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Converting old home movies

If your like me you have some old video tapes. Mine are home movies of my daughter when she was young. They are precious and I didn’t want to loose them. Some are more than 15 years old and I was concerned they would eventually degrade so I wanted to digitize them to keep them for all time, as well as make them more convenient to watch. So I looked around a bit and found a cheap USB video capture adapter on Amazon. It was supposed to come with uLead but came with a barely functional PVR from a company called Honetech. I dug out the VCR (actually had to borrow one from a friend the drive belt on mine had disintegrated), found the cables and hooked it up. The code once installed is super basic but does work. I didn’t bother trying to edit the captured video, rather simply pressed play and pause and separated the videos by topic. On default settings here are the capture settings:
parameters
The captured video ends up being 16.3M/min. So a 55 min video ends up around 900MB. This works out to only be around .27M/s so a USB 2 device is more than adequate. All of the encoding is done in hardware by the device so you don’t need anything too powerful to do the capture. The file once captured seems to require a video codec that isn’t there by default on Windows. Kodi had no issue playing it on a variety of platforms. DVD players also had no issues with it. At the end of the day the output is adequate and well worth the time to preserve important videos. The capture adapter was cheap, $20 so well worth it. Time wise it is very time consuming. 1hr takes 1hr (thanks Captain Obvious).
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January 30, 2017 Posted by | Mutlimedia, Other reviews, Uncategorized, Video Encoding | 2 Comments

Amazon Fire TV 2nd Gen

I’ve had a Kindle Fire TV first gen in the house for a long time. I side loaded Kodi and used llama to hide the Fire interface. Kodi was the only purpose to the box. I still have this and it’s my secondary media player in the house. It works well, sleeps well, draws very little power, is reliable and completely silent. The remote works pretty well with Kodi the only nits being no volume control and no stop button. A while back I started using Firestarter, an app that made it easier to launch and update Kodi. Amazon caught on and blocked Firestarter. Clever folks renamed it to Firestopper and things continued. Then the maker of Firestarter decided to play nice with Amazon and came up with AppStarter and removed some of the things Amazon found offending (capturing the home button, and auto starting on boot). Sadly in becoming less offensive to Amazon the developer neutered anything that was useful about Firestarter in the first place IMHO.

Amazon released a second generation FireTV with some updates to processor, codecs it could support etc. This article does a great job of explaining the differences. The power adapter was bumped up from 18W to 21W and the barrel end of the charger was changed up. Amazon removed the optical output for 5.1 audio (something I still use on my secondary home theater system). The remote is pretty similar to the first gen.

Amazon have been a lot more aggressive with blocking any apps other than apps that come from the Amazon Appstore. They install but you have to find them in the settings to start them. And if you manage to press the home button on the remote, your back manually starting the app. To say this has become infinitely clumsy is an understatement. In fact, Amazon’s behaviour makes the FireTV a far less compelling Kodi box, something I am sure Amazon is fine about. Just to illustrate the point, to launch Kodi from first power on (assuming you can’t get it into the recent apps list, which seems to come and go) it takes 28 clicks (9 – to get to settings from home, 4 – to get to applications, 4 – manage installed apps, 6 to get to kodi (varies depending on how many installed apps)). Sheesh.

A colleague of mine, Johannes, had discovered a neat party trick. When the FireTV registers, it registers with Amazon.com. If on Amazon.com you have a US address (pick an address, any address) and add a credit card, low and behold magic happens and apps you manually launch (like Kodi) appear in the applications list, favorites and recent. This dramatically cuts down on the number of clicks to get Kodi up.

You can see what the latest firmware release from amazon.com. From a command prompt on ADB you can issue the command cat /system/build.prop|grep ro.build.version.name to see what your currently installed firmware version is.

Once Kodi is up and running playback is smooth, and manipulating through the menus is also smooth. IPTV using the Stalker plug in under Kodi also works well, but initial load is quite slow think 2-3 minutes. So if your using it for IPTV your going to want to exit Kodi only when absolutely necessary.

Power management on the FireTV 2 is not perfect. In Kodi your going to want to change the power management option to minimize (or off) to avoid the slow IPTV startup. The screen saver of the Fire’s can be used to black out the screen when not in use and the Fire itself goes into some form of sleep mode. Neither my HDMI receiver nor my TV went into sleep when the FireTV when into sleep, rather the screen was just a dull black.

