without having to re-setup Kodi to be the player for Plex (the updates broke it and Kodi no longer is working as my player from within the Plex app). Is there any compelling reason to use Kodi instead of the Plex player??
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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The best answer I can give is, it depends.
Kodi supports themes and isn't constantly fucking with its Android interface (how many times do I have to switch from "Discover" view to "Browse?" On every device? Every time I upgrade? Gee thanks, guys), so you have a lot more control over presentation. Kodi currently has better support for third-party addons.
Kodi is vastly better for dealing with music libraries. I'm a Plex Pass owner and even the Premium music libraries are awful.

On the other hand, Plex is login based, so it's much easier to restrict access to and filter content, and it'll work outside your home. Your watched content list is sychronized across clients and there's something to be said for not having 8GB of metadata on individual client devices everyplace you want to watch Plex.
 

Clocker

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Thanks Merc. Definitely doesn't seem that Kodi offers much of anything useful to me now that Plex player supports surround sound. I just need something that plays our movies and would prefer it doesn't take up a lot of space on the clients (my son's Lenovo Tab2 is always is loaded with stuff and only has 16GB memory).

By the way, if anyone is looking for a good app to manage screentime for your kids, DinnerTime Plus works great. Makes monitoring usage and enforcing limits easy.
 

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Fatwah on Western Digital
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I've been messing around between Alexa, Google Now and Cortana lately.

Shocking me all to hell, Cortana seems to be the most generally useful of the bunch as a voice assistant, but that may be because it's actually aware of files on my PCs, not just a small number of branded applications. I can tell it to open a specific document, even something on Google Drive and it will just do it. Down side? Half of my Windows machines are Windows Server, not Windows 10. Whoops. Cortana for Android is much less useful; it can't even search files local to the device, let alone cloud storage services my logged-in Windows 10 devices have access to. Microsoft isn't as transparent as Google is about what amount of privacy users are giving up for all that utility, but at least it works.
Also, it wants to search with Bing, which is gross buckets.

To use Alexa, I have to have an AV receiver on the right input for it to respond (abnormal for me), or to bring up the app on a mobile device. It's almost unaware of other mobile apps I might want to use and it doesn't know a damned thing about my files. It was kind of nice to tell it to play music I've purchased from Amazon and just say "Order dish soap", something the other services don't do, but that doesn't make up for it not being able to do much else.
Google Now is the most aggravating of the bunch for me. It will kind-of run on desktop OSes, but only with signed-in Chrome. I'm not keen to use Chrome in the first place, nor to leave it signed in to a Google account unless I'm actively using it. But here's the real problem: Google Now is practically useless if you have Google's various histories turned off. It tries to get you to turn everything on so you can give your life away, but if you turn things back off, it swiftly turns in to yet another thing that can't do anything but check appointments and emails. Even worse, it's not integrated with Google's media services; it can't open a book stored on my Play Books account, music from Play Music or a named file from Google Drive. I have to open those apps separately and voice search within them like some kind of peasant.

The thing is that this stuff is going to be really neat once the different ecosystems figure out how to properly communicate. Right now they aren't that exciting for anything but novelty factor, but I suppose it's a different thing if you can live your whole life in just one walled garden.
 

timwhit

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I think I'll just continue to use a mouse or touchscreen to interact with my devices. I use Google Now to setup reminders once in a while and it usually takes longer than just doing it manually.
 
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