Author Topic: First impressions and suggestions for 710  (Read 3396 times)

jemenake

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First impressions and suggestions for 710
« on: February 28, 2008, 11:49:41 pm »
So, I took my first crack at setting up MCE 710 a couple of weeks ago, and I've got a few thoughts.

First, I humbly suggest that the MCE installer query the user about what features they want to use at the beginning of the install process. Personally, I want my HTPC to be a media player. I want to be able to put in an optical disc or flash drive or memory card or go to a shared folder and play just about anything found there. Additionally, it would be great if I could rip DVD's to the hard drive. I don't need TV tuning. I don't need home automation, etc.

Now, the fact that MCE even *has* all of this stuff is just mind-boggling. I'm in awe... really. And... there may come a time in the future where I want to try the home automation stuff, but not just yet. Nevertheless, the MCE installer asked me a bunch of questions about the layout of my house, etc, which it really didn't need. And, even after installation, there were a bunch of options on the screen that weren't set up (like "Live TV", which, when selected, merely gave me a strange looking screen saying either "No Signal" or "Not Configured" or something like that).

What would go a long way toward making MCE easier to setup would be a screen where you can select the fundamental roles you want from MCE: Media playing? TV tuning? Home automation? Web browsing? Multi-room viewing? And then, MCE could just walk me through setting up those features *and* would only show the buttons pertaining to those roles on the main screen. Of course, at any time, the user would be able to return to this "role selector" and select/deselect items. If they selected anything that wasn't configured yet, then they'd be walked through the configuration for it at that time.

Overall, it appears that MCE allows me to select things that aren't configured (like "Live TV") and, instead of alerting me that it's unconfigured and inviting me to configure it, it just dumps me to some useless screen.... which isn't any fun.

The demo movie for MCE asserts that I can plug in an infrared receiver and MCE will offer to configure it. However, my HTPC case has one built-in and was already plugged into the USB header on the motherboard when MCE was installed. So, I'm guessing that MCE knows about it, but I'm not sure where to go to configure it. I guess what I'm aiming at with this comment is that things need to be made more intuitive. I'm used to my TiVo, where it's pretty easy to figure out where to go to watch/record/adjust something. Mind you, MCE is not completely devoid of intuitive advances; the gyro remote navigation (although I haven't tried it) looks fantastic, and I can't wait to get either a gyro mouse or a Fiire remote. Now, I just wish the on-screen menus were simpler.

That's all I can really think of for the moment. But I'm wondering if these sentiments are echoed by other members here....

nascarfan1956

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2008, 01:30:22 am »
Linux MCE was designed as a "whole house" solution.  If you're looking only for a media player solution, take a look at Mythbuntu.

colinjones

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2008, 01:53:11 am »
Agreed - you have choosen the wrong solution. Use Mythbuntu until you are ready to do the "whole house" thing, then its a simple matter of rebuilding to LMCE.

teedge77

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2008, 02:03:16 am »

Quote
there may come a time in the future where I want to try the home automation stuff, but not just yet.

i think you both missed the point totally. lots of people have said this very thing. everyone always gets all defensive and says theres no reason anything should change and if you dont want a button then dont use it. i think the more you can customize the better. a lot of other people think the same thing. hopefully skinning will come with UI3 and people will get a chance to do what they want then.
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colinjones

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2008, 03:16:05 am »
No, teedge77, I didn't miss the point at all. I wasn't commenting on whether or not certain buttons/menus should be configurable/removable. Personally, I agree, I think it would be a good idea to have this configurable (but not particularly high on my list of "wants"), so I wasn't being defensive at all. On a daily basis, my profession is to match solutions to requirements in technical fields (IT) - so I was just commenting that the LMCE solution is not the best solution to choose if the only thing you want is a media player, and I stand by that comment.

If it wasn't that jemenake said that they may want to venture into other areas at a later date, I would have suggested a simple appliance-type box, like the Buffalo LinkTheater I (used to) use. Simple, easy, cheap.... but going with mythbuntu or similar would mean that the option was still open to rebuild to LMCE when needed. Perhaps I should have elaborated a little more in the first place....