There is an app called FireTV Utility that you can use to make side loading onto any of the FireTVs easier.

So all in all the FireTV 2 adds new codec support, some challenges to getting a Kodi icon for easy launching, but overall is an excellent playback device. The remote works well for Kodi but is missing volume control and the stop button.

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Mutlimedia, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shinecon VR headset mini review

I’ve been super curious about VR headsets. I’ve seen the ones from Samsung and wondered about them. So I found this one which fits my iPhone 6 and comes with a clicker to control the phone.

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First up comes content. VR, 3D, etc are all names for different forms of displaying 3D content. When you go to the movies or have a 3D TV in the house they rely on glasses that refocus an image that on it’s own is out of focus and in so doing creates a 3D image. As an example here is a Youtube video I thought was pretty decent.

This type of headset, is basically a more elborate Google Cardboard. It relies on side by side distortions to create the depth. So if you play it without the 3d what you see is two side by side movies. There’s lots of content out there for this type of headset. Everything from movies, to Youtube. You just need to look for the buzz words SBS (side by side), Google cardboard, 180 degree VR etc. Because of the side by side what you seeing is quite small (think half of a screen). The overall effect definitely gives a perspective of depth, but is no where near as immersive. You don’t get the holy crap that ball is going to hit me I better duck feeling you do in a movie theater. Some of the effects however are quite good.

The headset itself is simply a holder for your existing phone. This one folds down in the front you clip your phone in close the door and away you go.
vrshinecon-8

The headset is placed on your head and projects in front of you. Since you are playing from your phone, your device needs to be handle the demands of the specific movie. The headset is by no means light and the weight is quite noticeable. I found myself holding it with my hands to reduce the weight/discomfort. I have a hard time imagining watching a 3 hour movie with it.

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The bluetooth clicker that came with the phone is fairly limited in use on the iPhone. Since the iPhone does not support a mouse you are pretty much stuck with open the door, start the clip, quickly close the door, quickly slip on the headset and away you go. To say it is clumsy is an understatement. This would be a whole lot easier on Android which supports a mouse.

You quickly run into the next challenge, the menuing system for whatever your going to use, be it Kodi, a Youtube video etc all are (of course) not 3D. So your navigating a bizarre looking image. I found it best to close an eye or focus on one eye.

On iPhones you run into a number of additional challenges (beyond the mouse). Storing local content is problematic (although not impossible) and getting Kodi on your iPhone is also non-trivial. Of course none of these are an issue with Android 🙂 Ya ya …

In the end, for $40, it amused me for a brief period of time, and satisfied a curiosity. I am not sure how much I will use it, but been there done that got the t-shirt 🙂

June 10, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, Mutlimedia | Leave a comment

MX PLUS II TV Box Media player

This is the second of the media players Lance bought. This one again looks a whole lot like a Amazon Fire TV. The back has a wired Ethernet, optical port, USB port and a barrel charger. There are two more USB ports on the side as well as a full size SD (not micro) slot. The LED on the front of this one is far less obtrusive than the last one. The unit once again is silent (no fan).
Link on Everbuying.

In the box was the remote, a 5V 300ma charger and an HDMI cable.

The remote on this one is a lot more complete which is my prime use for this device. The play/pause on the remote are ignored by Kodi and there is no stop button sadly. The remote is infra red so line of sight to the player is required. The home button of course takes you back to the home of the device rather than the home of Android. So you will need to move yourself back to Kodi. You can suspend and resume the unit from the remote, always handy and something that is tricky to get working on some devices.

You can add a USB wireless keyboard and mouse and use this to drive a TV. It is running Android 4.4.4.

As with past devices there is a miracast app but I couldn’t get it to work with my Windows 10 Asus T300 CHI, and my Android tablet didn’t do any better.

As is always the case with Android my Windows media center remote is completely ignored.

Kodi runs ok but navigation within the app is a little laggy. Playbay is also a slight bit jerky. Both of these is being VERY picky but as with past devices if it is not better than my existing devices then why would I choose it?

Power management is an issue. It goes to sleep on command and wakes up from the remote but never goes to sleep on it’s own. And by extension neither does the HDMI receiver or TV. The dream settings this time around do not include a time so it never goes to sleep.

