Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Android Tablets

I have investigated Android tablets, even though I have an iPad. Why? Well iOS generally doesn’t allow emulators so no Amiga games on your iPad. Android does allow emulation so I can run UAE4Droid or Gameboid and play those classic games I want to. And Android tablets are generally cheaper too. Plus Plex works on Android.

So I looked at the Kindle Fire – a friend went to the states but couldn’t get me one. I also looked at the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet (slightly better spec than Kindle Fire) but the boot loader on that is secured and it isn’t looking like being busted open soon. So less hack possibilities.

Recently I looked at some of the Chinese iPad lookalikes. This one is the favourite so far. Powered by a Rockchip (Chinese clone ARM chip) and offering an 8” capacitive screen (avoid resistive ones!) it has an 800x600 4:3 ratio screen. Ideal for UAE4Droid. I may buy one!


Recently I splurged a little and upgraded by main PC that has server duties. I didn’t really need to as it ran an i5-760 at 4ghz but those Sandy Bridge CPUs tempted me and I found some well priced components. I now have a Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3 (rev1, BIOS F6) with a Core i7-2600K (4 cores plus hyperthreading) running at 4ghz (until I experiment with proper overclocking).

One of the reasons for these choices were to Hackintosh again. I have an iMac (which is lovely) but remain tempted by a little hack. Tonymacx86.com has some good guides and Gigabyte mobos are well supported, with Intel HD3000 graphics supposedly compatible.

Well not for me! I installed Lion using Unibeast USB stick, upgraded to 10.7.2 and used Multibeast to install the kexts and bootloader. But it likes to hang on boot up. This may be related to my hardware (I have additional HDD controllers) but right now I don’t have it working L

Monday, December 5, 2011


Plex was originally a fork from the XBMC project and for MacOS only but it soon covered all major systems and now as well as iOS, Plex supports Android (which XBMC doesn’t). Plex is easy to set up but I am not now using it. My reasons? The ATV2 client for Plex is a bit too buggy and crashes too often for my liking. The PC server software is very slow and loves to scrape for its own thumbnails etc when Sickbeard has already done that. It also crashed plenty of times when importing my (large) library of films and TV shows. However, the Android client was stable and worked well. I may come back to Plex in future. You can also get Plex on GoogleTV boxes and on some TVs (LG and Samsung Smart TVs).

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I am a fan of this HTPC software, as it runs on many platforms such as Linux, Windows, Mac and fairly recently they added iOS so you can run it on your iPad or v2 Apple TV (ATV2). Installing it is quite easy but requires a jailbroken iPad or ATV2 so if you don’t like that idea, stop reading before you upset yourself!

Why run XBMC? Well it is a good interface, highly customisable and integrates well with other apps. For example you can use Sickbeard to download TV shows and automatically add them to your XBMC library. Everything automatic.

But one requirement we have is to watch TV upstairs and downstairs so having a central library which records which shows you have watched and where you are in playback is a big help. Normally XBMC installations have their own libraries but a shared library is possible. I have my two ATV2s and my iPad all operating on the same shared library. Heaven! Some helpful guidance can be found here

With ATV2 XBMC there are further complications and differences from the standard shared library. Primarily you need to allow XBMC to generate the database and ideally you want your thumbnails stored on server too. A key performance tweak is to edit your MySQL INI file to disable name resolving (without this the system is unusable). There is also another major performance hack called Dirty Regions but I haven’t yet felt the need to try that. Sounds a bit dodgy doesn’t it? ;-)