Imagine XBMC with Leap…

Ever since the microsoft kinect was hacked to work with non xbox machines, xbmc hackers have been messing or modifying there setups to support gesture control. So popular was the idea of controlling media with gestures, even the BBC adopted this in the Xbox version of iplayer. However the limits of the kinect was being discovered by the XBMC hackers.

After the first rush for controlling media using your whole body, came the idea of using just your arm then finally just the hand. But the Microsoft kinect didn’t have the density to support this. Now leap motion have brought out their own kinect style solution.

XBMC users should love Leapmotion specially with driver support for windows, mac and Linux.

Supporting not only fingers but even pencils and pens too. all the things needed to really make the xbmc interface amazing.

Plex media server ups the media server game

plex media server screenshot

Plex has always been on my horizon as its part of the future change in home entertainment, however Technicalfault shared a link to a blog post from the Plex media server team.

In this aint your grandfathers DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), the Plex media server team (PMS) outline why the inclusion of Plutinosoft’s fabulous DLNA SDK, makes PMS the best DLNA server.

The result (besides a lingering scent of cologne and flowers) is the world’s best DLNA server. No, really. I’m not prone to hyperbole. This DLNA server can do things that no other DLNA server on the planet can do. And the coolest part is that with this new release, all the content served up by your Plex Media Server is now accessible by an insane amount of new devices, including ones that may already be in your homes (your LG washing machine doesn’t have DLNA? Send it back!)

So somewhere between all the hype and banging of chests, there might be something interesting…

I’ve never bought into the Plex way of doing things mainly because XBMC works for me. Plex although based on XBMC favors a ecosystem which seems to be about streaming from the server to their client. But reading the news about the PMS beta, I thought maybe I could use it on my server instead of using UPnP servers like Ushare and Mediatomb. I had just build my new server and had not yet installed a UPnP server yet. So after twelve47 sent me a link to the ubuntu beta, I installed it and tried it out.

My first thoughts is it won’t change much of the way I do things at home. I haven’t created a Plex account and frankly the ability to do transcoding is pretty much lost on my setup. I tend to watch 99% of things on my XBMC box in the living room. I do have another XBMC box in my bedroom room but I tend not to use it much (although this changed recently when I replaced my desktop machine with the XBMC box). So now I listen to my podcasts in the morning using XBMC…

XBMC does actually have a DLNA server built in, so I was interested to see which one is most standard complaint or works with devices around the flat?

UPnP and DLNA from a early time years ago has always captured the imagination. When I had my Nokia N80 work phone, I tried to get DLNA working, and for the most part it didn’t quite work. You could see the devices, but for the most part the services wouldn’t be compatible. When Microsoft added DLNA to the Xbox 360, things started looking up. Interestingly the Playstation3 has always had it.

This is also why I find the whole Apple Airplay such a joke because as usual, apple make it simpler (as they do own the ecosystem and the products) then claim it as there own (or at least there fanboys do). Funny enough XBMC now even supports AirPlay.

You could see the XBMC UPnP server but not actually stream anything, or even browse. So I was interested to see if this would be be any different with PMS?

For music… I can tell you its better than the XBMC UPnP server, as I was able to stream music without too much of a problem. This has never quite worked with XBMC UPnP server but PMS handled everything just fine.

However for Video what surprised me was the fact XBMC UPnP server and Plex Media Server could both stream my whole movie and TV collection without too much hassle. Obviously work had been done on XBMC UPnP since I last looked at it. I guess Plex does have the upper hand on the Xbox 360 because of the transcoding, but as default it down samples my glorious multichannel audio down to stereo, which seriously sucks for me. Couldn’t see at a glance where to turn on AC3/DTS comparability in Plex. Pictures is another area which XBMC UPnP server seems to fall short, while Plex was able to handle my complete collection without breaking a sweat.

So with the Xbox 360 sorted… I tried the other device which I’ve been playing with, the Wifi UPnP enabled Picture frame I picked up very cheap a while ago. Unfortunately although it did see the Plex server, it couldn’t do anything with it…

Although it didn’t work, the interesting part of the Plex Media Server is the ability to get down and nasty with DLNA and a XML config.

