Emby

All posts tagged Emby

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.


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.

Custom “Reptilicus” Green skin for Windows Media Center, still working under Windows 10.

This post will be of use to those interested in Windows Media Center software as a free DVR using a USB TV tuner, HDHomeRun device, or the like.

Microsoft stopped updating their Windows Media Center software after they introduced Windows 7. It is incompatible with Windows 10. Eventually, Microsoft may move that functionality to Xbox.

However, some enterprising hobbyists figured out ways to install WMC and make it run anyhow. As of this date, the free installer program referenced below is the one to use.

The big Windows 10 Creators Update, now rolling out to users, breaks WMC, as did the previous major Anniversary Update.

But afterwards, WMC can be reinstalled, or installed for the first time with the special installer software.

WMC (which includes free program data downloads) hopefully should work until 2023 when Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 support is discontinued. (See previous post RIP Windows Media Center.)


I first used one of these installation methods to Add Windows Media Center to Win 10 on July 23, 2016. A couple of months later, this happened:

 Update, 10/4/2016:

My successful add of WMC to Win 10 was wiped out when my PC automatically received the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 Version 1607 on 9/24/2016. Tried a reinstall, but got an “Installing package failed, reverting…” message.

Using the WMC version 8.8.1 zip file and instructions in this post at MyDigitalLife, I was able to get WMC working again. You would need to create a login there to see the post.

WMC 8.8.1 has worked great.

But I recently got wind of another major Windows Update on its way, the Windows 10 Creators Update (Version 1703). If you want it early, you can make that happen by downloading the Update Assistant.

I checked recent posts on the MyDigitalLife forum and found that Creators Update does indeed break WMC. But the above-linked WMC 8.8.1 version can be successfully reinstalled after the Win 10 update.

Since I have two Win 10 PCs running WMC, I picked the faster quad-core PC for my first go.

No problems at all with the Creators Update. And all the WMC 8.8.1 files from last time were still there.

Here are my relevant notes:


Be current on Windows Update before starting with Creators Update.

If you use ServerWMC, note or take screenshots of your current settings, since you have to set up ServerWMC again from scratch. I had my pre-update PC to look at, so I didn’t need to do this.

If you already have WMC working, no need to uninstall it before Creators.

Also in that case, I recommend saving a copy of your current HOSTS file (C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\HOSTS). There are a couple of IP addresses at the bottom that enable WMC to download the free program guide data.

FYI, my HOSTS file contains the following lines that work in Tulsa (and possibly anywhere in the continental US):

2.16.216.176 cdn.epg.tvdownload.microsoft.com
65.55.186.113 data.tvdownload.microsoft.com

After applying Creators Update, you can uninstall/reinstall an existing WMC 8.8.1 setup as follows:

  • In your 8.8.1 folder (mine is C:\WMC-V8.8.1), right-click Uninstaller.cmd and Run As Administrator. Then reboot.
  • Run _TestRights.cmd as Admin. You should see a command prompt window. (If you don’t, reboot and retry.)
  • Run either InstallerGREEN.cmd or InstallerBLUE.cmd as Admin. (Blue is the standard WMC color, green is custom.)
  • Check your HOSTS file and make sure IP addresses are there.

You do have to go through the setup process again for WMC.

If you should have problems with the program data download phase of setup, the IP addresses in your HOSTS file may be responsible. Do a Google search for “data.tvdownload.microsoft.com” to look for other IPs if yours or the ones I gave above don’t work for you.

I again used TightVNC viewer on my laptop to remotely do the update on my two headless (no monitor or keyboard) media PCs running TightVNC server.


No need to uninstall/reinstall any WMC-associated third-party programs such as ServerWMC, My Channel Logos, or Ceton My Media Center as I needed to do for the upgrade from Win 7 to Win 10.

Cribbing my settings from the other PC, I quickly re-set up ServerWMC. (Over there, it enables my Raspberry Pi to communicate with WMC; see previous post Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi.) The other two third-party programs needed no attention.

