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2016 HTPC for Catfisch Cinema (1 Viewer)

jcroy

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(This may sound really silly).

Today it was VERY tempting to buy a 4Kbluray player on blackfriday.

I had talk myself down and out of making such a purchase. The one argument I keep on telling myself over and over again, is that I should not be buying any optical disc format which has not been cracked. Currently there is no widely publicly known crack of 4Kbluray.
 

jcroy

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(Some more thoughts on general algorithms).

Recently I noticed there was a complaint (on anydvd's forum) that there was a Lionsgate title released last week which allegedly caused anydvd to take 4 hours to process through the dvd. If this allegation is true, then this is highly suggestive that anydvd's general algorithm might be tracing through the machine code in a dvd's *.ifo files, to figure out which parts of the code is essential and which code is garbage filler which is never played (such as phony playlists). Basically something which functions like a virtual machine (or interpreter) which dynamically "executes" the machine code in the *.ifo files. (In the case of bluray, this would be like an interpreter running through the BD+ javascript code to figure out what code is essential and what code is trash).

One easy way to cause an interpreter to run for hours on end in such a setup, is to fool it into falling into an infinite loop. Basically causing it to chase its own tail. If the interpreter has no easy way of detecting an infinite loop, then it will keep on running until the program crashes or the computer is turned off.

In contrast, static parsing of the *.ifo files in a non-dynamic manner wouldn't get fooled into running an infinite loop. (Static parsing is basically like reading the code listing printed out on a piece of paper from start to finish, without paying attention to the execution logic).

I looked through some recent Lionsgate titles I have to see where there might be some possible machine code sections in the *.ifo files, which might possibly cause an infinite loop. It turns out there were indeed a few sections of *.ifo code which potentially could fool a virtual machine into running an infinite loop, which I overlooked previously.

My guess is Sony/Lionsgate's drm designers guessed how some parts of anydvd's general algorithm functioned through trial and error, and found a situation where it can be fooled into running an infinite loop. Though I would imagine this is a one-time-deal for Lionsgate, since anydvd's developers/engineers would just modify anydvd to avoid being fooled a second time by the same (or similar) infinite loops.


(More generally).

A drm construct which fools anydvd/dvdfab into falling into an infinite loop, is basically the equivalent of a precision weapon which turns the program into a WMD against itself. It only works under certain precise conditions, where anydvd/dvdfab can just modify their algorithm to easily bypass such infinite loops completely.

I don't know if this is a sign of Sony/Lionsgate changing their drm design MO from a multi-headed hydra, to that of a precision guided WMD.
 
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DaveF

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I don’t suppose you’d want to create your own thread for these topics? This thread on my particular media computer has sort of run off in a new direction.

You might find more use in having a thread more
focused on the topics you care about. :)
 

jcroy

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If there's more to say about this line of thought, I'll start my own thread. :)

Though at this point, I suspect there isn't much more to talk about in regard to dvd/bluray drm.

DRM that is designed to behave like a precision WMD in the service of total destruction (ie. via infinite loops), is just about the absolute end of the line. There isn't much more one can design (or conjecture), that is even more extreme in terms of annoyance and/or destruction.
 
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jcroy

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Win10’s auto updates and Intel’s recent drivers are giving me grief. Intels drivers as of May have HDMI sync problems. And Windows auto updates like to install the newer intel drivers, breaking my media playback. I lost a week to this problem, debugging and ultimately doing a complete recovery from a backup drive.

(More generally).

Nowadays I don't bother updating the operating system and drivers on my dedicated htpc machines. My current htpc box still has the old factory default win8 which hasn't been updated at all. This machine has never been connected to the internet, and probably never will be. (Wifi, etc ... have all been disabled).

As long as it works and my hardware isn't changed.

The only programs I do change frequently, are periodic updates of VLC and madVR. Otherwise, it is relatively unchanged.


(One day I should update the windows defender definitions).
 

