I recently did an overhaul on my home media system, and I LOVE it! First off, my goal with this system was to give me ultimate flexibility with my media and provide it in an easy to use, easy to manage system.
For the past 2 years, I’ve had a modded Xbox, and was running a very very early version of XBMC (Formerly Xbox Media Center). The Xbox had a 300gb hard disk and I would FTP files to it to watch on my TV. Now, my TV is a 36″ LCD HDTV, and XBMC always looked a bit fuzzy on the screen, but it worked. I also had to use the Xbox remote and have the Xbox sitting out a little bit from the TV to reach the couch so I could choose which file to watch.
Sometime early last year, I picked up a WD MyBook World 1TB Hard Drive, plugged it into the network, and copied my DVD movies and TV shows to it. I was then able to map the 1TB drive’s Samba share inside XBMC and watch all my media off of the network hard drive. This was great! It meant I no longer had to FTP into my Xbox and move/delete files to and from it in order to watch them. I just had to copy them to the network hard drive over a regular windows/samba share.
Now, last week, I took the plunge and upgraded XBMC to the latest version. This new version has a LOT more features than the old version I was running previously (which basically let me browse and watch files). I now have a nice HD skin that is 720p and looks beautiful on my HDTV, AND I now can make use of XBMC’s amazing Library functionality. I spent a few days renaming all of my files/folders and tweaking XBMC’s config file regex, and then let XBMC rescan all of the files on my network. XBMC then connected to the internet, and searched sites like IMDB to download cover art, movie and TV show information and categorize my media by Genre and other data.
Now when I want to watch a certain TV show, I no longer have to browse my network to the right file/folder; instead I just go to “TV Shows” Choose the name of the show, then select the season, and browse to the episode. Each episode now has screenshots a plot synopsis and even information about the cast of the particular episode!
All of this is great! But what makes it even better is that I discovered an XBMC remote app in the iTunes App Store for my iPhone. I downloaded it and configured it to talk to my Xbox, and what do you know? I can now browse my entire media collection on my iPhone, and then choose what to watch on the TV, start, pause, adjust volume… all from my iPhone! This gives me great flexibility and I no longer have to be “chained” to the controller and it’s cord in order to control XBMC.
I love this setup! There are a few things I have planned for the near future that will further make this my ultimate Home Media System.
– Install Mythbuntu on a spare PC (Mythbuntu is an optimized version of Ubuntu Linux, pre configured to run MythTV, the open source DVR software). I don’t have cable TV, and I don’t watch broadcast TV even though I have a TV Tuner card. So why do I want to configure MythTV when I have XBMC? Well, mythTV happens to have a plugin for mythWeb that will let me stream my media over the internet to other PC’s and devices (Similar to a SlingBox). This means that I’ll be able to have access to and be able to Watch my movies and TV shows from anywhere in the world that I have internet access. Oh, and my iPhone has internet access pretty much everywhere I go, and if I’m understanding what I’m reading… I should be able to watch my media from my iPhone via MythTV’s plugin.