Tag Archives: movies

Project “media player for my wife” finished

For long time I had one project on my todo list: media player for my wife use. Has to be easy to use and control, does not need connecting anything when you want to watch a movie etc. Typical black box design.

Idea was to take one of boards I have at home, plug 750GB 2.5″ hdd to it and put it on a box with only power and hdmi ports exposed. All running Ubuntu (with distro kernel) or Android. And controlled by simple remote control.

I tested several platforms as a base for it. First was Pandaboard — but as I have EA1 board it was far too slow for my use. And with current kernels there is no support for any hardware decoding or video acceleration (yay for PowerVR and yay for Texas Instruments). Then I purchased Wandboard Quad. Nice device, fast but I lacked patience to get it to properly recognize monitors so it always booted into XGA resolution. HW acceleration was a bit of fun as well.

Then I got Minnowboard Max from Dave Anders. After first days of playing with board it was visible that it can be a good platform for this project. But then something happened and board required RMA which took quite a long time (remember to pay for air transport of package while sending Europe->USA).

During last 2-3 weeks I was working on it in free time and finally got it done:

MMax in a box

Box contents:

  • Minnowboard Max (dualcore Atom with Intel GPU and 2GB ram)
  • 750GB Serial ATA 2.5″ hdd (bootloader, system, movies storage)
  • cheap Realtek WiFi dongle
  • cheap usb hub
  • remote control dongle
  • microhdmi/m -> hdmi/f cable
  • hdmi/m -> hdmi/m adapter
  • hdmi/f -> hdmi/f wall mountable adapter

Amount of HDMI adapters was required as finding microhdmi/m->hdmi/m cable is (probably) impossible.

USB hub was fun. I have several of those but this one got removed from case, got all cables desoldered (two going to second board with additional two ports and one going to host) and then fun started…

Only one connector had 2.54mm spacing while both host and second port one were some random size. After soldering single pins for host cable I decided to not add 4th port. Pictures show why ;D

IMG_20150525_171420 IMG_20150602_162548 IMG_20150602_162602 IMG_20150602_163710

That’s hardware. For software part I used Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with Kodi 14.2 ‘Helix’ as media center. After few small tweaks (automatic login to ‘kodi’ user and into ‘kodi’ session) system boots directly to movie selection.

But how to choose what to play? My Iogear wireless keyboard will not go with media player box… I bought Natec A30 airmouse but then it shown that it’s dpad buttons work only as IR control for TV ;( But then I realised that years ago I bought Sony bluetooth remote for Playstation 3 console (for some other random project). And it still works ;D

Still have to sort out key mapping as lot of remote buttons have no sense for media center (I have no idea what for those triangle/circle/box/cross are for example) but this is small part which I already have partially solved. And need to add BT dongle into the box to get it working ;D

I am old fashioned

I use KDE since 2004 (do not remember which version it was). Lot of things changed during that time. But not my X11 session use.

Since beginning of my Linux use (in 2000) I use one set of virtual desktop. Their amount changes from time to time but there are always at least 4 of them (six at the moment):

  1. “work area” — terminal, gvim (few copies of each)
  2. “web area” — here I have web browser (now it is chromium, was firefox, galeon in past)
  3. “mail/news are” — mail/news reader (kontact with kmail/knode, was sylpheed-claws at some time)
  4. “misc area” — here I run software which do not fit to first three

Terminal application changes from time to time. First it was GNOME-Terminal from GNOME 1.4, then Konsole, xterm, uxterm, rxvt-unicode, eterm and few others but after experimenting with many I stayed with Konsole. It has tabs so allows me to run many sessions in one window. Some of tabs have “screen” attached as this allows me to quickly get another shell in working directory and also easy way to log any output (“tee” sometimes got blocked). With recent KDE 4.x changes I started to using “window grouping” to split tabs related to other tasks from main terminal. This gives me one terminal window on screen with few tabbed windows in it which can have own tabs which can have screen sessions in them. May sounds strange but it works. And I always have screen with “irssi” running in it (on local or remote machine).

As editor I use gVim mostly. I kind of mastered it and do not feel good in Kate, Eclipse, JEdit or other “so called normal” editor. Never tried Emacs but do not plan to.

