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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

By Mayank Sharma on August 19, 2008 (7:00:00 PM)

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Linux has no shortage of audio and video players, but if you want to devote your whole system to multimedia use, you need the XBMC (formerly Xbox Media Center). Although initially designed for the Xbox gaming console, XBMC has been ported to other platforms. The alpha version of the Linux port of XBMC that I use is quite usable, especially for video playback, despite the fact that not all XBMC features have yet been ported.

XBMC began life as the Xbox Media Player with its first open source release in 2002 before growing into an all-in-one media center app in 2004. The developers began porting the media center to Linux only last year. Currently precompiled binaries are available for various Ubuntu releases. If you don't use Ubuntu, you can also compile XBMC from source.

Like a typical media center XBMC can display images and play audio and video content from various internal and external sources. XBMC is skinnable, and the default Project Mayhem III theme is very slick. The XBMC interface is divided into five menu items for accessing Programs, Pictures, Videos, Music, and Weather. The Programs entry is for accessing Xbox programs and isn't applicable in the non-Xbox ported environments. The Weather entry points to a customizable weather station. You can program three locations for which XBMC tracks weather conditions and predictions from weather.com. The other menu entries are for accessing the three media types.

At the bottom of the main interface there are buttons that lead you to the XBMC settings page and the built-in file manager. From the settings page you can tweak general XBMC settings like the skin and default colors, as well as settings for picture, video, and audio playback.

One of the most important features in a comprehensive application like XBMC is navigation, and the app scores high in this department. You can control the whole app from the mouse alone, as I did. There's a consistent click behavior -- left-click to enter a menu and right-click to step back -- helpful on-screen controls to navigate media, and an on-screen keyboard when you need one to search for media.

With XBMC you can play media that's on your local disk on a variety of partition types, including such popular ones as NTFS, FAT, and ext3, as well as removable devices like USB disks. You can also play media from over your local network; XBMC can stream files from Windows machines on the intranet via Samba. It also packs a file manager for moving files and folders across partitions and from other machines on the local network to the one running XMBC. XBMC can also display videos in a variety of widescreen and HDTV resolutions if your machine can support these.

Player capabilities

The picture viewer support most common image formats, including BMP, JPG/JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIF/TIFF, TGA, and PCX. It can even be used as a comic reader to read comics in CBR/CBZ format. XBMC can also read and display EXIF data from images and use it to auto-rotate images. It has an inbuilt slideshow application that not only display images under a folder but also traverse inside subfolders and display images recursively. Instead of just running through images, during slideshow, XBMC uses pan and zoom effects to move around images, and can do both sequential and random plays through the images.

For playing audio, XBMC relies on its own audio player, called Psycho-acoustic Audio Player. PAPlayer had no trouble playing every audio file I threw at it, including files in WAV, MP3, Ogg, WMA, RealPlayer, AC3, AAC, FLAC, MIDI, and Audio CD formats. The media center also has a built-in music library function that scans your music collection and stores ID3 tag information like artist, album, and genre, which can be used to filter the collection. You can queue music items, add them to your favorites list, or play them randomly with "Party mode." XBMC can play music from the local hard disk as well as from other computers on the intranet via Samba.

One of the most irritating thing about the XBMC Linux port is the lack of music on-screen display (OSD) controls. The only way to stop an audio file or an audio track is to wait till XBMC plays out the playlist. There's also an audio ripper for ripping audio tracks and complete audio CDs, but it rips them into oblivion; I couldn't find the tracks in the specified destination directory or anywhere else on the disk.

Video playback is handled by XBMC's video player, called DVDPlayer. It flawlessly played the Video CD, DVD, MPEG2, MPEG4, WMV, QuickTime, Real, and Flash files that I had on my local disk and from over the network. Like the audio player component, the video player has a video library feature. The video library gathers information about a video from external Web sites like IMDB and TV.com via scrapers. Once it has the information, you can browse your videos by genre, title, year, actors, and directors. The DVDPlayer has a nifty little OSD for navigating the videos as well as enabling and disabling subtitles.

Missing quite a lot

There are a couple of features that are yet to be ported to XBMC on Linux. XBMC supports scripts, and some of the common ones for things like playing music and fetching weather forecasts are already bundled. I tried the browser script that's designed to help one browse pictures, videos, and audio available on any Web site, as well as the ABC TV script, which streams video content from Australia's ABC network, but couldn't get either of them to work. Both scripts crashed XBMC with a "segmentation fault" error.

One of the most popular features of XBMC on other platforms is Internet streaming. XBMC-TV maintains a list of streams that you can download and feed to XBMC. But no matter what stream I tried playing, it buffered for a while but eventually failed to play.

