Media Center Programs

Dec 18 2012

News - Beta Roundup: XBMC 12 RC1, XBMC Live RC1, OpenELEC 3.0 Beta 5, MediaPortal 1.3.0 Beta, Xbian.org Beta

Beta RibbonIn our last Beta Roundup, I lamented the challenges of keeping up with new releases, and the last week has proven just how true that can be. Not only have the XBMC and OpenELEC teams been busy this week, so have the MediaPortal and Xbian teams.

XBMC 12 "Frodo" is coming periously close to a full release with the introduction of Release Candidate 1. As a release candidate, XBMC 12 RC1 is feature complete, so anyone holding off on a download in hopes of seeing everything that XBMC 12 will have to offer, now is the time jump in. There are still bugs to work out, but the forums are open to help and the XBMC team is taking tickets on Trac.

 At this point, XBMC 12 is entirely feature complete. All changes from this point forward will exclusively include fixes for replicable bugs necessary to reach final release.

XBMC

 Of course, no XBMC project would be complete with a Live version. As with the XBMC 11 beta cycle, the Live release has been running a bit under the radar compared to the mainline, but that changed with the release of XBMC Live 9.04 "Babylon" RC1. With native MCE remote support and duduke's usplash theme for seamless visual startups, the next version of XBMC Live is looking quite nice.

Finally, the XBMC repositories sources are already configured and topfs2’s cool script “Aptitude” is included, so updating XBMC to follow the new releases will hopefully be easy!

XBMC

Continuing their lockstep development cycle with XBMC, the OpenELEC team dropped Beta 5 of OpenELEC 3.0. The OpenELEC team may not be ready to declare release candidate status, but given their rapid progression, it probably isn't far off.

This Beta updates XBMC to XBMC Frodo Release Candidate 1, and fixes some issues found in our Beta 4 release like the issue where all our Addons are marked as "broken". 

OpenELEC

The big new beta release of the week came courtesy of the MediaPortal team. MediaPortal 1.3.0 Beta is now available. MediaPortal 1.3.0 Beta brings new preloaded skins, including the highly anticipated Titan skin, preliminary Windows 8 support, and a greatly improved "Settings" section that allows users to change most of the client settings from within the MediaPortal 10ft interface. Unfortunately, this capablility does not extend to the TV Server settings, but there is alway 1.4.0 to look forward to.

Just in time for the holidays, we release theBeta Versionof our new major release,MediaPortal 1.3.0!

A lot has changed since the release of MediaPortal 1.2.3. Too much to fit everything into one news. So we will focus on what has changed since the 1.3.0 Alpha release. If you want to find out what was added in the 1.3.0 Alpha release, head over to it's release news, or view all the changes in our wiki: What's New > 1.3.x

MediaPortal

Our last beta for this week's roundup is a bit off the beaten path. Xbian, one of the larger XBMC for Raspberry Pi projects, is getting a new website, and the Xbian team is inviting users to beta test the new site. The new site represents a significant overhaul, so if you have a few minutes, head over and click around and let the Xbian team know if something doesn't work.

XBian is developing a new website that might replace the current one. There are still some things to work out, but we would like to receive some feedback in the proces. Please have a look at Xbian.org Beta 

Xbian

Dec 11 2012

News - Beta Roundup: XBMC 12 Beta 3 and OpenELEC 3.0 Beta 4

The best part about beta software is getting access to exciting new features, even if they aren't always ready for primetime. The worst part is trying to keep up as new releases get pushed out. The XBMC team dropped the first beta for XBMC 12 "Frodo" in mid-November, but over the last week-and-a-half, have moved through Beta 2 onto Beta 3. The Beta 2 release brought a bunch of fixes and the first Android APK release of XBMC, which immediately got me contemplating the future of an XBMC-enabled Ceton Echo. Beta 3 includes more fixes, particularly for the aforementioned Android release, and the inclusion of the new PVR addons. Documentation for XBMC 12 has also taken a giant leap forward in the last week, with new FAQs and support wiki pages coming online and getting fleshed out.

Hot on the heels of Beta 2, we are excited to release Beta 3. This release includes a number of fixes as we work to resolve issues that have cropped up since Beta 2 and also attempt to isolate some issues that still exist.

XBMC 

Running parallel with the XBMC team, the OpenELEC team has been working furiously on the release of the Frodo-powered OpenELEC 3.0. We commented on the rapid transition from OpenELEC 2.0 to OpenELEC 3.0 when the first beta release came out a few weeks ago, and the OpenELEC team isn't showing any signs of slowing down as they have already advanced to Beta 4. The second beta release incorporated OpenELEC-specific bug fixes, while the two more recent beta release have included bug fixes and provided updates to new Linux kernel point releases and the latest beta releases of XBMC 12.