DLNA is a rather broad and flexible standard, and different devices interpret the standard in different ways. Some by design, some due to device bugs accident. This makes it impossible for a media server that supports DLNA to provide a one-size-fits-all implementation of the standard. Instead, the server must adapt to different clients by recognizing them and changing its behavior accordingly. A client profile is the basic unit of information that Plex Media Server uses for this purpose.

And this is where it gets very interesting… I’ll attempt to reverse engineer my picture frame’s DLNA support so I can share pictures with it and hopefully be able push forward with the conversation I had with Jas about extending my digital artifacts out into the real world.

Anything I buy now pretty much must have support for DLNA and the ability to hack Plex to get it working with the different devices is a very good thing.

Android has some great DLNA clients and I’m already thinking about hooking up my Archos Tablet (which I’m using as a desktop alarm clock, thanks to the kick stand and my Samsung Tablet 7+) to other things around the flat. Even thinking once I get my HTC 1x (yes I ordered one) instead of selling my HTC desire, maybe I could hook it up into different parts of my flat? This is why I find the Google Open Accessory API (ADK) really interesting and a certain nod to the future…

For now I’m keeping Plex Media Server on the server, and it may find more use in the future but generally right now I’m using Samba and NFS to stream media around the flat. My hope is XBMC now on version 11 (eden) will spend a little time on their UPnP server, as it was the best for a long time.

The weight or attention of media

Talking to Adrian late last night… He mentioned something to do with weight and video.

Then today, I started thinking wouldn’t it be interesting to apply a weight model to films/media based on their attention required?

For example: Tinker tailor soldier spy

I have this ready to watch at a touch of a button but everytime I see it pop up, I think well I’m busy doing all this other stuff, I can’t really spare the attention right now. This is also the same for most of the subtitled media I own.

I actually had decided to watch it on my Tablet on the way into work but I’m still busy reading kindle most times.

So attention is actually the metric but its displayed in a form of weight. I know there will be a debate about the weighting of certainly films for example is Donnie Darko a heavy weight or actually quite light? I remember having debates with Sarah about the depth of the film. She couldn’t understand where me and Dave were getting all this additional detail from but sitting down and watching it again and pointing out certain parts got the points across.

Another perfect example is Primer. You could watch the film and think, oh interesting but not all that. Then someone clues you into the Primer Timeline (spoiler alert!) So how would you weight that film? Very heavy or medium? I guess the same would apply to Fight Club?

I’m assuming something like the crowd based rating system would solve the problem, plus its only a guide. The weighting could also clue you into the fact theres more to a film than you may have first spotted. But likewise the opposite is true?

Once again, you heard it hear first, go use but attribution back here please.

Will I move to Ubuntu TV?

Ubuntu TV was launched at CES yesterday and frankly I wasn’t that surprised by the move (rumors for a while) but to see it actually live with Unity was actually quite impressive. There is no doubt Ubuntu really has thought about the design of it all much more than even I’d expect. And for all manufacturers its totally free as beer/as software, which will tempt some… Although I do worry about a patent showdown in the near future.

Unity remember came originally from the Netbook Remix, so it actually works well from the start. Specially if you look at some of the Lens being built for Ubuntu.

Although I do praise the idea of Ubuntu TV, I’ll be sticking with XBMC simply because its a much better interface, cleverly crafted and has the development momentum. Bring on Eden… Worth noting I installed Ubuntu TV on a PC at work for a quick demo.

Piracy is the future of television

Piracy is the future of TV by Abigail DeKosnik

Nice little paper written by Abigail DeKosnik of the University of California, Berkeley. Its also formed a part of my talk at BarCampMediaCity.