On other hardware XBMC can be controlled from over the network via a built-in Web server, but this feature hasn't yet been ported to the Linux version. Neither has the built-in FTP server that serves as another mechanism for transferring files to the computer running XBMC.

Wrap-up

XBMC media center is a capable media center application. Even the feature-incomplete Linux port is better and more comprehensive than a standalone media player, but it could still use some more features. I'd especially like to see OSD controls for the music player as well as the Web interface.

Today, XBMC is still best for people who own an Xbox. If you want a full-featured media center for your Linux desktop, consider an application like LinuxMCE that has TV tuner support and home automation controls.

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on XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 140.247.240.214] on August 19, 2008 08:07 PM
Aye. I stick with it on my 1st Gen XBOX, essentially as a frontend. Music/Movies/TV gets served via Samba (could be XBMS, FTP, etc), and XBMC scans the shares an downloads all the metadata. I'm still looking for something like that on the desktop, that is, a nice (gtk, i hope) app, that will scan my movie files (mpeg, avi, etc), and based on name, go out and download all the data, including for TV shows. The linux port of XBMC has me excited, but so far its not nice enough to move away from Nautilus+Totem for the most part.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.35.20.92] on August 20, 2008 03:48 AM
Did you mean packs or lacks?

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OSD => 'm'

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.35.20.92] on August 20, 2008 05:17 AM
Hit 'm' on the keyboard to access the OSD. Change the default web port to something > 1024 to enable the web server (privileged port etc).

For non-Linux users, probably few on Linux.com :-) there are also Windows and OS X ports here: http://xbmc.org/download/ if you want to try out XBMC.

[Modified by: author on August 20, 2008 05:22 AM]

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.158.50.90] on August 20, 2008 04:29 PM
I never used linux for multimedia purposes... but this is interesting
---
Homework Freelancer @ http://FreelanceNotes.com

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XBMC rocks

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.171.32.182] on August 20, 2008 04:31 PM
I've been using on the xbox since XBMP and it still surprises me with the number of features, i moved to a 46" LCD a while ago and got the HD cable and it looks freaking incredible in 1080i. Thanks for all the great work guys!

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 164.55.254.106] on August 20, 2008 04:46 PM
Linux has it's own ftp server why would XBMC bundle another one?

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Little Early?

Posted by: Rossimo on August 20, 2008 04:53 PM
It is kind of a low blow to criticize developing projects like this. XBMC is an amazing piece of software, I've used both the the XBox and Linux versions. The features the writer wants will come, he's just impatient.

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Re: Little Early

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.165.3.88] on August 20, 2008 05:46 PM
Agreed, maybe the author should try developing some of these lacking features; this useless article basically says, "This project, which is still under development, lacks impressive features." Way to go. LXBMC really needs the exact opposite of this kind of article at this point.

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Have you tried MediaSteam or AEON skins for XBMC?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 164.4.17.15] on August 20, 2008 05:50 PM
The default XBMC "Project Mayhem III" skin is a bit dated and the textures are of lower resolutions so I was wondering if you guys have tried MediaSteam or AEON, or any of the other skins avilable for XBMC which totally change the look and feel of the software:
MediaStream download: http://www.teamrazorfish.co.uk
Aeon download: http://www.aeonproject.com
about thirty more skins (Containment, Vision2, and xTV are really nice looking): http://sourceforge.net/projects/xboxmediacenter/

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PEBKAC

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 164.4.17.15] on August 20, 2008 05:59 PM
XBMC does have all the "missing" and "lacking" features that the author lists in this article.

Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair!
Read The Friendly Manual or ask for help :P

...then change the article title to XBMC for Linux is awesome, everyone need to try it now!

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 208.169.202.20] on August 20, 2008 05:59 PM
Please keep the television off my XBMC! It isn't MythTV and it's not supposed to be. Just let them focus their time on the web and scripting interface and don't waste time. The ability to play HD content from XBMC is a thrilling prospect and the main reason for the port as the original Xbox cannot play true HD content.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 164.4.17.15] on August 20, 2008 06:12 PM
The WebServer and WebRemote is too working, just change the port to 8080 (instead of port 80) which the older version you are using use as default, ports bellow 1024 is limited to root access.

Python scripts and plugins are working as well, you just happen to try a couple that are broken because the website they scrape have changed and the scripts have not been updated. Try AMT (Apple Movie Trailers) instead for example, or get some up-to-date plugins.

LinuxMCE GUI is awful and honestly who needs TV tuner support today when you can download everything online, and home automation control is only for the rich but there is a python script for XBMC that take care of it, just as there are XBMC python script for MythTV.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.5.137.15] on August 20, 2008 06:16 PM
I don't know what version the author used, but I have all those missing features... His version must be months old! XBMC rulez!

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Wow.....