DaveF

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Win10 auto updates. It’s not defeatable unless you take the machine offline, to my knowledge.
 

jcroy

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Win10 auto updates can actually be turned off in a roundabout way.

In the Administrative Tools part of the Control Panel, there is the Services program. In Services one can turn off "Windows Update" which can disable any auto updates. This is what I do to turn off any auto updates.

It is a matter of turning windows update back on in services, to enable updates.
 

DaveF

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Win10 auto updates can actually be turned off in a roundabout way.

In the Administrative Tools part of the Control Panel, there is the Services program. In Services one can turn off "Windows Update" which can disable any auto updates. This is what I do to turn off any auto updates.

It is a matter of turning windows update back on in services, to enable updates.
Thanks. Almost at wit's end, I tried a variant on this (turned on "metered connection") and have stopped updates. My graphics driver has been stable for about a month. Whew!

I've thought about some of the more sophisticated approaches, similar to what you described, that supposedly let you selectively disable specific updates while allowing other major updates to happen.

But, things are stable so I'm not touching it. :)
 

DaveF

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An update on my 2016 HPTC:

  • Hardware is stable for nearly three years. I had a single hard drive anomaly early on, but it was a fluke and has never repeated.
    • I upgraded the CPU fan to a bigger slower heat pipe fan combo, adjusted the fan settings, and it's basically silent now.
  • Software stability is less so.
    • Intel IGP drivers have been a major problem for me: anything newer than Fall 2017 break refresh-rate switching
    • Windows 10 auto-updates confound the above problem because they update the Intel drivers, breaking my system
    • Emby Server and Emby Theater updates have the practical outcome of "upgrade a little, break a little" and I'm constantly chasing annoyances.
    • Emby added support for multiple movie versions in the Theatrical vs Directors sense (vs different encoded bitrates), which I'd been asking for.
    • My big gripe, and recurring request, is to restore audio-track labels (e.g. "Dolby Atmos" and "Commentary"). This worked for about two years, and then disappeared unannounced. I've been waiting for over a year for it to be restored. So far there are only non-committal statements that they're working on it. But it's a crucial feature for me in an HTPC system. If I found another server software system supported this, I'd really consider switching.
  • nVidia Shield is now my Emby Theater front end. It's great little device, stable the way integrated streaming boxes are. It doesn't have all the features of Emby Theater on Windows, but it doesn't have all the quirks and bugs of the Windows application. Particularly, the Shield supports refresh rate switching without all the problems within Emby on Windows. So I've become a fan of the Shield and only use Emby on Windows for the server and the rare 3D viewing.
  • I have about 150GB remaining of my 9 TB capacity. I have 3x5TB drives with one parity drive.
    • I bought and ripped Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse last night. That included the 4K, HD (with 4K Atmos track muxed in), HD directors cut, and special features. That's about 100GB total drive space.
    • If I upgraded to a 4K projector, I could recover 250+ GB simply deleting duplicate HD tracks.
    • Or I could delete duplicate 4K rips that I can't watch, knowing I could waste time re-ripping them later
    • Or I could delete some demo discs and/or TV series I don't really need
    • Or I could add storage
 

Mysto

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An update on my 2016 HPTC:

