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Author Topic: Hardware Ideas  (Read 1070 times)

Bob Sorel

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Hardware Ideas
« on: April 13, 2024, 08:18:05 am »

I've been thinking about this for some time, and I have some observations and suggestions. The thing that strikes me most about problems and issues with MC is that it is built on an uncontrollable foundation. What I mean by this is that MC is built on computer hardware with a computer OS underneath it, and MC is constantly at the mercy of the OS developers. For example, when Microsoft forces updates of their OS, then the updates can cause issues with MC that did not exist previously, thus causing needed changes in MC to adjust for changing OS updates, video/audio drivers, subtitle renderers, etc. ---OR--- MC must wait until the OS developer "fixes" the problem that they caused, which may or may not ever happen. Basically, things that work fine this week may be broken next week simply because of poor or inconsiderate OS development and not the fault of MC.

So, how do you fix this problem? One answer is to build your own hardware, install an OS which you can control (like one of the Linux flavors), and then putting MC on top of it. In this way JRiver can now completely control their own environment from foundation to roof without having to deal with unexpected, unknown changes in the OS/drivers. The underlying OS should be mostly invisible to casual (or maybe even all) users in order to keep things as simple as possible to the end user, as well as preventing users from screwing things up.

For example, this is the route that the Vero 4K has gone. They sell a box which is basically a Raspberry Pi with their own variation of Linux running on it, the OSMC engine. They don't have a product anywhere near as good as MC, but they do have their own "modified for them" version of KODi running on top. When updates are released, they update the lower level OSMC, as well as their custom modified KODi, as a package in order to make sure (as much as possible) that everything will work correctly. The limitations for them are whatever the hardware is capable of doing, along with the imagination, creativity, and raw abilities of the coders/programmers.

The biggest problem with this approach is that hardware keeps changing, being improved, fixed, etc. and that alone might be reason not to go in that direction, but if the cost of the underlying hardware was relatively low, then every couple of years or so, or whenever the hardware changes SIGNIFICANTLY, then release a new hardware box which can perform all of the latest improvements in audio/video performance, as well as new bells and whistles in the front end, cloud access, streaming, etc. If a user is happy with his "old" unit, then it will still perform fine, as there will not be any OS developer making changes to screw it up. If the end user wants all the new stuff, then just buy the new box...hopefully everybody wins.

This is just a suggestion for your consideration. Like I repeat often, I am not a techy guy who has a clue as to whether this approach would be desirable, reasonable, or feasible, or simply too much work, but it is a new direction for JRiver II, and that's what the thread title asked for.

Personally speaking, if JRiver offered a hardware box like this, I would RUN, not walk, to buy it, as I consider MC to be by far the best software of its kind, with plenty of room to make it even better by developing it on all of its many fronts.

I want to buy the "JRiver Media Monster" or "JRiver Media Octopus" as soon as possible!
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2024, 08:47:51 am »

So, how do you fix this problem? One answer is to build your own hardware, install an OS which you can control (like one of the Linux flavors), and then putting MC on top of it. In this way JRiver can now completely control their own environment from foundation to roof without having to deal with unexpected, unknown changes in the OS/drivers. The underlying OS should be mostly invisible to casual (or maybe even all) users in order to keep things as simple as possible to the end user, as well as preventing users from screwing things up.

This already exists (and has existed for years now), it's called the JRiver Id. There's several Id offerings, two of which uses Intel NUCs and there's even a cheaper solution called the IdPi that you can order the SD card of and use in a Raspberry Pi you already own or you can buy the fully baked IdPi option with the Raspberry Pi included. They maintain the Linux OS software/package updates and MC is totally integrated into it.

https://www.jriver.com/Id/
https://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Id

P.S. If there's another refresh of the Id to newer hardware, hopefully (since Intel killed their NUCs) they consider using Intel's N100 platform as a successor. It should be a) cheaper and b) more powerful than most NUCs. It may even be able to handle 4K video with JRVR too, not sure. The N200 and N305 platforms are also options and are more powerful than the N100. I would be very surprised if the N305 couldn't easily handle 4K with JRVR.
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Bob Sorel

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2024, 11:43:23 am »

Thanks, Awesome Donkey, I did not know that the Id existed!

