The XBMC thread

Finally got around to playing around with XBMC this week and so far it’s great! My PC and TV are now close enough to each other to make the experiment worth it and I’m stoked about the idea of switching over from the Xbox 360 soon.

Question about remote control options. I’m considering the following:

  1. Use my Harmony 880 for everything via an IR adapter placed near the TV that is connected to the PC via USB (long cable or wireless). (Most appealing solution but I’m fuzzy on how to set up IR controls in Windows and XBMC.)

  2. Use my Harmony for TV control and use VoxCommando for PC voice control (XBMC setup instructions). (Another appealing option.)

  3. Use my Harmony for TV control and use my iPod Touch or my Galaxy S II for PC control via PC IR adapters on both PC and Touch or SII. (Least attractive option, not even sure why it’s on the table.)

  4. Use my Harmony for TV control and a wireless keyboard/mouse for PC control. (Easy and convenient middle-of-the-road option, but lazy and inelegant.)

  5. Use my Harmony for TV control and an XBMC control app or an RDP app on my Touch or SII. (Cheapest/easiest to set up option.)

Options 1 & 2 are my favorites but will take time, money and research. Option 5 is a cheap, quick-and-dirty method and I’ll probably start off with that while I decide where to go from there.

Thoughts?

There was a long thread a couple of years ago dealing with Boxee, which is basically XBMC with a graphic overlay. You might want to check it out if you weren’t aware of it.

I was actually gifted a Boxee Box last summer and while I like it and it would work out OK, I’d prefer to use my PC. Less clutter near the TV and more flexibility in XBMC (single remote possibility, skinning/addon options).

Boxee for PC is dead. The boxee box is nice, though.

As for your remote control options, buy a $14 MCE remote and receiver and tell your Harmony that device is windows MCE. No need to use the remote at all, just the receiver. MCE remote support is built-in to XBMC by default.

Incidentally, that same el-cheapo remote adapter works on the boxee box, so you can use your harmony remote there also if you like.

Ooh, I like the layout on that remote and I love that price. My Harmony 880 is very functional and customizable, but I hate the physical button design.

One issue with any IR solution as noted above: I’d have to place the receiver near the TV and I think this would require a long USB cable or wireless USB. This is because the PC is a few feet behind and to the right of the person watching TV.

Edit: Wait a minute, I just re-read your last suggestion and don’t understand what you mean by “tell your Harmony that device is windows MCE” (sorry). Are you saying that the MCE remote would be placed near the TV and pointed at the IR receiver near the PC, and I would control the MCE remote with my Harmony?

You wouldn’t use that remote at all. You’d just put it in a drawer. You plug the USB IR receiver into your PC or boxee box, then setup the harmony to think you have a windows MCE box, because it uses those IR codes.

How can your TV possibly be behind the person watching it? Is there a mirror? Are you a wizard?

Heh that was silly - I meant to say that the PC is off to the right and behind the audience, not the TV.

Thanks for the clarification, I realize I was being a little dense. I think I’ll grab the MCE and try that. Great price and elegant solution.

Might also play around with VoxCommando for added convenience.

Oh, that makes more sense. If the PC is that far away, you’ve obviously routed wires anyway-- and yes, you’d probably need a USB extension cable as IR is line of sight. However note that these aftermarket USB IR receivers are very sensitive and work much better than those built in to devices, so with fresh batteries, maybe not. IR can bounce around.

I still use MediaPortal. It’s like XBMC but not as slick and easy to use. They have a few killer plugins like My-TVSeries, Moving Pictures, and MyAnime2 that prevent me from moving over.

My setup:
[ul]
[li]PC
[/li][li] Windows Media Center
[/li][li] Media Center remote receiver
[/li][li] Harmony One
[/li][li] Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Keyboard 7000 (no longer made; if I was buying a new one, I’d go for the Logitech DiNovo) for text entry and gaming
[/li][li] Bluetooth mouse for gaming
[/li][/ul]
Works great, and it’s nice to be able to pop up Hulu, YouTube, etc. in a web browser, or browse websites on the big screen when looking up stuff as a family. Windows Media Center’s been as reliable as my DirecTV DVR ever was. I’m using WMC instead of a third-party app as we use a 360 as an extender in the bedroom.

We get about 35 channels over-the-air, and we use Netflix and Zune on the 360 and Hulu Plus on the PC for stuff we used to get on the premium channels. Even buying a half-dozen series on Zune, we’re still saving about $800+ a year vs. DirecTV.

My setup:
Antec-ISK 310-150 (possibly overpowered)

ASRock E350M1

Some kind of RAM, DVD player and HDD.

Mini media keyboard from ACE:
http://www.aceofsweden.com/ace/keyboard/media/c2.html

Only problem with it is that it starts ticking now and then, I need to open it up and troubleshoot it.

Hey stusser, would you happen to have any links bookmarked for setting up a XBMC/MCE activity in the Logitech software for a Harmony 880? Having issues and the docs/walkthroughs I’ve been reading (best one I’ve found but does not talk about activities) are not clearing things up. It’s interacting with the IR signal just fine but the Harmony is activating my Xbox when that device isn’t even associated with activity, and it is not controlling the XBMC menus. I’m sure it’s something very simple but this process is not especially intuitive.

In other news, I’m having issues piping sound from my Radeon HD 5700 as well. I thought the audio would follow the HDMI cable but something is not set up properly somewhere.

Also dug up a Audio Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone. It has a very long cord and I’m thinking it’ll be perfect for voice control if I get that set up.

Dug up an old wireless Logitech keyboard as well during the move. That’ll work in a pinch for control if I become desperate enough.

Fun project.

Bar stein, go into your windows audio settings and ensure that the HDMI audio driver is enabled. On my Zotac, I had to unplug the HDMI cable and then replying it to get windows to detect it. In XBMC I have audio set to HDMI, speaker config at 2.0. Works a treat.

Ah, thanks tolwyn, got that sorted. Sound - check. Controls - in progress.

Hey stusser, would you happen to have any links bookmarked for setting up a XBMC/MCE activity in the Logitech software for a Harmony 880? Having issues and the docs/walkthroughs I’ve been reading (best one I’ve found but does not talk about activities) are not clearing things up. It’s interacting with the IR signal just fine but the Harmony is activating my Xbox when that device isn’t even associated with activity, and it is not controlling the XBMC menus. I’m sure it’s something very simple but this process is not especially intuitive.

Look under Settings on your Xbox 360, barstein. There’s a setting that configures it to work with Media Center remotes, or just the dedicated Xbox remote. Set it to the Xbox remote setting and your Harmony won’t bug it anymore.

Thanks, Denny. That worked halfway: 360 isn’t turning on now but XBMC is still not reacting to the Harmony.

Was about to troubleshoot the Harmony settings but it looks like I’m dead in the water for a day or so until Logitech’s site comes back up. Who’s brilliant idea was it to make fat client software of this nature utterly cloud dependent?

Set up the Harmony as an MCE keyboard (not remote), then you can use the XBMC key bindings directly. Go to the XBMC forums for some excellent tutorials on how to set up the Harmony. I use the Harmony One, with the stock commands, plus a few extra (shutdown XBMC, launch XBMC, statistics, subtitles on/off) that really aren’t that hard to set up. WAF is very high.

Very late to the party, but hella impressed with XBMC all the same.