Think IOT + Trakt + Shazam for video

Here’s one for anybody to take on…

Imagine a device like Amazon’s echo which ambiently shares what you are watching and also at what point…

It would operate similar to Trakt.TV’s live progress but rather than be constrained to an online web service, it would be a physical connected thing (IoT) which uses acoustic fingerprint technology similar to Shazam to automatically recognise what you are watching and where you currently are.

This is essential as on-demand viewing is changing the way we watch and consume media. This similar in concept to BBC prototype the Olinda. Think trakt crossed with Shazam and Olinda.

Whipclip reminded me of this, but I have been using Yatse with  Kodi or the Chromecast to share the shows I’m currently watching.  But I’d like to share the part of the video I’m watching really… This causes some issue with spoilers, but that could be worked out if you knew the episode and position of the person who is looking.

Lazyweb… make it be!

 

I bought into the Philips Hue system but why?

Philips Hue Bridge

After my blog post asking about which smart lighting system works best for me… I choose the Philips Hue system but why?

  1. Philips made its simple REST API public! Yeh!
  2. Seen activity of people hacking around with the Philips hue lights.
  3. Replace my aging and dying Philips Light/wake-up clock.
    It keeps waking me up at the wrong time of the night and missing the alarm time! I barely use it because of this. Looking forward to combining my sleep pattern with my wake up. May even help with my alertness?
  4. Have better control over my living room lighting.
    I like warm lights at night and hate the way the lights are in my living room at the moment but don’t want to do the massive alterations to change it at the moment.
  5. I really want to experiment with XBMC and a Ambelight style setup

Which smart light technology works for me

I have been watching the Home automation market for a long while now and with all the security problems, have decided its time to get involved. Lights seem to be alright when it comes to security risk.

Checking out Amazon reviews, theres quite a bit of criticism about the Belkin Wemo compared to the Philips HueSam suggests LiFX as another option but I never heard of them.

So what am I after?

  • A range of LED bulbs and lights (bayonet and edison screw)
  • Support for Android at the minimum, IFTTT, Web and Linux would be great.
  • The ability to join my network either via Zigbee or something else.
  • Colour

After my brief twitter chat with Sam and Tony, I now know Philips Hue Lux is out, Wemo also maybe out due to the colour.  LiFX looks interesting but the lack of a wireless bridge worries me with bigger install plans. Plus I think there is a benefit to a bridge to connect other zigbee devices which are coming on to the market. Originally I was thinking about getting a almond plus router but then picked up the TPlink Archer D7 over the holidays at a good price.

It looks like the Philips Hue Lux is the best option to get started. With those I can hook it up to my Sleep as Android app, recreating my very old Philips wake up light.

I can then add a light to my living room for use while chilling out and watching films on xbmc/kodi.

Have you hacked a console?

Play

LifeHacker asks the question, Have You Ever Hacked a Game Console?

There are all kinds of good reasons to hack a game console that don’t involve cheating at games, such as adding functionality, creating a media center, or just breathing new life into a beloved old gadget.

For me yes, I certainly have.

  • Playstation 1 (I still have that console under my TV)
  • Xbox 1 (hacked this multiple times and I think its still in my wardrobe, and the reason I found Xbox Media Player (XBMC as came to be known)
  • Nintendo Wii (added the homebrew channel but no longer owned)

The Playstation was a nightmare to hack and in the end I made a few mistakes and had to pay someone to do a proper job. The Xbox was done all by myself once I ordered the Modchip, xecuter v3. Bunny’s book I own and enjoy. I didn’t know that it was made freely available in ebook form after the death of Aaron Schwartz.

No Starch Press and I have decided to release this free ebook version of Hacking the Xbox in honor of Aaron Swartz. As you read this book, I hope that you’ll be reminded of how important freedom is to the hacking community and that you’ll be inclined to support the causes that Aaron believed in.

I agreed to release this book for free in part because Aaron’s treatment by MIT is not unfamiliar to me. In this book, you will find the story of when I was an MIT graduate student, extracting security keys from the original Microsoft Xbox. You’ll also read about the crushing disappointment of receiving a letter from MIT legal repudiating any association with my work, effectively leaving me on my own to face Microsoft.

The difference was that the faculty of my lab, the AI laboratory, were outraged by this treatment. They openly defied MIT legal and vowed to publish my work as an official “AI Lab Memo,” thereby granting me greater negotiating leverage with Microsoft. Microsoft, mindful of the potential backlash from the court of public opinion over suing a legitimate academic researcher, came to a civil understanding with me over the issue.

If you haven’t hacked or modified a games console, you owe it to yourself and others to give it a try.