  • Hardware is stable for nearly three years. I had a single hard drive anomaly early on, but it was a fluke and has never repeated.
    • I upgraded the CPU fan to a bigger slower heat pipe fan combo, adjusted the fan settings, and it's basically silent now.
  • Software stability is less so.
    • Intel IGP drivers have been a major problem for me: anything newer than Fall 2017 break refresh-rate switching
    • Windows 10 auto-updates confound the above problem because they update the Intel drivers, breaking my system
    • Emby Server and Emby Theater updates have the practical outcome of "upgrade a little, break a little" and I'm constantly chasing annoyances.
    • Emby added support for multiple movie versions in the Theatrical vs Directors sense (vs different encoded bitrates), which I'd been asking for.
    • My big gripe, and recurring request, is to restore audio-track labels (e.g. "Dolby Atmos" and "Commentary"). This worked for about two years, and then disappeared unannounced. I've been waiting for over a year for it to be restored. So far there are only non-committal statements that they're working on it. But it's a crucial feature for me in an HTPC system. If I found another server software system supported this, I'd really consider switching.
  • nVidia Shield is now my Emby Theater front end. It's great little device, stable the way integrated streaming boxes are. It doesn't have all the features of Emby Theater on Windows, but it doesn't have all the quirks and bugs of the Windows application. Particularly, the Shield supports refresh rate switching without all the problems within Emby on Windows. So I've become a fan of the Shield and only use Emby on Windows for the server and the rare 3D viewing.
  • I have about 150GB remaining of my 9 TB capacity. I have 3x5TB drives with one parity drive.
    • I bought and ripped Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse last night. That included the 4K, HD (with 4K Atmos track muxed in), HD directors cut, and special features. That's about 100GB total drive space.
    • If I upgraded to a 4K projector, I could recover 250+ GB simply deleting duplicate HD tracks.
    • Or I could delete duplicate 4K rips that I can't watch, knowing I could waste time re-ripping them later
    • Or I could delete some demo discs and/or TV series I don't really need
    • Or I could add storage
I only have 8TB so I feel your pain. With 4K we again are outgrowing current storage solutions. (I'm still at 1080 and I'm losing space)
I too, have settled on the Shield and for now don't see me ever going back.
Yours sounds like a nice set up- thanks for sharing.
 

DaveF

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Long story short: I think last night convinced me to move the HTPC into maintenance mode and not upgrade storage. All purchases will require to have codes or even be online only, for MA use. And my eventual 4K upgrade path will assume streaming as the foundation (not a secondary nice to have).


As noted, I'm out of storage in my HTPC. I've been discussing, most recently in the HTF Podcast #3, the tensions between buying discs or streams. This is even more a tension for an HTPC owner. I bought Spider-Verse last night. I spent the evening ripping, and sorting, and de-muxing, and re-muxing to get the movie into my HTPC. It's 1-3 hrs to fully go from disk to media system. Granted, I'm a crazy person, and keep commentaries and special features, and I hunt down trailers, and I mux Atmos tracks from 4K into HD.

Compare to:
  1. Type code into MoviesAnywhere.
  2. Digital library enhanced
MoviesAnywhere basically gives me everything I was going after in an HTPC, and more:
  • Diskless library (don't need shelves as "decor" in my living room or theater)
  • On-screen and in-app browsing / viewing of my library on every device I own
  • Special features
MoviesAnywhere extra goodness:
  • Much cheaper: no added cost for maintaining and upgrading a multi-terabyte NAS
    • The smart choice to upgrade my HTPC right now would be to buy two of these 10TB drives, for $460 total,
    • That would be a 150% bump in available storage, giving me ~13TB free, which would last me another 3+ years of 4K purchases, easy
    • The math for those unfamiliar:
      • 10TB (new) -> 10TB Parity
      • 10TB (new) -> 10TB Storage (new)
      • 5TB Parity (currently) -> 5TB Storage (new)
      • Formatting losses make it ~13TB new capacity
  • No time commitment: don't have to spend hours ripping and muxing discs or doing IT support on the HTPC...or the infrequent but real stress of upgrading drive storage
  • SAF much, much higher
MoviesAnywhere weakness:
  • HTPC has *everything*, but MoviesAnywhere is just the movies I bought in the past year
  • HTPC keeps TV series (especially, relative to prior comment)
  • HTPC is still best ultimate quality
  • HTPC scratches a nerd/engineer itch to fiddle with something techy but also useful
  • Word is, at present an HTPC can give the best HDR->SDR mapping for projector use, if you spend for a GPU and nerd out on getting MadVR working
 

DaveF

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Even though my plan is evolving towards streaming longer term, currently my HTPC RAID is completely full. The 8TB WD EasyStore went on sale a couple of weeks ago for $130, so I bought one to upgrade my storage cheaply.

