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Orbiters Page Admin Website

An Orbiter is a high-tech remote control that you use to control your LinuxMCE system.

It can be a laptop, a Blackberry, a handheld remote control (such as a Windows MCE remote control, a Fiire Chief, or a Bluetooth remote control), or even a universal infrared remote control (connected by USB-UIRT). The functions of the Orbiter remote control are displayed on the local video monitor in a standardised Orbiter User Interface (UI).

For an Orbiter device to connect, it must either have a connection to a Media Director through an input port, or it must wirelessly connect directly to the home automation/multimedia LAN through a wireless access point (or wireless router with the DHCP turned off). The Wireless Access Point/Router must obviously be connected to the Core server.

While you can administer the LinuxMCE system through a Media Director (which has its own on-screen Orbiter User Interface), you can also control the system from many other Orbiter devices as well.

Types of Orbiters

See the orbiter hardware list for a list of devices that have been used as Orbiters.

Many Orbiters have relatively slow processors (like PDA's and mobile phones) and may be running on slow Wi-Fi connections. Therefore, Orbiters do not retrieve the large, full-size graphics that are available directly to Media Directors. This would require scaling them, redrawing the text, and re-rendering the graphics on the fly for each Orbiter, a processor-intensive operation.

Instead, all the graphics on the Orbiters are pre-scaled and pre-rendered by a software module on the Core called "OrbiterGen". If you add new scenarios or devices or change floorplans or skins, you won't see them immediately on the Orbiter. The LinuxMCE Admin Website-->Advanced-->Regenerate this Orbiter option is run and a wait of about 60 seconds is required while OrbiterGen renders new graphics, following which the Orbiter will be reloaded.

Web Orbiter

A Web Orbiter refers to any laptop (or other PC) on the LinuxMCE system which uses a standard web browser interface to display the Orbiter User Interface. The laptop or PC becomes a virtual remote control when used in this way.

Media Director Orbiter

Web Orbiter / Main Orbiter Screen (UI1)

All Media Directors run an on-screen Orbiter, like the one to the right. The on-screen Orbiter is controlled by the keyboard/mouse attached to the Media Director, or by a connected infrared, USB, or Bluetooth remote control. The Orbiter software can be run runs in Linux, Windows and Windows CE, and can also be run on webpads and PDAs.

In the lower right corner of the main Orbiter screen are the 'who' and 'where' buttons. This indicates the current user of the Orbiter and which room he or she currently is in (or wishes to control).

You can manually select your desired user and location. Your "location" need not be your actual physical location. For example, even if you were using the on-screen Orbiter for the Media Director in the Living Room, you could change your "location" to the Bedroom. You could then control devices as if you were in the Bedroom. Normally you wouldn't change the location for a Media Director's on-screen Orbiter (since that device stays in a fixed location), but you might change locations frequently if you were to use a wireless web pad or PDA.

Lighting Scenario Page LinuxMCE Admin Website

The icons on the left all lead to maps, or floorplans, of your house. These show the lighting, media, climate, telecom and security scenario categories for each room. Next to each floorplan icon is listed the scenarios for that category and room. (You create the scenarios for each room in the scenarios section of the LinuxMCE Admin Website.) For example, in the Living Room you could create a lighting scenario called 'entertaining guests' that would set the light levels, play some background music, unlock the door, etc.

Mobile Orbiters

The mobile orbiter works pretty much like a regular orbiter. The difference is that you don't usually need to worry about the "who" and "where" buttons. The "who" is determined when you chose to install the software. The family member who installs it is assumed to always be the user. The "where" is automatic - whenever you come within range of a Media Director that can recognize the mobile orbiter, it will automatically select itself as the correct location. (Nevertheless, you are still able to manually select a different location, if you want to control a location other than the one you are in).

Since a mobile phone's display is smaller, only selected scenarios can be shown. You must choose the scenario category from the main menu, such as "lighting", and then choose the specific scenario from the sub menu that appears. You can toggle the option for 'follow-me' mode, indicated with a red F. If you hold down the 2 button, a red F will appear for media. As you move around the house, your media will follow you. All 5 categories have follow-me.

Unless you have turned off the "Auto Detect new Bluetooth Phones" option on the Media Director, compatible Bluetooth Mobile phones will automatically be detected whenever they are within range of a Media Director. Be sure you have added the family member to whom the phone belongs on the LinuxMCE Admin Website first.

