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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.

Screenshot of our 65" TV playing "Sonik Re-Entry" via the PleXBMC addon in OSMC/Kodi

Screenshot from our 65″ TV while playing “Sonik Re-Entry” on my $35 Raspberry Pi media computer.

This is a post where both sides of this website (vintage local TV and cord-cutting) converge.

Drive-in theatre maven Wesley Horton recently found an ad in the Nov. 10, 1967 Stillwater News Press for the Channel 2 Saturday night sci-fi/horror movie program, “Fantastic Theatre“, and sent me a copy. I finally got to see again the logo created by the Channel 2 artist!

1967 ad

1967 ad. Click to enlarge.

In early 1999, I had identified the show’s creepy electronic theme as “Sonik Re-Entry” by sending a .wav file of me trying to “sing” the instrumental melody to a couple of experts on early electronic music.

Once identified, I ordered a two-fer CD with the album it was taken from, “Song of the Second Moon” by Tom Dissevelt and Kid Baltan, plus Russ Garcia’s “Fantastica”. I later discovered that Channel 8’s “Plenty Scary Movie” promo used music from this bonus album, so it was a great deal.

A few days ago, I ripped the CD into .mp3 files using Windows Media Player. I have it set up to automatically do this when I insert a music CD into my PC.

I wanted the album to appear in Plex (What is Plex?) correctly so I could play it on Roku boxes, my Raspberry Pi/OSMC/Kodi media computer, or download it to smartphone for listening at the gym.

Usually, that happens with no further intervention needed. This time it didn’t.

On my phone

Smartphone. Click to enlarge.

This particular CD (issued in 1998 by Fantazmos Records in Frisco) was not recognized by WMP’s music database, so I had to name the .mp3 tracks, and manually add ID3 metadata tags to them. This I accomplished with freeware, Mp3tag. I had previously learned by trial-and-error plus Google which tags were important for the Plex server software on my PC to index the tracks properly.

In addition, I had to move the tracks from the two albums into separate folders, using Plex’ naming and organizing conventions on my PC.

Plex lets you add album art, a background, and the performers’ photo. I used part of Wesley’s ad for the background, and found the cover art online easily enough.

The screenshot at top shows you how it appears on our big TV. At right is a view on my wifi-only smartphone, showing the Dutch composers/performers.

Listen to samples of “Sonik Re-Entry” on the TTM “Fantastic Theatre” page. One features a voiceover by the original host, Josef Peter Hardt, created especially for David Bagsby’s “The Tulsa Project” CD!

Google Chromecast with HDMI extender cable, microUSB to USB cable, USB power supply.

We didn’t need the Chromecast device since we already have several Rokus to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, YouTube, Crackle, Plex, etc. (Chromecast can handle all these except Amazon; Google doesn’t like to accommodate their competition.)

We still don’t really need it, except for one purpose (so far).

After cutting the cable TV cord, I was still able to watch msnbc’s “Morning Joe” program on the Roku’s Plex channel. (The video podcast, found on a special Plex msnbc “subchannel”, typically became available in the afternoon, or the next day.)

But ten days after cutting the cord, up popped a message from NBC that the video podcast would be discontinued ten days hence. What a kick in the head.

There was and still is an audio podcast of the show, and it can be listened to on Roku’s “iTunes Podcasts” channel. But it’s not quite the same.

I then discovered a European website that streams msnbc International 24/7 in an embedded Flash player. It has the same content as the cable channel, which is very good. But it has no commercials, which is very bad. Say what?! Yes, commercials are preferable to the repetitive, horn-tooting show promos which appear instead of commercial breaks.

Still, the entire “Joe” show can be watched in real time on a web page.

I considered buying a Mohu Channels device as a way to get the page onto a bigger screen, but was put off by the cost, and the need for a special remote to move the cursor around. I didn’t need its other features, having settled on the TiVo Roamio OTA for my wife in the den. and Windows Media Center/Raspberry Pi/Roku for me/us in the theater room. I was also unsure it would work well enough for this purpose.

For awhile, I watched the show in a browser window on the side of my laptop’s screen. Not ideal, but better than an audio podcast.

Next, after my wife moved up to an iPhone and iPad, I inherited her Android phone and tablet. Both devices did a good enough job going full screen on the Flash player, and the tablet’s case doubled as a stand. So I could now watch the show on a separate device. But the promos still drove me crazy, since muting is inconvenient with a small device.

It finally dawned on me that the Google Chromecast might be the simplest and cheapest way to get a web page up to the big screen. Since we had gone with Roku quite awhile back, I had forgotten that the Chromecast is capable of casting a tab from the Chrome browser to the TV. I checked, and Chromecast could handle Flash.

