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Friday, 28 August 2015

Emby Media Server–Why you should be using it

I’ve not done many articles lately, but I have been working on beta testing for the Emby / Kodi integration. If you are an XBMC / Kodi user or not? Emby Media Server is well worth taking a closer look at!

Image result for emby logo

What is it? Emby is an Open Source Media Server and Client applications solution which was previously named Media Browser, which initially started life as a 3rd party Movie / TV Shows views add-on for the now dead Windows Media Center platform.

In a nut-shell Emby can be used to centralise all your media content, manage its metadata and artwork, access your content on a multitude of different devices, share content with family and friends and more!

The Emby Server can be installed on Windows, Linux, NAS, MAC, FreeBSD. I have it installed on my WHS 2011 server and I removed which was still on there for legacy MCE metadata. One of the great things about the server side of things is the ease at which metadata and artwork files are automatically downloaded and can be managed using the metadata manager for example. Its pretty much 100% seamless, you add new content that is correctly named and structured and the Emby server does the rest for you.

No more messing about with 3rd party metadata managers or with several different metadata add-ons in Kodi such as the Artwork Downloader or CDArt Manager, those add-ons are made redundant. As is MYSQL as a centralised database for Kodi, with the Emby add-on for Kodi and the Emby Server back-end these replace and also make MYSQL redundant.

Emby client apps include: Kodi, Windows Media Center / XBOX 360 (MCE Extender), Android TV, Roku  / Now TV boxes, Amazon Fire TV, some Samsung Smart TVs and Emby Theatre which is their stand alone Windows client application. Also you can use the Emby’s web browser GUI to cast content to your Chrome Cast device, Emby also supports DLNA.

So plenty of apps to play with and then there are the mobile apps which include: Emby Web Client (HTML5), Android, iOS (Under development and coming soon), Windows 8.1 / 10 and Windows Phone.

As you can see its a very impressive list of client app options! I am personally using the Emby add-on for Kodi, this is still in beta and I have it installed on two test PCs only at the moment and not installed on my main OpenElec HTPCs which are connected to the TVs in the house. I am also using the Android mobile app on several tablets and the Windows 8.1 / 10 app on my new Windows 10 touch screen laptop. I have also setup the Roku app on a Now TV box for a relative so they can access content remotely over the Internet.

And that is another killer feature of Emby the remote access side of things, in native Kodi media center there is no easy way out of the box to open up your content for remote access when you are away from the home. This is where Emby really shines and the Emby Server will ensure that the vast majority of your content can be played on remote devices either by transcoding on the fly to suit devices such as tablets and phones or by allowing Direct Streaming where possible. For example another family member of mine now has a remote Kodi installation on their PC and they can direct stream movies from my server here with no transcoding required for most video formats that Kodi can play natively.

Other Emby features include cloud sync (this is a paid for option which there aren’t too many) where you can choose to sync some of your content titles up to the cloud to services like Dropbox. Mobile sync is another feature, I’ve not tried this but presumably you could choose to sync down a movie for example to your mobile devices local storage for offline playback. Parental Controls and user management to easily share content with family members and fiends. There is also an inbuilt Live TV side to Emby, which I believe only currently works for HDHomeRun network tuners.

However I am still using DVBLogic’s DVBLink Server as the back-end for my Live TV and Kodi using the DVBLinks PVR add-on for Kodi links in to this. However there is also a plug-in for DVBLink on the Emby server, this then enables Live TV to then be streamed to the various Emby client apps, some features fall under the Emby Supporter / Donator category like being able to see all your TV channels in the electronic program guide. But most of the core features of Emby are free and do not require supporter access. Other Live TV Emby plug-ins for back-end TV services include ServerWMC, Media Portal, Next PVR, TVHeadEnd, VU+.

