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View Full Version : Adding a Popcorn Hour to my Squeeze system



ptrainer
2009-01-05, 14:00
I currently have a Media Server in my second floor hallway closet. It runs SC which runs nine SBR zones which are controlled using iPenguin on two iPhones and an iPod Touch. Iíd love to ditch my manual DVD player (Panasonic DMP-BD35K) as the only place it could be placed is a cabinet above my built-in TV which needs a stepladder to reach. And also for the obvious further conveniences I really want to store and access my DVDs digitally as I do my music using Squeezy. Iíve looked at a lot of options and really like what Iíve read about the Popcorn Hour A-110. For those of you who own or have used one (or a similar product) Iíd much appreciate your advice. This is my Media Server info:

Dell Optiplex GX260
Processor: Pentium 4 (2GHz)
Memory: 1.25 GB
Music Storage Drive: 500GB/16MB Western Digital
Video Storage Drive: to be added?
Network Controller: Intel Pro/1000 MT
Router: Linksys WRT54GS

I want to connect the A-110 via the existing Ethernet in the cabinet. The A-110 with shipping is $235(USD) which seems very reasonable to me. I could either put a 1TB HDD to store the vids in the media server or one in the A-110 itself. My server uses regular sized ATA drives while I think the A-110 uses SATA and can accommodate notebook drives as well. I donít know if these things make any sort of practical difference in what Iím trying to do.

My current SD-DVD collection is archived as .ISO files on an external 500GB backup drive. Also, though I only own a few Blu-Ray DVDs now, I plan on purchasing all new releases in BD format. Iím sure Iíll need to purchase a BD drive for my main desk computer to rip the discs to the hard drive. Any suggestions on the best drive to get? And will I need to get software such as SlySoftís AnyDVD or CloneDVD or something else to do this (or is there freeware available?) And would putting the drive locally (in the A-110) make any difference than storing the source material in the server upstairs?

Iím trying to figure out all of the things Iíll need (and what it will all cost) to make this idea a reality so any input would be truly and greatly appreciated. Thanks.

twylie
2009-01-05, 14:38
Haven't tried the A-110 yet, but I have 3 of the original A-100 I use for ISO streaming as well as DIVX files. Overall works pretty well, but I've had to RMA all of my popcornhour units for various reasons. They come back with new main boards in a week or two and have been fine since the RMAs.

I also have an early AppleTV which, now that it's running XBMC, is a far better interface IMHO than the PopcornHour units. The Apple TV can be hacked with a thumb drive now, eliminating telnet and command line fixes. This is my recommended solution as it does video and music much better than the PCH. I still use my SB3's for music, but the XBMC interface is much better when compared to the PCH. The PCH may do true HD video better(I don't know as I don't need it yet); but I'm only streaming regular DVD ISO's thusfar.

If you go with the PCH units, I'd stick your video drive in the server rather than have it at the PCH unit. My PCH units are now driveless for noise and heat reasons. Much more "Slim" like.

bklaas
2009-01-05, 15:15
Twylie, you just basically hit on every major question I have in my head regarding PCH v. some-kind-of-XBMC solution. HD is important to me (considering that I already run an XBMC Xbox, and love it except for no HD, it's really the only reason I'm thinking about a change)...would be interested to know how XBMC+AppleTV handles HD content, including 1080p.

fwiw, I'd agree with Twylie's point on putting the PCH drive internal vs. attached to the server. Could be that PCH runs better when files are not coming across the ethernet wire, but I'd rather administer digital stuff centrally. Plus putting the noise of the drive in a closet is always a good thing.

cheers,
#!/ben

twylie
2009-01-05, 18:21
Apparently the AppleTV can have issues at higher bitrates due to hardware limitations. I'll go find some 720p and 1080i content and do some testing later this week with my setups.

recent review between the 2:
http://www.trick77.com/2008/12/30/review-popcorn-hour-a-110-vs-xbmc-appletv/

edit: one "con" mentioned in the review is that the PCH unit doesn't do resume. While true, it does offer the ability to jump to 10% 20% 30% etc by pressing the 1 2 3 etc keys on the remote. I do like the actual resume feature under XBMC, but the PCH workaround is decent and nice for scanning thru. The overall review comments about PCH hardware and firmware being beta is an accurate assessment IMO. XBMC on ATV feels much more like a finished consumer product. I'll likely be setting my parents up with a video streamer now that they are comfortable streaming music. I'll definitely be sending them a hacked ATV w/ XBMC over the PCH unit. True HD not important enough to them to make them suffer daily usage of the PCH. It's fine if you don't mind fiddling with it, but definitely not prime time CE.

twylie
2009-01-05, 19:05
Quick and dirty testing results:

I pulled down the first 3 HD files from here:
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/hd/index.html

Night Launch of STS-126. Actually, I am glad I went looking for HD content - my dad and I were on the causeway to view this launch, so I'm pretty happy to have found some really good footage. :-)

PCH A-100 (I have the old model, not the 110) - Handled the 480p and 1080i files without any noticeable problems. The 720p file stuttered early on and I noticed the bitrate spiked to over 27Mbps briefly during the jerkiness. No dropouts and no black frames due to trying to recover.

