January 14, 2013

Introducing proks: An XML creator/manager for roksbox video


I was an early adopter to the roku Streaming Video Player. The only downside I could find with the device was the inability to stream your own video from within your own home network. Over the years several options have arisen to include: roConnect, Plex, roksbox, and others. After testing all of these over the last year I found the roksbox channel to be the best for my needs. roksbox allows me to stream from a plain old web server which is very powerful. The setup can be daunting but that is only because of the huge amount of options available. As is often the case with technology, the more powerful an application is often the more difficult it is to setup.

While roksbox will recurse your web server and display your media for streaming you also have the option of pointing the application to an XML file which better describes your videos. This results in a superior interface where poster artwork can be displayed as well as descriptive information such as: title, description, actors, mpaa rating, etc.

The generation of these XML files is supported through GUI tools available for Windows O/S,  or through an online tool located here, but there didn’t seem to be a convenient GUI method for creating or editing these XML files in Linux. This was the inspiration for proks which can be downloaded here.

Proks is a perltk application which can retrieve information from IMDB thanks to this cpan perl library, and can retrieve technical information from you video files via mediainfo. It also lets you manually create library entries or edit your XML library. The proks download (above) is a Debian file (.deb) and was tested on Debian Squeeze. The application is packaged with all its dependencies in an executable PAR archive which should work on any flavor of Linux.

There are a couple known bugs which are not by any means non-starters. 1) The subroutine which passes your media file to mediainfo does not return information for audio when you have multiple audio tracks. This will be fixed soon. 2) When in “Edit XML Library” mode, the editing of the origtitle field creates a new library entry rather than editing the existing entry. This is because proks uses the title as the key attribute when parsing the database. This won’t be fixed. The old entry can easily be deleted. 3) When adding a new entry with the same title as an existing entry the old entry is overwritten. As with #2 this is due to the title being the key database value and won’t be corrected. Titles must be unique and it is up to the end user to manage this. 4) If using proks to edit XML files created with other software, proks removes XML entries which are blank. If this is undesirable behavior I suggest backing up your XML file first before using proks and verifying that it fulfills your needs as expected.

I just hope that someone else finds this useful. Of course the software is open source and licensed under the same Creative Commons License as this site.

Read more from Perl, Perl/tk, Projects, proks

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