video is best enjoyed on the TV

We recently acquired an Asus O!Play HDP-R1. This is a small box which connects to the TV and the home network so it can play video shared over the network. Since our main source of entertainment is downloaded video, we’d been looking out for something like this for a while, and this one had the right combination of features and price. It’s nice to be able to watch things while slouched in a comfy chair instead of sitting at the PC.

Like quite a few small devices these days, the box runs a version of Linux, and a site has sprung up for people looking into how to modify the firm/software running on it. I haven’t done that myself (except for a firmware update), but I have been trying out ways to feed more content to the box.

First I got it playing DVDs. It doesn’t have a DVD drive, but I can put a DVD in my PC and share it. I basically followed the instructions from this other forum but shared the disk over Samba instead of NFS. It uses ‘dvdreadfs’ so that it effectively decrypts the DVD and then shares the decrypted version. On the video box we just have to navigate into the right Samba share and play the first file listed in video_ts, and it seems to deal with the DVD menu etc. properly.

Next we have it playing YouTube video. This is possible because the recent firmware updates added support for browsing UPnP media shares. The MediaTomb media server software has the capability to share YouTube videos – but you have to build from the latest svn version for it to work. It also requires transcoding software to convert the video from flv into mpeg, which means that it probably won’t work on our file server which is a low power machine. So I built and ran MediaTomb, and changed the config to enable YouTube and point it at my YouTube user account. On the video box we browse into UPnP and YouTube appears under ‘Online Services’. There is quite a delay when opening YouTube videos though.

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