AppleTV - 480p no issues, 1080i and 720p were visibly degraded or jerky during anything over 8+Mbps

Hope this is helpful, but may not have provided a clear winner for you. It looks like if you need HD, the ATV isn't going to make you happy, but if your content is DVD ISO and DIVX, it's a clearer choice for now.

Mark Lanctot
2009-01-06, 09:26
Also, though I only own a few Blu-Ray DVDs now, I plan on purchasing all new releases in BD format. Iím sure Iíll need to purchase a BD drive for my main desk computer to rip the discs to the hard drive. Any suggestions on the best drive to get? And will I need to get software such as SlySoftís AnyDVD or CloneDVD or something else to do this (or is there freeware available?)

Can you rip Blu-Ray? I'm pretty sure Sony poured millions into making sure you can't.

Gibbo
2009-01-06, 09:45
I currently have an A110 and 2 SB's, use the A110 with an internal 1TB 3.5 drive. Great system. People do say that 2.5 drives run slightly cooler but in all honesty the case on the A110 is designed as a heat sink so its fine for it to get warm.

I don't stream anything to the A110, but have it connected to my network wirelessly via the SB as a bridge, this does well for internet content, firmware upgrades, and moviejukebox modifications.

The A110 is a wondrous device, and for the price much better than XBMC which to do the same and provide the same quality (I've been told) would cost a lot more.

Have a browse round the PCH forum (http://www.networkedmediatank.com/index.php), a lot of very helpfull stuff in the wiki and through searching.

As for BD rips, I think its possible, anyDVD although not free is a great program (I've paid for it rather than use the free fabDVD) and anyDVD has an HD version, there is a FAQ on the forum I think for ripping BD.

ptrainer
2009-01-06, 12:59
Thanks for all of the input. True HD is very important to me so I think I'll be willing to sacrifice the improved interface of XBMC. I won't be using it at all for music either since I'm perfectly happy using the SBRs for that and I don't really listen to music that much in the home theater anyway, it's usually only when I'm whole-house syncing that it's on in there.

twylie, thanks for running the tests. With the PCH you said you had some stuttering and jerkiness with 720p. Is that perhaps where putting the drive in the PCH case will improve over accessing across ethernet? Also, does anyone know what res a ripped Blu-Ray is anyway?

Gibbo, is the noise of the internal drive noticeable? My Comcast DVR has an internal drive and it make a negligible amount of noise. In fact I never notice it. I will look into AnyDVD. If anyone who reads this has actually used it for Blu-Ray ripping please let me know how it has worked for you.

YeeeHaaa
2009-01-06, 13:46
I have a PCH A100 and I just love it.
I have no internal drive as I stream all video from my server. I have never had any problems with it really, streaming HD 1080p works like a charm. I have a wired connection though.

I used to have a internal drive in the PCH, but I put it in my server after a while as I never used it. It was a quiet disk, and even if I'm rather sensitive to noice it never really bothered me.

ISOs and IMGs plays within a few seconds, so does HD (.mkv) material. I have never experienced lag or stuttering.

agillis
2009-01-06, 14:45
I have been thinking of by passing the whole issue and getting a DLNA capable TV. That way I can stream media right to the TV and I don't need a player. Has anybody look at this solution yet? There are quite a few DLNA TVs on the market right now.

bklaas
2009-01-06, 14:57
I have a PCH A100 and I just love it.
I have no internal drive as I stream all video from my server. I have never had any problems with it really, streaming HD 1080p works like a charm. I have a wired connection though.

I used to have a internal drive in the PCH, but I put it in my server after a while as I never used it. It was a quiet disk, and even if I'm rather sensitive to noice it never really bothered me.

ISOs and IMGs plays within a few seconds, so does HD (.mkv) material. I have never experienced lag or stuttering.

