*Official* Popcorn Hour PCH-A110/C200 Setup and Tricks (trying to achieve XBMC/XBox) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 07:57 AM - Thread Starter
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I've owned nearly every media player on the market, including the PrismiQ and older. XBMC on an old XBox is still the bar that no one has been able to even approach, in terms of ease-of-use, stability, and media formats. The problem is it doesn't do HD, and the Windows/Linux version have gone a different direction.

So... In the search for the perfect HTPC setup, I stumbled upon the PCH-A110, and it's about as close to XBMC on XBox as I've seen, but it requires a fair amount of setup and tweaking.

I thought it was a good idea to capture these setup configurations, especially the most commonly needed ones, and provide an thread and index to them here. Also to foster discussion on the many ways to customize this thing!

NOTE: DO NOT GET THE C-200! It's incredibly buggy, and doesn't yet support even the basic functions that the A110 supports flawlessly. I have a C-200 and will update this thread once it's at a state that is at least comparable to the A110, but right now you should stay away from the C-200.

(This is an ongoing work-in-progress, so I'll update as I improve things, and especially as you all post new/better ways of doing things!)

Hardware Setup
- To Hard-drive or not?
- Other services (e.g. telnet, ftp, SMB server, etc.)
- Video setup - native 24p

Remote/Networked Media
- HD Media over HTTP
- DVD ISO over SMB

Movie Interface - YAMJ
- File naming, directory structure, override image/name
- Ripping
- Tools

Music Interface - ?

Photos Interface - ?

Links to files and Resources
- PCH/NMT Forums
- Apache
- YAMJ (latest stable release)
- YAMJ (current build, usually needed for newest skin updates)
- YAMJ AEON skin (updated 9/8/09)
- YAMJ GUI Config
- YANFOE
- Listing of Source types for file naming
- NFO (full XML) file structure


I'll add to this list as we learn new and better ways to configure it.

Enjoy, and post your tips and tricks!

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post #2 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 07:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Native 24p
Set your default video output to HDMI 1080p60 (or whatever the max resolution your display/VP can handle) under video settings.

Then set the framerate sync option to "NTSC/24p" and it will autoswitch betwen 1080p60 and 24p based on source material.

It cannot switch between native resolutions other than this. But it does a pretty good job of 1080p upconversion of regular material, so I'm not worried. If you have a good VP, you might want to set the default to 1080i30, and let the VP do the work, but this could also screw up any 1080p HD video camera footage you have.


Hard Drive
After installing a hard drive, thinking this would give me a ton of features I needed, I've decided that it's mostly just a heat producing component and not really needed.

The only reasons I've found to install a hard drive are:
1) To get some additional services on the PCH, like SMB server, NFS server, ********** client/server, etc. - not really needed for much
2) To allow you to store media locally (that's not the point!) - but this can be useful for non-network setups, like a kids room or for travel
3) To allow you to store your interfaces locally (interesting, but not really needed)
4) To allow shuffle of music (haven't tried this yet)

So I think I recommend against installing a local hard drive except for #2, maybe #4, and if you're really geeky and want #1.. Hopefully you can get away with a 32GB thumb drive if you really need some of these functions?

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post #3 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 07:57 AM - Thread Starter
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This is one of the more annoying areas to figure out how to get working properly. The issues center around getting everything configured properly, and deciding what network access method to use for what formats.

In the end, this seems to work the best:

- SMB for SD media and SD DVD ISO's
- Apache for HD media, including MPEGs and BD RIPs

The problem with the SMB implementation in the PCH-A110 is that it's just too slow to handle HD media, specifically bitrates above 25mb/s or so (once you add in the overhead of SMB). Eventually it starts to stutter and hang. Apache allows for direct TCP-based streaming, so there appears to be a lot less overhead.

SMB
This is just using Windows shares. Initially I had a lot of problems getting this working, but I had to turn off Password Protected Sharing on my Vista server machine. I think all this does is allow you to browse the share structure without a password, but it still forces you to use a password to access any files.

Then I could easily browse to any Windows share using the PCH, and it was self explanatory how to setup the shares.

I would recommend a minimalist approach to setting up the shares, trying to set up one at the highest level possible (e.g. \\\\SERVER\\Media, as opposed to \\\\SERVER\\HD Movies and \\\\SERVER\\SD Movies), since the PCH appears to only support one open SMB share at a time. This also simplifies the Movies interface setup later.

HTTP
After much searching and lots of failed attempts, I discovered that high bitrate files really need to be transferred over HTTP, rather than SMB. Apparently the SMB implementation on the PCH is limiting and can't handle high bitrates, like those found in uncompressed BluRay fiels with HD audio.

