Computers, Entertainment, Technology

Introducing Elisa

I’ve keeping my eye on a project called Elisa a lot recently. It’s basically another attempt to produce a cross platform* media centre solution. At the moment its features are fairly limited, it’s essentially just some nice media playing software. It does have plugins to handle Youtube and Flickr though with lots of other stuff planned.

The main reason I’m interested in it though is that it feels likes it’s constantly making progress (and they make the progress very visible). They have weekly releases and every one actually has some cool new feature. It’s also written in Python which I think lowers the bar a little for community contributions (as opposed to C++/Qt required for MythTV).

For it to replace MythTV for me the obvious missing feature is, well, TV. Reading the forum suggests it’s quite low on the priority list for the moment (since it obviously requires a lot of work and other features are less likely to be released in the meantime just because the developers are busy). But, as I said at the beginning, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

* Not so long ago it only worked on Linux, now it supports Windows. It technically supports MacOS with some messing around but they’re aiming for proper support soon.

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

Back to vanilla MythTV – Part 1: MythDora Rocks

Well I tried LinuxMCE but didn’t really get very far. After deciding everything was too much of a hassle, I downloaded MythDora 4.0 and installed it.

I have to say that unless you have a specific reason otherwise, MythDora is definitely the way to go for a MythTV installation. It was really easy and actually worked (something that seems not to have happened a lot when I’ve tried Linux).

One of the big advantages of using MythDora is since it’s Fedora based you can update (usually) painlessly from ATrpms. It has MythTV packages based on regular SVN checkouts. Importantly for me it also has packages from from mythtv-trunk (the latest version). Although they’re marked as “bleeding” they are usually stable.

The reason I needed the latest version is for storage group support. Without storage groups MythTV is limited to storing recordings in a single directory, storage groups allows you to specify multiple storage groups, each containing several directories. MythTV then use some clever load balancing to spread things out across available drives. This is important for me since I was planning on keeping most of my recordings on my new FreeNAS server, at least in the long term. The recordings aren’t tied to a specific storage group by the way – you can move them around freely (so I record to the local hard drive and then move them to the FreeNAS server later).

Once it was installed I did have to do a bit of fiddling, and it’s the sort of fiddling other people may have to do, so I’ll explain in part 2.

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

LinuxMCE 0704

A new version of LinuxMCE is out. And from what I’ve read (I haven’t installed it yet) it looks like a big improvement.

The biggest factor is improved MythTV support (which to be honest I feel is the most important part of it). They also claim the DVD quick install only requires three keypresses (but that’s only for the install, no setup). There is thankfully a new video as well that is considerably less annoying than the previous one – complete with disclaimers about things that may only work on specific hardware.

On the subject of specific hardware, there is a company called Fiire offering some pretty affordable computers with LinuxMCE already installed. Personally I’d build the core myself but maybe buy their thin clients.. They also a do a cool remote with built in gyro (like a remote/gyro-mouse combo) but it’s a $150…

Computers, Entertainment, Personal, Technology, Windows

Windows Vista

Well for various reasons I now have Windows Vista. I installed it myself and to be honest everything went smoothly. That’s not to say everything went perfectly, but nothing unsurmountable happened.

The first problem was the fact that I bought the upgrade version. I’d previously bought Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 but I was doing a clean install. Previous version of Windows just asked for you to pop the disk of the previous version in this situation – Vista didn’t. It would only let me install from Windows. So I had to install Media Centre first.

Then once I had installed Vista it didn’t have drivers for my network card or my sound card (and no network card meant no internet and therefore no video drivers and therefore horrible resolution (at the wrong aspect ratio no less). Well luckily I have another computer with internect access so I got the network drivers (and then the video and sound drivers).

Beyond that, I haven’t done much with it yet. The Aero glass lucks cool and stuff and the new games it comes with are at least as entertaining as the old ones were when I first saw them.

PS. User Account Control really is as annoying as they say it is for at least two reasons: Firstly it seems to ask you everything twice. Second since I have administrator access anyway it doesn’t really provide any security (it happens so often that you just click accept straight away without reading it).

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

The future of television

I just found an interesting document released by the European Broadcasting Union (their most prominent activity is the Eurovision Song Contest) regarding the future of television, specifically relating to PVR systems.

Free-to-air Television and other PVR Challenges in Europe.

It’s quite long but definitely good. Suggests revolutionary ideas like broadcasters making EPG and programme meta-data publicly available and that they should embrace “new business models” relating to content viewed through a PVR since traditional advertising is far less effective.

At no point by the way does it endorse DRM or content protection and even speaks of “the offensive use of patents” in rather negative terms…

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

MythTV better than Media Center?

I’ve been reading about MythTV and considering it as a replacement for Windows Media Center. Overall it has more features, has better support for multiple computers and is completely free. Unfortunately it’s only available for Linux. Which also means you have to be picky with hardware because of the lack of drivers.

I’ll write more about it shortly…

MythTV