Good to hear someone is getting 1080p from PCH. I perused the forum a bit and there are lots of people with 1080p troubles. Like Squeeze devices I suppose, everything depends on network conditions :)

cheers,
#!/ben

bklaas
2009-01-06, 15:01
I have been thinking of by passing the whole issue and getting a DLNA capable TV. That way I can stream media right to the TV and I don't need a player. Has anybody look at this solution yet? There are quite a few DLNA TVs on the market right now.

that's not an appealing solution to me for a variety of reasons:

1. I highly doubt DLNA capable TVs will be very flexible in terms of supported codecs
2. DLNA TV: upgradeable? Maybe, but simply...I doubt it.
3. PCH and XBMC are both highly extendable (Hulu, NetFlix on demand, YouTube anyone?)
4. TV goes down, so does the streamer. Separate components have their advantages...

cheers,
#!/ben

Gibbo
2009-01-07, 02:02
Drive noise is negligible from the PCH, I have a 1TB samsung drive, sitting 10' away I can hear the difference between the drive being up or down, but not to the extent that it would bother me in the slightest afterall you can hear a DVD spin up. And it's pretty much silent when a film is on.

HD streaming is a tricky one. 720 is generally fine, but as said 1080 is not perfect, even with wireless N it can be hit and miss.

For me though copying files via USB to the internal drive is a simple solution. The egreat m31B runs on the same software and has an esata port which obviously gives faster transfer rates. This has an internal fan and is very slightly noisier. Plus the firmware is built by syabas who make the PCH and so it could be seen that the PCH gets faster and better updates.

btw none of them will guarantee to play anything HD over format level 4.1 or 4 reframes. They play some but can sometimes get a little bogged down with it. This should never be a problem though really.

twylie
2009-01-07, 05:52
I have a PCH A100 and I just love it.
I have no internal drive as I stream all video from my server. I have never had any problems with it really, streaming HD 1080p works like a charm. I have a wired connection though.

I used to have a internal drive in the PCH, but I put it in my server after a while as I never used it. It was a quiet disk, and even if I'm rather sensitive to noice it never really bothered me.

ISOs and IMGs plays within a few seconds, so does HD (.mkv) material. I have never experienced lag or stuttering.

Would you download the files in the nasa.gov link I posted and see how they run on your setup? They are only 2+ min long and the jerkiness I noticed was in the first 20 sec when the bitrate spiked. My server is a Thecus N5200 with fast Seagate drives in RAID5, so it should handle it fine, but if they play seamlessly on your setup, I'll do some more testing.


Good to hear someone is getting 1080p from PCH. I perused the forum a bit and there are lots of people with 1080p troubles. Like Squeeze devices I suppose, everything depends on network conditions :)

my network is robust, but I do have a linksys router neutered to a switch in the path I tested with. I'll pull that and try again. Also, can test with the files on something other than the Thecus, but it should have plenty of throughput to stream the files.

I like the PCH, for the price it's hard to beat and the user community is pretty strong. I doubt you'd lose much $ if you bought one and had to resell it later.

YeeeHaaa
2009-01-07, 13:46
I actually experienced some stuttering in the beginning when playing the 720p file...
I have seen many 720p and 1080p movies on it and never had any issues before. Perhaps this one was extremly detailed with higher bitrate than "normal" full length movies?

I have an old desktop (1.2 Ghz) with 320MB RAM running on Ubuntu (Linux) as server (single disk), works like a charm.

twylie
2009-01-07, 19:10
I actually experienced some stuttering in the beginning when playing the 720p file...
I have seen many 720p and 1080p movies on it and never had any issues before. Perhaps this one was extremly detailed with higher bitrate than "normal" full length movies?

I have an old desktop (1.2 Ghz) with 320MB RAM running on Ubuntu (Linux) as server (single disk), works like a charm.

Cool. Thanks for testing. The PCH will show you live bitrate if you hit the info key while playing. The early part of the launch spiked to 27+Mbit when I noticed the glitchiness on the 720p file. Under the other parts, it never got above 8 or 9Mbit and ran fine. Could be a quirk or that specific file.

peter
2009-01-08, 00:16
I run a HDX-1000 which uses the same software as the PCH. The
disadvantage of the PCH - as I understood it - is that it tends to run
hot, while the HDX doesn't.
Otherwise they are mostly identical. I have a similar setup as yours and
I chose not to put an internal hard disk in the HDX. The HDX streams HD
video (over 100 mbit ethernet) off my server disk just fine and not
having a fan, is now completely quiet, like the SB3 on top of it.

Regards,
Peter

ptrainer
2009-01-08, 09:47
I have a similar setup as yours and
I chose not to put an internal hard disk in the HDX. The HDX streams HD
video (over 100 mbit ethernet) off my server disk just fine and not
having a fan, is now completely quiet, like the SB3 on top of it.

