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  #1  
Old 03-23-2010, 08:08 PM
ptzink ptzink is offline
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SageMC, STVis, and Add Ons: Dependencies, Hoop Jumping, and Confusion [rant]

Okay, first I would like to start by saying that I love SageTV, I love SageMC, and I appreciate the large amount of time that everyone in the community devotes to developing plugins to enhance the SageTV experience. I mean that. However, I would like to touch on something covered (a little) in this thread here. That is, I would like to talk about (rant) the difficulty and confusion that is associated with installing a plugin in SageMC.
I will start by saying that I have been a SageTV/MC user for 2.5 years or so. For the first year, I did a lot of tweaking and crashing of Sage, which was to be expected when 'dipping your feet in the waters'. For the last year and half or so, I have had a server that I (and more importantly, my wife) is happy with. SageMC and ComSkip are the really the only plugins installed. It has been stable and we love it and I have left it virtually untouched (other than some hardware tweaks).
Recently, however, I have been getting that itch to do more with Sage. So the other night, I popped on the SageMC forum to see what was new on the plugin front. I click on the first one I see that interests me - TVExplorer. I look at the screen shot. Looks cool, I kinda want. I read about the features, such as integrating TV shows from other locations - I really want; no, I need! Okay, I am going to back up my wiz.bin and sage.properties and give it a try. It will take just a couple seconds right? Unzip the file into the SageTV directory, import the STVi and away we go. Then I read a little closer about the requirements - Sagex, Pheonix, and BMT. Really? I had to do some research on these because I have admittedly have been 'out of the loop' for a while. Still, not too intimidating for me yet as I am willing to roll my sleeves up a bit. I start with Sagex. I quickly find out, as I understand it, that I must have yet another plugin (Jetty or Niel's Web Server) to install Sagex. Seriously? And I have to edit a .properties file on top of this? Okay, how about BMT? Sounds great, collecting all of the metadata for my files, but alas, more hoops.
So finally, to my point. Why is it so difficult to customize SageTV/MC? Is there some kind of plugin system that could be created so that one simple executable (or even .zip) has everything you need to run a given plugin? I realize that SageTV is the PVR software for the tweaker and to be honest, that is one of the reasons I choose it over WMC or other offerings. I love to tweak and don't mind rolling my sleeves up a bit, but this seems a bit overkill to me. I can only imagine how a true newby feels when trying to expand the functionality of SageTV. Here's to hoping that SageTV 7 will have a much more friendly plugin system and/or have many of the great plugins baked in.
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  #2  
Old 03-23-2010, 11:59 PM
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Skirge01 Skirge01 is offline
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I've been using SageTV for about 2 years now and, in the beginning, I definitely was overwhelmed. But, I kept reading, asking questions, and trying things, and now things are quite simple for me. I think we all understand your frustration, though, and would mostly agree. However, most of us have come to accept and embrace it because the one-time effort pays off in dividends. Jetty is a great example. It takes a while to get working, but once you do, you have access to SJQ, SageAlert, SRE, Web Interface, Mobile Web, and BMT. How cool is that? That's why I installed it.

Customizing SageTV or SageMC really isn't difficult. It's the import we choose which may have dependencies we need to install. Keep in mind that sagex and Phoenix are really still in their infancy, but they add such "cool" stuff which imports can utilize that people have jumped in with both feet... myself included. Also remember that these things are pretty much community written workarounds for functionality SageTV doesn't natively have. Hopefully SageTV 7 will incorporate some of these things and make some of the dependencies go away.

I could be mistaken (and I'm sure stuckless, razrsharpe, or MeInMaui will jump in here soon), but I believe sagex and phoenix are part of the same API which allows things such as the awesome fanart we now have, as well as the updating or creation of metadata. BMT is one of the tools which automatically pulls in the metadata for your library. Theoretically, you could bypass BMT, thereby removing that dependency, but that would require you to go out and grab your own fanart and populate your own metadata, which really doesn't make any sense. So, until SageTV decides to incorporate these features, they'll continue to rely on each other.

