Hackit: Boxee Now On Windows

Boxee, the free media center management and streaming application, is now available for Windows platforms. We’ve been following the developments of Boxee since we first announced its alpha this time last year. At that time, it was only available for OSX with promised Ubuntu support. We were a bit skeptical about the interface noting, “Unfortunately all the dynamic resizing, animated, sliding, floating info boxes make it behave like the zooming user interface’s retarded cousin”. Our interest in Boxee was almost entirely based on it being a fork of XBMC, the media center project developed for initially for hacked Xboxes. It was interesting to see Boxee become the interface of choice for hacked Apple TVs and then go mainstream with a big push at CES.

Have you been using Boxee as your media center? What do you love/hate? What about alternatives like XBMC, Plex, or MythTV?

27 thoughts on “Hackit: Boxee Now On Windows

  1. boxee is great for web media and organizing your local media, i really love it. however, until there is integrated dvr and live tv as part of its core, i will still have to rely on vista media center for daily use :/

  2. Um yuck. XBMC kicks Boxee’s butt. I dont want no stupid “social networking” in my Media center.

    Give me a stable MythTV interface to XBMC and make the best MC ever.

    P.S. Vista Media Center is utter crap compared to XBMC live. Zero DRM, Zero waste of processor, 100% smooth goodness.

  3. Funny, I was just in the middle of a boxee-on-mythbuntu install when I read this. All the functionality of MythTV plus boxee so I can watch hulu!
    We’ll see how well this works…

  4. unfortunately, all media centers stink. They all are closed systems, everybody reinvents the wheel all the time, which leads to one with shiny *and* working UI (not common!), the other does not crash, a third actually plays all the file types in my library etc.

    We really need a Unix-like approach to media centers, small interchangeable tools, developed independently, with a very loose API.

    What I would like is to use my IR remote as a real input device to the X-server, so I won’t need special IR capable applications. Best starting point would be a netbook distribution, with the special big-iconed desktop. Just stick some nice bling on it (compiz), and clean up the UIs of your favorite apps (big fonts and no menu in Firefox, less panels in the audio player, automatic full screen in the video player, *some* kind of good video indexing. Hint, the file manager’s preview does not do it. I want tags and IMDB sync. Also super nerds might want to control their DVD juggling robot from the couch.)

    To top it of with a nice diss: these media center apps remind me a lot of KDE. Both have endless configurability, mostly concerning skins, and very minute details of user experience that allow one to change everything that does not suck about it but leaves the big problems.

    I do not want to have a seperate media library, that comes with it’s own update horrors (yo people there is inotify and plain ol’ file tree walking. Do it both and don’t bother me.)

    I do not want to have to setup an SQL database server, and have stupid questions asked about it too. Hell it’s not an enterprise app. It’s for watching porn. Just slap it in a SQLite DB and be quiet about it.

    I do not want to wait three hours for some scan to finish before I can enjoy (or not) the media. I also do not want to have to rescan for the same three hours on every startup, because the media center crashes when I told it I had an DVB-S receiver while that PCI ID was in fact the one of my GPU.

    Honorable mention: Kaffeeine was the only, and that is evidence of what a giant suckfest this is, the only application that did not cause me endless pain with my DVB receiver. It worked out of the box. Scan the channels for 5 minutes, no questions asked, watch and record things, have timeshift. Everything worked (well, everything I care about. It seems that in the nether parts of the applications they included amarok in full, just to make sure).
    Well except the streaming via LAN (and thats also my point: its a graphical desktop app. Why the hell does it include a video streaming server! Who serves streams from a desktop app. That’s crazyness. It would be borderline OK if it allowed to remote control a stream demon, but that’s a specialized application’s job), and it has this funny error “Installation failed: Codec already installed”, when the user, god forbid!, installed a codec without Kaffeeine nodding it off.

    Arr! End Rant.

  5. @pascal You know XBMC is open source right?

    I tried Boxee but was not impressed. I didn’t know it was going to be social networking meets media site.

    The biggest difference I noticed between boxee and XBMC was the quality of the video. XBMC just makes my movies look better and it was not even close.

  6. I find xbmc sucks for music. I just use it to play stuff on my mediabox hooked into a TV and what I hate the most is that if you ask it to update the media library on startup, it’ll hang massively if the music server isn’t on. Ping it, if it doesn’t respond, don’t hang the fucking program while you look for shit that isn’t there, KAY?

  7. tried the Boxee windows client. As a first run, it’d be great if my friends used it, but otherwise, the social media aspect is in need of an on/off switch. Maybe there is one, and I just don’t know where or how, which is fine.

    As a media player, it did alright. Watched a few TV episodes. The Apps feature is nifty, but some of them need some work.

