HTPC Interface: Boxee

There are two big players in the HTPC media software/viewer market, Boxee and Plex.
I tried both for a while, and Boxee won that fight.
My thoughts on them:

Boxee:

  • Simpler looking interface
  • Lacks integration with key software like iTunes and EyeTV
  • Won’t recognise home movies or movies not in IMDB
  • Could use out of the box (refer back to simple interface)
  • I like it’s OSD, and works well with my remote
  • Bad music support, no playlists or shuffle. Plays albums only!
  • Cool picture slideshow options
  • Audio offset feature is set individually (bad)

Plex

  • Interface is a little harder to navigate with too many options / menu items
  • Has integration with iTunes, EyeTV and others
  • Will recognise all home movies and uses multiple databases to find known vidoes
  • I had to watch the video tutorials to figure out how to add media (made me feel stupid)
  • OSD is too advanced and requires too many steps with the remote for my liking
  • Audio offset can be set globally

Conclusion:
It looks like Plex is the better option, and I think it really is. Let’s face it, if it can integrate better with my other applications (iTunes playlists, EyeTV) and Boxee can’t, well it deserves to be a winner. But I went with Boxee, the simple interface is a big selling point, it works great with my remote, and my family have no issues navigating. I have had to setup a few custom shortcuts to home movies, but it works, it looks great and it’s simple!

Boxee Interface

http://download.cnet.com/i/bto/20091207/Boxee_Beta_home_610x381.png

Download & Install Boxee

“Download Boxee’s free software and install it on any computer capable of being connected to a TV. Add a cable (which one depends on your TV and computer) and use a iPhone/Android to control your Boxee or buy a PC remote separately.”
- http://www.boxee.tv/make

That about sums it up, download Boxee for free from here: www.boxee.tv/make

Customizing Boxee

Boxee can also be customized (with a little file tampering) to create custom menu items to keep scary movies away from little eyes, as well as making an easily selectable menu button for home videos and movies.
The below is based on Mac OSX, and should easily translate to a Windows environment.

Custom Boxee Menu Items

Original source: http://forums.boxee.tv/showthread.php?t=24323

Customize ‘shortcuts’ items
Change shortcuts and icons in ‘shortcuts.xml’
‘Murdoch’ > Library>application support>Boxee>userdata>profiles>(username)>shortcuts.xml

Custom Menu items (home screen)
Applications>Boxee>Show Contents>resources>boxee>skin>boxee>720p>home.xml

Custom Menu items (main menu)

Applications>Boxee>Show Contents>resources>boxee>skin>boxee>720p>boxee_main_menu.xml

Icons
Icons are found in…
Contents>resources>boxee>skin>boxee>media>icons>….

—–

Example Code
For ‘Eye TV’ and ‘Home Movies’ menu items.

<item>
<controlid>900</controlid>

<thumb>icons/eyetv_icon.png</thumb>
<label>tv rec.</label>
<onclick>ActivateWindow(10479,/Volumes/Media/Media/EyeTV Recordings/)</onclick>
</item>

<item>
<controlid>901</controlid>
<thumb>icons/icon_settings_video.png</thumb>
<label>videos</label>
<onclick>ActivateWindow(10479,/Volumes/Media/Media/Home Movies/)</onclick>
</item>

Feeds

The main interface has a column for social media feeds, which is really handy to watch full screen all the video’s your friends are sharing. This is setup by logging into your user account on the boxee website (http://www.boxee.tv/services)


Bugs

Q. Video’s are playing as a black screen, correct audio can be heard.
A. Turn off hardware decoding in the preferences – appears to be an isolated mac mini problem.