The mailman soon brought one.

The little dongle plugs directly into an HDMI slot on your TV (or if you have as many devices as I do, into an HDMI switch.)

The Chromecast is powered by AC adapter, or by USB if you have a USB port handy on your TV or other device (I plugged into the powered USB hub I use with the Raspberry Pi, which is both powered by the hub and connected to other devices by it.)

Download the free Google Chrome browser on your PC. Once you have it, install the free “Google Cast” extension (see Chrome’s Settings/Extensions/Get More Extensions).

Then go to the page you want to cast, and click the little “cast” icon on the upper right to send the page up on the big screen.

To view an embedded video (Flash player, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) on the page, click the fullscreen icon on the video. You will now see the video fullscreen on your TV.

On my first try, the video was very choppy. I suspected this was due to the fact that it had to be transmitted from the laptop to the wifi router, then again by wifi from the router to the Chromecast device. (We have an old 802.11g router.)

So I tried casting from the office computer, which is Ethernet-attached to the router. With only one wireless hop to the Chromecast, it worked much better. The video only occasionally was not perfectly smooth, though I have seen a freeze or two.

The video quality is about that of the Cox analog channels, which only this month disappeared for good. Very decent quality for a talking-heads news show.

Sometimes, the audio is not in perfect sync, though acceptable to me. This happens on the PC even when not casting. Further Googling leads me to believe that Flash player sync has been a problem for years, and mainly has to do with settings on the server side. So, nothing more I can do about it.

I figured that if the Chromecast were connected to the router by Ethernet (or by Powerline as we have it set up), the occasional stutter might be cured. There is a $15 Ethernet adapter for Chromecast, so I ordered one. Just got it today. So far, no stuttering.

One final hurdle: who wants to get out of the Laz-E-Boy and go into the office to change channels? (CNN and CNBC are available online, too, though not as is Fox News.)

My solution: Download and activate the free TightVNC server software on the office computer. (I already had given the PC a fixed IP address, which is needed to run the software.) On phone and tablet, I downloaded the free Remote Ripple app, which is TightVNC’s client software.

Smartphone screenshot: office PC remote-controlled from smartphone. Hmm, stock market tanked. Time to buy!

After I set it all up, I took over the office PC’s desktop with the smartphone. Using Remote Ripple’s virtual mouse, I brought up the PC’s Chrome browser and clicked my bookmark to the webpage. Then I clicked the tiny little cast button on the browser to get it onto the TV.

Finally, I clicked the fullscreen icon on the Flash player. Voila! The show is on the big TV.

So I now need a smartphone in the theater room to control the office PC, but I typically have one close by, anyway.

My other remote (Logitech Harmony 890) makes it easy to mute Joe’s many mind-numbing, promo-laden breaks.

There are more conventional ways to use Chromecast, to be detailed in a future post.

(PS, another way to use the new setup is get Alan Lambert’s new radio show, “Big Band American Songbook”, onto the big sound system. Listen Saturdays at 8 pm on The Grid, TCC Student Radio online.)

(PPS, yet another use: after I finish a workout accompanied by a smartphone plugged into a boombox, I can go to the theater room and cast whatever music program I was listening to onto the big sound system, from exactly where I left off.)

My den coffee table

My den coffee table

Here is my small coffee table in the den. (I bought a couple of these probably twenty years ago from a furniture warehouse that used to be a bowling alley, Harvard Lanes.)

Harvard Lanes souvenir

Harvard Lanes souvenir

I can do quite a lot with those two devices.

First, the X10 Universal 5-in-1 Learning Remote ($15):

It has 5 main buttons: TV, VCR, CBL, SAT, and X10. If you push TV, then the rest of the buttons will control your TV. If you push VCR, you have the VCR controls, etc.

I wouldn’t inflict the following system on my wife or anyone else, but here is how I set it up for myself:

5-in-1 X10 learning remote

TV button: Selects controls for our 36″ flat tube TV. But there were enough buttons left over to teach them the Roku box’ controls as well:

REW/FF/PAUSE/PLAY do what you would expect.
A/B/C/D became Up/Right/Left/Down buttons for the Roku screen (tricky, since the built-in directional buttons are for the TV).
ENT became the Roku Select button.
REC was repurposed as the Roku Home button.

VCR and SAT buttons: Allows control of the VCR/DVD combo player (rarely used now). The VCR and DVD functions are effectively two separate devices, so the VCR button selects the VCR controls, and the SAT button selects the DVD controls.

Again, repurposing two unused buttons under SAT, I added control of a remote A|B switch for the indoor and outdoor antennas. (During bad weather, the indoor one sometimes performs better).

