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XAV101 Powerline adapter in our office.

As mentioned in a previous post, I use Powerline adapters to connect networked devices (Roku, Blu-ray player, etc.) to the router/modem in our office.

Powerline uses your house wiring to send data packets between devices.

But electrical noise in our theater room’s AC circuits sometimes affects Powerline’s ability to handle the higher bandwidth needed for video.

In particular, an outdoor pond pump on the other side of the theater room wall recently became a major bandwidth killer.

Embarrassingly, a solution to this problem was right under my nose at the time I wrote that post.


XAV2001 Powerline adapter in our den. Different models and brands are able to work together.

I had just set up a new TiVo Roamio OTA in the den (Cutting the TV cable with TiVo Roamio OTA).

I plugged it into a Powerline adapter in the den to be able to get internet from the office via the adapter already there.

The TiVo Roamio requires an internet connection to periodically download program guide data; Powerline is more than adequate for this purpose; wifi can also be used.

Powerline bandwidth was always fine in the den, being distanced from the electrical pump noise. Evidently, the den<—>office path taken by Powerline through the house wiring is much cleaner.

Months later, I bought a TiVo Mini for the kitchen. It needed to be connected to the main TiVo by Ethernet cable.

I plugged one end of a long Ethernet cable into it. The other end was then plugged into a new gigabit switch in the den, as was the mothership TiVo and the Powerline adapter, both via short cables.

A wired Ethernet (or alternatively, MoCA) connection is needed to stream high volumes of broadcast MPEG-2 video data from the TiVo Roamio to a TiVo Mini. It didn’t work quite as consistently with Powerline (nominally equivalent to Ethernet), as I discovered by experiment.

A month after that, I added a TiVo Mini to the theater room, plugging into it another long Ethernet cable that ran back to the den gigabit switch, connecting it with the main TiVo.

Thanks to our house’s layout, both these cables were able to hug the walls without crossing any walkways.

(Any cable coming out of our office would cross walkways and be very lengthy, thus my original need for Powerline.)


Recently, the pump noise bandwidth hit had gotten worse, and I was talking about it with my friend Tim. While doing so, I suddenly realized that my little problem could easily be solved:

Instead of having the long cable from the den plugged directly into the theater Mini, I plugged it into the theater room’s own gigabit switch, along with the Mini and every other network device in there.

That made the higher quality den Ethernet connection available to all devices in the theater room!

Why didn’t I think of it before? Probably I had fixated on making the theater room Powerline connection work before this fortuitous and circuitous bypass opportunity arose. 🙂 Also, it is easy to subconsciously think of Ethernet networks as analogous to electrical networks.

This move also cleared up buffering problems with streaming video served from Plex and Emby on the office PC to the theater room.

I now need only two Powerline adapters, one in the office, and one in the den.


Moral of my story? I should pull my head out occasionally, or talk it over with someone knowledgeable for a fresh perspective.

dragons

Don’t sail over the edge!

Back in March 2017, I presented an in-depth report on the risks/rewards of streaming “free” TV shows and movies using a “Kodi box”:

Kodi 3rd-party piracy addons: Here be dragons!

The currents have changed since then, and not in favor of the pirates.

Here is a marine weather report from How To Geek:

Why Your Kodi Box Isn’t Working, and What to Use Instead

In earlier times.

43″ Roku TV replacement

2.5 years ago, we suffered a lightning-pocalypse.

Last month, in a coincidence-pocalypse, I lost a tablet and phone.

Now, a mere mono-pocalypse: our old 2002 36″ tube TV in the den finally gave up the ghost.

But it isn’t really a bad thing.

We got an extra 2.7 years out of it by purchasing an HDMI-to-component video converter to use with our then-new TiVo (Replace the old TV?).

I had worried that the old TV either wouldn’t last much longer, or would last too long, so this is about right.

I also had not looked forward to hauling off the 217 lb. monster.

That problem was solved by buying the replacement at Best Buy.

Best Buy delivered the new one and hauled away the old one for a total of $35. Well worth it!

Our plan to replace all tube TVs with flat screens is now complete.

Except for the 1983 13″ Emerson TV in our workout room.

It is able to display the TiVo’s output with the aid of an X10 video sender/receiver pair.

It’s also completely controllable with the TiVo’s RF remote.

Perfect for limited use and nostalgia.

A 43″ Sharp Roku TV is the replacement.


TiVo channel on Roku TV

DVD/VCR channel on Roku TV

Roku TV displays HDMI inputs (and one composite input) as Roku channels.

So TiVo becomes one of many channels selectable with the Roku remote. If you select it, then pick up the TiVo remote to control it.

If you start with the TiVo remote, you can turn on the TV, then use the Input button to switch to the TiVo “channel”. Perfect.

My own 5-in-1 X10 learning universal remote for the den, which I had outlandishly stretched to be a 7-in-1, just became a 6-in-1, since the Roku and TV merged. The simplification made it easier to use.

