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Tech

Set XBMC to Auto Update Library

After getting XBMC Live installed on my Revo and getting my library setup, I couldn’t find a simple option to have XBMC watch my video folder and automatically update my library. In place of this missing functionality, I figured I would setup a simple timed job to automatically update my library for me every hour.

Before I get started, I should note that there is an option to automatically update the library when the box is booted up which may work for some people. You can find this under System > Video > Update Library on Startup. This option wouldn’t work for me though as I leave my box on 24/7 or at most just put it in a standby state.

See below for the details on how to setup a timed job (cron) to update your video or music library. This consists of installing the xbmc-send application and setting up a cron job (and enabling the EventServer).

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Josh Lyon

Flash Video: End of the World

I promised Alex that I would upload two of our favorite flash videos: Mario Twins and End of the World.  You can find the Mario video at the following link: Mario Twins

The End of the World video is below. It may take a few minutes to load on slow connections as it’s somewhat large file (around 3MB)

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Josh Lyon

Flash Videos: Mario Twins

I’ve uploaded the Mario Twins (Shiggity Shiggity Shwa) and End of the World flash videos to my website. The Mario one will start playing automatically, so I decided to put the End of the World on it’s own blog post. You can find the End of the World video at this link: End of the World

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Josh Lyon

Miss Teen USA 2007 – South Carolina

I saw this on Letterman the other night and couldn’t help but crack up. She was trying so hard to come up with something that had a global perspective.

Question: "Recent polls have shown 1/5 of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?" 

South Carolina: "I personally believe that you as Americans are unable to do so because (um) some people out there in our nation dont have maps. And I believe that our education, such as South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should– our education over here in the US should help the US, (uh-b-err-uh) should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future… for our children…."

 

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Josh Lyon

Shiner Videos

As part of my quest to find a good video solution for my website, I’m trying out Google Video.  The video quality is a lot better than the local tool I was using (Sothink Flash Encoder), but the video is a lot choppier. I think the choppiness of the video has something to do with the framerates not syncing up during the video encoding process on Google’s end, but that may be because I took the video with my Treo 650 cell phone.  I’ll try some more videos with my regular camera later and see how those turn out. 

Shiner Jumps Out of Creek

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Josh Lyon

Shiner – Test Video

I am trying to find a simple solution that will allow me to upload and play videos on my website in a format similar to google video or YouTube, but it doesn’t look like there’s really anything good out right now that does that.  The closest thing I’ve found is to convert the video to flash (flv) on a local computer, then upload the file to my webserver, then play that back with an FLV player.

I’ve attached a sample video below so you can see how Riva’s encoder performs.  It’s really crappy in my opinion, so I may just go back to using Google Video / YouTube.  The original video was taken with my Cell Phone at 640 x 480 resolution in 3G2 format. It was approximately 250kb in size.  I had the Riva encode shrink it down to 320 x 240 and somehow the video quality got worse (blockiness) and the size of the file went up to nearly 1 MB.

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Tech

Graphics Make Games Fun Again

As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, I’m not a really big gamer.  I use my original xbox as a media center and use it to play NES, SNES, and other old console games. Ignoring my status as a non-gamer, I decided to get an Xbox 360 elite when it came out. Microsoft finally decided to include an HDMI port and I think that’s what really set me over the edge.

Man am I glad I got it. The graphics are absolutely amazing.  Before getting one I really didn’t think of the next-gen consoles (Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360) as a revolutionary change in the gaming industry like other consoles generations have been. I knew the technical specs sounded great on paper, but I didn’t think the graphics held up to my standards.  After playing Lost Planet for a few hours, I can say the graphics / visuals are definitely revolutionary. 

 

Need For Speed - Pro Street
 Need For Speed: Pro Street

The amount of “jaggies” on the screen has been reduced incredibly, the lighting technologies are amazing, and the character interaction/movement is amazing. I am really disappointed every time I play an Xbox 1 game and jagged edges on object are sticking out like a sore thumb.  This is really annoying on games like Need For Speed, where you always have a car on screen and it has jagged edges all over the curves.  The same holds true for one of my recent favorites Star Wars: KoTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) – the clothing and robes have a lot of jagged edges and really detracted from the overall graphical ambience of the game.