Incidentally, nascarfan1956 didn't really comment on the suggestion of button/menu removal either - my take is that they were making much the same point as me....
« Last Edit: February 29, 2008, 03:17:36 am by colinjones »

teedge77

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2008, 03:25:31 am »
i understand what you mean. i definitely wasnt attacking you guys either, sorry if it seemed that way. ive seen a lot of people post about not having to see the buttons they arent using. quite a few people respond theres no reason to change anything. the role thing seems like an interesting way to do things too. seems a little W2K3 maybe. my biggest hope for linuxmce is that it becomes very customizable and can be personalized in a very granular way. obviously thats a long ways off and isnt going to be a priority. once things get rolling and everything is stable and a lot more hardware is supported, i hope it comes along. i am very interested to see where UI3 goes.
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colinjones

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2008, 04:14:12 am »
agreed on all points...

chrisbirkinshaw

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2008, 10:22:50 am »
Single room media player = nut
LMCE = sledgehammer

colinjones

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2008, 12:07:17 pm »
 :D  lmao off...

jonsnipes

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #9 on: February 29, 2008, 02:45:55 pm »
i dont see all those extra buttons as a bother as much as a challenge..  they taunting me to make everything work.  as far as customization goes i think we have to be realistic to the limitations of open source.  those kind of options take a lot of time (time = money even if it doesnt cost)  there are other options out there to do different things if thats what you want.  i think linuxmce should keep going down the path its on and only look back to tweak things.  right now i only use the movie functions and have no problem ignoring the rest.  and you actually get quite fast at skipping through items during setup
-Jon

jemenake

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #10 on: February 29, 2008, 11:38:31 pm »
Linux MCE was designed as a "whole house" solution.  If you're looking only for a media player solution, take a look at Mythbuntu.
I tried MythBuntu and MythDora. However, they're centered around MythTV which, if anything, is the last thing I want from my HTPC. My HDTiVo's fit the bill for that perfectly. Actually, GeeXBox comes pretty close to what I'm after (as far as it being just about playing media) but I don't think it's got a spiffy gryo-remote interface and also I don't think it does 1080i/p or play blu-ray.

If it wasn't that jemenake said that they may want to venture into other areas at a later date, I would have suggested a simple appliance-type box, like the Buffalo LinkTheater I (used to) use.
I have a LinkTheater, too. The problems with it are: 1 - No DVI/HDMI out, 2 - No internal hard drive for ripping DVD's, 3 - No upgrade option to blu-ray, 4 - No gyro mouse

Now, I hear what you're saying about MCE being a sledgehammer. In fact, I think, in my original post, I stated that I was awestruck with how much functionality it has.  But the message I guess I'm hearing is "If you don't want to do all of the things that MCE can do, then go use something else.". And I guess I *would*, except for the fact that MCE claims to do the few things that I *do* want better than the other solutions (ie, gyro remote, 1080i, alpha-blending of menus on nVidia hardware). So, it would really be the nicest solution if I could just get MCE to pretend that it doesn't do all of those other cool things that it can do.

But, on a slightly more-general point, keep in mind that the title of my post started off with "first impressions". I'm telling/reminding you what it's like to go through the setup of MCE for the first time. You can choose to give those comments careful consideration, or you can just discount them as the whinings of a noob. It all depends upon whether you want MCE to grow its user-base or if you want it to remain the domain of the uber-techie folk. Now, I might stick it out and get MCE to do just what I want... or I might decide to just go with GeeXBox or something. But, if I stick it out (and you can decide for yourself whether or not it's unfortunate that someone has to resolve to "stick it out" in order to use your product), then visitors will see my HTPC and think it's really cool and they'll ask where I got it and I'll tell them that it's LinuxMCE but that I wouldn't recommend that they try it, because it's not for the marginally-technical nor the faint-of-heart. Or... I *won't* stick it out and I'll go with something else and, if someone asks me for my opinion on MCE, I'll tell them that, even for me (a linux sysadmin for 15 years), it's more hassle than it's worth.