However, from reading the links you provided, it looks like it is more of an audio player rather than a video player, probably due to JRiver's roots in audio.

What I was talking about was more along the lines of a box that had ALL the functionality that is in MC, along with hardware that could do it justice (more powerful GPU for tone mapping, minimum of HDMI 2.0 for video, as well as a decent DAC, CPU power, memory, etc.), but the more I think about it, it would probably be cost prohibitive for such a dedicated box running a single application. And then how would we run external apps, like Matt Khan's ezbeq or beqdesigner? In order to get all of the goodies, we really need to have more extensive hardware and a knowledge of how to use the OS running it.

I guess it was a bad idea... :(
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kr4

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2024, 12:08:45 pm »

Speaking as one of the least computer-savvy devotees, I wonder if there isn't something in between a software product and a hardware package that would relieve the dependency on rapidly-changing OS environments but still leave options to cater to a wide range of needs. 

Can one create a package of OS (Linux-based) that runs on Intel and AMD (and, perhaps, some smaller devices) and the JRiver application that would, when installed, make a user-chosen into a dedicated "box?"
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Kal Rubinson
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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2024, 12:56:23 pm »

Speaking as one of the least computer-savvy devotees, I wonder if there isn't something in between a software product and a hardware package that would relieve the dependency on rapidly-changing OS environments but still leave options to cater to a wide range of needs. 

Can one create a package of OS (Linux-based) that runs on Intel and AMD (and, perhaps, some smaller devices) and the JRiver application that would, when installed, make a user-chosen into a dedicated "box?"

Isn't that what JRiver is already offering via the Id package?  The default Id is integrated OS/software package on a hardware device, and I think they'll sell you just the Id software too to install on a box of your choosing. 

Or maybe you had something else in mind?
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2024, 01:44:26 pm »

The Id uses a Linux-based OS (based on Debian if memory serves) and isn't available in a Windows SKU. It has its own unique license and it can't use normal Linux or Master licenses, nor can its unique license be used on Windows or Linux if replacing the OS with another like Windows.
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mattkhan

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2024, 01:48:52 pm »


I guess it was a bad idea... :(
It's basically the HomeAssistant model as mentioned in https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php/topic,138602.msg961243.html#msg961243

Open source core
Users can install it as an app, as an os or as an appliance
Users can buy additional services that rely on "cloud" infrastructure

I am sceptical that is a viable model for a media player in this era
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kr4

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2024, 04:57:49 pm »

Isn't that what JRiver is already offering via the Id package?  The default Id is integrated OS/software package on a hardware device, and I think they'll sell you just the Id software too to install on a box of your choosing. 

Or maybe you had something else in mind?
I had forgotten about the Id, possibly because my brief experience with it was long ago and less than I anticipated due to the limited capabilities of the hardware.  So, yes, something like the Id was what had in mind but as a software package to be installed on more potent hardware.
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Kal Rubinson
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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2024, 05:46:21 pm »

Quote
I had forgotten about the Id, possibly because my brief experience with it was long ago and less than I anticipated due to the limited capabilities of the hardware.  So, yes, something like the Id was what had in mind but as a software package to be installed on more potent hardware.

Maybe formal support for the MC Container option?
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kr4

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2024, 06:49:24 pm »

Maybe formal support for the MC Container option?
What is that?
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Kal Rubinson
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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2024, 08:05:47 pm »

Quote
What is that?

A container is made from a Docker Image (www.docker.com) that is a lightweight, standalone, executable package that contains everything needed to run a piece of software, including the code, runtime, libraries, and dependencies. It is essentially a snapshot of an application. This makes it easy to run on low spec hardware.

There have been a few Docker images of MC created by some Interact members, the most popular is by Max096, a thread with some links here: https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php?topic=129188.0 and you'll see more in the JRver for Linux Thread.