My home network explained again

My Home network setup

So this is a turn around from my now usual ranting about dating…

Last Friday, we were in the northern quarter and some how got around to talking about networking. I mentioned I had 3 gigabit switches and everyone asked why the heck have you got 3 gigabit switches? To which I tried to explain, very badly. So I promised to do a diagram of why I need those switches and not just extra long cables.

So here it is… Funny enough its not the first time I’ve explained my home networking setup. With a little more time I might have done something a lot more attractive.

First thing is the rooms are serial not exactly how you see them above. Aka the bedroom is as far away from the living room as possible and the spare room is in the middle of them both. Ok maybe I should consider redrawing them… The ADSL2 line works best off the main socket in the cupboard (Its how I can achieve my 1.5meg upload consistently rather that 1meg upload). The next room with power is the spare bedroom, where the ADSL2+ router lives. The router is only 10/100, so I use it just as a modem but I’ve recently been turning on the 54G wireless and using it for guest connections. Turns out at the time it was very difficult to get a ADSL router with gigabit wired points, might not be true 2 years later.

The next step into the network is the WRT firmware upgraded Switch complete with 108N wireless. Because its running WRT I can do many things like Quality of Service (QoS), VPN and port knocking for remote access. I class this part the inners of my home network.

Due to the room layouts, I’ve decided to string the network together by putting a gigabit switch in each room. This means I only have to feed one cable room to room rather than 4+. As you can see I have about 4 devices in the bedroom and living room and thats not including a spare one for guests.

So why wired and not wireless? As I live in a set of flats, theres a lot of people with those BT/Sky boxes on random channels (would show how messy it is but you can imagine). The wireless is good but not really for sending full HD videos to my TV without waiting 5 secs for it to buffer and maybe some pauses in the middle. If I switch to wired 100megbit networking, its fine but if I start to do a large transfer over the network, for example if I’m working on some footage on the server at the same time, its noticeably slower and you may get slight pauses. Now I’m certain it might actually be a IO issue with my 54000rpm disks. But I get nothing like this with my gigabit network.

Once I went Gigabit, everything just worked smoothly. I don’t ever see any latency issue, even when streaming stuff to the Xbian in the bedroom at the same time. I once did a test of both my Lenovo XBMC and RaspPI playing Inception at 1080p with me pulling the same file to my laptop. Although the PI struggled playing it back, everything seemed to work as expected. I bought into Gigabit at the point when it just dropped in price. My laptop, Server, Lenovo XBMC box, etc have gigabit ports so it was a no brainier really.

I am keen to try out 802.11AC but right now my main focus is to replace my Lenovo XBMC box which outputs in VGA to the LED screen. This is why I was trying out Simon’s Ouya. I already removed all other desktop machines from the network (got 3 mini desktop machines in the spare room to get rid of).

So thats the crux of why I got 3 gigabit switches…

Feel free to talk about other solutions but they need to be cheapish and not interfere with much else. Its worth pointing out the runs of cables between the rooms are roughly 20meters long. I will at some point drill into the walls but not quite yet. Finally I looked into powerline solutions but there pricey and I’m not sure of how good they are in a set of flats. Think I prefer a ethernet cable, as I would end up with a setup similar to what I have now.

Ouya with XBMC sitting in a tree…

Ouya at home

Simon kindly lent me his brand new Ouya a while ago but I’ve only just gotten around to playing with it as I want to replace my ageing Lenovo Thinkcentre with a new XBMC box.

I wanted originally was interested in the Boxee box but frankly that gone down a path I certainly don’t want to be dragged. Now XBMC works nicely on Android, I’ve been looking at android boxes which seems to be made for XBMC. Most of the boxes are tiny and have all the right ports including HDMI, digital optical out, etc.

So how does it work on the Ouya? Well after a little setting manual up (I would install a SSH server but its not mine to mess with) its good, very fast specially compared to the Raspberry Pi. The User interface is nippy and playing back 1080p seems effortless.

The biggest problem I’m having is getting Dolby Digital or DTS out of the console. I did some research and its a problem quite a few people are having issues with. Audio passthrough can be enabled so the AC3 signal should be able to get to the Onkyo 7.1 surround amp but no matter what I do. And as with everything else, others are struggling too.

If I could solve the problem of Digital passthrough output, I would certainly consider getting a Ouya to replace my home cinema setup. I would love to attempt to get the Wii remote hooked up to the Ouya as the controller is a little too big for a home cinema controller. Although to be fair I’m using the Android Yatse controller app on 3 out of 4 of my Android devices including my mothers old HTC android phone, which is now my permanent desktop XBMC remote.

I’ll persist with the audio output and check it can play back all the old formats like Divx 3.2 and Mpeg1 and 2 stuff. Also need to check how the suspend works…

What is Google up to in the TV space?

