What's Up With Xbox Media Center

November 23, 2005

CVS Updates

There's been quite a few additions to Xbmc over the last few weeks. I'll wrap them up real quick.

added: Skin Theme Support:
Skin Themes, simply loading different Texture.xpr files from the current selected skin! To create new Themes, just add. a new MyThemaRed.xpr to the \Skin\SkinName\media\*.*,which contained Theme referenced pictures!
You can also use more Themes and the shared files [picutes] can be in root of \media, which will be used if they are not in the defined theme!
also new is to define the default used Theme in skin.xml textures, here you can define the simple XPR name! e.g. "My Theme Red.xpr" theme name is "My Theme Red"!
All themes will be detected Automaticly, and can be selected true Settings - Appearance - Skin Theme! If there is no Theme defined, the default's will be used!

This is pretty exciting. It basically cements Project Mayhem III as THE interface design. Don't waste your time remapping controls and moving stuff around. Consider PMIII what Xbmc will LOOK like. But now you can skin it. Pretty cool stuff.

added: Controller Rumble (controller vibration)!
On menu action controller will Rumble! Rumble On/Off and Rumble sensitivity can set over: Appearance - Look and Feel - Rumble Controller!

I'm not so sure the point of this, it looks like someone got bored. I don't use the controller anyways. If you don't either, remember to turn this feature off, or you'll here a strange vibration coming from your entertainment center!

added: rename in Context menu Music/Pictures/Video [GeminiServer]
The renameing is in condition with delete function in the context menu! Settings description changed to "Allow File Renaming and Deletion"

This may come in handy.

added: option in my programs settings to en/disable Kai (disabled by default).

All in all some pretty good updates.

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Big Pimpin: Revise User Interface Text

Xbmc has great multilingual support. Because of that, we can take advantage of the language files that are used to present text in the user interface. So if you'd like a word to be displayed differently, its simple.

Find your language file inside of your Xbmc install. They're located in /xbmc/language. Pick your language, I picked English. Inside this folder you'll find strings.xml. This file has every word used by Xbmc by its user interface. Find the word you want changed, change it, and save it. Done!

For example, I hate that it says "My Programs" on the home screen. Since I use this view primarily for games and emulators, I'd rather it say "My Games". So I changed it:

<string><id>0</id><value>My Programs</value></string>

changes to

<string><id>0</id><value>My Games</value></string>

Pretty simple eh?

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Feature Focus: iTunes Sharing

asdfOf all the software released over the last few years, nothing has had more impact than iTunes, besides maybe Firefox. iTunes does an amazing job doing the impossible. Storing your 40 gig music library and presenting it to you in a usable way. From smart playlists to live searching, iTunes is pretty powerful.

One of its greatest features is its capability to share an entire music library to another copy of iTunes over the network. Fortunately for us, Apple has used an open format, DAAP, to achieve this. One of the beauties of an open format is the ability for anyone to use it, and thats just what a contributor to the Xbmc development team did.

Xbmc has the ability to browse your entire music library as served to it by iTunes. And even better, it has access to those playlists you've made. This is great, because you can make up a playlist on your computer, where its faster to create, and then access it via Xbmc.

Setting it up is trivial. You just need to add a bookmark in your XboxMediaCenter.xml file within the music section. Use my entry as an example.

  <name>Jon's iTunes</name>

Just add the ip address of the computer with iTunes on it. You can have multiple shares for each computer in your house. For example, I have "Jon's iTunes" and "Steph's iTunes" on my Xbmc. Now, navigate to your music section of Xbmc and voila! Your entire iTunes library is now available within your Xbmc.


What you see is a long list of all of your playlists. If you want to navigate your entire music library, browse to the name your iTunes is sharing as. My iTunes identifies itself as "Jon Maddox's iTunes". You can see it in the picture.

You might be asking your self, "But wait?! There has to be a catch!" Well, there is kind of. Xbmc will not be able to decode or play your iTunes Music Store purchases. They're encrypted with Fairplay DRM. There used to many ways and sources to break your music out of this DRM, but since iTunes 6.0's release, all of the methods have been broken. Stay tuned though, it will be broken once again.

iTunes is the kind of application that really shows us the power we have with digital media. Gone are the days of keeping track of CDs. With iTunes, you can simply make a playlist of your favorite tracks and listen to them at your computer, or burn them out to a CD to bring to a friends house, or sync it to your iPod for your road trip, or access it via Xbmc for your party. Those who dismiss this as not being a revolution are severely unenlightened.