I shucked the 8TB Easystore drive this weekend, which went pretty easily. No broken tabs so I could reassemble it if needed. It's a white label WD80EMAZ, as expected. I connected it to my computer and as expected it wasn't seen. According to this reddit, my Corsair RM550x PSU won't handle the SATA 3.3V pin issue.
https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/7fx0i0/wd_easystore_8tb_compendium/

I taped over the first three pins with some clear packing tape (with help from my wife). That worked, the drive powered up and was seen in BIOS.
https://imgur.com/a/BFdmB
https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/7g2v9o/33v_pin_reset_directions_d/dqg9b74

A fast online order for pickup of an overpriced $10 SATA cable from the local BestBuy (vs a $4 from MicroCenter that's 45 min away on a rainy Monday), and I had the drive installed in my Silverstone case a few hours later. It's a mess in the case, and I'm now maxed practically with four RAID drives, SSD, and blu-ray.

I reinstalled the HTPC in my theater rack, booted, got the drive formatted, and looked up the SnapRAID FAQ for replacing the parity drive. It's fortunately trivial: copy the parity data file from the old parity drive to the new last parity drive. Windows said it was going to take 8 hrs to copy that 4.5TB file, so I quit for the night.

This evening, I completed the reconfiguration: Confirmed snapRAID syncing worked with the new parity drive. Then formatted the old parity drive and added it to the DrivePool with the other two data drives. That done, I updated the snapRAID configuration file and again confirmed syncing worked with the updated arrangment.

Now I have have 3 x 5 TB Data + 8TB Parity. Hopefully the shucked drive works fine over the long run. With 5TB (4.5TB formatted) additional, that's about 100-200 more HD or UHD discs, which should last me a couple of years. Long enough to get to EOL on this HTPC and into whatever is next. :)

Drive Pool 3 Data.PNG Shucked Drive Added for 3+1 SnapRAID.PNG
 

Josh Steinberg

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I have a stupid question and I think you’re probably the right guy to ask, but I don’t mean to hijack your HTPC discussion too far off course.

I’m thinking I want to reduce, rather than completely eliminate, the amount of media I have on display. I’m most interested in getting rid of DVDs since they tend to occupy the most space physically on the shelf, while being among my least watched items. There are some older movies and shows that are probably never coming to HD or streaming and while I do want to keep watching them, I don’t necessarily need the plastic.

In my home theater setup I already have an Oppo and a PS4 and both can play media files pretty well.

Assuming I don’t care about elegance in file browsing and don’t mind using the remote’s audio and subtitle buttons to toggle between options, is there any reason why it wouldn’t work to use my existing home computer to make digital copies in some format that doesn’t compress the movies any further, and play them off a hard drive with the Oppo or PS4 instead of building a full on HTPC?

It seems so easy in theory that I’m worried I must be missing something major.
 

DaveF

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I have a stupid question and I think you’re probably the right guy to ask, but I don’t mean to hijack your HTPC discussion too far off course.

I’m thinking I want to reduce, rather than completely eliminate, the amount of media I have on display. I’m most interested in getting rid of DVDs since they tend to occupy the most space physically on the shelf, while being among my least watched items. There are some older movies and shows that are probably never coming to HD or streaming and while I do want to keep watching them, I don’t necessarily need the plastic.

In my home theater setup I already have an Oppo and a PS4 and both can play media files pretty well.

Assuming I don’t care about elegance in file browsing and don’t mind using the remote’s audio and subtitle buttons to toggle between options, is there any reason why it wouldn’t work to use my existing home computer to make digital copies in some format that doesn’t compress the movies any further, and play them off a hard drive with the Oppo or PS4 instead of building a full on HTPC?

