Posts Tagged “mediaportal”

To keep the upgrade theme going, now that my old Windows server is free, I’ll be rebuilding that Dell P4-1.5Ghz system as a newer MediaPortal system.  I’ve been running an old version of MediaPortal (but it was current at the time!) for well over a year now.  It has been the best addition to my home theatre centre ever!  Currently, it is running on an 8+ year old P3-1000 system that used to be my main computer many years ago and then was Eva’s main computer until she got her iMac.  It has been doing well for MediaPortal but the time has come to update the software and add a little more horsepower to the system as well so that I can run some newer plug-ins like Moving Pictures which are more graphically rich than most plug-ins.  Hopefully with the extra horsepower, I can get back in to building my MAME system for home.  The P3-1000 system didn’t quite cut it for running MAME and handling the Bluetooth Wii remote controllers.

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Been running in to a few set backs with the ing of MediaPortal project.

Set back 1: Wii remote disconnects during game play.  Very frustrating.  Since the MediaPortal PC itself is in another room, I figured Bluetooth signal was getting interrupted.  I bought a 15ft USB extension cable and connected the Bluetooth dongle closer to the entertainment center and the disconnect problem went away.

Set back 2: Poor MAME support out of the box for MediaPortal.  The irony here is that MediaPortal actually has quite good MAME support out of the box.  The unfortunate part is that the “MyPrograms” plug-in that provides the MAME support has not been updated for a while, no longer has development and no longer works correctly with the recent versions of MediaPortal.  A bit of searching turned up a new plug-in called “MyProgramsAlt” which is another team’s effort at corrected and extending the now defunct MyPrograms.  I’ll try this our and see how it works.  Otherwise, I will use the “MyEmulators” plug-in which appears to be simple, functional but not quite as full-featured as MyProgramsAlt.

Set back 3: Pentium 3-1000 computers just aren’t as impressive as they used to be.  It does the trick for video playback but unfortunately it’s a bit too slow for many MAME games.  The true “classic” games like Mario Bros. run fine but more colourful games show a significant slow down.

Set back 4: Been taking a bit of a break from the hardcore nerd stuff to actually enjoying using MediaPortal rather than adding features.  I’ll get back in to it soon enough and I had the idea of trying to add the Daphne emulator to play laserdisc games like Dragon’s Lair with the Harmony remote.

I’m seeing a lot of hits to these articles coming from search engine queries.  If you have any questions about MediaPortal, MAME and Wii remote functionality, please leave a comment to help share the knowledge.

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Since Carlos thinks I already spend too much time in the basement, I am preparing to add even more entertainment to Mediaportal. This time, the fun will be provided by MAME. MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. In english, it means that it is a piece of software that lets you play “classic” arcade games on your computer. Mostly everything from the late 1970’s to the early 2000’s can be played. I used to spend a lot of time and a lot of quarters playing coin-op arcade games. Now with MAME, I will be able to play them on my TV in the basement.

Some people have gone out of their way to build authentic looking arcade cabinets for the classic arcade look and feel powered by MAME. Costco even sells an Ultimate Arcade 2 for a whopping $2400. I love the product but it’s quite a ways out of my price range. If I had the talent, I would build my own MAME arcade cabinet as the Ultimate Arcade 2 is basically a MAME system given a very fancy presentation.

However I do have some talents and Mediaportal has some MAME integration built-in. After some quick testing, I was playing Mario Bros. on the TV with the Harmony remote. The harmony is a wonderful device but it is certainly lacking as a game controller.

I spent some time looking at Logitech gamepads to power use as MAME controllers. They would work fine but the downside would be having to buy a couple of them plus USB extensions. I considered some wireless gamepads but again the problem of a lot of stuff to buy plus extensions. Then I had the most amazing thought…

I already have Nintendo Wii remotes – Could these be used to control MAME?? After some research and testing, the answer is YES! I read about similar setups where people were connecting the Wii remote to their PC via Bluetooth and the remote would work perfectly for MAME. I verified this by borrowing a bluetooth adapter from work and that weekend I was happily testing out MAME with the Wii Remote. It didn’t take me long before deciding to order my own Bluetooth PC adapter which arrived today!

This is going to be a tricky system to build and certainly won’t be “perfect”. However, it will be a lot of fun! Stay tuned for lots of tips and tricks on how I will be turning this project from an idea to reality.

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With all my talk about setting up Mediaportal and how awesome it is, I don’t think I ever went in to detail about what it actually does. Plus I’ve been a bit lazy with blog postings lately…

What the heck is Mediaportal? It’s a Windows application for managing all of your digital movies, tv shows, music and other forms of digital media.

Oh a Windows program, what’s the big deal then? The big deal is doing something a little out of the ordinary… Hooking the computer’s audio/video output in to my home theater’s input. Now things get interesting…

What about controlling the thing? The Logitech Harmony 880 remote to the rescue! That and a relatively cheap USB Infrared receiver for the computer and all the control is in my hand still using only a single remote for the entire home theater system.

Now the fun part – watching TV! Mediaportal gives a nice menu-driven interface to everything. A button push here and all my movies are ready to watch. Right now, I have about 90 movies online and ready for watching. Mediaportal lets you pick the movie by it’s covert art, title and you can can view the movie outline and rating with another button push. Get the popcorn ready and hit play…

Along with the movies, Mediaportal keeps a nice fancy interface to all the TV shows available. The episodes are broken down in to season categories and series/episode summaries are provided with nice shiny images as well. It even tracks what you’ve already watched.

Music, Internet radio, movies trailers, games, pictures & even more are available too. It’s quite an impressive system and the possibilities continue to grow. As for the cost… I was able to re-use Eva’s old PC – Despite being about 7 years old, it runs MediaPortal perfectly. The only new equipment I had to purchase was the IR receiver for $25 and then only needed a couple of really long audio/video cables – cost: $35. $60 in total – you can’t beat that!

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Haven’t updated the blog lately because Mediaportal is just too cool!  I’ll post some more details soon but this is the way home entertainment should be!

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My latest home techie project is building a Media Portal computer for the home theater setup. I love my digital media but it’s not always great to watch TV shows & movies on the computer. Burning the shows/movies to DVD and watching it on the main home theater works well but carries the small hassle of burning everything first.

Having a Media Portal will let me have all my movies, tv shows, music and some other goodies directly integrated with my home theater setup. Now that I have Eva’s old computer freed up, I’m configuring it to be a central media portal. It will be connected to my network and connected to the home theater receiver and controlled via the Harmony 880 remote.

Here are some quick specs:
P3-1000 CPU
Microsoft compatible media center infrared receiver
Windows XP
Media Portal software

The initial testing thus far has been great. The Harmony 880 works really well with the Media Portal software making the whole experience so much better. The only problem has been finding a reliable hard drive to go live with. Out of the four drives I’ve been testing, three have all failed. Fortunately one drive will be good enough. I got my IR receiver from eBay yesterday and it was a snap to get working. I picked up some nice long 25 foot audio/video cables this morning from cBit.

Once this drive passes the tests, I’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll!

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