Cut the Cable - Resources and Links


#21

Yes, there are. XBMChub is the biggest one. I don’t use them myself so I can’t really go into more detail.


#22

Yes, dozens and dozens. The most popular ones to get for mainstream TV and Movies are 1 Channel, IceFilms and live streaming via Mashup. If you search on Youtube “installing XBMC”, most of the tutorial vids show you exactly how to install this stuff. It’s very easy. You will probably want to watch how to turn on all of the [I]very piratey[/I] features in Mashup so at least you’ll know how to do that if you want to go there.

Customizing the look and feel of your XBMC install is also a “thing”, and yes, it is possible to very closely replicate the look and feel of Netflix to XBMC if that’s what you want to do.

XBMC.org has a lot of discussion about software and hardware setups, although discussions of piratey sites on XBMC.org is verbotten. XBMChub is where that goes on.

The new Haswell based 4th Gen Intel NUCs are ideal for running XBMC as HTPC bare bones units as a media centre, as they have IR receivers built in to the unit. This allows you to add a refurb Logitech Harmony remote to your system without tearing your hair out to get it to work. (lot of returns on Harmony Remotes with people who find they can’t set them up properly, so refurbs are cheap!) Many people have done this and Logitech saves all this crowd-sourced setup information on their site, so that setting up your Harmony remote for use with XBMC on a NUC is [I]utterly painless[/I].

You can skip that and just use an iPhone/iPad or Android tablet or phone to control XBMC via wireless network, too.

You can install Windows on your NUC if that’s the way you want to roll (I have Win 7 x64 Home on mine), but for XBMC use, Open ELEC as your OS makes a LOT of sense and runs XBMC flawlessly. It does not take much in terms of RAM or mini SSD space, either. 4 gigs of ram and a 32gig mSATA SSD is all you need added on to an i3 based 4th Gen NUC. You can add the ram, SSD and wireless card (don’t need one if you are going hardwire of course) to a NUC in about 2 minutes. Youtube the install vids. Nothing could be easier. Any 10 yr old can do it.

There is a Raspberry Pi based OpenElec install for that device which is the cheapest solution. It’s slower than a NUC to navigate, but it gets you there and does the job for well under $100, all-in.


#23

Once you get above the atom 2820, NUCs are expensive. The asus or HP chromebox is a much better deal, coming with a haswell celeron. They don’t have integrated IR receivers, but you can just add a Flirc.


#24

Great info. Thanks!


#25

Ugh, USD$179 Chromebox is AUD$299.


#26

They are more expensive, but we are talking 400-450 all-in for an i5 based Windows PC, vs 200-300 for a celeron based unit. Depends what you want to use it for I think - and how much you are prepared to pay for your tech toys.

FLIRC can be made to work, but the threads on debugging and setting up that device on various installs is EPIC in length on XBMC.org. My time is more valuable than that. It took me less than 2 minutes to set up my Harmony Remote. In fact, I didn’t realize I HAD set it up and was quite astonished to find that it all worked perfectly to navigate in XBMC after my initial “watch a movie” power on Harmony remote macro. Quite an astonishingly useful web installation shim Logitech uses.

(Ranging further off topic, the Intel NUC packaging makes the Intel “DUN - dah duh da dum!” Intel trademarked sound jingle when you physically open the newest NUC boxes. I love shit that makes me grin when I am opening a box for a new toy. Very cool :))


#27

Flirc is [I]extremely[/I] easy to use. That’s kind of the whole point of it. If you don’t want to configure anything at all, you can always pick up a $17 MCE receiver and use that instead.

The chromebox is not “$200-$300”. It is $220, including $20 for the Flirc, full stop.

The i5 NUC with a 2.5" bay starts at $380 on newegg, and then you need to add RAM ($40 for 4GB) and a SSD ($85 for a 2.5" 840EVO 120GB), coming in at around $500. That’s over twice the price. Oh, and you said Windows, so add $80 to the top for a windows license too. At that point I’d just buy a mac mini.

The speed difference between the haswell celeron and i5 is completely meaningless for a HTPC. The haswell celeron is plenty fast to run background servers, transcode 1080p video in Plex, and act as a steam streaming client. The haswell celeron is haswell-class; it’s not a bay trail atom.

If you’re at all price sensitive, the competition is between the chromebox and the bay trail NUC. They’re much closer on price. The NUC comes with IR built in and can run windows, but is substantially slower than the celeron chromebox. The chromebox requires a $15 dongle for IR and can’t run windows. But if you’re just doing a HTPC, you want openELEC or plexELEC.