A message will appear on all Orbiters (you may need to turn on the TV to see the Media Director's on-screen Orbiter) asking if there is a new mobile phone, and if so, to whom it belongs. If you choose to install the software, the phone will beep. Just hit 'yes' to accept the software, and accept the default prompts.

Telephone-based Orbiter devices

Several mobile phones can be made to work as mobile orbiters.

  • Symbian Bluetooth phone
  • On the phone go to Menu-->Tools-->Manager.
  • Hit the left button, choose settings, and set "Software installation" to 'on'.
  • Set the "online certificate check" to 'off'.
  • On the phone: Menu-->Connect-->Bluetooth-->turn Bluetooth on-->make your phone visible (public).
  • Go near a Media Director with a Bluetooth dongle. Within 30 seconds or so you will see a message on any nearby Orbiter that a new phone is detected. Select the phone's owner. The software will be sent automatically to the phone as a message in the phone's inbox. Accept the default installation options. The phone will update its own software.
  • If the software gets deleted and you want the Media Director to resend it:
  • Turn the phone off.
  • Go to LinuxMCE Admin Website-->Advanced-->Devices-->"Reconfigure Device".
  • Turn the phone back on. The software should be resent.

Windows Laptops or Windows CE Webpads and PDAs

Download Page for Admin Site
  • A laptop or a device with a web browser can function as a Web Orbiter.
  • Other devices can also be set up to work as an Orbiter on a Windows system by following the setup instructions here.

Orbiter Setup

Setting up an Orbiter from the LinuxMCE administration screen

Here you add all the Orbiters you want to use in your house, no matter what type. This includes the Mobile Orbiters (e.g. mobile phones), the regular Orbiters (e.g. wireless webpads and tablet PCs), Orbiters you want to run on a normal PC, as well as the on-screen Orbiter displays (every Media Director displays an Orbiter on screen). All Orbiters connected to the system will appear on this page.

  • Room: this is the room where the orbiter is normally kept. For mobile orbiters this selection isn't important since you carry them everywhere. For regular orbiters, the room is choosen by manual selection.
  • Leave Monitor on for OSD: OSD (On-screen display) refers to an Orbiter that runs on a Media Director and is controlled by the keyboard/mouse, or by an infrared, USB, or Bluetooth remote control connected to the Media Director. When this option is checked, the TV will not shut off when media is finished playing, so that the Orbiter can then be displayed. The TV turns off only when the screen saver starts, or when you select Power-->Turn off display.
If you always control the Media Director using an Orbiter such as a web pad or mobile phone, leave this option unchecked. In this configuration, the TV will come on only when you're playing media or watching TV, and will turn off when you're done.
  • This device uses a Wi-Fi connection: This option is useful for webpads and PDAs with a Wi-Fi signal. Since Wi-Fi is somewhat unreliable, the Core and Orbiter will constantly 'ping' each other to make sure the connection is strong enough. The Orbiter software will exit whenever the Orbiter goes out of range.
  • No Effects: Many screens have special effects, such as animated buttons, fades, and so on. If the Orbiter has a slow processor, this may slow down response time. This option will disable any special effects on the Orbiter so it will run as fast as possible.
  • Language: All the text on the screen will appear in the selected language (as much as possible).
NOTE: You can create your own menus and translate screens into other languages using Designer.
  • Size: Choose the screen size you want. If this is an on-screen Orbiter on a Media Director), this will also set the Media Director's screen resolution.
  • Skin: There are several skins (motifs) from which to choose: 'Wood', 'Marble', etc.
  • User: This is the person who normally uses this Orbiter.
  • Quick Regen: To make the orbiters respond quickly, all images are pre-rendered. The User interface is "built" by the Orbiter Generator program. This option triggers the Orbiter Generator to re-generate the user interface for this orbiter. It will only regenerate screens that appear to have changed.
  • Full Regen: This will cause Orbiter Generator to re-generate every screen on the Orbiter.
  • Reduce image size by %: This will cause Orbiter Generator to add some padding to the screens. This is useful if the screen margins are being displayed outside of the TV screen.
Developer info: although it may sound intuitive that the corresponding DeviceData is also called "Reduce image size by %", it is in fact called "Spacing". The PK_DeviceData for it is 150. The text "Reduce image size by %" comes from the DeviceTemplate_DeviceData table and it's the meaning of the device data in that specific device context

Offset: This causes the Orbiter to do backflips while reciting a poem backwards. (Just kidding. If you know what it does, please edit this section.)

