Boxee

What is it?

BOXEE is a social media center for accessing the videos, music and pictures on your home computer but also provides a simple and consistent way to access a wide range of content from the internet.

Until end of Jan 2012, Boxee is available as a software download (Mac, Apple TV, Linux and Windows) but it is also available as a complete hardware solution which includes the software described here, a system box with HDMI output plus a specially designed remote control that doubles as a keyboard.

If you have a problem running the downloadable Boxee, see Boxee requires d3dx9_43.dll.

In Nov-2011 Iomega will be providing their own hardware with Boxee, including 1-2TB of disk storage (EU/UK only).

How to use Boxee to access internet content on your television?

If you are building your own tv-true Boxee platform then the Windows, Mac and Linux software downloads are readily available after signup on the Boxee website.

You can also mod your Apple TV to run Boxee, for this you will need a usb patchstick with help available from the Apple TV forum at Boxee.

All navigation of Boxee is possible with the keyboard simply using the arrow keys, Return and Escape. So it would be possible to confire any remote control to drive Boxee.

The navigation using the arrow keys is simple and reminiscent of Opera's spatial navigation i.e. the arrow keys cause movement to the next selectable field relative to the current selection, the Return key actions that selection. The Escape key takes you back up a level of menu.

Screenshots

After starting up the Boxee application and logging in, the Home screen shows the media types across the top ("shows" and "movies" are from the internet, local media is accessed by "files") and below is a horizontal list of popular content. Use the keyboard or remote control arrow keys to navigate these options and Return to select the option.

This image shows the media type "TV shows", on the left is a menu of options allowing you to select from the internet or from you local sources. TV Shows from the internet are sourced from television channel websites and some of the shows will only be available in certain regions.

Use the down arrow key to navigate the Options menu and the right arrow key moves you onto the TV Show listings.

Boxee scans websites of TV providers from around the world and displays the programmes in the TV Show listings. However, depending on your location, you may be banned from playing a programme e.g. shows provided by a New Zealand TV channel website will only play if Boxee thinks it is running in New Zealand (using IP address detection). Unfortunately Boxee does not filter the TV Show listings based on your locality so finding a show that you are actually able to watch can be a bit hit and miss (this is despite there being configuration option for specifying your location for the benefit of timezone display and weather summary).

Some may content may be advert supported, meaning there will be an unskippable advert before the programme starts and Movies may just be preview teasers.

The other media type pages all work in a similar way to the TV Show listings, in this case here the Music category.

As you view a media type listing for the first time, Boxee will scan your hardware for content and also automatically attempt to find thumbnail images for the content from the internet.

Boxee provides visualsations when playing Music media type.

When playing media the keyboard can be used; - and =/+ keys alter the volume . Return key brings up the media control bar shown here (at this point the arrow keys navigate the media control buttons with Return key actioning the highlighted button). Escape key returns you to the media listings but leaves the media playing, you can return to the media player by navigating to the "Now Playing" arrow shown in the popup screen

Pressing Escape eventually takes you to the navigation popup shown here, this gives you the option to access all the media types, settings and exit

Boxee can be extended by addition of third party applications. Apps can be searched for and downloaded through the Boxee Apps menu.

Some Apps, such as Mubi, require you to have an account.

The Big Picture app; fans of the terrific Boston Globe - Big Picture website can view picture stories of the moment on their TV using the Boxee App. You can navigate all the picture stories using left/right arrow keys through the index and once a story has been selected the left/right keys move through photos. Picture captions can be toggled using the Return key

One of the pre-installed Apps is the Boxee browser, the arrow keys move the cursor over links. Pressing escape brings up the url control bar

tv-true rating

The Boxee user interface is designed with the ten foot viewing distance in mind, all the graphics and text are suitable for display on television and the navigation is easily accomplished with a remote control. If all you want to do is access your own personal media and you are happy with the "walled garden" Apps approach then Boxee is a very good tv-true solution the latest version (1.5) of the browser is also a vast improvment.

Integrating Boxee with Windows Media Center

Boxee Windows 7 Media Center Integration 2.0 is an easy to use program that adds a Boxee menu item into your Windows Media Center (Instructions).

The arrow keys, Ok button, volume control, fast foward, rewind, stop and pause buttons of the WMC remote work as expected and the equivalent of the Escape key on the Windows Media Center remote is the Clear button.

After quitting Boxee and returning to WMC the input focus may get lost (e.g. arrow keys of the remote do not work), if this happens press the "WMC Green Button" which will restore the focus to WMC

Launching any Program from Boxee

The Boxee Launcher App allows you to launch any .exe program from Boxee. However launching to full screen apps (such as Kylo or games emulators) can cause problems, some people have found it useful to switch Boxee into windowed mode (using "\") before launching a program.

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