Media soup

Part I - About
Part II - Components
Part III - Hardware
Part IV - System
Part V - Server
Part VI - Client
Part VII - Miscellaneous
Part X - Examples

Part VI - Client

1. SqueezeBox
2. XBMC
3. MediaPortal
4. GameEx
5. VLC
6. MediaMonkey


1. SqueezeBox


SoftSqueeze

... is the oldest of the bunch. It emulates an old SqueezeBox device.

After installation you will have to set the SqueezeBox Server information in SofttSqueeze Preferences / Networking. The software may or may not autodetect your server name or IP address. Although it is supposed to be able to find your server by its 'name' it won't always do so, in which case you can try the IP address of the server.

As far as I know, you cannot use SoftSqueeze to control other soft- or hardware players.

SoftSqueeze is no longer supported, or updated. It still works on my Windows XP box though.


SqueezeSlave

SqeezeSlave is a small, console only program. It doesn't offer a fancy GUI. It's typically used on computers where you cannot or do not want to run SoftSqueeze.

To start SqueezeSlave with a simple build in user interface, assuming your SqueezeServer is at 192.168.0.72, enter the following at the command prompt:

C:\> squeezeslave -D 192.168.0.72
If you plan to run SqueezeSlave on more than one machine, make sure to specify a 'mac' address (which must be unique), for example:
C:\> squeezeslave -D 192.168.0.72 --mac 00:00:00:00:00:22 
You can also use the Squeezebox Server web interface to control what SqueezeSlave is playing. To distinguish between multiple players on different machines, you can assign a name to each player using the same web interface.

For a list of all options:

C:\> squeezeslave -h
People running a Linux box can send output to a display board attached to their PC. No such luck for Windows users though.

It is possible to launch SqueezeSlave as a service. I've used runassvc.exe (google for it) using the following command line:

runassvc -i --displayname "SqueezeSlave" --description "squeezebox player" --exe "c:\software\squeezeslave\squeezeslave.exe" --workingdir "c:\software\squeezeslave" --params "192.168.0.72 -m 00:00:00:00:00:22" --quiet
To remove the service, look under installed software, for any entries called 'PirmaSoft'.


SqueezePlay

SqueezePlay is probably the best (software) player of them all. It's a bit harder to find (baffles me why there isn't a simple download button for it, with Logitech having abandoned SqueezeBox and all) but do a bit of googling and you'll end up with a working version. I (obviously :-)) googled for "where can I download a windows build of squeezeplay"... As a matter of convenience, I've added one copy of such a build to this website (nope, I did not build it myself): download SqueezePlay v7.8.

Install SqueezePlay and you'll end up with (something) like this:

Some notes:

  • a 'short click' obviously selects something, but a 'long press' might show other options
  • there MUST be a WORKING AND RECOGNIZED audio device
  • there is no full sceen option :-(
I had some fun getting a 'cannot connect' error message, where it seemed SqueezePlay could not connect to my SqueezeBox server... it turned out my video driver had replaced the onboard audio drivers with it's own HDMI based drivers. But.. that peculiar PC was using VGA, so SqueezePlay couldn't find a working audio device and threw the misleading error 'cannot connect' etc. etc. etc.


MP3 streaming to VLC

Actually, anything that can handle a stream just might work, as the SqueezeBox server is also sending out an MP3 stream to anyone interested. Here's a quick example:

  1. start up VLC, go to Media / Open Network Stream, then enter http://192.168.0.72:9000/stream.mp3
  2. VLC will show something like 'Welcome to Logitech Media Server'
  3. start up a browser and visit the SqueezeBox controller page at http://192.168.0.72:9000 (you may have to hit refresh)
  4. select a SqueezeBox player in the drop-down list, your VLC machine should be listed (though it's name may be weird, you can recognize it by its IP number)

  5. select your player, then feed it some music

MP3 streaming to Android

There is a streaming client available on the Google Play app market, but it isn't free :-(

Still, there is a way to feed your Android phone with some SqueezeServer goodness, by using the same stream mentioned above. As a player I've tried MX Player, the same player I've used to stream videos to my Android phone.

