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Let me start by saying that I tested the Windows-based software in a fully updated Windows XP SP3 VMWare Workstation virtual machine and did my best to ensure all prerequisites were met for each software. The Linux-based MythTV software was tested using Mythbuntu, Mythdora, and LinuxMCE distributions installed in VMWare Workstation. All virtual machines were hosted on a Windows 7 64-bit OS running with a 3.2GHz Intel quad core processor and 11GB RAM. Also, where PVR functions are concerned, I did not test with external EPG data so I can't say for certain whether you may or may not be able to use these free PVR programs with or without paying a yearly subscription fee for your EPG data.
Now for a brief summary of my experiences and opinions of the PVR solutions I have tried:
Meedios - MeediOS - The HTPC app of the future
Meedios is a free Windows-based open source recreation of the Meedio software that was purchased and killed by Yahoo! First, the good. Meedios has an extremely awesome and slick looking user interface with all of the bells and whistles many people found to be lacking in SageTV. It is extremely configurable and will allow you to organize and display your media exactly the way you want it. Meedios is under active development and has an active following of plugin and theme developers. This means there are LOTS of plugins and themes to improve the look and functionality of Meedios. With built in plugins and 3rd party plugins you can bring a wealth of online content to your TV, including online videos, news stories, weather, and movie theater show times. And now for the bad. There are no PVR functions included with Meedios. The PVR functions are not built in and are only made available through 3rd party PVR engines and Meedios plugins. I didn't test these PVR functions since there were no recent releases or clear instructions on how to make it all work together. I didn't see any clear client/server ability with a common database and configuration serving multiple clients when I tested Meedios a couple of months ago. However, it appears that Meedios is working on integrating a central database solution so multiple clients can connect to and share a common library. Meedios is strictly a Windows-based media center application. It doesn't support other media player hardware (Popcorn Hour/Hauppauge MediaMVP) or gaming systems as Meedios clients with a Meedios user interface. And finally, along with the extreme flexibility in customization and configuration comes extreme complexity that will have most non-tech non-computer savvy users in over their heads very quickly when it comes to customizing things to get all of their data and media organized and displaying exactly how they want it. But don't let that prevent you from trying out this software. The initial install was simple enough to get most people happily started. But if you are a real stickler for how you want your media to be organized and displayed, be prepared for a fairly steep learning curve and significant investment of your time. If I didn't need the PVR functions and media extender capability, this is the software I would be using.
MediaPortal - MEDIAPORTAL - a HTPC Media Center for free!
MediaPortal is a free Windows-based open source media center and PVR software that has been around for a while and still being actively developed. First, the good. It has better integration of PVR functions than Meedios and they are all included with the MediaPortal installer. It also has all of the advanced PVR functions that SageTV has such as a client/server based PVR architecture and also the ability to use network-based TV tuners (meaning the main PVR server can utilize TV tuners that are not physically attached to the PVR server PC). It also has a very slick looking user interface and LOTS of extensions and skins to improve the look and functionality of MediaPortal. And now for the bad. While the TV functions have a client/server architecture, the media center functions for things like music, movies, and pics are updated on each MediaPortal installation separately instead of using a central database. If you have several client machines, each one may have to come out of standby or sleep mode to update their own databases everyday, hitting the network and server hard drives with more traffic than is necessary. Like Meedios, it doesn't appear to fully support other media players (Popcorn Hour/Hauppauge MediaMVP) or gaming systems as full MediaPortal clients with a MediaPortal user interface. It does support some of these as extenders, just don't expect to have the same slick and flashy user interface as you would get using a PC client. The installation is still a bit daunting and complicated, but if you're looking at this type of software then you can probably muddle your way through without too much trouble.
NextPVR - NextPVR | A free PVR and Media Centre application for Windows
GB-PVR is now called NextPVR and is a free closed source Windows-based PVR software that is currently being actively developed. First, the good. It has a client/server PVR architecture and now with a plugin it has the ability to use network-based TV tuners just like SageTV. It supports the Hauppauge MediaMVP and Popcorn Hour as client devices. It does have a small gathering of plugins and skins to fill in some of the gaps. And now the bad. I had trouble using my Hauppauge MediaMVP with NextPVR. It may have been the fact that I was testing NextPVR in a Windows XP virtual machine, but the MVP was extremely slow and kept locking up with NextPVR. A couple of newer versions of NextPVR have been released since I tested this, so I'll have to revisit it. I didn't have any other extenders to test with, so I can't comment on whether Popcorn Hour would have worked any better. For some people this might not be a bad thing, but the PC user interface was not nearly as slick and flashy as Meedios or MediaPortal. While not flashy, it was simple (maybe too simple) and responsive. It seemed more like SageTV was back in the SageTV v2 or earlier days. Since I couldn't test it with my MVP, I decided to skip the rest of the features so I can't comment too much on that other than to say that it allows you to do all of the basics such as browse and play your music, movies, and pics.
