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Project “Thalia”

Many years ago I utilized my knowledge of hardware automation to build a solution to both the storage and (more importantly) usage of a constantly growing DVD collection.  The solution at the time was to combine several multi-disc changers together with the necessary hardware to handle the switching of the audio/video operated from a perspective that all of this was “just part of Windows Media Center”.

Back then, Microsoft was invested in Windows Media Center… today, abandoned.

Back then, hard drives were very expensive and limited in space… today, how much space you want; no matter what, it’s pretty affordable.

The solution at the time was designed for the time.  Times have changed…

One of the major changes today is that a ton of content is easily accessible from streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, etc.  Vudu is an excellent example of “where things are going”; however, the content available is limited mostly to what is “current” or what has been “extremely popular”.  If you have a DVD that was less popular, there is a high probability that you aren’t able to find it on any of these services.  Combine that with the fact that every single time you want to watch something, you have to stream it.  Although connectivity has improved speed-wise; reliability still is somewhat questionable ranging from “slow” or “drops”.  The inconvenience of this simple truth is that there seems to be a correlation between these events occurring and the time you are in the middle of a movie.

Another problem that I’m faced with is the simple fact that I have all of this content; why should I have to purchase it again?

“Ripping” DVD content to HDD is relatively simple and there are a few options available; these include just creating ISO images to actually copying the content into subfolders.  The later is the approach that Windows Media Center eventually provided for.  It was, at the time, a very welcome feature and one that made a lot of sense.  However, as I stated, Windows Media Center has been abandoned and there’s little to no hope of it returning.  Combine that with the fact that there are serious issues with the DVD Library functionality in Windows Media Center where the performance pretty much tanks with a large library.

There are other solutions on the market; however, these solutions are very, very, very expensive.  I’m not knocking the value of those products… given that they’ve done an excellent job at making it “simple”.  That convenience comes at a price and they are charging, IMO, what it’s worth.  My particular situation is a little different… in that I’m capable of building something similar which provides me with the flexibility of making it my own.

So the challenge is to make a new product that:

  • Is easy to use (day-to-day).
  • Must work well as a “10-foot UI”.
  • Mostly usable with a “standard” universal remote.
  • Has a high WAF (wife acceptance factor).
  • Works well over the LAN.
  • Handles a library of over 3,000 movies…
  • Handle video content (personal, TV episodes, etc.)…
  • More…

Regarding the “more…” entry; I’m sure I’ll come up with additional ideas along the way.  Throughout the process though, I plan to limit the scope creep by staying focused on the ultimate goal which is to be able to watch any of this content on any screen in my house.  Once that is done, will evaluate improvements to be made.

Throughout this process, I’ll attempt to make updates to this blog…

(Before anyone asks… “Thalia” is the ancient Greek goddess most closely associated with theater.  For those wondering, I also considered Dionysus; however he is a little to bipolar for my tastes.)

Published Monday, July 17, 2017 4:10 PM by CorySmith
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