So this is the second of the devices I’ve player with. I wouldn’t buy either.

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Mutlimedia | Leave a comment

Avov TV Online+ media player and IPTV box mini review

This is another media player although it is very focussed on being the best IPTV box possible. It runs a heavily skinned, locked down version of Android 4.4. It also has Kodi loaded in so it has the possibility of being all in one. One of the positive sides is that the remote is VERY TV/playback focussed. The remote is IR so line of sight to the player is required when planning it’s location. Android can be updated from within the device easily.
frontrcu

Port wise the device has two USB2 ports, a microSD, a full size HDMI port, wired Ethernet (as well as wireless). There is no optical audio output. It does not appear to have Bluetooth. USB keyboards and mice are supported.
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Processor wise it’s a 1.5G quad core ARM. So nothing too blazingly fast. On par with my now what 4 year old (or more) Fire TV gen 1?

As with past Android devices I could not get Miracast to work with my Windows 10 laptop. I was equally unable to get Airplay on the Avov to play nice with my iPad mini. So this section of the device is a bust.

Again as with past Android devices my windows Media center remote is ignored (no Android drivers for it).

There is no Google play store so generic Android apps are more challenging than on some devices. There is a market place of their own for getting apps but it is VERY limited, like 20 apps in all.

Tunein is loaded to allow you to play internet radio.

The default Android web browser is there, sadly no Chrome and it does not appear to be in their market place.

There is a file manager but it only supports local USB content.

I do not see a power management section for the player so it looks like it’s an always on device which will keep the TV/receiver on as well. A major issue for me. But maybe I’m the only one on the planet that is lazy and expects my device to power themselves off. There isn’t even a dimming mode for the screen so burn on displays like plasma on this media player could be a real issue.

Debugging seems to be turned off and the setting is hidden so using adb to side load apps is not possible 😦 Web browsing to download an APK is also disabled. The built in file manager ignores apks so across the board loading apks is locked down.

There is an app and section that is dedicated to TV playback. It supports Stalker and you can setup multiple servers. And this section actually works pretty well. The Guide works and comes up very quickly. Playback of live TV (in this case from Star TV) is fairly smooth although there is a slight hint of jerkiness/lag but I am being SUPER picky. Times of high motion were particularly noticeable. You can not pause or record live TV from the app. There is a video on demand app as well.

Kodi is available in the market place.

So in the end would I buy this? I really don’t think so. The FireTV box even gen 1 is a better box for more money. Poor power management, locked down android apps and so so live tv experience. If I was looking for something to hand to a technopleeb than maybe. Otherwise not a chance.

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Mutlimedia | Leave a comment

IPTV

I’ve played with IPTV a couple of times in the past, all free systems and been underwhelmed. Inevitably I just get it working the free system gets overloaded or shutdown. In case you don’t know what IPTV is, it uses the internet to deliver streaming live TV to your home bypassing the traditional Bell/Rogers/Cogeco. Here’s a starter guide to IPTV.

So this time around I figured I’d look and see if there are services I can buy. I was able to find a few like Vmedia but they insist you get your internet from them as well. That would be a pain in that I already have internet and not from them. Vmedia mention on their website that this bundling of internet and IPTV is a CRTC requirement. I have not been able to independently verify that.

On Kijiji there are a number of folks offering IPTV services so I decided to give them a try. Now if the comment above about the CRTC requiring bundling is true these IPTV services is somewhere between flat out illegal or skirting the edge of legal. So given that I am wary about giving these folks an annual fee. And equally nervous about buying some kind of custom box from them.

So what are my requirements? I want North American channels, (US/Canada), want to be able to use it with one of my existing media players (an Android based Kindle Fire, or my Asus AsRock Ubuntu Kodi), be able to create favorite lists, preferrably be able to record, and lastly be as simple to use as a TV. Imagine that 🙂

List of types of IPTV I tried

IPTV Express (using APK)
Voodoo (Using Stalker PVR under Kodi)
IPTVsubs (Using a custom Kodi Video add on)
IPGuys (Using Stalker PVR under Kodi)

