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Full Version: Compare all ConfluenceMODs, Consolide best features into Confluence II
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SCOPE OF THIS THREAD

The following skins are Confluence MODs, either expressly or implicitly:
  • Confluence [Jezz_X]: Stock Confluence.

  • Confluence Customizable Mod (aka CCM) [Mudislander - Hybrid repository]: The most extensively modified edition. Mudislander avowedly uses it as a testbed for his Convergence II. Convergence was a very powerful Eden skin which did not make it into Frodo.

  • Genesis. The newest addition.

  • Confluence-MOD Vol.2 [mad-max]: A sufficiently modified edition. Of which there exist two MOds, Confluence-MOD Vol.2 - Brantje Edition [brantje] and Confluence-MOD Vol.2 -MARAmod edition [MARA].

  • Confluence Modified [toiva / spacemoneky repository]. A sufficiently modified edition which appeared after Confluence-MOD Vol.2, and which for all sophistication looks and feels more like stock Confluence than either of the preceding twomods.

  • Mediastream Redux [Jezz_X]. An alternative path to Confluence.

  • Neon [stoli] - "Night meets Aeon meets Confluence".


Apologies if I have missed any.

The raison d' d'ĂȘtre of so many mods is that (1) while Confluence is a very fast and functional skin (2) it is also very limited and very dull, (3) yet all other mega-skins which try to overcome Confluence's limitations come at the price of such an overhead as to make the quest for a modified ---in the sense of more capable but not that much different and definitely not palpably slower--- Confluence imperative. The basic premise of this thread is that it should be possible to establish how Confluence Mark 2 should look like. An earlier thread (http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=169264) asked developers to collaborate toward this goal, but this proved too much to ask for.


STRUCTURE

This thread is structured as follows:

(1) It asks users to state what they are looking for in a skin and how they evaluate its features.

(2) It asks users to state which Confluence MOD they prefer and why. (They may include a MOD I have missed.) It also asks them to state which skin they prefer beside Confluence.

(3) It asks users as to their subjective useability experince with each Confluence MOD. I mean speed, stability, such things. The best MOD is useless if you spend half of the time rebooting.

(4) It asks users for features (incuding those found in differen skins) to be included or droped.

In the subsequent post (#2) I shall expose my preliminary comparison of the major MODs, and while I by no means want to impose this post's structure upon subsequent participators (incuding myself) I would be very flattered if they adopted it.

Developers are kindly asked to take notice, and are very welcomed to hijack this thread.





I. WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A SKIN

In my opinion a skin for XBMC must be as fast and unobtrusive as possible while at the same time exposing all capabilities hidden underneath. It must not be geared toward eye candy. (On Windows I use the bblean shell, on Linux fluxbox.) An Improved Confluence (Confluence II) must strive to meet the following ends: (1) Provide an easy access to all different media sources from the Home Screen. To that end, it must expose a fast menu/submenus system. (2) Provide an easy access to the many different add-ons from the Home Screen. To that end, it must expose either a fast menu/submenus/shortcuts system, or a 10-15 addons panel like the one developed by Mudislander for his then (Eden) Confluence Light Mod. (3) Provide a functional way to view on a single screen all information and artwork for each media file made available by the library. It is less important to have an impressive fanart (backdrop) than it is to have all nitty-gritty information affecting your decision whether to open this file NOW or defer it for later. In truth, if the screen is well designed there is no necessary conflict between the requirement for an impressive backdrop and all relevant information at your fingertips.


II. CONFLUENCE MODS COMPARED

On the basi of this premise I would rank the following Confluence MODs* as follows:

1. Functional Menu/Submenus structure

The king of the game is Mudislander's CCM - or at least so it seems, for the options on offer are too complex and IMHO not sufficiently documented for the novel user. Tovia's Confluence Modified offers less, but in this context less may be more as his mods are self-explanatory. Mad max's Confluence MOD 2 offers less than Tovia, but again in this context less may be more as mad max offers a ready-to-use solution for putting documentaries (in this case, only flims not series/episodes), HD Movies and music videos ('Concerts') directly on the home screen - except that Tovia would have also offered the possibility to add up to 3 category-specific addons or playlists per home screen entry (a highly useful option), and also except that IMHO it does not make much sense to filter videos according to their being 720p/1080p rather than to their content (we all treat our eyes to upwards of 720p these days). In CONCLUSION, all three MODs are superb, and rank #1 would have gone either to Mudislander's CCM plus proper HOWTOs or to a combination of the best features of Mad Max's and Tovia's MODs.

2. Easy Access To The Many Different Add-ons

This has become a major issue as the number of good add-ons has skyrocketed, and IMHO no MOD comes even close to solving it - what we need is something like a 15-addons panel, and what we are offered is, at most, 5 or 6 add-ons per main menu entry, either as sub-menus or as shortcuts. Still, the MOD offering that much (5-6) is Mudislander's. Tovia's is easier to use, but only offers three per main menu entry, and not neraly as many extra menu entries as Mudislander.

3. Viewmode: All information And Artwork On A Single Screen

In my personal experince the only viewmode to display everything (or almost everything) you need on a single screen is the 'Fanart' mode. It is still not perfect - a perfect mode would display the plot in newspaper column mode so that no scrolling is required -, but then it is good enough. Curiously the only MOD to botch up the 'Fanart; mode is Mudislander's: in CCM you have a castrated Fanart mode with no genres, ratings, director, writer, nor even plot (!).

4. Conclusion

For all these reasons I presently rank a combination of Mad Max's and Tovia's MODs (you can borrow concepts among them) slightly higher than Mudislander's, although Mudislander's MOD is clearly in the lead technologically.


III. FEATURES TO ADD

I wish the weather information displayed on left upper side of the home screen included wind direction and speed and specified cloud cover not as 'cloudy/overcast' but as a %-value.

I wished the current IP displayed next to weather on all home screens. This is a feature of MARA's MOD to Mad Max's Confluence MOD 2.

I wish every screenshot of a revolving extrafanart displayd the name of the media file to which the screenshot belongs - it is so easy to forget what you have in your collection!

While we are awaiting the long overdue substitution of a real normalized RDBMS for XBMC's existing flat database substructure (cf. http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=165929), a skin should strive to overcome (or at least alleviate) XBMC's treating of all videos that are neither movies nor TV shows (documentaries, anime, sports) as library orphans which cannot be displayed on a single home screen section. Currently this is only possible per tweaks involving the integration into the skin of the PseudoTV plugin. This plugin collects non-episodic and episodic video content on the same screen while XBMC itself cannot achieve that. I wish it were integrated into Improved Confluence.


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(*) Apologies for not including Genesis. It is too new for me to have tested it extensively.