Author Topic: Why Do Media Directors Exist?  (Read 1391 times)

totallymaxed

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Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« on: August 21, 2014, 12:36:41 pm »
First off I know this post will be contentious for many of you...but read on and then respond;

Back in the day when Pluto Inc were first developing Pluto (of which LinuxMCE & Dianemo are direct descendants) the Tech world was very different;

- Crestron were the Elephant in the room (still are?)
- Everything was expensive (I mean everything)
- There were no inexpensive Media Players or SmartTV's
- No inexpensive Tablets and SmartPhones hadn't been invented
- Building custom hardware was difficult & expensive

Its in this context that PXE booted Media Directors were born. They solved several problems in one hit; They enabled a '10 foot' TV based custom UI, they played local CD/DVD discs and could stream video from the Core, they provided local in-room control I/O at essentially zero marginal cost. At the time all these capabilities made incredible sense even though they added complexity. But today they largely don't.

Today the UI has migrated to your tablet or smartphone and is touch driven, we have low cost IP controllable media players and Blueray/DVD players that can play disc media and/or stream video content from anywhere, independent small IP controlled I/O is cheap and easy to install where ever you need it. The Media Director is a hangover from a previous age. It adds cost, complexity and adds considerably to the amount of energy a system consumes. Its another point of failure and a source of many problems both for those building and installing their own systems and for those using systems too.

How many threads here in the forum relate to problems with MD's? I don't know the number but its a big one. And they continue to cause reliability problems in use too. Yes some installations have MD's that don't cause any problems - but most do experience problems at some point. Of course upgrading from one OS release to another is also problematic too in terms getting displays configured and working properly again.

Removing MD's, using Orbiters on tablets or Smartphones and using IP controlled media players/SmartTV's seems to me to be a much better approach overall and its the one we've taken with Dianemo. It improves overall reliability, lowers energy usage, reduces the physical size of your system while improving video playback quality & performance.

For some of us its the challenge of getting our systems working that is the payback and in that sense MD's improve  systems! But I think for most of us we'd like fewer challenges and more smooth and rewarding usage of our systems. After all there are an infinite number of other pieces of hardware you can get a challenge from when integrating that won't stop your family from watching Game of Thrones ;-)

Comments?

All the best

Andy
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posde

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2014, 12:44:26 pm »
For me, the MD has the advantage that I am in charge of it. And *I* have the means to modify it in any way I like it.

Another major point for me is VDR TV consumption. I have yet to find another networkable TV solution that allows recorded and live TV as good as VDR. That's why I stick with MDs.

If I were to watch streaming content, downloaded content or removable disk based content only, I might change my view. But for now, I love the TV functionality my VDR inside of LinuxMCE gives me.

totallymaxed

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2014, 01:29:37 pm »
For me, the MD has the advantage that I am in charge of it. And *I* have the means to modify it in any way I like it.

Another major point for me is VDR TV consumption. I have yet to find another networkable TV solution that allows recorded and live TV as good as VDR. That's why I stick with MDs.

If I were to watch streaming content, downloaded content or removable disk based content only, I might change my view. But for now, I love the TV functionality my VDR inside of LinuxMCE gives me.

Both very valid and good points. Being in charge of, and being able to modify, your MD is essentially what i was referring to in my last paragraph. And if you are a VDR user then I can see why loosing that would be a big hit.
Andy Herron,
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posde

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2014, 02:26:03 pm »
With regards to power usage, I have high hopes that rPi (or similar) based MD solutions will provide the best of both worlds:

1) standardized hardware
2) full MD

phenigma has been very busy with it, and I applaud his efforts.

purps

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2014, 04:11:25 pm »
Both very valid and good points. Being in charge of, and being able to modify, your MD is essentially what i was referring to in my last paragraph. And if you are a VDR user then I can see why loosing that would be a big hit.

How do you deal with watching liveTV using a media player? Does the TV signal, whether it's satellite, freeview, cable, whatever, still go to the core?

Also do you lose the onscreen orbiter? If yes, while not a showstopper, I would say it's a disadvantage, it's great being able to do anything from anywhere.

Cheers,
Matt.
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Esperanto

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2014, 08:58:45 pm »
I really like the way you are going with it and have 2 questions that come to mind.

First is the same that I asked in the power saving topic I started and similar to possy's remark: is it possible to watch live mythtv that way (and control recordings etc, I have my tuners in my core).

Secondly I personally try to avoid wifi and have everything wired. Are there cheap solutions to have a fixed orbiter and are there remote like controllers (I currently have a gyration and a mele F10) that can still be used?

totallymaxed

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2014, 12:11:47 pm »
With regards to power usage, I have high hopes that rPi (or similar) based MD solutions will provide the best of both worlds:

1) standardized hardware
2) full MD

phenigma has been very busy with it, and I applaud his efforts.

