WimTiVoServer reasons for existence.

I had multiple reasons for writing this program.

I wanted to work with the XMLLite library for XML processing which Microsoft has included as part of their operating system for several years. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ms752838(v=vs.85).aspx I’ve used XML as my data storage and transfer medium for years but most of the time have manually processed the XML as opposed to using a prebuilt library. My reasoning behind my own parsing and generation was that I was building cross platform solutions that ran on embedded systems working with windows programs. It was easier to build the same code to run on both platforms and assure compatibility than to deal with the overhead and maintenance of third party libraries. I’ve still not formed a full opinion on using the library for reading XML, but it certainly makes creating XML easier by making sure tags are properly closed and nested, and the option of auto indentation in the formatting is nice.

I wanted experience using FFMPEG and its associated video processing libraries. With the release of FFMPEG v1 late last year it became much more capable in dealing with all of the container formats and encoding types that I was interested in, including the WTV containers that Windows Media Center uses and the MKV containers that are common on the internet for high definition files. In my functioning version of my server, I’m using the libraries directly linked into the program to parse the media files for metadata, but spawning a full copy of FFMPEG to do the required transcoding to send the proper format to the TiVo. I’m considering migrating entirely to the spawned FFMPEG process to simplify licensing if I want to make my program publicly available. It would also simplify future support for codecs and containers that FFMPEG may support if my service itself didn’t need to be relinked with updated libraries.

I’ve been frustrated with the state of the TiVo Desktop software provided by the TiVo company. It was designed so that it plugs into the windows video codec stack for video transcoding, as well as the apple protocol stack for Bonjour protocol support. Both of those lead to complications when upgrading programs. Apple regularly releases updates to iTunes. Whenever an update to iTunes needed to be installed, it caused problems because the TiVo service was running and keeping some of the apple services locked in use. It essentially required a full uninstall and reinstall of iTunes every time I needed to update it, with several machine reboots in that process.  Somehow I’d managed to get a codec installed on my machine that allowed the TiVo desktop to support the MKV container. Duplicating that installation on a new machine or server was not something I wanted to attempt. Since the modern FFMPEG supports MKV, I get that support without manipulating a video codec stack in windows.

The TiVo Desktop software only runs as a user process, when a user is logged in. Files are not served from a background service. This is an issue when I’d like to run the process on a headless server. There are ways around the issue, but my program solves it simply by being a pure service. The TiVo Desktop both announces itself via the UDP beacon process on port 2190 and also listens for other servers on the same port. Because my program is purely a server I saw no reason to listen for incoming beacons, and so I do not tie up the UDP port for receiving. This allows secondary programs to be started at the users discretion to listen for TiVo processes on the network.

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