Or, I guess the third option is that I'll decide to stick it out and, over the years, I'll become an expert at tweaking my MCE box and I, too, will forget what it was like to try installing MCE for the first time.... and someone will post that the install/config process could be made a little more intuitive and I might be the first to tell him to get lost and go use something else. But I'm not there, yet.... so I'm just letting you know, from the perspective of a long-time veteran of linux and of various networked media players (like the KiSS, the Buffalo, and the Gateway) and video transcoding and home-automation, what my initial reactions were when setting up MCE for the first time. What you do with that information is up to you.

teedge77

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #11 on: February 29, 2008, 11:53:50 pm »
it really has come a very long way in the last year. if you think your last install was a pain, try getting linuxmce 1.0 and getting it to work for you.  :D things will get better. theres a lot more people, doing a lot more work. the more users we get with problems, the more things are going to be known about and fixed. i would advise you to stick it out. it may seem slightly daunting at first to go through and tweak it. once youve done it a few times it will be much easier to do and a lot of your tweaks (and others) may become fixes/features. im sure you've seen quite a few of the dedicated people in here if you read around the forums some. a lot of people have taken a lot of their own personal time to help people. get your friends to try it out too. ;)
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khonshu

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2008, 05:05:20 am »
Firstly, on LinuxMCE and customization...  I find it more customizable than most here imply.  Simply editing/creating/sorting scenarios, and regen'ing the orbiters let me remove buttons, like the TV button.  It can't remove columns of buttons, like lighting or climate, afaik.  And IT'S OPEN SOURCE MAN, it doesn't get more customizable than that...  :)  However, learning your way around the source tree for this project is daunting.  I hope more development/porting to Ubuntu projects will further document and remove abstractions from the current code base.  So I realize all can't learn or have time to anyhow, the source to edit it, let alone hone their programing skills to the point of being productive.  But it's there, coming, or could be had.

Second, on MythTV.  I find MythTV a beautiful application, and I would prolly not ever change my MythTV deployment to LinuxMCE as I am now, if it weren't for the advanced feature set.  I want automation, I want follow me, etc.  If I didn't need them, I'd still be using Mythbuntu.  And for Myth, one can remove the TV button from the main menu.  Must edit an xml file, that's not that difficult.  I know to some, using Myth when one doesn't want TV tuning might be overkill.  But many of the plugins to Myth are nice.  And a properly configured Myth deployment for just movies and music is still real nice.

Additionally there are several video only applications that may fit your bill.
Oxine - Xine full screen interface, simple, stable...
Rage - Rasterman, of Enlightenment 17 fame has written.  Simple in every way, but beautifully animated, that's what the E 17 library's do well.

Now, let me try to exempt myself from any flame happy posters.  I'm just a user of it all.  A long time user of MythTV and a current user of LinuxMCE.  LinuxMCE can be coaxed into working, it takes some tweaking sure, but I remember what it took to get MythTV alone installed and working pre KnoppMyth.  Thank you KnoppMyth!  Thank you Mythbuntu!  Thank you LinuxMCE!  ...all developers, integrators, and testers, that make this possible (without buying Creston), thanks.

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Re: First impressions and suggestions for 710
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2008, 09:26:43 am »
So, I took my first crack at setting up MCE 710 a couple of weeks ago, and I've got a few thoughts.

First, I humbly suggest that the MCE installer query the user about what features they want to use at the beginning of the install process. Personally, I want my HTPC to be a media player. I want to be able to put in an optical disc or flash drive or memory card or go to a shared folder and play just about anything found there. Additionally, it would be great if I could rip DVD's to the hard drive. I don't need TV tuning. I don't need home automation, etc.

Now, the fact that MCE even *has* all of this stuff is just mind-boggling. I'm in awe... really. And... there may come a time in the future where I want to try the home automation stuff, but not just yet. Nevertheless, the MCE installer asked me a bunch of questions about the layout of my house, etc, which it really didn't need. And, even after installation, there were a bunch of options on the screen that weren't set up (like "Live TV", which, when selected, merely gave me a strange looking screen saying either "No Signal" or "Not Configured" or something like that).

