The Popcorn Hour A-100

 in
Watch out! Here comes the Networked Media Tank.
Initial Setup

Setting up the Popcorn Hour is easy. For basic operation, you simply plug it in and turn it on. From the factory, the Popcorn Hour is set to detect the appropriate video output settings automatically, so after a few seconds of my television blinking, the startup screen appeared and the main interface loaded.

The Popcorn Hour interface is attractive, but it is not flashy or fancy. It is very serviceable, and it gets the job done.

If you have DHCP set up on your network, the Popcorn Hour will connect automatically. Otherwise, you need to put in the appropriate network settings manually. On my network, the Popcorn Hour was given the IP address 192.168.1.148, which I mapped in my /etc/resolv.conf file to popcorn, so in the examples in this article, that's what I use.

After the home screen appeared, my first step was to visit the Setup section to set my default output settings—so it doesn't have to scan for the correct setting every time it starts—and to install the extra apps to the hard drive along with setting other preferences.

The initial step of installing the apps to the hard drive involves making sure all firmware updates have been applied. The firmware upgrading process was easy and took only a few minutes. Once the firmware is at the latest version, the hard drive apps can be installed.

The apps can be installed over the Internet or from a USB key (if the Popcorn Hour doesn't have an Internet connection). After installing the apps, my next step was connecting it to my NFS server. The process was easy once I actually read the documentation for the proper URL formatting. By default, when specifying an NFS address, such as nfs://fileserver/mnt/files, the Popcorn Hour tries to connect over UDP. For my setup, I had to use nfs-tcp://fileserver/mnt/files, and then it worked.

For my setup, I installed the NFS server and BitTorrent client. There is also a Samba server option, but I don't have any Windows machines, so I didn't enable it. Once installed and started, I was able to mount the Popcorn Hour NFS share from any of my machines with the following:

mount -t nfs popcorn:/opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/HARD_DISK 
 ↪/mnt/popcorn

The brief documentation that comes with the Popcorn Hour is Windows-centric, so I had to use the showmount command to discover what the export was called on the Popcorn Hour, like so:

danielb@d610:~$ showmount -e popcorn
Export list for popcorn:
/opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/HARD_DISK 192.168.1.0/
↪255.255.255.0

The on-line forum and wiki also came in very handy whenever I had similar questions.

Testing the Popcorn Hour

One of my first orders of business after the initial setup was out of the way was to test the capabilities of the Popcorn Hour to see whether it could play all the formats advertised.

For video tests, I used Big Buck Bunny from the Open Movie Project. This Creative Commons-licensed animated short is available at bigbuckbunny.org in several video formats and sizes. The sizes range from 1920x1080 pixels (1080P) at the high end down to 320x180 pixels at the low end. For each size, there is a selection of container formats, including AVI, Ogg, M4V and MOV. Each container format has a different video format inside it, including MPEG-4.2, H.264, MS MP4 and Theora. The audio is in MP3, AAC, AC3 and Vorbis formats. These various versions provide a pretty good test suite for the capabilities of any video player.

The only container format it doesn't have is Matroska (.mkv). This, however, was not an insurmountable problem, because it is simple to create it, thanks to mkvmerge. For more on this and the Matroska container format, see the Matroska sidebar.

The most dominant video format of the past ten years (or more) has been MPEG-2, the format DVDs use. Thankfully, the Open Movie Project has me covered there too. Big Buck Bunny can be downloaded as a DVD ISO file from Archive.org (www.archive.org/details/BigBuckBunny), which can be burned to a DVD or simply opened by the Popcorn Hour (more on playing ISO files later).

The Fast Forward button on the remote works as advertised for all supported video files. Rewind works with varying levels of success on .avi, .mov and .m4v files. Rewind did not work at all with the .mkv files I have. Hopefully, a firmware upgrade will fix this.

All the video formats I tried worked with the exception of Microsoft's implementation of MPEG-4.2 (msmp4) and the Theora-encoded version. I also noticed some slight jitteriness with the 1080p versions when I played them off my NFS server. They played without a hitch when the files were on the local hard drive. The scaling that the Popcorn Hour applied to the large files to shrink them down to my television screen looked flawless. There was pixelation (naturally) when I played the smaller versions that had to be scaled up, but they still were very watchable. Audio playback likewise was flawless.

For audio tests, I tried a variety of files, including MP3, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis and M4a. The Popcorn Hour had no problems with the MP3 and FLAC files, but it would not play the Ogg or M4a files. The failure of the M4a files was surprising, as both the M4a container and the AAC audio format are listed as supported. More than 95% of my music is in either MP3 or FLAC format (with FLAC being the preferred format), so the lack of M4a and Ogg support is not that big of a deal, but I hope they will be enabled at some point.

One thing I should note is that the Popcorn Hour does not play any sort of DRM-infected content. So, if you've been purchasing things from iTunes and/or similar digital stores that cripple their content, the Popcorn Hour probably is not a good purchase.

