Need a replacement for XBMC

Well, my Xbox has had it. The tray doesn’t come out anymore, and most of the stuff I have now is in x264 format, which it doesn’t seem to play. It plays some h.264s and others it doesn’t. Also, I’ve switched to Vista and getting to two to play along nicely is just a waste of time. The XBMC forums are full of pretty unhelpful people (very few “help” threads end with an actual solution) and the wiki hasn’t been updated for almost a year.

Time to replace it. I have an upconverting DVD player that plays XviDs, which is nice, but I can’t stream anything to it.

What I’m really looking for is a network HDD stack encloser with a video output. I doubt that exists, so I need a newtwork HDD enclosure (I’d it to have space for at least two drives as I can two 500GB drivers cheaper than a 1TB, I think. Then I need something that can connect to my network, grab the stuff, and play it on the TV.

I could build a HTPC, but I’d like something a little more dedicated, and that can be operated with a remote.


I’m not sure how it does with .x264 format, but have you considered a simple 360 streaming media from a home PC running WMP11 and/or media center? (I prefer the former for the most part.)

When I ended up getting rid of XBMC due to its lack of ability to play HD content (I suspect this is your problem with some x264 encodes – the CPU in the Xbox is simply too slow to decode HD content or very high bitrate content) I wound up just building an HTPC, putting Vista on it and running Windows Media Center as the front-end. There’s nothing stopping you from controlling a Media Center HTPC with a remote – I bought a remote Microsoft makes for this, it has a USB dongle to plug into the PC and a remote unit that controls all of the media center stuff. If you already have a universal remote, you can program it to act like the MC remote but having the media center specific usb dongle still helps there. A few tweaks to the way sleep/power saving mode is setup and configuring media center to run on system startup make the htpc almost like a consumer electronics device rather than a full blown computer… works well for me.

Another option is that XBMC is being ported to Linux and MacOS but there aren’t stable releases of that yet. When finished you could install that on a small HTPC front end box like the Mac Mini, but again, that’s not really ready for prime time now.

I’ve looked at various other small consumer-electronics type solutions when I was figuring out how to migrate away from XBMC but none of them had the extremely wide codec support of XBMC or a full HTPC.

I’m running XBMC/linux and use it every day. I’m an evangelist for it now. It works great, including playing 1080p x.264 video files. Only thing is that you do need minimal linux competency to run it-- it’s not ready for joe user yet. There are no packages, and you need to install from SVN. My HTPC cost a little bit over $400.

I tried out vista MCE too. It fucking sucks.

CPU: C2D E4500 retail with retail HSF (overclocked to 3Ghz)
Mobo: evga NF77 nvidia 630i with integrated 7150 graphics
RAM: el-cheapo 2x1GB A-DATA DDR2-800
HD: 320GB el-cheapo seagate SATA
DVD: pioneer DVR-212DBK SATA
Case: antec NSK2480. I can’t say enough about this case. It is whisper quiet, thoughtfully designed, and so easy to setup.
Remote: MS MCE

Alternatively you can just get a mac mini; there’s a OSX build of XBMC in active development now. It’s still a couple months behind the linux build, but it’s coming along nicely. And of course you can run linux on the mac mini too. It won’t have enough horsepower to play high-bitrate 1080p h.264 video, but the vast majority of, umm, “found” video on the internet is 720p anyway.

I’ve tried using the 360. If I used 360MC (the blue background) it won’t play xvids, never mind x264. If I play them from Media blade in the dashboard, xvids work find, but it won’t play any 264/HD stuff. Also, a new 360 Arcade is over $300 Canadian. Pretty steep considering I’d rarely (if ever) use it for games.

Still, if you have a 360 where you watch TV, and you still mainly use xvids, it’s great.

There’s also a KnoppMyth distro - MythTV set up for you at install, no real hassle.
You could use stusser’s recommended spec PC and try a premade MythTV-based distro.
(There’s also LinuxMCE, which impressed with some extra features. Research a little.)

True enough.

Jesus, I’d pay $200 for an HTPC before the HDDs tops. I just bought a new PC (Athalon 64 X2 4800+, 2GB DDR2, 8600GT, 500GB SATA-II HDD, and a Gigabyte budget mobo, and I barely went over $400 with that setup.

But you’re probably all right - HTPC is the way to go.

LinuxMCE is fucking horrible. Put it out of your mind immediately. MythTV is pretty bad too.

