CaveCenter Multiviewer Software Discussion Thread - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 11-26-2014, 10:42 PM - Thread Starter
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CaveCenter Multiviewer Software Discussion Thread

Starting a thread to help answer any technical questions that users have about multiviewer software such as CaveCenter or the associated hardware requirements, and to seek user feedback.

Some background info for those who are unfamiliar with the software:

- Our software runs on HTPCs which support CableCARD (or OTA) tuners such as Ceton InfiniTV 6, Silicon Dust HDHomeRun PRIME, and Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-3250. It is optimal with about 6 tuners.

- With a minimum of 4 tuners, you can watch up to 4 live HD programs at once, while mixing in other sources such as previously recorded programs, movies, or web browser/streaming videos.

- Software is primarily targeted at sports fans who want to watch multiple games or sports news channels at once, although some people use it to watch multiple local/headline news programs, or to casually follow multiple programs in the background. A few example screenshots are posted below just to give people an idea of what we are talking about.

- We have tried to maximize picture quality by supporting multiple high-bitrate sources (up to ~19Mbps each) with support for both 1080p and 4K 2160p TVs or projectors. Effective aggregate bitrates are 72-76Mbps (not including additional recordings).

Some questions:

- Do you have an interest in watching 4 programs of your choice at once on a big screen TV or projector or do you find it too confusing/distracting?

- Does your HTPC support one or more hard drives optimized for recording of multiple HD video streams? (e.g. does not stall when errors are encountered, maintains good performance with 6-8 streams)

- Are you generally happy with the quality of streaming video sources...particularly for sports?
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Old 11-27-2014, 12:31 AM
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No-I have no interest in nor need for playback of multiple simultaneous videos. Interesting software though.
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Old 11-27-2014, 04:05 AM
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Agreed. It's early so perhaps I'm looking too much into it or not closely enough, not firing on all cylinders yet....but is this a complete cable card capable DVR solution? As in not simply a WMC overlay or other hack job? No interest on any sort of multi-view...but since WMC is pretty much abandoned by MS, a complete stand alone that is capable of at least the same basic TV functionality that works with full lineups vs non-cable card unencrypted qam/OTA only to use as a converter box replacement would always be a welcome option.
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Old 11-27-2014, 07:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Agreed. It's early so perhaps I'm looking too much into it or not closely enough, not firing on all cylinders yet....but is this a complete cable card capable DVR solution? As in not simply a WMC overlay or other hack job? No interest on any sort of multi-view...but since WMC is pretty much abandoned by MS, a complete stand alone that is capable of at least the same basic TV functionality that works with full lineups vs non-cable card unencrypted qam/OTA only to use as a converter box replacement would always be a welcome option.
The current version of the software uses WMC as the program guide / media browser in a floating window which can be moved to any quadrant, shown fullscreen, or hidden. So, not only does it allow full DVR capability, but you can view any recordings (flagged as Copy Freely) live or time-shifted simultaneously. Live recordings can be paused/resumed independently and completed recordings can be fast forwarded for commercial skipping.

While Microsoft has (to all outward appearances) suspended future development work on WMC, it is a stable product offering which has better features than most cable company DVRs, and is the only CableLabs certified software available which can decrypt premium cable channels and pay-per-view. It may not be the best software for movie watching/browsing, but in our opinion, it is still the best software available for watching TV on a PC - particularly high frame rate content. Of course, we would welcome new or improved cable/DVR software and we could add support for any such software to CaveCenter if there is sufficient demand.

You can easily build a small, stylish cable settop/DVR with 6 tuners and up to 6TB hard drive. The money saved on monthly DVR lease fees helps to offset or fully cover the cost of the system over time.

The CaveCenter software is primarily targeted for users with big screen TVs and projectors for use in home theaters. As an example, last Saturday we ran it in a home theater with a 100" projector showing the Pacquiao fight on pay-per-view in one quadrant, along with 2 college football games and an NBA game (four 50" screens). Audio was mainly set to the fight, but would switch to the other games during commercials or other breaks in the action. Basically, think of it as a more interactive sports bar experience.
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Old 11-27-2014, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by CaveTec View Post
....Basically, think of it as a more interactive sports bar experience.
Yep-And that is your target demographic, not the typical home theater enthusiast which frequents this particular forum.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I dont think you will find a large crowd here who needs such an add on to WMC-but I could be wrong.

You mention nothing about pricing structure nor system requirements.
Both would put into context the software you may offer.
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Old 11-27-2014, 10:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Yep-And that is your target demographic, not the typical home theater enthusiast which frequents this particular forum.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I dont think you will find a large crowd here who needs such an add on to WMC-but I could be wrong.