  1. start up MX Player, Open Network Stream, then enter http://192.168.0.72:9000/stream.mp3
  2. start up a browser and visit the SqueezeBox controller page at http://192.168.0.72:9000 (you may have to hit refresh)
  3. select a SqueezeBox player in the drop-down list, your Android phone should be listed (though it's name may be weird, you can recognize it by its IP number)
I'm not sure if the following requires MX Player, but this also works:
  1. open the browser, surf to http://192.168.0.72:9000/stream.mp3
  2. select execute, then pick stream player
Here comes the catch, however... You can't move either player into the background, at least I wasn't able to. The moment you move it into the background (by bringing up SqueezeCommander, for example) the player goes silent. I haven't tried any other players, but I'm pretty sure there must be something out there that works. (It's pretty silly though to include a stream player in Android, then not allowing it to run in the background. Isn't the whole point that you're listening to music whilst doing something else?)


2. XBMC

XBMC is an all in one app, turning your HTPC into a full featured media center. It's origins date back to a media front end for the old (hacked) X-box. It is a nice front-end, even though my first encounter with it was marred by crappy (menu) performance on an (otherwise) perfectly well working XP box. After upgrading to Windows 7 (something I'd been planning for a while now) and loading the latest 'Eden' release of XBMC it worked fine.

Update 1. The problem may be related to codec inconsistencies... On some XP systems I managed to fix the problem using a newer codec pack. Not on all systems though.

Update 2. A complete reinstall of the OS fixed two machines. I wonder how long it takes until XBMC starts complaining again :-)
 

The good

  • XBMC supports UPNP devices (TVersity) as well as regular file shares, so it will give you access to whatever you have on your network.


The bad

  • I haven't been able to figure out the menu entries 'Movies' and 'TV Series', so I simply disabled them. You can access your regular shares and files through the menu Video anyway.
  • Why is there no decent Jukebox function?
  • I found listing folder contents sometimes slow, and playback not always fluid on lighter hardware / older versions of XBMC.
XBMX seems to buffer properly (as opposed to VLC). VLC however seems to run better on low spec hardware. Both do fail on some DVD's, and ol' PowerDVD might still be your best friend there.
 

XBMC Live

XBMC also comes in a portable format, which you can either run from CD, USB stick, or a (small) harddisk, and it runs on various (some even older) hardware. (I even tried it on VirtualBox to check the installation procedure, just don't expect much performance :-)). The portable format is Linux based (saving you on licenses) and seems to run a little smoother than the Windows version, but... it may not run on all hardware.

Installation under VirtualBox showed a disk requirement of only 1.3 GB. One option is to install XBMC in a separate partition, next to Windows. Thus you won't have to struggle with Windows and codecs, and have your mediaplayer at hand whenever you feel the need to hit the couch... or whenever your spouse or your kids think they have the need for another dose of movie madness...

  1. Repartition your harddrive. XBMC doesn't need much speed, so consider putting it at the end of the drive. I've just freed up 10 GB at the end and let XBMC handle additional partitioning during installation.
  2. Get an XBMC Live ISO image. Burn it to CD.
  3. Boot the CD. Install XBMC. I can tell you, it's a bit slow to install, and you're not always getting 'progress bars'... Just hold on.
  4. During installation, I've opted for 'use the largest block of free space' or something similar :-)
  5. XBMC Live installs a bootloader / OS selector. If you like it, you're fine.
Unfortunately, the above did not work on an (old and cranky) Dell Latitude D810 due to driver issues. But hey, it's Linux, what do you expect? :-) Seriously though, if your hardware is suitable, give it a spin.
 

The Exit menu

If you simply want to exit XBMC by pressing the XBMC on/off button then modify the home.xml file of the skin of your choice.

There's one occurence of the following string:

<onclick>ActivateWindow(ShutdownMenu)</onclick>
Just replace it with:
<onclick>XBMC.Quit()</onclick>

3. MediaPortal

Sorry. Not done yet.


4. GameEx

Sorry. Not done yet.


5. VLC
 

VLC is the player of choice on a regular PC, best of all perhaps is the lack of need for coded packs, pretty much everything essential is on-board. It doesn't feature any 'on board' navigation tools that would make it a suitable all-in-one HTPC solution. In some cases VLC can be used as the 'backend' player, with another application acting as frontend.

The good

  • Plays pretty much everything without the need for installing a codec pack.
The bad
  • Doesn't buffer well. If your feed is not 100% smooth, playback may not be fluid. Where XMBC would run fine and play back some movies over wifi, without any problems, I noticed VLC to 'stutter' a little. I've not been able to find a 'buffer' option anywhere but perhaps there is one that I overlooked.

6. MediaMonkey

Sorry. Not done yet.