This Beta updates XBMC to XBMC Frodo Beta 3, the kernel to linux-3.6.9 and fixes some issues found in our Beta 3 release like Samba Windows filesharing issues and issues with ffmpeg which is now fixed after a closed cooperation with the ffmpeg developers upstream too. Many thanks for the help!

OpenELEC

It's also worth noting that the OpenELEC team is promoting the Raspberry Pi support that comes with OpenELEC 3.0 by teaming up with The Pi Hut for a giveaway, so if you are interested in getting your diminutive DIY media streamer action on, be sure to throw your name in the social network hat.

Nov 27 2012

News - OpenELEC 3.0 Beta 1 Now Available

OpenELEC 3.0 Beta

It took a year for OpenELEC, the super-lightweight Linux distro optimized to run XBMC on low-power HTPCs and embedded devices, to go from 1.0 to 2.0. It doesn't look like we will have to wait nearly as long for 3.0. It has been barely a month since OpenELEC 2.0 was released to the world, and already the OpenELEC team has announced the release of the first beta version of OpenELEC 3.0. OpenELEC 3.0 is based on XBMC 12 "Frodo", which itself just recently went to beta. Being based on XBMC 12 means that the next version of OpenELEC will support XBMC's new AudioEngine for HD audio support, improved PVR support, and advanced UPnP sharing, the XBMC feature that will probably see the most improvement as it works its way through beta. OpenELEC 3.0 will also be the first version to offer official support for the Raspberry Pi, joining a growing list of XBMC projects targeting the diminutive ARM system. With the XBMC team rumored to be targeting a December release for Frodo, perhaps we will see OpenELEC provide a New Year's treat.

Shortly after our OpenELEC 2.0 release we are proud to present our first OpenELEC 3.0 beta. With this new version comes many exciting updates. Based on XBMC 12.0 Frodo, OpenELEC 3.0 brings official support for our first ARM devices the Raspberry Pi, Linux kernel 3.6, improved PVR support and of course, the long awaited Audio Engine.

OpenELEC

Nov 27 2012

News - MediaPortal 2 Alpha Autumn Release Available, MediaPortal 1.3.0 Beta in Final Testing

While most of us were cleaning our houses in anticipation of the wave of Thanksgiving visitors, MediaPortal fans were busy jumping on the alpha bandwagon with the release of the MediaPortal 2 Alpha 1 Autumn release. The MediaPortal team teased the MP2 Autumn release last month. The Autumn release is noticeably more stable than the MP2 Summer release and with support for movie collections and .nfo metadata files, MediaPortal 2 is starting to feel like a complete media center package. There are still some obvious feature gaps, but then that is to be expected with alpha software and anyone interested in the future direction of MediaPortal should definitely give the new release a try.

Team MediaPortal is proud to release yet another alpha of the upcoming HTPC revolution - MediaPortal 2!

A lot of work has been done since the summer release of MediaPortal 2. 

MediaPortal Blog

While MediaPortal 2 might not be ready for most people's full-time HTPC, there is still MediaPortal 1.3.0 to look forward to. At the same time that the MediaPortal team was teasing the MP2 Autumn release, they were also announcing that MediaPortal 1.3.0 would be coming with a new deafult skin named Titan. The team has announced that the MediaPortal 1.3.0 beta is in final testing and they are stoking anticipation with more images of the Titan skin and talking up Titan Extended, a version of the Titan skin equipped to extend the Titan experience to compatible MediaPortal extensions. As MediaPortal 2 development has creeped along, the most striking improvement over MediaPortal 1 has been the visual upgrade, but with the latest collection of Titan screenshots, the MediaPortal team looks to change things rather dramatically.

Titan

A few of you might feel a sweet shiver crawling down your spine after reading that news title.

I am extremely happy to announce that after many months of hard work, MediaPortal 1.3.0 Beta is in final testing! So the release is now very close!

MediaPortal Blog

Nov 16 2012

News - XBMC 12 "Frodo" Beta 1 Released

XBMC Frodo Beta 1

It has only been a couple of weeks since the XBMC team announced that they were entering the feature freeze stage of development for XBMC 12, codenamed "Frodo", and the first beta is already available. The new version of Frodo is bringing some highly anticipated changes with the XBMC AudioEngine offering official HD audio support, live TV and PVR support, and advanced filtering in the library, among other new features. As always, the usual beta software caveats apply. Indeed, there have already been some issues with the first beta, including issues with live TV channel switching on remote controls and problems with broken skins and add-ons as the team moves from the Eden repositories to the Frodo repositories. There was also an issue with metadata scrapers returning an error that has already been fixed, so anyone who jumped on the beta release right away and is experiencing issues should be sure to grab the latest version of the release from the XBMC download page.