MythTV - MythTV, Open Source DVR
MythTV and MediaMVP Media Center are free open source Linux-based software. I'll start off by saying that if you are switching from SageTV and looking for MediaMVP extender support, the MediaMVP Media Center for MythTV isn't nearly as good of a client for MythTV as SageTV's built in MVP extender support. It only gives you a very basic and generic user interface to your MythTV server and it doesn't give you anything close to what SageTV accomplished. As a PVR, MythTV is probably about as close to a SageTV replacement as you can get for PVR functionality. First, the good about MythTV. It has a solid client/server PVR architecture like SageTV that allows you to have and use TV tuners on any machine with MythTV installed while having just one machine acting as the server to coordinated the usage of all of the TV tuners. Besides MythTV for client PCs, you can also use XBMC as a MythTV frontend that will run on Windows and Mac platforms as well as Linux. The MythTV user interface doesn't seem to be as slick and flashy as Meedios or MediaPortal, but I think it is better than any of the stock SageTV user interfaces. So, now for the bad. Maybe it was something with the distro I used or the version of MythTV included with the distro, but there didn't seem to be a whole lot of plugins or skins available through the MythTV user interface. Besides what is available from the MythTV user interface, there are additional addons available and tweaks you can do outside of the MythTV user interface, but you need to be familiar with using a Linux command line and know a little bit about Linux commands and the Linux file structure and permissions to do this without banging your head on your desk.
A quick additional note regarding MythTV…there are several Linux distributions with MythTV already integrated and will give you a ready-to-use MythTV server in a short period of time. These distributions have fairly easy to use wizard type installations but you may want to have the installation documentation or wiki page for the particular distro you have chosen loaded up on a laptop so you can consult with it as you move through the installation process. If you are looking for a whole house server that not only offers TV and Media Center services, LinuxMCE also offers home automation, security, and telecom control services. The drawback to a full LinuxMCE installation, with multiple LinuxMCE machines, is that it will likely require a significant reconfiguration of your home network. The LinuxMCE core server machine needs to act as the router and DHCP server for your LAN in order for all of the features of the interconnected clients to work, which means your LinuxMCE core server machine will need two network interfaces…one for the broadband/Internet connection and one for your internal LAN.
If I had to switch from SageTV right now, the choice I would make would be MythTV under the LinuxMCE distro. The addition of home automation, security, and telecom functions all integrated into one server is what will ultimately sway me to a LinuxMCE setup. If I were to stick with just a PVR setup in a Windows PC environment I would have to go with MediaPortal until Meedios has a proven and integrated PVR solution like MediaPortal. If I didn't care about all of the cool plugins, complex setups, or flashy user interface, and just wanted a simple PVR and media center, I would go with NextPVR.
OK, the rambling is done. Having tested these software packages in virtual machines, there were likely some problems I experienced that were attributed to that. If I have made any errors or false assumptions in my review, feel free to comment and correct me and I will verify and make any corrections necessary.
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News from: Phys.org - spotlight science and technology news stories
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(Phys.org) ?Yawn. Two startup visionaries claim they have just the device to replace keyboard and mouse forever and ever. Where have you heard that before. But maybe these two have something important. Meron Gribetz, the startup founder and CEO and Ben Sand, the co-pilot and evangelist, are behind something called the Meta wearable computer headset, which consists of stereoscopic glasses and camera. It's the way computers always should have been: wearable, viewed through both eyes, and directly controlled using the entire arms and hands, according to its founder and CEO Gribetz. The belief is that the future of computing is in this technology that can display information from the real world and control objects with one's fingers, Tony Stark-style, at low latency and high dexterity. Meta founder and CEO Gribetz referred to the technology as the keyboard and mouse of the future.
(Phys.org) ?A team of researchers from the SETI Institute, the Mars Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, and the space robotics company Honeybee Robotics, has successfully completed a first series of field tests aimed at investigating how humans will explore and work on Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and eventually the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos.
News from: robots.net
In episode #130, interviewer AJung talks with Peter Asaro (an Assistant Professor at The New School and affiliated with The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School) about the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a consortium of NGOs working to secure an international ban on autonomous weapons systems. This interview follows closely on an article about the Campaign, coauthored by AJung, which itself followed Robohub's focus on Robots and warfare.
