SG!TV – Plugin for XBMC and Plex for Singapore TV

The SG!TV Plugin or Channel for XBMC/Plex is launched.  SG!TV allows you to re-watch or catch up the local Mediacorp (Singapore) shows that you have missed direct from your HTPC client. Miss last night channel 8 drama serial?  Fire up the app and look for the show or find it through the latest highlights.  This is the current beta version but both browsing of channels and the latest shows are all working. It is currently working for Singapore viewers only as I believe the website does check for the IP location before allowing access to the stream. Also, it works great for our overseas friend as well, so if you are a Singaporean staying aboard, this is a great way to watch or catch up your favourite Mediacorp shows. The screenshots below show the XBMC client and the local channels  that are available.

XBMC – Channel Select
XBMC – Episode Select
XBMC – Playback

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Some major updates to the SG!TV Plugin.

It now shows Channelnewsasia video and live feed if you are based in Singapore.

There’s also local wahbanana channel for some random laughs.

Lastly, there’s Viddsee.

Viddsee is a local Singapore start up that curates the best short films from Asia. Viddsee serves up seven recommended short Asian films for your viewing pleasure each week on the home screen.

Currently, both the XBMC and Plex plugins are at a similar stage of development. It has currently been tested on both the Windows version of XBMC and Plex. As XBMC uses a unified software base, it should work across all the platforms. As for Plex, there are some problems in playing the stream directly through clients that do not support the stream protocol and the transcoding option should be set to preferred. This was verified on my Android devices. Next up are the screenshots of the Plex channel.

Plex – Channel Select
Plex – Episode Select
Plex – Playback

As for the bugs / Upcoming feature list:

  1. Unable to get episodes of shows if it span across multiple pages.
  2. Option to select stream quality. Currently it plays the highest available.
  3. Search function to be incorporated.
  4. to be discovered!

Download:

Appreciate if you do not direct link to the files, instead refer them to my website, thanks. Also, if you like the plugin, help me share or like this page on Facebook so that the word gets around. Thank you!

(PLEX) – SGtv.bundle

Installation instructions:

For Plex :

  1. Go to C:UserUsernameAppDataLocalPlex Media ServerPlug-ins
  2. Unzip the folder
  3. Restart your Plex Media Server
  4. Start your Plex Media Client and navigate to the channels directory
For XBMC :
  1. Get it from the official XBMC repository

Thanks for reading. I hope you like the Plugin / Addon and if you have any comments or suggestions, I look forward to receiving your feedback.

htpc-xbmc-vs-plex

HTPC: XBMC vs Plex… Winner? Read on

Interested to hear about the Pros and Cons of XBMC and Plex?

Well, I have been messing with Home Theater PCs or HTPCs for short since I bought the xbox in 2005 and loaded XBMC on it. Computers have evolved, becoming much more integrated with our daily lives.  The term, HTPC, had been coined years ago but has grown popularity in the recent years with the booming growth of the HDTV market. The phone is also the new age media device, just look at the number of people watching shows on their iPhones and S3s on the buses and trains. TVs have become smarter too, but I still like to use a HTPC for now. Its more customisable, can load more types of streaming content and I can even game through it. But its a matter of time before more efficient devices like the Android miniPCs take over.


XBMC on top, Plex on bottom, don’t they look similar

Well, I digress. The original topic of discussion was XBMC vs Plex. They are both HTPC software. XBMC is a standalone media center that you install onto your device, Windows, Mac, iOS and now even Android. Plex is more complicated. It is divided into two portions, a server where you host local media, as well as to load and share plugins and web-content. Plex Media Center is the front-end media player component and you might realise that it looks very similar to XBMC, that is because Plex had the same developmental roots and forked off in 2008. I would possibly consider XBMC to somewhat like an OS replacement as it is able to launch applications with the plugins and is inherently more customisable wheras Plex strength lies in the fact that the server can support multiple clients.

Installation & Setup: XBMC wins. XBMC as a single piece of software and is way easier to setup and get it off running. Plex requires a bit more attention, due to the uniqueness of the host and server setup. There might be firewall issues to navigate as Plex uses a MyPlex online server setting to broadcast your server. There are some advantages when you start to load it to more devices as basically, only the server needs to be setup. The applications and library are all pulled from the central server. XBMC while easy, requires more effort to duplicate the setup. Due to the initial ease of use, XBMC wins.

Media Support & Playback: Both have no issues supporting streams, MP4s, rmvbs, H264s, avis, etc. Certain reviews do indicate that Plex have issues playing 1080p media files as compared to XBMC but I do not face that problem yet. However, one key area which to me Plex is lacking is the availability of Airplay. The beauty of XBMC is that Airplay is built-in. With XBMC on my HTPC, I can stream media from my phone or video that my friend sent to me over email or Whatsapp directly to the TV. That is something not achievable in Plex. XBMC wins.

