Boxee is an open source media center software alternative to many of the heavily commercialized, codec-light set-top boxes on the market. In its early stages, Boxee was only available for PC (Windows and Linx) and Mac users. Apple TV users could also convert their boxes into something useful. Boxee can play just about any video you download or create, as well as a large collection of online streaming content from Netflix, VUDU, and several TV networks.
Currently, I do not actually have a home media center, so that title might be a little confusing. I have an old HTPC that is so ancient, it cannot even handle Boxee (which actually has pretty low system requirements). I also don’t have the money to run out and get a Boxee box or upgrade my current system.
What I do have, however, is an Eee PC netbook with a dual core Atom 330 and an Nvidia Ion graphics chip. Boxee runs beautifully on it, and the little 12-inch workhorse can churn out 1080p video without any problem using VDPAU hardware accelerated video playback.
The problem, of course, is that it is portable. My solution was to get a 25-foot HDMI cable and hook it up to my TV whenever I need it. The dilemma then was making each connect as painless and simple as possible.
I wrote two articles that cover the two areas of concern I had: 1. easily and quickly change display settings in Linux on the fly when using an Nvidia driver and 2. getting HDMI audio to work in Linux (to be published next week). I solved both and now have an ideal solution that only cost me $9.
Linux has quietly inserted itself into the hands of millions of people without them evening knowing it. Linux and free software supporters have long dreamed of the day when people would readily adopt Linux on their desktops and laptops, but it has been in the mobile and embeded markets that Linux has taken hold. Anyway, here are 6 undercover Linux devices:
1. Roku – The tiny little media player that pumps out Netflix videos and other streaming content is Linux powered. Unlike Linux desktops, it can play the DRM-laced videos from Netflix, but getting the Linux source code won’t help you hack it to that end.
2. Droid, HTC EVO, etc. – There are now a ton of Android phones flooding the mobile phone carriers. Take your pick. The Android operating system is a Linux variant, so all of them run Linux.
3. The Nook – The little e-book reader that could from Barnes and Noble is not only a Kindle killer. It also runs Android and, therefore, Linux.
4. The Kindle – Not to be outdone by the Nook, Amazon’s own e-book reader also runs a custom Linux variant. Nevertheless, like the odd Roku/Netflix situation, there is no desktop Kindle reader for Linux.
5. Google TV – Also Android-powered (seeing a trend yet?), Google TV will continue the Roku trend of bringing Linux to the living room.
6. Boxee Box – This aught to be called Geek Box, but people might confuse it with Geexbox. This little cute thing can play just about anything you throw at it, making it a real competitor for Roku, Apple TV, and Google TV. To top it all off, it runs Linux, and unlike the others, you can download Boxee for your Linux computer.
Will Linux make it into your stocking this year?
As promised, I wrote an article about setting up Samba in KDE. It is not immediately obvious how to set it up in KDE, but it is easy if you follow the steps I have illustrated. I have tested this method, so it should work for most Linux distributions and other Unix variants, as long as they have standard KDE installations.
Boxee recognizes Samba shares immediately. All you have to do is add the ones you want in the sources settings.
The 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.