Category Archives: Home Theatre

Plugin brings Netflix to Kodi Media Center (unofficially, but without breaking DRM) – Liliputing

There’s an open source Kodi plugin that lets you login to Netflix, browse the streaming video service’s catalog, and play videos.

Source: Plugin brings Netflix to Kodi Media Center (unofficially, but without breaking DRM) – Liliputing

HDTV Overscan: What It Is and Why You Should (Probably) Turn It Off

Here’s something you may not know: that HDTV that you love so much probably doesn’t show the whole picture on its screen. In fact, up to five percent of the picture can get cut off around the edges—this is called overscan. It’s old technology that’s left over from the CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions of yesteryear. Here’s why it existed in the first place, why it’s still used today, and how to (hopefully) turn it off on your TV.

Source: HDTV Overscan: What It Is and Why You Should (Probably) Turn It Off

Link: ODROID-C1 is a $35 quad-core, single-board Android/Linux PC

When the Raspberry Pi team launched a tiny, low power computer priced at just $35, it was pretty remarkable. But that was 2 years ago, and while the Raspberry Pi has seen a few updates in that time, it’s still powered by the same single-core 700 MHz Broadcomm BCM2835 ARM11 processor.

Over the past few years a number of other single-board computers with more powerful hardware have appeared, but they usually also have higher price tags.

Hardkernel’s ODROID-C1 doesn’t though… it’s a quad-core mini computer that sells for just $35.

odroid-c1_01

Full article and demonstration videos here:
ODROID-C1 is a $35 quad-core, single-board Android/Linux PC (Liliputing)
Related:
$35 quad-core hacker SBC offers Raspberry Pi-like size and I/O (LinuxGizmos.com)
Ordroid-C1 vs Raspberry Pi B+: Hardware, Benchmark, Storage and Ethernet Performance Comparison tables from Ordroid

Link: Review of the TBS MOI+ DVB S/S2 Satellite TV Linux Server – a bit like a HDHomeRun, but for Free-To-Air satellite signals

A couple of years ago, I acquired a HDHomeRun Dual device, and discovered how nice it was to be able to stream terrestrial TV signals to anywhere in my home via my local network. I set up a backend system so that I could record programs and enjoy watching them at my convenience. I wondered if it was also possible to do the same thing with the signals I received off my satellite dishes. So earlier this year I attempted to build a backend system that could receive free-to-air satellite signals and stream them to the various computers around my home, including the home theater PC’s that are connected to my HDTV receivers. Let’s just say that the first attempts didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. There is a huge learning curve, particularly if you’re not a programmer nor otherwise particularly geeky, and sometimes the hardware and the backend software just won’t cooperate.

Then I stumbled across a page on the TBS MOI+. I suspected that it might be able to accomplish what I’d been trying to do, and in a lot smaller package. So, I went online in an attempt to find some reviews on this device. To my surprise, little has been written about it, particularly in English. So, hoping to fill that gap, I contacted TBS and asked if they might be interested in providing a unit for review purposes. They graciously consented, and this review is the result. Just so you know, I did not promise to write only nice things about the unit, and I’m not getting paid anything for this review, beyond receiving the MOI+. So, this will be as honest of a review as I can make it.

Full article here:
Review of the TBS MOI+ DVB S/S2 Satellite TV Linux Server – a bit like a HDHomeRun, but for Free-To-Air satellite signals (Free To Air America)

Link: Tutorial: Raspbmc PVR TinyUSB2 DVB-T & TVHeadend All-in-one

Note: We hesitate to post this link because DVB-T is NOT used in the United States or Canada (we use ATSC).  It IS used in many other parts of the world.  But the reason we are linking to is is because some of this information might be adaptable to use of an ATSC (digital television via an antenna) or a DVB-S or DVB-S2 (free-to-air C-band or Ku-band satellite) tuner, all of which can be used in North America.  However we do not guarantee that, and we can’t tell you what parts of the instructions would need to be modified to make it work with one of those types of tuners.

Thought I would post my first attempt to build an all-in one XBMC LiveTV and PVR running Raspbmc and TVHeadend. Credit is given to Quonith for his awesome tutorial upon which this is based: http://forum.stmlabs.com/showthread.php?tid=2648.

This particular tutorial is using the Digital Now TinyUSB2 DVB-T with TVHeadend as the TV server. I am looking to do away with my power hungry Windows 7 Media Centre PC and this is more od a proof of concept more than anything. At this point in time, I still prefer Windows MCE as it ‘just works’ and is very intuitive for the user (most important of all). None the less, this was good fun.

You can view a video of my setup here: http://youtu.be/aU99C-0W4fI

Full article here:
Tutorial: Raspbmc PVR TinyUSB2 DVB-T & TVHeadend All-in-one (Raspberry Pi)

Link: Chorus Is a Powerful Web-Based Remote Control for XBMC

Chorus is an add-on for XBMC that lets you remotely manage, build playlists, queue up videos, organize your library, and do just about anything you want with your media center—all from the comfort of a browser window on another device.

Full article here:
Chorus Is a Powerful Web-Based Remote Control for XBMC (Lifehacker)

If you tried upgrading XBMC under OS X, run a MythTV backend, and get the error “No PVR Client has been started yet”, see this thread

This thread contains information on the buggy XBMC version 12.3 for OS X, and a couple of suggestions for reverting back to XBMC 12.2, which will fix the problem for now.  This issue does NOT appear to be present in Linux versions of XBMC 12.3.

The ASUS VivoPC: Could this be a good Home Theater PC?