The other thing I'd say is that the developers have really done a fantastic job of documenting the installation instructions. Most times, it's very straightforward as to what needs to be done. TVE just happens to depend on a couple of other things being in place in order to get the full effect.
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  #3  
Old 03-24-2010, 04:00 AM
lash lash is offline
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I noticed a trend after spending the last few days scouring this forum for info. People new to SageTV (like me) or old returning people, do end up posting a bunch of stuff about the problems with SageTV. Then it fades. Maybe this is part of the problem. SageTV sees these threads and dismisses it as a new user issue and does nothing to address the problem.

I just posted about this in the My Movies thread but I am positive that everything you complained about is SageTV's fault. This program has been around for a long time and in all that time nothing with the core elements has been improved. Its all about adding new hardware to sell, adding placeshift to sell a new license and squashing bugs. Even small easy things like I saw threads here from half a decade ago asking for a music visualization system for SageTV, citing and giving links to free visualizations they could use and add no cost, and still no result.

All the addons you mentioned that are required to use all the cool plugins are actually complete reinventing of the wheel. They are required because the SageTV core is so lacking that anything new and competitive, like say with the free XBMC, requires that the plugin developer create, use an existing external engine, or add new features to the core. If I understand correctly, Phoenix is actually an entire API. Creating a new APIs should never be required for volunteer developers to improve a commercial product. They are making money off this program, the least they can do is help the people who are working to improve it or they must share the profits with them.

Like all these threads started by new SageTV users, this one will probably die again and nothing will change with this company. The thing SageTV should keep in mind is that new users take the time to write these things because they really want to see SageTV become better. If they didn't care they would just leave. I left once. I am back. SageTV client/server features are world beating. I just wish everything else in the base core wasn't world loosing.

Last edited by lash; 03-24-2010 at 04:05 AM.
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  #4  
Old 03-24-2010, 06:45 AM
ptzink ptzink is offline
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@Skirge01
Thanks for the response. I understand that installing a plugin isn't exactly rocket science, but I think we all agree it could and should be easier. Even though I don't mind a little 'dirty work' myself, I think it is wrong to assume that an average user is willing to embrace the learning curve to get the new features.

@lash
We are definitely on the same page. Like you, I see these threads and I feel like they get dismissed as newby learning curve issues. That is why I wanted to take the time to speak my mind as an established user with a decent amount of experience tweaking the software. It shouldn't be this involved to get a plugin working. Basically what it boils down to is that SageTV 7 needs to play catch up with some of the competing products (WMC, boxee, XBMC, etc.) by offering these 'advanced' features out of the box. And it's not just about the eye candy or bells and whistles. It is about improving the organization of your media collection both from a data and UI standpoint.
The community of developers here is awesome (one of the main reasons I am still around). But it seems that they are constrained by the core SageTV software and are forced to basically build work arounds around it. I have to think that Sage could have a lot more users if could extend the functionality out of the box and provide a more user friendly plugin interface. I hope that the SageTV team is listening and I hope that they are working on it.
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  #5  
Old 03-24-2010, 06:54 AM
PLUCKYHD PLUCKYHD is offline
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I already posted my feeling on sagetv and their great developer support here

