Media Center Results: Elisa

Hello folks, and welcome to my third, and most likely, final installment of the continuing search for a suitable Multimedia Center for Linux. Today, I’m going to share with you my results from continued use and tinkering with Elisa Media Center. Here’s a quick peek at the welcome screen when you first start up Elisa.

I still stand by many of the statements made in my original post on Elisa. While the interface and configuration are the easiest and most pleasing that I’ve come across, I’m still a bit irritated at the limitations placed on Elisa by the Gstreamer framework’s constraints.

The most glaringly obvious limitation comes in the form of unsupported DVD playback. While Css and other proprietary constraints remain in effect, Fluendo is working on a DVD player plug-in for Gstreamer. On their home page, however, the player was supposed to be due out in the last half of 2006…It’s now the end of 2007, so…I’d say the roadmap of that development cycle needs just a wee little bit of updating. Out of curiosity, I wondered if I could find the developer version of this mysterious and well-hyped Fluendo-DVD Player. After a couple hours of scouring countless forum posts and search results, my quest ended in complete failure. I’m looking at you Fluendo developers!

The second drawback that I noticed were hideous green patches in files encoded with the x264 codec. I thought perhaps this was a quirk of the file, but these same files played flawlessly within Mplayer and Kaffeine, as well as on Zoom Player in Windows. I started to poke around in the configuration file once again, and found a setting for “Allow GPL plugins” and changed this from “0” to “1.” I’m not entirely sure what this changed, but this was the magic bullet for the weird green spaces.

I have, however, come across a new difficulty in using Elisa which may or may not effect the average user: Elisa does not recognize Matroska files (files with the .mkv extension). I wouldn’t have even noticed unless it was for another experiment of mine involving file containers (avi, ogm, and mkv). I looked for answers on Elisa’s website, including the FAQ, and had to delve into the user forums to find out that it had been excluded in the current build, but that recognition of Matroska files was planned to be included in the next build.

I realize that I’ve been focusing on the negatives of Elisa, when it really is the best interface that I’ve come across. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to view a slideshow in Freevo, whereas Elisa presents a slideshow button at the very beginning of each file hierarchy. I also really like the way that previews are shown in an arch, making it very easy to navigate and find the picture or movie you wanted to see. As you’ve seen below before.

Elisa also makes it easy to find and listen to your music by song, artist, or by album.

Album view even includes album art stored on your hard drive.

Although a bit rudimentary, Elisa’s movie player controls are straight forward, stylish, and manage to stay rather unobtrusive even when invoked.

Elisa is also set up to scan your configured locations for changes at a few different incremental times (i.e. every week, or every hour) and even allow a user to exclude particular locations (for whatever reason).

Many users may not be aware of the vast array of online media available free of charge. Elisa integrates online streaming music Shoutcast channels, as well as photos from Flickr, and online video from Stage6.

When the dust settles and all is said and done, I think I can recommend Elisa as nice simple, easily configurable, stylish, and sleek (mostly) all-in-one Media player.

Head on over to Elisa’s home page and check it out. Please let me know what you think of Elisa in the Comments section.


The Quest Continues

Welcome to part two of my quest to find a suitable Media Center for Linux. In my last post, I had said that I would report back with my findings from Freevo. Well, I’m sad to say that I don’t really have any. I was unable to figure out how to properly configure it for my system. Minus five points for complicated configuration.

I suppose that, in itself, is something to report. I’ve tried a couple times, and even poked around on a couple forums. Minus another five points for making me look on forums. 😦 Unfortunately, it’s just a bit beyond my skills to configure properly. Minus ten points for making me feel inferior.

The good news, however, is that there are a couple of slick Live disks available for download from Freevo’s website. While I had a difficult time with the Mandriva based disk (which my aging rewritable CD may be partly to blame for), I had a painless and nicely automated experience with GeeXboX’s preview edition available for download here. A word of warning for the wary: this live disk is a technological preview not only of Freevo’s new 2.x series players, but also of GeexBox’s new 2.x series. If you’re a little less adventurous at heart, you can download their stable version for either PC or Mac . I do have to say that the tech preview looks a hell of a lot cooler than the 1.x series. I know you can spice it up with themes, but still…

Dragon bootsplash

Within GeeXboX, the navigation was intuitive, although I couldn’t figure out a few simple navigation techniques such as: how to get to the next full screen picture without going back to all the pictures. I also couldn’t figure out how to change the file view easily. Somehow I managed to change it once, but never again. Here I’ll give them a bit of leniency since it is just a preview and not a full fledged release. Here’s a couple more screenshots from GeeXboX’s Freevo.

GeeXboX photos

GeeXboX Video screen

MythTV’s setup seems roughly as complicated or even more so. I think I’m going to sit the next one out, and report back on my extended experience with Elisa Media Center after living and working with it for a couple more weeks. On a final note, it turns out that Elisa’s simple text configuration file wasn’t so bad after all. 😉