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727 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 93803 29-Nov-2011 22:27
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Hi all.

I've gone and done it!  I bought an Onkyo 609 'receiver' and blew the dust off my KEF 105.2s.  I'd forgotten what it was like to have bass!  I doubt if I'll need a sub.

I'm feeling like I want to start listening to music more seriously again now, and most of it is MP3s or AIFs ripped from my own CDs, but now sitting on my Mac in an iTunes library.  I could run a cable from my Mac to the 609, but no - that's not the way forward.  What I'm doing at the moment is using my Vu+ Duo to stream the material from the Mac, but the media player plug in is not all that flash (after all, it's a satellite PVR, not a media centre).  In particular, it seems to miss the first fraction of a second of each track, which is really annoying and the interface - well yeah - say no more.

Also, I have oodles of .TS files on external drives on my mac, and these of course play fine on my Vu+, but I do have the odd AVI and MP4 and these can be problematic.  I'd like to have a plan B too, just in case the Vu+ should suck the kumara and it takes a while to get a repair done or a new unit from overseas or whatever. 

I tried several WD alternatives a while back and discarded them all - not for me, sorry WD.

Word around the campfire is that a jailbroken ATV2 is the way to go, but I wanted to check a couple of things first.
Some of these are pretty basic functionality, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

I have wired ethernet around the place and it's all interconnected.  The TV is Pan 50V20.  The Mac is old and won't run a modern DLNA server, just that half-baked and aptly named Twonky thing.  I don't like the idea of DLNA much anyway - just give me something that can find stuff on servers on my lan, decode it and play it.  Is that the JB ATV2?

Here're the questions:
Can I access and play .TS files (as from a DVB-S or -S2 stream) stored on a file server, be it my Mac using SMB now, or a NAS server later?
Will it handle MP4s, XVID, DIVX, AVI etc and does it have a bunch codecs for weird and not so weird encodings?
I read that the JB ATV2 will handle 1080p whereas the stock version only goes to 720p - is that right?

Can I access the music stored within iTunes on my Mac still? (I know, but I had to ask)
What about via some other software player that works with XMBC? 
AIFs OK?

Is there an app for android that allows control of the ATV so I can play music without having to turn on the telly just to see the menus?

Have I got entirely the wrong idea and should I do something else?
If so, it has to be cheap; I've already blown a bunch of cash I don't have on the 609.  I'd love to spend $1k on a Mac mini, but using up some Visa points to get an ATV2 for "free" is a lot cheaper. 

I thought about an ipod touch - it'd have the screen so I wouldn't need to tirn on the 50" heater, but no HDMI and I'm not sure it could fetch or decode my 'TS files, and then there's the 720p limit (not that that is TOO bad really).  I could take music with me too, but actually that's not a big deal for me.
But I also read that there are a bazillion apps for it and that XMBC will run on it.  Then I saw cheap(ish) HDMI docks on TM, so now I'm confused.

What makes matters worse is that to my horror, Dick Smith have abandoned their "no questions asked" return policy! Despite the CGA "suitability for intended purpose", I'm a lot less keen to take a risk on anything that the vendors won't guarantee will do what I want and won't take back if I find it doesn't.

What else should I have asked?

Thanks for any advice. 
 

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  Reply # 552042 30-Nov-2011 22:47
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Convert your files to Mac compatible formats, throw them into iTunes, then use an iPod Touch to control your Apple TV2.
One eco-system really does make life easier.


But that's not what you wanted to hear huh?
Yes, a jail broken ATV2 will still allow you to access the files on your Mac, but only if the Mac is turned on, and iTunes is running. Best that you keep ALL your media files on a NAS though, that way you can just jump into XBMC and access them all without a computer being turned on.
Re: video format compatibility, just jump on the XBMC iOS support forums and do some digging, it'll let you know what is / isn't possible.
I've never tried .TS files with my Apple TV, as I run MySky at home. I have h
owever played AIFF / MP3 / FLAC files on XBMC and it's okay. But there are much better music players out there (including the native ATV2 software, but it won't play FLAC)...
The jail broken ATV2 will handle 1080p files, but it won't display them as such on your Pana plasma.

For the record, I still have an ATV2, but have lent it to a mate to try, and am instead running a MacMini as a server. I've also passed on XBMC for the moment, but may go back to it when I decide to jailbreak an iPad so I can run XBMC on that...