What would go a long way toward making MCE easier to setup would be a screen where you can select the fundamental roles you want from MCE: Media playing? TV tuning? Home automation? Web browsing? Multi-room viewing? And then, MCE could just walk me through setting up those features *and* would only show the buttons pertaining to those roles on the main screen. Of course, at any time, the user would be able to return to this "role selector" and select/deselect items. If they selected anything that wasn't configured yet, then they'd be walked through the configuration for it at that time.

Overall, it appears that MCE allows me to select things that aren't configured (like "Live TV") and, instead of alerting me that it's unconfigured and inviting me to configure it, it just dumps me to some useless screen.... which isn't any fun.

The demo movie for MCE asserts that I can plug in an infrared receiver and MCE will offer to configure it. However, my HTPC case has one built-in and was already plugged into the USB header on the motherboard when MCE was installed. So, I'm guessing that MCE knows about it, but I'm not sure where to go to configure it. I guess what I'm aiming at with this comment is that things need to be made more intuitive. I'm used to my TiVo, where it's pretty easy to figure out where to go to watch/record/adjust something. Mind you, MCE is not completely devoid of intuitive advances; the gyro remote navigation (although I haven't tried it) looks fantastic, and I can't wait to get either a gyro mouse or a Fiire remote. Now, I just wish the on-screen menus were simpler.

That's all I can really think of for the moment. But I'm wondering if these sentiments are echoed by other members here....

Hi there,

Every few weeks you'll see a post similar to yours here... for anyone that has spent any amount of time in these forums it must feel like 'Groundhog Day' ;-)

LinuxMCE today is pretty monolithic system ie it comes as a whole and its pretty much impossible to envisage the kind of installation process you describe in your post based on the current architecture. I'm not saying its impossible or that in fact it might not make a lot of sense... just that making the current architecture do this 'under the hood' would be a very big undertaking. However as someone else here has already said this is a FOSS project so anyone here can gather around them a bunch of like minded people and do whatever they want with the code ;-)

There is no getting away from the fact that LinuxMCE is a big complex project (probably one of the most complex I know of) and it comprises of very big complex projects too. Look at Myth or Asterisk... either of those is a world of complexity in its own right with thousands of very experienced users and developers that spend there time just understanding how to work with, configure and use that one piece of LinuxMCE. So when new users arrive here they are somewhat misled by the Video... the video presents a view of linuxMCE which is a little optimistic in some areas but in others is right on the button. Also you have to remember that the current Video was put together last July/Aug and many things have moved on and changed since then.

My company builds LinuxMCE systems and we build and professionally install our own Dianemo System (which is based on LinuxMCE) for customers. We do this for a living and we have spent a lot of time and effort making sure that the hardware we use works with the software. This process of achieving harmony between hardware & software is a continuous process as hardware production life-spans are 6-8 months at best so we are always onto the next iteration. The problems that many forum members face are almost always because they are trying to install/configure LinuxMCE on hardware that is not appropriate. In other cases many people just try to run before they walk and expect all the 'magic' instantly. Achieving that today requires a lot of skill, knowledge and experience... and so we see all the posts here about things not going to plan. Of course the objective of the developers is to make these kinds of problems go away... but thats a big hill to climb and we're not there yet.

Just to pickup on one other point you mentioned in your original post;

- MCE compatible IR transceivers are really plug-n-play now. Plug one in and LinuxMCE will auto detect it and configure it... totally automatically. Same goes for an USBUIRT. Some integrated MCE IR receivers do not get auto detected reliably (we sell some units with this limitation) but its just a matter of going into Web Admin and adding them. Go to Web Admin -> Wizard -> Media Directors scroll to the MD you want to configure IR for. Now find the 'Infrared receivers' pop-up and select 'mce_usb2' from it. Now click on the 'Add Remote' button and then select 'Windows XP MCE remote' from the 'Device Template' pop-up in the 'Pick Device Template 'Window that opens and then click  the 'Pick Device Template' button. Now do a reload router and your all set.

All the best

Andrew

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