Jim and the team have been very supportive of the platform as an idea for those interested in the forums, but it has not been adopted as an officially supported MC offering; understandably because it would be difficult to achieve with the huge variety of potential platforms and ease of end user customisation.

But its advantage is it is OS independant and an official JRiver branded / supported Docker Image could work. Of course this is more work for the dev team.
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kr4

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2024, 10:34:59 am »

A container is made from a Docker Image (www.docker.com) that is a lightweight, standalone, executable package that contains everything needed to run a piece of software, including the code, runtime, libraries, and dependencies. It is essentially a snapshot of an application. This makes it easy to run on low spec hardware.

Thanks. It does seem somewhat like what I was thinking of although you do mention the complications.
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Kal Rubinson
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slerch666

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2024, 01:35:06 pm »

P.S. If there's another refresh of the Id to newer hardware, hopefully (since Intel killed their NUCs) they consider using Intel's N100 platform as a successor.
My experience with an N100 based mini-PC running Windows, then Linux.
It was able to do 4K with a LOT of painful struggles.
Ewe.

Windows crawls at best, even with 16 GB RAM and an NVME.
Linux fares better, but still not something I would want to interact with.

I sent that N100 back and ended up with the lowest powered i3 w/ 16 GB and 256 NVME. No regrets in usability now.


but it has not been adopted as an officially supported MC offering; understandably because it would be difficult to achieve with the huge variety of potential platforms and ease of end user customisation.

But its advantage is it is OS independant and an official JRiver branded / supported Docker Image could work. Of course this is more work for the dev team.

In terms of dev work, automation can be created that does most if not all of the work for them. Someone has to build that automation but once it is done, change the file name, run the script and it should spit out a usable Docker container that can be deployed fairly easily. This is how Plex offer their Server application in Docker for NAS products as I understand it.
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syndromeofadown

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2024, 02:25:21 am »

I recently did a multi room setup with 4k TVs using beelink mini PCs with Intel N5105. They are close to N100, slightly less powerful, and no AV1 decode. They run windows fine, MC fine, and play 4K fine from UHD rips, 264, and 265. They also play AV1 fine. I did no configuration, just default JRVR. They have been running without issue for over 6 months.

I setup a pi5 recently for a friend. MC was not happy with 4K stuff. VLC played it all fine though, so it is possible.

I also have a beelink with an Intel I3-N305. It is the high end of the low end. It is fast and plays all video with no issues. Currently running Fedora.

It is quite impressive that a cheap little computer does a better job of playing video than my 1050TI graphics card did a few years back. Quality also seems to be there with certain brands, and without the price of NUCs, which are now discontinued.

There is also the android route. Brands like Dune HD, Rocktek, and MECOOL. I do not have any experience with these.
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2024, 04:42:48 am »

There is also the android route. Brands like Dune HD, Rocktek, and MECOOL. I do not have any experience with these.

I replaced a Nvidia Shield TV with the RockTek G2 and it's been fine. Just waiting for the much anticipated Android 12 update to add AFR support.
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slerch666

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2024, 08:31:59 am »

I replaced a Nvidia Shield TV with the RockTek G2 and it's been fine. Just waiting for the much anticipated Android 12 update to add AFR support.

I just use Plex on Android TV boxes as they've had that capability built in for a long time. I think Jellyfin also does it.

I really wish MC on Android was better supported and developed.
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syndromeofadown

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2024, 08:30:54 pm »

Quote
I replaced a Nvidia Shield TV with the RockTek G2 and it's been fine. Just waiting for the much anticipated Android 12 update to add AFR support.

i haven't used android TV for a while, but i may give it a another go if i can find some time. I have a 2017 shield but I switched to a mini PC for that particular setup. Partially due to lack of dvd support on android, and partly due to NVIDIA updates. I think I stopped updating before they put adds on the home screen. I am not sure if they have even had an update in the last 3 years. I see LineageOS has an Android TV 13 image for the shield. This sparks my curiosity.