Oh yeah, Dick Smith's old return policy would be fine in this case... unless you had jailbroken your ATV2, as that voids the warranty. No ifs, buts, or quibbles. :-)



727 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 552047 30-Nov-2011 23:02
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Thanks for that. You are right. I don't want to hear about converting my TS files! ;)
I've got about 8 TB of them and climbing, and a very old iMac that just isn't up to much in the way of transcoding. I recently converted one movie to a DVD using first MPEGSStreamClip to get to DV format, then Toast to get to DVD. All up it took about 6 hours! With that, and 2 TB drives at around $130, I just take the ads out and leave them as .TS files now.

Accessing files served by the Mac is OK - that's how I do it now (and how I'll do it down the track I think, with a Mac mini). NAS storage, especially in the amount I need seems hellish expensive.

I did take a look myself for compatibility info, and I think I'l be OK, but I figured there was nothing to lose by asking if anyone had first hand experience.

Good to know about MP3/AIFF/FLAC - that's really my biggest reason for considering the ATV2 or similar. The TS side is really covered with the Vu+, but a Plan B (apart from VLC) is always nice. The odd MP4 and DivX I have - well - if I'm getting a box I may as well get one that'll handle such things. And who knows, maybe I'll figure out which is the best route to take for transcoding and get a second-hand CRAY to wade through my 8TB +!

Re 1080p - I don't get it. It'll handle them but not play them? The 50V20 handles 1080p OK so where's the problem?

As for the warranty voiding thing - I understood that jailbreaking was completely reversible, is that not so?

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  Reply # 552052 30-Nov-2011 23:12
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Jailbreaks can go wrong, and for some, they do go wrong. It has happened before, it'll happen again - but it IS rare.
Basically, the ATV2 can read 1080p files, but it can't send them to your plasma... in stock form, it cannot read the 1080p files.

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  Reply # 552055 30-Nov-2011 23:23
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Dunnersfella:  the ATV2 can read 1080p files, but it can't send them to your plasma...


So you mean the outputs locked/limited to 720p? 
So it can read the file, but will downscale the video to 720p?



727 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 552056 30-Nov-2011 23:26
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Dunnersfella: Jailbreaks can go wrong, and for some, they do go wrong. It has happened before, it'll happen again - but it IS rare.
Basically, the ATV2 can read 1080p files, but it can't send them to your plasma... in stock form, it cannot read the 1080p files.


OK - that clarifies the conflicting info I've seen about 1080p. It's no deal-breaker for me since the only 1080p material I have is on bluray and I'm not planning on ripping those just to save a trip to the bookcase.  If I were to try to play a 1080p on a JB ATV2, would it just sulk or do it in say 1080i or 720p. (Please excuse me if that is a crazy question - I know upscaling is common, but I don't know if downscaling is.)

For what seem to be many advantages and with just a small risk of a bricking a unit, $170 or whatever may be a goer.
 

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  Reply # 552057 30-Nov-2011 23:39
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Here we go - from the XBMC iOS forum FAQ section...

"Q: You say XBMC can do 1080p but it only displays 720p!
A: XBMC can decode 1080p videos but atm the ATV2 is limited to display 720p output only. Its still a question if this is hardware limited or software limited. Currently this is not a priority."


Interesting that they never saw the display of 1080p as a big issue...
I have a Mac without a BluRay ripper and I don't torrent, so 1080p isn't an issue whatsoever for me. For others, it may be different I suppose.



727 posts

Ultimate Geek
+1 received by user: 7


  Reply # 552060 30-Nov-2011 23:48
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Thanks for that. To be honest, although I'm sitting closer to the screen than I did, I don't know if I could tell the difference between 720p and 1080p anyway, especially given how grubby my glasses usually are!

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  Reply # 552125 1-Dec-2011 09:31
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I think the biggest issue with quality arises when you're watching a movie with a lot of dark scenes. The blacks just aren't very good... cloudy at best.
If I was watching a movie like Harry Potter or a dark Batman flick, then I'll choose a BluRay on my PS3 instead.



727 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 553778 4-Dec-2011 22:52
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Dunnersfella: Convert your files to Mac compatible formats, throw them into iTunes, then use an iPod Touch to control your Apple TV2.


I'm seeing the appeal of this approach now as I fiddle with the bits I have.  I'm unhappy about having to fire up the 50 incher just to pick some music.

