Review: Popcorn Hour A-100 Mediaplayer as a Streaming device (1 Viewer)

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vfrjim

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SatelliteGuys Pro
Jul 23, 2005
635
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Rhode Island
This is a review of the Popcorn Hour A-100 (Welcome To Popcorn Hour ), but only as a playback device for streaming of a satellite signal from a DVB card via HTTP. If you want more information in regards to what else it can do, there are many other reviews on the web to read, just do a Google search on “popcorn hour reviews “, but if you have a questions on something it can do, just ask and if I can answer it, I will try. So far, I’ve tried two different pieces of software that allowed me to use the A-100 as a playback device, the first was DVBViewer Professional (http://www.dvbviewer.com) and TSReader (COOL.STF). Both are easily configured and will go into details on how to set each of them up. Previously I had used a Roku HD1000 to do this (Roku - Home) , but since it cannot do MPEG4, I decided that I would look into another device to do this, enter the Popcorn Hour A-100.
I will go over the basics in setting up the A-100, since some people (including myself) had a few issues in setting the unit up the first time. After unboxing it, what you want to do is connect a composite video cable (yellow connector) to the A-100 and connect to your TV, then connect the power block to the unit, this is important since the HDMI connector is not set correctly from the factory for your individual TV and needs to be correctly set in the setup screen, after this you can connect the HDMI (or component video cables) to your TV and your set to go. After this is setup, plug in your Cat 5 cable (I did not use wireless and they are updating the firmware to incorporate wireless in the future, but since I have cat 5 cable throughout my house, it is a non-issue for me. **VERY IMPORTANT** do not connect the cat 5 to the A-100 till you have verified that your unit is working and has a picture, I’ve had some no-boot issues if the cat 5 was connected prior to power up, not sure if others have had this problem, but since I had it, other may also have it and I think that it is important to point out. If you need to reboot the A-100 after the initial configuration, just pull the plug from the wall and plug it back in and it will work fine, do not pull the adapter out of the A-100 itself, or you will have to remove the Cat 5 to get it to boot.
OK, so now it is up and running next is the configuring of your first network share. I will not go into details of how to network your computer but will instruct on how to “see” the network share that you configured. On the setup screen of the A-100, click on “network share”, then click on “browse”, find your workgroup, find that PC with the share, and click on the share. Then, enter the username and password to that share and it will be on your list of shares from then on. This step is optional, but since I have multiple DVB cards, it makes it easier to locate the correct HTML document that you will select when you want to playback a certain feed.
NEXT, you need to configure the software you want to unicast to the A-100, I will go over DVBViewer first.

1. Configure netstreaming plug-in in DVBViewer to use unicast/ipadress and port.
Example: 192.168.1.123 port 2345, sometimes you will need to uncheck everything in the dialog box “stream control” to get both video and sound.
2. Next you can test on your local computer by using VLC (videolan).
In VLC-Open Network-Choose Http:
http://192.168.1.123:2345
if you can watch the stream, then go on to the next step.
3. Make a html-file and with code: <a href="http://192.168.1.123:2345" vod>DVBViewer</a> USE notepad with this info and save as dvbviewer.html
4. Put dvbviewer.html in Popcorn Hour's root directory or place it in the share on that PC that we configured the share, whatever your preference.
5. With DVBViewer Professional running and tuned to the channel you want to watch.
6. To start watching the stream from DVBViewer in Popcorn Hour,
choose the browser icon and open dvbviewer.html and your enjoying the stream. Credit goes to appis @ the networkmediatank forums for these instructions for DVBViewer.

Next, I will go to on how to configure TSReader:

1. You will need to have VideoLan installed , but most have this installed if you use TSReader: (VideoLAN - Free Software and Open Source video streaming solution for every OS!)
2. Next, click on “playback”, then “VLC” and then “settings” on the bottom you will see a – and + button, hit the + button till you have a blank configuration. In the “description” area, type in something like “Unicast” or “Popcorn Hour”
3. In the Command area, paste this: <IP> :sout=#duplicate{dst=std{access=http,mux=ts,dst=192.168.1.123:2345}}
4. After you have this setup, you need to create a similar HTML document that we discussed in the DVBViewer setup, with a little change: <a href="http://192.168.1.123:2345" vod>TSReader</a> and place it in the network share or Popcorn Hour's root directory.
5. To watch a stream, (In TSReader)click on the program # that you want to watch, click on “playback”, click on “VLC” and then click on “Unicast” (or whatever you called it in step #2)
6. You can test it the same way as with DVBViewer using Videolan or you can now proceed to use the A-100 to view the stream: Now click on the HTML document that you created in step #4, if you did this correctly, you will be greeted with a “buffering” screen on the A-100 and your video will be now streaming.
I found only a few limitations on this setup and it only applies to the VERY high bit rates:

