XBMC – My Experience

Over the Christmas holidays I got a bit bored (as you do), and decided to experiment with an old projector, turning my bedroom wall into a giant monitor!

I’ve been looking for some time to find a decent ‘10 foot UI‘, and from initial glances at the internet all fingers were point towards Apples FrontRow, however I didn’t want to sacrifice the Mac Mini to run as a media PC (although it would do a very good job – virtually silent!). I decided to go slightly off the beaten track and try XBMC (Xbox Media Centre as was).

I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set up and configure – within a few minutes I had a working interface that looked great, it was playing nicely with my network to drag videos off my main PC and download box (headless machine running get_iplayer and rtorrent in a cupboard, more on that in another post). My only major gripe is that the navigation is fairly awful – whether you’re using a keyboard or mouse (or a remote I presume), I can’t seem to figure out whether I’m needing to go forwards/backwards/up/down on the menus, and a lot of functionality seems to be duplicated.

The process of gathering TV and film information is pretty seamless, the scanner seems to run nicely in the background gathering data on my files, even though they’re sat on another machine. I’ve noticed a few false positives for TV shows, and you definitely need to do some config file editing to get TV files picked up.

I unfortunately don’t have the right kit at the moment to try and get live TV displayed through XBMC as well (from forum browsing it seems possible), although I have installed the iPlayer and YouTube extensions, both of which seem to be quite buggy. The iPlayer extension inparticular has some pretty major issues – trying to pause a video will cause the whole program to lock up!

Overall – I’m pretty happy with this solution for the meantime. Anyone who’s happy hacking around with setting files to get things working just how they want should be right at home, but I wouldn’t really recommend to anyone who’s after an ‘out of the box’ solution.