Read On | Tune In
Via FreeIO.org comes news of a new open hardware robot: the official Arduino Robot. The Arduino Robot will be on sale at the Maker Faire in San Mateo immediately but will be generally available for online orders starting in July. The robot has two ATmega32u4 microprocessors. It has a standard differential drive arrangement with two DC motors but apparently no encoders. Sensors include a compass and five bottom-facing IR sensors for line following. There are several push buttons and potentiometers for input and, for output, a speaker and LCD screen. Multiple prototyping areas are available for adding your own sensors and actuators. The MAKE blog ran an interesting account of how the designers of this robot went from knowing nothing about robotics to designing this beginner robot for kids in just a few years. The most important aspect of the Arduino Robot is that, like other Arduino hardware, it's under a free license:
As always with Arduino, every element of the platform ? hardware, software and documentation ? is freely available and open-source. This means you can learn exactly how it's made and use its design as the starting point for your own robots.
There's already a lot of technical info available including the EAGLE CAD files for both boards, and documentation on the new Robot library that's included with the Arduino IDE 1.0.5 and later. We look forward to hearing more about this robot or doing a review if a one should end finding it's way to the Robots.net testing lab. For more about other open source robot platforms, see the recent FreeIO article, The State of Free Hardware for Robotics.
This edition of best robot photos of the week includes a US Army recon robot, some shabby chic robot art, a well-endowed female junkbot, a robot arm at NYC Resistor, another robotics amusements. Every week we post a collection of the best robot photos submitted by our readers to our robots.net flickr group. Why? Because everyone likes to see cool new robots! Want to see your robot here? Post it to flickr and add it to the robots.net flickr group. It's easy! If you're not already a flickr member, it's free and easy to sign up. Read on to see the best robot photos of the week!
Professor Üner Tan has released an interesting paper online that will be of interest to roboticists titled, "Development of Bipedal and Quadrupedal Locomotion in Humans from a Dynamical Systems Perspective" (PDF format). It starts with a quick overview of the history of gait analysis, starting with Aristotle's work and the first application of scientific experiments to test gait hypotheses by Gailileo Galilei. The paper focuses on the development of bipedal and quadrupedal walking gaits in humans. I found it particularly interesting that we have apparently inherited the neural systems used for diagonal-sequence quadrupedal locomotion from tetrapods that existed over 400 million years ago (pictured above). The paper goes over what we know about neural central pattern generators (CPGs) and self-organization of complex biological systems. From the paper:
"In contrast to the theory of stage-like motor and cognitive development, the perspective of behavioral-motor development as a self-organized process seems to be more plausible to explain why and how infants walk within a particular environment. That is, a previously coded neural network, i.e., neural coding, seems to be unlikely, because of the lack of precise point-to-point wiring in the central nervous system with immense overlaps of dendritic and axonal arbors. The integrative neuroscience emphasizes the 'inside-out' and 'outside-in' approaches for the understanding of locomotor control."
The paper covers a number of current theories on how gaits emerge in normal and abnormal human development. Each theory is examined from the perspective of what we know about dynamic systems (or dynamical systems as the kids like to call them these days). Lots of interesting information here for anyone working with bipedal and quadrupedal gaits in robotics.
Lots of interesting robot news stacking up here. Where to start...
- Connie from ArcBotics let us know about a kickstarter campaign they're doing for a new open hardware educational robot called Sparki. If you like the concept, they could use your help funding it.
- RobotGrrl has a new open hardware robot in the works too called Buddy 4000.
- An article in The Atlantic recounts a horribly botched attempt by the CIA to create a cyborg spy cat in the 1960s. Fortunately the cat did not survive long after the operation.
- Andy Martin writes: Robots, some say they'll take over the world? but what will happen next? The latest animation in The Planets series goes some way to answering this question
- A ReadWrite blog post by Lauren Orsini talks about the impact of ROS on robotics research (and even quotes a "robotics expert" you may know)
- NASA's autonomous, solar-powered GROVER rover is making its way across the Greenland ice sheet using ground-penetrating radar to study the ice.
- Two Pinckney Community High School students designed and built a robotic locker door opener for fellow student with Muscular dystrophy. They now have a minigrant to build more.
- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has launched the Domestic Drone Information Center (DDIC) to aggregate information on the estimate 30,000 drones that will be watching American citizens within the next 20 years.
Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. Don't forget to follow us on twitter and Facebook. And now you can add us to your Google+ circles too.
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