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the wifi post

Anonymous's picture

Looks like they fixed that issue. Their sales page states wifi adapters will be shipped from fremont california?.

PCH A-110 and Ubuntu filesharing

Tommi's picture

Thanks for the article. It's useful. But I still have a problem with this device. I'm not really having any problems with the PCH A-110 that I recently bought used on ebay. My problem seems to be filesharing with Ubuntu. I cannot get the PCH to see my Ubuntu files. Every time I try to set it up with Sharing Options I get this effor message:

'net usershare' returned error 255: net usershare add: cannot convert name "Everyone" to a SID. Invalid parameter.

I'm new to Ubuntu/Linux and this reminds me of the old day when I tried to get Macs connected via ethernet. Do you have input regarding how to set up file sharing?

I have Samba and NFS installed (I think). I also have an external USB drive connected to my Linux machine which I'm trying to access with the PCH. Thanks for any help.

t

Popcorn Hour Buyer Beware

Kaboda's picture

Hi I want to actively make people aware of how dangerous it is to purchase this POPCORN hour media player online,

Below are extracts of my experience after ordering the A110N and then their poor ass reply.
I recommend WDTV which is half the price and less painful for the non wifi experience.

My email
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi Jason,

I hope this reaches the correct people do expect a call back regarding this issue from a higher management. I hope you still realise that the phase "the customer is always right" should always apply.

Hi, I am bloody unhappy customer, I order this product nearly a month ago. And after such length google checkout process I finally get yet another obstacle that stops me from getting this product.

Please refer to the attachments, both of my order and UPS shipping information.

I had a call about 2 weeks ago from UPS that A110 is unable to be posted out, this is due now to the additional USB wifi card I ordered with this product.

I have spoken to your technician / sales guy Jason and he is fully aware that Malaysia has a monopoly on these cards and whatever product that comes in with a USB wifi card will be stopped. And a government import permit is required (in another words huge fine of 300 ringgit) is required before this product is released.

I have been between calls from UPS and Sirim both which I have to call 9 times a day before i speak to someone or stretching from days at a time to handle this issue. I am furious about that but what makes matters worse is.

Your company is in Malaysia it knowingly knows about this proceedure with USB wifi adapters yet it did nothing when I clicked and added this accessorie. Jason tells me you disclaim all responsiblity from DUTY on your website before ordering. Is this proper practice when you know issues will occur such as mine. What if tomorrow another unknown consumer does the same and he faces the same issues as me. Is this the kind of customer service traits you wish to display. To have unhappy customers such as myself calling up and barranging yourself and you just disclaim yourselves and pass on the cost to the consumer.

My only risk was to buy your product. Your risk is to ship the product to me successfully, that has failed. Now your company passes the buck to me. The frieght transport back to China I would have to bare. How is this at all professional.

Instead of passing the buck I feel we both should share this responsiblity. If I had know the information your company knew about the usb wifi adapter then I wouldnt have added that option. That risk would have been mine and I would be more than accepting of this circumstances now.

To Chinese reputation is very important. I was thinking of marketing your product here, and doing some business with it. But this experience has made me lose total confidence in your product.

You have a duty as a firm with reptuation to make the consumer aware if possible.

If I see no reply to this email from someone higher than Jason, I will make other consumers aware and to beware of your product. And that your proceedure is to pass the buck. Instead of sharing the responsiblity and assisting like good companies should.

From your unhappiest customer

Low Chung Boon

Popcorn Hour reply to my email
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi,

We would like to note you that Jason note you that possible USB Wireless
adapter will be unable do the custom clearance Malaysia is his own opinion
because based on his own malaysian experience who purchased item from
online ship. So there are possible risk that need to be take care of when
place the order.

Also we have some customers who place the A-110 + WN-100 order are
received it without problem because they might asking their own forwarder
to pickup and the forwarder might have good relationship with local custom
to do the custom clearance.

We also have a lot users which different country that have their own
custom issue, we just cannot simply stated in our main website that listed
what country may have problem, its not our procedure. We already listed in
[url]http://support.popcornhour.com/article.aspx?ID=1015[/url] that which courier
service for which country, all these courier are suggested widely from our
users. You may refer to [url]www.networkedmediatank.com[/url] to check whether
possible other Malaysia users have this type of problem.

We already asking UPS to come out a solution whether the A-110 can be
remove from the package and if cannot be we will ask UPS to return back to
China. $250 sure can refund to you for the return freight charges we will
ask UPS to give us a discount for it and it could be possible responsibile
by customer.

Thanks.

Regards,
The Popcorn Hour Sales Team

Will you take the risk to buy this product ? No matter if reviews are good ?

THINK AGAIN !
They will pass the buck onto you if any problems occur.
They will wipe their hands clean if any issues occur with shipping.
They will knowingly keep information from you about duty in your country.

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