Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Orb.com


http://www.orb.com/

I've heard of them a long time ago and finally decided to test them out. Think of it as a free software version of slingbox I guess.
Installed on vista ultimate 32bit with an opteron 170 oc 2.5ghz and 2gb ram.

Testing with 360:
- it's free!
- easy to setup, interface is pretty nice
- adding media on network shares is a snap and actually seems to work with little hassle. No changing of user id on services, etc.
- It didn't crash while scanning my media files to building the library (unlike TVersity does)
- transcoding video (mpeg2 recorded with pvr250) to play on 360 looked like complete ass. After this reg hack:
http://forums.orb.com/viewtopic.php?t=8035
Things looked a lot better. For some reason my perf index was like 2. I bumped it up to 12. (amd opteron 170 dual core oc to 2.5ghz). cpu usage is like 90% but then again it's also still building the library which leads me to
- yeah upnp library crap, let me spend hours scanning all your media bs as usual. I guess I'll leave the pc on over night.
- I'm experiencing horrible screen door interlacing artifacts basically making video unwatchable when it does the mpeg2 transcode. Native wmv is fine.
- Annoying pause while transcoding starts.
- photos, music all worked fine.
- you can add youtube videos to your favorites yet there is no way to access them from the 360 (only top, most popular, most recent, etc. but no menu for YOUR favorites)
- From my very limited testing it seems orb is geared more toward streaming of your media to portable devices or bandwidth restricted cases like over the internet and you are limited by your upstream bandwidth. For full high definition playback over 100mb ethernet that requires transcoding...well this is NOT the solution. If you don't need transcoding well then it works just as well as wmp11.
- I'm in the camp that transcoding is basically a horrible solution. I can see it being convenient in certain cases like maybe walking around with a psp in the house, cell phone, smart phone with unlimited data plan, etc but for serious sit down in front of the HDTV and watch some high quality video it just sucks. The long pauses, the massive server side cpu requirements, the generally sucky quality. Those of you who think otherwise probably haven't used xbmc.
- I guess my expectations of orb were a bit out of whack. For what it is and for what I think it was targeted for(free software based slingbox?) it's not bad. It's just not what I was looking for. TVersity has a lot more options to play with as far as transcoding quality settings that is if you can get it to scan your media without crashing out (which I can't).
- Also impressive it was able to transcode a HD recording in mpeg2 transport stream (.ts) (HDHR) and stream it out to the 360 though at greatly reduced quality and interlacing crap. Both cores were pegged at around 90%.
- Oh well back to wmp11 + mce2005 for all my 360 streaming needs.

Additional testing with Cingular 8525 smart phone:
- A small clip from an episode of Cheat recorded in mpeg2 on a pvr250. The video is transcoded and streamed(asx) using Orb.com over cellular 3G HSDPA network to a Cingular 8525 smart phone.
- A very nice mobile version of the page at mycast.orb.com shows up in pocket IE.
- Browse to videos and pick one of the mpeg2 recordings I have. When the stream starts media player automatically launches (asx)
- Quality isn't half bad. The interlace artifacts from the transcode are still there (I've tried all the available codecs in orb advance settings: powerdvd, microsoft mpeg2, ffdshow, dscaler made no difference) but it's a lot less noticeable on the small screen. The resolution is good, framerate gets a bit uneven once in a while, audio is clear if a bit out of sync sometimes but overall pretty darn impressive on a phone and quite watchable.
- Ignore the interference pattern caused by the digital camera I used to capture the youtube video and the lcd screen on the phone. That pattern doesn't really exist.

streaming to another pc using a browser:
- works right through firewalls. I'm guessing it phones home similar to logemin so it by passes a lot of firewall issues.
- Quality looks pretty good for 768kbps upstream. Again, horrible interlacing issues that I can't get rid off. I even tried VLC instead of media player and enabled deinterlacing (bob, blend, etc) and it made no difference. You can see all these horizontal lines during fast motion. Anyway to fix this????

Overall it's not too bad of a solution to stream media over the internet. For a program that tries and do so much it is surprisingly easy to setup. If they can improve the transcode quality they would have a real winner on their hands. You can't beat the price though so if you have the CPU horse power go ahead and give it a try.

UPDATE: 2/06/09
- Tried OrbLive on the iPhone
http://blog.arogan.com/2009/02/orblive.html

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