IPTV Express
So first up I bought a month $15 of IPTV Express. The provider sent me over an Android APK and informed me the best way was to buy a custom media player from him for another $130. The service worked fine (when it worked), quality was really quite good, and selection of channels was broad. The Android app is very basic in that it does not include favorites, and no record capability either. But the real killer (and not in a good way) for this service was that the Android app would not always connect to a channel you asked for. And when it didn’t the best you would get would be a blank screen, however the worst was the app completely hung. Which then left you fumbling for a task manager to kill the app to restart it and try again only to have the same thing happen. To say this was clumsy was an understatement. the app allows you to try the service but is unusable on a daily basis as far as I am concerned. I would not unleash this frustration on my family. So this one is good quality, good channels, unreliable (well the APK is), and for me unusable.

Voodoo and Stalker PVR under Kodi
So next up I found a guy that was offering what he called Voodoo. It connects with Stalker which is an IPTV protocol. It is nicely supported under Kodi. At first I tried to get the Kodi Stalker Video add on working but no joy. I got no where. Then I found there was an IPTV PVR add-on within Kodi on Windows that worked and connected. Even giving an electronic program guide so you know what’s playing when. The service is locked to a MAC address but this is not a physical MAC address but a software based one. And the nice thing is the Stalker IPTV PVR add on allows you to specify the MAC address meaning you can use the service across multiple devices (although be careful to not use it at the same time or you could cause issues. Two computers with the same MAC address is a VERY bad thing).

The occasional channel did not come up but when it did not come up it just came back and you could choose another one, no muss no fuss.

I was able to get the Stalker IPTV PVR working on Windows, iOS (iPad) and Android easily. To get this working you enable TV, then it complains there are no PVRs enabled, so you enable and configure the Stalker one:
iptv-1
iptv-2

Within Ubuntu Kodi it was a little more challenging. It turns out the Stalker client is not loaded. In fact no PVR services are loaded so you can not even enable TV. It just hangs. From the command prompt I had to run:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kodi-pvr-stalker

I also had to upgrade to Kodi 16 to get TV running under Ubuntu.

Under iOS on my iPad I was able to get it running but only the first time. Subsequent attempts to get it running crash Kodi and there was no way back other than uninstalling Kodi and reinstalling. A real pain on iOS.

But low and behold it’s up and running. And probably one of the best IPTV experiences I have seen to date! It even works correctly with the channel up and down of my Windows media center remote running under Ubuntu/Kodi allowing a real feel channel surf! You can even pause live TV.

Cost wise it’s: $15 for 1 month, $40 for 3 months , $75 for 6 months, $140 for 12 months. The guy I bought it prefers eTransfers. This is the guy I bought from. The content (for now anyway) is coming from iptv.tecfront.ca.

IPTVsubs (using custom Kodi Video add on)
Next up a colleague pointed out IPTV Subs. This company also has a free trial day and the cost going forward is $13 US. In this case there is actually a real company your dealing with. This one was a little confusing but in the end you have to add a source to Kodi. This source has the zip file that is a custom video add on. Then you install the repository. Lastly you install/enable/config the video add on.
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There is no PVR for this option which means you can not record. On the positive side you do get video on demand using this method.
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The channel offerings from this provider are broad and include a good number of Canadian and American channels. Quality is very good. I found it sensitive to what was going on with my internet connection, more so than the others I tried. Selecting channels works and has a nice GUI. It does not work with the channel up and down button on my remote so not a true channel surf. And to make matters worse when you select a channel there is about a 10 second delay before anything happens , then another 15 seconds before the channel shows up. That first 10 seconds leaves you wondering if it’s hung. And the next 25 just seems like forever.

I was able to get the video add on running on Windows, Ubuntu/Kodi, Android and iOS. It was solid.

IPGuys (Using Stalker IPTV PVR Under Kodi)
Next up I played with IPGuys. This service setup exactly like Tecfront, a Stalker IPTV PVR under Kodi. I encountered some issues at first in that Kodi was not reloading the channels and groups from scratch. It turned out I had disabled that so I could remove channels I didn’t want. So I had to go back and re-enable that and then clear the channel data from the Setting TV section of Kodi. Once done the channels showed up. The guide however was more stubborn and would not load on my Ubuntu/Kodi box. I was able to get the guide going under Windows so it’s not a service issue. There are lots of HD channels under this service and quality seems good. Initial load time on Kodi was noticeably slower and I noticed a slight lag between the audio/video. I would say around 1/10th of a second. Not huge but there if you looked. Channel surfing worked beautifully. This is again another highly usable service. I’m convinced the guide is a Ubuntu/Kodi issue.