I tried a few of them, but finally settled on Apache 2.2. You just run the Apache HTTP server on your media server to stream media to the PCH. The PCH has a built-in HTTP client, and there doesn't appear to be any special protocol going on. I set it up on port 8001 just because this is where the previous HTTP server was setup, and I didn't want to change anything else.

Anyway, I've had 100% success streaming all forms of HD media at very high bitrates through Apache to the PCH, and these same files would stutter and fail using SMB. Additionally, with the other servers I tried (most notably LLink), I would regularly get stuttering and have to restart the server process.

To test if your Apache server is running and visible to the PCH, you can manually add a Web Service, just pointing to the IP address and port number where you installed Apach. When you click on it, you'll get a web page. This is just a good way to test that the service is still running.

As far as the Apache conf file itself, it's fairly straight forward. You should simply need to edit the location of your media files. I prefer to give it a path near the top of my media, so that I don't need to reference multiple "roots", but you might prefer another method (especially if your media is not on a large RAID device or single logical drive). I think I made only the following three changes to the default conf file:
Code:
Listen 8001
DocumentRoot "R:/Media"
Other than that, the defaults should be fine in the httpd.conf file. Since I'm not using the Apache server for anything else, this is the default. If you use it for other things, you'll want to set up settings and use that conf file.

Once you have SMB and Apache set up, you're ready to build your interface to Movies!

Normal Start Times
The following are rough normal start times to help you gauge if you are doing well, or if you have a problem with your setup:

1) Loading the PCH media selection screen - 3-10 seconds (if the server reset, the SMB connection needs to timeout, so that would be a one-time +5-10 seconds)
2) Loading YAMJ - 1-3 seconds
3) Starting an HD stream over HTTP - 1-5 seconds
4) Starting an SD DVD ISO over SMB - 3-8 seconds
5) Starting an SD DVD ISO over HTTP - 10-15 seconds (not sure why this is slower)
6) Paging through YAMJ - <1 second
7) Clicking on a movie to see the details in YAMJ - <1 second

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post #4 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 07:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Depending on the amount of media you have, this process can take up to 4-5 hours to build your interface from scratch, and 2 hours to update it (even if you're adding one file). So you want to make sure you get the naming of everything correct from the start, otherwise you'll be doing a lot of long waits...

In terms of the main movie interface, I'm currently settled on YAMJ. It appears to have the best overall usability, look-and-feel, and is very customizable.

It's important to understand that the interface for movies works this way:
1) You name all your files, and provide supporting information in NFO files
2) You build the user interface, which results in thousands of HTML/JPG/XML files for a web interface
3) You access these built, static web-based files using the PCH (or your PC to test)

So it's not a real-time thing, it's like building a library interface and then accessing that interface.

File Naming
There are a ton of things that YAMJ uses to decide what to show the user. Many of them are in the source video file, like the video format, the audio formats, the resolution, etc. But some are things you have to tell it, through the way you name the file.

First - The "Source" field is set entirely based on the file name. Just include "BluRay" or "DVD" or "HDTV" in the file name to tell YAMJ where the file came from. For example:

Meet the Parents.HDTV.mpg
300.BluRay.mpg
Aladdin.DVD.iso

There are other source types listed here.

Next, if you are like me and want to keep all those DVD and BD extras with you, then for a BD you need to rip them out as individual files. I've settled on having one screen for each movie, with each of the Extras listed on that screen for selection, like this (shown with the 5150 skin - the AEON skin just shows a list of them when you hit the left arrow):


To do that, name the files the following way:

40 Year Old Virgin.BluRay.m2ts
40 Year Old Virgin [Extra-Extras 1].m2ts
40 Year Old Virgin [Extra-Extras 2].m2ts
etc.

You no longer need to edit the HTML file, as there is support for "Extra", "Bonus", and "Trailer" as the prefix. Then, after the hyphen, just call it whatever you want.

Specifying movie image, IMDB entry, or title
The YAMJ build process is suprisingly good at picking the right movie and image, but sometimes you need to or want to override it's choice. To do this, you create NFO files using the same name as the movie file.

There are two ways to do an NFO file:

1) Just include the IMDB URL and a URL to an image (easy)
2) An XML format that includes all the information needed (harder)

You should mostly use #1, but in cases where you want to override the movie title (like Pan's Labyrinth), you'll need to use #2. Here's a link to the structure of #2, and #1 is self-explanatory.