Regarding lighting technologies, it seems like the console can really produce much more realistic lighting.  I’m not sure if it has to do with the processing power of the multi-core “brain” of the unit, the graphics card, or some other aspect, but it looks great.  Lighting has always been one of those things that is hard to capture and reproduce – this was even a large topic in the painting class I took in college. However they do it, the 360 brings us one step closer to reality.

Lost Planet
Lost Planet – Xbox 360

I don’t think I’ve noticed a single CG scene that is a simple movie playback.  All the plot scenes look like they are all done with game objects on the fly.  In older games, like Final Fantasy on the PSX, you would play with your normal game characters with jagged edges and all their imperfections throughout all the game play. Basic plot-scenes with interaction between characters were sometimes done with in-game characters, but large / action plot scenes were pre-recorded CG being played back. In Lost Planet, all the scenes are done with in-game characters.  The graphics still look just as amazing and have a better effect in my opinion.  Instead of feeling like there was this abrupt change in styling, the whole game just flows together much better. I assume it also takes less disc space to record an action sequence with in-game characters than it does to save a CG video. 

 

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Josh Lyon

Another Round of Toys

I just went through another round of buying toys and I’m not sure I’m quite done yet.  My most recent purchases include yet another large hard drive (500 gig), next-gen game console, speaker wire, and more.  

360 - Black and White ThumbThe Xbox 360 Elite edition recently came out and I had been eyeing it for a while leading up to it’s release.  It’s very similar to the Xbox 360 Premium edition, but it adds an HDMI port, black finish, and larger (120 gig) hard-drive. There are a number of reasons I decided to take the plunge and get one.  I’m not really a true “gamer” by nature, but I am interested in console modding / hacking.  My current Xbox 1 is the pinnacle of my home theater and entertainment system.  It’s modified to run “homebrew” software, copied games, and emulate older consoles. It currently has a piece of software on it called Xbox Media Center (XBMC), which serves as a dashboard from which I can launch other applications, games, and widgets or play movies, music, and pictures. I really should post an article about this to describe in more detail what it does, but for now I’ll leave it at that.

That being said, the Xbox 360 really didn’t excel at any of the things that my Xbox 1 did once it was modified.  However, the in-game graphics and technology inside the console are what really did me in. I said I’m not really a gamer, but if you know me you know I love technology and high-resolution video/graphics.  I recently bought a 56” 1080p TV and now that the Xbox 360 includes an HDMI output, I thought it would match up well.  On top of that, all my home-theater equipment is black so the console will match much better than the standard white version.  The fact that they threw in a larger hard-drive was just an added bonus.  I really have no need for it now – I already have around 2 TB (terabytes) of storage capacity on my network – but in the event that the Xbox 360 is modified to allow homebrew apps I’ll be happy the storage space is there.

Since I moved to my new apartment, the complete home-theater experience has been lacking in one area – completing my surround sound.  I have a 1000 watt 7.1 setup powered by an Onkyo high-current amp, but I only have 2 speakers and the sub hooked up at the time.  The way I laid out the apartment wasn’t really accommodating for the complete system, but I finally decided to buy the tools I needed to complete the job.  Laura has been doing some decorating and I now have a great place to hide the two rear speakers out of the way. I bought some Acoustic Research PR362 flat, white speaker wire to run to the rear locations and a fishing tool to get the wire where I need it.  I still don’t have a good location for the rear center speakers, but for the time being 5.1 will have to do. Attached is a diagram of what a 7.1 setup looks like.

 

7.1 Diagram

And what better to pair with my new home-theater and entertainment equipment than another 500 gig hard drive for the media-server.  The computer currently has an 80 gig “system” drive that is used for operating systems and applications.  I have Windows XP, Mac OS X, and SUSE Linux 10.2 loaded on it for fun – but really only use the Windows System. I keep getting larger and larger hard-drives, but there’s not much I can really do about it. Here’s the progression of the computer storage capacity:

40 GB
80 GB
80 GB + 80 GB
80 GB + 80 GB + 160 GB
80 GB + 160 GB + 160 GB
80 GB + 300 GB + 300 GB *
80 GB + 500 GB **
80 GB + 500 GB + 500 GB

* 160 GB drives went into the Xboxes
** 300 GB drives went into the Xboxes

As you can see, it will only be a matter of time before I need even more capacity. It would probably be a really good idea to have a good backup system, but as much as I change through hard-drives I couldn’t afford while I was in college. Who knows, maybe a good RAID setup will be my next purchase.