You mention nothing about pricing structure nor system requirements.
Both would put into context the software you may offer.
You may very well be right about the demographics...we are just trying to get a better understanding how many people use home theater setups for live TV viewing of sports and news - which are more easily accessible via cable than via online streaming.

We wanted to use this thread as more of a technical Q&A rather than discussing pricing, since we wanted the discussion to be more informational than promotional, although we do offer a free 30-day trial. There are a lot of details on our website which can be found with a Google search on CaveTec. System requirements are listed there, but beyond the tuners mentioned above, the most critical component is a dedicated video recording drive, preferably optimized for recording multiple HD video streams - such as a WD Purple/Red Series or Seagate Surveillance/Video Series. Other hard drive models will work, but may produce periodic stalls during error correction, which is generally undesirable for video recording.

3rd generation and later Intel Core i3 (dual-core, hyperthreaded) CPUs are generally powerful enough to handle ~4 HD recordings while playing back 4. Beyond 4 recordings, CPU utilization gets pretty high on a dual-core. For 8 or more recordings quad-core Core i5 or i7 CPUs are generally recommended. Integrated Intel HD graphics is fine, although dedicated graphics cards will work also - more typical of a gaming rig. RAM requirements are modest with 4GB minimum and 8GB recommended.

Please provide feedback if you think these system requirements are out of line with a "typical" HTPC system, assuming there is such a thing.
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Old 11-28-2014, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by CaveTec View Post
You may very well be right about the demographics...we are just trying to get a better understanding how many people use home theater setups for live TV viewing of sports and news - which are more easily accessible via cable than via online streaming.

We wanted to use this thread as more of a technical Q&A rather than discussing pricing, since we wanted the discussion to be more informational than promotional, although we do offer a free 30-day trial. There are a lot of details on our website which can be found with a Google search on CaveTec. System requirements are listed there, but beyond the tuners mentioned above, the most critical component is a dedicated video recording drive, preferably optimized for recording multiple HD video streams - such as a WD Purple/Red Series or Seagate Surveillance/Video Series. Other hard drive models will work, but may produce periodic stalls during error correction, which is generally undesirable for video recording.

3rd generation and later Intel Core i3 (dual-core, hyperthreaded) CPUs are generally powerful enough to handle ~4 HD recordings while playing back 4. Beyond 4 recordings, CPU utilization gets pretty high on a dual-core. For 8 or more recordings quad-core Core i5 or i7 CPUs are generally recommended. Integrated Intel HD graphics is fine, although dedicated graphics cards will work also - more typical of a gaming rig. RAM requirements are modest with 4GB minimum and 8GB recommended.

Please provide feedback if you think these system requirements are out of line with a "typical" HTPC system, assuming there is such a thing.
In the interest of feedback...


I think qz is mostly correct with target audience. I don't think there are a whole lot of people out there using an HTPC explicitly for that sort of non-standard way of viewing content, but that said, may pique interest with some that may not have thought about that type of use.


As a single example of a long time HTPC user, just my use and thoughts, which I think is at least similar reasoning with a lot of users, but only speaking for myself here....the 2 biggest attractions to me is A) simplicity and B) cost effectiveness.


First is with hardware. Instead of a rented box at each tv, some sort of media player at each tv, even more tuners and outlets if I wanted tv on the computers, etc....I can have a single networked source for typical tv content (HDHomerun Prime) available to all my capable devices including normal pc's, tablets, phones nevermind televisions/htpc. The HTPC, besides replacing the rented boxes, also can play everything thrown at it, so replaces an additional external media player as well as being more capable then most external players AND keeps everything available in one device in one menu ecosystem. Anything extra beyond the functionality level of a typical rented box and external media players, as well as better looks and all is just bonus.


The next aspect is cost. It doesn't take much for a lot of people since HTPC's don't need particularly powerfull components. Myself, and maybe a fair number of other people I would imagine, pretty much use cycled out internals from a main PC, meaning you only need a few odds and ends to get an HTPC started. As much as equipment rentals are these days from a provider, even starting from scratch and spending a fair amount up front will pay for itself relatively quickly....especially given that tv service isn't typically something you get for a year or 2 then drop and never mess with again.


Of course there is much much more that an HTPC is capable of and that you can do with them, but that stuff is why my home is set up that way and not the usual rented box at each television like most people...not so much to do things in ways normal equipment cant, but to at least do the same stuff more efficiently and a little cheaper.
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Old 11-28-2014, 09:49 AM
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This is controlled through a webserver?