Tools
This is the easy part, but the super time consuming part. There are a couple tools that are useful for building your YAMJ web page structure:
1) YAMJ GUI Config - this is a UI for setting the parameters right in the My Library.XML file
2) YANFOE - "Yet Another NFO Editor", for doing the more extensive NFO file lookup and editing

YAMJ GUI Config allows you to easily select your PCH device, and then for SMB shares you just pick from the list of shares, and it pre-formats the path:


For SMB, most of the documentation out there is wrong, so this tool is especially helpful, and ensures you're setting it up correct for how you set up your SMB shares. And while you can add multiple paths, remember that you should have them all on the same SMB share, otherwise the PCH needs to unmount/mount each time because it can only maintain one SMB mount at a time.

For the HTTP streamed files, you are better off editing the My Library.XML file directly. But first, save the information you setup using the config tool above, and I would recommend adding an entry using SMB for the path(s) you want to use for HTTP - this way you just need to edit the path in the XML file, not add an entire entry.

For HTTP, the entry in the XML file should look something like this:
Code:
  
 V:\\HD Videos\\Movies
 http://192.168.1.110:8001/HD Videos/Movies/
    
    Videos HD
    33554432
    true
  
Note that the PATH entry is relative to the person who will run the build script (not the Apache service), and the NMTPATH is straight forward - it's the IP of your media server, default port, and then the directories relative to Apache.

Once your XML file is set up, you can run the My_YAMJ.cmd file. It will go through and build the web pages for YAMJ in the destination you specified in YAMJ GUI Config. If you make any changes, such as adding an NFO file or adding new movies, you can rerun the CMD file. This will likely take 3-5 hours initially, and 1-3 hours each time you update anything and re-run the file.

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post #5 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 07:58 AM - Thread Starter
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post #7 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 09:37 AM
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Thanks for setting up this thread, I am sure there are a lot of great tips/tricks out there.

One comment on the internal hdd. I have one installed in mine for 2 specific reasons:

1) PCH now becomes portable, especially when traveling, family vacations, etc...
2) I have a PCH set up in my son's playroom. The internal HDD allows me to keep the PCH off the network and only allows my son access to media that I have stored on the internal HDD.

Obviously everyone will use the PCH differently, these are just the main reasons why I chose to install one.

Cheers,
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post #8 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 10:50 AM
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For music I like the Music Jukebox Version 6 or 7 (7 is still in beta).

http://www.networkedmediatank.com/fo...lay.php?fid=71

Laters,
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post #9 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 12:00 PM
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Yes, great thread.....I have an eGreat but most of the info is still applicable.

Keep up the good work.....

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post #10 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 02:36 PM
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Good idea to consolidate this into a separate thread. A couple of observations...I use NFS to share all my all Blu Ray and DVD rips and it works fine. I can't relate to those long YAMJ processing times you quoted but then again, I only have about 120 movies in my library. A clean run is on the order of tens of minutes and a update for a couple of new movies is under a minute.

Should also mention I installed an 8GB compactflash card in mine which allows me to run the apps without the potential heat and noise of a harddrive.

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post #11 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 02:41 PM
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A job well Done. Thank you, Silver-Fox
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post #12 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 03:00 PM
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great work, maybe you should add that also to the networkedmediatank.com wiki

Regards,
Werner
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post #13 of 295 Old 07-13-2009, 04:37 PM
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the internal HDD let's you do shuffle mode if you use Music Jukebox
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post #14 of 295 Old 07-14-2009, 12:11 AM
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You should add UMC to the list. The english version isn't out yet , but its even closer to XBMC than YAMJ is. 1.8 is supposed to be the english version. They haven't said when its coming out though.

http://www.networkedmediatank.com/sh....php?tid=18372

http://www.hdd-player.de/umc/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
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post #15 of 295 Old 07-14-2009, 08:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kneedragger View Post

You should add UMC to the list. The english version isn't out yet , but its even closer to XBMC than YAMJ is. 1.8 is supposed to be the english version. They haven't said when its coming out though.

http://www.networkedmediatank.com/sh....php?tid=18372

http://www.hdd-player.de/umc/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Looks like it has potential! I like the current YAMJ views better I think, but they only have limited screen shots.

And it's all about usability, so as soon as they have something available, I'll certainly be testing and posting!

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post #16 of 295 Old 07-17-2009, 12:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AbMagFab View Post

Looks like it has potential! I like the current YAMJ views better I think, but they only have limited screen shots.

And it's all about usability, so as soon as they have something available, I'll certainly be testing and posting!

