About two years ago, Ken started implementing something called the XBMC Media Center. We use the XBMC to easily view our home movies, photos, music, browse our movie collection, and recently, even as a DIY DVR, from any TV in our house.
We have a relatively complex setup in our house, which we discussed a few months ago when we described our video distribution system. We have a dedicated home server, called a NAS, or Network Attached Storage, drive. We put files on our NAS drive that we want to be able to access from any computer in the house, as well as files we want to access from the XBMC.
You can customize how it looks, and this is our current setup.
If you dig down into folders the individual folders, like our Home Movies folder, you’ll see that we can pull up any of our home movie files that we have saved to our NAS drive. This is really convenient if we have friends or family over and they want to see a video clip from our last vacation or from their kid’s birthday party we went to the previous year.
For instance, here are many of our video clips from our Southwest USA road trip in 2012. We can click on any of these files with our remote control and it will start playing right away.
Ken has also catalogued his entire DVD and Blu-Ray collection. We can browse for any movie we own right here from the XBMC.
We’ve also recently started to put family photos on the NAS drive so that we can browse them from the XBMC, or leave them running on a slideshow.
Our XMBC Setup
Needless to say, we find our XBMC to be really useful. On average, I’d say we use it about once a day. There are a lot (a LOT!) of ways to set up an XBMC, but I’ll walk you through the way that we did it.
When I hear XBMC Media Center, for some reason, I think of a piece of hardware. I think it’s the whole “Media Center” bit. But XBMC Media Center is, in fact, software, not hardware. XBMC can run on many different hardware platforms and operating systems, including your own computer. But, Ken preferred to have our XBMC work on dedicated hardware, meaning something we weren’t going to use for anything else.
So Ken chose to install XBMC on a “barebones” booksize PC. This is the one he bought, but there are many newer models made by the manufacturer. You can also get a booksize barebones PC from other manufacturers. Newegg sells many of them, and we’re big fans of Newegg.
He installed Ubuntu on the PC instead of Windows, mostly because Ubuntu is more stable and would crash less often. And that has certainly turned out to be the case. We’ve rarely had to reboot the barebones PC that is running the XBMC software.
Because of our video distribution system setup, we’re able to access that single XBMC from any television in the house. But even if you don’t have a setup like ours, you could just hook up the device you have XMBC running on to a TV. Further, you don’t necessarily need a network drive, like our NAS drive, to view movies. Instead, you can just store the local files on the XMBC, or even connect a USB drive to the device. Keep in mind though, if you do use a network drive, you’ll probably want a wired connection instead of Wi-Fi, especially if you will be watching full resolution HD files. A Wi-Fi connection would probably be a bit too slow.
We’ll talk more about our XBMC in some future posts, but hopefully this gives a good overview! Are you running an XMBC Media Center in your house? How do you like it?