Migrating Apps — Kaffeine

My main server performs most of my movie recording. Occasionally there is a conflict in schedules with two movies overlapping on different channels. During those occasional times I use the office desktop as a secondary recording device, saving the recorded files to the server. I have been using this dual setup for several years before I installed my dedicated server.

Because the office desktop has a TV capture card, once in a blue moon I use Kaffeine to “watch” TV in the background as I tinker or work.

Searching the web indicated only a few replacement candidates:

  • VLC
  • Xine
  • MPlayer
  • SMPlayer

I tried for a couple of hours to get VLC to work. I gave up. While VLC supports DVB/ATSC, and I did get VLC to show the output from my capture card, the app is not really designed for that kind of viewing. There is no friendly interface at all. Every time I started VLC anew, the capture device would reset to “Video camera” and would not save my choice of “TV - digital.” I do not have a camera connected to the computer.

The VLC developers expect users to manually enter the frequency of the channel to watch. User-hostile.

Older VLC versions once upon a time supported the same channels.conf file that Xine and MPlayer use. That support no longer exists. I found a script to convert the file to an XML based XSPF file, but the converted file caused error messages in VLC. I never found an easy way to interact with VLC to view a desired channel. In the end I decided VLC needs attention in this area and was not worth the frustration.

I use the MPlayer MEncoder command to record TV movies through my TV capture cards. This has worked well for me for many years. While doable, the MPlayer has an interface worse than VLC for viewing TV channels.

Similarly, while doable, the Xine interface is clunky at best, not to mention coyote ugly.

I held my breath with SMPlayer. I was pleasantly surprised to find a soothing interface. The app found my MPlayer channels.conf and automatically configured its own menu for the channels. I added a toolbar button for the TV channels rather than use the menus.

Initially I ran into audio and video sync problems problems with SMPlayer. Searching the web revealed some configuration changes and all was well thereafter.

One feature I liked in Kaffeine that I have not found in SMPlayer is a flashback button that allows toggling between two channels. Just like a remote control for a TV. Not a show stopper.

To me Kaffeine still has the best interface layout for TV support, but SMPlayer is a close second. Especially considering how seldom I watch TV on the office desktop. Then again, my opinion might be based on nothing more than familiarity. Likely I will adjust to SMPlayer and forget all about Kaffiene.

A nice feature of SMPlayer is the SMTube Youtube plugin that allows browsing youtube.com without using a web browser. There is a privacy caveat: storing cookies is enabled by default and must be disabled manually in the smtube2.ini file. I hate the presumption that I want to be tracked.

During this little journey I tinkered with opening youtube videos outside the web browser. Both SMPlayer and VLC do this easily. All that is needed is to “right-click” and copy a web page link, then open SMPlayer or VLC. Both apps support using the link stored in the desktop clipboard. This means an extra step or two to watch youtube videos, but I no longer have to focus on how either the Mozilla or Google folks are going to screw up the experience. Currently youtube videos are not viewable in Firefox without allowing certain global settings, such as media.autoplay.enabled.

Both VLC and SMPlayer support minimizing to the system tray using the same method. Enable the configuration option to show a tray icon and then click on the icon to open or minimize.

Both apps support setting a preferred video resolution. The Google folks presume everybody has deep wallets and unlimited bandwidth caps and always tries to feed videos at the highest resolution. For most youtube time-wasting videos, standard resolution is more than sufficient. No need for HD.

SMPlayer is cross-platform, which means available in Windows as well as a portable app

Overall, I am much pleased with SMPlayer. One migration is now history.

My next target is migrating from Amarok.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Migrate

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