01 November 2009

Neat and small HD media player

Found lately very small media player. Not streaming, but really good companion on the go. Just take your favourite movies with you either on SD or USB and play via HDMI in 1080p! Impressive from the product with size of iPod.

  • Media Storage Support:USB devices with file systems: FAT, FAT32 and NTFS* (* editing functions not supported on NTFS formatted devices). SD, MMC, SD and SDHC Memory card devices with file systems: FAT and FAT32 only.
  • Video: MPEG1/2/4(MPG, VOB, AVI), DivX (avi), XviD (avi), resolution up to 720 x 480 30fps / 720 x 576 25fps.
  • Audio: MP3,WMA and OGG.
  • Photos: JPEG, BMP and GIF Support 1080p when use HDMI output to TV.
  • Subtitles: SRT/SM/SSA/SUB
  • Functions: Playback, copy, delete and reformat
  • Inputs: 1x USB2.0 and 1x SD/MMC/MS Card
  • Outputs: 1x HDMI 1.3 and 1x Composite(A/V)

16 October 2009

Installed today Twonky Media Server ver 5.1

Installed today Twonky Media Server ver 5.1, previous version was 5.0.68. I'll give later review, what differences I saw. Twonky claims, that performance is much better, as they use new database engine instead of their legacy.

Download link is here: http://www.twonkyforum.com/downloads/5.1/index.html

10 September 2009

Popcorn Hour A-110 and C-200 comparison

There is new Popcorn Hour model out -- C-200. But what animal is it really. My old A-110 actually beats by big score other media streamers, specially in HD, H.264 and .MKV section.

Comparison in the nutshell:
What it means in reality? Easier setup and operation, using built-in LCD. Faster UI responses and shorter buffering times. Gigabit interface speeds up large photo streaming over copper network, added BluRay capability and AVCHD support.

Seems like superiour streamer!

17 June 2009

NEW! Popcorn Hour C-200 is new impressive product!

Engadget: http://www.engadget.com/2009/06/16/popcornhours-latest-c200-media-box-is-blu-ray-and-anything-else/

It has everyhing in, what You can imagine about media streamer. Latest model A-110 was already winner in HD, new one, Popcorn Hour C-200 will be even better.

More after the break...

18 May 2009

Onkyo TX-SR706 upscaler still overheats

Last time I swapped my Onkyo TX-SR706 head unit under the warranty and installed 12 cm fan to cool video upscaling cirquitry. One day I saw again singnal disappearing in fast image shanges on my plasma. I found my fan mis-placed and stopped. Clearly same overheating problem. Put fan correctly back to the right position, ontop of Faroudja chipset and image loss never ever happened. 

11 March 2009

First Atom-based HD streamer

We used to see big noisy media center pc-s and Sigma chip based network media tanks with awkward user interface. This is media center pc / HD network media streamer, using Intel Atom processor. Due to low-power HD hardware decoder, it's capable to show 1080p HD through HDMI 1.3  interface. System is passive cooled and silent.

Hardware decoder video format support: 
   H.264/AVC SP, MP and HP at Level 4.1 up to 40 Mbps
   SMPTE VC-1 SP, MP and AP at Level 3 up to 40 Mbps
   MPEG-2 MP at ML  and MPEG-2 MP at HL, up to 125Mbps

Uncompressed video output
• YUV 4:2:0, YUV 4:2:2
• NV12 planar YCbCr format
• YUY2, UYVY packed YCbCr format
• 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p support  

Read more from Habey USA pages

09 March 2009

CD turned 30

Was it really 30 Years ago?! I remember debates about digital sound. Many analog fans claimed it artificial and unnatural. Time flies...

07 March 2009

Updated my Popcorn Hour A-110 firmware today

I updated my Popcorn Hour 110 firmware today. Hmm, nothing really changed visibly?!

05 March 2009

TwonkyMedia Server 5.0.55 seems to be working now

Installed today bug-fixed version of TwonkyMedia Server 5.0. Seems, it rescans content now.

Its unsupported version and not found easily from their website. 

Download working Twonky 5.0.55 here

01 March 2009

Few new notable HD titles

I've found few new titles in HD, mainly 720p in .MKV format H.264.

