Lightwing Demo at Annual CodeLaunch Startup Expo

Lightwing has been selected as a semi-finalist in this year’s CodeLaunch competition! This is the 6th annual event hosted by CodeAuthority and Improving Enterprises to encourage local tech startups with networking opportunities to collaborate and find early investors. CodeAuthority and Improving are generously providing FREE registration to my friends and colleagues who want to attend!

The CodeLaunch Expo will be held at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco on Wednesday, August 1st at 4:00pm. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served. This is always a fun, casual and informative event. So, come out and show support for your favorite open multimedia UI technology and tech entrepreneurs and meet the movers and shakers of the local tech startup community!

CodeLaunch Expo 2018

Use the discount code Lightwing to register for FREE or follow this link:

Complementary Event Tickets

For more information on Lightwing:

Lightwing Introduction

The first 2 hours of the event will be presentations by the 5 finalists with immediate judging, audience voting and announcement of the winner of the competition. Lightwing is not a finalist this year, but is one of the few semi-finalists selected to exhibit at the exposition which begins immediately after the competition (around 6:00pm). I hope to see everyone there!

CodeLaunch Expo Logos

 

Lightwing adds Multi-panel Support for Building Video Walls

The Lightwing SDK version 1.2 for Windows has been released and it includes some major new features including support for building multi-panel video walls!  This is the second update since the launch of the Lightwing project a few years ago. The addition of multi-panel support allows Lightwing’s revolutionary fast approach to digital multimedia content creation to be applied to much bigger projects. And since Lightwing runs on low-cost open hardware from multiple vendors, it will drastically reduce the costs of building such large installations as well.

Lightwing features a distributed processing design where each panel in an array of panels has a dedicated Lightwing player attached via HDMI. The players communicate with each other over a local network via UDP multicast for timing synchronization. This allows for multi-panel displays of virtually unlimited size without burdening the local network with video data. Once all the players in an array are configured properly, multimedia content files can simply be copied to all the players and Lightwing divides the content into panel sections automatically.

For more information, see the Lightwing Video Wall Introduction.

The complete list of new features in this release includes:

  • Support for building multi-panel video walls
  • Support for playing audio via “wav” files
  • New Write command for saving user input via data channels to the local file system
  • Automatic rotation of background images for portrait displays
  • 3D objects now default to orthographic projections
  • Automatic default sizing of boxes from associated images, text and tickers

To learn more, see the Lightwing Introduction and download the free Lightwing SDK for Windows to get started!

LibreELEC + SolidRun is a Great Kodi on ARM Solution

I have been searching for awhile to find the best Kodi on ARM solution, and I just discovered a great new combination. The NXP i.MX6 series ARM processors have big advantages because of their better integrated GPU and VPU. This is critical for modern versions of Kodi on ARM because of Kodi’s heavy use of OpenGL and the need to off-load video decode tasks from the CPU. The result is a responsive, yet very cool-running system, compared to Intel or weak ARM chips, like Raspberry Pis and BeagleBoards.

The problem has been that support for Kodi has been lacking from most i.MX6 board vendors. But, here is a system combination that works really well now using the very latest LibreELEC 8.2.2 distribution of Kodi 17.6 (Krypton) and boards from SolidRun. LibreELEC’s official images work great on SolidRun’s CuBox boards using a 4.4 Linux kernel (which is included), or there are also images available with the older 3.14.79 kernel for other boards, including SolidRun’s HummingBoard2. Either of these boards can be attached to the back of a TV for a fantastic Kodi on ARM solution for an OTA broadcast TV DVR using a MediaPortal TV-Server, or just about any other popular back-end. If you install the MediaPortal add-on, it will work great with the Windows-based HTPC detailed in my Guide. If you don’t have a Windows HTPC, then enable the TVHeadEnd add-on that is provided with LibreELEC, which also requires a NAS drive and TV tuner on your network.

The SolidRun boards have long been among my favorite ARM i.MX6 boards because of their compact designs, better heat-sinking and better support for Kodi. But, you will have to download and flash your own microSD card to use these boards for Kodi. Here are the required steps:

First, unzip the downloaded LibreELEC image file and write it onto a microSD card (4 GB or larger) using a Linux command shell:

gunzip  LibreELEC-imx6.arm-8.2.2-3.14-sr.img.gz
sudo  dd  if=LibreELEC-imx6.arm-8.2.2-3.14-sr.img  of=/dev/sdd  bs=1M

Or, you can use the LibreELEC USB-SD Creator tool to make your microSD card using a Windows PC.

Then, install the microSD card into the slot on your SolidRun board and boot it. The first time LibreELEC boots, it automatically resizes its partition for whatever size microSD card is being used and then it does its second reboot.

On the third boot, LibreELEC will automatically download and install a complete update including a 4.4 kernel. This is fine on the SolidRun CuBox boards, but not on the HummingBoards. So, if you are using a HummingBoard, you must disable the automatic updates on the second boot and never enable it again. I have not found any significant problems with the older 3.14.79 kernel, so either one is fine.