But just wanted to add that the core of sage is pretty darn strong. Is it missing stuff? Yes but every platform is missing things in their core. Take WMC for example all the fancy fanart graphics for MediaBrowser,MyMovies,MyTV etc , as well as the tv season episode sorting- are built by third part developers like us that have their own set of extended api's to fetch and manage fanart and metadata trust me that stuff is not in the core of WMC. XBMC has allot of if in the "core" but you have to remember xbmc is completely open development so it would be like all of our individual api's rounded into to one which has plus's and minus's.
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  #6  
Old 03-24-2010, 11:10 AM
ptzink ptzink is offline
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Plucky, point taken. And I'm not trying to bash anyone or put anyone down. I really do appreciate all the development from both the official Sage team and the community. The core software is strong and stable. All that I am really saying is there has to be a better way. I am okay with unzipping a plugin to the SageTV directory and importing the STVi through the GUI (although an exe would always be easier). I guess it is really just all the dependencies and knowledge you have to have to install a given plugin that make it a daunting task. Try to put yourself in the shoes of an average (or even above average) user starting to use SageTV for the first time. They install SageTV and want to add TVExplorer. Oh, you need SageMC for that. Okay, install SageMC - now they are ready. Nope, you need Sagex, Phoenix, BMT, Jetty, etc. It's overwhelming when all they really want is TV shows and movies to be organized like they are (by default) in XBMC. I understand your point about the difference in development between XBMC, SageTV, and WMC, but couldn't Sagex, Pheonix, Ortus, etc. be baked into SageTV? Right now, it almost seems as if you need an API for the API - if that makes sense.
Again, I appreciate everyone's hard work and have no desire to turn this into a bitch session or flame war thread. I just want to have a healthy discussion. Unfortunately, I am not much of a programmer, so I can't contribute much on that end. I am good with graphics, but lack of time has kind of limited my contribution there (2 kids and one on the way). I just want to make sure the 'average guy's' voice is heard. Thanks for all the responses.
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  #7  
Old 03-24-2010, 11:18 AM
nyplayer nyplayer is offline
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I have to agree with you ptzink and I am an experienced user. There are just too many pieces all over the place. I completely ripped out SageMC from my 2 clients and the server and went back to the default STV. My system is more robust uses less memory.
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Old 03-24-2010, 11:51 AM
PLUCKYHD PLUCKYHD is offline
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I agree on a easier way to manage plugins and such I was just more responding to the need of multiple apis and such.
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  #9  
Old 03-24-2010, 12:43 PM
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MeInMaui MeInMaui is offline
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I'll just say that these points among other reasons are why I decided to start developing Phoenix instead of continuing to develop SageMC. We have a great team of guys who are all a lot smarter and more talented and I and our key focus is on the User Experience above all else.

And no, I don't have an ETA.

Aloha,
Mike
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  #10  
Old 03-24-2010, 01:30 PM
ptzink ptzink is offline
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Mike, thanks for your dedication to Sage and the community of users. I do have a dumb questions though. What exactly is Pheonix and how does it differ from say Sagex and Ortus? You can give me a nut shell version or just point me to an informative link. I guess this is a large part of the confusion that I (and others) have. You think you have SageTV installed and you can just installing plugins, but all of these other components are intimidating. I know there is good documentation, but how do you even know where to start if everything is dependent on something else. Hopefully, Phoenix will solve my woes. Thanks again.
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Old 03-24-2010, 01:54 PM
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MeInMaui MeInMaui is offline
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As one of my professors used to say: "There is no such thing as a dumb question, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
(disclaimer: I'm definitely not saying this applies to anyone here.)

Phoenix is a replacement UI. Many of our ideas required functionality beyond the SageTV core and necessitated development of our own api to provide the foundation. Some of the functionality of that api (such as fanart support) was too cool to keep it to ourselves, so we decided to release the api to other developers so that they could leverage its functionality. For fanart support in particular, it just made sense to try to establish a de facto standard for the folder structure so that when users switch between plugins, they don't have to deal with different implementations for each one. That would get very annoying very quickly.

Sean has also developed an extremely cool virtual file system for Phoenix that he has leveraged in the web UI for BMT 4.0. The whole point of having dependencies is so that developers don't have to reinvent the wheel each time for a new project. However managing those dependencies is currently a completely manual process.

Things appear a bit haphazard right now because you have stumbled on all of this at a very exciting time. All of these plugins/add-ons are in a state of development right now and I see a shift to a lot more integration and convergence as we move forward. Along the way we will have to do something about dependency management, but for now please bear with us. In the end, we are dedicated to making the user experience as streamlined and enjoyable as possible.

Aloha,
Mike
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  #12  
Old 03-24-2010, 02:24 PM
PLUCKYHD PLUCKYHD is offline
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I would definitely Agree with Mike there. It is an exciting time for Sagetv and development, but also a harder time for new users to figure it out. As allot of things are in change right now constantly ironing out this or that.