If you really want a consumer device streamer, according to the psychos on AVSforums the Popcorn Hour is probably the way to go, but they’re hard to get ahold of these days. It’ll play everything and does support streaming from SMB mounts. I was considering it before I found out XBMC/linux was ready for real use. I haven’t looked back.

I would really consider grabbing a mac mini, if you can afford it. They’re perfect for HTPCs.

While I’m fine installing and using a Linux distro like this, I’m just worried how the sharing would work with Vista. I’ve never been able to really get SAMBA and SMB (nevermind whatever the fuck Vista uses) to get along.

What about using XP SP2 (I’m not using my version anymore) and just running Media Player Classic with a wireless mouse? How would the output look? Would it looks distorted as it’s being run through a program being displayed or something? And I still have my 7300GS which is fine for those x264 videos, but it’s DVI out - are there cheap DVI-HDMI converters available?

XBMC has SMB built in (so you don’t even have to configure it at the linux level) and it works perfectly. I have shares from both my vista desktop and my mac to XBMC.

If you’re using XP, you can try Mediaportal but I assure you, it pales next to XBMC.

Oh, nice, and it plays x264 and h264s? And works with this Windows remote? Sound good - link to a current version?

I still have my old, dead PC. The specs are pretty low, but it could play h264 and stuff. But the 4200+ in it is dead. If I could replace it, and round up all my old IDE drives I’d be in business. And I could just use a VGA cable for the output.

Yeah do you have a link to your XBMC/Linux FAQ?

I’ve been keeping half an eye on it and it didn’t seem as far along as I guess it is now.

It plays everything, and the MCE remote works without any configuration at all. To install, follow these instructions except for the apt-get line, use the line from the README.linux instead. Make sure you’re using ubuntu gusty 7.10 32-bit and have an opengl 2.0 capable videocard. Any recent card will work from a 6150 on up, but be sure to go nvidia because ATI’s linux support sucks. The integrated video on my HTPC’s motherboard works fine.

Remember that linux has zero support for GPU offloading for anything other than mpeg-2, so it’s entirely dependent on your CPU. Any core2duo will do for all 720p, and a 2.4Ghz+ will do for almost all 1080p assuming no crazy bitrates. On the AMD side just get a fastish one, they’re cheap as chips now.

Remember there’s no real support for this (just their forums) and it’s still in early phases of development. It works great for many people including myself but it’s not ready for grandma. Even so, it’s the best solution available by a huuuuuge margin and it’s getting better every day. The OSX version in particular has a lot of people interested and assisting with development, which crosses over to the linux build and vice versa.

Nice. I’m going to start pricing something cheap this weekend.

Cheap-o Gigabyte Mobo, AMD Athalon 64 X2 4200+, 1GB ram, my 7300GS, and for now a single 500GB SATA-II drive.

Shove all of that into a cheap case, hide it in/behind the display unit, make sure the remote dongle is next to the TV, and presto.


Unless you’re on a very strict budget you might want to grab a 750 GB drive. They usually have a better cost per gigabyte ratio and aren’t too much more in real dollars than a 500 GB. Newegg is selling WD Caviars $139.99 (Promo Code: EMCACBEBK) for 750 GB, $99.99 for 500 GB (Promo Code: EMCACBECB) in their latest newsletter.

I’ll buy a single 500GB for now, and a second one in about 6 months. Most of my older stuff is still on DVD, and theres no rush to pull it back on to an HDD.

Also, Canadian, no Newegg, but damn that is cheap. Even without the promo. Our tech prices need to drop.

I love, love, love, love, LOVE my XBMC machine.

I’m thinking of migrating, but I’ve got to say that a mac mini running XBMC seems dreamy… Although a dedicated Linux box doesn’t seem so bad either.

Will I be able to get them to do component output, I wonder?

You could get the 750gb at NCIX for $155CDN. Also if you wait a bit they usually have the 500gb on sale for $90.

If you get a videocard with component output, sure. I’m using DVI for mine.

Remember to spend some money on the CPU. Again, linux has no GPU offloading. That X2-4200 will handle 720p OK but it’ll choke on 1080p. Once they get blu-ray support working in linux, you might want that horsepower.

The OSXBMC port is gaining a ton of momentum. The mac mini is a great choice except for the lack of CPU speed, which again only matters for 1080p.