Network Shares for Boxee: Samba Beats UPnP

Boxee logo iconThe Boxee Box is making big news, but for those of us who are not rushing out to spend $200 on a new device for our TVs, Boxee is free to download and install on any computer.  I have it installed on my Asus EeePC 1201n running Kubuntu, which has an HDMI output, along with my 25-foot HDMI cable.

Boxee works well playing videos from the Internet or from the netbook’s hard drive, but I wanted a way to play files over the network from my desktop.  By downloading videos on the desktop, I can stream them anywhere in the house.  In the past, I had used UPnP with Geexbox’s uShare application with mixed results, but I decided to give it another whirl.

Ushare is easy to install and setup.  It is available in the Ubuntu repositories, so it only takes a few clicks.  It has a web-based interface where you can add folders you want to share, and refresh any current shares.  That is one of the first problems.  In order for it to see new files, you have to refresh it each time.

Moreover, I found that sometimes, it would just show up as disconnected in Boxee (not sure whose fault that is).   That minor disconnect problem became a compound one when it started disconnecting in the middle of shows.  Having to restart a show also revealed how troublesome it is to try to fast forward.  We were watching an episode of Bones, and fast forwarding with UPnP left the audio out of sync.

At any rate, I ditched UPnP and decided to try Samba.  I had previously tried NFS and found it to be a nightmare to configure.  Samba, however, was ridiculously easy in Kubuntu.  I installed one package and had it up and running in no time.  KDE has a graphical interface for configuring Samba and NFS shares, and once that was setup, I could view the shares in Boxee.

With Samba, the connection was solid, as I have tested it with several shows.  Furthermore, fast forwarding works just as well as it would with a local file.  For all intents and purposes, Boxee treats the files like local videos, even showing thumbnails (something UPnP did not do).

Wednesday, I will publish a complete guide to setting up Samba in KDE.  As it stands, the verdict is clear.  Samba beats the pants off of UPnP, at least when it comes to Boxee.

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