Change the look and feel of the Orbiter

On the LinuxMCE Admin Website-->Wizard-->Devices-->Orbiters page you can change the look and feel of the Orbiters in several ways.

Using the Mobile Orbiter

Every Orbiter has a 'Rooms' button on the main menu

Using LinuxMCE basically consists of selecting scenarios that you have previously created in the LinuxMCE Admin Website. For example, you may select the 'Good Morning' Lighting Scenario. If you want to watch TV, you will select the 'TV' scenario for that room. Since the scenarios are grouped by room, the Orbiter needs to know what room you are in. The on-screen Orbiter that runs on a Media Director will always default to the room in which it is located. You can manually specify the default room for other Orbiters, like webpads, on the Orbiters page in the LinuxMCE Admin Website. By default, mobile phone Orbiters 'follow you': whenever you enter a room with a Media Director that has a Bluetooth dongle, your phone will detect it and will switch to that room, showing you that room's scenarios. However, no matter what type of Orbiter you use, there will always be a 'rooms' button on the main menu showing the room, which can always be changed.

Every Orbiter has a 'User' button on the main menu, except mobile phones

With a mobile phone Orbiter, you don't need to tell LinuxMCE who is using the Orbiter. The owner of the mobile phone is initially specified on the LinuxMCE Admin Website's Orbiter page and does not change. But with other Orbiters, which may be shared by the whole family, there will be a 'user' button that lets you select who is currently using the Orbiter. This won't affect the scenarios -- those are the same for everyone. But it does affect some other things. For example, when browsing media, only the current user's private media is shown. Also, other things like speed dials, phone books, and so on, can be affected.

Selecting a scenario from the phone's main menu

On the mobile phones, the screen is quite small, so rather than showing you all the scenarios for a room, the phone normally just shows the categories of scenarios: 'Lighting', 'Media', 'Climate', 'Security', 'Telecom', 'Other'. Select a category, then select the scenario underneath it. The 'c' button always takes you back to the main menu. The red 'off' button stops whatever media is playing. And the 'menu' button hides Orbiter so you can use the phone as a normal phone again. To show the Orbiter again, hold the menu button until a strip of currently running programs appears, and chose 'LinuxMCE MO'. If the Orbiter isn't running, press the menu button, and choose 'LinuxMCE MO' from the menu. When you do, the Orbiter won't appear instantly--it will only appear when a Media Director is in proximity and is able to connect to the phone and talk to the LinuxMCE MO software. This can take around 15 seconds. While using the Orbiter, all the other keys have different functions depending on what you're doing. A brief legend is usually shown on the screen, and you can hold down the 'c' button for help.

Selecting a scenario from another Orbiter's main menu with touch or mouse

From the LinuxMCE Admin Website-->Wizard-->Devices-->Orbiters page, you can select a 'Skin'. This is the aesthetics (or motif): Wood, Marble, Modern, Classic, etc. You can also select the 'Main Menu', which determines how the user interface behaves.

If you change the 'Main Menu' interface, your Orbiter may look different from other Orbiters, and it may not display all the scenarios on the screen at the same time. In this case you may first have to choose a category, like you do with the mobile phones.

Selecting a scenario with a keyboard's arrow keys, or an infrared remote

When you use an on-screen Orbiter on a Media Director, you can either use the number keys or the up/down/left/right/enter keys on the keyboard (or an infrared remote control) to select a scenario.

Quick tip

No matter what the user interface looks like, and no matter whether you use the phone, keyboard, or infrared remote, the categories are always numbered as follows:

  • 1=Lighting
  • 2=Media
  • 3=Climate
  • 4=Telecom
  • 5=Security
  • 6=Misc

Within each category, the scenarios are numbered the same, and in the same order, for all Orbiters. For example, the 2nd media scenario is nearly always TV. Whether from a mobile phone, or using an infrared remote or keyboard for an on-screen Orbiter, 22 turns on the TV (2 for Media, 2 for TV). Also, when creating lighting scenarios, LinuxMCE encourages you to make the first lighting scenario the 'default on' and the second the 'default off'. In any room you can normally can hit 11 on any remote to turn the lights on, and 12 to turn them off. If you are consistent in setting up all rooms like this, you will find that you remember the number shortcuts quickly.

System concepts for Orbiter Implementation

Here's a simplified UML for Orbiter (pocketfrog implementation).

Integrating custom controls in Orbiter

Orbiter refactoring - the new design

Devel notes: