All posts tagged WTV

mediabrowserI have explained how the free media player software, Plex, is able to serve the movie, TV and music content on our PCs to our Roku boxes and a Raspberry Pi computer (see previous post, 007 24/7 on Plex Media Server).

But I must let you know about a Plex problem with movie and TV content ripped directly from DVDs into MKV format.

As noted before, MKV is a container format, and in this case, what it contains is the original MPEG2 content from the DVD. Broadcast digital TV is also in the MPEG2 format.

Newer Plex software releases seem to have trouble transcoding some of these MKV files for the Roku Plex channel. When our PCs (running Plex Media Server software) stream these MKVs to any of the Rokus, there is a bit of juddering and pixilation. I get the same result with 802.11g wifi as with wired Ethernet. It’s not a CPU issue, since both a weak Celeron-powered PC and a powerful quad-core PC produce the same result.

Plex’ original transcoder was the free ffmpeg software tool. But Plex’ latest software releases rely strictly on the new Plex Transcoder, based on ffmpeg, but rewritten by their team. The way the Roku Plex channel handles the new transcoder may be the cause of the problem, and I have reported it on their PlexPass forum.

(Here is Plex’ release note for the version, Sep 8, 2014: “The legacy transcoder, which is available as an option in some Plex clients, will be removed soon. Please be sure to report specific cases where you still see better results when using it.”)

Now, it is true that once these MKVs are converted to MP4 using Handbrake (with Rokoding settings), they play perfectly on Plex. And MP4 file sizes are smaller, and the files are more usable with other devices. But I am a bit lazy, and would prefer not to convert if I don’t need to.

I have discovered another entrant in the media player system arena that can transcode and stream these MKVs to Roku perfectly: Media Browser. Media Browser uses ffmpeg as its transcoder.

MB also uses ffmpeg to transcode Windows Media Center broadcast TV recordings (.WTV format), served to MB by free ServerWMC software. As we noted at the top, broadcast TV is MPEG2. You would probably need a powerful processor and an Ethernet or switch connection, and maybe a Roku 3 for this to even have a shot at working acceptably.

(The Raspberry Pi decodes MPEG2 video content in hardware, with a one-time $4 MPEG2 license. Thus it handles MKV and WTV files with ease. It can also act as a Plex client with the PlexBMC beta software.)

Fortunately, Media Browser works with media organized to Plex standards, so no changes to your file system are needed. Setup is different from Plex, so you have to spend a little time with it initially. But it is great to see that Bond marathon playing perfectly on Roku, and not just the Raspberry Pi.

Plex and Media Browser server software coexists just fine on our PCs. So I use both. I prefer Plex’ presentation, but MB is fine.

Eventually, I’m sure Plex will fix their transcoder/Roku problem, but it’s good to have an alternative. Did I mention that Media Browser is also free?

I made a tinfoil hat for my Roku 3...

It’s very attractive, though.

I still haven’t gotten around to having our house wired for internet. But I wanted to see how much a wired Ethernet connection (vs. wifi) would improve the performance of a Roku box.

I found a refurbished Roku 3 on sale at Woot! and picked one up. This is the top of their line, but the reason I wanted it was for the wired Ethernet connection (and a 5x faster processor). I connected it to a Windows 7 computer by gigabit switch.

The Roku 3 also boasts a remote with headphone jack for private listening, and direct cast to TV from the Roku app on your smartphone. These features were the source of a ridiculous problem. Ridiculous, because it never should have gotten out of the lab this way.

Reading taken near the other Roku in our den before tinfoil hat...

Roku 3 interferes mightily on channel 11 before tinfoil hat…

I noticed on my Wifi Analyzer app that there was a new item on our current wifi channel 11: the Roku itself. It was broadcasting on our channel, jamming it, resulting in degraded wifi performance. (see the next post for a correction to this.)

No need for any transmission at all since my connection is wired (unless you want to use the direct cast feature or headphone attached to the remote). But it turned out that I couldn’t shut wifi off. In fact the only way to stop it was to unplug the Roku 3.

I did some Googling and found that others discovered this, too. The best and most current thread is this one from Roku Forums:

Yet another Wi-Fi Direct is jamming my home network thread 

No workaround has yet been found besides a “Faraday cage”. This consists of blocking the transmission with a metal screen. Aluminum foil was mentioned as working for one poster.

After tinfoil hat.

Roku 3 still interferes on channel 11 after tinfoil hat.

So I tried it. I covered up everything I could, leaving the wires sticking out the back and a little hole for the infrared port.

As you can see at left, the Roku’s own wifi was attenuated somewhat, but not enough to stop it from interfering. (The readings were taken beside an older Roku box in the den.)

I think I will go back to the Roku LT until Roku pushes out a software or firmware update to let you turn off wifi.

Roku probably should have used Bluetooth to implement these features. Or, considering how cluttered the 2.4GHz band is, they probably should have just left the features out, or made them work only on the 5 GHz band.

(By the way, the Roku 3 on wired Ethernet connection worked well. I was trying a semi-competitor to Plex, called Media Browser. MB was able to play a Windows TV (.wtv) recording smoothly, once the puny Celeron processor in my mom’s old Win 7 computer transcoded and buffered enough of the file for it to get started.)

Bulletin for all cranks: you are going to have to do better than a tinfoil hat if you want to keep the NSA from monitoring your mind.

(See the next post for a retraction of the comments about my degraded wifi performance. But I still wish there were a capability to turn off Roku 3’s wifi.)