Well hardware like Rpi would definitely deliver on the power usage front of course - the hardware in a Rpi is broadly similar to small media players. And I also applaud anyone, including phenigma, who actually does some real development and pushes the envelope in any direction. So I'm not knocking that effort or saying its in any way worthless at all.

But at the end of the day whatever hardware an MD runs on you still have additional complexity that I think for a very large number of people/installations is not an advantage. Yes if you want the VDR/Myth TV UI integrated then its probably the best route...but adding those to an MD (especially Myth) always causes some problems in my experience. And of course for Myth, and i expect this might be true too of VDR but I'm not sure, you can access recorded content via a media player or SmartTV - we still have installations where the MythTV backend is running on the Core and all the recorded shows are access via upnp on media players. As long as you aren't worried about live TV then that works well.

All the best

Andy
Andy Herron,
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totallymaxed

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2014, 12:17:46 pm »
How do you deal with watching liveTV using a media player? Does the TV signal, whether it's satellite, freeview, cable, whatever, still go to the core?

Also do you lose the onscreen orbiter? If yes, while not a showstopper, I would say it's a disadvantage, it's great being able to do anything from anywhere.

Cheers,
Matt.

Matt - see my earlier post in this thread re LiveTV etc. But the short answer is you can watch live TV via you actual TV - we provide control of the TV for this purpose and you can also watch live TV via any STB's you have controlled by your system too (either locally in the room or sometimes via a video matrix for a larher install where you have centralised STB's distributed through an HDMI Matrix).

Yes you do loose the Orbiter UI on the TV... but you have it instead on your tablet or smartphone instead. The UI then is right in your hand... and you can switch to any room/device and control it without having any TV's on at all...or turn a TV on from tablet/smartphone if you want to etc etc.

All the best

Andy
Andy Herron,
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Read My Blog; http://ellipticalcurve.com

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totallymaxed

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2014, 12:25:38 pm »
I really like the way you are going with it and have 2 questions that come to mind.

First is the same that I asked in the power saving topic I started and similar to possy's remark: is it possible to watch live mythtv that way (and control recordings etc, I have my tuners in my core).

Secondly I personally try to avoid wifi and have everything wired. Are there cheap solutions to have a fixed orbiter and are there remote like controllers (I currently have a gyration and a mele F10) that can still be used?

Well if you want to watch Live TV then you can still watch it via your TV itself using its tuner or an external feed from an STB etc. For VDR/Myth then no you cant watch Live TV streamed directly from either of those servers. However with Myth & VDR (I think its tru for VDR) you can watch your recorded shows via upnp and a media player or SmartTV.

As to wired v wifi - we've found that if you provide enough wifi coverage (ie multiple AP's located throughout your home to make sure coverage is good) then wifi performs well. I would say 95% or more of our installations/users in the last 2-3 years are using wifi because they use smartphones/tablets for their Orbiters.

You could use your Gyration/F10 but that would mean using MD's as you need a traditional TV Orbiter UI for those to work or make sense. Its your choice in the end.

When we ship our new HTML5 UI then that will not be available on an MD - or at least we wont be offering that. But anyone who wants to could develop an MD with it integrated if they wanted to ;-). The other possibility is to access the HTML5 Orbiter from a SmartTV using its Web browser...we've not tested that config yet...but as our Orbiter is just HTML5 there is no reason why that would not work at all ;-)

All the best

Andy
« Last Edit: August 22, 2014, 12:36:14 pm by totallymaxed »
Andy Herron,
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Esperanto

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2014, 03:40:24 pm »
Well if you want to watch Live TV then you can still watch it via your TV itself using its tuner or an external feed from an STB etc. For VDR/Myth then no you cant watch Live TV streamed directly from either of those servers. However with Myth & VDR (I think its tru for VDR) you can watch your recorded shows via upnp and a media player or SmartTV.
hmm. the whole idea (at least mine  :D) is to have all that centered and then stream from one point to the MD's/or other players. Pulling additional cables to tv's is not really an option in my case.

As to wired v wifi - we've found that if you provide enough wifi coverage (ie multiple AP's located throughout your home to make sure coverage is good) then wifi performs well. I would say 95% or more of our installations/users in the last 2-3 years are using wifi because they use smartphones/tablets for their Orbiters.
It's not that I don't trust the coverage or even the reliability with all the neighbor and babymonitor interferences but I personally try to decrease the RF exposure of my kids (wifi/gsm). I read so much about it (http://www.electricsense.com/) that I passed the point that I can just ignore it ;).

totallymaxed

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2014, 04:32:16 pm »
hmm. the whole idea (at least mine  :D) is to have all that centered and then stream from one point to the MD's/or other players. Pulling additional cables to tv's is not really an option in my case.
It's not that I don't trust the coverage or even the reliability with all the neighbor and babymonitor interferences but I personally try to decrease the RF exposure of my kids (wifi/gsm). I read so much about it (http://www.electricsense.com/) that I passed the point that I can just ignore it ;).