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November 18, 2005

Xbmc Game Thumbnails

Anyone know what happened to the site that hosted all the Xbmc game thumbnails? I have a template I used to use to make my own, but once that site came around, I quit doing it. Now it seems to be gone.

Anyone have a new spot for up-to-date thumbnails for games?

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November 08, 2005

BIg Pimpin: Content Organization

Anyone can dump their movies and tv shows into a folder and browse through them. Without directory and file name changes, slowly decoding and decrypting the original file names into something usable is a bit of a nightmare, if not just plain ghetto. We want our Xbox media center to look professional, and impress our visitors.

Read more to find out what you can do to organize your content.

File Names
The first step is to rename your files. If you attained your content from "other places" it may look something like this War.Of.The.Worlds.XVID.DVDRip.CD1-APX.avi. Sure its not difficult to realize this is the first disc to War of the Worlds, but hey, its just plain ugly, if not a bit incriminating. Do your self a favor and join the 2 discs into one video file, and rename it to War of the Worlds.avi. If you're leaving it as 2 discs and using stacking, rename each disc to War of the Worlds-CD*.avi, replacing the * for the disc number of course. Using the -CD* is a perfect format for Xbmc's stacking function. It will remove the extension and show one file, rather than two, when browsing. IMDB searches will also go much more smoothly now that you've conformed to proper naming conventions.

Directory Structure
Ok, now that your movies and Tv shows look great, let's look at your directory structure. When you first set up Xbmc, you had about ten or so video files. But over the months, you've bought a 300 gig hard drive for archiving, read about broadcatching and set up Azureus to capture all of your favorite Tv shows automatically. Now you have over 40 - 60 video files in your Video folder. Get rid of it!

By simply adding genre named sub-directories, your media center will be usable and more presentable. Take your movies and break them up into genres, then add a directory for each of those genres and sort your movies into them. Keep a directory called New Releases for your newest movies. I usually give my new movies about a month lifespan in the New Releases directory before filing them into their genres. I use Specials as a sort of miscellaneous directory.

movies directory

Setting up your directories for Tv isn't any harder. I like to have three main directories. Full Season, Now Playing, and Specials. All of my incoming Tv shows from my broadcatching system get copied to the Now Playing directory once they are done downloading. I carried that convention over from my Tivo. So now all of my newest shows are in one directory. Simple! My Specials directory is just like the one in my movies section, used for miscellaneous Tv content.

tv directory

My final folder, Full Seasons is where I archive all of my Tv content away. Certain shows like, House, I like enough to keep. So inside I have directories named via show titles. Inside them I divide each season into its own separate directory.

full seasons directory

Cleaning up your content and dividing it into logical areas is key to having an easy to use media center. You will not only find things faster, enjoy using it more, but it will look much more refined and finished.

Disclaimer: I AM married and not all content shown represents my taste and my taste only :)

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November 07, 2005

Last.fm Support Added

Last.fm support has been added to the newest versions of Xbox media center. Last.fm is a social music community that allows you to share your listening habits and tastes.

Last.fm offers plugins to all of the major audio players that are available. The plugins track and upload which songs you are listening to and the site then aggregates that data in a lot of different ways. One way allows others to browse a large status page of your listening habits. Check mine out.

While the capability of uploading your data to last.fm (formerly Audioscrobbler) has been around for a while, you're now able to take advantage of one of last.fm's coolest features. Having all of your musical taste aggregated on their site, Last.fm does a great job in introducing you to newer bands you might not have heard of. The site will lead you to other users with the same musical taste, and you can listen to their "feed", an audio stream of all of their music.

Now Xbmc can play these feeds. Just place a "lastfm://" URL into a .stream file and launch it with Xbmc. Xbmc even supports the song names and album art.

Thanks to the awesome readers, its been revealed that you can even add "lastfm://" URLs to your music shares. Just set your user name and password in the Audioscrobbler section of the settings and add:

<name>Last FM</name>

to your bookmarks in the music section of your XboxMediaCenter.xml file, and you'll be able to view your top artists and and track listings as well as your neighbors' listings. Pretty slick. I can't wait to try this.

This is a pretty new feature, and it looks like it has a good amount of time being devoted to it right now. With a publicly available API, Last.fm functionality is only going to get better.

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