Emby is a free application I use with ServerWMC on this quad-core PC to stream live or recorded TV programs to my smartphone or Roku (see previous post Watch live local TV anywhere via Emby app). All I needed to do on the Emby server software was to Refresh Guide Data.


Once I got all that working, I did my other Win 10 PC in blue.

Proving there is more than one way to skin a dinosaur. 😉

I created some of these logos for the Logitech Harmony 890 remote. Note the ancient NewsNow53 logo.

Emby Live TV 4

Watching Gilligan's Island on Android phone Emby app. (Click each pic to enlarge.)

Emby Live TV 1Emby Live TV 2Emby Live TV 3

A nice benefit of knowledge gained through cord-cutting:

Watching our own over-the-air (OTA) TV and DVR recordings on Roku at home, or on a phone or tablet anywhere in the world.


I recently upgraded a quad-core Windows 7 PC in our home office to Windows 10, then added back the now-unsupported Windows Media Center. (See previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!).

We had an extra USB TV tuner from a past attempt to give Gaye the ability to watch OTA TV on her work PC. It proved too big a hassle for her to both do work on the PC and have the TV window up. The tuner had been unemployed for a few years. (She has a now-cheap LCD TV in her business office.)

Over-the-door antenna, attached to USB TV tuner plugged into PC

Over-the-door antenna, attached to USB TV tuner plugged into PC (click to enlarge)

To test Windows Media Center on the Win 10 PC, I had attached an unamplified Winegard antenna to the USB TV tuner, placed the antenna on top of our home office door, then plugged the tuner into the PC.

I first set up Windows Media Center, then ServerWMC, free software that allows other computers and apps to see program listings, live TV and recordings from the WMC PC.

(I have been doing this for the last two years in our theater room with another PC; see previous post Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi.)

Seven local stations (including MeTV, Gaye’s go-to) came in strongly with this hastily improvised setup.

I didn’t diddle around with placing the antenna for better reception of the other channels. Maybe later.

Update, 10/6/2016:

WMC disappeared when my PC received the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 on 9/24/2016. I was able to get WMC working again; see my notes added to previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!.

However, the driver for the old USB TV tuner is no longer supported, so I just ordered a $20 Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 from eBay to replace it. In the meantime, I can still see and play any shows I had previously recorded with Emby.

(Update 10/17/2016: The Hauppauge tuner worked great for all local channels! See the comment I added for this post.)

As long as you have WMC on any version of Windows, you should be able to get Emby working with WMC as follows.


Emby (formerly known as MediaBrowser) is a free media center program with its own Roku channel and smartphone app.

I remembered that Emby was supposed to serve up live TV, unlike its otherwise similar competitor, Plex. I had previously installed Emby as well as Plex on the PC (they don’t interfere with each other).

With all the pieces in place, it was a good time to give live TV a try.

Using the Emby server’s browser interface on the PC, I activated Emby’s own ServerWMC plugin. It enabled the Emby server to talk to ServerWMC on that PC.

(Nice setup guide: Stream Live TV with Emby and ServerWMC)

Thanks to my previous experience with both ServerWMC and Emby, it was not difficult to get all this working.

I went to the Emby channel on one of our Rokus, and found that the seven stations looked so good, you couldn’t tell they weren’t coming in via direct antenna. Likewise with WMC DVR recordings: perfect.

The secret of this perfection is in Emby’s transcoding.

Broadcast TV is in the MPEG-2 format, which is bulky and unforgiving of internet streaming. Emby automatically transcodes (converts) the video to .MP4, which Roku and most apps of all kinds have no trouble dealing with. That’s where the powerful quad-core PC shines; it has the processing power to do this conversion on the fly. (Our theater room PC has a weak though adequate-for-its-purpose Celeron 450 processor.)

