At this point you may be asking yourself; what is smart home automation? What exactly is an automated media center? Prepare to have all these questions and more answered as well as learn to set up your first automated media center.
First of all there is no standard for what an automated media center SHOULD be. There is also no limit to what your automated media center COULD be. The general idea behind automating a media center, living room, home, etc. is to create a life of ease. An automated media center makes driving to pick up and drop off movies an obsolete task which results in saved time and money. Smart home automation can be beneficial and even fun for everyone. Automating your home or office media center is the perfect place to begin dabbling with home automation. Most, if not all, of the required software is free and there are no bulky messes of equipment to set up or install. What once was a plain old living room can easily become a destination of choice for friends and family. The only thing left to do after automating your media center is to add a party button (to be discussed later).
The great part about taking this first step towards a Jetson’s home is that no tools or handyman skills are required. Simply sit down at your computer and follow this article step by step. While all of this can be done on a Linux system as well; I will be walking through the steps using Windows. By the time you get through this your media center should be running itself. The only equipment needed to set up an automated media center would be a computer and a boat load of free downloadable software. Below I will explain what software is needed, how to download it, and how to use it.
EVENT GHOST is a program that allows the user to create macros. Macros are the very core of what makes an automated media center possible. With that being said; EventGhost should be the first program installed and set up. Follow the steps below to install the EventGhost and create your first macro.
The first step is to download EventGhost from www.eventghost.org/downloads . Be sure to download the most recent version then follow additional instructions given by the install wizard.
The second step is to delete the examples file which EventGhost included in the download. This example file causes error messages which can be intimidating. It is best to just do away with it all together. To do this; go to “FILE” -> “NEW”. This will give you a blank template to begin work with.
Step three is to open EventGhost and access the main interface. The log panel is the panel on the left; everything that can be seen by EventGhost will be logged in here. The event control panel is the panel to the right; this is where events can be created, edited or deleted. Plugins are also managed here in the control panel.
Creating the first macro, naturally, is the next step. The basic idea of this macro is to launch a program such as internet explorer or Microsoft word by pressing a sequence of keys. Click on the “ADD PLUGIN” button and select “KEYBOARD” from the “REMOTE RECEIVER” plugins folder. That is the only plugin you need to get through this tutorial and have working macros. EventGhost does provide a significant a great deal of macros with your initial download. If you do find yourself needing other macros then it is as easy as copying the plugins folder and pasting it into “/program files/eventghost/plugins” Once you have added the “KEYBOARD” plugin you will see that all of your keystrokes are showing up in the logging panel. The next step is to add a macro. Click the macro button, then “SYSTEM”, then “START APPLICATION”, and then press “OK”. Next under “EXECUTABLE” browse for the program you wish to launch. The other options may be left blank as they are irrelevant in this case. Then go ahead and click “OK”. You have just created a macro but at this point the only way to execute it is manually. The next step is to add an event which will eliminate the need to execute the macro manually. If you want “Ctrl+Alt+1” to be the combination used to initiate your application, then press those or your desired combination now. The pattern of keys you press will show on the log panel. The next step is to drag the keystrokes/event into the macro above the action. You are finished with your first macro. Now anytime you press that “Ctrl+Alt+1” your desired application will launch.
XBMC is a media center which provides an interface which is easy to use and navigate. In order to get the library mode of XBMC to work there is a specific file structure required in order to scrape or download information about media files. If you have a dedicated hard drive then all of your folders can go directly on the drive without any sub-folders. If you are using a hard drive that is shared with other files or programs then simply add a folder and and do the following steps within that one folder.
The first step is to create the following folders; TV Shows, Movies, Music, Photos, Unsorted Media and Misc.
We will start by preparing the movies folder. The movies folder should not have any files stored directly in it. All movies should be stored in a sub-folder with a name containing the movies name, year, and title. The movie file itself should be stored within this folder. When renaming the actual movie file; it should be named using the movie title and whether or not it is HD or not. An example of the file path could look something like this: /Movies/The Waterboy /The.Waterboy.1080p.BluRay.mkv.
When setting up the TV Shows folder you should follow a similar process. Each show will have a folder which is titled using the name and year. Each series of said show should go inside its series folder. Name each file as the name of the show followed by the series and episode numbers. You could also add the title of the episode if you so desire. An example file path of this could be /TV Shows/Roswell /Series 2/Roswell – s02e01 – Skin and Bones.avi. Adding the year to the movies and TV shows is not necessary but decreases the chances of the scraper collecting the wrong information.
Setting up the music folder is done the same way as the Movies and TV shows folder. Within the Music folder should be a folder for the artist and within the artist folder should be one folder for each album. It’s pretty safe to not add the years to your albums since rarely will an artist come out with more than one album of the same name.
The folder structure of your photos folder is completely up to you. Since your photos will not be scraped for information then it is not required to have any particular title or file structure. It could however be beneficial for you to organize them in some meaningful way so to make it easy to locate photos on demand.
The only folder left to mention is the unsorted media folder. This folder should be left empty as media will automatically be sent here until it is sorted by another application or you.Now that all of your folders are set up it is time to copy your media files to their designated folders. There is no need to copy the art files since your scraper will be taking care of these later.