Do you find the product 'ready for prime time' or is it something that needs to be coddled and tweaked to function properly. The more I research these Network Media Tank options the more I come across comments of units that just stop working, movies that don't play properly, units stuck in boot cycles, etc. I realize that people with issues are way more likely to post than people whose systems are working perfectly so maybe that's all that it is. Have you been running problem free? Also have you played any blu-ray rips on the HDX?

peter
2009-01-08, 11:04
ptrainer wrote:
> peter;380930 Wrote:
>
>> I have a similar setup as yours and
>> I chose not to put an internal hard disk in the HDX. The HDX streams HD
>>
>> video (over 100 mbit ethernet) off my server disk just fine and not
>> having a fan, is now completely quiet, like the SB3 on top of it.
>>
>
> Do you find the product 'ready for prime time' or is it something that
> needs to be coddled and tweaked to function properly. The more I
> research these Network Media Tank options the more I come across
> comments of units that just stop working, movies that don't play
> properly, units stuck in boot cycles, etc. I realize that people with
> issues are way more likely to post than people whose systems are
> working perfectly so maybe that's all that it is. Have you been running
> problem free? Also have you played any blu-ray rips on the HDX?
>

I've seen a few problems. The device's been stuck a few times, requiring
a reboot. It has an on/off button unlike the PH (I think). I've had a
movie where the subtitles weren't recognized. Not perfect, but not
something you have to tinker with either. Just power-cycle and all's
well. I think I could give one to my 82 yo mother and upload movies and
series to it and let her play them. It's all quite simple. Cnet likes
it: http://crave.cnet.co.uk/homecinema/0,39029447,49300389,00.htm

I just wish someone would make a Squeeze *client* for it, so that it
would double as a SB Receiver. That would be really perfect. Just one
black box that handles all your video and audio needs. The HDX does
audio, but the interface is really awful at the moment.

I haven't played any Blueray stuff (I think). I still have an old analog
TV, the HDX makes me want to upgrade that too. BTW: It also plays the TV
shows my MythTV server records very well.

Regards,
Peter

d60pdp
2009-01-08, 13:42
I've used XBMC in 2 HTPCs, owned 1 PCH-A100 (and 2 Istar miniHD). If you already had a media server, then PCH will be a good addition. Don't worry about the front-end on PCH, there are a lot of plug-ins that make your PCH front-end XBMC-like in the NMT Jukebox Descriptions, Guides & FAQ's Thread
(http://www.networkedmediatank.com/showthread.php?tid=9862)

Jonnio
2009-01-08, 17:23
I really need to get going on some of these - I have an XBMC that I am going to start using for kiddie movies as my daughter gets older, but I would like something to do high def in the theater too....between this forum and AVS I am going to go broke!

d60pdp
2009-01-08, 18:08
...between this forum and AVS I am going to go broke!
So am I! Have I mentioned that I've bought/built 5 PCs (desktops, HTPCs), got a Mac mini, few laptops, several media extenders (PCH, Tvix, Istar miniHD), let alone Squeezebox Duet/Boom... with/without WAF!

jth
2009-01-10, 18:38
A bit off topic, but since I noticed a lot of XBMC users in the thread -
I've been an XBMC user for several years, first on a modded xbox and then
on an Ubuntu HTPC. I've spent the last 48 hours playing with the boxee
alpha (http://boxee.tv) and I'm blown away by the interface and integration
with online streaming video. boxee is a fork of XBMC. It's not exactly on
feature parity with XBMC but what they have already is really quite good.

bossanova808
2009-01-10, 20:53
For those having stuttering issues with 1080p (or even 720), it may come down to how you are streaming your content. If you stream over http rather than smb (using the free my ihome server), you get almost doule the bandwidth of smb streaming. This makes 1080p no problem, 720 no problem, and much improves FF/RW performance.

Pale Blue Ego
2009-01-11, 08:42
Can you rip Blu-Ray? I'm pretty sure Sony poured millions into making sure you can't.

Looks like Sony's lockdown of Blu-Ray has failed:

https://www.binsearch.info/?q=blu-ray&max=100&adv_age=200&server=

...but look at those file sizes - 9 to 39 GB for ONE MOVIE.

badbob
2009-01-11, 09:25
Does the 110 have slim server feature? That would be icing on the cake, brother would like storage & seperate slimserver & video/audio playback (like Media Portal)

twylie
2009-01-11, 16:22
For those having stuttering issues with 1080p (or even 720), it may come down to how you are streaming your content. If you stream over http rather than smb (using the free my ihome server), you get almost doule the bandwidth of smb streaming. This makes 1080p no problem, 720 no problem, and much improves FF/RW performance.

good info. I know all my current shares are set up over smb: and streamed directly off of the NAS.

hoosier
2009-01-11, 17:05
Any discussion on a PCH and XBMC would be incomplete without taking a look at a TViX (dvico.com).