I tried the Emby app on my wifi-only smartphone. Worked great. I ultimately restricted Windows Media Center to only the seven good stations, since trying to stream the poor reception channels tended to hang ServerWMC (and bad channels are no fun to watch anyway).

I set up WMC to DVR “The Bob Newhart Show” on MeTV, and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on Heroes and Icons, so we would have something to watch on the bedroom Roku if nothing good was on.

Then I wondered how it would work on a smartphone outside the range of our wifi router.

At a party last Friday, I tried it on Gaye’s iPhone. It failed, due to not being able to reach the server on our home PC.

To fix this, I set up port forwarding on our router to allow external connectivity to our Emby server.

“…you’ll need to open the web interface for your router, and forward TCP Port 8096 on your router to port 8096 on the Emby Server machine.” (see Emby Setup Port Forwarding note).

After I texted Gaye this week to give it a try when she had a chance, she reported that she was watching “Gunsmoke” while driving!

Obviously, watching TV while driving is not a good practice, even though we once played “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (downloaded to phone via Plex) during a round trip to OSU to visit a nephew.

Our timing was great; as the final credit rolled, we pulled back into our garage.

32" LG LED TV, Winegard FlatWave indoor amplified antenna, Roku XDS

32″ LG LED TV, Winegard FlatWave indoor amplified antenna, Roku XDS.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(The list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. Since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I am breaking it down by room, highlighting the hardware used in light yellow, content in white.)

The bedroom is another simple room, hardware-wise (See previous post The workout room TV setup for my wife). The presence of the Roku box gives her access to other content via software.

After a freakish lightning strike, our 1989 20″ tube TV, no great shakes to start with, looked like it was on a bad trip, emitting weird green and purple colors. (See Lightning-pocalypse Saturday.)

Perhaps it could have been degaussed, but it was finally time to upgrade and simplify the setup. (See the old setup in Eliminate a cable box.)

The tube TV went to Best Buy along with the other stricken electronics. (See Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day)

It was replaced with a new 32″ LED TV.

Now that there was no need for a digital converter box, we could also dispense with the Logitech Harmony 650 remote and use only the new TV’s dedicated remote. A minor problem had been that the Harmony “thought” the old TV was still on after the sleep timer turned it off. Correcting it the next evening was a hassle for my sleepy wife, and therefore not a feather in my cap. (See previous post Logitech Harmony 650.)

We are using only an indoor antenna in the bedroom, rather than another TiVo Mini. A Mini would be great, but that would require us to get an Ethernet cable to the TiVo Roamio in the den. The only way to do that would be to wrap it around the house and add outlets in both rooms. Too much trouble for now.

However, the indoor antenna does well for all channels except RSUTV, which is not a sleeptime favorite, anyway.

The Roku box is now plugged into the new TV with one HDMI cable. When we want to use it, I pull its dedicated remote out of my bedside drawer.

We could watch anything on Netflix or Amazon using the Roku, though we don’t often do it.

But on Sunday nights, my wife sometimes likes to watch old English favorites such as “Keeping Up Appearances” or “Fawlty Towers”. This can be done by selecting the Plex or Emby channels on Roku. Either can stream the programs from one of our own Windows 7 PCs.

I had previously ripped the shows from DVDs and placed them on the PC in the proper file structure and naming convention. Plex and Emby servers running on that PC then were able to retrieve artwork for the Roku onscreen menu. (See Saving YouTubes, viewing with Plex & Emby.)

Why is Emby preferable to Plex for video content in the bedroom? Because we have a first generation Roku in there. The Plex channel app for that older device appears not to have been updated for their latest transcoder server software. Thus it delivers less than optimal video for files in the .mkv format (an .mkv file is the immediate product of MakeMKV, the DVD-ripping software I use).

