Today, I’ve returned to Eindhoven, where my Pi was waiting for me. Some more testing to do with my Raspberry. In the meantime, I’ve ordered licenses for hardware decoding of MPEG2 and VC-1. I need at least MPEG2 for DVD decoding and for my planned DVB experiments. VC-1 might be used on some BluRay discs… I don’t even have a drive or anything, but whatever, when I am ordering, let’s just order both, why not?

Well… let’s see… MPEG2 license installed. Let’s play a dvd!… or not… The DVD shows up just fine in XBMC, but when I want to play it, it prompts to insert a disc. What? I mean…. you see the damn disc, so why are you asking to insert a disc?!? Also, when I right click it and select play, it just freezes and I have to kill the task over ssh. No luck there…

XBMC has been indexing my movies and series just before I left to my family. So… let’s see how it performs on those. The results are mixed. Some files play perfectly, others have synchronisation issues, and others won’t play at all. Remember we’re hardware decoding. A wrong codec and it won’t play. Keep in mind, my collection of videos has been around on my hard disks for years, and may already have been old when I downloaded them. The problem is, some files are encoded using the DivX ;) 3.11 codec, which was a popular codec about a decade ago. It was a hacked version of the Microsoft MPEG-4 codec. The original Microsoft codec had a limitation so that it only could be used within an asf container. The hacked version removed this limitation. So far so good, but the problem is, Microsoft MPEG-4 is not compatible with ISO MPEG-4. Microsoft tends to invent their own standards, but, in my best “denglish”, that’s an old cow.

Well… the codec is not supported by the hardware. But… back in the days I bought this KISS DP-508 DVD/DivX player. It has hardware MPEG2/MPEG4 decoding, just like my Raspberry Pi does now, yet it supported playback of DivX 3, so Microsoft MPEG-4 content, which suggests it’s possible to patch Microsoft MPEG4 bitstream to ISO MPEG4 on the fly. I have been searching the internet for clues how to do this, but I haven’t been successful yet. So, I was like, it’s a linux based player, so some sources should be available, right? It appears Cisco owns KISS now, and the sources for the DP-508 don’t appear on their GPL page. Bummer! I haven’t been able to locate the source codes elsewhere yet. It might contain the code that performs this streampatching on the fly. Just a wild guess, it doesn’t have to be in there… And even if I find it, I must find a way to integrate it into XBMC.

Speaking about XBMC. I’m going to give OpenELEC a try. At first I was considering Raspbmc, but I’ve decided for OpenELEC, since it should support DVD playback and have the PVR stuff, so it should be more suitable for my needs. My ArchLinuxARM installation will be be used for the original purpose as a thin desktop. So, I needed another SDCARD. The 8 GB card which I had lying around already contained a RISCOS installation. I really should get some more cards, and perhaps another pi? Oh well… I should have another look at RISCOS. Anyhow… going to use that SDCARD. One thing I’ve noticed. RISCOS hangs on boot when the USB hard disk is connected. Apparently it doesn’t like Linux ext4 and swap partitions… or is it the PC-style partition table that’s causing the confusion. But the SD card also has a PC-style partition table, so I doubt that’s the problem. Anyhow, unplugging the disk and the system continues to boot. Backupping that sdcard and writing the OpenELEC image to it. Let’s see how it performs.

OpenELEC takes quite some time to boot, but well, it’s the first boot. Having to set the language to Dutch, and have a sensible 24 hours clock. AM/PM is just ugly as hell IMHO. Another thing, it actually shows the temperature. I suppose, on ArchLinuxARM I am supposed to install some kernel module to support it. But that’s just a minor detail I haven’t bothered to look after yet. Something more interesting, this build supports changing resolution on the fly, which XBMC on ArchLinuxARM did not.

Now, before I can test if it actually plays DVDs I still have to install the licenses to this image. I will also have to get it mount my NFS shares.

There is also an OpenELEC part in the XMBC configuration now. Nicely integrated. Per default, it appears to offer a SAMBA share. As none of my computers speaks SMB, I will disable it, and enable the SSH deamon. (Using different installations, thus different host keys, on the same machine… hmm… ) More interesting is the keyboard options. Does it mean on this XBMC I can actually type on the keyboard in stead of the on screen keyboard with alphabetic order layout. This appears indeed to be the case. The On Screen Keyboard is still in a silly alphabetical order layout.

But… once can notice this is a one-purpose distro. Just a media center. I mean… I don’t see an easy way to get a shell, except for over the ssh, for which it’s not even clear what login to use. I suppose it’s easier to use an my laptop to enter the license codes into the config.txt file. Looking at that config file, there are also licenses for DTS and DDP. (I’ve never heard of DDP anyways)

Anyways. Booting the Pi again, it seems to be able to play DVDs, even though it first appears to just mount the disc. I have to right click and select play dvd to make it work. Anyways it works… and I’ve already seen some DVB stuff in the interface…. so as soon as my DVB-T receiver arrives I can do some initial testing. If I am pleased with the DVB-T receiver, I will order a the real stuff, a DVB-S receiver and a cardreader. Anyhow…. mounting my other Pi over NFS, and scanning media again.

I have noticed I might need to make little changes to my files as some series/movies aren’t recognised correctly, at least so I’ve noticed on the Arch XBMC installation. Now I am scanning without the directory is movie name option, perhaps this gives better results.