I do think the future will be much much better for end users.
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Old 03-24-2010, 02:44 PM
ptzink ptzink is offline
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Well, this definitely sounds exciting if not a little confusing. Hopefully, this means all of this great add on functionality will be wrapped up into one nice package. Is that generally the idea? Would I be wise to just wait for the official Phoenix release rather than jumping through all of the hoops now? Is there a general roadmap/feature set for Phoenix that I can look at anywhere? Will this just be an STV import for the default SageTV software? Sorry so many questions. I am just trying to play 'catch up' I suppose.
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Old 03-24-2010, 02:47 PM
PLUCKYHD PLUCKYHD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptzink View Post
Well, this definitely sounds exciting if not a little confusing. Hopefully, this means all of this great add on functionality will be wrapped up into one nice package. Is that generally the idea? Would I be wise to just wait for the official Phoenix release rather than jumping through all of the hoops now? Is there a general roadmap/feature set for Phoenix that I can look at anywhere? Will this just be an STV import for the default SageTV software? Sorry so many questions. I am just trying to play 'catch up' I suppose.
Ortus will be a stv replacement (like sagemc) not sure on phoenix if it will be a stvi or stv.

Of course they will have their own functions rolled into one but to use the stvi's that will still require adding them on and the developer supporting the new codes.
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Old 03-24-2010, 03:36 PM
tonysathre tonysathre is offline
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Is making a "all-in-one" package possible? Say, installing SageMC, TVExplorer, BMT etc, just by extracting a single zip, and adding it in the options? Or is it more complicated than that? I've always wanted something like that. Right now I'm working on getting every package I normally use, all the STVi's, and making sure I have the latest version of each. It gets to be really time consuming sometimes.

Last edited by tonysathre; 03-24-2010 at 03:39 PM.
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Old 03-24-2010, 03:51 PM
SWKerr SWKerr is offline
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I love SageMC. Not sure if I could live with SageTV without it so a big Thanks.

I was wondering about how a major upgrade would affect all the existing plugins as well as what you guys are currently working on. Have you got some kind feedback from Sage that they are keeping these in mind?

I do have to admit that the install process is difficult for the Newbie. I think a lot of it has to do with the terminology. Most users probably don't even know what STV and STVi are. It would be great if Sage could come up with a plugin install package that developers could use to copy the plugin files into the correct location. Also: a simple option under setup that said "Load Plugins" which would list all the installed plugins with a button that said Activate?

I think a new extension for different plugin types would be nice as well. I have several times loaded the wrong plugin and ended up with a Black screen. Luckily I know how to fix this but a Newbie would be lost.

Would also be Nice if Sage would Highlight the Major Plugins and have separate download for Stable and Beta versions.

Last edited by SWKerr; 03-24-2010 at 03:55 PM.
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Old 03-24-2010, 06:57 PM
ptzink ptzink is offline
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@SWKerr,
I like the way your thinking there. When you were describing that, I was thinking of the way Firefox handles plugins the whole time. The package (.zip or .xpi in Firefox's case) would be installed through SageTV (using GUI) and would be extracted the to the correct location. Then, as you mentioned, it would be nice to have a visual indication within Sage what is installed/enabled and what is not. Better yet, it would be nice if you could browse and install plugins without ever leaving the Sage UI. I think I am living in dreamland on that one though. Lastly, I like the idea of having a centralized (and I mean really centralized) location with all of the plugins. And, like the Firefox add-on site, the ability to highlight/recommend the most popular plugins. I am sure we are not the first to think of this, but it would be nice to see something like this implemented. Of course, that would take a ton of cooperation and work from the official Sage team and I think that is the problem.
Also, I am curious about how this will affect users with SageMC installed and how the migration is going to work. Now MeInMaui and PluckyHD have me excited...
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Old 03-24-2010, 11:36 PM
lash lash is offline
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I think what you are all saying makes sense. However, I think what you are saying works for you guys because you are supermen. I mean that seriously. PluckyHD and Meinmaui are pulling of herculean tasks IMO and no question not only am I grateful but awed.

