28
Nov
08

XBMC and MediaStream – Tutorial 3

Right, after following the first 2 tutorials you should now be running XBMC with the MediaStream skin setup but you have no media! To fix that we need to setup some sources. First of all click on the Videos link on the Home screen.

 

Videos

Videos

 

Add Movies Source

Then press the Title button on the remote (menu button on keyboard) to bring up the context menu, and select Add Source.

 

Add Source

Add Source

 

First of all we’ll setup a source for Movies so click on the Browse button and navigate to where your movie files are stored. (In terms of organisation I find it useful to have Videos\Movies and Videos\TVShows folders). Once you have located the folder, press left and click on the OK button to return to the Add Source dialog. If you have your movies in more than one folder then click on the Add button and locate each of the further folders.

Once you have added the movies folder(s), navigate down below the Enter a Name… prompt and click the select button on the remote to bring up the on-screen keyboard. (if you’re using a keyboard you can just type the name in directly). Call this source Movies and then move down and click on the Set Content button.

 

Set Content dialog

Set Content dialog

 

Press the select button/enter key 3 times to select that the content is Movies. By default IMDb will be selected as your scraper and I leave it as is so navigate down to the options. I normally leave the Run Automated Scan disabled initially. All my movie files sit under the Movies folder (I don’t have sub-folders for each movie) so I leave the Use Folder Names… and Scan Recursively settings turned off.

Navigate down and press the Settings button. I enable all the options and set the IMDB Thumb Size to be 384 on the Xbox (512 on other platforms). Press OK button when done to return to the Set Content dialog.

Press Select to complete the Set Content dialog and then press OK to add the new source.

Add TV Shows Source

Next we want to add a TV Shows source. This is the same as setting up the Movies source, except when in the Set Content dialog you only need to click twice to select TV Shows content. TheTVDB is the default scraper for TV Shows content and in the Scraper Settings for it I usually leave it with the defaults.

All my TV Shows are setup in seperate folders under the main TV Shows folder. ie Videos\TVShows\CSI so my next step is to actually associate those folders with the correct TV Shows (you can leave it work automatically but I usually find it’s better to check it manually.

From the Videos screen you should now have 3 options – Movies, TV Shows and Video Plugins. Click on TV Shows and you should see a list of all the folders in the TV Shows source. With the first one selected press the info button, it should then come up with a list of TV Shows which match the folder name. Highlight the correct one and press select/enter. The TV Show and Episode info will then be scanned in and you will then see in the info dialog for that show. Press Menu button on remote (Escape key on keyboard) to close the dialog and then repeat this for all the TV Show folders.

Once you are done, press Menu/Escape to return to the Home screen and select TV Shows. Click on Title/Menu button to bring up the context menu and select Update Library. This will scan in the Movies along with any TV Shows you didn’t manually scan already.

 

Update Library

Update Library

 

Now you should have usable content in your Movies and TV Shows library. In the next tutorial I’ll discuss setting up the Music area and then move on to selecting views and options to make the best of the skin and media.

21
Nov
08

XBMC and MediaStream – Tutorial 2

First things first, since this tutorial is about setting up XBMC with the MediaStream skin then we need to make sure we are actually using the MediaStream skin. After newly installing XBMC it will defualt to using the PM3.HD skin so start up XBMC and select the Settings item. Then select the Appearance icon and, with Look and Feel selected in the menu on the left, move to the right and change the Skin setting to MediaStream. After a brief pause you should see the style of the Settings screen change to that of the MediaStream skin.

As we’re in the Settings screen we may as well go through and setup the application to work as we’d (I’d!) like it. Below the Skin setting is the Skin Theme, if you are running on the Xbox then you should change this to the lite theme. The only other setting I change on this list is the Enable Mouse (scroll down to the bottom of the list) and I usually turn that off (I find it easier to use keyboard or remote control).

Press right and select the Region settings. Change the Region and Language settings to suit your preferences.

After doing that move on down to the Screen settings. I normally leave the Resolution on Auto but feel free to change it to a desired resolution if the automatic one doesn’t suit. Click on the Video Calibration and then make sure the angled image is aligned to the top left corner of the screen and then press enter key (or select on Xbox remote) to repeat for the bottom right alignment. Next you need to position the area for the subtitles and then make sure that the square displayed is actually a square. Once you are happy with the alignment press Escape key (or Menu on remote).