Will there be a control API? I'd like to integrate into an automation system.
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Old 11-28-2014, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by C17chief View Post
In the interest of feedback...


I think qz is mostly correct with target audience. I don't think there are a whole lot of people out there using an HTPC explicitly for that sort of non-standard way of viewing content, but that said, may pique interest with some that may not have thought about that type of use.


As a single example of a long time HTPC user, just my use and thoughts, which I think is at least similar reasoning with a lot of users, but only speaking for myself here....the 2 biggest attractions to me is A) simplicity and B) cost effectiveness.


First is with hardware. Instead of a rented box at each tv, some sort of media player at each tv, even more tuners and outlets if I wanted tv on the computers, etc....I can have a single networked source for typical tv content (HDHomerun Prime) available to all my capable devices including normal pc's, tablets, phones nevermind televisions/htpc. The HTPC, besides replacing the rented boxes, also can play everything thrown at it, so replaces an additional external media player as well as being more capable then most external players AND keeps everything available in one device in one menu ecosystem. Anything extra beyond the functionality level of a typical rented box and external media players, as well as better looks and all is just bonus.


The next aspect is cost. It doesn't take much for a lot of people since HTPC's don't need particularly powerfull components. Myself, and maybe a fair number of other people I would imagine, pretty much use cycled out internals from a main PC, meaning you only need a few odds and ends to get an HTPC started. As much as equipment rentals are these days from a provider, even starting from scratch and spending a fair amount up front will pay for itself relatively quickly....especially given that tv service isn't typically something you get for a year or 2 then drop and never mess with again.


Of course there is much much more that an HTPC is capable of and that you can do with them, but that stuff is why my home is set up that way and not the usual rented box at each television like most people...not so much to do things in ways normal equipment cant, but to at least do the same stuff more efficiently and a little cheaper.
Chief, thanks for sharing your thoughts and usage details. It is pretty similar to my personal home setup/usage, although I have a mixture of network based tuners and internal tuners. In developing our software, we wanted it to run on a wide range of hardware with low-spec hardware (i3, internal graphics, 4GB RAM, decent hard drive) capable of handling light workloads (3-4 live recordings) and higher spec hardware (i5+, internal graphics, 8GB RAM, video/surveillance hard drive) capable of handling heavy workloads (up to 8 live recordings). Just because we recommend somewhat higher spec hardware, that doesn't mean the software won't run pretty well on low-spec hardware. One goal of the free trial is to allow users to run it on their current setup and see if the performance meets their requirements.

Because CaveCenter is just an app, the user can do everything they would normally do and only launch the app when they would like to follow multiple programs at once (e.g. college football on Saturdays, NFL on Sundays, evening news at 6pm etc.). By its nature, watching and controlling multiple programs at once is more complex and taxing than watching a single program, and it is not something most people would want to do all the time. From our experience supporting customers during free trial evaluations, we find that many of them begin to change how they watch TV, focusing on the most interesting details and then switching their focus during lulls (e.g. between downs, during commercials or less interesting news stories), without having to worry about missing important action. Some have said it is addictive. Some have said it is like drinking from a fire hose. I think it generally depends upon your ability/desire to multitask. With group multiviewing, I always notice that some people start watching programs other than the one which is playing audio. Individuals can focus on different things and not be too distracted by the other activity.
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Old 11-28-2014, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by potts.mike View Post
This is controlled through a webserver?

Will there be a control API? I'd like to integrate into an automation system.
We have a free mobile app called CaveControl which is currently available on iPad/mini and we are working on an Android version. While CaveCenter works with standard keyboards/touchpads/mouse and infrared remotes (with reduced functionality), the experience is much better on the mobile app because it is more intuitive and has richer content (program titles, channel logos, etc.)

Multi-client control is supported via a free companion app called CaveServer. CaveServer is a package which contains 2 primary software modules:

1. MCE Controller - which acts as a control server using TCP sockets connections to send text strings/messages to the server. Touchpad/mouse movements are supported with very low latency and fast response time. Other command messages are mapped to supported keyboard commands via a command file. So, the control API is basically the set of command messages in the command file sent via a TCP sockets connection.

2. Nginx - which acts as a lightweight HTTP server, serving up program state and graphical information to multiple clients over a LAN. All clients stay in sync, regardless of which client is sending a particular command. So, the feedback API is to simply read information from a couple of state files via port 80.

