Spousal request for slideshow on TV – fail

Intro
Some things are just a lot harder than they should be. Given that I have two Amazon Firesticks for TVs, and tons of pictures on the Google cloud, wouldn’t it be great if while working at home my spouse could casually view a slideshow – sort of like using the TV as a giant electronic picture frame. Can’t be too hard, right? That was a long-standing request, which started more like “I want to see our pictures on the TV.” Then along came a request to show a home movie through the TV. Together these things broke through my wall of indifference and I was inspired to find a solution. Couldn’t be that hard, right?

Ha, what little did I know.

Some details
List of technologies tried and (mostly) discarded
HDMI
Plex
Kodi
Miracast
physical HDMI cable
SMB
UPNP
AllConnect

Some solutions came close, some not so much. Here are pros and cons of each in the order I tried them.

HDMI cable from laptop to TV
Pros
Well at least it actually works (see Miracast entry below).
Cons
Working with actual cables – no fun. Ties up your laptop fulltime.
Status
Probably fine if your need is very infrequent and you have spare time to mess with the cables.

Miracast
What it is
If it worked, this would be like having a wireless HDMI cable. So you’d cast from, say, a laptop directly to your Firestick.
Pros
I guess none as it doesn’t work. In principle it would be like using HDMI but without messing with the cable. You can mirror your display wirelessly from your laptop, then set your Firestick to permit being used, but it all doesn’t work in the end. My friend actually called Amazon support on this and they confirmed that they do not support Miracast from PCs.
Cons
At best it would tie up your laptop full time casting its screen to your TV. Doesn’t sound that great to me. Those who use Miracast find it unstable in any case.

Plex
What it is
A client/server technology. It is kind of slick nd designed to be consumer friendly. You install the Plex server on your PC.
Pros
It wasn’t too hard to get going. The Plex server can be used with other apps so it’s a generally good thing to have in any case. The Plex app is available on the Amazon store.
If you have home movies on your PC they play really nicely, I’ll give it that.
Your stuff is organized into sensible collections. Browsing through lots of folders of pictures is pretty easy.
Cons
The slideshow terminates at the last picture and stays there. There is no looping, which is bizarre since it’s otherwise so slick.

Kodi
What it is
As far as I can tell it’s an open source media client.
Pros
It can work from a bunch of different sources. I never did get SMB sharing to work, but once I started playing with Upnp I realized I could aim it at my Plex server! And that worked.
Cons
Requires you to jailbreak you Firestick so it’s not a smooth or pleasant installation. Installation requires “sideloading” from an Android device. I can drill down into a folder of photos but once I click slideshow the screen turns black. The thumbnails show up however. Also I read that it reads the EXIF meta information form each picture in a folder and that will take forever on a typical folder with hundreds of pictures. That’s a non-starter.

AllConnect by Tuxera
What it is
You would need the app installed on an Android device as well as the Firestick. You then in principle use your android device to control what gets displayed on your Firestick. This is a casting technology in other words.
Pros
Like a supported version of Kodi – it’s an app right in the Amazon store. Again it was compatible with my Plex server, which was nice.
Cons
Works like crap. You can show one picture at a time. It loses the connection. Slideshow mode doesn’t work. Forces you to pick one photo at a time to add to your slideshow. I don’t think so!
Ties up an Android device so that it ain’t so great either.
Also, because of multiple devices involved it’s a little slow (a couple seconds) to switch between pictures, painting a refresh thing on your screen while you wait.

Conclusion
All approaches fail. Plex comes closest to being useable. Allconnect is horrible, Kodi holds promise for some day, Miracast is a joke. An HDMI cable is a capable fallback solution.

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