You can borrow these titles in HD format from Your friends wia bittorrent network. Use MiniNova.org or other servise fo find title needed. 

My workflow:

1. Type in name of the title to MiniNova.org search box
2. Select Movies tab
3. Sort by Seeders 
4. Ctrl+f to open find in browser
5. Type 720 or 1080 to find first HD version in the list (if available)
6. Download torrent and activate bittorrent client uTorrent or BitTorrent
7. Move downloaded file to correct location
8. Unpack RAR files (usually HD movies are in multiple .RAR's)
9. Put .MKV in the right directory

28 February 2009

SwarmPlayer -- stream directly form torrents

SwarmPlayer 1.0.1

Torrents, downloading and streaming are going to merge. Alredy now You may stream video over peer-to-peer bittorrent network, using new streaming client SwarmPlayer.

Workflow today
Find torrent from EzTv etc
Download TV Show, using uTorrent or BitTorrent etc
Store it to media server
View it from big screen media streamer or computer screen

Workflow tomorrow
Find torrent from EzTv etc
Stream it directly

So, there will be no need with messing with home media server. Just pick the show and look. 

26 February 2009

Internals of my 2 TB Atom media server

My server is not connected to display, keboard and mouse. It's entirely controlled via LogMeIn software. Only used connections are Intel Pro 1000 Gigabit LAN (expansion card on tthe right) and 220V mains (top left).
Please notice 2 x 1 TB SATA HDDS, connected to motherboard via red SATA cables. Power supply is in front of the computer (left on the photo). You van see low profile Intel Pro 1000 LAN card. I use it instead of integratet realtek Fast Ethernet (100 Mbit) LAN.

My Atom server configuration:

16 February 2009

Moved from BitTorrent to uTorrent

I uninstalled BitTorrent and installed uTorrent. Reason -- lately I had more and more unclear error messages. I have hopes that it works well, as uTorrent is one of most popular torrents available. I need stabile product, as I leave my media server un-attended for weeks and if I lose torrent in the middle, I lose lot of time to restart and recheck all downloads.

13 February 2009

Californication season 2 in HD 720

For HD and/or Californication friends: S02 is all available in HD 720 from eztv.it 

Atom HDD performance is OK

I measured HDD performance, using HD Tune 2.55 (free edition). I was quite positively surprised. Average read speed 70 MB/s is more than enough for any kind of HD streaming, large .MKV copying and .RAR unpacking. Anyway, bottleneck is Gigabit Ethernet, allowing max 40-50 MB/s throughput.
Speed is about the same, what I had 2 wears ago, using RocketRaid PCI RAID controller and 2 x 250 GB HDD-s. Not bad. What surprised me most, was very low CPU usage, what shows good chipset.

My Atom server configuration:
  • Intel Atom 230 1,6 GHz CPU;
  • Intel 945GC/ICH7 chipset;
  • RAM 2 GB (1 SIMM);
  • HDD 1 TB Western Digital;
  • Intel PRO 1000 Gigabit LAN card;
  • Windows XP x32 SP3;
  • TwonkyServer media streaming
Soon I add another 1 TB HDD, HD movies will fill 1 Tera quite quickly.

12 February 2009

Do not upgrade to TwonkyServer 5.0

Lately I installed new Intel Atom based media server hardware, moved my media library over to that and installed newest TwonkyServer 5.0. Shouldn't! New server is buggy and has one very bad flaw -- it doesn't update media library after copying new files to media folders. Only way to get new files visible is to rebuild all database. It is so annoying that I have to move back to 4.4 version. Don't know how, cause there is no download page for older versions anymore.

