Boxee Box Overview

My Boxee Box arrived currently and I have been playing with it considering the fact that I obtained home.

Some history in advance of we go into preliminary impressions:

I observe a lot of flicks and I’m the sort of particular person that truly does like to re-observe flicks, so as a result I also acquire a lot of flicks. I have hundred of DVDs and terabytes of film data files that I have gathered about the yrs. The film data files are in a wide range of unique formats unfold across external difficult drives, desktops, and my four-bay RAID five NAS (coincidentally, also a D-Website link).

More than the yrs, the encoding structure of decision for film data files has shifted from DIVX to XVID to H.264. Currently, I have been discovering Bluray rips to substitute my outdated DVD rips and in a way this is the structure change that my father experienced to do a lot of situations when I was developing up. We experienced a VHS player and then a Laserdisc player and then a S-VHS player and then a DVD-player.

When you have electronic film data files, you are going to want a way to observe them.

This is a problem I have thought about pretty a bit.

In the starting it was easy, you watched them on your laptop or computer, or if you managed to do it, you ran a cable from your laptop or computer to your Tv set. As components started off to catch up, you started off to see DVD gamers with DIVX decoders constructed into them or took USB sticks that you could put flicks on. There were hacky implementations on film gamers on the Dreamcast which could scarcely decode the compressed video.

I think the original Xbox altered all this – soon just after hackers figured out how to modify the Xbox to enjoy unsigned content material, electronic media fans started off to collaborate and Xbox Media Participant was born. In a lot of methods, the Xbox was a best candidate for a media player – it has S-Video output, it experienced a difficult push and a rather speedy graphics engine and CPU, it experienced ethernet (or even WiFi if you purchased an addon) – it was a laptop or computer that failed to expense as a lot as a laptop or computer committed to playing media would expense.

I utilised my Xbox as a media player for yrs and yrs and watched as the program advanced. Quickly all your flicks experienced include artwork monitor scraped from IMDB, it recognized numerous naming tactics and break up data files, even extracted metadata from .NFO data files, the MP3 player could post to Audioscrobbler, it grew far more and far more experienced as a program task. However, the components in the Xbox stayed the exact and quickly the program by itself outgrew the technicals specs of the Xbox, you couldn’t stream and decode the more recent rips speedy adequate for it to continue to keep up.

Wherever did we go future? There were absolutely a lot of possibilities, HTPC’s started off moving into the sector, as very well as Apple Tv set, or Mac Mini’s managing Plex, a fork of the original XBMC. I trapped with my Xbox as extensive as I could – honestly I failed to definitely need to upgrade since I watched flicks on my trusty Infocus X1 projector, which wasn’t definitely Hd so there was no actual gain.

Then the Popcorn Hour arrived out and I was impressed at its specs. It experienced gigabit ethernet, two USB ports, an inside difficult push, HDMI out, and could enjoy very a lot any video file I threw at it, which includes 1080p content material. It was basically a very poor man’s Mac Mini managing Plex. There was a honest volume of hacking performed on it, almost nothing like the golden age of Xbox Media Center hacking, but quickly it experienced a USENET shopper and a torrent downloader – in idea you could use it as a centralized repository for accumulating and observing media content material, but I hardly ever definitely took it that significantly. The most I did was upgrade the NTFS driver to allow write support, so I could plug two difficult drives in it and address it as a NAS, but it was truly a lot slower than a actual laptop or computer for that reason.

The Popcorn Hour was the first in a line of Networked Media Tanks and there have been some respectable enhancements on the original design – but honestly, the UI of the Popcorn Hour bugged me way too a lot to take into consideration acquiring yet another one particular. Navigating the menus was a pain, often it would get into a method where it could scarcely stream except if it was rebooted, often the remote would only work from a handful of inches away.