In other "lack of android devices" news, I think Amazon is moving to a custom OS that is not android based. This affects me no way, but it is interesting to see how hardware trends change so quickly.
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2024, 07:17:18 am »

I have the 2017 Shield too, and yes, the Shield got an update a year or so ago. Ironically, the Shield has had the longest support of any Android device, with the 2015 version still getting updates (as of the last update). Apparently Nvidia is still working on updates for it but it's been slow to release. Hopefully once the Switch successor is released Nvidia releases a new Shield with AV1, VP9 HDR (for YouTube), etc.

Regarding the ads in the home screen, that's Google's doing with the stock Google TV launcher. Nvidia had a deal with Google to actually delay the deployment of the new Google TV launcher for the longest time, but the deal finally expired and Nvidia had to push Google's TV launcher update that added ads. Luckily there are workarounds; I installed Projectivy Launcher and set it as the default launcher then use adb to disable the stock Google launcher and no more ads (and a superior launcher).

The main reason I replaced my 2017 Shield with the RockTek G2 is because I watch a lot of YouTube and the lack of YouTube HDR support on the Shield caused me to switch. There's also some cheaper alternatives (though most lack features like Dolby Vision) like the $20 Onn 4K box from Walmart. I picked a few of them up and I'm quite impressed with it, especially after you replace the stock launcher (again with Projectivy in my case).
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Bob Sorel

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2024, 12:26:47 pm »

My thoughts on a new JRiver "box" concern audio and video quality FIRST, as I feel that QUALITY is what seperates the boys from the men. With all of the other boxes that I own, there is not one of them that can hold a candle to JRiver in either audio or video quality, though most of them do what would be considered an adequate job, and it is due to the magnificent picture and sound I get from JRiver which makes me use it exclusively. There are also other softwares available for the PC which do a good job, but none of them are so easy to install, use, and keep updated, and user friendliness is  a BIG DEAL to people like me. I really don't like the idea of having to learn how everything works just to enjoy movie watching and music listening. I actually bought a Shield a few years ago, turned it on, and could not figure out how to get it up and running with results that I liked within a few hours, so I returned the unit and decided to go back to other boxes. As far as I know, the Shield was not designed for audio/video purposes only, and I assume that it was meant more to be some sort of games platform. Yes, I am showing my age here...I just turned 70, and anything that works like a modern phone is NOT something I want in an audio/video piece of gear. Whatever is running under the GUI is not that important to me, as long as the GUI itself is pretty much straightforward and bulletproof...and EASY.

And then there is that quality issue I mentioned. I will keep reminding you that I am not a techy person, so I really don't know what is actually responsible for high quality audio and video...Is it the hardware, the software, or both? And where is the sweet spot in the combination? For example, does a superbly rendered, tone mapped, sharp as a tack image get created by the video renderer or by the hardware (GPU)? That is, would JRVR look as good as it does if it was being displayed using some cheap ARM processor, and alternatively, would an Nvidia 4090 put out a really great picture with a crappy video renderer? What is the proper balance needed to maintain that ultra high quality, and as long as QUALITY would not suffer, how cheap of a GPU would do the renderer justice? I don't have any idea what is responsible for the quality picture I am seeing, the VR or the GPU, or both, or in what proportion.

I bring this up beacause I own and have owned a fair share of multimedia boxes, including the Zidoo Z9X, the Vero 4K+, the eGreat a-10, as well as older 1080p units from Mede8er, Dune, and a few others that I can't remember their names, and NONE of them produce a video image that I consider even close to JRiver. The image from JRVR (as well as madVR) is in a class by itself, and a box that could reproduce that quality would be a real winner in my opinion. The best of those other boxes that I just mentioned is the Zidoo, and they make boxes that range in price from $200 to about $4000, depending on how concerned you are about the AUDIO end of things...the video from the cheapest to the most expensive is exactly the same (according to reviews I have read online). Every now and then I fire up my Zidoo, update it with the latest firmware, and then watch something. Despite its use of the Dolby VS-10 engine, I can watch a movie for about 10 minutes before I just have to switch back to JRiver...there is that big of a difference. I am spoiled! You have to remember that I am watching on a 158" screen, approximatedly 4X the screen area of an 85" flat screen, so differences in video quality are really in my face...LOL.

