Monday, 23 March 2009

Media Centre's - XBMC

I've been looking around for a media centre to use. I have a mac mini below the TV that is used to play content stored on my server. I'm currently running MediaCentral from Equinux. However this has a few problems:
  • Unable to eject the DVD!
  • Not able to play .mkv's (they don't show up in the media lists)
  • No plugin support
  • No meta data display
So because of these problems I've been looking around for other media centre's. The first I've looked at is XBMC. I'm looking for a nice looking media centre that hopefully works on windows, Linux and OSX. Though OSX is the only one currently that I must have it working on. I'm also looking for it to fix the above problems, as well as been fast. One other feature I'd really like to see, is the ability to get the metadata from the MediaInfoFetcher application I wrote.

So first off XBMC seems to work on linux, windows and OSX. However after playing around with it a bit this is not quite the case. I could not get it to start on my OpenSuSE Linux box at all, it just complains about a problem with Open GL. I suspect that this is a problem with the ATI Linux graphics drivers and 64 bit, though no other app has a problem. I tried it on a different Linux box, and it started fine their.

The windows setup was a little odd, first it seemed to be working fine, then I tried to setup the media, which is on remote samba shares as far as windows is concerned. This did not work as a XBMC witch is odd given that you would expect windows shares to work very well on windows. So I tried mapping them to drive letters, and got one of the sources add to XBMC. However I was not able to add the others. Every time I tried, I though the drive letter as relative to the users home directory. So not very usable on windows!

Next I tried it on OSX on my mac mini, this is the device that really matter as it's below the TV. I'll be expecting HD 1080p output for this and surround sound via the digital out of the mac mini. I also need the remote control to work as this device does not have a keyboard or mouse. All this stuff pretty much worked. The remote control functions took a bit of getting used to, but was actually quite good. All the previous mention problems were fixed, I could even eject DVD's and play lots of different media types.

Next up I wanted to try some plugins. One of the ones I was most eager to try was the iPlayer plugin. This worked very well. on mac os, but not on windows. It was actually very impressive watching iPlayer content on the large TV screen, makes you wonder if you still need a TV tuner.

I then tried to watch some media files, and this is were the mac OSX problems started. It would start of playing quite nicely, then become choppy. This is low def content, so it's quite unexpected. This content plays fine in Frontrow and MediaCentral. Also fast forwarding on the remote seemed a bit clunky and made things go choppy to.

The meta data display was great for films, however did not work very well for TV shows. Mainly because I wanted to be able to store them in a directory and take the show name from the directory. This was only supported for films, but I only wanted to do it for TV shows. It has the ability to add scrapers for different sites via XML files, which is quite nice, but I could not find anyway of parsing data fetch my own application.

In summary, it's a really nice media center with a lot of potential. At the moment, it does not quite meet all my needs due to the different problems on different platforms. I think the the choppy playback could be solved I'd probably use it.
Post a Comment