When the past revision of the Apple Tv set arrived out, I deemed it, but it wasn’t a actual decision for me since I have no intention of re-encoding a number of terabytes of flicks into a Steve Work-authorized structure. It seems to be like jailbreaking the new one particular has gotten a honest volume of traction, but I think the CPU is eventually underpowered which means that the decoding is going to have to occur on the server-aspect, which is not definitely what I want and I will not definitely really feel like possessing to preserve and modify yet another unit to have it do what I want – I just want it to work out of box with my current content material.

A lot of of my pals have gone with the PS3 as a media player, which is pleasant since you get the aspect-gain of a Blu-ray player and a video game console, but again I think that this involves encoding on the server aspect. In the best earth, I just want to be equipped to put every thing on my NAS and/or the difficult drives attached to the unit and not have to operate a laptop or computer to decode content material.

So when the Boxee arrived close to being unveiled, my frustrations with my latest Popcorn Hour basically drove me to get it.

First impressions:

Smaller sized than I expected as I pulled it out of the box, I guess the problem is that all of the product or service pictures will not definitely have something future to them for scale.

I hooked up my HDMI cable, my ethernet cable hooked up to my Gigabit ethernet router, plugged in the electrical power cable and turned it on.

Upcoming was a collection of screens that would hardly ever have produced it out of one Infinite Loop.

The quite first monitor I noticed was “Enhance Now!” and a button to upgrade. I hit it, it downloaded an update for a very little about two minutes, then I obtained to observe a development bar. Just after a when, it rebooted by itself and dumped by itself into a menu for setting up a new account.

I flipped about the remote and started off applying the keyboard on the again of it to style in my e-mail handle, except it stored saying “Not valid” future to the textual content enter, so I backed out of the menu and experimented with it again. This time it labored, and it let me established up my account.

The first point I did, unsurprisingly, was check out to uncover the Flickr integration. I went to Apps and scrolled by way of virtually hundreds of applications, only to uncover it at the quite top rated amid the first eight applications. Its icon hadn’t loaded yet – you would think they would want to have these on the box as an alternative of downloading them.

I hit the Flickr button and then it… requested me to go to a net web page on my laptop or computer.

Entertaining!

So I went to www.boxee.tv/auth and went by way of the authentication dance and experimented with it again, this time it showed me a Dashboard monitor with some textual content that said Your Photostream, Your contacts, Your favorites, but no photos except my buddy icon. I hit the Your Photostream hyperlink and then thumbnails started off rolling in, I played with the slideshow for a bit and then went again to the Dashboard and sure adequate, thumbnails started off coming in listed here, way too. In general, not that lousy.

Upcoming, I experimented with the Motion pictures and Tv set tabs. Initial, I experimented with observing Alice in Wonderland which it documented as the Walt Disney animated edition. I started off it and it buffered it from Youtube Motion pictures and started off playing what appeared to be an more mature edition of the movie with actual men and women – the first of a lot of mismatches when autoguessing flicks. Then I experimented with streaming The Day by day Exhibit from Fancast, a web page I experienced labored on a few yrs ago – and.. it opened up a webpage with a film clip in the centre of it. I managed to shift the cursor to click on the Fullscreen button, but it produced me question – Are they definitely partnered with all of these destinations, or do they just monitor scrape and regex the film clip out of them? The streaming was very unwatchable on an Hd Tv set – it was pixelated and blocky as if it was just a blown up net web page, which is not unsurprising looking at it was just a blown up net web page. I experimented with a handful of far more Tv set demonstrates, they all went to whole monitor immediately but were also pixelated and blocky.

I experimented with definitely difficult to uncover the Netflix button, and then figuring that I needed to do the authentication dance, went again to my laptop computer and hooked up the two providers, but I nonetheless couldn’t uncover it on the true unit. Last but not least, I gave up and made a decision to commence importing my content material. I currently have pretty a handful of Samba shares from a number of equipment, but when I selected my “New Motion pictures” share it prompted me for my username and password, even nevertheless I have authentication off for that. I experimented with it a few or four situations and googled about it, turns out I needed to uninstall the most current Home windows Reside 2010 Necessities pack. Not definitely Boxee’s fault, but nonetheless a bit weird.