Regarding chromebox pricing outside the US, check out HP’s version. It just came out last week and is essentially identical to the asus.

For even cheaper yet, the amazon fireTV has been rooted and runs XBMC just great. You also get integrated netflix and amazon. Another excellent option. $99.


#28

thanks for all of the info on xbmc. if I had been aware of it i probably wouldnt have gone back to cable.


#29

Actually, for Opelec, you don’t really need the SSD. I run mine quite happily off a stock $4.99 4GB USB key. No performance issues.


#30

With openelec, sure. He stipulated windows. Chromebox is still a better option unless you don’t care about cost.


#31

Actually, I said:

You can install Windows on your NUC if that’s the way you want to roll (I have Win 7 x64 Home on mine), [B]but for XBMC use, Open ELEC as your OS makes a LOT of sense and runs XBMC flawlessly.[/B] It does not take much in terms of RAM or mini SSD space, either. [B]4 gigs of ram and a 32gig mSATA SSD is all you need added on to an i3 based 4th Gen NUC.[/B] You can add the ram, SSD and wireless card (don’t need one if you are going hardwire of course) to a NUC in about 2 minutes. Youtube the install vids. Nothing could be easier. Any 10 yr old can do it.

Is that more expensive than a celeron based NUC? Sure. But not as expensive as you suggested. Somehow my suggestion became an i5, with space for a 2.5" HD, 8 gigs and a 128 SSD.

As it turns out, I actually have that setup (with a 1TB 2.5" drive, too) - but I wasn’t recommending it here :)


#32

What’s the slowest internet connection you can have and still reliably steam stuff in 1080p? Whenever I think about cutting the cable (in my case the cable is DirecTV) I come back to the fact that my internet connection is decent but not great - no download caps but I’m sure speed is the issue (and my only alternative would be something goofy like HughesNet).


#33

Not sure on the [I][B]lowest possible[/B][/I] limits, but I know that 6mbps is fast enough on my VPN. At least, it [I][B]appears[/B][/I] to be if streaming US Netflix (720) and MLB.TV which [I][B]looks[/B][/I] to be 1080p. I could be wrong though. I stand to be corrected on that with someone with better tech knowledge than I have.


#34

You mentioned windows in the latest post before mine. The “celeron” NUC is actually a bay trail atom. The celeron chromebox is a haswell CPU. Big, big difference.

Netflix requires 5 megabits for HD, 8Mb for 1080p, and 25Mb for 4k.


#35

Say I was looking to set up XBMC and Steam in-home streaming as well. Would one of the NUCs be my best bet? How is Limelight working as a game streaming alternative? I was looking at the Dell Venue 8 Pro with a USB->HDMI dongle so I could take it with me when not in use but not sure that’d be powerful enough. Ethernet unfortunately is not an option.

MLB.tv is weird. It may be 1080p (not sure, but I have my doubts) but the frame rate is 30fps and it’s very noticeable during any quick moving plays; on the other hand bandwidth requirements are lower. On a related note, AdFreeTime is a simple workaround for blackouts/Netflix region unlocking that I’d recommend, and only runs $2/mo.


#36

MLB.tv is weird. It may be 1080p (not sure, but I have my doubts) but the frame rate is 30fps and it’s very noticeable during any quick moving plays;

As oppposed to 24fps on your TV?


#37

It was my understanding that HD broadcasts were 60fps, at least here in the US but maybe not. In any event, my point stands that MLB.tv looks off for whatever reason.


#38

Yes, any of the NUCs would work fine, although again I recommend a chromebox. Limelight works fine, although I would just use Steam streaming.

Dell venue 8 pro is not a good fit; the USB/HDMI adapter apparently works OK, but you can’t [I]charge[/I] it while using that port. A haswell celeron chromebook like the acer c720 would work fine.


#39

So I ran the VUDU speed test and they claim I can do 720p (but just barely). So as I thought, the biggest thing holding me back from stuff like this is my internet connection. So I’ll go back to wistfully lurking in this thread!


#40

ATSC tops out at 30fps in 1080p, though you can get 60fps at 720p. Don’t know which the TV channels use in practice. I’m pretty sure in the UK everything* is at 1080p/i at 25 fps.

  • Everything on DVB-T anyway. I don’t know what Sky does.