One of the headings is the Advantages of Pirating TV and the subpoints are…

  • Single Search
  • Simple Indexing
  • Uniform Software and Interface
  • File Portability
  • Access to Global TV
  • Freedom from Preempting in the U.S
  • Personal Archives
  • Low-Cost and Commercial-Free

Lastly theres a section on Recommendations to Legal Services under which theres…

  • Standardise
  • Offer Downloading and Streaming
  • Strategize for Global Audiences
  • Offer a Premium Services for Personal Archivists
  • Eliminate the TV Set
  • Charge Subscription Fees Based on Volume of Usage

In the Appendix, theres recommended reading

The paper is a good one and for most of the people reading it, its maybe really good but it spells out quite a few things which you would already know if you were an avid read of torrentfreak, darknet, etc…

TV Tracking done correctly

TV tracking with

At last the almost perfect TV tracker has been realised by the guys behind

I say almost perfect because it doesn’t seem to support the social aspect of what tioti was planning. isn’t far off and i’m not totally sure if it doesn’t have it yet. I don’t have any friends on yet, so that might be the thing holding it all back. Time to ping my friends, I think.

The other thing which I think is a little painful is having to select that you watched previous episodes. You could assume that if I watched episode 3 of season 4 of Breakin Bad. It could assume I’d seen the previous ones but then again I guess it would be wrong to assume.

Anyhow, its excellent to see this being developed in the background and xbmc getting really into the quantified self movement

Full TV tracker with

XBMC and Fan Art romps onwards

XBMC Fan Art logos

Found via the latest XBMC blog post.

Fan Art TV

…Joins the already amazing… The TVDB and The Movie DB, as great places to collect FanArt and add them to the already amazing XBMC experiences. Literary the XBMC guys and community are innovating like crazy and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. Total Kudos to this amazing project, I can’t imagine consuming media without it.

These additional features would be dramatically less useful if not for is a crowd-sourced website, much like thetvdb and TMDb, designed to provide all the additional little features that we each would have to spend hours amassing on our own. Kode, the developer, is always appreciative of additional art or art requests, and asks only that you follow the rules that may be found here.

Its also worth metioning from the other end of the scale, the amazing and Think of them as the last.FM of Films and TV.

When you look at other media centres, they just look plain and boring in comparison… There’s certainly something about making customising simple and easy which is very compelling…

The end of the road for Windows Home Server?

Just read about the changes to the Windows Home Server on my Kindle via Ars Technica.

Microsoft’s Windows Home Server is a funny little product. The company’s ambition when developing the product was to have us all run little home servers: small, low-power, appliance-like machines with some network connectivity and gobs of storage. We’d use these home servers as a place to back up our PCs, share files and printers across our home networks, stream media to our Xboxes, and gain remote access to our files when away from home.

In practice, most of these things can be done perfectly well with a normal desktop version of Windows. Windows Home Server does have some advantages—it had a management front-end that let the server be easily controlled remotely, and it is based on Windows Server 2003 to slim down its own hardware demands—but for the most part, it isn’t doing anything too unusual. As a result, Windows Home Server has remained a niche product. Much loved by its users, but never really making it as a mass-market success.

It does, however, have one special feature, a feature without any real equivalent in any other version of Windows, whether for desktop or for server. That feature is called Drive Extender. Conceptually, Drive Extender is quite simple: it allows multiple hard disks (regardless of interface or size) to be aggregated to provide a single large pool of storage. Folders on the pooled storage could also be selectively replicated, meaning that Drive Extender would ensure that copies of the files were found on multiple physical disks.

It goes on to say HP (one of the biggest supporters of WHS) will no longer be supporting WHS, instead they will be developing there own WebOS.

Engadget is reporting that many of the HP staff previously working on MediaSmart have been redeployed to focus on webOS devices, though any direct webOS-powered equivalent to the MediaSmart systems seems unlikely.

So much for Microsoft Windows Home Server… I got a feeling it was released too early and I do stand by the idea that most people will have a Home Server in there home in the very near future, even with the deluge of online backup services and streaming services.

I watched Kick Ass and enjoyed it

When I first saw the trailer for Kickass the movie, I wasn’t sure about it but after reading Miss Geeky’s review back earlier in the month I gave it a try.