    There’s plenty more I could rabble on about, but part of it is me being a boxee newb, and part of it being an alpha version. Considering those two, it’s really usable. I could see using this on a 50inch LCDTV without much trouble, and I hope the team keeps pushing on. If a standalone boxee box does come out, preferrably with NAS/USB support, then I would be able to swap to that without much regret.

  8. In my living room I have a real original Xbox running XBMC. Although I find all media centers to be major bloat hogs, XBMC is a fairly nice program, with an intuitive interface and decent performance and file support. On my PC, I run Media Player Classic with enough DirectShow plugins to play every file format ever invented. I realize it’s not a media center, and that’s exactly why I like it.

  9. @FlimtotheFlam of course I know that, I only use free software (besides wine-able games). But “if you don’t like it, go fix it” is not a universal counterargument when you’re talking about free software — I really don’t see a point in investing any time into fixing *that*. Since it’s not done with small patches. It would be easier to write a new one, well and that’s what everybody else did, thus the abundance of bad media center software.

  10. I’ve been wanting to try boxee out for awhile now. But for some reason, in this day and age, they still have no simple way to install it on x64 systems.

    Get with the times and give us some 64 bit builds boxee!

  11. i’m yet to try out xbmc but it seems the best of the bunch. I don’t get the social networking aspect of boxee. what’s the point? if a friend wants to recommend me something they can do so already in numerous ways.

  12. I have 3 hacked xboxes running xbmc. So damn convienient to be able to hook it up to a tv in the room and then bam, instant movies from the fileshares. I have mythtv as well, and the recordings go into a folder that can be accessed from all the xmbc boxes…it may not be named all pretty, but from the channel number and date/time you can get around fairly well. Can’t get xbmc to compile under gentoo tho, really wanted to see if it could do HD movies well enough…

  13. I’ve been using MythTV for quite a few years now (my wife and kids are watching a movie recorded from TV as I write). I find that MythTV is good at what it was originally implemented for – Scheduling and recording TV shows using tuner cards. It’s UI is OK, but pretty clunky at complex tasks. I find that it totally fails at most other media center functions that it tries to provide – It sucks as a digital photo gallery and as a music player. It’s ok at playing back and managing videos that I’ve gotten from other sources and put into the right folder on the myth system, but again it suffers from the clunky UI at times. Since I’m a software engineer, I’ve looked at the UI code to see what it would take to improve it and, IMHO, it is not fixable short of a ground up re-write.

    I did briefly try XBMC on windows, and it seems pretty slick. I’m planning on trying out using XBMC as a front end, talking to the MythTV server as the backend. I understand there is some support for talking to MythTV built into XBMC and a more integrated functionality is planned or has been discussed on their forums. The web interface for scheduling shows on mythtv is the easiest to use anyway.

    When Boxee was first mentioned here, I signed up for the beta, before I realised that there was no windows client available and I didn’t have a linux system available for messing with at the time. I suppose I will give it a try now, but I am skeptical of the social network features as well. I am also skeptical of the fact that it is a for-profit company that is creating it which has no clear business model.

  14. I’m a mythtv user and I’ve been using it a Tivo replacement for about 7 months. I think it makes a great media center solution, but bear in mind that I only use it for TV, DVD’s, and music. The current UI takes some getting used to, but I don’t think it’s a show stopper by any means. There’s a lot of little innovative, good sense design ideas in there that more than make up for its shortcomings, imho.

    @headbonk: The mythtv developers *are* doing a UI rewrite. From what I hear, you can expect a much better UI in 0.22 when it comes out.

  15. I really like boxee personally. I chose to use it intially because it didn’t have any of the TV tuning stuff that other media players seem to think are so important. I love that it doesn’t bother with the whole trying to hook up to the TV channels because i don’t get any.

    I do have a few gripes about it however. First, I agree i don’t care for the social networks aspect of it. might be cool if anyone else i knew used it but for now it’s not useful. Second, i never use anything but the browse optino for viewing my media because boxee does such a poor job of categorizing my media.

    That said it is nice and simple and it easily integrated my IR remote without any configuration.

  16. Two quick notes:

    The guy who said it’s not easy to navigate your MythTV content from your xmbc — share your /myth/pretty folder. I didn’t know it was there, either, until I started to actually write a script that does the exact same thing…

    Second: don’t forget the Hulu desktop app. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how well they did implementing a couch-worthy interface for it. Just map a “launch hulu desktop” button and another for “alt-f4” on your remote, and you’re set up for streaming TV. Unless, of course, you want to watch any of their content from Sony….

  17. Second: don’t forget the Hulu desktop app. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how well they did implementing a couch-worthy interface for it. Just map a “launch hulu desktop” button and another for “alt-f4″ on your remote, and you’re set up for streaming TV. Unless, of course, you want to watch any of their content from Sony….

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