The jflicks media system 1.0 release is here.

The software developer just never sees the todo list ever become short.

Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses. We here in the jflicks lab are no different and we have been working real hard on getting to an official 1.0 release. That time is now!

Installing and running a Home Theater PC is not an easy task for the average person. It still takes someone with quite a bit of technical knowledge. In the jflicks lab we have been focusing on trying to ease this task so it is possible for the average person and a breeze for a technical person.

Our system is naturally divided into two pieces. A server component that does things like recording video and a client component that allows you to watch video at your TV.

However if you are only going to install onto one computer, you can install our client server combination. This will run all the software on that one machine. That machine will handle all server functions and the TV user interface. This install is more like a typical DVR like a TiVo or a DVR from a cable or satellite company.

The jflicks media system server component is configured via a couple of desktop applications. We have installation programs for both Linux and Windows. You just install and run them on a PC on your network.

That is really all you need to try it out. See the downloads page to get it!

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Updates to the jflicks Media System

It’s been a real long time since we’ve updated everyone on what we have been working on with the jflicks Media System, so I wanted to take a few minutes to do just that task.

Work has steadily progressed on the system as a whole. Much has been accomplished and the system is tested daily here at the jflicks labs. Not in any particular order here are some updates:

  • We have created our own commercial detection service. When a program (at least here in the USA) returns from a commercial the broadcaster displays a “rating symbol” in the upper left hand corner of the screen. Our new service called “ComRat” looks for these symbols. We have found that it works great on “cable” networks like USA and Syfy. This service compliments our Comskip service nicely because Comskip does very well on the “regular” networks like NBC and Fox.
  • Artwork for TV recordings and video files is now automatically downloaded. We originally only supplied a desktop application called the Video Manager so the user could download artwork as a side task. The auto download saves time. We originally didn’t make this service because we found that other software that did often was wrong – and you found weird art being associated at times. Our service can get it wrong too – but we found if we keep the auto download to TV recordings and video files deemed as Movies or TV there are little errors. For example “Home Video” will just be skipped as it is logical not to even exist.
  • We now recommend the use of mplayer2 as the video player. This fork has REALLY improved seeking. Now commercial skipping is as good as any other HTPC software out there – in our humble opinion.
  • We have added another desktop application called “EZ Configuration”. The idea being that we wanted to give the end user a simple application to configure the most common configuration properties. This just makes installing and configuration so much easier when most properties don’t need to be changed. We still have our original configuration application – this is now seen as an “advanced” tool where any property can be customized. However we see most users not needing to use it.
  • We are working on a jflicks Media System server distribution. The idea is to make setting up a server as pain free as possible. We have extended a Turnkey Linux Core into what is needed to have everything for a jflicks Media System server run time.
  • We have made a Roku channel that essentially turns that little box into a whole home DVR. So instead of having an expensive server and an expensive HTPC at the TV, just get a $59 Roku and watch your own TV recordings and video files from the jflicks Media System server. Matter of fact get one for each of your TVs and watch your stuff everywhere in the house. It’s pretty slick.

There is probably more and they are not coming to mind right now. We hope to have new installation programs and our distro based upon Turnkey Linux available soon.

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Our First jflicks media system Release!

It’s been a long journey until this moment but we would like to release our first version – or better stated – our first code that we hope people will try and at least play with. Please read on for important information – but also see our downloads page to get the software.

We have been working on trying to make the jflicks media system get to a point where people can try it without it hurting too much! We have some simple install programs made using the InstallJammer project. So actually installing the programs is very simple. Probably the easiest approach is to follow this installation cookbook we have written on our wiki.

What should you expect? The jflicks media system has not been run on a lot of different hardware. The folks who invented Java which is the language used to write our software like to say “write once, run everywhere”. However even though that may be true (or not) it’s definitely “write once, test everywhere” for our project. This is where you come in – we need your help on the testing part. Report problems so we can try to solve them.

We need to point out to you that if you are going to install DVR functionality in a server (it’s always your option of what is installed), a subscription to Schedules Direct is required. Getting program data is a service and at this point we have only written a service that can access Schedules Direct. Also because development has been in the USA we are sure there are many subtleties we have missed if you live outside the USA. We know popular recorders like DVB-S and DVB-T exist but we have no way of testing them. However we do have ATSC DVB here and can report success for the one we own. We would think that getting the DVB-S and DVB-T working would not be hard and most likely is just a configuration setting.

Also at this point our system is not a “DVR for dummies”. It does take some skill to get things working. You need to be quite knowledgeable in the ways of HTPC configuration – especially getting your remote control, mplayer and/or VLC installed and configured properly for your hardware. At this point you need to be able to run programs from the command line and be able to read through log files in case problems arise – which most likely will happen.

Since we have only run the software on our hardware that we own, it’s even hard to say what the minimum requirements should be. So let’s just say what hardware we do run it on – hardware where the software performs well.

Our “server” where all recordings happen (6 recorders) is a:

Quad Core 2.8 Intel CPU
Four gigabyte memory
Two terabyte of disk space

Our “clients” are generally Duo Core AMD machines with two gigabyte of memory. Importantly they have NVidia graphics to offload the video decoding to the GPU. The duo core allows us to easily handle Flash video. However we do have a single core 2.2 AMD machine which works great on our recordings and video files but is pushed hard to do Flash video. Our clients are connected to 720p TVs and a projector.

Our home network is a gigabit one and all machines are wired.

All development has occurred on Ubuntu Linux. All of our machines run Ubuntu 10.10. The jflicks media system is a cross platform project but clearly it has the most capability on Linux at this point. Really a media system has two points where the hardware matters – recorders and remote controls. Recorders are specialized hardware and using them is not portable at all especially if they are USB or PCI based. The drivers on the different operating systems have nothing in common. The only cross platform recorder as of today is the HDHomerun from Silicondust. The project definitely needs help on supporting recorders on Windows and Mac.

We have tested the “client” on a Windows 7 machine and all functionality worked. So the software is more portable on the client side. The client still needs hardware support for the remote control but we were able to get our remote control to work using WinLirc.

Well thats it for now. If you can give us some feedback via the Forum we certainly would appreciate it. Thanks!

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The jflicks media system has a home!

Just wanted to say that the jflicks media system has an online home!!  Not that we have anything anyone could try just yet, but one has to start somewhere.

Much work to do with the site and documentation.  At this point, to get developers interested in checking out the project we need to make the learning curve as flat as possible.  Our first users will need to be pretty tech savvy so we need to document how things work as much as we can.  Our end goal is to make the system easy to install, configure and to run for anyone.

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