It is certainly possible to integrate these functions natively into a future version of the software, but we elected to use these widely supported free modules to reduce development time and increase flexibility.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:07 PM
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I decided to give CaveCenter a try and then I tried to uninstall it and that's where my troubles began. It's done something to my system so that I no longer have any sound in Windows Media Center. It left everything muted but unmuting and adjusting the volume back to 100% hasn't restored sound to WMC. I can play a Youtube video outside WMC and get sound but WMC nothing. This is a huge issue obviously.

Not to mention the uninstall left behind other apps that needed to be install, including some virtual disk drive I had to uninstall from the command line.

I would appreciate a fix for my WMC having no longer having sound after trying out your application.

Edit: figured it out. I had to run WMC, step out of it and bring up the Volume Mixer. This application had left WMC volume at 0%. Awesome!

 

 


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Old 12-01-2014, 09:45 AM - Thread Starter
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I decided to give CaveCenter a try and then I tried to uninstall it and that's where my troubles began. It's done something to my system so that I no longer have any sound in Windows Media Center. It left everything muted but unmuting and adjusting the volume back to 100% hasn't restored sound to WMC. I can play a Youtube video outside WMC and get sound but WMC nothing. This is a huge issue obviously.

Not to mention the uninstall left behind other apps that needed to be install, including some virtual disk drive I had to uninstall from the command line.

I would appreciate a fix for my WMC having no longer having sound after trying out your application.

Edit: figured it out. I had to run WMC, step out of it and bring up the Volume Mixer. This application had left WMC volume at 0%. Awesome!
StardogChampion,

Upon closing the app, CaveCenter will restore (or at least attempt to restore) the WMC volume to the previous volume setting. We have not seen any instances where it fails to do this. It might happen if the app was killed without an orderly shutdown because CaveCenter does manage the WMC audio. More info would be helpful to analyze this. Feel free to submit a ticket at support@cave-tec.com and we will be happy to take a look.

Uninstall of the virtual disk driver requires a reboot to complete the removal. We will plan to modify the uninstall routine to prompt the user regarding this. Sorry for any inconvenience.

CaveTec Support
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Old 12-04-2014, 12:12 PM
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Yep-And that is your target demographic, not the typical home theater enthusiast which frequents this particular forum.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I dont think you will find a large crowd here who needs such an add on to WMC-but I could be wrong.

You mention nothing about pricing structure nor system requirements.
Both would put into context the software you may offer.
I use this software for about a months and I like it.
I am not a big sport fan. I watch only large events like Olympics, soccer every four years or US open, but I see advantage of this software during such games.
What I do daily? I watch news this way switching audio from quadrant to quadrant if I see something interesting over there. This is addictive.
I like to be able to open couple disciplines and browser the same time to check scores or other results.
If you have decent HTPC, (four threads or more) this software works very well, but: Your screen has to be bigger than half a distance from screen to you for 1080p and equal to this distance for 2160p.
I am enjoying quad on my 100” screen in my living room and on 24” monitor on my desk, but I am 24” from this monitor.
If you are watching 50”TV from 10’ or more – forget it. Your TV is already to small.

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Old 12-04-2014, 07:07 PM
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I'm guessing the control interface is your biggest hurdle. If you break down the actual problem this product solves for your customer, it's about saving time. Anyone watching simultaneous screens does so because they don't have enough time. Either the content is very time-sensitive, like news or sports, or the user literally can't spare the time to watch the content sequentially. Time is important enough to sacrifice half the resolution of the main display.


Every second your user spends fiddling with the controls means they are missing 4x as much content as a regular viewer would. Also, 4 screens means more than 4x the complexity in your controls. Are your controls really 16x faster to use than a regular clicker? Can you obviate some of that by having the software curate the content, like NFL Red Zone does? Does the system autodetect commercials or other non-interesting segments and jump the audio around automatically?


My $0.02 is: spend 95% of your design and development time on UI and UX, and don't bother with technical features like network multicasting and multiclient synchronization. I'm guessing that someone who really likes multiplexed viewing is eventually going to invest in extra displays. Why not have the have the main event on the whole 100" screen and put up a few 50" screens on the side? They're under $500 and that gets you full 1080p back. If your software is not autoswitching the audio or otherwise adding value, you've just lost a core customer.
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Old 12-05-2014, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm guessing the control interface is your biggest hurdle. If you break down the actual problem this product solves for your customer, it's about saving time. Anyone watching simultaneous screens does so because they don't have enough time. Either the content is very time-sensitive, like news or sports, or the user literally can't spare the time to watch the content sequentially. Time is important enough to sacrifice half the resolution of the main display.


