Today I'd like to share with you what our developers are currently working on that will eventually be included in an upcoming release of MediaPortal 1.
For those of you who don't know already, we created a forum section called "Area 51" some time ago to let the community become more involved with the actual development process of new features, reworks and bug fixes. In "Area 51" you can see what we are working on and actually speed up the development by helping us with coding, testing and documenting those changes.
So let us take a look at what our developers are working on at the moment.
Full/Half-Screen issue with HDMI connection - or thats how it started
The issue where MediaPortal would display in a small window, sitting in the top left corner of the screen, is a problem many users of AV-receivers sadly have experienced. Scythe42 is working on a solution to this problem, and while he is at it, he also started to fix several other small and larger issues in the code areas where the "full/half-screen" issue originates.
The complete list of changes is quite long. So I picked a few highlights for you:
- You can use resume/suspend of Windows without any side effects to MediaPortal anymore. Supports all states including Win8's Fast Boot. All workarounds for various configurations have been removed.
- For HDMI audio, playback is stopped when the receiver "disconnects" or "reconnects", preventing a crash of DirectShow where possible (depending on used filters/drivers).
- You can make full use of Windows' screen savers. Note: they do not start when using always on top in full screen. That is a limitation of Windows not MP. You cannot have two 'always on top' full screens at the same time. It is either always on top or not.
- Resizing of windows and switching between full screen and windowed mode is now blazing fast
- Resizing of windows is now aspect ratio safe and defined by the ratio of the skin you are using.
- Full support for switching displays on the fly without re-starting MediaPortal. Internally it always works with the resolution of the display you started MP.
- DPI Awareness. You can change Windows' font sizes without font sizes of skins being affected.
- Improved mouse handling. There may still be some glitches remaining where a possible combination has not been discovered or tested. That's why we need YOUR feedback in Area 51, with proper descriptions of reproducibility.
- Option to minimize MediaPortal to the tray from full screen instead of always popping up as background with a reduced frame rate.
- Faster startup by loading each window plugin in its own thread.
- Startup times of plugins are now logged, so you can find out what takes the most time on your system.
- New D3D device handling, transferring more load to the GPU during rendering. Possible with the font engine changes from tourettes.
- Enhanced dealing with various cultures over the world. We now even pass the infamous "Turkey Test" ( http://www.moserware.com/2008/02/does-your-code-pass-turkey-test.html)
- Starting playback and TV zapping should be faster (removed unnecessary D3D device resets)
- Enhanced compatibility with using IOS or Android based tablets as a secondary screen (limited by the used Air Display technology, though, back buffer and bandwidth for movie playback/streaming). In general it works now properly, though it depends on the solution you are using.
The combined fixes are available as binaries. That means that you only have to backup the files in our current installation which get replaced by the fix - so you can help us with testing very, very easily.
Last.FM Rework and Auto DJ mode
jameson_uk is currently reworking the last.fm support in MediaPortal and adding some very cool new features!
Scrobbling (last.fm account required, but no subscription)
The scrobbling side has been rewritten from scratch
- Announce now playing track on last.fm website
- Scrobbling tracks when played
- Love / Ban functionality
Last.fm Radio (Last.fm account and subscription required)
Basic radio/playback functionality based on the new API but this does require a subscription and may not be available in all countries.
- Standard last.fm radio stations
- better integration with the rest of MP
- Downloading (and deleting) temporary thumbs for tracks being played if no local thumb exists
Auto DJ (no last.fm account needed)
Although a last.fm account is not required, having one is free, and scrobbling improves recommendations for everyone.
This feature will simply look for similar tracks in your music database (it only works if you have scanned tracks into the database)
- Will attempt to keep playing music forever
- Tracks must be scanned into the music database
This means that you can not easily go back to your current setup. So while testing is highly appreciated, and required to eventually get this rework included in an upcoming release, you have to take precautions (backup or install on another machine) to not damage your live installation.
With weather.com disabling free access to their weather information, we had to remove our weather plugin from MediaPortal which retrieved the information from that service. So since MediaPortal 1.2.0, we could not offer our users a weather feature as part of a MediaPortal release.
Installation is very easy, because Micropolis is proving the latest version as a MediaPortal Extension.
If you are interested to see a simple weather feature return to MediaPortal, then please have a look at the WorldWeather Lite development thread.
Picture Thumbnail Generation rework
One of the biggest usability flaws in MediaPortal that affected me personally too, was the extremely slow thumbnail generation for pictures. With the success of digital cameras and resolutions increasing from year to year, the speed at which MediaPortal generated thumbnails just became unbearable.
In a very short time Sebastiii managed to completely rework the way thumbnails for pictures are created. It is just ridiculously fast now!
However, the generation of the thumbnails is just one part of the solution. The thumbs are now also stored in a folder-tree, because storing many thousands of small thumbnails in just one folder, was an additional slowdown for thumbnail generation as well as when loading them to show them inside "Pictures" of MediaPortal. With this fix, the folder-tree storage is also used for video thumbnails, to gain a small speed up in that area too.
If you feel the need for more speed, head over to the thread in the Area 51 forum where you can find this fix available in binary form. So you only have to backup the files the fix will replace and you can always quickly and easily go back to your original setup.
Blu-ray Playback enhancements
Sebastiii is also working on enhancing the support for Blu-ray playback even further.
Included in his "Add-on" are:
- Possibility to enable/disable native Blu-ray (when disabled, it will use the LAV Splitter and BDHandler to manage the selection list).
- Fix 'Resume on Title' mode (MediaPortal then treats the Blu-ray as a DVD player and tries to resume using DVD player code).
- When Blu-ray discs are remuxed, MediaPortal didn't prompt to show the menu and instead started to play the movie directly.
- Add possibility to set a Post-Processing filter / bdplayerAR (Ratio / Zoom etc).
- Add Audio channel amount to OSD Info (Context Audio menu like 5.1 / 2.0 etc).
The enhancement is available as a full installer and as binaries. That means that you only have to backup the files in your current installation which get replaced by the fix - so you can help us with testing very, very easily.
Replace PowerScheduler with PowerScheduler++
Save power does not only mean to reduce CO² emissions, but also saves money :D So to ensure that your HTPC(s) does not waste your money by being on while you are not even at home, PowerScheduler will put the system to sleep.
While PowerScheduler, which is part of MediaPortal, is working fairly well, it does have some quirks and shortcomings. michael_t, who is the creator of PowerScheduler++, is now working on replacing our current PowerScheduler with the ++ version.
If you want a better PowerScheduler to be part of an upcoming MediaPortal release then have a look at his thread in Area 51. Testing is very easy because it is also provided in form of binaries. So you only have to backup your current files the change is going to replace and you can easily revert back to your current setup.
As you can see we have quite a few nice changes in the works. With your help they will quickly find their way into an upcoming MediaPortal release.
When? As soon as we get enough test results, and document the changes, the new features or fixes will be included in the next release. So the ball is in your court!