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J1nx Linux XBMC Firmware on a G-Box Midnight

XBMC Linux on a GBOX Midnight – J1nx or Static?

The G-BOX Midnight has received a mixed reception in terms of it’s advertized capabilities and its ability to run XBMC on an Android platform with acceptable performance. Certainly, the purported output of 1080p is a moot point. And every version of Android XBMC that I tried  had one problem or another; mainly audio out of sync with video, and choppy playback of HD content. Thank goodness for the Linux XBMC versions then, courtesy of static and J1nx.

Flashing the G-BOX Midnight with any flavor of Linux XBMC negates the Android operating system-bloat and allows the device to boot straight into XBMC. And for me, this is a real benefit. With the supplied remote, it’s near-on impossible to  navigate the Android Home screen with any sort of speed and dexterity. Trying to find the  XBMC icon and then click on it is a major undertaking.

I have tried the static and J1nx versions of Linux XBMC on the G-BOX Midnight v2.2 and this is what I found:

static XBMC Linux v0.2 beta

  • Very good playback of HD content. Fluid playback. No dropped frames.
  • Menus very responsive.
  • Remote fully programmed.
  • CPU usage relatively low (compared with Android versions).
  • Audio sync issues – audio out of sync with video by 125ms (average).
  • WakeOnLan add-on did not work.

J1nx XBMC Linux beta2

  • Excellent playback of SD and HD content. Playback is smooth. No dropped frames.
  • Menus very responsive.
  • Remote fully programmed.
  • CPU usage relatively low (compared with Android versions).
  • Every add-on I’ve installed works.
  • It rarely goes wrong. It’s extremely reliable.
  • Everything works as it should! This is the version I’ve kept.

My Installation

I bought the G-BOX Midnight to fuel a wall-mounted TV I put in my kitchen. An aerial connection to the TV would have resulted in unsightly wires running up the wall. Plus, I wanted the G-BOX to supply everything to the TV; live tv, recorded tv from my MediaPortal server, and everything else that XBMC can supply.

Mounting the TV

Fitting the TV Bracket Wall Anchors

Fitting the TV Bracket Wall Anchors

TV Mounted on the Wall

TV Mounted on the Wall

G-BOX Midnight Attached

G-BOX Midnight Attached and Running XBMC – TV Catchup

As shown above, I have the G-Box Midnight connected to the internet via a Home Plug and Ethernet connection, normally all tucked away behind the TV. I’ve not tried it’s performance with a wireless connection.

It plays HD video content across my home network flawlessly; both 720p and 1080p encoded files. It plays live TV too via the TV catchup add-on. And with J1nx’s version of XBMC, sound is perfectly in sync with video. A problem that was really annoying me with the Android versions.

This is good little, unobtrusive, low-powered unit that delivers the goods now that I’ve found the right firmware to suit me.

A Quick Demonstration of J1nx XBMC Linux beta2

This video depicts the boot time of my G-BOX Midnight v2.2 running the J1nx Linux beta2 firmware. It takes approximately 1min 15 seconds for XBMC to be ready and responsive.

And because of this, I leave the G-BOX switched on at all times so it’s available for immediate use when the TV is switched on. The difference in power consumption between the off and on states is negligible – unless you unplug the transformer when you’re not using it.

The first demonstration is  the playback quality of a 720p HD video, streamed over my LAN. There are no dropped frames and playback is fluid.

The second demonstration is Shoutcast radio.

And to finish off, BBC 1 via TV Catchup. Near-live TV without an aerial.

HTPC Application Launcher

HTPC Launcher

LAUNCH YOUR FAVORITE HTPC APPLICATIONS WITH YOUR REMOTE

A neat, informative program that does the following:-

  • Allows the user to switch between popular HTPC applications such as MediaPortal, XBMC, Windows Media Center and many others, all from the comfort of your chair; with your remote control.
  • Displays the screen refresh rate.
  • Provides a summary of hard disk usage. Space remaining for recorded TV and the proportions of used space for movies, TV series and recorded programs.
  • Hides all desktop icons and restores them when the program is quit.
  • Configurable to run any application you choose.
  • Can be made to start when Windows boots.
  • Program window can be positioned by the remote, so it doesn’t spoil your desktop wallpaper.
  • MediaPortal SQL database repair with one remote key press.
Written and compiled with Autoit. Tested on Windows 7. Used 24/7.
Author: Tim Wolverson

INTRODUCTION

If, like me, you’re a HTPC enthusiast, the chances are that you will have tried a multitude of media center software in the pursuit of perfection. You will like some features in one product more than another. Your favorite product may lack a certain feature that you really can’t live without. So maybe now, you’re using at least two popular pieces of software to satiate your HTPC needs.

I am.

I use MediaPortal and XBMC. And I switch between the two of them often. Why?

MediaPortal is very good at delivering Live TV, scheduling and making recordings, indexing them, managing them. And most importantly, watching them.