7 CEOs talk about Google TV

A couple of interesting things recently have spiked my interest in Google… The recently announced Chromecast and the rumour of the Android box with sensors.

Everyone is comparing the Chromecast to the Apple TV but frankly I couldn’t give a toss. I’m comparing it to XBMC. Of course its cheap very cheap at roughly 35 dollars (expect it to be 35 pounds). It plugs into a HDMI slot and turns any TV/Display into a chrome display. This functionality is good for pushing the likes of Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, Vimeo, etc to your much larger screen. Details of how specification wise is kind of unknown right now but it sounds a lot like XBMC’s push URL system. So sophisticated the push process, I have it on all my android devices (thanks to Yaste and the official XBMC remote) and laptops.

The Rumoured Android Box with sensors fills me with joy. I knew it was going to happen. Microsoft have been pushing the line with there Xboxes but the same way I was excited by the idea of Google TV 3 years ago, this also excites me. Mainly because I was right and I’m hoping Google follow through with there promise of bringing the web to the TV. Finally we may have a platform which is right for Perceptive Media and who knows what that may trigger? I’ve not really seen any evidence than Google understand the benefits of object based broadcasting and ultimately Perceptive media.

Of course it really depends on how open the device is, but to be fair when was the last time a Google Android device was locked down beyond root?

Renaissance in storytelling? Who knows…? But I’m somewhat excited again…

And of course I’m not the only one, although a Google actual TV box doesn’t make so much sense to me.

It’s an ambitious company working on ambitious projects.

Which is why it should quit pussyfooting around with the TV market, and just build its own full-blown television and integrate it with Google Fiber.  Google has the money, the audacity, and the software talent to shake up the TV business. Right now, the company’s journey into the TV market has hints of exciting innovation, but ultimately comes up short of hitting that 10X moon shot goal. Google announced the Chromecast this week, a three-inch dongle that plugs into the HDMI port on a TV and wirelessly plays video from smartphones and tablets. The Wall Street Journal reports Google demoed a new Google TV box at the Consumer Electronics Show to people behind closed doors. The new box was similar to an Apple TV or a Roku, but it had motion tracking and a camera.

Both of these are fine, but they’re basically more of the same. They’re certainly not 10X above what’s currently on the market. A Google television could be 10X what’s on the market.

Tell us about your morning habits?

Early morning Manchester

Got a message on Twitter which originally thought was spam from HabitClock.

We are looking for the morning routines to inspire people with our new app HabitClock. You can help us by sharing the morning routine you wish to gain. Thank You!

I thought it was kind of interesting so I submitted my own morning routine.

This is what I wrote

I am woken by my lightclock. I get up straight away going to the nearest loo before checking my phone and Google Now for what I need to do for the rest of the day. At the same time, I trigger the latest Tech News Today (Twit network) on my XBMC raspberry Pi setup (Xbian) via my HTC phone. The podcast is usually about 45-50mins long.

Then I go to my kitchen boil an egg or two using my egg boiler. While that is boiling I jump in the shower, dry myself, have a shave and brush my teeth the sounds of my FM shower radio tuned into the podcast via a FM transmitter.

The eggs usually finish just after I finish in the bathroom and I can continue listening to the podcast on a FM radio in the kitchen, while I make toast and tea.

By the time the podcast is finished I have eaten, checked twitter, torrents and most important emails. And I’m ready to hit the road street to go to work. I pretty much time where I am in the podcast with how late or early I am. Although my body clock does go out of sync when the daily podcast is running long or short that day.

And that is the honest truth, although most of the time, the podcast does finish way before I’m leaving for work. So I usually start another one which slows me down again. Also forgot to mention looking at tasks and using Any.do, but heck it will do. Also reminds me I need to hook up the last.fm reporting to xbian.

Of course you can submit your own here.

XBMC used for in hotel system

XBMC?

I was in Amsterdam for the Quantified Self conference (blog post coming soon) and the whole conference was in a hotel called Casa 400. It was a good conference but what was strange was the TV in my hotel room which look familiar to me.

XBMC?

I swear it was XBMC underneath but unfortunately the functionality they could have enabled like Samba/NFS shares, DLNA, UPnP and heck Airplay were not available. If they were it would make for an amazing in room system on top of a already technically great hotel. Couldn’t knock there wifi deployment one bit, even with 4 devices using it all day…

XBMC?

Simple streaming to your android with Yatse

Yatse my favourite xbmc remote just launched a new plugin, which makes streaming locally to the android device, super simple…

If you have enabled UPnp in your Xbmc installation and are Wifi connected to the same network as Xbmc you can stream your Xbmc media to your Android device.