-- start digression --
That's compounded a bit by the understandable, but annoying operation of inter-component control via HDMI and ARC.  To get ARC to work (in itself not a huge deal as I can't get DVB-T, but who knows - one day...) I have to enable the HDMI control mechanism (and that seems a good idea, but...) If I do that, choose my music on the 50"er, then turn that off, off goes the receiver! Maybe I missed a beat there, and having the ATV selected as the input could prevent that, but I'm not sure.  Another annoyance got me today - I had the HDMI control thing back on so I could experiment with ARC, and switched to my Vu+ input to stream some music using that.  I turned on my BDP to eject a disc I'd been using - bam - input of the receiver switches - I switch back - bam - it switches again!
As I say, understandable, but HDMI control is looking like more trouble than it is worth.
-- end digression -- 

So - what I'm wondering is if there is an Android app I can use to control the ATV2 from my Huawei X1 phone.  I checked google and the app store, but had no success.  Anyone been there and done that?

Obviously an iDevice of some sort would be the answer, but the only one that's financially in reach is the iPod Touch, and I doubt if I could swing that and the AppleTV at the moment.  If I did, I'd still have the monumental task of transcoding my files. 

That does raise another question though: if I went the JB ATV2 route, would whatever the iOS app is that runs on the iPod allow me to access the XBMC functionality?  If so, I could go JB ATV2 now, and live with having to use the 50"er as a monitor until I could afford an iPod, or even swap my Huawei for an iPhone.

Any insight?

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  Reply # 553788 4-Dec-2011 23:17
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The standard iOS remote or Airplay functionality on the iPad Touch / iPad / iPhone will not allow you to control XBMC. However the (paid) XBMC app for iOS devices does.
http://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/xbmc-remote/id289316916?mt=8
I used to use it quite a bit... right up until the point I moved towards a Mac Mini + iTunes as my home theatre PC.

Also, ARC is arse...
I'd recommend an optical cable 100 times out of 100. The cable is cheap, the headaches are almost non-existant.



727 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 553789 4-Dec-2011 23:23
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Once again, I am indebted to you, Sir.

It looks like I'm on the path that you took, just many long steps behind. It's great to be able to draw on the experience of others.



727 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 558034 14-Dec-2011 20:09
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Well, I've chewed this over and over and I kept hitting snags of one sort or another. Common sense keeps leading me to a Mac mini and an ipod touch, but that is just too pricey at the moment. Lack of 1080p (or even i) playback on the Apple TV was really a deal-breaker when push came to shove - maybe the ATV3...

But then I had what I think was a good idea.

My main purpose was to access my music; secondarily my TS files.

What I'm going to do is get a 32GB SDHC card for my Android phone, put my music on there, and either use that via USB into my Onkyo 609, or, better, use a DLNA server app on my phone to send it to the Onkyo that way.

I tried a couple of DLNA server apps - the first two suffered too many drop-outs, but Twonky Mobile is much more reliable, and quite powerful, but not perfect*. I can set up play lists, and control the volume of the receiver from the phone! At $3.73 it's not a bad buy.

I have a couple more DLNA servers to try though, but I need to get some more memory for my phone first.

As for the TS files, well, I'll cross that bridge if my Vu+ Dup ever does die.  I may even be able to stream them using VLC - not sure.

* I can't be sure the drop-outs are due to the app. It could be the slow processor in my Huawei X1 phone, or possibly a weak 802.11g link. The latter seems unlikely though as with the phone 50cm from the Wifi AP, I'm getting them.

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 558045 14-Dec-2011 20:45
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Dunnersfella: Convert your files to Mac compatible formats, throw them into iTunes, then use an iPod Touch to control your Apple TV2.
One eco-system really does make life easier.


But that's not what you wanted to hear huh?
Yes, a jail broken ATV2 will still allow you to access the files on your Mac, but only if the Mac is turned on, and iTunes is running. Best that you keep ALL your media files on a NAS though, that way you can just jump into XBMC and access them all without a computer being turned on.
Re: video format compatibility, just jump on the XBMC iOS support forums and do some digging, it'll let you know what is / isn't possible.
I've never tried .TS files with my Apple TV, as I run MySky at home. I have h
owever played AIFF / MP3 / FLAC files on XBMC and it's okay. But there are much better music players out there (including the native ATV2 software, but it won't play FLAC)...
The jail broken ATV2 will handle 1080p files, but it won't display them as such on your Pana plasma.

