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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Looking at XBMC Frodo–Aeon Nox skin

My Linux Ubuntu 12.10 Minimal / XBMC V12.0 Frodo HTPC project has been coming along, almost at the point of getting in to XBMC skin configurations. I installed the Aeon Nox skin for a quick look.

Which skin are you using for XBMC? What do you recommend? The Aeon ones always seemed to be the best to me.  Obviously on a proper HTPC build like the one I did recently for this project, horsepower is not an issue, how does this skin perform on devices like jail broken Apple TVs and Raspberry Pi?

Main Menu – Music

The background image of the speakers randomly changes to another background related to music, likewise on the other menu items like Movies and TV Shows the background images are dynamic and change.
On the Music menu (Or on other menus) you press the down arrow on the remote control to show the submenu which shows things like Recent – Artists – Albums – Songs – Files


Main Menu – Movies

On the Movies submenu you can select things like Titles, Genres, Movie Sets (My don’t support sets currently), Trailers, Latest.


Main Menu – Music Videos

Main Menu – TV Shows

Main Menu – Videos

Main Menu – Shutdown

Main Menu - Weather

Main Menu – Pictures

There is still no proper pictures library in XBMC by default, unlike the Windows Media Center pictures library.  Its just a folder / file browsing type of deal. I believe there are some picture library add-ons for XBMC I need to look in to these.

Artists – InfoWall View

I am currently using the inbuilt Universal Scrapers for Music Artist and Album images and metadata. When I installed the Aeon Nox skin, it also installed some additional add-ons. These where called: Artist Slideshow, Artwork Downloader and I think there was another one called CDArt which I can’t find now in the settings, will need to look in to all these new metadata add-ons and see how they are going to work, as I know some of these add-ons actually place new folders and files in amongst your data on your server, unlike the Universal scrapers which don’t do that. So I am cautious about them. Especially if Posters are selected for download and they start replacing your My movie covers.


Artists – TriPanel View

Albums – Wall View

The album cover images have not been downloaded by any of the XBMC scraper add-ons they are all just my Folder.jpg images in the album folders.


Albums – InfoPanel View

Album – Track List

Album Now Playing on main menu

The coloured blocks you can see is a dynamic and moving music visualisation, that spins round and the blocks move up and down, you can also pick other visualisations in the Music Playback settings.


There seems to be two now playing screens? If I click back on the remote control from the main menu when an album is playing, I then get this screen. The top left image of the band is dynamic and changes this is the Artist Slideshow add-on I think.

Movies Titles – Wall View
Looks a bit like the Covers Full Screen view in My Movies in MCE and is the view I normally use.


Movie Title – Info page

I haven’t figured out the Actors and Crew images yet, the parental rating is shown, however XBMC does not have proper parental controls like My Movies in MCE does. You can see the synopsis and other details and also the media information about the file is shown and the SMB path to the server at the bottom. This particular movie is a 1080P MKV file with a DTS audio track.


Movie Titles – TriPanel View

There are 14 different views from what I can tell in Aeon Nox, below are just some of them!


Movie Titles – Panel View

Movie Titles – Posters View

Movie Titles – Shift View

TV Shows – BannerPlex

I really like this view. Shame XBMC does not properly support TV Series that are DVD rips, you can read more about that here.


TV Shows – Seasons – List View

TV Shows – Episodes List

The wife and I have been watching Heroes lately, we are now on season 3 and I have totally lost the plot of what’s going on!
Again Media Info is shown about the file and the ticks next to some of the episodes is the Watched status, the ones that don’t have ticks are unwatched.


TV Shows – Episode Information


I think the Aeon Nox skin looks great, fantastic eye candy anyways! But its a big change from Windows Media Center and I was just getting use to the default XBMC Confluence skin. I think once I have worked out exactly how these new metadata add-ons are going to function and how they will affect the data on my server, I will feel more comfortable using a skin of this kind. The other thing that is a little daunting is the number of skin settings that you can mess about with. My other concern for myself here at home as I plan to use a Raspberry PI or Apple TV in my girls room, is how a skin like this might perform on hardware like that. I’d rather not have to use different looking skins on different hardware.

Let me know what you think? Any long term XBMC users reading? Any feedback or comments welcome!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

mControl update iOS app to version 1.1.2559

I was very pleased to see an update today for the mControl iOS app. Seems they have fixed some things and now I am able to control Z-wave Door Sensors, Motion Sensors and a IP Camera Motion Sensor (Foscam), these are all devices in VeraLite as I am using the mControl Vera Luup Driver.
What's New in Version 1.1
Added new devices to the app
-Added Generic device support
-Added simplified chines language
-Fix Camera streaming
-Added ZigBee ON/OFF/Dimmer device support
-Added ZigBee meter Device support
-Fix thermostat bug
-Fix reconnect issues
Goto Bed, Arm House, Disarm House are all scenes within VeraLite not macros in mControl. Not sure why it says 0 next to them?