During UDS-M when I told that I am using MPlayer for all videos reaction was interesting. I got list of modern video players (mostly GStreamer based ones) which I should switch to. But I really do not see a need for it. MPlayer maybe is pain in the ass sometimes but it plays everything I have, adds subtitles in a way which I like, has controls on keyboard which I remember and allows me to seek instead of fast forwarding during watching film. Ok, on devices like BeagleBoard I probably can get better results with GStreamer based apps but thats due to codecs which can use DSP.

I never liked Konqueror — always used Gecko based browser. It was Galeon 1.x in past, Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox later, Chromium now. Tried Opera (UI never managed to integrate with look&feel of my desktop) and few other browsers. Chromium is nice but has some drawbacks. Maybe some will be fixed/changed.

Even removable storage I most of time handle with “pmount” command. It works fine for me and I do not like to have all my pendrives/memory cards/etc to be auto mounted. How will I notice which is which in situation when I plug 2 same ones… And UUIDs or filesystem labels are not solution probably. But maybe I will change that in next months.

But back to desktops. KDE 4 has widgets on desktops, activities and few other buzz words. I do not use them. Ok, panel has few widgets integrated but it is still panel. I simply do not see a use case on my desktop for most of widgets. Even after trying them.

So if someone wonder why I do not use something which “everyone is using” then I hope that I gave an answer.

Seeking or fast forwarding?

Two months ago I bought my first television set: 42″ Panasonic plasma. And as TV without cable is not so useful I also got cable TV with their set top box. One of features which STB has is possibility to record TV shows. It also automatically record during watching so pausing film just because of something is not a problem.

But watching already recorded TV shows gives me strange feeling… That’s because of a way of moving backward/forward in the film. It works like in old video tape devices :(

When I am watching films on my computers I am using MPlayer for it. On cursor keys + PgUp/PgDn ones I have seeking for 10s/1m/10m which is immediately jump. On set top box I got fast forwarding instead which does not allow me to quickly jump over commercials or part of previous show which got recorded before main show. Same problem appears on Philips MCD-712 player which I use to watch DVD/DivX/Xvid films. It gives x1/2/4/8/16/32 playing speed but no seeking to which I am used.

I wonder when vendors will notice that more and more customers never used tape based devices (never mind video or audio ones).

Grindhouse

Today I was in cinema on “Planet Terror” movie. It is second part of “Grindhouse” project of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez — first part was “Death Proof” which I watched some time ago.

From two parts of “Grindhouse” I prefer first one anyway — was more thrilling then second. Personally I am not a fan of zombie movies but this one was nice to watch.

The Star Wars marathon

I just came back home from the Star Wars marathon. We started at 12 and decided to end after 5th episode (we became too tired).

Did you know that cutting hands using light sabers was quite popular? Each episode results in few hands cut and Anakin Skywalker/Lord Vader had worst luck — right hand cut twice (episode II during fight with Count Douku and episode VI during fight with Luke Skywalker), left hand cut in episode III (by Obi-Wan this time).

Such long marathon is exhausting but also fun — lot of discussions during some scenes, between movies etc. And it is important to have big screen — we were using video projector so the picture was big enough to watch. 5.1 sound would be also nice to have but stereo sound (like we had) can be also good.

30 years of StarWars

Yesterday was 30 years since “A New Hope” (aka “Star Wars episode IV”). I checked cinemas offer but there was no Star Wars night anywhere ;(

But I found that Lucasfilm released first three episodes on DVD again. This time each one is sold separately and contain bonus — original release from 1977/80/83 like it was in cinemas. Will have to think about buying those and see how Jabba was looking before 199x remastering etc..

Sunshine

I was at cinema and watched ‘Sunshine‘ movie. It was long time since I watched SF on big screen…

Story is easy — the Sun is dying, Earth is frozen so people create big bomb and plan to detonate it inside of our star. During flight they find previous mission ship etc, etc… Finally they complete their mission and everything is good.

But amount of goofs is big… After explosions in oxygen plant they discovered that amount of oxygen is too small for return trip and can be too small to complete mission. But why they keep air on whole ship? Keeping air in only needed parts will give them extra time probably… And there are few others but I already spoiled too much ;)

Anyway I enjoyed movie but it is one of those which you can see once and do not want to see again.