The automatic update occurs during the next boot, but strangely the manual setting for updates does not take effect until after the next boot is complete, which is too late! The simple work-around is to unplug the Ethernet cable during the next boot. You can then safely reconnect it once that boot is complete and then reboot again. Now, install the plugins needed for your OTA TV-Server back-end. For MediaPortal it is:

Add-ons > Install from repository > LibreELEC Add-ons > PVR clients > MediaPortal PVR Client > Install
Add-ons > My add-ons > PVR Client > Configure > Connection > Mediaportal Hostname > IP Address

Once Kodi finds your MediaPortal server on your local network, it should automatically download your EPG and channel data. If you get permissions errors when playing video, be sure you have your recording and timeshift folders shared on your server. You may also need to enable Samba version 1 (SMB1) support (or install SMB2 on Windows). This used to be the default on older versions of Kodi, but must now be enabled manually:

Settings (Gear) > LibreELEC > System > Automatic Updates > manual
Settings (Gear) > LibreELEC > Services > Samba > Minimum supported protocol > SMB1

You are now ready to watch live TV!

 

SolidRun's CuBox and HummingBoard2 with Enclosures

SolidRun’s CuBox and HummingBoard2 with Enclosures

First Lightwing Update is Released

The Lightwing SDK version 1.1 for Windows has been released! This is the first update since the launch of the Lightwing project back in March 2016. I fixed some minor bugs and added some major new features and 3 new demos. The new features include:

  • Directional touch swiping with page transitions.
  • Background effects during page transitions.
  • Content pull updates from a web URL.
  • Improved display pausing.
  • New cube page transition.
  • New louvers effect for images, video and backgrounds.
  • New demo – Smith’s Furniture (with touch tracking 3D models).
  • New demo – Garth’s BBQ (with CSV food menu).
  • New demo – Fratello’s Italian Restaurant.

I have also been busy doing live demonstrations of Lightwing to potential corporate licensees and even some IoT startup groups in the Dallas area. The feedback has been really positive. Folks are amazed at how severely Lightwing (and the ARM i.MX6) outperforms 3D on Android and browsers . If you would like to see a live Lightwing demonstration before your competitors do, send me a private message using the contact form page above!

To learn more, see the Lightwing Introduction and download the free Lightwing SDK for Windows to get started!

Major Update to the HTPC Guide is Complete

I completed the first major update to my HTPC Guide in 2 years and I am still convinced this is the best HTPC solution anywhere. This may also be the most popular HTPC guide on the web for Live (Over The Air) TV with DVR and EPG features on Windows. I think this is because of the completeness of this guide. There are several other guides for Kodi and MediaPortal out there, but their focus is generally on pirating movies, use outside of North America and most still ignore DVR for Live TV completely. There is also the ongoing problem that most guides describe add-ons for Kodi that do not actually work any more. My guide continues to document a complete solution that actually works in North America with quality program guide data at very low cost.

Microsoft recently pulled the plug on Window Media Center and even DVR support for Live TV on the XBox. That demonstrates their commitment to HTPC! My HTPC guide is the best route forward for those users who want to stick with Windows and not pay hefty subscription fees. It is still possible to get WMC to run on Windows 10, but why bother? Kodi with MediaPortal and SchedulesDirect EPG is fantastic and supports so many new features and the latest hardware.

The biggest problem for me has been with Kodi’s support for NetFlix. It’s not the Kodi team’s fault – to be clear. These problems have been caused by NetFlix continuously redesigning their website. So I now have to access NetFlix using the Chrome browser. It’s not ideal, but it does work and I’m confident it will always work because NetFlix can never abandon their Windows users. In hindsight, Windows has proven to be the real strength of this HTPC solution because no matter how the TV Titans break things, there is always a solution on Windows.

Many HTPC newcomers come looking for the “ultimate” HTPC app that integrates “everything”. Unfortunately, that app still does not exist. But, Kodi with MediaPortal and SchedulesDirect (and Chrome) on Windows is very, very close.

And I still laugh out loud every month when I read my internet-cable bill!

New Lightwing 3D Digital Signage Platform has Arrived

This week, I’m rolling out the Lightwing project, a disruptive new approach to building digital signs, touch kiosks and interactive GUIs for ARM i.MX6 hardware from multiple board vendors. Lightwing is ground-breaking because it composites and renders everything, including text, images, video and animated 3D objects natively through OpenGL ES on ARM i.MX6 signage players. And Lightwing works without Android, Windows, JavaScript, web browsers or Adobe Flash. There’s no good reason to use these for digital signage. They only cause performance, maintenance and security problems. I have known this for awhile and now Lightwing proves the point.

Since Lightwing runs the same signage content on both Linux and Windows, it has been fascinating to see i.MX6 hardware (with 5 Watts of power) outperform Windows on my Intel Core i5, which has twice the processor cores, 3X the clock frequency, 16X more RAM and 100 Watts of power. It’s truly stunning what’s possible when you get rid of bloatware with well-targeted code!

The part that surprised me is that it’s actually easier to author and update content this way too – with open tools. Building custom digital signs and touch-panel control applications is now a lot more accessible to a lot more people. Lightwing has serious commercial potential, so I am expanding this blog to offer and support Lightwing software on the best i.MX6 hardware. I plan to support more i.MX6 vendors over time. I also have ideas for additional features that will drive Lightwing into new applications. As always, I want to hear your ideas too!

To learn more, see the Lightwing Introduction and download the free Lightwing SDK for Windows to get started!

Welcome

I am a software developer specializing in visual applications with both low and high-level code, particularly in the areas of OpenGL and digital video on embedded Linux, Android and Windows. I am currently assisting some disruptive start-ups with architectural design and implementation of 3D graphics and video acceleration using OpenGL ES on Android and embedded Linux for digital signage and video teleconferencing applications with bleeding-edge performance that is only possible by pushing the limits of advanced visual APIs on the latest multi-core SoC technologies. With this blog, I hope to share some practical solutions I have found to real world problems in visual computing that are not well known or documented elsewhere.