The CBL button now selects the controls for the TiVo Roamio OTA. The TiVo’s own remote is mostly used by my wife, and is RF (radio frequency) based. But the TiVo can also recognize IR (infrared), so that’s how the 5-in-1 is able to control it.

The X10 button lets you control X10 home automation modules around the house. The 5-in-1 remote uses radio frequency (RF) for X10. The other four main buttons of the 5-in-1 are infrared (IR) only. None of the X10 buttons can be taught different functions, probably due to being tied to the RF mode.

Since I squeezed in control of 7 different devices, it’s now a 7-in-1 remote!

Sure, I have to remember a lot of stuff, but I did document it all in the 5-in-1’s manual. I use it often enough that I rarely refer to my notes anymore. Now that’s a kludge! (Clumsy and inelegant, but effective.)

Now the phone, a rooted, wifi-only Motorola Electrify smartphone ($0):

Of the top row of apps, the first three are diagnostics for the Raspberry Pi media computer in the theater room.

The fourth one, Remote Ripple, is the app version of TightVNC. With TightVNC software running on the Windows computers, I can use the app to take over their desktops and update software, move files around, etc. Very useful!

Home theater apps on smartphone

Home theater apps on smartphone

The X10 Commander app allows me to control devices around the house over wifi on the home network. I have an X10 ActiveHome Pro Computer Interface Module USB-attached to the office computer and plugged into the AC wall socket. The computer runs the X10 Commander software, which interprets wifi signals from the app and converts them in to the control pulses sent over house wiring to X10 modules for the lights, fans and coffee maker.

The TiVo app can serve as a remote control for the TiVo. More importantly, it shows you a program guide and lets you set up recordings.

(The My Media Center app does the same function for Windows Media Center, but that is for the theater room, not the den. Yatse is a remote control for the Raspberry Pi, also in the theater room.)

The Roku app is a second remote for any of the three Roku boxes in the house.

Puffin is a browser that will play Flash-based video. This was a great discovery for me.

One thing I missed after cutting the cable TV cord was the “Morning Joe” show on msnbc (also the Saturday/Sunday morning “Up with Steve Kornacki”). Free 24/7 feeds of both CNN International and msnbc International are available on the web, but both are Flash-based. With Puffin, I can play either on the smartphone, and better yet, the Nexus 7 tablet.

(Drop me an email for the URLs if you can’t find them. I know of no equivalent web feed for Fox News. Rupert Murdoch is tight-fisted with his cable content.)

I have the TV Listings app set up to show shows a program guide for cable in Tulsa. I only use it for CNN/msnbc, and not much for them, but if you are still on cable or satellite, it could be more useful to you.

There is a Roku Highlights document link on the smartphone. This is my own Google Doc created to remind me and my wife some of all the specific shows we like that are available through various Roku channels.

These channels include Plex (all movies and TV shows on computers in our house), Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Sky News International in HD, Crackle, Shout Factory, iTunes Podcasts, Nowhere TV. I note the shows that either of us might want to watch, but that slip our mind when trying to think of something good to watch.

I am able to update this doc on the smartphone or on the computer. We don’t use this as much as I thought we would, but I still like to have it available as a comprehensive memory jog.

Under the table is a clipboard with a printout of the Roku highlights list. I add items as I think of them for future updates. Low tech is sometimes the appropriate tech.

Anyway, these two devices do it all for me in the den.

Our custom lineups

Our custom lineups

In a previous post, Android home theater and automation apps, I mentioned the Titan TV app:

“TitanTV – Free. Displays a channel guide for the Tulsa broadcast stations we watch, my wife’s preferred digital cable channels, or the analog cable channels, The latter is particularly useful, since the only on-screen analog channel guide is the super-slow-scrolling, half-screen Channel 3.”

To create these custom lineups, sign up at titantv.com.

Once you log in, create a New Channel Lineup. Base it on the broadcast and cable services in your area.

At left: our three custom lineups.

For the broadcast list, I simply deleted the channels we don’t watch, including shopping, religious, kids, and a few that are outside our service area.

We use the analog listing exactly as TitanTV has it.

I also created a list with my wife’s go-to digital channels.

2014-11-25 08.02.242014-11-25 08.02.462014-11-25 08.03.06
(Click each image for a close-up.)

Titan TV is the best app I have found, but it has a problem every month or two: it forgets to let you be logged in.

Whenever this happens, I use another app called Android Assistant.

AA lets you Clear Data for Titan TV, which restores your ability to log in. It’s a pain, but Titan TV is too useful.

If anyone has a better app, I would love to hear about it.