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.222.202.202] on August 20, 2008 06:55 PM
I have the features this author seems to have missed. I have been using LinuXBMC for months now and it continues to get better and better. The devs are very responsive to trying to find issues and even though the software is considered "beta" and "unsupported" they have done an excellent job of fixing things and helping others on the forums. Had this author simply asked they could have gotten answers to their questions about missing features probably within a day of posting. I read\respond most every night as do others and when REAL problems are found the devs try to fix them. Read their dev log - these guys are working their ass off!

BLKMGK

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.123.205.241] on August 20, 2008 08:16 PM
My first impression of XBMC is pretty much consistent with the author of this article. After searching around a bit, I think that LinuxMCE and Elisa are both better applications.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.176.122.177] on August 20, 2008 08:44 PM
what about boxee? its fun to play with.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.134.12.195] on August 20, 2008 09:29 PM
Author is seriously downlplaying the usefullness of XBMC-Linux. Alot of the scripts do work, but code is added every day so YMMV. This project is amazing considering its infancy. I use it all the time with my MCE remote.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.31.3.195] on August 20, 2008 09:56 PM
As stated many times before. I have all the "lacking" features running fine. XBMC is a fantastic project and I have been using it for years on my Xbox. I know some say to keep TV out, but I would love to see a beautiful MythTV Frontend as part of XBMC. It's all in what you need.

Aeon is an absolutely gorgeous skin IMO and the software is only going to get better. Great job team XBMC!!

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.214.247.25] on August 20, 2008 10:20 PM
There is a keybinds.xml file where you can change the controls. By default you can stop any media with the 'x' button. It's one thing that they don't have OSD controls for it, which they should, but it's not like there is no option to stop at all...

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.30.195.34] on August 20, 2008 11:16 PM
Don't forget you are reporting on an Alpha, promise you will revisit this in about two months time when the product "ships"?

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.43.187.66] on August 20, 2008 11:22 PM
The author is a jackass.. he obviously has not researched this properly.

Way to go to attack a project that is a)unpaid for developers b)free for users c)in development

If you bother to check the SVN you will see that work is very active on the linux port. Daily.
Just because nobody has made the features you want yet does not warrant a bad review.

What a jerk.

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NEWSFLASH: ALPHA SOFTWARE DOES NOT INCLUDE ALL WORKING FEATURES OF FINAL PRODUCT, SOFTWARE INDUSTRY

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 210.18.222.1] on August 20, 2008 11:30 PM
NEWSFLASH: ALPHA SOFTWARE DOES NOT INCLUDE ALL WORKING FEATURES OF FINAL PRODUCT, SOFTWARE INDUSTRY IN SHOCK!

Seriously, Mayank, bad form. You're ripping on an INCREDIBLE port of one of the best media center apps out there, which the dev team have NOT ONLY been adding new features to since the last stable release, but porting to Linux, WIndows and Mac at the same time.

My hat is off to the XBMC developers, the work they have done is appreciated massively by myself and many many others. I love that I can just "apt-get install xbmc" and cannot wait for the stable release coming in a couple of months.

I can only hope a more accurate review makes the frontpage of a major Linux site, this just reflects badly on the author.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 90.212.88.243] on August 21, 2008 04:01 AM
I really dont think the author was "attacking" xbmc, he is ill-informed somewhat, but was largley complimentary.

I'd like to know how his opinion might change of xbmc when he finds out....

a) Missing features (Webserver, OSD and scripts) are not missing/broken, but present and working.
b) There is a stop button in the OSD. (I think default skin has all but stop, try the new Mediastream skin, impressive!)
c) MythTV functionality is there to some extent through scripting and a built in Myth frontend is being worked on. Home automation is also possible through scripting, as is just about anything.
d) I believe you can set the CD ripping path, if not in the GUI then in the advancedsettings.xml file.

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XBMC's Linux port lacks impressive features

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 123.243.27.235] on August 21, 2008 04:08 AM
Dude how about you use the most current version of developmental software before you start to criticize it.
or even read the wiki's/documentation before you start to whine about missing features
and the Programs option has been removed for quite some time now...

this kind of reporting really casts a bad shadow on this website

And Kudos to the XBMC developers!!!

