Your Top Ten Developments of 2011

Written by Dadeo on .

First, thanks to all who proposed suggestions in the Comments thread and voted on the poll. Although the results speak for themselves, I thought it would be interesting to elaborate a bit on the top ten developments you selected for 2011.

What a great year for MediaPortal!  I hope I have not forgotten anyone or anything. There was so much development in so many areas in 2011, it is not easy to stay on top of it all! Read on to see what I mean. Development of MediaPortal shows no signs of slowing down for 2012. So fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride!

1. Stability

The increased stability of MediaPortal in 2011, was the top development selected, by far. It reflects a huge effort by the whole community, including those who test alpha, beta and RC releases, submit bug reports, submit patches to fix issues or add new features,  and develop our top notch extensions. In 2011 we increased our number of testers and developers significantly. They donated many hours of their time to improve stability and ensure it was maintained with all the new features we added to MediaPortal 1.2.0. With the vast array of hardware and configurations, and the flexibility MediaPortal offers, this is no small achievement!  It is one many popular commercial applications would envy and I think the entire community should be incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.

2. MediaPortal Extension Installer (MPEI)

2011 saw our Extension installer really take off!  Originally developed by Dukus and released in 2010, now over 110 extensions use MPEI and make installing, updating and uninstalling your extensions a breeze.  In 2011, arion_p developed a Version Compatibility system for MediaPortal which Migue then incorporated into MPEI, so you never need to worry about installing incompatible extensions again!  Thanks for making our lives so much easier!

We know there is still room for improvement, notably that extensions installed via other extensions are not recognized by MPEI, and we hope to see even more great developments of the user interface and integration with MP in 2012!

Extensions plugin

I have added the Extensions plugin here, since it depends on MPEI, even though it received enough votes for the top ten on its own. 

The Extensions plugin is a companion to the Extensions Installer (MPEI) which allows you to perform most of the same functions within the MediaPortal GUI.  It was originally developed by Dukus, who added the Website view in 2011 so you can browse the Plugins and Skins Downloads Repository from within MediaPortal. Version compatibility was incorporated by Migue. Then lftearme used his magic touch to make many significant improvements and fixes to the graphic user interface (GUI), which improved performance, functionality and appearance.

As a result, many skins have now implemented a notification/update button when updates to your extensions are available. Some extensions have started to implement the features to allow you to change extension settings from within the Extensions plugin. Life with MediaPortal is just getting so much easier!

3. Improved performance (faster GUI)

The improved performance is the result of many developments across the board. It is beyond my skill set to comprehend the machinations deep in the code!  However, I know many developers, like armanp, davidf, gibman, SilentException and tourettes spent many hours finding and closing up memory leaks and making other performance improvements.  I suspect Inker's addition of Image Caching, plus the improved performance in TV Guide had a lot to do with it too!

4. TV-Server

With almost 200 fixes, reworks and features added to TV-Server in 2011, it's hard to say which ones were most significant! Let's just say the tireless work of many developers, like mm1352000 (our new lead developer for TV-Server), gibman, sebasitiii, tourettes, Migue, gemx, jameson_uk, SilentException, MisterD, arion_p, morpheus_xx, miroslav22, ajp8164, MrHipp, chemelli, Stepko, riksmith, Seidlein and othersreally paid off. Congrats on the huge success, and thanks guys!

The following developments might have had a lot to do with your votes:

  • support for Hauppauge Colossus TV Card
  • improved performance in Live TV especially on multiseat setups
  • increased performance of channel select
  • smoother fast forward up to 4x (the maximum supported by Windows 7)
  • Comskip support on recorded TV programs in multiseat setups (using RTSP)
  • Closed Captions in fullscreen TV
  • Enhanced Subtitles support
  • Channel filtering in TV-Server Config
  • Test Channels in TV-Server Config
  • Set Program Reminder
The integration in MediaPortal of the WebEPG plugin (to grab TV Guide data from local web providers) was also a huge hit!
 
We are still hoping to improve support for North American TV standards and TV Guide (EPG) data now that we have more North American developers and testers on-board!

5. Skins and Skin Enhancements

I am going to use a bit of poetic license here to group Skins and Skin Enhancements together. There were many awesome new creative skins including HD versions, released in 2011.  Many of you mentioned, and voted for:

Plus many of you voted for the great developments in the long time favorite skin StreamedMP - by trevor and ltfearme.

These new skins and developments could not have taken place without the many new features and improvements added to our Skin Engine by ajp8164, Migue, SilentException, Marvman, jameson_uk, and others - such as the new coverflow layout, improved (and conditional) animations, improved scrolling, image masks, skinnable virtual keyboards and skin expressions developed by arion_p - to mention just a few of the more obvious ones.

6. Wiki

Our new Wiki really matured in 2011, with much more detailed and expanded content, vastly improved documentation of development by the whole Team, and more extensions providing documentation in our Wiki.  Thanks to all who contributed, especially our developers (you know how much they love writing docs!) and our awesome new Docs guys: vuego, rogerleifert and wonkyd.

We have plans for even more great improvements in 2012 - such as a new way of documenting the changes to latest releases in the What's New section, so you can view a 'mini-guide' for alpha, beta and RC releases.  We also hope to improve our User Guides and make it much easier for everyone to contribute such guides and tutorials.

7. Hyperlink Support

In 2011 DieBagger introduced a 'simple', yet elegant and powerful patch for MediaPortal to open plugins with a parameter. It allows you to select a menu option in Videos, Moving Pictures, or My Films etc. and find related trailers via the OnlineVideos plugin, subtitles via the SubCentral plugin, or related recommended movies via the Trakt plugin.  Or, you can find related artists/music videos between the Youtube.fm and mvCentral or Pandora plugins. 