Kick-Ass is an awesome movie and one I’d recommend to anyone who likes the big action-y superhero movies. I was hoping I’d like it, but wasn’t expecting to have this much fun. Everything from story to music works in this movie and I guarantee you’ll have a great time. I so want to see it again once it’s released!

To be honest I walked away loving the movie. But what amazed me about the movie was Hit Girl. Without sounding odd, she was amazing even with a mouth of filth and I can’t believe shes only like 13 years old. Great actress to watch for the future.

Another reason why I bring up the fact Miss Geeky’s review got me interested was down to this fact, mass downloaders, spend the most on media. I’m also floating the idea that downloaders also attribution more than anyone else. Who else sticks trailers on there site and writes such detailed reviews. We’re fans and we want to see it first, again and again. Then we want to write about it and tell our friends and the world about it. If your business model interferes with this, your on to a slow looser.

XBMC joins Boxee on hardware

XBMC 9.11: Beta2 Confluence

I’m already impressed with the Boxee DLink box specially after finding out that the machine has a Tegra 2 chip which means it will play anything and almost everything including Flash 10.1 and heavy weight h.264 content at 1080p resolution. But I also see XBMC is on the NUU player which was recently announced at CES 2010.

But interestingly enough you don’t need to invest in a new hardware box to get the best performance out of XBMC or even Boxee. I already talked about the amazing performance I’m getting out of the Intel X300 graphics processor unit along side a dual core processor. However theres some more great news from the XBMC camp in the form of Broadcom Crystal HD Hardware Decoder (BCM970012) which is a decoder card which can be put in Express card slots.

Through hard work and the joint efforts of several TeamXBMC/Redhat developers and the Broadcom Media PC Group, cross-platform hardware decoding of mpeg2, h.264 and VC1 video content up to 1080p will be coming to XBMC on OSX, Linux, and Windows via the Broadcom Crystal HD Hardware Decoder (BCM970012). The Broadcom Crystal HD is available now in a mini-PCIE card with ExpressCard and 1X PCIE form factors to follow. This means that the AppleTV and all those lovely new netbooks, Eee Boxes and older Intel Mac Minis have exciting new potential.

This solution has a common programming API, so many 3rd party developers and applications will be able to leverage hardware accelerated video content playback across OSX, Linux, and Windows platforms with minimal source code changes. Best of all, this is an open source solution with full source code for driver and library available for OSX and Linux under a GPL/LGPL license. Wow, this indeed is the Holy Grail and a major score for the open source community as this means no more tainted Linux kernels! Support has already been added to XBMC under the svn trunk.

More information can be found under the blog post under, but it certainly looks like 2010 is going to be the year when XBMC, Boxee and Plex really shine through. I’m actually planning to build a XBMC system just for work, maybe I’ll stick Boxee on it too.

Oh and good on Bytemark for sponsoring XBMC.

The two sides of Vigin Media

Thanks Sheila for this link, ISP To Voluntarily Disconnect File-Sharers, Offers Free Usenet.

Virgin Media in the UK has announced that it is working with the music industry to chase down its file-sharing customers and disconnect them from the internet. At the same time, it will offer an enhanced service which will see its customers get free Usenet binaries access, untraceable by the music industry.

I like it…very sneaky. I have been thinking about switching to Virgin Media for a while, fibre to the home (fibre optic) speeds is very attractive. I do however wonder what their download limits are? I'm still doing about 140 gig a month.

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Ideas and plans

Ideas and plans, boy oh boy have I got ideas and plans in my head. If you’d been to this page before you’d notice it was something slightly different. Something about joining, yep I will but this is only part of the overall strategy as such..

So whats the strategy? well its a mix of ideas and plans (wouldn’t you know) If things get very busy on this page I will start breaking the ideas down into multiple weblogs. And I hope to at some point draw up a map of how things should be, and what I need to buy and fit to complete it.