Device & Media Distribution: Plex allows small clients to be installed onto devices like Smart Samsung/LG TVs, Android Phones, iPhones etc where they retrieve the media from the server. The advantage here is that Plex supports transcoding and delivery of a format that can be played to these devices. XBMC on the other hand, does not offer the ability to transcode or stream media. With XBMC now available on increasing number of devices, the difference is that the media needs to be duplicated across all or at least shared via a local library. Today, XBMC has made its way to the iPad and Android devices and can play just about every filetype that is available (Android, not so, due to hardware decoding issues). Over the coming years, these devices will, more and more, be cheap enough and simple enough to erase the need for thin clients a thing of the past, to the point that the only value of a server will be in maintaining a consistent library of watched and unwatched material across devices. For now, Plex wins. If you have a Samsung or LG Smart TV, do try out the Plex application to make your Smart TV even smarter.

Database Management: All of us have plenty of data stored in our computers. This ranges from music collection to movie librarys and personal photo albums. A HTPC provides access to all this in a consistent and often elegant interface. It is meant as an entertainment device and provides easy access to your data through your TV or projector, without the requirements of digging deep into our PC folder structure. Both have no problem doing this. Plex has a central database which means all clients get their metadata from a central place. This allows global ‘watched’, ‘resume from’, metadata edits etc. In comparison, XBMC is a distributed model. Each client has it’s own database which means you can’d do things like start watching in the lounge and ‘resume from’ the bedroom. Or watching a show on the bus and continuing where you left off on the living room TV when you return home. If you have multiple device support, all can share the same database so its streamlined across all.

Addons: XBMC has a way larger database and this shows with the number of addons. If you are looking for a specific type of application, there are much better chance to find it on XBMC. However, the popular video channels such as Youtube, Revision3, Hulu etc do make it to both XBMC and Plex. With that being said, Plex offers the Plex It bookmark to easily transfer web content to your Plex Media Center or media devices. The addons also look more polished on Plex, perhaps the API and backend might be better for acquiring content. Draw.

Cost: While both are free, Plex clients for the Android and iOS do cost money. Just today, PlexPass just launched as well at US$3.99 per month and it provides premium features to the subscribers. One of the newest feature is the Plex web client which allows easier management of your media and to play it straight from the browser.

To summarise it all, it is a close call between this two very similar piece of software and it really depends on your usage. I currently am swaying towards Plex due to the multiple client, single setup feature as I do own a couple of devices that i watch on the go, an iPad and an Android phone, and for the ability to synchronise the playlist. Next is because some of my channel plugins just seem to work better on Plex. However, for instances when I want to deploy a standalone media center such as an Android PC connected to a TV, I would greatly prefer XBMC for its standalone features. I still have both software installed, and I do use the XBMC addon PleXBMC which grafts the Plex Media Server access into XBMC. Its not the best implementation and it feels rather clunky to use as a separate addon, but with some dedication to it, it might be the solution that brings the best of XBMC and Plex together.

Which camps allow Camera Phones?

From Saturday, active servicemen and NSmen can bring their camera-enabled smartphones into 14 army camps. The list of camps are primarily training institutes so if you are a NSmen in one of these area, rejoice! The list would be reviewed in about 6 to 9 months time and would hopefully expand by then. Interestingly, there are only army camps for now, none of the navy or airforce institutes make the list. Well, if you have to visit camps not on the list, how about the Huawei Honor or iNo-One?

14 camps and their Green zones:

– Bedok Camp (Bedok Fitness Conditioning Centre (FCC) )
– Maju Camp (Maju FCC )
– Khatib Camp (Khatib FCC & Artillery Institute)
– Kranji Camp II (Kranji FCC & Motorised Infantry Training Institute )
– Kranji Camp III (Army Logistic Training Institute & Human Resource Institute)
– Jurong Camp II (Infantry Training Institute)
– Clementi Camp (Infantry Combat Training Centre III)
– Seletar Camp (Engineer Training Centres)
– Pasir Ris Camp (Commando Training Institute)
– Sungei Gedong Camp (Armour Training Institute)
– SAFTI Military Institute (Goh Keng Swee Command & Staff College, SAF Advanced School, Officer Cadet School)
– Pasir Laba Camp (Specialist & Warrant Officers’ Institute, SAF Military Intelligence Institute)
– Pulau Tekong Camp (Basic Military Training Centre)
– Depot Road Camp (Central Manpower Base)

Unlimited Photo Storage with PicasaWeb

Picasa Web Albums offers 1 GB of free storage for photos and videos. However, files under certain size limits don’t count towards this free storage limit. This is crucial. Photos up to 2048 x 2048 pixels and videos up to 15 minutes won’t count towards your free storage and uploads to Picasa Web would be automatically resized to the dimensions. You would need a Google+ account on the same ID to activate this. The free storage sizes are good for sharing photos on the web and for archival, and allows for up to 4R prints. All photos uploaded from the Picasa software or in Picasa Web Albums over the free size limit will count towards your 1 GB of free storage.

