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Monday, June 4, 2012

Getting ForTheRecord plugin to work with Openelec

I have moved my streaming TV system over to ForTheRecord running on Windows.  Harder to set up that Openelec's inbuilt TvHeadEnd, but much more sophisticated scheduling, and runs on the server where it should, and is way less glitchy on playback.  Means I only have to leave one machine on too (its on 24/7 for other reasons).

Only issue is there's no ForTheRecord plugin for OE yet.

So - basically, follow these instructions.

I have zipped up a package with all the appropriate missing libs for Openelec (1.95.3 32 bit) here - might be handy for someone else as it's a boring exercise. Probably works for 64 bit too, if you just download the 64 bit FTR plugin - here.

Works very well (better than TvHeadEnd, actually).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Silent, fanless, powerful XBMC build - Streacom FC8 with A6 APU build notes...

(This is an update to my xbmc forum post here)

The Goal

I have a Streacom FC8 and I have just finished a build into it.  The goal was to replace my Shuttle XS35GT fanless system that was showing it's age - bit slow in the UI areas even with more basic skins like Confluence, and the endless jitter issues with ION are tiresome.  I considered various fanless options but all seemed expensive or limited really.  So I decided to build my own but I expect shortly very similar systems will be available off the shelf.

The Streacom FC8 is a very attractive, AV style, moderately expensive (I paid about $165 AU) mini ITX case (with room for one half height PCIE card) - and is completely passively cooled case because I want real silence - not 'very quiet' like all those A6 pack builds with fans etc. - I mean really truly silent - as, with young kids, I often watch with the volume off using subtitles etc, and even so called 'very quiet' fans are audible in my lounge at total silence was rule #1.  Maybe I just have sensitive ears but I am surrounded by powerful fan filled PCS all day, don't need it at night as well....I honestly don't see why cases like the Antec little ones are popular when something like this is available - this is beautiful and silent, vs. ugly and even with expensive aftermarket coolers, definitely audible.

Cost was not really an issue as I had a credit to work with.

I need PVR/Live TV support, and ideally want HD audio support as soon as I can get it too. Zero interest in the gimmick that is 3D video, though.


From Rylun Home Entertainment (Australia):

1 * Streacom FC8 HTPC Case
1 * Power Supply Wesena 150W Pico PSU + 10A Power Adapter
1 * Philips RC260 Remote + Receiver
1 * Slimline SATA Power Data Adapter Cable (needed for the molex to sata to hook up the bluray drive)

From eBay:

1 * Sony 5600S slot load bluray/dvd combo
(has button on left to match the FC8 case but you could use something else and jsut use software eject)

From AusPC market ( - I had a big credit so went a bit 'gourmet' with some of this Smile

1 * Deepcool Z9 Thermal Paste (should have got two tubes)
1 * 60 GB Intel 520 Series SSD (should have gone with 120GB so as to have lots of room for 3 installs)
1 * ASRock A75M-ITX motherboard (see notes below on this)
2 * Corsair 1333MHz CL9 DDR3 RAM

Total cost - don't know, don't care Smile Honestly, I would guess about $1000 all done @ retail. But for me this was well down on the list as I don't spend much on myself and I use my htpc a could easily get it down to $600ish with less exotic parts in places I'd say.  A 500GB/s SSD is kinda overkill for an HTPC... :)

The Build:

Basically a very simple build as there aren't that many parts.

I had the following difficulties:
  • No documentation came with case, I downloaded some but it's very basic - Rylun say they will be supplying some in future
  • The cords (for USB ports, power etc) are not labelled with polarity so had to google USB wire colours
  • The Wesena IR Receiver started to literally smoke the first time it was plugged in - I am told it goes into a USB header (and can power on) - but again no documentation...I got a wroking replacement and while it works, it does not immediately do so in RC6 mode, which is annoying.  For the moment I am using my old faithful USB receiver but will re-visit this later.
  • Big Problem - I should have gone with a Streacom recommended motherboard - the ASRock is a fine mobo and I got it free, but the RAM slots are in the wrong spot and get in the way of the heatpipes (also the PSU 24 pin connector is a bit close as well). I see now that other mobos have the ram slots parallel to the rear ports, but these are perpendicular along the side where the heatpipes connect. I got it to work by manually and gently bending the heat pipes a little but this is definitely not ideal and it means the cooling block is sitting just slightly askew. When I later change mobos (to trinity + 1 is the plan) - I may need new heatpipes. Fortunately it appears it's transferring the APU heat very well though - solid use for a few weeks, zero issues, and it wasn't that hard to bend them so I am not bothered by this, but other might be.
  • I'd never actually done my own thermal paste before - should have got some more as you need to put it in a lot of spots when doing this sort of build.

Results (updated mid June 2012)

It's 100% silent and running stable across several weeks of continuous & heavy use.

IF I thrash it - i.e. Prime95 or similar - the case gets quite warm, almost hot (it's supposed to!) and I have seen the APU temps vary from about 40 right up to 75 depending on how hard I have thrashed it. Average is about 60 under full load I'd say. Under Windows it runs surprisingly cool most of the time - unless I deliberately thrash it with a CPU tester like Prime95.  I have not experienced any crashes due to temps or anything.

In normal running under Windows (i.e. just using XBMC/playing video) - it's actually only ever mildly warm to the touch and averages low thirties.  At boot from cold it's about 25 and the peak I have seen with XBMC usage is 43, but usually it's about 32 ish.  No problems at all from temps. therefore.


I am trying both Windows (April nightly window build with AE) and Openelec (1.95.4 aka Beta4) on it. I set it up as a dual boot...

Both generally work ok.   Windows definitely better though.