Shame, Twonky

07 February 2009

Atom server is serving HD

So, yesterday I unpacked all arrived components of my green media server, nicknamed "Atom". All components arrived separately and I really felt like 20 years ago, assembling first PC. I was able to lift in ITX motherboard to ITX minitower, first removing power supply off the way. Space was scarce. I installed 1 TB hard disk to its place. Soon I install next one to other 3,5" media bay, ment for multi-card reader or floppy. I installed Intel Pro 1000 Gigabit network card to free PCI slot, I fill use it instead of motherboards Realtek 100 Mbit one. 
Then I cabeled everything - power to system board, fans, power to drives, front panel lights and swiches, SATA, IDE. 
Luckily I had old IDE CD ROM drive to make Win XP x32 install and after that Intel Express driver install. I was most convinient system driver set install I've see - chipset, LAN card, display driver and sound device drivers were installed smoothly in one batch.
I installed XP SP3, AVG Free anti-virus, SmartDefrag and new Twonky 5.0 server. I also added LogMeIn client and HDtune. 
Technical specifications and benchmarks after the break.

04 February 2009

Nice 4-disk NAS (Atom-based)

Very interesting product TS-439 Pro Turbo NAS. Employing energy-efficient and quite powerful Intel Atom. Still only NAS. No torrent clent etc. I believe, that its possible to install Twonky server, but requires skills -- not so trivial operation. They have solution for Squeezbox, but not for generic UPnP clients.

So, is very powerful and reliable data store for files and backup, but not so much for home entertenment and media streaming.

HD movies in the viewing queue

Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona

Few new titles arrived today into my BitTorrent "complete" folder:

Wanted, HD 720
The Visitor, HD 720

All titles are H.264 in .MKV container. So, If one is interested to look HD stuff from the net, should buy accordingly .MKV compatible device. Be aware, that many HD devices are not able to handle H.264 / MKV. My 0.02 cents -- read carefulle tech specs before buying.

All from MiniNova

Atom based green media server

So, I decided to get more green or greener. Instead of Intel quad processor platform I go to more moderate Atom plaform.

2 x 1.0 TB SATA HDD in RAID 1 (mirrored)
MB MITX Intel Little Falls D945GCLF;
Intel 945GC/ICH7 chipset;
Atom 230 (1.6GHz, 512KB); RAM 1x DDR2 667 2GB;
10/100 LAN, 6xUSB2; 
Intel GMA950

One might ask, why I didnt go to NAS, easy and cheap. Because of certain requirements:
  • easy to install and manage Twonky media server software
  • possibility to use BitTorrent client
  • possibility to unpack .rar and .zip files (lot of 4+ GB .mkv's are breaked down to dozens of .rar pieces)
My current server pulls from the wall about 170 Watts. Knowing that Atom uses some 4 Watts and about the same chipset, power drop should be considerable. 

After the break new readings...

01 February 2009

HD stuff viewed

When I started this HD streaming forum some time ago, there was practically no HD content available online at all. Now, the situation is much better. My last viewing list:

There is 50/50 possibility to find HD version in torrents. Most times 720, but sometimes also 1080 version. Usually I sort all torrents by seeders, most populars up, then I try to find most seeded HD version. I usually recognize it by size (> 4GB) or I do quick in-page browster search Ctrl+f 720 or 1080. 

My A-110 plays all MKV with flying colors, so it has been eye-opening to look good-quality HD stuff at home. It's like goint to the street after laser eye surgery...

Places to find HD stuff:

25 January 2009

Folding@home supercomputer

This indeed not HD related, but I have been busy building my personal supercomputer (PSC) for Folding@home application. Currently I broke 5 TFLOPS barrier, but new milestones to hit.

24 January 2009

My new challenge

Green is this year black. So, I'll downgrade my media server power-wise, trying to retain full HD capabilities.

Outline of new architecture:

I really hope to cut power consumption down multiple times. Numbers and Watts after the break.

13 January 2009

TwonkyMedia Manager 1.0 and Server 5.0 are out

TwonkyMedia has news. They changed their ancient website to more modern, updated server 4.4.9 to 5.0 and added brand new product - Media Manager. Actually Media Server is now a component in Media Manager (also separately downloadable).

Twonky Media Manager 1.0

This product is for PC / Notebook scenario. In case, You are using NAS or dedicated Linux / PC server, You may upgrade to Media Server 5.0

Main improvements in version 5.0
  • new database structure that uses less memory;
  • server-side user-playlist support;
  • new transcoding architecture; 
  • new plug-in that includes support for Internet feeds like Flickr photo, YouTube™ video
  • new Internet radio stations

More detailed test later. Be tuned :)