However I can now run these Vera scenes from the mControl iOS app.

Before this update it was not possible to run Vera scenes via the mControl iOS app, there was previously no Run button, it would just say Label and you couldn’t select anything.


Goto Bed VeraLite scene in the mControl iOS app.


Porch (Room) – The Porch Sensor is an Everspring motion sensor, you can see the mControl iOS app is correctly displaying the status of this sensor.


I can now Arm or Disarm (Bypass) this motion sensor using the mControl iOS app. Previously before this new update, all security sensors would just say Label next to them and you couldn’t control them.


Back Garden (Room) – The camera sensor you can see is the on-board motion sensor on my outdoor Foscam IP Camera, which I integrated in to VeraLite using the miOS Foscam add-in. This enables you to use the Foscam’s motion sensor as a regular motion sensor device in Vera, which you can trigger scenes off.


I can now Arm or Disarm the Foscam motion sensor in the updated mControl iOS app.


Kitchen (Room) – Patio Door sensor is an Everspring Door / Window sensor device again this device is setup in VeraLite.


mControl iOS app can now control this door sensor and Arm / Disarm it.


Living Room – Nothing new here, the three devices are all Z-wave devices setup in VeraLite, which mControl can see and control via the Vera Luup Driver. The Macros are actually macros setup in mControl and not Vera Scenes in this case.


Looks like the mControl mobile webpage needs updating as well, still missing buttons for some Vera devices.


Always nice to see updates from mControl, I just wish they were a bit quicker.

If mControl do one thing, they ought to create an XBMC add-in like their excellent Windows Media Center add-in, that would be at the top of my mControl feature wish list.

For more information about mControl and their products visit their website here.

Monday, 18 February 2013

XBMC / Vera Integration send notifications to XBMC

This is written for XBMC V12 Frodo. If you want to be able to send event notifications from Vera to your TV screens running XBMC read on.

First you need to enabled HTTP control in XBMC, to do this go to System - Settings – Services – Webserver. Enable “Allow control of XBMC via HTTP”.

The default port number is 8080, my user name is xbmc I did not set a password.


Now for a quick test, open a web browser and enter this in to the address bar and hit enter:{%22jsonrpc%22:%222.0%22,%22method%22:%22GUI.ShowNotification%22,%22params%22:{%22title%22:%22Motion%20Detected%22,%22message%22:%22Front%20Door%22},%22id%22:1}

Change the IP address to the IP address of your XBMC PC. On your XBMC it should pop up with a notification that has a title of Motion Detected and the message says Front Door.



Customize the HTTP command to change the title and message text for your own purposes.{%22jsonrpc%22:%222.0%22,%22method%22:%22GUI.ShowNotification%22,%22params%22:{%22title%22:%22Motion%20Detected%22,%22message%22:%22Front%20Door%22},%22id%22:1}

I have an Everspring Z-wave motion detector outside my front door, so I can monitor if someone is outside my house at my porch. In VeraLite I have a scene that turns on my porch light when this motion sensor detects movement (If its night) and it also sends the popup notification to the XBMC PC in the living room.

To do this simply click in to the Luup tab of your scene and add in the HTTP command string.


You need to add some extra code however, the bits highlighted in red below are what you need to add for the HTTP command to work in Vera.


Click the Save Lua button, then confirm changes – Save and Reload Vera.

Now try running your Vera scene and your new notification should pop up on your XBMC / TV screen.


Job done!

XBMC / Vera Home Automation–Basic integration


XBMCState has been replaced? Superseded? by a new Vera and Kodi add-on called KodiRemote. KodiRemote is based off XBMCState however it also now has playback transport controls and navigational buttons, so you can control Kodi from the Vera web UI.

You should now install KodiRemote rather than XBMCState so follow the new setup guide here.


Those of you who read my blog regular, will know I have been using Windows Media Center and the mControl Home Automation add-in for controlling my Micasaverde VeraLite Z-wave gateway. If not you can take a peek here.

It works well and I can control and view the status of lights, door & motion sensors, IP cameras and run scenes in Vera from the Windows Media Center UI on the TV.

I am currently working on migrating away from Windows Media Center to XBMC running on Linux Ubuntu and one of the biggest things I will miss in XBMC is this type of integration with my Vera Home Automation system.

What I am going to write about today is no where near as advanced as what I have setup in Windows Media Center, however its a good starting point and I am going to demonstration some basic Vera / XBMC integration using the new XBMCState add-on.

What I am going to setup is so the lights in my Living room automatically brighten up to 100% if I stop or pause Video playback in XBMC and when I start or resume Video playback in XBMC the lights automatically dim down to 25%.

As of writing today the XBMCState add-on is not in the Mios App store properly so you need to download and install it manually, if you are reading this much later then you will probably find it in the Mios app store by then.

Introduction: From the developer..

