Jeff Sexton

Monday, December 15, 2008

House Music - Mediatomb and PS3, Again

My Mediatomb install on Fedora never has worked correctly. All the reading I did it about just convinced me that no one seemed to have the same problems or questions I did. So I took an old computer and put Ubuntu 8.10 on it. Ubuntu has a Mediatomb that can be installed with apt-get, all ready to go (mostly).

First of all, I think one of the reason playlists didn't work for me was that, since I wasn't sure which would work better, I had both a pls and a m3u file with the same base name. I think this wasn't working well, not sure.... When I added a small m3u file, alone, it worked fine. Mediatomb created a new "playlist" section, and the PS3 could play it. I had not seen that before.

Given that, I went ahead and set Mediatomb to work scanning the full artist/album directories. This takes a long time (on the computer I used). Meanwhile, I was also able to add a few more, small, playlists.

I used fapg to create m3u files from the plain path/file lists out of my old database:

fapg -f m3u -s <> files.m3u

And they worked!

This step was important because what I had were just lists of files. I found that when the PS3 plays a playlist is displays information from the extended tags in the m3u file, not from the MP3 file tags (when playing by artist or album, the PS3 displays the MP3 tag data, however). I don't know if Mediatomb or the PS3 is deciding this, but I couldn't find any other jukebox software that would read in my list and save off a m3u file with extended information in the m3u file, from the MP3 tags. This in spite of the fact that all the programs I tried (three or four, there are a lot these days) would display the MP3 tag information on loading a simple file list... fapg saves the day. Converting a plain list to m3u with fapg causes it to read the MP3 tags and add the extended information to the resulting playlist file. Nice.

Here's a few observations and questions I still have about the Mediatomb/PS3 combination.

1. It seems to scan and run well up to some point. Then scanning and the response times at the web application and on the PS3 slow down dramatically, to the point of getting timeouts.

2. Large playlists, completely added on Mediatomb, do not appear all at once one the PS3. If I browse into a list, I get just 30 or 40 entries at first. More entries show up in bursts every few seconds after that. If I exit that list, and browse back, it picks up where it left off, but if I start playing the list, it only plays the tracks that had been listed so far. I hope it doesn't have to do that everytime the PS3 is restarted. Perhaps a more powerful server would resolve this. So for, it's been doing this while still scanning the full volume so that is a factor.

3. I added m3u files to Mediatomb with an add operation, not with a timed scan of the playlist directory. The later is what I want, but I'm not sure it works. I did try adding the directory with a scan, but the playlists were not created. Again, performance constraints may be a factor. Also, it takes a really long time to do this with larger lists so I'm not sure it's practical. How will I create, load and play dynamic lists? Say from a search result in other software?

4. The folks on the Mediatomb forum are responsive and helpful.

5. Mediatomb works great for photos.

One last thing. I was running Mediatomb two ways; one using init.d and one just at the command line, separate databases. While adding m3u files using the instance started at the command line, but not while doing the timed scan, I'd see this quite a bit on the console:

TagLib: MPEG::Header::parse() -- Invalid sample rate.

Many of my CDs are encoded with a variable bitrate, so that's probably the explanation. The error does not impact the ability to play the files at all, as far as I can tell.

When all's said and done, I can now listen to my playlists. But there's still a lot of missing functionality to be figured out - better searching and browsing, dynamicly created playlists, effective and scheduled rescanning, streams, and tracking what's played - all things my old system does. I am however, most sure that the Mediatomb/PS3 combination can be part of the solution.

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