It also allows you to open plugins to a specific view/site/part of the plugin, such as open OnlineVideos to your favorite video web stream.  It makes the user interface in MediaPortal even more intuitive and offers almost infinite possibilities. In 2012, I am sure we will see our talented extension developers come up with even more creative ways to use this feature!

8. Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures (developed by fforde, armandp and ZealotSix) has long been a favorite, some would say even essential, extension for MediaPortal. While it was not clear exactly which new developments you were voting for, I suspect they related to the links to Trailers and Subtitles, the new ReScan now feature, ability to set the size of thumbnails, and the addition of follw.it support.

IMDb+

It's also likely that many of you were thinking of the IMDb+ scraper and plugin which was not added to the poll until later. Developed by RoChess, IMDb+ allows you to select scraper options, control titles and editions, ratings, and much more!

9. MPExtended

Although MPExtended is still in development, it managed to make it to the top ten anyway. That should give you a clue how significant it will be in 2012! 

MPExtended is actually a group of multiple applications:

  • WCF Services for both the client and TV server, allowing easy access to the databases for developers.
  • A streaming service with on-the-fly transcoding to allow watching media and TV on computers, tablets and smartphones.
  • WebMediaPortal, a webinterface for MediaPortal.
  • Others are developing clients based upon the services for Android, iOS and MP2.

MPExtended is the successor of the separate projects TV4Home, GmaWebService and MPWebStream. Here's a chart, courtesy of Lyfesaver74, to show you how it integrates in MediaPortal.

mpex

Kudos to all the developers: Oxan, Mike Lowrey, DieBagger for making sure MediaPortal remains viable in the web and mobile dominated future!

aMPdroid

aMPdroid, developed by DieBagger, is one of the programs using MPExtended. It allows MediaPortal users to remote control their HTPC, browse and stream their video or music collection and program their TV using Android powered devices such as HTC Desire HD, Nexus S, Galaxy SII,, etc. It almost made it to the top ten on its own, so I squeezed it in here! It certainly extends access to MediaPortal for those on the go! 

10. Version Compatibility

As I mentioned above under MPEI, in 2011 arion_p developed a new version compatibility system to ensure plugins are compatible with your current installed version of MediaPortal.  In the past, changes to the MediaPortal code base could cause some plugins to break or misbehave. The result was often an unstable system. Plus there was no way to figure out which plugins were causing the issues other than trial and error.

While this development may not be as obvious as some others, that is only a sign of how well it was implemented!  I suspect it may be one of the reasons why stability is rated as the top development of 2011!

Honorable mentions

Installer (Deploy Tool)

I think it is worth noting the improvements made to our installer in 2011, especially the ease of updating MediaPortal to new versions. I want to offer a special thanks to chemelli for all the work he put into it. I know many users have appreciated it in the News release threads and I apologize for not thinking to add it to the poll.

Videos and Music

In addition, the great improvements Deda made to the Videos feature of MediaPortal, and jameson_uk and hwahrmann made to the Music feature almost made it to the top ten. If you read the forum threads you will see how much their work is appreciated by many users. As these developments are still in process, there will be a lot more coming in 2012, so watch out!

Plugins

2011 also saw incredible development of MediaPortal plugins, several of which were suggested as top ten developments, for good reason:

  • mvCentral - originally based on the previous mVids plugin by jburnette and the subsequent Music Videos plugin by metalla_nz,  trevor (with the assistance of Gup who sadly passed away from cancer) released the first version of mvCentral in 2011.  It added many incredible enhancements like support for more file and folder names, scraping from Last.fm and Discogs; viewing your music videos by artist, album or genre; integration with the Youtube.fm plugin; and a whole lot more. The plugin has already been a huge success. 
  • My Films - in 2011 Guzzi resurrected the ever popular My Films plugin (orignally developed by zebons, titof and OrionHall).  The release of version 5 was more like the phoenix rising from the ashes! It introduced many ground breaking features never before seen in MediaPortal, such as context related searching, integration of local trailers in your database, multi-user watch status, centralized databases (and images) on a network, batch import of new movies and update by field in the GUI. The new grabber engine allows you to customize all grabbers (not only IMDb) to your heart's content.  The impact of Guzzi's work benefits the whole MediaPortal community as it sets the bar for revolutionary advanced features which other plugins have now begun to implement.
  • OnlineVideos - now supports streaming videos from over 300 different web sites. Offbyone and the OV team also enabled 'on-the-fly' site updates, 'seeking' to unbuffered content and support for LAV filters (also developed by Offbyone) to support playback of even more video streams. 
  • Youtube.fm - or should I say 'mega' Youtube.fm?  With the release of version 8, Dukus developed the plugin to a whole new level by adding support for more chart lists like Billboard, Vevo, top Last.fm tracks and. Eurovision; menu options for related videos and similar artists, browsing by Artist or country; display of file type (HD/SD), watched and download status or progress; play statistics; a whole new info screen to display artist and video details; and integration with mvCentral and other plugins.  With a host of new skin properties, ysmp assisted Dukus by creating some polished new Default skin files to show off all the new features.

Well the list goes on and on. With over 60 new extensions added to our Plugins and Skins Downloads Repository in 2011, and even more updated with major enhancements and new features, I would highly recommend you read Lyfesaver's Blogs - While You Were Sleeping: Plugins #1 and While You Were Sleeping: Plugins #2. Posted on Friday every four weeks, these Blogs are worthy of an honorable mention themselves!

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