Some screen shots:

Emby HTML5 Web Browser GUI





Movie Info Page


TV Shows


TV Show Info Page


TV Show Seasons


Season 1 / Episodes


Episode Info Page


Music Albums


Album Details / Tracks


Album Artists


Artist Info Page



To wrap this up then, Emby is well simply excellent, the forums are active and helpful to new users. There are parts of the system which are still under heavy development such as the Kodi / Emby integration and the iOS app, however there are stable versions available for Kodi if you don’t want to be on the cutting edge with the beta releases.

I would say Emby is a replacement for Windows MCE /, Plex and probably a whole other bunch of media center related software. Try it out and it won’t be long until you think how did I live without it?

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Z-wave Doorbell - Version 2

Some time ago I wrote about my Z-wave doorbell project using a iTemp device and my existing doorbell chime and push button, see that previous article here for full details.

Well that chime and button were really old to begin with and have recently packed in and stopped working. After reading some wired doorbell chime kit reviews on Amazon I decided to purchase a Byron 1217 kit normally around £15 currently only £7.99 at Screwfix here. The user manual for the Byron 1217 unit can be seen here.

Byron Wired Wall-Mounted Door Chime Kit White

Critically this new doorbell chime only takes 2x D type batteries which are 1.5 volts each totalling 3 volts, whereas my old chime unit took 4x D type batteries totalling 6 volts. This meant I had to also purchase a new 3VDC miniature relay as my old relay was rated at 6VDC on the coil.


Miniature coil relay pin out diagram

Here’s how I wired up the new Byron doorbell chime unit to the iTemp device.

Pins 2 & 9 on the coil relay (no polarity) connected to terminal 2 on the back of the doorbell chime and to the negative terminal of the right hand side battery, at the front of the doorbell chime.


Pins 1 & 5 on the coil relay (no polarity) were then connected to the dry input connector on the Z-Wave iTemp device which you can see in the picture below.
iTemp Sensor

Note: I wouldn’t actually recommend the iTemp device as it uses batteries far too quickly, instead if you are doing a new Z-wave doorbell project I would recommend using a Fibaro Door and Window sensor and the dry input connector on that device instead.

This time as the Byron 1217 chime unit is much smaller in size than my old one, I mounted the coil relay in a surface mount 1 gang box.


Here you can see the Byron 1217 chime unit. The wire on the right of the chime unit is going off outside to the push button, the wire in the corner of the walls going up, is heading towards the iTemp device which is mounted in my living room as it also acts as a temperature sensor.


This time I used a lot smaller and thinner cable running under the ceiling coving heading in to the living room and to the iTemp device. Last time I used some CAT5 cable which was much thicker.


Here’s the other side of the internal wall in the living room, where the iTemp device is mounted.


Blanking faceplate installed on the 1 gang surface mount box which contains the coil relay.


Finished installation.


New push button installed outside, the button came with the Byron 1217 doorbell chime kit. The chime doesn’t go ding dong as I thought it might have, it sounds like a bicycle bell and can only be heard for the duration that the button is being held down. However its perfectly fine for the money spent.


OK so now everything was wired up it was time to test it again, looking in the Vera UI my binary contact device was GREEN i.e. not tripped.
Upon pressing the doorbell it changes to RED i.e. now tripped
After a short while the binary contact device should return back to green.

So now what? Well you can now trigger Vera scenes based upon when this binary contact device is tripped. So for example I have added LUUP code in to a doorbell scene to send a popup notification to all the Kodi HTPC’s / TVs in the house, that there is someone at the door, video / audio playback is also paused, also if its night time and the lights are dimmed the lights will automatically brighten up to 100%.

I also have a Logitech Squeezebox (SqueezeLite instance) in the kitchen announce through the kitchen speakers, using Google Text-to-Speech “There is someone at the door”.


Once you have Z-Wave enabled your existing wired doorbell the possibilities are endless, have a Vera scene send an email notification or send out a SMS text message notification to your phone for example, this could also be integrated in to any front door IP CAM and even send you a picture of who is stood at your door!

Tip - go for a Fibaro door / window sensor rather than a iTemp and you should be good to go.

If you are interested in purchasing Z-wave Europe home automation products, please contact us directly here for bespoke prices and discounts.