Every second your user spends fiddling with the controls means they are missing 4x as much content as a regular viewer would. Also, 4 screens means more than 4x the complexity in your controls. Are your controls really 16x faster to use than a regular clicker? Can you obviate some of that by having the software curate the content, like NFL Red Zone does? Does the system autodetect commercials or other non-interesting segments and jump the audio around automatically?


My $0.02 is: spend 95% of your design and development time on UI and UX, and don't bother with technical features like network multicasting and multiclient synchronization. I'm guessing that someone who really likes multiplexed viewing is eventually going to invest in extra displays. Why not have the have the main event on the whole 100" screen and put up a few 50" screens on the side? They're under $500 and that gets you full 1080p back. If your software is not autoswitching the audio or otherwise adding value, you've just lost a core customer.
You make some great observations, Eric. The attractiveness of multi-viewing is greatest when the content is time-sensitive. Not many people want to watch yesterday's news or last week's football games (excluding people who study/analyze the games).

We put a lot of effort into the CaveControl iPad app because we wanted it to be intuitive and extremely fast to switch audio with a single touch. Quadrant controls show the program title and channel logo in a layout which matches the TV screen and which provides matching visual indicators for the channel which has the audio focus and the channel which has the control focus.

As for automatically switching the audio based upon pre-determined guidelines, I am skeptical that this would yield an optimal experience. Each viewer has different personal interests. How do I skip a particular news story which might be interesting to one person and uninteresting to someone else? In practical use, users watching multiple football games will often switch the audio between downs to follow the game action where the ball is actually in play. While it is no doubt technologically feasible to have a system which learns the users behavior and preferences, is it really that much better than just touching the quadrant you want to listen to?

Regarding the tradeoff between one 100" screen plus two 50" screens vs a single 130" projection screen in the same space, in most cases, a single, larger screen will be less expensive and easier to control. With the single screen solution and our software, you don't have to lease multiple settop boxes and figure out how to control them all. The larger screen size makes 4K resolution more attractive, and the 720p/1080i source content can be allocated across that space with no effective decrease in resolution.
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Old 12-09-2014, 06:29 AM
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Edit: figured it out. I had to run WMC, step out of it and bring up the Volume Mixer. This application had left WMC volume at 0%. Awesome!
I tried to repeat your problem, but I couldn't. Did you use analog output?
I used HDMI and USB.

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Old 12-09-2014, 08:55 AM
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I tried to repeat your problem, but I couldn't. Did you use analog output?
I used HDMI and USB.
I think what happened is my machine hung while I had it running so CaveCenter didn't have a chance to set the volume levels back to normal since after I rebooted I just uninstalled it. The uninstall should have set things back to normal but it doesn't.

 

 

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Old 12-30-2014, 09:31 PM - Thread Starter
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CaveCenter adds Kodi + ServerWMC support

For any Kodi/XBMC users out there, we have just posted a new software update which supports the use of Kodi 14 (Helix) + ServerWMC as a DVR front-end/back-end combo (as an alternative to Windows Media Center). This offers some enhanced capabilties including the following:

- Kodi supports a wide range of skins and numerous add-ons as well as an active development community

- Kodi supports a more flexible set of de-interlacing options which can properly handle the WMC 29/59 (dynamic interlaced/non-interlaced) issue

- ServerWMC provides a more flexible set of recording timer controls including a special set of rules for sports programs

- Boxes such as the Amazon FireTV can be sideloaded with Kodi and support streaming of live TV from ServerWMC. This effectively allows a FireTV to replace a cable settop box for a fraction of the size and cost, while allowing easy access to apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video. The FireTV can be used as an enhanced "extender", which is also more affordable than the Xbox 360 or Ceton Echo.

While Kodi is more complex to setup than WMC, it gives the user a lot more control and expanded features. However, using Kodi, you will lose the ability the display channels flagged by your cable provider as "Copy Once", because only WMC can display that type of content.

Happy New Year!

Last edited by CaveTec; 12-30-2014 at 09:35 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 01-28-2017, 10:00 PM
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Is the CaveCenter app available?

In another forum, I asked if there was a PC software equivalent to "Skreens", a multi-viewer hardware solution that has not yet come to market (and may never).

It appears that CaveCenter has at least some (most?) of the functionality of Skreens (hard to tell from just this thread). Is the CaveCenter app available?

Can u toggle between count of video inputs on screen as well as size & placement?

Thanks
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htpc , mix , multiview , quad , sports
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