1. HTTP streaming has a limit of 42 to 47 mbps, not really a problem now since the only feeds that I ever found ITC above that is 4:2:2, which the A-100 cannot do anyways.
2. From my experiences, any stream above ~ 34 mbps, you will not be able to pause the video on the A-100 without having to click back on the HTML document if you want the audio/video to get back into sync BUT I have a workaround: Click on the pause button on the PC that is running VLC, the video will stop immediately and will continue once you hit the pause button again. You will need to create a larger buffer in TSReader to not have any issues I feel, but have not left VLC in pause mode for more than a minute, so YMMV.
Other then these limitations, this is a great device, the deinterlacing is 2nd to none and you do not need to upgrade your computer to play back any of the h264 feeds, high bit rate feeds look awesome! You can playback any of your recordings via HTTP or SMB, but since HTTP supports higher bit rates, I would STRONGLY suggest that you install a basic http server software such as myihome (which is free from Popcorn Hour) and you will be all set. I could go on and on with this review, but will not since there are many reviews on the net to give you information on what this little device can do. One final though that I wanted to share in this review is how LITTLE power this device uses, I plugged it in to my Kill-A-Watt Meter Newegg.com - P3 International P4460 Electricity Usage Monitor and it only draws 8 -9 watts while being used and only about 5 watts in standby even if you have a hard drive installed in it.

added 8/4...It was brought to my attention that someone tried to play back a 4.2.2 SD feed and it played back fine, so I tried it and it works with no problems. The info on the feed that I tried is:

Elementary Stream PID 514 (0x0202) MPEG-2 Video
MPEG Video: Bitrate 13.000 Mbps Resolution 720 x 480i
MPEG Video: Framerate 29.97 fps Aspect Ratio 4:3 Chroma Format 4:2:2

and it played back without any problems. I never tried a SD 4.2.2 feed since I had no interest in standard definition programming but since many of you might

If you have any questions, feel free to ask here.

Jim
 
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vfrjim

Thread Starter
SatelliteGuys Pro
Jul 23, 2005
635
0
Rhode Island
Where'd you buy it at? Directly from their website?

Yes, I had to pre-register for it when I ordered mine in march, took almost 5 weeks to get it but now you can usually get it within 2 weeks.



Not that it was asked, but I was able to move my DVB-S2 card into my old PC that does not need much CPU power to do it's job, running an old XP1800 mobile processor, underclocked to 1 ghz, it requires just a mere 62 watts compared to my 140+ watt Q6600 computer.
 

starman345

SatelliteGuys Pro
Nov 25, 2004
3,647
0
New Brunswick, Canada
Not that it was asked, but I was able to move my DVB-S2 card into my old PC that does not need much CPU power to do it's job, running an old XP1800 mobile processor, underclocked to 1 ghz, it requires just a mere 62 watts compared to my 140+ watt Q6600 computer.

heh, using your kill-a-watt device again? I received mine yesterday and found my htpc computer uses 217 watts in idle mode...ouch! Great little device.

BTW, nice review
 

vfrjim

Thread Starter
SatelliteGuys Pro
Jul 23, 2005
635
0
Rhode Island
New Info, added 4.2.2 SD playback

It was brought to my attention that someone tried to play back a 4.2.2 SD feed and it played back fine, so I tried it and it works with no problems. The info on the feed that I tried is:

Elementary Stream PID 514 (0x0202) MPEG-2 Video
MPEG Video: Bitrate 13.000 Mbps Resolution 720 x 480i
MPEG Video: Framerate 29.97 fps Aspect Ratio 4:3 Chroma Format 4:2:2

and it played back without any problems. I never tried a SD 4.2.2 feed since I had no interest in standard definition programming but since many of you might, I added this info, if I was able to edit my original post, I would have done it.

Jim
 

vfrjim

Thread Starter
SatelliteGuys Pro
Jul 23, 2005
635
0
Rhode Island
I clicked on your link:
Welcome To Popcorn Hour
and see they have a newer model, Popcorn Hour A-110. It looks like it's Pre-Order only? But, they still have the A-100 model...

It really depends on your needs, the A-100 will do most of your needs unless you need a SATA drive (opposed to PATA hard drive) and it has the latest spec to the HDMI output (1.3a) opposed to 1.2 spec on the A-100, also it passes the latest in audio modes. None of this is really needed for playing back of satellite feeds, but are nice features, IMO.
 
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