I briefly played with Star TV which worked fine on the Avov box and their set top box emulator but I could not get it to work under Kodi IPTV Stalker PVR. No idea why.

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Android, Mutlimedia, Other reviews | 4 Comments

Beelink Mini MX TV Box mini review

There are a plethora of media players out there at stupid low prices. My bud Lance decided to plunge into the quagmire and choose one or two to buy and let me play before I have to buy. Right now I have an Amazon Fire TV first generation as well as a Asus ASRock running Kodi/Ubuntu as my two media players in the house. These become the benchmark for me. What am I looking for in these devise? Well they have to work as well as my current devices otherwise why would I bother. Silent and low power (including power management) are a must. As close to instant on as possible. And a good, easy to use remote that resembles a good ole VCR remote. I have a couple people in the house that are less techy so having to use a keyboard/mouse just ain’t gonna fly. It will just end up with me getting a WTF call to figure out how to use the darn thing with a frustrated end user on the other end of the phone. Exactly what I do not need in my day.
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On with this mini review. Here is the link to ever buying for it. A Beelink Mini MX TV Box Amlogic S905 Android 5.1 Quad-core 2.4GHz. I did not spend a lot of time with this device so the review is at best cursory. The device is small, and very closely resembles my Amazon Kindle Fire TV first gen. They say being copied is the best form of flattery and that seems to be the case here. The back is exactly like the fire TV and has a wired Ethernet, optical out, HDMI barrel power charger, and USB port and that’s it. Hiding on the side is a second USB port, and a micro SD slot. On the front is an over sized LED that shines blue when on and red when in suspend. The device happily comes out of suspend from the remote and comes on quickly. Sadly the device does not seem to go into suspend automatically. This is a big problem for me. If the media player does not go into suspend, then the HDMI receiver does not go into suspend, and of course that means neither does the TV. So in the end it is a power mess. I have not found a setting that can change that, but do remember my time with this device is limited. For me this alone would be a drop dead and I would not buy this device.
Update: Turns out it’s in the setting, display, day dreamer?

It came with a remote (more on that in a bit, a micro USB 5v 2A charger and an HDMI cable. A surprise given the price.

The device is small, and completely silent (no fan).

The player runs on Android 5.1.1 and includes the Google playstore, which is excellent. Kodi is preloaded including the a raft of add ons. Kodi are actually all over devices like this for making it look like Kodi themselves have produced these devices as well as blurring the line between what this vendor chose to add on and what is actually part of Kodi. A real and present threat/danger to Kodi’s reputation and future.

Having the playstore makes it easy to add any Android app you want. Plex for example can easily be added.

The remote has one HUGE oops. They didn’t add a play pause. Oops. They did include volume control, a toggleable air mouse and Android settings button all of which work perfectly with Kodi. The remote is small, light and works well with lots of feedback when you press buttons. The remote itself is infra red so line of sight to media player is needed. It does open up the possibility that you could use universal remote like the logitechs.

They have put a menuing system in front of Android that as a whole is easy to navigate with the remote (without a keyboard or mouse). The interface while functional is amateur hour by comparison to more polished devices like the Fire TV.

Overall navigation within Android is responsive. From within Kodi, over WIFI it is a little noticeably laggy compared to my other devices. Playback within Kodi is also a little more laggy but both of these comments are being super picky.

There is a miracast app loaded but I could not get it to connect no matter what I tried and eventually gave up. The Fire TVs for example works MUCH better. Well it actually works.

Plex loaded and ran fine (but my media player is Kodi so I didn’t do a whole lot).

Overall this is a thoroughly adequate device. It would never displace either of my current incumbents. Is it worth the money? It’s really hard to compare, the price is super cheap at $53, but for me I would pay more for a better experience.

April 3, 2016 Posted by | Mutlimedia | Leave a comment

Guleek Windows 8 set top box

I was looking for another media player and stumbled upon this one. My tablets (Asus T100 and Asus Vivotab) have shown me that Kodi plays very well on the current generation of quad core Atom boxes. So I thought I would give it a whirl. I bought mine from Deal Extreme for $128. It took almost 6 weeks to arrive due to some shipping snafus.