We don’t know (though we’d happily accept a device for review if anyone at Asus happens to read this), but it is quite possibly the most easily upgradeable PC we have ever come across, as this video shows:

 

YouTube link: ASUS VivoPC Overview

This is the only full review we could find.  The audio track is in Italian, but you can turn on English subtitles from the CC button in the player (that should appear once you start the video):

 

YouTube link: Recensione ASUS VivoPC – Review

From what we’re seeing here, it looks like this is a unit to keep an eye on, since it seems to play video pretty smoothly under both Windows and Linux. Just keep in mind that you may want to add or upgrade the memory if you plan to use this for serious computing, but I don’t think you’ll see too many systems that make that an easier process.

Note that this is the lowest-end unit of the VivoPC series, but there are two higher-end models that come in black cases and have upgraded hardware, naturally at a higher price.

Here’s a link to the article that tipped us off to this device:
Asus VivoPC mini-desktop now available for $320 and up

Buying a new HDTV? If you like good video, make sure it has this setting!

If you have ever tried to connect a computer to a HDTV set via a HDMI port, you may have found that portions of the top and bottom of the screen were cut off, possibly including an entire top or bottom menu bar (this issue seems especially acute on systems that use a “skinny” top menu bar, such as Ubuntu Linux).  This is because many, if not all HDTV manufacturers apply “Overscan”.

This is a holdover from the old analog TV days, when certain information (such as closed captions and timing information) was transmitted in the first few lines of the video, so sets were deliberately set up to not display those lines.  Digital TV, for the most part, does not transmit data of any kind as part of the picture area (at least not in the U.S.A.), although occasionally you might still see it on an up-converted standard definition video.  Usually, the only time we have every really noticed it since the digital conversion is when older commercials are played by a local TV station.

Nevertheless, most TV manufacturers enable overscan by default, even if it means that you lose a portion of the picture area most of the time.  That also implies that the picture is degraded – think about it, if the station is sending a full 1920×1080 picture, but the TV discards some of that information, then it has to try to stretch the remaining picture to fill the 1920×1080 screen.  So, you are losing resolution on those sets that don’t give you a way to disable overscan.

Some TVs do give you an easy way to turn overscan off, but the setting is called something different by different manufacturers.  Terms we have seen used are “Dot by Dot”, “Exact Fit”, “Just Scan”, or simply “Overscan” (if you know of others feel free to add them in the comments), but there are many TV’s that don’t appear to have this setting at all.  The problem is that if you are thinking about ordering a TV from an online retailer, it is often difficult to determine if the TV has a way to disable overscan or not.

Sometimes you can download a manual from a manufacturer’s site, but even it it mentions such a setting, you need to read carefully to determine if it can be used regardless of the signal source, and in particular, whether it can be used with the HDMI inputs. It seems a some TV manufacturers are still stuck in 2005, and think that there is no other way to connect a computer to a TV other than via an old school VGA or DVI input, so they only offer the ability to disable overscan on that one port.  Perhaps they think those HDMI output ports on modern laptops are just for decoration?

If you were buying a TV in a store, and IF they happen to actually have the remote next to the TV, you could try looking through the various options before making a purchase, but if buying online you can’t.

We just wish that the TV manufacturers would disable overscan by default – for the most part it’s not needed anymore, and degrades the picture.  Also, we wish they’d all provide an easily accessible and clearly labeled control to enable or disable it that applies to ALL the inputs, not just the VGA or DVI input.  We suppose it might be too much to ask that they agree on a common name for the setting, though that would certainly make things easier on consumers.  So far, only some of the Sharp TV’s actually have a control labelled “Overscan”, which is described in the manual this way:

  • Overscan—Extends text and images past the screen edges to hide edge artifacts. You can select On or Off.

If only all HDTV manufacturers would do that!  Even Sharp isn’t consistent – on some of their TV’s the setting is called “Dot by Dot”, and on some of their older models it can’t be enabled for anything other than the VGA input (unless maybe you use a hack to make the option appear, but you can only do that if the source is a Linux-based computer that utilizes an xorg.conf file, or you have some other way to set “CVT reduced blank” on the sending computer or device).

If you are lucky enough to have such a setting, you might want to make sure it’s turned off for display of the full picture area, and less distortion of the picture.  And if you are considering the purchase of a TV, make sure it has this setting!  Unless, of course, you like the idea of deliberately introducing distortion into your video, and you don’t mind not seeing top and/or bottom menus when you connect a computer.

Link: DSVR (Domain-Specific VPN Router)

[notice]This software may not be legal to use in some countries or localities, or for certain uses.  We are not lawyers, so we cannot advise you on this.[/notice]

From the README.md file:

PURPOSE

If you’re using a VPN service today, you may have found the following limitations:

1) All or nothing. Either ALL traffic goes down the VPN or none – unable to be selective.
2) Only one VPN at a time. Cannot selectively route certain sites down one VPN, and others down another VPN.
3) Unless you’ve configured your VPN at the router level, it’s likely that only a single device can use your VPN at one time.

This project serves to address each of the above – see the FEATURES section.

Please review my blog post here http://darranboyd.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/selective-vpn-routing-solution-dsvr/

Note that this software runs on a Raspberry Pi. Full text and download links:
DSVR (Domain-Specific VPN Router) (GitHub)

If for some reason you don’t want to run this on a Raspberry Pi, but would instead prefer to do something similar using a DD-WRT based router, the same author covered that topic a couple of years ago:
StrongVPN PPTP on DD-WRT – Source based routing (improved) (Darran Boyd)