I've been fooling around a bit with UMC, and I've found that (once you get past it being in German) that the initial setup is much simpler than YAMJ. I've also trie NMTServer and Kroozbox, and I've found that they all have their strengths.
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post #18 of 295 Old 07-17-2009, 01:12 PM
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Be careful. CDLehner had a similar thread shut down in the Dedicated Theater forum when he started talking about ripping. However, he did have a ton of useful information in there. You might want to try PM'ing him before you reinvent the wheel for some of this.

CJ

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post #19 of 295 Old 07-17-2009, 01:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJO View Post

Be careful. CDLehner had a similar thread shut down in the Dedicated Theater forum when he started talking about ripping. However, he did have a ton of useful information in there. You might want to try PM'ing him before you reinvent the wheel for some of this.

CJ

This thread is about how to configure the PCH. Not sure what I should be careful of, as I'm not into the details of ripping. You don't need to rip to use the PCH - and most of my movies are recorded from "TV".

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post #20 of 295 Old 07-17-2009, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AbMagFab View Post

This thread is about how to configure the PCH. Not sure what I should be careful of, as I'm not into the details of ripping. You don't need to rip to use the PCH - and most of my movies are recorded from "TV".

You had a sub-section under YAMJ called ripping. I just didn't want this useful thread to get deleted too.

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post #21 of 295 Old 07-17-2009, 01:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJO View Post

You had a sub-section under YAMJ called ripping. I just didn't want this useful thread to get deleted too.

CJ

Anything I post here will be less than this thread:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1033822

So no worries...

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post #22 of 295 Old 07-17-2009, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olemantrouble View Post

I've been fooling around a bit with UMC, and I've found that (once you get past it being in German) that the initial setup is much simpler than YAMJ. I've also trie NMTServer and Kroozbox, and I've found that they all have their strengths.

Umc has more features than YAMJ. From what I've seen its going to be good.
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post #23 of 295 Old 07-19-2009, 06:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Okay, after a week or so of trying to get LLink stable, I give up. It would randomly cause the PCH to stutter audio/video, and the only fix was to restart LLink. Sometimes it would last a few movies, sometimes it would happen on the first movie after a restart.

Then I realized that all I needed was something to stream files over HTTP.

Apache to the rescue!

I had an old copy of Apache 2.2 on my file server, disabled. So I just modified the conf file to allow for file sharing, using the same root that I defined in LLink, and I changed it to use port 8001 so I could leave my YAMJ files unchanged.

Been testing for a few hours and it seems perfect. Uses almost no memory or CPU, and just transfers the files cleanly.

I'll post again assuming this stays more stable than LLink, but it's now my preferred HTTP server for the PCH.

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post #24 of 295 Old 07-21-2009, 10:35 PM
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Thank you very much for posting this! Installing apache worked great and appears to have fixed the minor issues I was getting with SMB streaming blu ray files.

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post #25 of 295 Old 07-22-2009, 08:57 AM
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So if we get apache setup correctly why even bother with SMB? Just seeing if there is benefits to having both setup...thanks for the good guide!
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post #26 of 295 Old 07-22-2009, 09:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcoptic View Post

So if we get apache setup correctly why even bother with SMB? Just seeing if there is benefits to having both setup...thanks for the good guide!

SMB is slower and uses the memory up which sometimes results in stuttering, especially on high bitrate streams. So yeah I don't see a benefit, aside from it being easier to use for non computer people, and nothing else to install.

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post #27 of 295 Old 07-22-2009, 10:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcoptic View Post

So if we get apache setup correctly why even bother with SMB? Just seeing if there is benefits to having both setup...thanks for the good guide!

As I recall, http streaming does not support playback of full DVD rips with VOB files and menus.

Jim
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post #28 of 295 Old 07-22-2009, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim S View Post

As I recall, http streaming does not support playback of full DVD rips with VOB files and menus.

Agreed.

Cheers,
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post #29 of 295 Old 07-22-2009, 07:39 PM
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Ok I have apache all setup and other machines on my network can connect to the web server and see the files...however when trying to add network share on the popcorn hour I get an Unknown filesystem type error. For the URL I am using:
http://IPADDYOFSERVER:8001

Any ideas or am I suppose to add the server as a web service instead of a network share?
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post #30 of 295 Old 07-22-2009, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcoptic View Post

Ok I have apache all setup and other machines on my network can connect to the web server and see the files...however when trying to add network share on the popcorn hour I get an Unknown filesystem type error. For the URL I am using:
http://IPADDYOFSERVER:8001

Any ideas or am I suppose to add the server as a web service instead of a network share?

Add it under web services and omit the "http://" part. Just do ip.of.serv.er:8001 etc.

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