It’s been a mere eight months since Team XBMC released XBMC 11.  If you’ve been following along with us in that time, you already know about most of the new features, changes, and updates that our entire team has been working tirelessly to put into place. But you also know that all those features have only been available in monthly alpha builds.

Now we are excited to say that we are finally ready to roll out the very first beta of XBMC 12 Frodo.

XBMC

Oct 31 2012

News - Windows Media Center Free for Windows 8 Pro Until January 31st

Metro WMCMicrosoft broke a lot of hearts when they announced that Windows Media Center was not going to be included with Windows 8. It was frustrating enough that WMC development was languishing, but turning it into an optional add-on, and only for Windows 8 Pro at that, seemed to be Microsoft's passive-aggressive way of letting HTPC fans know that WMC was well and truly dead. Fortunately, Microsoft has decided to throw us a bone, if only temporarily. Until January 31, 2013, Microsoft is giving the Windows Media Center Pack away for free. All one needs to do is visit Microsoft's "Add Features" website and supply an email address to receive a product code. Folks running the standard version of Windows 8 will still need to pony up for the Windows Pro Upgrade Pack for $59.99 which includes WMC. After January 31st, the WMC Pack will presumably return to the regular $9.99 price tag. On a side note, the WMC Pack product code apparently only works on retail versions of Windows 8 Pro. MSDN subscribers are reporting issues using the product key and I should find out about Technet copies this weekend.

Of course, Windows Media Center is still widely available for Windows 8 users, but it doesn’t come with the OS itself. Users must purchase it as an add-on in the Windows Store for $10. Granted, that’s not a lot of money at all, especially for all the features that you get, but considering that it was once a free feature that came with Windows, we can see how HTPC enthusiasts would be upset.

SlashGear

Oct 18 2012

News - MediaPortal Adopts New Default Skin, Prepping CableCARD Support and MP2 Autumn Build

There was a time when I would bounce from one media center frontend application to the next, always seeking out the perfect blend of eye-candy, customizability and functionality. One application that continues to find its way to my test system is MediaPortal. The MediaPortal team has been fairly quiet the last several months, but they recently broke cover with a collection of updates. First up, there is a new default skin. MediaPortal 1.3 is still in beta, but one of the more significant features is a new skinning engine. MediaPortal has traditionally started out with a rather crusty XP-era WMC style skin. The new skin is more reminiscent of an Aeon-style skin for XBMC. In other words, it's looking sharp. The team also gave an update on the long in gestation MediaPortal 2. MediaPortal 2 is still quite definitely alpha software, but the intrepid can look forward to the release of the MP2 Autumn Build in the near future.

MediaPortal 1.3

Finally, because sometimes I enjoy burying the lead, the MediaPortal team has introduced support for CableCARD. The team is being quite up-front that there is no chance of MediaPortal receiving CableLabs certification, so MediaPortal will only be able to provide access to non-DRM channels and "Copy Freely" content, but it is certainly welcome news for Windows-based HTPC owners still pining for the loss of SageTV and looking for an alternative to WMC. The team is also being quite up-front that MediaPortal's CableCARD support is a work in progress and they are looking for testers to help provide feedback for continued development.

Well howdy, folks! We here at MediaPortal have been getting quite a lot of feedback from everyone, and have found that 3 questions keep being asked:

  1. Why not a new default skin for MP? The old one is a bit outdated and you have some awesome skinners on the team.
  2. Why is getting your non DRM digital cable content into MediaPortal so hard? Specially if you live in the U.S. as Set-Top-Boxes make it even harder.
  3. What is the hype with MP2? Why is better? What is it going to look like?

MediaPortal Blog

Oct 18 2012

News - Open ELEC 2.0 Released

OpenELEC 2.0 is here. The heavily customized Linux distro built around offering a lightweight XBMC frontend has pushed out two release candidates over the last few weeks, and the team confidently predicted with RC2 that the final version was near at hand. OpenELEC 2.0 is based on XBMC 11 "Eden" and incorporates the official XBMC PVR code branch and the PVR-optimized version of the default Confluence skin. Version 2.0 also brings CEC adapter support and promises vastly improved performace with AMD Fusion-based systems. With no Linux desktop lurking in the background, OpenELEC offers an experience about as close to an XBMC settop box as I have experienced with support for a wide range of XBMC add-ons, including a selection of OpenELEC specific add-ons.

