Hardware Update for Using XBMC
I wanted to bring you an update XBMC. We initially did a piece on this software couple of months ago where we talked about its impact in the marketplace. Since we initially started using the package, we’ve made several changes to the system with some very positive results.
When we first started, we were using a an old computer connected to a digital television via the VGA video port. To connect the sound we were using the audio output from the computer and plugging it into one of the analog inputs on the home theater amplifier.
I can only describe this combination as delivering an adequate picture and sound quality. Given that we were still in the testing stages of the software, to see if we really would enjoy it or not, we ultimately decided to take the steps to permanently include the system into our home theater and upgrade the quality of both the audio and the video. The first upgrade we made was to install a digital sound card in to the computer so we could use the digital outputs and connected to the digital input on the amplifier so we could listen in 5.1 surround sound. We had real issues in getting this to work, mostly in activating the digital port on the computer itself. Another problem we ran into with this configuration was that our home theater was set up using our Denon amplifier to switch the audio and video sources through an HDMI connection. The problem here was that every time we wanted to use the VGA input for the television, we had to use the TV remote to select the VGA input and then switch the amplifier to listening to the analog source from the computer. Too many buttons for less technical members of the family to press this much back and forth between the two sources.
Just before Christmas, we found a sale on video cards were we were able to buy a video card with an HDMI output for about $20 Canadian. We installed this card into the computer, and connected it to the Denon amplifier by the HDMI cable, and lo and behold we had video quality equivalent to anything we were getting off of our blue Ray DVD player or from our digital cable box.
The switching over from the video port from the computer to the HDMI in the home theater , has greatly enhanced our ability and enjoyment of Xbox media center. Now anybody in the family by simply selecting the appropriate source on the amplifier enabling them switch quickly between any sources available to the system. As a result of these changes were now watching about 80% of our television from Xbox media Center and about 20% from our cable TV box. We would be completely off of using cable TV except for the fact that our local news is not fully available on the Internet. There is a add-on on Xbox media Center which carries the local news, but it only picks up the news portions and none of the feature segments bundled into the newscast. We really enjoy the consumer report and health reports as well as our local weather, so we find to be better to watch the news from the cable TV source rather than from the Internet.
The other thing that we have found using XBMC more regularly, is at the movies available are phenomenal. Before I go into the detail on the movies that we been finding, I’d like to point out that there’s a lot of useless add-on modules which we initially installed which we decided to delete from the menuing system. We pretty much limited ourselves to three add-ons: mash up, Canada on demand, and navI-X which is located under the programming category.
In terms of using the mash up add-on, under the category of new, were finding movies are actually available prior to release a movie theaters. Not just camera copies, but DVD rips and screeners, which deliver excellent quality. I’m not sure what the legalities of all this are, but one things for sure we’re certainly seeing a lot of movies a lot sooner than we would otherwise have access to them either from the peer to peer networks or from DVD rental stores.
Another little fact that you have to pay attention to, in terms of the growth of XBMC is the number of installs of the software that of happened. Google is reporting that so far there are almost 5,000,000 installs on the android platform alone. It’s hard to determine exactly how many people are using the software, but my best guess would be that it will be on a level equivalent to the customer base of DirecTV or any one of the Canadian cable companies.
Another little spin off the we discovered in our use of Xbox media Center was that it is a far better platform for viewing your own videos or pictures, and to listen to music on. This has resulted in us pretty much retiring our Western digital media player, and transferring all of our media files onto the computer that is connected to your home theater. Even in terms of looking at pictures sent to his by other family members, we find it far easier and better to watch them on the home theater than to go to somebody’s PC and lean over the other person shoulder to see the screen. As far as music goes it has a solid player built into the software and of course the audio quality is excellent coming to the HDMI hookup from the computer to the home theater.
We’ll keep you posted and other odd things that we find in using the software and keep you up-to-date on changes in the platform.