If you want to stream 1080p material, you need to consider the encoding - mpeg2 is relatively easy, while h264 and VC1 are very processor intensive. You are only looking at 20mbps which isn't that much for any decent 100mb connection. What I have found is that the processor on the device can choke on blu-ray material (I think the term is something like h264 level 4.1). If you want HD, the device must have a Sigma Designs SMP8635.

If you want to rip blu-ray disks check out Anydvd HD (slysoft.com).

Personally, I own 5 Squeezeboxen and two Tvix players (a 5000 and a 4100 - I need to get a 6500). They compliment each other nicely - one is awesome for music, the other is awesome for video. I actually use two different computers (one for music, and one for video), but one could do the job just fine.

Gibbo
2009-01-12, 01:24
Does the 110 have slim server feature? That would be icing on the cake, brother would like storage & seperate slimserver & video/audio playback (like Media Portal)


Someone has recently been developing a SC interface for the PCH, it can't run as a server, but can be used for artwork etc I think.

Jetlag
2009-01-12, 16:40
Not to change the subject, but I have been waiting for the new Netgear EVA9150 (http://www.netgear.com/Products/Entertainment/DigitalMediaPlayers/EVA9150.aspx). I'll wait for some reviews to come out but I really like the specs on it. Of course it will definitely be more expensive than the PCH, but the feature set is impressive.

In the meantime I need to figure out the best way to rip my nearly 400 DVDs (yes, 400) in true DVD quality to my ReadyNAS Pro.

Any recommendations for this massive project?

Nikhil
2009-01-12, 19:22
In the meantime I need to figure out the best way to rip my nearly 400 DVDs (yes, 400) in true DVD quality to my ReadyNAS Pro.

Any recommendations for this massive project?

Since your Netgear device appears to support it, I think full size images (.iso) of your DVDs are the best option. I use this with my Popcorn Hour and it works well. I should point out that if you go the .iso route, then you won't be able to use a FAT32 file system on the storage medium, because most images are likely to be > 4GB / file. Depending on the OS you use most frequently, you will need to use file systems like NTFS, HFS+, EXT2/3, etc.

The other option is to rip to Video_TS folders.

With regards to software for DVD ripping - I think it is a violation of the DMCA to even discuss methods for ripping DVDs. I don't want to get this forum into trouble, but I can tell you that Google is your friend :)

badbob
2009-01-13, 06:17
Just strip out the movie and the soundtrack of your choice, why include menus, extra and other audio languages? Over 400 discs it's probably a few GB more just for those.

I think you'll need more storage than a NAS for 400 DVD movies in original quality. If each movies is 4.1-7GB, work it out.

Gibbo
2009-01-13, 07:21
Personally i'd use anyDVD to burn to vob etc, then use imgburn to create .iso files for simplicity.

or you could use DVDshrink to remove any menu's if you just want the movies.

It's best to still use anyDVD if using DVDshrink as DVDshrink can't deal with any copy protection past a certain date.

Just in case anyone is interested, the A-110 fitted with an internal 1TB drive has 930MB free for movies etc after apps are installed. There is someone who has 8 x 1TB WD elements drives hooked up to 2 USB hubs on an A-110 so not essential to have a NAS.

badbob
2009-01-13, 07:37
There is someone who has 8 x 1TB WD elements drives hooked up to 2 USB hubs on an A-110 so not essential to have a NAS.

Bit of a mess, why not a couple of Drobos? You say not having a NAS is not essential but can other computers on your LAN access the files on those 8 WD USB over the internal connection on the A-110?

Or something like this, I assume you'll use the backplate to fit the correct type of connection, usb esata etc?

http://www.directron.com/mapn591d.html

Gibbo
2009-01-13, 10:21
May be a tad messy, but I think the benefits of it are

the elements drives are completely silent, no fans. And price wise it's far cheaper, you build it as you go, no added costs for the NAS/enclosure and power, just < £80 per drive

The PCH and drives are accessible across the network, not 100% about playing them on a computer, but you can see them and copy from them by my understanding. Maybe more.

the PCH only has USB, there is the egreat that has esata.

Obviously a NAS or something equal would be a benefit, and RAID would be a bonus, but cost effectiveness and noise level wise...