Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Miscellaneous Media Center Updates

A few minor changes have hit my media center in the last couple of weeks. Herein, a quick round-up.
Amazon released an update to the Fire TV operating system (5.0.5.1) which blocks the Firestarter application. Firestarter just disappeared overnight, with no explanation or warning messages, which was a very unfriendly-to-the-user action. I tried re-installing it, which silently failed, again with nothing to tell me why. Eventually I found an explanation on the Firestarter issues list, but it was a frustrating experience.

I kind of understand why Amazon would want to block Firestarter. It takes over the home screen of the Fire TV, which means I don't see Amazon's ads. Not that I pay attention to them anyway, of course, but I do understand why they'd care. But there's no good excuse for the terrible user experience that I had from this update. At the very least, they could have some kind of pop-up message, or send me an email, explaining what had happened.

That update wasn't all bad news, though. I was using Firestarter as an easy way to launch applications that didn't show up on the Fire TV main screen (mostly Kodi). The Fire TV is now showing those applications in the Recently Used application list. So I can get by without Firestarter, as long as Amazon doesn't change that behavior.

Another minor update applies to the Trakt.tv Kodi add-on. I had recently expanded the episode lookup code that I use with my MythTV DVR recordings. Part of that change involved making an API call to Trakt for every episode of a show, which is terribly inefficient. Thanks to an update by the maintainer of the trakt.py Python API module, I was able to replace that with a single API call to get all episodes at once. It's still not as good as a real search-by-show-and-episode-name function would be, but it's an improvement.

It'll take a little while for that change to work its way through the various levels of code maintenance. The main branch of the trakt.py module needs to be updated, then the script.module.trakt Kodi add-on package, plus my own modified version of the Trakt add-on. Eventually it'll all be in place.

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