Xbox mediacentre another look…

The Project Mayhem skin for xbox media center alpha

Kevins been chipping his xbox today, some guy at the local computer fair which is really nice to know as I now know where to send people. Costs 60 pounds chip and install, includes rom i believe but cant see why the guy would bother taking the risk. Anyway, kev dropped me a ftp site with the latest xbmc. And I started doing more research into xbmc.

There seems to be a new looking skin not based on windows media centre as its got copyright issues. However the alternative looks pretty good too, its based on the dell media centre.

The xbmc team have finally put a load of screenshots online too. Which brings up lots of questions for me. Where can I download that project mayhem skin? I didnt know xbmc can copy and manage files?
Good to see the imdb and it looks like cddb feature works well. Theres an on screen keyboard for the xbmc? Does a usb keyboard also work, as that would be really cool. Thank goodness shoutcast streaming is still supported, any chance of icecast streaming? Super large icons for all sections, very nice… Not sure what this is, too short for a movie and too long for trailers
. I'm wondering if xbmc allows for natrual categories like years, timing, etc? Could be right? There must be somekind of plugin arctecture, my weather? I'm hoping this will mean a return of xmltv listings and some new cutting edge features like streaming from xbox to xbox using xbconnect. Its also good to see new visual effects, as groom was kind of boring, plus theres a competition for more visualization. Screensavers? and this is stupid nuts.

On a whole its all too much to take in… I cant wait to see what happens next…
By the way theres a poll for what should be the default skin.

Ok I've installed xbmc and it does pretty much eveything seen in the preview and more…
First thing, the web front end is now working, its really shabby but it works. You can browse through the shares and click on the piece of media you want and the xbmc will play it a couple of seconds later. You can also pause and stop. I dont see anyway to setup a playlist but there is a skip forward and back button. Ideal skipping adverts while watching Hollyoaks from the sofa with my tabletpc on my lap.
So anyway that works well, even though I have yet to try it on my ipaq or smartphone. Imagine with port forwarding I could control xbmc from any where I can get the Internet. Home automation is almost there.

Screensaver works well, also has the option to auto shutdown after a set period. Visuals not too good, same as xbmp. Weather works but not too amazing, can wait to see what other webservice clients they build, or if its easy enough for me to build one. Can just imagine RSS readers, etc. Anyway the other thing which is also very interesting is the intergration of imdb, cddb, etc. You can look up films, tv shows, tunes and games. Then use them for thumbnails on folders as well as files. Theres also a auto scan option which will scan and create thumbnails and info for all folders and files under the current folder. Trust me it takes a while to do. The keyboard feature is also very cool, it allows you to rename files, search through files, etc. I tried out the usb keyboard and it didnt work, which was a shame.

The thing which i find really amazing is the natrual categories. Basicly when you add metadata to your files and folders via the scan option you can then look at all media through a selection of categories. Genres, Actors, Year, Title in the movie section and Albums, Artist, Genres, Top100, Songs in the Tune section. And flicking between the filesystems and categories is so easy, i cant help but do it. Makes me want to put all my movies on a couple of Huge RAID arrays rather than CD. With the right kind of money… Anyway that aside, I'm going to start using xbmc more now because its more stable than it use to be and the features are so rich and useful. Thumbs up from me…

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.