Ok so the idea is to use digital technology to make changes to me and my partner’s lifestyle. Ok sounds easy enough. At the moment we watch films through a computer rather than a dvd player. Because of course you can not watch divx or xvid films on a standard dvd player. Now I know thats changing due to the kiss dvd player and others like it but standard dvd players only have support for mpeg 1 and 2, not mpeg4. Anyhow I’m looking to solve that problem by using a modded (preferred chipped) xbox. So thats part of the plan at least. more later

I already own a home cinema system, which is a 32 inch widescreen tv, Sherwood prologic cinema reciever, Technics ac3 decoder which supports all 6 channel formats including dolby digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. And if you include 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer you got the picture. To add the picture I have a freeview digital television box which was originally ondigital’s own box. More about that at some point maybe.

On the computer side of things, got 1 workstation with stacks of memory, beefy Ati all in wonder 8500 dv graphics card, multiple hard drives and a cd bruner and dvd drive. That is then connected via 100megabit ethernet to a server which is where your reading this weblog now. That server has stacks of memory, hard drive space and also has a cd burner and region free dvd drive. The Network I’m using is all 10/100 and has a wireless hub using dhcp to allow the tabletpc and my partner’s laptop to roam anywhere in the house. there is also a 400megabit firewire link between the server and workstation to stop tieing up the network during heavy transfers. But doesnt work because Microsoft didnt put in the driver for firewire networking on windows 2000 professional, such a shame too. In the kitchen there is an old 21 inch toshiba television which use to be my main television, its mainly used by my partner while cooking for watching analogue stations. And I think that basicly covers everything for now.

Ok so plans and ideas. First thing the wireless hub, its an 802.11b hub and supports 11megabits, its based in the living room and covers the whole house but signal drops alot when it hits the bathroom at the far end of the house. You can get a signal, but not a very good one if your on a laptop. If your on a pocketpc with wireless, it drops the connection at the bathroom door. So no streaming music while in the bath at this moment. I could either move the current wireless access point to the middle of the house and get a even spread of wireless or buy another one and stick it down pass the kitchen and very near the bathroom. See that option sounds good because I can then cover the garden which is also on the far end of the house, past the bathroom. that will also give me a chance to swap the hubs around and put a 802.11g hub in the living room and the older 802.11b hub near the garden instead. I was thinking of using the bridging mode, but i think a long ethernet cable to the far hub will do the trick.

Next up, the xbox media player. I have been following the xbox scene of the sly and have been quietly surprised by the amount of development going on. The best development effort has to be the xbox mediaplayer, which will play divx 3 – 5, xvid, vcd, supervcd’s and dvd’s. Aka every kind of film I own. So what i’m thinking is that if I buy a xbox then get it chipped or modded I could use that as digital media jukebox (sorry yes it plays ogg, asf and mpg3s as well). But rather than use the cd drive or small local hard drive all the time I can use the network sharing option to access shared drives on my server or workstation as well. There is also a ftp option if all else fails. Ok so that means I can access all my films without unlocking a computer, which will make my partner very happy. If all goes well then maybe I’ll buy another one for the kitchen television.

Ah i love digital television, its clear bright and cheap. We in the uk have had 3 main ways of recieving digital tv, sky (expensive and requires a dish, but has tons of interactivinty and channels), Cable (just as expensive and lacks serious interactivity) and Free to air (use to be called OnDigital before ITVdigital took it over and that was before the BBC pumped millions in to it and called it freeview). Freeview is just that, free to view. Basicly its partly funded by the tv licence (yes we have to pay to watch tv here) and all you need is a set top box and a ariel nothing more. You get about 30 channels on freeview at the moment with more in the pipeline soon. Anyway, I’m thinking of buying one for the kitchen and or one for the workstation so I can watch one thing and record another.At this moment i can only record what i’m watching, unless its on analogue tv and i can watch that and record the digital feed. there is a freeview box by pace which has pvr (tivo) fuctionality and has two digital decoders, so you can watch one and record another on to its local 20gig hard drive. Its good but not at 300 uk pounds its not. Specially now you can buy freeview boxes al low as 70 pounds brand new.