Physically this device is super small and can fit almost anywhere. 15.1 cm x 8.2 cm x 1.1 cm.
guleek-2

The device specs are pretty decent:
CPU Atom Z3735F 1333MHz~1830MHz
2G of memory and 16G of SSD
Port wise there are two USB 2 ports (I confirmed they are only USB 2 saldy), 1 micro HDMI port, 1 micro USB port, micro SD slot
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (2.5GHZ, no 5GHZ), bluetooth 4.0
And oddly a battery?
guleek-back

Note there is no wired ethernet connect. A shame I prefer it. More reliable, less lag etc.

In the box is the device itself which looks sleek, a micro HDMI cable, and a micro USB charger. I was impressed that they included the HDMI cable.

When you first plug it in you discover the first oddity. There are no lights on the front of the device? There is one on the back along with an uber small power button. Push the power button and eventually there’s something on the HDMI output. Be patient. The lack of lights gives no indication that something is happening.

Once past this little hurtle and since patience is my strong suit we are up and running.

On initial power up of the 16G SSD there is 4.27G free of 10.6G. Wow. Super tight on space. After downloading 490m and installing the 92 updates Windows needed there was a whopping 600M free. I discovered Windows by default enables hibernation. Hibernation reserves a file the same amount as the memory to do a dump to enter hibernation. So in this case 2G. That’s 20% of the HD. Well hibernation is not really needed on a media player (or tablet for that matter) with their low power connected standby mode. So you can disable hibernation. To see the size of the hibernation file:
dir c:\ /ah (that says attribute hidden)
You will see a file called hiberfil.sys.
To turn off hibernation simply enter this command.
powercfg -h off
What hibernation does is dump memory to the hard drive and turn off the system. It’s the lowest power saving mode and can be maintained indefinitely since it consumes no power. On next boot it sees it was in hibernate, restores from the hard drive and picks up exactly where it left off. The risk in disabling hibernate is you could loose whatever you might have been working on if the battery dies.

The SSD is reasonably quick clocking in at 23MB/s write and 73MB/s read. Since the USB is only USB 2 this means using USB to add drives is limited to the interface speed roughly 28MB/s is what I got out of it. I also had issues with the USB not being able to provide enough power even for a 2.5″ external USB hard drive. A powered USB drive worked fine.

Power settings have the device going to sleep on AC, but you quickly run into the next little challenge. It does not wake up from USB, so you will need to get off your butt and find that teenie tiny power switch inconveniently located on the back of the device to wake it up.

Overall Kodi installed easily and runs smoothly with playback working well even over WIFI. Since this is a media player for me I created a local account with no password and Windows logs into that automatically. I also added Kodi to the startup menu. I use a media center remote and it works fine on the device, although it does consume one of the only 2 USB ports. But you can always add a hub. As is always the case with Windows/Kodi/Media center remote the letters don’t work, nor do the equivalent of right mouse button functions like episode information, movie information and the like. So while you can get away with no keyboard, a mouse is pretty much a necessity. You can use a bluetooth mouse to save your USB ports if you like.

Now if your feeling inventive look over to a tool called Advanced MCE remote mapper . Using this tool you can bridge the gap and solve the missing implemented functions of using a Windows media center remote with Kodi. For example you can map ctrl-d to whatever you want and be able to get movie and episode information. Or remap C and get options like manage info etc. Or remap the delete key to allow you to delete episodes. The complete list of keys for Kodi can help you find the keys to remap. What this app does is set in the registry what a key on the MCE remote does. Once run it only needs to be re-run when you want to change the settings.

The BIOS is EFI so it means you are limited in terms of what operating systems (other than Windows) you could load onto the device. So using it for Ubuntu/Kodi for example isn’t happening.

All in all it is a good device. I like it and it will fit the bill! It isn’t going to replace UbuntuKodi or a FireTV as my fav device to date but it works well.