It comes in handy in events when your hard drive crashes and there goes all your photo collection. I do not have a habit of backing up my data to a external HDD. Anyway, the chances of the backup failing is actually not that low too. I prefer to trust my backup with one of the biggest technology leader today, Google. I used to use Skydrive for my backup purposes as it offers a whopping 25gb, but I have since started to migrate over to Picasa Web to combine all my data under the Google cloud. As I was going through my collection, I encountered a “Error: Longterm bandwidth exceeded”. This was approximately after 2000 to 3000 photos that had been uploaded and Google has a cap on the monthly bandwidth per account. The exact limit is still unknown but I had to wait for a month before I stopped receiving the error message.

Other handy things about Picasa Web and Google+ is well, photo tagging. This very Facebook-like feature lets anyone in your extended network in Google+ tag people in your public photos. The person tagged is given the option to view the album and share it. If you’ve been tagged by someone in your Circles, the tag is automatically approved. You can remove tags on the photos homepage in Google+ or the Photos tab on your Google Profile. And if you would rather have more control, you can adjust this setting to enable manual approval of tags. If you were already using tagging in Picasa previously, all existing name tags in Picasa remain when you join Google+.

In Summary:

Google Picasa Webs

  • Photo Resolution: Max 2048 x 2048
  • Photo Qty: Unlimited
  • Qty per album: 1000
  • Video: 15 min
  • Privacy: Controlled (Linked to Google+, can be fully private)
  • Face Tagging: Yes

Other options are:

Facebook

  • Photo Resolution: Max 2048 x 2048
  • Photo Qty: Unlimited
  • Qty per album: 200
  • Video: 20 min
  • Privacy: (Linked to Facebook, can be fully private)
  • Face Tagging: Yes

Flickr

  • Photo Resolution: Unlimited
  • Photo Qty: 300mb per month
  • Qty per album: Unlimited
  • Video: 2 videos per month
  • Privacy: Controlled
  • Face Tagging: No

Microsoft Skydrive

  • Photo Resolution: Unlimited
  • Photo Qty: Capped at 25gb
  • Qty per album: Unlimited
  • Video: Capped at 2gb
  • Privacy: Controlled
  • Face Tagging: No

 

Access iPhone Apps, Music, Movies without iTunes

All iPhone users have an iTunes account and the iTunes application to manage the applications, music, movies and other media on your iPhone. However, what about times when you are not at your computer? Or what about the times when you format your computer and without the data on it, your computer would wipe your iOS device and start from scratch. I have been using this application from time to time and it has been a life-saver.

http://www.i-funbox.com/

Its an App/File Manager For iPhone, iPod, and the iPad.

The New iPad is now recognized and file transfer is also optimized for the new device. App inspection is a new feature introduced in this version, which allows you to easily inspect the installed apps for their security permissions as well. App file sharing support is also added. You can now easily access the document folder of Apps that supports “File Sharing”.  Its Free. And, also, no jailbreak needed!

Iit allows users to manage files on your iPhone or iPad in a way just like Windows File Explorer without the need for iTunes. Easily transmit files and folders to your computer with the optimized file transfer and browsing. iOS 5.1 is fully supported. Likewise, for music and media, they can be added and removed with ease.

  • Add & remove music and videos from your iPod
  • Add, remove and edit playlists
  • Add & remove album art
  • View and backup photos
  • Copy music, videos and playlists from your iPod to PC
  • Import music/videos into your iTunes library, including playlists and ratings

So if you are not a big fan of iTunes and only have it installed for your iPhone, do try out this application. More importantly, its free!

Nexus 7: Enable Play Magazines / Books / Movies & TV Shows + Free $25 Credit in Singapore or just not in United States


The Nexus 7 has some free great content for those who buy it now: get $25 credit to spend on Google Play, as well as some great free content, including your own copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Sadly, this is only available in the United States. Also, access to Google Books, Magazines, Movies and TV are also restricted. If you wish to use Google Play Music, read more on our related post.


Ok, now to the important bit …

It is recommended that you wipe your Nexus 7 data and start from scratch.  However, I deleted my Google Account on my Nexus and started at Step 5 and it worked. So try my method first if you already have your N7 set up.