My wife uses the separate TiVo and Roku remotes.

The nice thing is that our cord-cutting savings over the last 2.75 years have much more than paid for all of our tube-to-flat-screen upgrades.

I can now put the HDFury Gamer 2 HDMI-to-component video converter on eBay and recover most of its cost.

HDFury Gamer 2

If the thought of losing MSNBC and/or Fox News is stopping you from cutting the cable, here is one way to watch for free.

This way involves running free Plex Server software on your PC, and manually adding Plex channel plugin software for cCloud.

cCloud TV is a free cloud-based social IPTV service.  All IPTV links are submitted by users.

If you set it up right, you can watch these two news channels and more on your phone, tablet, PC, or Roku box.


Caveats:

cCloud has no control over the streams listed there, so there are no guarantees they will work indefinitely, but they are updated periodically. You might occasionally need to look for new links to the streams you like in cCloud.

This is only a high-level set of instructions, so you need to be pretty comfortable with Windows and fooling around with software, but if you succeed, it’s a nice feature to have.


First, sign up at plex.tv. Download and install the free Plex server software on your PC.

Plex offers a number of free “channels”. Check them out, however, note that they are not streams but collections of videos. Well worth trying if you have a yen for some HGTV or Food Network, like my wife does on Saturdays.

However, the Plex channel you want is called cCloud, and it is not available in the Plex repository.

Download cCloud Plex plugin software here: https://github.com/coder-alpha/CcloudTv.bundle

Extract the zip file downloaded from github to the Plex Media Server plugins folder on your PC;

On Windows 7, 8, and 10, the folder is located here:

C:\Users\[Your Username]\AppData\Local\Plex Media Server\Plug-ins

Then restart the Plex server, or reboot.

More about cCloud for Plex here:

https://forums.plex.tv/…/rel-ccloudtv-channel-iptv/p1

cCloud has MSNBC and Fox News streaming links among others (many of them require high bandwidth, but these two do not).

Save bookmarks to them within cCloud.

You can watch them on Plex via your browser.

Or, get the free Plex app on your phone and watch there.

If you have a Roku, add the free Plex channel and click your way to your cCloud bookmarks.

Lightning-pocalypse Saturday occurred June 14, 2015.

More recently, I had several devices die on me (they say it always happens in threes):

Actually, not so much an apocalypse as annoyance and inconvenience.


The old underpowered eMachine PC had been unplugged for a couple of weeks (to avoid exposure to a lightning storm), but when I plugged it back in, the hard drive was dead.

Since acquiring a more powerful desktop PC, I have had little need for the old PC beyond redundancy.

It didn’t have an HDMI output, so I used an Ethernet-connected Raspberry Pi 3 as a front end to get its content to the big screen.

All the recordings I made with it were on an external hard drive. I simply plugged it into the desktop and told its WMC software about the addition. All those recordings are now available via Emby.

Emby is a free application I use in tandem with WMC, a USB TV tuner, antenna, and free ServerWMC software.

I can stream live or recorded TV programs and local TV/movie files to smartphone or tablet via Emby app, or to Roku via its Emby channel (see previous post Watch live local TV anywhere via Emby app).

The desktop PC is an i5 quad-core, powerful enough for Emby to transcode over-the-air recordings and DVD rips on the fly.

Later note: My friend Tim took a closer look and found that one of the two SATA controllers was bad, rather than the hard drive. He swapped the controllers, so now the DVD drive is impaired, but can be fixed with a $20-30 card. The Windows 10 PC with Media Center is working again! Now all I have to do is figure out what I want to do with it.


I ran a special app on the rooted Google tablet to try to get rid of a recurring “Optimizing apps” annoyance, but it rendered the device unbootable. This is fixable, but frankly it has been kind of a pain to work around the limitations of this “lightly provisioned” device.

However, I like the 7″ tablet form factor for home theater table-side use.


Saddest was the Note II phone/tablet. It did everything I needed it to do, but battery life was so poor even with a new battery that I had gotten in the habit of swapping it out more than once a day. Unfortunately, the cover was loose from all this activity, and when I dropped the phone on the carpet, the cover flew off, the battery fell out and the device got stuck in boot. Luckily all my media were on a microSD card.

This is probably fixable, too, but I decided to get a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab A 7″ tablet to replace it.

Fortunately, the tablet’s battery life is much better, and I now recharge rather than swap to avoid a replay of the Note II debacle. I removed the Note II’s micro SD card and plugged it into the new tablet to access old photos, videos, and music.

The tablet now functions as a go-anywhere 7″ full feature portable TV, and theater room control center, besides the regular uses.

It IS possible to recover from shooting yourself in both feet.


Tablet screen for monitoring and control of home theater devices.

Streaming a program recorded by the dead PC via Emby to the refurbished 7″ tablet.