Boot time with zero special tuning is about 30 secs from bios to operational XBMC. Very fast for Windows with no tuning...I am sure I will be able to get this down significantly once I start tuning.

Is was more work to set up initially and get working well with remotes - probably because I have always used XBMCLive and OE, so Linux, and am just less familiar with XBMC under Windows.  But it's running sweet once I worked out the basics.

SD video quality is shite (as always with XBMC, the only thing I miss about popcorn style machines is there awesome post processing in comparison to XBMC), but there is a pull request to improve this.   So improved quality will come.

HD quality (which is all I really care about) is silky smooth and just perfect.  Audio sync is good (I found this wavering all over the place with OE, see below). Colour range is correct with my set up, motion is wonderfully smooth @ 24p (well, as smooth as it should be) - no jitter issues like with ION systems.  I have turned off 'match video to display'  (i.e. XBMC's smooth video system) as it doesn't seem to help at all.  Of course I have 'adjust refresh rate' turned on to that 24p/50p and 60p are all used correctly.  Everything seems to play very well.

Also, testing a nightly, I have seen the HD light on my receiver for the first time in 3.5 years of owning it Smile - very cool.

System is extremely responsive in general.

I am now using ForTheRecord on my Windows server as a PVR and to serve TV to my clients.  This is working very well - channel changes are marginally slower than with TVHeadEnd but there are way less skips (I think running TVHeadEnd on the ION was not quite powerful enough maybe?) - indeed I haven't seen a skip of any type yet.  Records work very well, although I can't delete them from XBMC and have to use the WebUI - no biggie.  It's mcuh nicer having the TV running on the 24/7 server than placing a load on one of my clients, and more robust.  Installing FTR is a bit harder than TVHeadEnd, but worth it - the scheduling system is excellent.

 Open issues - all minor and infrequent: 

There are very very occasional minor glitches coming off pause and once I have seen a video start with massive judder.  In all cases a stop and restart fix them, and they are really quite rare.  Much rare than the ION jitters.

A few focus stealing issues etc, but I have got it going quite well and have bound a remote button to flip back to XBMC (or re-start it if it's crashed) - works beautifully.

I am using standby during the day between sessions - one in 5 times it won't seem to re-connect to my NFS shares and I need to reboot.  I shutdown fully at night anway, so no big drama at all.

There is an odd hang when addons are installing for a few seconds - I never experienced this with Linux systems.  Not a big deal.

Remote keys are a it weird under LiveTV video - not sure why the don't inherit the standard fullscreenvideo setup, but they don't, so that's annoying - I don't think that there's much attention on this yet, while youc an bind a few keys (EPG etc), you can't seem to fix the behaviour of some of the normal once easily.


Boots from BIOS to XBMC in maybe 5 seconds. Insanely fast.

- Complete fail on all 'fusion' versions - apparently these are for older fusion chips and hang on startup with A6s etc.  This is not obviously documented and caused much time wasting.
- Video fail (extensive skipping) on versions below Beta 4.
- 'Generic' Beta4 (which contains the patches from FernetMenta for xvba that are not yet in mainline xbmc) - works quite well, although it too suffers from poor SD video quality and audio sync is not reliable - very annoying.  Quite a few gltiches overall in general.

System is somewhat less responsive than on Window but this is probably more to do with the remote timings than anything - OE seems to limit the max speed of the harmony as it use MCE remote mode. Bit overall it just seems a little slower.

I have given up on OE with AMD video for now.  Still use it on my ION machines though.


This build really needs Windows to shine.  But shine it does - complete silence, ample power even with Aeon Nox etc., silky smooth both with the UI and playback.  Shame about needing Windows for cost reasons and slow boot reasons, but I have to say it does work well.  And running multiple versions is easy using the -p portable switch, so testing new versions is much nicer than with OE.

In short, after a lot of work (isn't there always with XBMC to get it just right?...but that's kinda the point for me - I can tailor it to perfection) - it's a big, silent step up from the ION systems.  Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Get AllMusic Guide scraping working again on Openelec XBMC

(copied from my forum post for easier finding!)

You must first copy the addons from the read-only system section:



..and THEN copy the file in this xbmc forum post:

to this folder:


(this will get xbmc to first use the local copies rather than the system level addons, and then you add the appropriate changed files).

I can confirm the above method works with Openelec nightlies and I am getting album reviews, artist info, pictures etc.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

XSqueeze 0.2.9 README.txt

The updated README is now in the main XBMC Wiki on the XSqueeze page.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pathetic contribution but it makes me happy, and OzWeather updates

Ok so I have been working on my XBMC OzWeather add on.  It now looks like this:

And this:

Yep, live animated BOM radar  and BOM based 7 day forecasts - and I've got a shorthand version to come up when you pause as well.  Apologies for the Gossip Girl in the background....and already those screenshots are out of date, the radar has more overlays (terrain, range etc) and the mini prediction on pause has a bit more info.

I am getting to grips with Python and even coming to like some aspects of it - reminds me of Prolog in that way - I initally hated it but eventually I really came to love it.  There's a definite 'python' way of doing things that, once you know, makes things simple and elegant. Not another giant C like mess like, say, PHP.

As part of this, I submitted a tiny C++ patch - two lines! to the xbmc mainline source code to extend forecast support from 4 to 7 days.  Ridiculous but this makes me inordinately happy somehow - a tiny tiny bit of my code in the ultimate open source project - and in the process I have learned the basics of Git, python, xbmc add ons, googlecode and github.  So a bit of a curve.  Once you get on top of it though (and this is really just the basics), the whole thing seems much easier now, and I am beginning to think about another project.  My father in law has installed solar cells so I thought of some sort of visualiser for that which plots the efficiency of the system both in realtime and historically.  Might be fun?