  1. Perform a factory reset.
  2. When you get to the screen to enter Google account skip it.
  3. Uncheck all the check-boxes in next screens.
  4. Now when you got to the home screen, go to settings. Set up your wireless. Under Wireless and Networks click more.
  5. Click on VPN, Add VPN. Now the Nexus 7 will ask you to define security (Pattern,Password,PIN), Define whatever you want.
  6. Click Add VPN again, and enter this definitions: Name: SuperFreeVPN, Server address: superfreevpn.com and click save.
  7. Start the VPN. For login details, refer to superfreevpn.com
  8. Click Connect. If connected successfully you will see a key icon in the notifications.
  9. (If you skip Step 1 to 3, now is the time to delete your current Google account). Go to Settings, under Accounts click Add Account and choose Google. Enter your username and password, if everything is OK you will get to screen that will ask you to enter credit card to Google wallet to receive $25 credit. You can use a non-US credit card. I did mine with a local credit card but YOU must enter a US address. I suggest using your VPOST address?
  10. With VPN avtivated, you can download Google Books, Google Magazines, Google Movies and TV. To activate them, go to add widget and choose “Play – My Library” Widget and click  on it to activate the app. VPN needs to be connected.
  11. You can download the books, magazines and even Transformers and preload them offline. Only Google Movies and TV require a constant VPN connection.

Do note that your credit card details and google account details will be transferred across the VPN. So far, superfreevpn has been considered safe, but if you wish to add a layer of security, you can change your google password first and use a debit card with limited funds.

P.S. Also, if you are going to root your Nexus 7, please do it first as it will wipe the device. Please refer to the Root Nexus 7 post on GadgetReactor.

With root and Titanium Backup, you can defrost all the Google Play Apps and Google Wallet. Why Google Wallet? Because that gives you a prepaid US$10 Mastercard Paypass card. Update: It does work in Singapore at the Paypass Terminal. Verified locations are at Cold Storage and at Burger King and as Tedfox has rightly pointed out, just delete and re-activate your Google Account over VPN. However, the $10 credit offer is over since 17 September 2012.

  1. Repeat steps above for VPN
  2. delete and re-add Google Account.
  3. Use Titanium Backup to defrost wallet. See if its installed else then install the Wallet from /system/app
  4. Start the app and attempt to add the Google Credits, it needs excellent network connection, so if your VPN isn’t fast enough or you’re trying to activate it thru 3G, don’t even bother (it’s actually connecting to the money network)
  5. Its not very consistent so try and let me know if it works for you.

Buy the Android Mini PC MK802 in Singapore

The MK802 II is a tiny computer that fits in the palm of your hands. It looks like a slightly bulky USB flash drive, but it actually has a processor, RAM, storage, and I/O ports, which make it a Mini PC. Running Android 4.0, the MK802 II Mini PC is designed for versatility and convenience. The tiny 200 gram PC can plug directly into any HDMI output for an on the go media player, internet browser, game machine or for general use. It lets you makes your dumb tv smart or your smart tv smarter. Best of all, its only US$69.20!

There’s also a microSD card slot for extra storage, a HDMI plug for connecting an external display, a full-sized USB port for a keyboard, mouse, or other accessory. The device also has a mini USB port which you can use to power the MK802, connect it to a computer, or plug in peripherals.

Specifications

OS Android 4.0.4
Chipset Allwinner A10
Processor Frequency 1.5GHZ
RAM 1GB
Internal Memory 4GB
Memory Card Type TF card up to 32GB
Expansion Slot USB 2.0
External Storage Support USB HDD, up to 1 TB

What is it good for?

Bring your media over to a friend’s house without needing your phone, or never worry about using public PCs again. All of these niche uses give the MK802, and its kind, lots of potential.

Set up was easy enough, just plug it  into an HDMI port and a USB slot for juice (you can use the one on the TV) and that’s all. It takes a few moments to boot up, but once it does, you’re into good old Android. For control, you can plug in a wireless USB keyboard/mouse dongle or through droidmote. It’s an easy way to load up streaming movies or applications such as qvod or ppstream. Or to stream your own media, you can use PLEX.

All media tasks (HD video, YouTube etc,) were handled pretty well. Sometimes there is a bit of a lag on the UI — especially with things like Google Maps, or busy webpages — but in general it keeps up nicely.

Back in the real world, it’s fair to say that it didn’t take long before we got right into the whole Android-on-a-TV thing, and started to wonder about all the apps that might be well suited to this configuration. YouTube is an obvious example, and it worked much better on the MK802 than some native Smart TV apps we’ve seen. Of course, it’s even better when it brings apps to your TV that otherwise might not be available. The more time you spend with this, discovering suitable apps, the better it gets, and we could see some really unique uses for it going forward.



Right now, though, this is a neat little solution that will really appeal to tinkerers and Android fans.  As mentioned above, media playing works a charm, which is makes it a good light solution for dumb TVs, or those with poor app options. For 69.20 USD, it’s a steal, and it’s available through dealextreme.com, click here to buy it now. They do free shipping to Singapore.