For the record, I still have an ATV2, but have lent it to a mate to try, and am instead running a MacMini as a server. I've also passed on XBMC for the moment, but may go back to it when I decide to jailbreak an iPad so I can run XBMC on that...

Oh yeah, Dick Smith's old return policy would be fine in this case... unless you had jailbroken your ATV2, as that voids the warranty. No ifs, buts, or quibbles. :-)


@Dunnersfella

I am looking into the mac-mini-as-htpc option.

You seem fairly pleased with what you have, is that a fair interpretation?

I currently have an iMac, the 27" beast, which is used as the family machine.

I and the boss have iPhones, the kids have iPods / iTouch / iPad. We are a walking, talking Apple advertisement...

Anyhoo, back to topic.

I run MySkyHDi and am fairly happy with the service, I have little in the way of HD media, but a lot in the form of music files.

The Mac runs iTunes and iTunes is the weapon of choice for any downloads we desire (so far).

I would like an integrated system, all controlled from either iPod/iTouch/iPhone or via the TV.

I think what I need is a "Mac as HTPC for dummies" type guide...

Where to start?

Help.





Michael Skyrme - Instrumentation & Controls

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  Reply # 558070 14-Dec-2011 21:46
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xarqi: What I'm going to do is get a 32GB SDHC card for my Android phone, put my music on there


I think we're all over the have to turn the bloody TV on to select some music.

I have the PS3 and without sounding like a whiny bit it's simply a pain.  And the PS3 is close to useless for queuing next songs etc.  Sooner or later doing everything via that game controller etc is just tedious.  Also I've done the network to music on a laptop thing and man it's slow to display options in folders etc.  Fine when it's going but I just think there are better ways of doing it now.

I was thinking the same thing.  Load up a phone or an ipod touch with all the music and just send it from there.  Hence my other question on this forum about how to do that.  The apple air play system seems to be pretty cool to be honest.

I dunno, it just seems I enjoyed listening to music more when you physically put a record/disc etc on.  Tapes not so much, they always sounded like crap.

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  Reply # 558096 14-Dec-2011 23:00
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MikeSkyrme:

@Dunnersfella

I am looking into the mac-mini-as-htpc option.

You seem fairly pleased with what you have, is that a fair interpretation?

I currently have an iMac, the 27" beast, which is used as the family machine.

I and the boss have iPhones, the kids have iPods / iTouch / iPad. We are a walking, talking Apple advertisement...

Anyhoo, back to topic.

I run MySkyHDi and am fairly happy with the service, I have little in the way of HD media, but a lot in the form of music files.

The Mac runs iTunes and iTunes is the weapon of choice for any downloads we desire (so far).

I would like an integrated system, all controlled from either iPod/iTouch/iPhone or via the TV.

I think what I need is a "Mac as HTPC for dummies" type guide...

Where to start?

Help.



For me it was pretty straight forward... as I'm not trying to record anything from MySky onto my Mac.
All I use it for is music, movies and the occasional streaming of live events from the web. If I didn't have MySky it would be a different story, but it's all good as it is. Very, very simple.

Basically, I bought a SSD loaded Mac Mini running Lion. I then disabled everything I didn't need (like Spotlight, turning off Bluetooth, wifi yadaya) and have made sure I downloaded as few apps as possible. I run iTunes as my main playback software, controlled via the 'remote' app on the iPhone's and iPad. I do have other playback software to play Flac files etc, but to be honest... the iPad is so darned easy and convenient.
The files on iTunes are sitting on a 1TB USB HDD, plugged into the Mac Mini - pointing iTunes at the HDD was a piece of the proverbial. Controlling it, even more so.
Thing is... my partner can now control it while I listen... which can be annoying if she constantly turns my music down!

To summarize...
External USB HDD plugged into Mac Mini
External Firestone ILTW USB DAC plugged into a 2 channel amp via RCA.
Panasonic plasma plugged into MacMini via HDMI.
MySKy HDi plugged into 2 channel amp via RCA.
Controlled with an iPad2, iPhone 4 + iPhone 4s and a Logitech USB keyboard + mouse.

I'll refine it over time no doubt, with a better amplifier (2 channel only, I'm not a surround sound guy), a turntable, a larger USB HDD and potentially an amp that doesn't require the external DAC + built in co-ax for MySky.

I was looking at making a far trickier bit of kit, but as my partner likes it how it is - no need to make the computer trickier than it needs to be with external USB tuners etc.

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