Now, you create a JRiver box that is EASY to use, looks and sounds as good as JRiver does, has the myriad of FEATURES (like DSP Studio, just for example....NOBODY has anything like that), and despite the ease of use has the POWER needed for users who wish to tweek and customize things endlessly, you now have the ultimate multimedia one box solution.

I can dream, can't I? ;D
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jmone

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2024, 04:39:03 pm »

I've had (and tested) many HW configs and standalone box's as dedicated HTPC primarily for Video Playback.  If you are after a single soln that deploys all of MC's Video Features then I'd suggest the following combination for a "MC Swiss Army Knife":

OS: Windows. From what I understand, it's the only OS that support all the MC video features such as HDR Passthrough / DVD and Blu-ray Menu support / Hardware Decoding integration (but I could be wrong!).
Renderer:  JRVR as it's HW overhead and reliability is better than madVR (and much better quality than native renders) opening up a wider range of options especially on a wider range of more modest GPUs
GPU: iGPU's in the latest version of NUCs have reached the point where you can decode / render all commercial content adequately with JRVR.  Latest review at https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php/topic,134761.0.html .  If you want to run JRVR with better settings, you will still need a dedicated GPU (nvidia 3060+) in a SFF case.   

Drawbacks:  I find that the biggest drawbacks with such a build is:
- Cost:  Windows ain't free 
- Easy of Use:  Currently you have to set it up yourself (no out of the box power up and play option). 
- Local Account:  It's getting harder to just use a Local Account with Auto Logon
- Maintaining Windows:  Patch Tuesday can drive you nuts.  You power up your HTPC and Windows is wanting to update something. After a bigger upgrade, Windows again starts pushing for you to add a MS Account
- nvidia profile settings:  These need to be changed to ensure a drop free video playback

Potential?  I don't know the details, but you can setup an image of Windows with all your custom bits done (MC added, windows license, local account that can have it's password set on first boot, nvidia drivers loaded and the config done etc etc) that would help smooth over such drawbacks listed above for a Windows based Id. 



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slerch666

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #20 on: April 18, 2024, 08:27:51 am »

Now, you create a JRiver box that is EASY to use, looks and sounds as good as JRiver does, has the myriad of FEATURES (like DSP Studio, just for example....NOBODY has anything like that), and despite the ease of use has the POWER needed for users who wish to tweek and customize things endlessly, you now have the ultimate multimedia one box solution.

I can dream, can't I? ;D
If there was a MC All in One Box solution that offered the power of JRVR and didn't cost an arm and 2 legs, I'd bite. I could never put it on our main TV as my wife would poop bricks over dealing with the interface, but darn, if I could get an affordable "in a box" that did the audio side along with 4K JRVR HDR tone mapping and just ran like a champ, for under $200? I all am in for my home theater setup.

As it is now, I use MC from my gaming PC for full quality BD/DVD rips at the home theater and the Box 4K R something or other when I want Dolby Vision and/or a big screen interface I don't hate dealing with.
Sorry, I just can't get behind the MC Theater View.
I also dislike the matching service for movies/TV in MC and how it drops files in the directories with my MKVs, but work with it for the superior scaling it does on 1080p content. Drop those files in my library or something; don't clutter my unRAID storage dang it!
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bob

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2024, 09:42:23 am »

The NUC business was sold to ASUS
https://www.asus.com/us/content/nuc-overview/

The IdVR does 4k fine. The most recent ones we've shipped were on NUC12's
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Shasta Mike

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Re: Hardware Ideas
« Reply #22 on: April 19, 2024, 04:03:43 pm »

Basically, things that work fine this week may be broken next week simply because of poor or inconsiderate OS development and not the fault of MC.