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Mutlimedia, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Roku Stick review mini review

Recently Amazon had a sale on these devices so I grabbed one, curious to see how far the product category has come. I have played with a few in the past, including a generic Android on a stick, a generic miracast adapter, a Roku 2 player, Microsoft wireless display adapater and Amazon Fire TV etc. I generally use Kodi (formerly) XBMC as the center of my multimedia content (music, movies and pictures). Right off the bat the Roku does not support Kodi (which I knew). Roku has what they call channels. One such channel you can add is Plex. Plex requires a Plex server that is what serves up and index all your content (music and movies). You can any number of Plex clients and they all see the same content and it is the server that remembers what has been watched. If the server is logged into your Plex account you can even access your content remotely, obviously limited by the ability for your home internet connection to keep up. There are Plex clients for Android (free), Windows (Free), Kindle Fire TV ($6.08 one time) and others.

Ok, let’s get started with the stick. in the box was the Stick itself, a nice long micro USB cable, a compact USB charger, and a remote control (apparently WIFI).
Roku_Streaming_Stick-20
The remote itself has basic keys and feels just fine in the hand. There is no pigtail for the HDMI port so if the Roku doesn’t fit in your TV your shit out of luck. If your TV has a USB plug (and it provides enough current) you can ignore the USB charger and plug it directly into the TV.
roku-stick-out (1)
The Roku has dual band WIFI and worked fine with my 5G WIFI (although I have no idea what speed it connected at). Here are the overall specs (from Wikipedia):
HDMI (3500) 720/1080, WIFI a/b/g/n dual-band, Processor BCM2835 600 MHz.
For whatever reason the Roku defaulted to 720p in spite of being plugged into a 1080p monitor, but that was easy enough to change.
That BCM2835 processor is what I played with in the Roku 2 over 3 years ago, and is much slower than the BCM11130 900 MHz that comes in the Roku 3.

Once the Plex channel (discussed above) is loaded onto the Roku and your plex server is setup the Roku stick plays smoothly and is a more than adequate Plex client. Frankly this isn’t what I bought the Roku for. If it was I think I would be reasonably happy. I actually still prefer Kodi thats a personal choice.

Roku added the ability to be a miracast adapter, which is what caused me to buy this, at this price it would be a bargain. Once turned on miracast just sits waiting for clients in the background. My Windows tablets (Vivotab Note, Asus T100 transformer) as well as my Android devices (Samsung Note 3 and Note 8) found, connected and saw the Roku as being capable of mirroring. I was getting excited, but my hopes were quickly dashed. In all cases when you scrolled down on say a web browser there was a ton of digital corruption. If there was much happening on the screen it was unusable. For me it was useless. The device just does not have the horsepower to implement this feature (Miracast). Interestingly a colleague has a Roku 3 and he says it works flawlessly (one of the reasons I took a chance on this device). Back it goes 😦

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Android, Mutlimedia, Other reviews, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Amazon Kindle Fire TV OS update 1.5 mini review

The Amazon Fire TV is a great little media player. Kodi (formerly XBMC) runs well on it once you have gone through the process of installing it. One of the limitations (in the past) was that Amazon did not support any form of USB storage on the device. Well, Amazon recently released an update to the FireTV which has fixed this little oversight. Now when you plug in a USB key it gets mounted and Kodi sees it perfectly. The pop up from the Fire TV announces it works best with USB 3.0 flash drives less than 128G and does not support USB hard drives (actually says USB hard drives may be unstable). I played back a video file off a slower USB flash drive and it played back perfectly. So this is a welcome add and gives another possible use for this great inexpensive media player!

Update: I found another feature Amazon quietly rolled out in this release. They added the ability for the Fire to act as a Miracast adapter! Way cool. You turn it on by going into settings, display, enable mirror (or press and hold the home button and then select mirror). Once enabled the Fire sits and waits for a connection. The Fire can not do anything else once it has entered this mode and the feature does not run in the background. I tried it with both my Windows 8.1 Asus T100 tablet as well as with my Samsung Note 3 Android 5 phone and both worked perfectly. They connected well and were quite smooth with next to no lag. I was even able to use Kodi to stream a movie (although I only did it briefly). There were some very small hiccups in the playback but to date this is the best miracast I’ve seen. Interestingly it even worked better than the Microsoft Wireless display adapter I previously reviewed. And much less laggy than a miracast adapter (no name el cheapo) I bought off ebay. Wow. Nice!

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April 28, 2015 Posted by | Android, Mutlimedia | 1 Comment