Yes, XBMC can do this too if you use the relevant plugins, but I found it difficult to use and unintuitive. No good for the wife then.

XBMC has a great feature that MediaPortal does not; the ability to adjust audio/video sync. Something that is very important to me when watching encoded material. The slightest deviation in lip sync can annoy me and make something great, totally unwatchable.

Plus, XBMC starts up much quicker than MediPortal. And I like the wide ranging add-ons available for it.

So I use both.

And I wrote this simple, informative HTPC Launcher so that I wouldn’t have to get out of my chair and launch either product by resorting to the mouse every time I wanted to switch. A couple of remote control key presses and it’s done.

GETTING STARTED

Download the zipped HTPC Launcher file from this location:-

Zippy Share: HTPC Launcher

Uncompress the file and copy the program folder to your Program files directory or a folder of your choice.

Enter the program folder and right click the exe file. Select Create Shortcut and opt to have it on your desktop. If the shortcut is created inside your folder, drag the shortcut out of the folder onto your desktop.

Now you can start the HTPC Launcher by double clicking on your new desktop shortcut.

It is recommended to have this program start on its own, each time Windows boots. To do this open up the Startup folder and place a copy of your shortcut inside it. Go to Start > All Programs, and right click on the Startup folder to open it.

CONFIGURATION

This program can be configured with the config.txt file, situated in the program folder. Double click this file to open it in notepad. You will be presented with the default configuration.

It’s relatively straight forward to understand. The items in square brackets are variable names used by the program and should not be altered.

key=”what ever appears here” is assigned to that variable. So your configuration details go between the relevant quotation marks.

When you have completed your alterations, make sure that you save your changes in notepad.

### CONFIGURATION FILE FOR HTPC PROGRAM SELECTOR ###
####################################################
#HARD DISK DETAILS
##################
[HD1]
key="C:"
[HD2]
key="E:"
[HD3]
key="D:"
[HD4]
key=""

#MEDIA LOCATIONS | PATHS - MEDIA
################################
[RecTV]
key="C:\Users\Public\Recorded TV"
[Movies]
key="E:\Videos\Films"
[TVShows]
key="E:\Videos\TV Series"

#PROGRAMS - CONFIGURATION
#########################
[Program1]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\Team MediaPortal\MediaPortal\MediaPortal.exe"
[Image1]
key="Mediaportalogo.gif"
[Description1]
key="MediaPortal"
##
[Program2]
key="C:\Windows\ehome\ehshell.exe"
[Image2]
key="WMClogo.gif"
[Description2]
key="Windows Media Center"
##
[Program3]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe"

[Image3]
key="XBMClogo.gif"
[Description3]
key="XBMC"

SECTION: Hard Disk Details

Here, you can specify how many hard disk drives you have in your PC that contain your media (up to a maximum of 4).

In the above example, there are three drives labelled C: / D: / E:

The option for a fourth drive letter has been left blank “”

If you only have one hard drive then enter that under [HD1]. It should look something like this:

[HD1]
key="C:"
[HD2]
key=""
[HD3]
key=""
[HD4]
key=""

SECTION:  Media Locations

Copy and paste your media locations in this section. These paths are used to calculate disk usage.
The easiest way is to do this is to navigate to one of your folders in Windows and right click the address in the folder window.

Select Copy address as text from the context menu. Then go to your configuration file and locate the correct key= . Delete any information between the quotation marks and with the cursor inbetween both quotes, press Ctrl + V on the keyboard to paste the exact address into the file.

[TVShows]
key="E:\Videos\TV Series"

SECTION: Configuring Programs

A total of three programs can be configured for launch.

[Program1] contains the full path and executable for the software chosen.

[Image1]  is the full name of the logo you want displayed in the HTPC Launcher window. Download whatever you need and save it in the program folder.

[Description1] is the button name.

The following configuration leaves the central button blank:

#PROGRAMS - CONFIGURATION
#########################
 
[Program1]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\Team MediaPortal\MediaPortal\MediaPortal.exe"

[Image1]
key="Mediaportalogo.gif"
 
[Description1]
key="MediaPortal"
 
##

[Program2]
key=""
 
[Image2]
key=""
 
[Description2]
key="---"
 
##
 
[Program3]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe"

[Image3]
key="XBMClogo.gif"
 
[Description3]
key="XBMC"

HOW TO USE HTPC LAUNCHER

For best results, make this the platform from which you launch your HTPC software, especially after a fresh boot of Windows. Enabling software to start automatically when Windows starts could steal the focus away from this application and prevent it from working.

  • To select an application to launch, use the remote’s navigation and select buttons.
  • Exit your media center software in the usual way to return control to this window.
  • The remote’s number buttons will place the HTPC Launcher window in different positions around the desktop. 1 will place it top left, 2 top middle, 3 top right, 4 left, 6 right, 7 bottom left, 8 bottom middle and 9 bottom right.
  • Pressing 5 will run the batch script, located in the program folder. It is currently configured to issue a command to repair MediaPortal’s SQL database.