And yes it also supports moving between devices with the resume button which will stop the currently playing media on you Media Center and continue it on your local device where it was stopped.

It was possible to do this before but Yaste just made it super easy…

Changes to the home network

Just about to make a number of changes to my ageing network.

First up, its time to upgrade my XBMC box in the living room, to something more modern and smaller. Right now I’m using a Lenovo Thinkcentre  A55 mini desktop machine to something smaller and can handle full HD without struggle (specially now I got my new full HD TV). A friend has suggested the Feteko MyGica EnjoyTV 510B, but what puts me off is the 10/100 networking and it runs Android.

My home network backbone is gigabit and most devices are gigabit including the Thinkcentre but after doing some recent reading and tests, I have concluded that the speed of reading data off the hard discs is slower than pushing it around the network. I was using NFS mounts for a while which seemed more efficient but I’ve switched back to Samba after not really understanding how NFS mounts work correctly and installing Plex Home server. Seems my Samba setup isn’t caching as much as I would have liked. This all in all means 10/100 device should be ok to receive media from around the network.

Android? My biggest issue with Android as the background operating system is I’m not certain its as flexible as Ubuntu and XBMC is still in beta on Android. Because this is my main XBMC box, it needs to be super reliable and play everything. I do want to get the live TV functionality in the Frodo release of XBMC working too.

On top of all that… I’m also looking to firmware of the Edimax BR-6574N router I have to the classic DD WRT firmware, mainly because I want to sort out a VPN into my home network.

Yes quite a few changes… luckily I got to use up my holidays before April

Replacing my xbmc box with RaspberryPi

Fresh RaspberryPi

I recently bought a Raspberry pi from RS and it actually came before Christmas, so during the holidays I hooked it up and installed OpenElec after reading about the different XBMC versions you could install.

I decided to replace my aging Compaq mini desktop in the bedroom with the Raspberry Pi, because I mainly use it for listening to podcasts and every once in a while I will watch a piece of media (usually podcasts) on the LCD TV screen. So I don’t really have to worry about the might of the Pi or it not beable to decode Mpeg2 smoothly. Its time has come

So from this aging beastie…

My old bedroom xbmc box

To this lovely compact package on my desktop.

My XBMC RaspberryPi with FM Transmitter

After hooking it up to my 15 inch LCD TV, I had to rearrange the audio to get output to the FM transmitter and to the local sound system (essentially to get audio in the shower, bedroom and kitchen). My hope is maybe to buy more Pi’s and hook them up around the flat to do local multicast streaming instead of FM.

I’m impressed with the Pi and I can certainly see many more uses for it personally. I think I might switch from OpenElec to XBian, as I want the ability to add stuff and maybe mess with the latest version of XBMC . Of course this is as simple as switching the SD card and reattaching the micro USB adapter.

Certainly thinking of attaching the whole pi to the bottom of my desk or behind the LCD TV, just because I can.

Toshiba LED screen

Toshiba 40TL963B

My Samsung LCD gave up the ghost recently and although its fixable with a soldering iron and new capacitor. I pretty much decided a while ago that its time for an upgrade. I bought the Samsung almost 6 years ago I think and it was one of those 720p/1080i LCDs.

I finally bought a Toshiba 40TL963B because it seemed to have most things I wanted.

Top of the list DLNA, Freeview HD, USB recording (well its useful now and then) and of course 1080p. You will notice I didn’t include 3D because frankly the idea and reality of 3D at home makes me break out in hives on the inside of my mouth. Funny thing is the Toshiba actually supports 3D but I won’t be using it ever. Worst still it has that turn 2D into 3D mode which makes me break into hives in places I’d rather not say.

I decided to stick to 40 inch because the next one up was 46 inch rather than 42 inch. It certainly looks smaller because the bezel is about 15mm deep around most of the frame.

To date I haven’t really drove the screen because my xbmc box is set to output 720p. The freeview HD tuner works well and I was pleased to be able to see the paralympics in HD. Things look great in HD and as the review says, SD content looks a bit smudgy. Its ok but noticeably bad. The review is right about that and also about the black level which looks like black ink (this is a good thing). Actually when I changed the Xbox 360 to 1080p and loaded up Geometry wars 2, it felt like I was play on a surface which was best described as the night sky.

Not even touched the Toshiba web TV crap except to get DLNA working, XBMC blows away everything Toshiba’s places item can do and will ever do.

So generally I’m happy with my purchase. I didn’t want 3D but the price difference meant I would only be paying an extra 30 pounds for 3D capability and I would also get higher refresh rates too. Yes it could be nicer about SD content but its only on Freeview SD content I notice it.