1. Install the XBMCState plugin from the mios app store (take note of your Vera IP and XBMCState device ID)
2. Install the XBMC addon from the zip file below. (If you use safari, be careful cause it automatically unzip the file and XBMC give some error to install it)
3. Go to the add-on setting and put the Vera IP, XBMCState device ID, put yes to all the event that you are interested in.
4. RESTART XBMC. When you change the IP address and ID device you absolutely have to restart XBMC to take affect.
6. Try it out.

For now these event are triggered:
Music started
Video Started
Music paused
Video paused
Music resumed
Video resumed
Music stopped
Video stopped
Music ended
Video ended
Home menu
Video menu
Music menu
Weather menu
Setting menu
Program menu
Picture Menu

Music and video title of the file that is actually played is also showed.
There also now a debug mode that show what is send to Vera in the log file if activate.

Tested on Frodo
Windows  = OK
Linux       = OK
Mac         = OK
Raspberry = OK

Getting started:

Download the Vera add-on from here. (If you reading this at a later date, install it from the Mios app store instead as it should be up there then).

In Vera go to the Apps tab – Develop Apps tab, select Luup files and click Choose file, browse to the D_XBMCState.json file and then click the Go button to upload it to Vera

Install the XBMCState Vera add-on from the mIOS apps page here

This should create a new XBMCState device in Vera under the Devices tab (no room)


Click the Spanner on this device go to the Advanced tab and make a note of the Device ID number.
You can change the name: field from XBMCState to something meaningful like XBMC – Lounge or XBMC – Bedroom etc. I will come back to this later as you need to add an IP address as well.


Download the Zip file for the XBMC add-on here save it to some where your XBMC PC can access. Go in to XBMC and go to System – Settings – Add-ons. Select Install from zip file


Browse to the zip file and the add-on will be installed and enabled


Now from System – Settings – Add-ons, select Enabled Add-ons


Select Services


Right click the Micasaverde XBMC event item and select Configure


Insert the IP address of your Vera unit and enter the Device ID number of the XBMCState device in Vera.


XBMC state tab


Player state tab

Here you can select the different events that can happen in XBMC and that the XBMCState device in Vera will detect. I have selected Yes on the following Video playback states. Click OK and reboot the XBMC PC.


Go back to Vera and configure the new XBMCState device, go to the Advanced tab, I changed the name to XBMC – Lounge and enter the static IP address of your XBMC PC. Assign the device to a room. Save the changes and Reload Vera.


Now we can test its working? start playing a Video in XBMC.
The XBMCState Device status in Vera should say:
  • Computer: Up
  • Player: Video_start

Pause the Video playback in XBMC, the player status should change to Video_pause


This tells us that the XBMC add-on is successfully communicating with Vera.

Now we just need to add some triggers to our lighting scenes so the lights can be controlled via the Video playback status of XBMC.

In Vera I created two new scenes, you might be able to just use some of your existing scenes


XBMC – Lounge On (Scene)

So in my Lounge I have two lamps I want to be turned on when Video playback in XBMC is stopped or paused, so I just clicked both of these lamps to be on in the scene.


Next go to the Triggers tab of the scene, I added two new triggers one for Video Stopped and one for Video Paused


Video Stopped trigger

Device = Select your XBMCState device in this case #53 XBMC – Lounge
What type of event is the trigger? = Player State Changes
Name for this Trigger = Video Stopped
Player State = Video is Stopped


Now repeat this and recreate the second trigger for Video Paused.


Now we only want this to happen if its night time, you don’t want your lights coming on and off with video playback in XBMC if its day time. So for both of the triggers you just setup you need to click in to each Luup Event button


And paste in this is_night code:

if ( luup.is_night() ) then
  return true
  return false


XBMC - Lounge Dim 25% (Scene)

Now we need to setup the scene that dims down the lights when Video playback in XBMC is Started or Resumed. Its the same as the above but your triggers are slightly different.

Set your lights to dim to the desired percentage


Again I have two triggers but this time for Video Resumed and Video Starting


Video Resumed trigger


Video Starting trigger


Again you need to click the Luup Event buttons on each trigger and add in the is_night code as before.


Save all that in Vera and Reload.

Now at night time when you start or resume video playback in XBMC your lights should auto dim down and when you stop or pause video playback the lights will brighten up.

More than one XBMC PC ?

If you have multiple XBMC PCs you can simply create more XBMCState devices in Vera, to do this go to the Apps tab in Vera scroll down and find the XBMCState app click It.


Click create another.


Obviously you will need to install the XBMCState add-on in to XBMC on those other XBMC PCs.


This is revision one of this guide so things maybe updated and changed as the XBMCState Vera / XBMC add-ons are further developed.

This is certainty not mControl in Windows Media Center but its definitely a first step in the right direction and thanks to the developers I am feeling slightly happier about the test Linux / XBMC PC that is sat in my living room, now that the lights can be controlled with XBMC Video playback!