Torrent software is yet another core piece to this puzzle. Any torrent downloading software will work fine as long as it has the ability to move files to a specific folder when finished downloading. uTorrent is the standard when it comes to downloading torrents. This software has been around forever and has proven itself to be worthy. The Episode Downloader (TED) serves the same purpose as uTorrent but it is easier to use. TED is a Java application that automatically finds designated TV shows and begins downloading them. We will walk through the process of setting up TED. The first step is of course to download TED from the link provided. Set up the torrent program to send only completed downloads to the “unsorted media” folder. Open TED and click “ADD SHOW”. A window will pop up and all you do is select the show you wish to download followed by the episode. You will have trouble with some of the older episodes; just a heads up. Once you have completed this then select the desired episode and click “EDIT SHOW”.
A few tricks to get better results are as follows; under “FEEDS” click on “+” and ass IsoHunt, click “YES” and a dialogue box will pop up. Click “FILTERS” and change the top numbers to 300mb and the max size to 1200mb. This will keep you from getting low quality files or odd HD files. If you do not wish to get HD files then set the max to about 750mb. If you download on a schedule and do not wish for TED to automatically initiate downloads then these settings can be adjusted under “EXTRA” -> “PREFERENCES”.
The Renamer is an automated tool that goes out, finds, and renames any TV show you have it set for. It can also be made to work with movies. Many BitTorrent files are not named using the scraper rules and file format therefore most scrapers are useless. This is where The Renamer comes into play. First thing, of course, is to download the program from the above link. Open the Renamer, click “SETTINGS”, then change your fetch folder to your unsorted media folder and change your TV shows archive to your TV shows folder. Check the following boxes: s1e01 , add “0″ for Season (only the first time it appears) , include sub folders , Auto move after renaming, Show name, Season, Episode titles , To TV Show Folder, To Season folder. You have just completed set up of The Renamer.
Ember Media Manager is a tool used to automatically find and download information for your movies. While XBMC has a decent scraping tool it is slow and forces you to re-scrape all files if you have to reinstall XBMC for any reason. If you use Ember Media Manager then there would never be a need to re-scrape in case of a reinstall. Why? Well this is because Ember Media Manager downloads the needed files directly to the movies folder. In order to set this up, go to “EDIT” -> “SETTINGS” -> “FILES AND SOURCES” -> “ADD SOURCE” and browse to the root of your movies folder. This process can also be done during the initial setup as well. Check the desired boxes based on personal preference. Return to the main menu once you have completed this and click “UPDATE LIBRARY”. Your list will then appear, and then click “SCRAPE MEDIA” -> “NEW MOVIES” -> “AUTOMATIC” -> “ALL ITEMS” and then sit back and watch it find all the data for you. Assuming you used the “AUTOMATIC” mode then this is the first and only time you will see this screen as it will soon become an automated process.
If you have followed the steps up to this point and you are still wondering how it will all work or what it will even do then fear no more for its all about to come together. At this point you have already downloaded a group of programs which will work together to download and organize your TV shows, movies and music. After your files have been downloaded and organized they will then be imported into XBMC where they are easily accessible from a user friendly dashboard.
It is now time to use EventGhost to tie all of these systems together. There are two plug ins that must be installed to EventGhost; “DIRECTORY WATCHER” and “XBMC”. To make 100% sure that your movies are scraped automatically you should install two copies of “DIRECTORY WATCHER”. Set one Directory Watcher plugin to look in the unsorted media folder and the other one to look in the movies folder. Then create a new macro called “MOVE NEW SHOWS”. Within this new macro tell it to launch The Renamer automatically (SYSTEM -> START APPLICATION), type “-FETCH” in the command line and set the window options to “MINIMIZED”. In the same macro add another action below it called “UPDATE VIDEO LIBRARY”. Tell it to update from the XBMC folder.
Create a new macro called “SCRAPE NEW MOVIES”, set it to open Ember Media Manager and type “-NEWAUTO –ALL” in the command line box. Still inside the same macro you must add another action below it called “UPDATE VIDEO LIBRARY”. Tell it to update from the XBMC folder. Inside the same macro create an event called “DIRECTORY.WATCHER.UPDATED” to the top of the first macro and one called “DIRECTORY.WATCHER2.UPDATED” to the top of the second and save this configuration. Finally, check and make sure that everything is automated to create shortcuts to TED in the Windows start up folder.
Now we shall dive into the setup of XBMX. Before moving on please be sure you are using at least version 9.11 of XBMC and are using the default skin. The first step is to add media files. Within XBMC, go to “VIDEOS” and select “ADD SOURCE”, locate your “MOVIES” folder and press enter. The source is automatically called “MOVIES”. Under “THIS DIRECTORY CONTAINS” select “SET CONTENT” then select “MOVIES” and set the scraper to the one of your choice. Under “SCANNING OPTIONS” select “USE FOLDER NAMES FOR LOOKUPS”. Under settings you have many options which you can select based on personal preference. The default selections should work for most cases. This same process is done with the TV shows and any other directory you wish to set up.
The following steps are done just to make sure everything will work properly. From the home screen of XBMX go to “SYSTEM”, select “VIDEO, and check all options under “LIBRARY. Do the same thing for “MUSIC”. Return to the main screen and under “HOME WINDOW OPTION”, select “SKIN”. The top four selections should be checked; the rest are up to you. Be sure that “HIDE MOVIES” and “HIDE TV SHOW” are deselected.
Restart XBMC and all of the media will begin to compile within XBMC. TV shows will automatically be downloaded as soon as they hit the internet. They will be organized, labeled, and added to your media center automatically. Downloaded movies will stay in the “UNSORTED MEDIA” folder until you move them to the “MOVIES” folder; at which point they will be found and cataloged by Ember and XBMC. In XBMC there is a “RECENTLY ADDED” box which can be used to see all the new media you have to enjoy.