It seems so easy in theory that I’m worried I must be missing something major.
Hmmm...maybe not as easily as I expected. It appears oppo doesn’t play dvd iso. It will play backups of BD and UHD, though.
https://watershade.net/wmcclain/UDP-203-faq.html#how-do-i-play-full-disc-blu-ray-and-uhd-backups

Might be able to rip and extract video files to play on the oppo. I don’t have one, so will have to google more later.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Is your HTPC playing disc ISOs or MKV files? I was thinking more along the lines of ripping things into MKV or something like that, and throwing them on a hard drive.
 

Mysto

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Is your HTPC playing disc ISOs or MKV files? I was thinking more along the lines of ripping things into MKV or something like that, and throwing them on a hard drive.
I hope it's OK to butt in. I have all of my DVD's on an 8TB drive that I bought from Costco. They have been ripped uncompressed in to MKVs. There is a program on the internet that will do that that is offered for free. I use a Shield/Kodi to play them. Really saves space as all my DVDs are now stored away in a closet.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I hope it's OK to butt in. I have all of my DVD's on an 8TB drive that I bought from Costco. They have been ripped uncompressed in to MKVs. There is a program on the internet that will do that that is offered for free. I use a Shield/Kodi to play them. Really saves space as all my DVDs are now stored away in a closet.

I guess that kind of gets to the heart of my question, and thanks for the feedback - is there any reason I have to use a Kodi to play it back, or can I just use my Oppo disc player? I know it'll play MKV files, so the questions is more, is there a reason why it would be a bad practice to rely on my Oppo's playback vs. buying a dedicated machine?
 

DaveF

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Is your HTPC playing disc ISOs or MKV files? I was thinking more along the lines of ripping things into MKV or something like that, and throwing them on a hard drive.
Mostly MKV but also ISO. I've ripped all Blu-Rays and UHD and extracted the MKVs. That works best with media-service software like Emby and Plex. But it's more work. I have all my DVDs in ISO because it's not been worth the time to convert them to MKV, as I really don't rewatch DVDs. But if I want to, my server software will launch PowerDVD and play them in that.

From my quick research, I think you've got these options:
  • Oppo and PS4 play MKV from external media (USB thumb drive, network drive, etc.) natively. You can rip and transcode the main feature from a DVD into an MKV with Handbrake or MakeMKV.
  • If you want to only rip to ISO, Oppo and PS4 can't play it. If you have a Win PC, you can buy a standard copy of PowerDVD and play back ISOs. Connect the PC to the TV or projector by HDMI and you're done. (There are some freeware ISO players but I'm not familiar with them, as I bought PDVD. Though I'm an Apple guy, I do my HTPC on Windows so can't recommend macOS solutions here)
  • Media Server. This is really the first option of ripping and transcoding everything to MKV, but with extra hardware and software to make the whole affair more robust and "Netflix" like. If you want to dabble, I suggest looking into a NAS or an Nvidia Shield as they can run Plex or Emby server, and have uses beyond being a media server that might be useful to you.
The simple truth of this is: It's not hard. But it can be time consuming. The easiest way to see if it's any good, is just to rip a DVD or two and see what you think.

If I lived nearby, I'd pop over for a Saturday and help you get started to see if it's really of use to you. But, I don't have NYC plans for this year. :)
 

Josh Steinberg

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I have all my DVDs in ISO because it's not been worth the time to convert them to MKV

I’m wondering if in my case, it just might be worth doing that.

I’m cool with the idea of ripping and converting stuff, but I’m less enthused about buying a computer to use as a media server. So maybe the long term project might be to make MKVs, which has the advantage of files that are playable on my system, that retain the extra commentary tracks and such, but don’t recompress the file into something even more lossy than DVD.

I almost feel like I want to see how the next few years of media charges go before deciding how to deal with this. If we’re in a majority streaming world in five years, then maybe building a legacy HTPC for all discs I own makes sense. In other words, maybe I should drop my half measure idea now until the future is more clear.
 

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