PIXILAB Player is free software that makes a player or interactive kiosk out of an Intel NUC or other PC-style computer, for use with Blocks as a Display Spot. It's based on the excellent Porteus Kiosk.
This article describes how to make such a player. You will need a wired Internet connection with automatic network configuration (DHCP) for the installation process.
PIXILAB Player System Requirements
We recommend using an Intel NUC as the player. For basic applications in HD resolution, you can choose a low-cost, Celeron based model. For most applications, an i3-based model is sufficient. For demanding applications, select an i5 or i7-based model.
The player only needs CPU and a minimum of 4 GB of RAM to be installed. No hard drive/SSD is required. For 4k video playback, two RAM modules are recommended to optimize the memory bandwidth. We recommend RAM modules such as SO-DIMM at 2666Mhz or better (but also check manufacturer's recommendations).
Additional storage medium for Block Caching and Offline use
To use the Block Caching feature, an additional storage device is required.
- Internal SSD is recommended, providing fast and reliable storage.
- SD card of the SDHC type, up to 32GB. NOTE: SDHX cards or cards larger than 32GB do not work.
- USB 3.x memory stick.
- USB 2.0 memory stick does work, but is rather slow and therefore not recommended.
Manual configurations (Advanced requirements)
NOTE: To configure a player with fixed IP address, or other advanced settings and special requirements such as installation to internal SSD, follow the Advanced setup guide instead.
If not, please continue with the simplified instructions in this article.
To create a player, you need a USB stick at least 8GB in size, which will become your bootable player.
- Download Etcher, which you will use to "burn" an ISO file onto the USB stick.
- Use Etcher to transfer the ISO image onto your USB stick.
- Connect a monitor to the target computer (NUC or other suitable model).
- Connect the target computer to a wired network with Internet access.
- Move the USB stick to the the target computer
- Start the target computer, making it boot from the USB stick.
If the computer doesn't boot from the USB stick, you need to enter its BIOS and change its boot settings so that it can boot from USB. You may also need to turn off any Secure Boot option. Once target computer has started, you should see a screen similar to this:
Using a web browser, go to the URL displayed on the screen. This should lead you to a webpage looking like this:
Enter the ID shown on the target computer's screen, and press Continue. After accepting the Google Chrome license terms, you will be able to configure your PIXILAB Player.
In most cases, only three settings need to be specified:
- The domain or IP address of the Blocks server.
- The keyboard layout (if a physical keyboard is to be used).
- Whether to show the mouse cursor (if you intend to connect a mouse to the display spot).
NOTE: Enter just the IP address or domain name in the text field. Do not append "/spot" or any other path. When using our Linux based server image, you don't need to specify a port number. However, if you're running Blocks on your Mac or Windows computer, also append any non-standard port number separated by a colon, e.g. :8080
Additional options can be accessed by checking “Show advanced settings”. Some of these options require more details to be specified, and may reveal additional options. Hover over an option to learn more about it, its use cases and possible values.
Blocks Server Connection Type
If you're exposing your Blocks server to the Internet, you're strongly advised to use an encrypted server connection (HTTPS). Note that this requires a domain name and an associated certificate to be installed on your Blocks server.
If players are used only on an intranet, and don't connect over the Internet, you do not need to run HTTPS on those players. In general, unless explicitly forbidden by your server's configuration, players can access the server over HTTP even when the editor and other secure endpoints use HTTPS.
If selected, PIXILAB Player allows the default block (the one dragged onto the spot) to be cached on the player. This requires an additional storage medium to be installed on the player, such as an SD card. This storage medium will be formatted for use for block caching the first time the player is started with this storage medium installed. Once enabled, the default block, including all its media, will be stored on the player. This greatly reduces the amount of network traffic required for playing the block. Furthermore, it allows the block to play even without a server connection (assuming the block doesn't depend on any server functionality).
NOTE: A separate license is needed on your Blocks server to use Block Caching.
Hardware Accelerated Video Playback
Enables hardware-assisted video decoding on hardware that supports this. This may improve video playback performance, but may in some cases cause other problems or stability issues, so make sure you test on representative hardware and content before deplying players with this function enabled.
We strongly recommend that you use a hardware network connection (Ethernet) whenever possible. However, if you must use a wireless WiFi connection, you can enable that here. When enabled, you must then specify the network name (SSID) and password for accessing the network.
If you need to access local time on the player (e.g., for some custom web content), select the local time zone where the player will be used.
If you specify a timezone to access local time on players, you may also want to specify a custom time server used to set the clock in the player. If not specified, a default NTP server will be used (pool.ntp.org).
Once you are happy with the configuration, press "Save and continue". The target computer must now reboot for the settings to take effect.
IMPORTANT: Leave the webpage open and do not press "Continue" until the reboot has completed.
Once the target computer has rebooted and finished updating, click "Continue". You can now connect the player to your Blocks network. An additional reboot may be required to establish the server connection.
Making Multiple Players with the same Configuration
Etcher can be used to clone the USB stick you just made, for use on other players. Using Etcher, you can also flash several USB drives at the same time.
Player Configuration and Network Booting
You may want to configure additional settings on your PIXILAB Player computer, or set up your Blocks system for network booting – thus removing the need for USB sticks. More on those options here.
[TODO: Make a common document describing BIOS settings for power management, PXE booting, etc]