Now move down to the View Options settings. The settings I usually activate are as follows:

  • Hide Parent Folder Items
  • Hide Media Extensions
  • Ignore tokens when sorting
  • Remember selected file on forward navigation
  • Disable Add Source buttons in file lists

Pressing the Escape key should then show the Credits screen for the MediaStream skin (it only shows as you have just switched from the PM3.HD skin and will not show again unless you change skins again). Press Enter/Select to move to the Home screen.

Move to the System option and press Enter/Select. The sub-menu will then slide out, remain on the Skin option and press Enter/Select once again. You will then see the MediaStream Skin Settings screen.

 

MediaStream Skin Settings

MediaStream Skin Settings

 

In the General settings I normally activate the following options:

  • Show AM/PM in clock
  • Show Media Count

If you are running on the Xbox then you should probably also turn on the Hide Thumbs in Options Menu setting.

Change the menu on the right to select the Home settings. The only setting I change here is to activate the Show Weather on Home setting.

Change the menu on the right to select the Music settings. The only setting I change here is to activate the Show Horizontal Music Vis setting.

And that is that as far as settings go. In the next tutorial I’ll discuss setting up the sources and getting the media into the library and choosing the best views so that the skin works to it’s full potential (for my preferences anyway).

PS As you can see above I have set it up to show the AM/PM in the clock but this won’t work properly for all regions so you need to check the time format settings for your selected region. To make this work better (doesn’t seem to work when hours digit is less than 10?) you need to edit the XBMC/language/???/labinfo.xml file, where ??? is your chosen language. Now find the code for your region and then make sure the time tag is setup as follows:

      <time symbolAM=”AM” symbolPM=”PM”>H:mm:ss xx</time>

Save the file and the next time you start up XBMC you should see a nice blue AM or PM on the right hand side of the clock.

21
Nov
08

XBMC and MediaStream – Tutorial 1

The first stage in getting this up and running is to make sure you have all the right software. First of all head off to xbmc.org and get the latest version of XBMC for your platform (if you want to run it on the Xbox then you need to go to the t3ch site for the latest Xbox version). Secondly you need to download the latest version of the MediaStream skin (most versions of XBMC will come with MediaStream but you probably want to make sure you have the latest version anyway) and you can get that from the teamrazorfish website.

Next up is installing XBMC. For the Windows version it’s simply a matter of running the executable and following the on-screen prompts. For the Xbox it’s a bit more complicated as the Xbox has to have been chipped (or soft-modded) and then entails FTP’ing the files on to the Xbox’s hard-drive but once they are on there then you are good to go.

Once XBMC is installed we then need to install the MediaStream skin. To do this you need to extract the files from the zip file you downloaded from the Team Razorfish website and then place them in the XBMC/skin folder (if a MediaStream folder is already in the skin folder then it’s best to remove it before adding the new version to make sure you avoid any old files causing problems).

So we now have a working version of XBMC, with the MediaStream skin installed so it’s now time to get to the main part of this tutorial where we actually set it all up to work properly and smoothly (even on the Xbox).

20
Nov
08

XBMC MediaStream Tutorials

Been mega busy the last few days with work (and no play!) so haven’t had much time to post anything. I have been thinking about what would be good to write about and have seen a fair number of posts over on the xbmc.org forums where users have been struggling with their setups in XBMC.

Since I’ve been using XBMC for a number of years, I have a fairly stable system, running with the glorious MediaStream skin, and thought that others could find it useful if I detailed the steps I took to get my setup. (Could also prove useful for me if I ever have to restore it!)

Hopefully I’ll find some time in the next few days to get this started.

14
Nov
08

Google Chrome

Until very recently I was a big fan of using Avant Browser for browsing (I have been using it for a number of years as it allowed me to do tabbed browsing based on the IE engine years before IE could do it itself). Over the years I’ve followed new releases of IE, Firefox, Opera etc but never come across any compelling reason to move away from Avant. Until Chrome.

When Google announced their Chrome browser back in September I saw the screenshots and decided to try it but didn’t really hold out too much hope of it supplanting Avant but after trying it I was converted. The very simple UI is very deceiving as it hides a lot of powerful additions.

My real favourite is the address bar. Being able to type in a web address or some search criteria in the same area and have a dropdown appear with most relevant sites and search results is a fantastic idea. Add to that the extension for some of the more popular websites (such as play.com) where typing in the url causes a notice to appear in the right of the address bar: press TAB to search play.com. Pressing the tab key then clears the address bar, allows you to type the search criteria and then pressing enter then takes you to the search results from play.com based on your criteria. It just saves you going to play.com, typing in your search and then getting the results. It’s only a small step less but it’s just so much more user friendly.

 

Google Chrome

Google Chrome

Also having each tab work in a seperate thread is great to avoid sites (like Engadget) which ocassionally lock up or slow down the browser.

The current development version seems to have a small bug when opening a New Tab and then opening all the bookmarks in a folder on the bookmarks bar (there is a spare New Tab left) but other than that it seems to work extremely well (but then Google are quite used to releasing Beta software that is very stable, take Google Groups for example).

I have not been back to Avant Browser since the day I downloaded Chrome and as a nice slim, resource friendly browser for me EeePC netbook it’s ideal. I’m eagerly waiting to see what fixes and additions they have planned over the coming weeks and months.

13
Nov
08

3G on 3

I bought a 3G mobile broadband modem about a year ago on a £15 a month plan with 3. This gave me up to 3GB per month and is actually way more than I really needed (I don’t think I’ve been more than 1GB in any month yet!). The modem I was given was a white Huawei E220.

 

HUawei E220

Huawei E220

Initially I was running it on my EeePC 701 under Ubuntu Linux and had quite a few problems. Most of these problems were caused by the fact the modem wasn’t fully supported on the OS which meant I had to update things manually to get it to work. (I confess to not being a Linux expert but I know enough to get me by). The modem worked on the whole but would be a bit flaky, dropping connections quite frequently and ocassionally requiring a restart before it would be recognised.

Thankfully, when I upgraded the netbook from the 701 to a 1000H (which runs Windows XP) the connection problems have all but disappeared. Using XP also meant that I was able to use 3’s own software to manage the connection (it comes pre-loaded on the modem), a feature that was not available on Linux as the modem was only supported by 3 on Windows or Mac.

My impressions of 3 themselves were fine until a month or so ago when I found that they were going to change the way I was billed. I had been getting detailed bills every month, showing me how and when I had been using my data allocation. I then got a text message sent to the modem (no letter or any other communication) telling me that I would now be charged (an extra £1 a month) for this detailed bill unless I logged on to their site and stopped getting itemised billing.

This to me was not the correct way of doing this. For me I would have been happier to have receieved this communication by letter. If I had still been running on Linux I would never have seen the text as the text only appears in 3’s connection software which doesn’t run under Linux. Additionally I think it’s wrong to auto-charge someone for something, a better option would have been to stop sending me itemised bills and then tell me if I wanted to get them I’d have to pay for it (I still wouldn’t have been happy but at least I wouldn’t have been out of pocket and unhappy!)

Overall this left a bad taste in the mouth with regards to 3 but that changed when I got a letter through the door a week or so ago. The letter was to apologise for the poor quality of the network over the past few months (something I had not noticed to be honest) and to make up for it they were going to re-imburse me my full subscription for those 3 months. Happy days!

I love my mobile broadband as it gives me access to the internet pretty much everywhere I go (as long as I take my netbook with me). Out in the sticks I don’t get a great reception but since I spend most of my time around central London this isn’t a big problem.

13
Nov
08

EeePC

As you may have seen from some of my earlier posts (ie EeeBox) I am proud owner of an Asus EeeBox but this is not my first foray in to the (now vast) Eee brand area. I bought one of the early Eee PC 701’s when they came out towards the end of 2007 and was hugely impressed with it. OK the screen was a bit small but as a mobile device that could be used for basic web surfing and simple document editing it was great.

The market for these netbooks picked up dramatically after the success of the 701 and soon a whole host of manufacturers were competing in this area (not to mention the huge number of new models Asus introduced themselves). I kept my eye on the new machines as I wanted to upgrade to get the benefits of the larger screen. The MSI Wind almost had me but I eventually decided to stay with the Eee brand and plumped for a Eee PC 1000H instead.

 

Eee PC 1000H

Eee PC 1000

This has a 10″ screen (compared to the 7″ on the 701) and now came with the Intel Atom processor which increased the processor speed and also increased the battery life to around 6 hours (way better than the 2 or 3 hours I would be lucky to get with the 701). Another benefit is that I am using Windows XP on the 1000 whereas I was running Linux (Ubuntu) on the 701. I quite liked running Ubuntu for many things but found it very flakey with my Huawei 3G modem (constantly dropping connections etc) so am glad to get on to an OS where the 3G modem works perfectly.

For anyone thinking of getting a netbook this Christmas then I’d have to say you can’t go too far wrong with the 1000H (a small travel-friendly laptop with a decent sized keyboard and an 80GB hard drive to go along with the fantastic battery life).

[Before anyone comments, No I don’t have any sponsorship deal or anything with Asus but it just seems over the last year or so I’ve had some really good experiences with their hardware.]




December 2016
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Archives