You don't need to pull additional cables. Just run everything over CAT5/6 - in most cases even if everything is centralised a single CAT5/6 cable is sufficient.

Re Wifi - everyone must take their own position on this. But I have not seen any solid science (including that site you reference) that says wifi signals are harmful or are any worse than the TV, Mobile Phone and dozens of other RF transmissions that 'wash' over us where ever we are in most locations (Amazon or deserts excepted). Even if I dont turn on my wifi router I have 100's of neighbors who have unless I build a faraday cage around my house I can't stop that RF coming in.
Andy Herron,
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purps

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2014, 04:45:16 pm »
Matt - see my earlier post in this thread re LiveTV etc. But the short answer is you can watch live TV via you actual TV - we provide control of the TV for this purpose and you can also watch live TV via any STB's you have controlled by your system too (either locally in the room or sometimes via a video matrix for a larher install where you have centralised STB's distributed through an HDMI Matrix).

Yes you do loose the Orbiter UI on the TV... but you have it instead on your tablet or smartphone instead. The UI then is right in your hand... and you can switch to any room/device and control it without having any TV's on at all...or turn a TV on from tablet/smartphone if you want to etc etc.

All the best

Andy

Gotcha. I always liked the idea of the centralised TV feed, and then TV in other rooms was just an Ethernet cable away. I used to use that extensively (we don't watch TV any more). However I guess you still get that with what you are saying regarding the use of a video matrix.

I have smartphone, jogglers etc running orbiter, so I guess I could live without the onscreen orbiter, however I still use it, but that might just be because it's there.

I think a R-Pi MD would be the best of both worlds. A LMCE-controlled XBMC R-Pi would also be interesting. I can't say I've had many issues with the MDs themselves. Is what your suggesting more reliable simply because it's not running its OS via the cable? Because a media player is still a standalone piece of hardware that can potentially fail.

Cheers,
Matt.
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totallymaxed

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2014, 05:06:29 pm »
I think a R-Pi MD would be the best of both worlds. A LMCE-controlled XBMC R-Pi would also be interesting. I can't say I've had many issues with the MDs themselves. Is what your suggesting more reliable simply because it's not running its OS via the cable? Because a media player is still a standalone piece of hardware that can potentially fail.

Cheers,
Matt.

Of course anything can fail due to hardware failures or software issues. But I actually cannot think of the last time we had either problem with a media player - or a SmartTV for that matter. MD's do often fail due to software issues and partially due to their far greater complexity (there's a lot going on under the hood in an MD!) and the somewhat 'creaky' software architecture they are built on (there's a lot in their that no one really understands). The MD is really a big gas guzzling Cadillac of a media player that for most of the time adds no real advantage and lots of disadvantages. Back in the day when MD's were first created there was no alternative - Pluto had to roll their own 'media player'. But now there are alternate approaches that offer many advantages - as long as you don't want to watch live TV via VDR's front-end ot the Myth equivalent.

PXE booting is not in itself unreliable but if your systems needs to go down then with PXE booted MD's they have to go down too - media players don't.

All the best

Andy
Andy Herron,
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Esperanto

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2014, 10:54:24 pm »
I was just thinking.... I have no experience with any of the following items but maybe its possible and a good way to tackle the issues from both sides:

* use xbmc as the upnp device/player
* xbmc has the ability of playing liveTV via a PVR backend (mythtv)
* use a xmbc plugin to control linuxmce on screen
* be able to use remotes that come with the / are compatible with xbmc to control xbmc & linuxmce via the plugin
* be able to control xbmc via remote orbiters.

Seems to me the best of both worlds and because since you can 'just' use xmbc you don't have to support the hardware yourself while still being able to use the features discussed above.

totallymaxed

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Re: Why Do Media Directors Exist?
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2014, 02:34:23 am »
I was just thinking.... I have no experience with any of the following items but maybe its possible and a good way to tackle the issues from both sides:

* use xbmc as the upnp device/player
* xbmc has the ability of playing liveTV via a PVR backend (mythtv)
* use a xmbc plugin to control linuxmce on screen
* be able to use remotes that come with the / are compatible with xbmc to control xbmc & linuxmce via the plugin
* be able to control xbmc via remote orbiters.

Seems to me the best of both worlds and because since you can 'just' use xmbc you don't have to support the hardware yourself while still being able to use the features discussed above.

We already support Raspbmc in fact - the only thing on your list we don't have is an XBMC plugin to control Dianemo or the control from an Orbiter. But everything else is there. After all once you add Raspbmc to Rpi you have one of the best full featured & open media players you can buy.

All the best

Andy
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom

Read My Blog; http://ellipticalcurve.com

Contact me for Smart Home consulting advice here;
@herron on Twitter, totallymaxed+consulting@gmail.com via email or PM me here.

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
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