Many moons ago I found myself wanting to build a pc that I could hook up to my TV and watch all of my digital media through, I figured that I didn’t need anything powerful and that it would be nice if I could incorporate a remote control.
I asked my friend who at he time was working for IBM if he had any suggestions and he informed me that I should buy an xbox. I pointed out that I wasn’t looking for a games console and suddenly a whole new world was opened up to me, the world of console hacking.
After some jiggery pokery with a soldering iron, a copy of James Bond Agent Under Fire and a memory card on loan from my friend I suddenly had the tools in front of me that I’d been wanting. Namely a Celeron 800mhz cpu, 64mb of RAM and a tiny hard drive that I could easily replace with one of pretty much any size. It booted seemingly instantly in comparison to any computer I’ve ever owned and it was to become my playground for many a year.
The first thing I found myself delving into was the then named ‘xbox media player’ (or xbmp for short), it seemed pretty good but not quite what I’d been hoping for but not to worry. By the time I’d gotten the funds together and learned enough about the system I read about an off-shoot (more of a total rebuild actually) called XBMC or Xbox Media Center.
This thing was great, I could play all of my media on it, the interface looked nicer than the old one and it ran pretty smoothly no matter what I threw at it (HDTV was some sort of Sci-Fi back then).
Fast Forward to 2012 and things have changed considerably. XBMC has outgrown it’s original hardware considerably (though builds still exist), it is now supported on just about any platform or OS, plays BluRay/mkv/h264/etc, and far more besides. You can use an Android device to operate it from anywhere in the world (for freaking house sitters out for example) or just from your living room so there’s no need to purchase a separate remote.
As an example I have 2 setups running in my house, one in my bedroom which is the main hub if you will, this contains all of my media (music, tv shows, films, pictures) and most importantly a 24/7 mysql database of all of the above. This means that the computer I have in my living room (which is hooked up to my HDTV) can read from the same database and play the same media. Furthermore, this allows me to begin watching a film on the settee in my living room and when I get a little tired I can hit stop, head to my bedroom where I can hit play on the same film and resume from where I left off.
My next venture will be to incorporate TV show torrent rss feeds into the mix so that any new shows of interest that have been aired are automatically download to my media library, scraped by xbmc and available when I decide to watch them. Kinda like a torrent based PVR.
I realise that none of this is really news in the grand scheme of things, I do like to keep people in the loop as to when software literally changes my life, XBMC has done this in a fair few ways. Thanks guys, you’re the tits.