XBMC is a free and open source media player application developed by the XBMC Foundation, a non-profit technology consortium. XBMC is available for multiple operating-systems and hardware platforms, featuring a user interface for use with televisions and remote controls. It allows users to play and view most videos, music, such as podcasts from the internet, and all common digital media files from local and network storage media. As of version 12.0 (codename “Frodo”) XBMC will also feature PVR (Personal Video Recorder) GUI frontend for Live TV with EPG (Electronic Program Guide), and high definition DVR (Digital Video Recording) support.
The current release though is version 11.0 (codename “Eden”) and available from the standard Ubuntu Software Repository. As usual this release can be download in one of many different ways we for the purposes of this howto will concentrate on the command line installation method.
What is XBMC
XBMC or the Xbox Media Centre is the default player that distributions such as MythTV rely to play and stream Music and Video content it is jam packed with features and plugins that make this application the must have it could also save you money, more about that later.
XBMC not only serves as an application but as a Desktop also, Note it does not help running any other applications when running XBMC so a dedicated Desktop is a good thing. The Media Centre will be a noticeable drain on your Internet Bandwidth so it is recommended that if you wish to make frequent use of this application that you have a fast and Unlimited Internet bandwidth (for those of you who don’t know the bandwidth refers to the amount of Internet content you can download and measured in months eg 1Gb per month, 5 Gb per month and so on). XBMC has the ability to stream content from a variety of sources which means you could gobble up your bandwidth quite quickly and if your bandwidth is capped and most of them are you could end up paying more for your Internet access because you have exceeded the capped limit – you have been warned.
For those of you with and Uncapped Internet and I do suggest you check what Internet access you have, you won’t believe the content available to you from a few simple plugins. XBMC on it’s own is great, providing you with feature rich solutions to play content on your own laptop or PC, however with a few plugins it is so much better than you can imagine.
Installation of the XBox Media Centre is very simple and has been explained clearly below it can be installed by way of a variety of different installation methods, Terminal via apt-get, Software centre and Synaptic, we recommend using the Ubuntu 12.04.1 Long Term Support Desktop version or later.
#> sudo apt-get update
#> sudo apt-get upgrade
#> sudo apt-get install xbmc
XBMC is a cross platform application and available for many systems not just Linux.
About XBMC – Plugins
The XBox Media Centre already comes with a number of plugins which you can enable – my advice for what it is worth is forget them, go for the hard to find third party plugins these are so much more interesting and useful. All third party plugins are installed in the same or similar way. Once you have mastered adding third party plugin content there is no looking back.
If you have installed XBMC and because this is a Linux howto we will assume you have done this on the suggested Linux operating system, you may notice that once you have run XBMC you are limited as to what you can do once you have run it. The Media Centre is what I would call a dedicated application once in it you are not able to run any other application without closing XBMC first. It is still possible to run more than just XBMC but you would need to run all the other application first then XBMC, however because XBMC is a dedicated application it is much harder to switch to other played applications also on your Desktop.
Once you are running XBMC you will be greeted with a pleasing GUI (Graphical User Interface) and easy to understand selection preferences. Well that aren’t that many to select, however you may find depending on your system that the mouse pointer is very sensitive, this is especially true with mouse pads like those found on Laptop PC’s.
The attributes to concern yourself with within this application are Pictures, Video and Music this is the heart of the Media Centre providing a functioning user interface to access your Media Library lets take a look at Pictures and Music first as these will for the most part concern files you already have on your hard drive.
Once you have added the source directory of your Pictures that is whatever folder you have them contained in you can view the files, this is the same feature on MythTV the only difference is this accesses you data on the PC or Laptop you are working on.
Picture – Plugins
There are a number of useful plugins that might interest you here is how you access them.
Adding a Music Source is the same method, just select the folder from which your mp3, wmv or wav files reside which can be via any accessible shared network resource you may have.
Adding Music plugins is done in much the same way as those for Picture Addons
XBMC – Video
Perhaps one of the more versatile components of this application is that of the Video resource, not only will it play your videos and video downloads but it can stream content via plugins across the internet. Now it usefulness may not be immediately obvious, but bear with me a while longer and you will begin to.
Inline with many applications and here XBMC is no different, XBMC can utilise the plugins it comes with and third party applications written by others. Unlike other applications in Ubuntu such as Gimp , Blender and so on, XBMC derives these plugins directly rather than through a controlled repository, here lies the danger of unknown third party resources, however if you review plugins articles before you install them you can reasonably be assured of some safety. On the basis others would deem them safe.
First add the source library of your Video’s by adding a folder or Network resource which contain them. Then we can look at some much needed plugins to extend what you are able watch through your PC or Laptop, these plugins are called “Addons” and need be installed via a third party zip file. There are many third party Video resources you can install and not all of them are in one place or as easy to review, but they exist and you can watch and setup reminders for programmes that aren’t yet running. There are three aspects to take note of with such programme watching, those that have passed, those that are playing or about to, and those programmes set to play in the future or not playing yet.
Third Party – XBMC Video Plugins
There are two or three ways I know to obtain Video plugin zip files for XBMC the first and most obvious is on the XBMC website which so far I have found no plugins at all, however this may change by the time you read this article, second you can access 3rd Party websites supporting XBMC or third use a search engine to locate either XBMC Picture, Music or Video plugins. Let’s look at this plugin as an example.
Tv Catchup is a slightly more complicated Plugin than some so lets start by installing this it is a zip file and can be downloaded directly from the TV Catchup website. Download the TV Catchup zip file to a location on your hard disk or Desktop were you can access it later. The TV Catchup plugin requires a Username and Password however whilst you need do this, it is not required for the purposes of installation. Run the XBMC application and just below the “System” option select “Addons” then “Install-Zip”.
Before we proceed further perhaps I should tell you a bit more of what TVCatchup is, it is or can be an Electronic Programme Guide to select standard air to view programmes available in the UK, so a must have in my opinion. It is very similar to Sky Electronic Programme Guide you access from a Sky Remote Control to browse all the channels before selecting any one of them, however it is limited only to the free air to view channels on Sky or Freeview. The EPG can view additional description info for each of the programmes selected within the EPG.
Click on TV Catchup and select install to Enable
Ok the above is already installed in which case this is what you should end up with just select the install option.
Select the option for TV Catchup – XMBC
I might have the exact sequence a little bit wrong but you should have enough info to enable the “EPG” selection you can add the non epg if you like which can if selected be very confusing.
Last remaining job create an account with TV Catch up website it is free by the way and edit the configuration settings for the TV Catchup Epg entry in Videos option with a right mouse click selecting appropriate tab option.