Plex on the Roku XDS still works well with .mp4 video and .mp3 audio. If I weren’t so lazy, I would convert all those .mkv files to .mp4. But since the Emby app on Roku is doing a fine job handling .mkv transcoded by the Emby server software, why bother? A selling point of both Plex and Emby (though both are free) is supposed to be that they can handle a range of file types. (See 007 24/7 on Plex Media ServerMedia Browser: an alternative to Plex)

Someday we will probably upgrade the Roku box, but it’s not worth doing until another natural disaster strikes, or a newer device offers some extra functionality we want.

The Roku has had no problems with wifi, but I had an extra Powerline adapter on hand, so I am using it instead. Powerline uses your house’s AC wiring as a conduit for Ethernet data. It’s not as high bandwidth as Ethernet cable, but better than wifi for streaming data. See previous post Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring.)

Everybody’s happy now!

The missing episode now available on Plex

The missing episode is now available to my wife on Plex.

I screwed up.

Wednesday evening, I was watching some COZI TV. As you may recall from the previous post, this is a station with weak reception at our house. I used a button on my remote to switch from the Mohu Sky 60 antenna on the roof to the Mohu Curve 50 on our set-top. I had placed and oriented the latter for optimal reception of COZI. When I turned off the set, I accidentally left the Curve selected.

Unfortunately, the placement is NOT optimal for some other stations, in particular, KTUL (ABC). That’s where my wife’s favorite soap, General Hospital, gets recorded by the TiVo. As a result the recording for April Fool’s Day was very poor, and that was no joke. It was the 53rd anniversary show with an extended flashback to traumatic events in Luke’s childhood. Not one to miss.

But I fixed my grievous error, and here’s how.

First, I checked ABC.com. The episode was available, but only if you subscribe to cable or satellite.

Next, I checked YouTube. Luckily this episode had been uploaded by a viewer, and in good quality.

Since I was signed into YouTube, I could add it to my View Later queue. Then I went to the YouTube channel on Roku and we watched it.

But this was a special anniversary episode, and an important one in the GH canon, so I wanted to archive it for her.

I found this wikiHow article, 3 Ways to Download YouTube Videos. I chose ClipGrab and downloaded the free software. (Watch the installation closely and uncheck the boxes that will include unwanted software; the Firefox extension method does not have this potential hazard.)

I pasted the URL of the General Hospital YouTube video into ClipGrab and chose .mp4 format for the output file. I had the file downloaded within a couple of minutes.

In order to use either Plex or Media Browser (now renamed “Emby”) software to watch the show via Roku on our den TV, I cataloged the .mp4 file according to Plex’ naming convention. In this case, that meant creating a folder named “General Hospital (1963)” in the TV Shows folder on my PC.  Under that, I created a “Season 53” folder, where I placed the file, which I named  “General Hospital (1963) – s53e01.mp4”.

TheTVDB.com provided the information for naming the folders and file. The “General Hospital (1963)” folder needed to include the year of the first airing (especially important in this case; there is a 2008 Korean show called “General Hospital 2”). The season (#53) and episode number (1) are included in the file name in the format as shown.

Once this is done, you tell Plex and Emby via their browser interfaces to rescan the media library. Thanks to the precise naming convention, they are able to go out to TVDB and other sources to retrieve art and information about the show. The photo at top shows how Plex presents the series in browser. Plex pulled a screenshot from the episode to use as a graphic.

It is then a simple matter to bring up the Plex channel on the Roku box, then select and watch the episode.

I redeemed my embarrassing faceplant as TV butler by making this unique episode part of our video library. (I had previously added all the special General Hospital “Nurses’ Ball” episodes for her.)

An amazing feature of both Plex and Emby: the show is watchable on a smartphone, tablet or computer, anywhere in the world!

After doing all this, I noticed that I could have simply downloaded an HD version of the episode on Amazon for $2.99, already in .mp4. Oops again. But not everything you might want to save from YouTube would be available to buy, so keep this method in mind!

(Previous post “Let’s kill Uncle first!” explains what I did when a particular movie wasn’t commercially available or on YouTube.)