The Popcorn Hour A-100
One of the big selling points of the Popcorn Hour is the built-in BitTorrent client. My experience with it has been mixed.
On one hand, the BitTorrent client works. On the other hand, it's very painful to use with the remote. I do like the fact that I can check on the status of torrents I am downloading or seeding right on my television, but anything more than that (like setting up the schedule) is difficult at best. Thankfully, there is a Web interface that is much easier to use.
The Web interface has all the features of the TV interface with the addition of an upload interface to add new torrents. To add torrents to the list, you first need to download the .torrent file to your desktop and then connect to the Web-based torrent front end and upload the file through that. The address for the Web-based front end is at popcorn:8883/torrent/bt.cgi.
The Online Services area has a lot of content preconfigured for it. The biggest section is the Media Service Portal, which is filled with dynamically updated content from various providers, such as YouTube, Revision3, DLTV, SayaTV, Vuze, Mevio and even a selection of podcasts from the NBC, CBS and CNN news networks.
There also are slots for adding podcasts (video or audio) of your own. Simply choose the Edit link from the Online Services page, and then enter the title of the podcast and the RSS feed URL. After saving your changes, when you select the newly created entry, the Popcorn Hour will fetch and parse the RSS and give you a link to the audio or video file. Select it, press the Enter button, and the podcast will play after a delay. The length of the delay is dependent on your Internet bandwidth and the size of the file you are downloading. In my testing with some large-format (480p and up) video podcasts, the Popcorn Hour had trouble downloading the files and even crashed a couple times. So, although it's nice that the Popcorn Hour can connect to RSS podcast feeds that I specify directly, a much more reliable solution for me is to download them on my local file server and then access them through the NFS share.
The Popcorn Hour can play DVDs either from a USB DVD-ROM drive plugged in to one of the USB ports or from a DVD ISO file. There is one huge caveat to this ability, however; it can't play encrypted DVDs, which basically covers nearly all commercial DVDs and ISO files of those DVDs. The only DVDs I found in my collection that can be played directly by the Popcorn Hour are the ones I purchased at the dollar store and Big Buck Bunny from the Open Movie Project.
Assuming you have some unencrypted DVDs or ISO files, playing them is similar to using any off-the-shelf DVD player. One note though: playing an ISO of a DVD off of a network share takes a lot of bandwidth, so you'll have your best luck with NFS and a wired connection as opposed to Samba and/or a wireless connection.
For people who don't want to go to the trouble of setting up an NFS or Samba server, there is another option for sharing media from your computer to the Popcorn Hour: myiHome. The myiHome application can be downloaded from www.networkedmediatank.com/download/myihome.html. There are versions for Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
For Linux, you simply download a tar.gz file. Untar it, and you will have a folder named something like myiHomeLinux-v5.0.2. Inside this folder is a startserver.sh script. Running this script starts myiHome. To stop it, simply press Ctrl-C, and it will quit.
Once the server is started, it shows up in the list of media sources on the Popcorn Hour automatically. On Linux, the server automatically looks in your home directory for folders named My Videos, My Music and My Pictures.
After connecting to a myiHome server, you can set various preferences from the television interface, such as selecting the photo folder to use as a slideshow source when playing back music and vice versa, among other things.
When navigating music or video folders on a myiHome server, you have the option to play the contents randomly with the Shuffle command. There also is a Search button that you can use to find specific tracks or photos.