The problem is that the goal for a successful community is not having 3-4 supermen. The goal is to make the core work for anyone to come in and make things. Let me cite the example of the iPhone, you see? You mentioned Windows media center in the other thread being just as herculean and I think you are not correct there. My nephew whips up small little plugins for himself in about an hour for windows media center in .net. He's released a couple of them too he said that are more general purpose.

Thats the difference I am talking about. The goal is not to have 3-4 supermen. Its so that the core can be accessible and powerful enough so that for every 3 users of SageTV who have some development skills, 1 writes up a plugin that they see some aspect of SageTV that needs improvement. For every 15 non-developer users of SageTV, 1 creates a new script, theme, image, etc.

See that is the difference between a HTPC program that has a music visualization system and one that has 2 lousy visualizations that don't always work (search the forum, there are contemporary threads with people having trouble even getting them working as am I). These big projects you guys do are more than awesome and, honestly, I wouldn't be sticking around for round 2 if it wasn't for them. For the XBMC, windows media center and SageTVs of the world it means having a core that is accessible and easy to write for so that someone could sit down and write up a system for visualizations in a day or two. Not to put to fine a point on it, but something that has been done, ad nauseam, for windows media center and XBMC.

Going back to the iPhone thing, there comes a time when the market is moving past you and its too late. See Palm and Microsoft. That time has not come for SageTV, yet, thanks to its world beating client/server features. However, when I can get auction plugins, multiple movie trailer plugins, a dozen different plugins and ways to access online media (hundreds in some HTPC apps), music lyric plugins, games, karaoke plugins, the list goes on and on, in other programs and I can't get a simple visualization plugin and its just way too complex to make such a simple thing in SageTV. Well its the fart app paradigm. I may not want a fart app on my phone, but the fact that I can have it if I did want it makes a world of difference.

Last edited by lash; 03-24-2010 at 11:58 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 03-25-2010, 04:50 AM
PLUCKYHD PLUCKYHD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lash View Post
Going back to the iPhone thing, there comes a time when the market is moving past you and its too late. See Palm and Microsoft. That time has not come for SageTV, yet, thanks to its world beating client/server features. However, when I can get auction plugins, multiple movie trailer plugins, a dozen different plugins and ways to access online media (hundreds in some HTPC apps), music lyric plugins, games, karaoke plugins, the list goes on and on, in other programs and I can't get a simple visualization plugin and its just way too complex to make such a simple thing in SageTV. Well its the fart app paradigm. I may not want a fart app on my phone, but the fact that I can have it if I did want it makes a world of difference.
I agree will allot of your statement, but the wmc part yes you can whip up an app pretty quickly if you are good at .net, but we are talking about the "core" of wmc is still crap IMHO and also very limited in modification in allot of areas and they also don't give a crap about develeopers and what they want you are limited to their limits in allot of ways. Java is a different beast than .net and the biggest learning curve is studio to do sage development, but I am no superman trust me and I learned the studio part pretty quick(the basics).

I also agree wmc and xbmc have allot of nice additional addins .
but allot of that is due to the community size. I would tend to argue that sage probably has the most active user develeopers (ie me) per user than wmc does any day, but sage's userbase is much much smaller. I know my intenet on allot of this programs is personal want but allot of it had to do with bettering the community and increasing the userbase. The more that happens the more developers we will get an the better sage will be for all.

now your friend that coded in wmc being him over here I guarantee he will be suprised how about sagtev's development is you can literally change anything you want it is really great how much is there to work with.

Last edited by PLUCKYHD; 03-25-2010 at 04:55 AM.
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Old 03-25-2010, 05:57 AM
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tmiranda tmiranda is offline
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I can completely understand how somebody just starting with SageTV can be confused. Maybe it's time for a new and improved FAQ that explains the terms we use and the status of various API's, STVi's, and STV's.

I will make an attempt to put one together this weekend.
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