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Linux.com lacks impressive or note worthy writers

Posted by: WT on August 21, 2008 08:20 AM
Its piss poor writers like this with no caliber of writing abilities, that wrote a bunch of how-to posts, now think they are an "edgy journalist" that frustrate me to no end with ridicules uninformed negative trashy magazine titles for sub-par articles, with half assed attempts at any plausible research on their topic at hand, just to scream out look at me in my over populated city, I want to stand-out! But you can clearly tell they are amateurs "I call my self a tech writer" more like a dribble writer. Try being part of a community and understand what is going on, ask questions to the user base, have a positive supportive out-look on upcoming alpha software, tell ways you think that the project will improve in months to come etc, have the humility to use “update remarks” in your articles to the things you overlooked and we’re mistaken on afterwards. (Which is basically posting this entity of drivel) egotistic personal opinions have no place in quality tech review writing. I bet you also ran up to the workers @ the Burj Dubai and said it lacked height...
[Modified by: WT on August 21, 2008 08:33 AM]

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On-Screen Display (OSD) controls for Music does work with the mouse, please update the review...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 164.4.17.15] on August 21, 2008 09:02 AM
The On-Screen Display (OSD) controls for Music pops-up if you press the right mouse button, (press "m" on the keyboard will also bring up the OSX, pressing "x" will stop playback, pressing the left mouse button will minimize the visualization and bring you back to the menu while still playing the audio/video file), but as a media center XBMC GUI is really designed to be navigated with a remote control, not with keyboard or mouse, that is just a bonus function. Get a LIRC compatible remote control and try XBMC again when running on a HTPC media center computer connected to a big-screen TV as a real media center should be, ...do not run it as a desktop application in GNOME or KDE as that would be using it wrong, (for that kind of usage get VLC or MPlayer instead).

Also, like already pointed out, you tested a Alpha version, the first 'Gold' version will not be released until October 2008 and all XBMC developers are currently working on fixing all reported bugs until then, checkout:
http://xbmc.org/trac/roadmap

XBMC is currently in a feature freeze so if you report all bugs that you find now they will be fixed within a couple of months, see:
http://xbmc.org/wiki/?title=HOW-TO_Submit_a_Proper_Bug_Report

IMHO it is a disaster that the author did not clearly state that he was using an Alpha version of XBMC for Linux, XBMC will loose many new users because of this poor report.
http://xbmc.org/blog/2008/08/12/upcoming-xbmc-atlantis-release-feature-freeze-updated/

PS! XBMC developers are working on getting TV tuner and EPG support into XBMC for the next version after this (to be released in April 2009), this is a Google Summer of Code (GSoC) project.

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Re: On-Screen Display (OSD) controls for Music does work with the mouse, please update the review...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.89.139.213] on August 22, 2008 09:34 PM
Speaking as an undecided user myself, I would say that while the author may not have sold me on XBMC for Linux, comments such as yours sure have (though I will probably at least demo LinuxMCE as a comparison). In all sincerity, thanks to you and all the other commentators that posted why the author was erroneous in his post.

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XBMC is no longer named XBox Media Center!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 164.4.17.15] on August 21, 2008 09:07 AM
It is just XBMC media center now since they went cross-platform.
Even wikipedia has a better overview of XBMC than this article :/

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Educate the author

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.227.151.27] on August 21, 2008 10:36 PM
I've been doing some pretty extensive testing of the latest Alpha build (current feature frozen version of XBMC). With the notable inability to test the current Mac version, i've dug deep into the Windows, Linux, and Xbox versions.

The native Xbox version is still by far the best. While development has moved on to focus heavily on the PC versions, the Xbox version retains all that makes it great. It's essentially the same app on the Xbox as it was a year ago, just very polished.

While i was having some luck with the Linux version (under Ubuntu64.. I have heard it works better under 32bit), I have had some solid issues. As of the current nightlies, XBMC for Linux no longer sees my USB hard drives in linux, and also refuses to scale properly to my screen.

The Windows version in its current state is great. Not even a few months ago it was missing a lot of small features that rendered it unusable. It still has a whole lot of ground to make up before it surpasses other media center apps in Windows, but it is making great strides. My only complaint is that it still functions rather slowly on a large library.

If you haven't used XBMC in a while, give it another try. It might not be the best out there, but it's getting there. And it is by far one of the best looking media center apps.

And check out the "MediaStream" skin. One of the most beautiful skins around.

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digg it and read the comments

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.227.151.27] on August 21, 2008 10:41 PM

linux.com is a joke

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 204.17.34.178] on August 25, 2008 04:18 AM
When a writer is illiterate, that's one thing. When the editor fails to catch an obvious mistake in the first line, that's a sign of a joke.

"if you want to devote you whole system..."

If you want to devote you[sic] whole system to publishing illiterate unfounded opinions, you're doing exactly that.

Party on, dude. Sweet.

E

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Author compares apples and pears

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.86.173.96] on August 26, 2008 11:25 PM
It's all in the last line of TFA:

"If you want a full-featured media center for your Linux desktop, consider an application like LinuxMCE that has TV tuner support and home automation controls."

Listen, fool: XMBC is not supposed to be feature-comparable to LinuxMCE. It's for people who don't watch TV (TV is for morons anyway) - it's for people who want a media juke box that's sexy, fun and easy to use - all things that LinuxMCE isn't.

What next? An article that looks at pico and says it lacks features compared to Emacs?

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