So, how do you fix this problem? One answer is to build your own hardware, install an OS which you can control (like one of the Linux flavors), and then putting MC on top of it. In this way JRiver can now completely control their own environment from foundation to roof without having to deal with unexpected, unknown changes in the OS/drivers. The underlying OS should be mostly invisible to casual (or maybe even all) users in order to keep things as simple as possible to the end user, as well as preventing users from screwing things up.
While I am not a coder, i've managed people who did some and understand a little.  My personal experience with MC goes back about 7 years and is about 99% audio based.  For my video use, it is easier for me to use a standalone player like Potplayer.  And, I don't manage or maintain a video collection on my PC.  I have a 2019 vintage Id bought in 2022 (the last one JRiver had at the time) using it as the primary manager of a large audio collection (~ 30K files) utilizing the MC rating system and playlists extensively to curate my growing music library.

Id Hardware Issues for me - I am a Windows guy and found Linux perplexing.  With the help of an unnamed JRiver God, I have learned enough to get by, and my Id is a valued piece of hardware in my home.  It works well with my Class D audiophile system and the M0 Media app is on my Android and wife's IPhone. 

I went through some setup issues with M0 having to figure out Port Forwarding.  I was running out of space on the Id 1tb drive and added a 4tb solid state USB drive.  That required some major technical support from MC to migrate my music library over there and maintain the ratings of songs and the created playlists.  I "think" the new "Change Media Location" could make that easier but not for me since my Id cannot be upgraded. 

All this is to say, the Id in my mind is not ready for prime time with the normal person.  Almost anyone I know would never have invested so much time but I have been through using Foobar, MediaMonkey, iTunes, and all the other music managers have serious deficiencies for me - none had the whole package like MC.  So, I stuck it out.

My nephew and son-in-law are electricians.  My son-in-law's brother is a project manager for a company that does highend custom installations in the LA area making people's houses smart-homes.  AV specific rooms are a big component of that.  I talked to him once about MC - he never heard of it.  They do almost all Sonos installs.  My nephew has done some smarthome installs in South Fl and as an example for a famous golf pro.  There is a ton of money in this business.  But there are dwnsides.  Both those guys get calls at the most inopportune times like 10 pm Saturday night when the house owner cannot get something to work and need/expect help because hey - they spent six figures on making the home smart and expect the fountain lights that blink to the music to work right for the party crowd.

Suffice to say that for these types of customers money is no object at all.  They just want something bulletproof that is easy to use.  Read that last sentence again. haha

What can JRiver do?  My suggestion is to look at some kind of hardware and software package where most of what we see in MC is hidden behind a very clean and easy-to-use interface.   And, point releases are only to fix bugs and not release new functionality.   

And, if JRiver decides that competing with Sonos is not something that can be capitalized then consider selling MC's backend where other companies or individuals can customize the frontend easily for their application. I think the MC backend is state-of-the-art but really don't know because that is not my forte. 

The bottom line is that there is money in the highend custom smart home market.  And, I think MC could have a place in it.  My nephew is getting calls all the time from the golf pros friends to do the same at their house but he will not do more installs because of the maintenance and ongoing education of the homeowner to keep the systems up and working.  My son-in-laws brother says that the LA company is so busy doing installs for celebrities and pro sports folks that there is business forever right now.  But, both of them say it is a serious headache to keep the customers happy mostly because of complexity but once in a while something actually fails.   

A truly plugnplay piece of AV hardware and software that integrated easily in smarthomes has a market.  The current best (I
 know of but don't own) known piece of audio software (Roon) goes for $150 per year subscription plus the cost of hardware. People I've communicated with like it but say it has limitations (i believe it is audio only), 100K tracks, hardware comes w/o a drive necessitating a drive buy and install. So, it has drawbacks too for being easy to buy and use.   

Thinking about this need it seems there needs to be companies that work as integrators.  Right now that is being done by smart electricians.  But most of those guys are not audiophiles so don't really get it.  Hope this helps someone in this brainstoring thread.   
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