XBMC – The most powerful media center.

OK. Lets think for a while that what do people do most of the time with their computer.

  1. Surf the Internet.
  2. Chat with family & friends.
  3. Download software & stuff.
  4. Play music, videos, movies & TV Shows.

The last one is the most popular option for most of us. So that’s why after a long, long time I’m going to do a review of XBMC Media Center.

XBMC Media Center (formerly known as XBox Media Center) is a pioneer in media center application. It is a Free & Open Source Application. It supports multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac OS X & Linux. So you guys must be wondering that Windows has built in Windows Media Center then why should I install this one. Well, just read the entire post and see for yourself.

Downloading & Installation

XBMC is available for basically three platforms (links will open in new window).

Besides these three, it is also available as a Live CD & for Apple TV as well. Get it from http://www.xbmc.org.

So, I’ll be using GNU/Linux for installation. I’ve already installed it on Fedora 12. But first, let me tell you about system requirements.

System Requirements :-

The system requirements are minimal, for eg, it has been successfully tested on Zotac Mag which has :-

  • Intel Atom 330 @ 1.6 GHz single-core.
  • 1 GB DDR2 RAM @ 800 MHz.
  • Nvidia Ion chipset consisting of 9400M onboard graphics
  • 160 GB 5400 rpm HDD.

Although it will also run on the Intel chipsets like 945, G31, P45 etc. But it is highly recommended that you should get a chipset or a graphics card that is capable to decode 1080p or Full HD content effortlessly. I tested it on a modern system consisting of :-

  • AMD Phenom II 720 BE @ 2.8 GHz (tri-core)
  • Biostar motherboard with 790 GX chipset.
  • 2 GB DDR2 RAM @ 800 MHz
  • ATI Radeon 4870 1 GB GDDR5 graphics card
  • Samsung 1 TB HDD.

Tip :- Currently NVIDIA offer VDPAU support for Linux which can decode H.264 content found in HD movies, effortlessly. There is no such support for ATI or Intel on Linux. But no problem in Windows thought, Direct X takes care of that.

Post Installation :-

After you install this program, launch it. It has the same interface on both Windows & Linux.

The Home Screen :-

Once you launch the XBMC Media Center, it will run in full screen mode. I’ll be showing you two skins, Confluence & Transparency. How to add skins will be covered later. So here is the home screen :-

This spectacular fluid interface is called Transparency. Now, we need to add media to it. For that follow the following steps :-

  1. Move to Videos & press enter.
  2. Then select Add Source.
  3. Then navigate to the folder or hard disk partition where you have stored your movies.
  4. After that give it a name (Movies will do) & then select Set Content (very important!!)
  5. Then select Themoviesdb.org or IMDB.com and select Run-Automated-Scan.
  6. That’s it. Now it will download the movie information from the internet.

Here is a screenshot to assist you…

After a while, it will show a Movie section on the home-screen. Click on it and you’ll be presented with something like this :-

This screenshot is from Transparency skin. You’ll get a different one.

Follow the same procedure for TV Shows & when you’ll be presented to set content, select TheTVDB.org. You’ll be presented with this screen when you’ll select the TV shows section :-

Music & Pictures can be added easily.

Adding Extra Skins :-

  • Go to XBMC site and then select skins from the download menu.
  • Then download the skin of your choice.
  • It will be a compressed rar file.
  • Extract it.
  • Windows users – Copy it to C:\Program Files\XBMC\Skins (or the relevant folder on your HDD).
  • Linux users – Copy it to XBMC folder (hidden) under the Skins sub-folder in your home-folder.
  • Make sure you copy the whole-folder not just the contents.

Conclusion :-

Pros :-

  • Cross-platform.
  • Integration with online scrappers.
  • Ultra-sexy.
  • Built-in decoder for most of the codecs.
  • Can be easily installed on Debian based distros.
  • Full support for NVIDIA cards & chipsets.
  • Can rip Audio CDs too.

Cons :-

  • No hardware accelaration for ATI cards.
  • Little tough to set up on Fedora & other distros.

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