Last but not least, it started off importing my flicks and it did a very amazing task of detecting what they were. I experienced to make a handful of corrections, often it would choose the mistaken film that was named the exact but from a unique year. You improve the film by way of the Establish tab, style in a research phrase, and then choose from the outcomes.

It is really worth mentioning that the remote is sort of weird when you use the keyboard, normally when you are filling in textual content fields on the unit you have to shift concerning them to commence filling out the future one particular… but, on the keyboard aspect of the remote there is no arrow keys so you truly have to flip it about to shift concerning fields and the flip it again to the keyboard to commence typing again. Just after a when this receives very outdated.*

*Followup: I located some arrows on the keyboard aspect. =) In my defense, they were difficult to uncover in small-mild.

It seems there’s no recourse if you will not agree with the include artwork it chooses for the film – for one particular film I autocorrected, it failed to pull include artwork at all – other folks it would have faults choosing the film even nevertheless it was in the research outcome listing – I think this might be a parsing error on their part.

There are two sights for searching Motion pictures, a grid with a bunch of film handles and a listing look at which has a extensive listing on the still left aspect and the include and description on the suitable. The description features the Director, but you can’t filter the listing by Director, which was definitely disappointing. To be honest, you couldn’t definitely do that on the Popcorn Hour either, but it seems like it would be a realistic aspect. I experienced hoped if it was going to make the effort and hard work to down load the meta-details affiliated with every film it would at the very least let you filter by them. The Motion pictures tab with streaming flicks can be sorted by Genre, but the local data files simply cannot, only by Title. It would be pleasant to be equipped to see some far more granular detail on the film like the path identify and the filenames – probably there is, but I failed to uncover it on the searching segment, only on the correction monitor.

The Tv set Exhibits tab was a bit far more amazing, first there’s a grid of Tv set demonstrates and then when you decide on one particular, it breaks it down into seasons in the detail look at. For whichever cause, the afterwards episodes in the time seemed to have the exact thumbnail where the before episodes experienced episode-particular screenshots. There was also a synopsis of every episode.

As significantly as truly observing flicks goes, I experimented with a handful of, they all played fine except a handful that I realized currently experienced encoding problems. I experimented with switching subtitles and obtained baffled of how to truly improve them – the icons were not quite intuitive, although I did stumble on a aspect that it would down load subtitles from Open Subtitles which I thought was very awesome – assuming they truly synced accurately.

I failed to check out out the music player or the non-Flickr indigenous picture viewer.

Last but not least, I rebooted, hoping the Netflix sync would kick in then, but it wasn’t any place to be located. Then I went again to my Regional Motion pictures tab and it experienced to re-down load all of the include artwork again – I definitely hope this was a slip-up and it does have a local cache – usually this seems like an unnecessary dependency on World-wide-web availability. Last but not least, I googled about the Netflix point – it is supposed to be in a firmware update “by the conclusion of the year”. Good.

Closing conclusions:
The film/Tv set present import was the most amazing aspect, naturally a lot of effort and hard work has been put into recognizing numerous filenames and the correction labored for most Motion pictures and Tv set demonstrates. However, I think the streaming seemed quite one. – I will not see myself applying it a lot although if the Hd Netflix has a superior interface I think that will make it considerably far more practical. It obviously will not have the polish of an Apple Tv set but then again, it seems like they are for unique markets – authentic content material vs. “acquired” content material. There seemed to be a handful of bugs in even the set up approach, not to mention the web page – the full point does seem a very little rushed to sector. If I uncover the songs interface cumbersome, I might conclusion up acquiring the new Apple Tv set as very well, the cost stage absolutely makes that feasible. Either way, it is nonetheless a action-up from my dying Popcorn Hour, but if you are obtaining it for it is World-wide-web streaming claims, I would keep out until eventually a handful of far more firmware updates and partnerships.

Posted by bertrandom on 2010-eleven-12 08:05:39

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