OpenELEC 2.0

 OpenELEC was specifically created to run XBMC optimally and provide a seamless media consumption experience without all the normal installation or upgrade hurdles. Its add-on architecture allows you to customize XBMC to your preferred look-and-feel along with adding new functionality as required. OpenELEC is extremely light weight (less than 130 MB installed) and supports a diverse array of hardware platforms.

OpenELEC Blog

Oct 16 2012

News - Roundup - October Never Sleeps Edition

RoundupIt is no secret that October tends to be a big month for those interested in technology. With companies gearing up for the holiday shopping season and jockeying to one-up the competition in pursuit of the dollars destined to stream out of our wallets, October tends to be a poor month to take a vacation if you spend your free time writing about technology. Alas, I do not control my vacation time, so here in one neat package I present one of our infrequent roundups, recapping in no particular order, some of the more important and interesting stories of the last week worth keeping an eye on.

Netflix Promises More Captions and Delivers on Windows 8

Media streaming services have gradually been adding closed captioning to their video content, and though few, if any companies can yet boast of having closed captioning for all content across all platforms, Netflix has come under particular scrutiny for its lack of comprehensive closed captioning support. Such are the travails when one is the 800lb. gorilla of the streaming media market. The National Association for the Deaf filed suit against Netflix over the issue and the company recently settled with NAD, promising to offer closed captions for all of its content by 2014. The cynic in me might want to focus on how it took a lawsuit to get Netflix to commit, but it should be interesting to watch other services scramble to match Netflix's new "feature".

The company has also agreed to speedily caption new content. The agreement says that Netflix will put captions on new content within 30 days by 2014; within 14 days by 2015; and within 7 days by 2016, "and shall strive to reach a point at which Conforming Captions are provided simultaneously with launch at all times."

Ars Technica

While Netflix's legal team was busy avoiding court time, Netflix's development team was courting the limelight with the release of their Windows 8 app. Windows 8 may still be a few weeks from public availability, but anyone running a final release version of Windows 8 can download the app for free from the Windows Marketplace. The Netflix team has obviously expended a great deal of effort tapping into the new Windows UI, striving to deliver a rich app that conforms to Microsoft's vision of app design for Windows 8 while remaining a distinctive Netflix experience. Unfortunately, the app also delivered a crushing blow to my hopes of using the new Windows 8 interface for an HTPC in the same manner that I have for past versions of Windows. Certain sections of the Netflix app are only accessible through touch or mouse control, rendering it impossible to fully utilize the app with a standard remote control.

The company behind the app seem extremely proud of their achievements with this Windows 8 app and are making it known that a lot of engineering and development work has gone into building the application from the ground up to give the maximum possible experience to users and to fall in line with the design fundamentals of Windows 8. The app affords users the ability to quickly browse through recommended media in the form of movies and television shows by making great use of the supported gestures in Windows 8.

Redmond Pie

Boxee TV Leaked

Next up we have the leaked details of the upcoming Boxee TV. The Boxee Box is coming up on its second birthday, so the possibility of a hardware refresh is certainly not surprising, but it sounds like the Boxee team has some big plans for the second generation of hardware. In addition to adopting a more mainstream form factor, the Boxee TV is expected to integrate the TV tuner that was previoulsy offered as an external dongle in the form of the Boxee Box Live TV add-on and also offer the DVR capabilities that left many wondering about the value of the Boxee Box Live TV. How close to release is the new Boxee TV? We know that Boxee has been ramping up their beta testing program, and anecdotally, a recent visit to the local Best Buy reveled the Boxee Box on clearance for a hefty 30% discount, so I suspect we won't have long to wait.

To make that live TV aspect more enticing, Boxee has thrown in DVR capabilities. Our tipster hasn't had an opportunity to give recording a run-through, but a survey delivered to beta participants hints that you'll be able to watch content across multiple devices — likely through Boxee's companion smartphone app.

The Verge

Oct 05 2012

News - OpenELEC 2.0 Release Candidate 1 Released

OpenELEC Logo

I know what I will be doing this weekend. I'm all for beta software, but media center software usually has to at least hit the release candidate stage before I am willing to try it out on the rest of the family. Well, OpenELEC 2.0 RC1 has been released and I have just the system to try it out on.  For those not familiar with OpenELEC, it is a specialized Linux distro built from the ground up to run XBMC, similar to GeeXbox, another XBMC-oriented Linux distro that recently hit a milestone of its own. As with GeeXboX's recent release, OpenELEC 2.0 is based on XBMC 11 (Eden), and will include the PVR capabilities that were recently merged into the XBMC main branch. OpenELEC 2.0 also makes the jump to 64-bit with this release, and as a result, anyone interested in hopping on the release candidate needs to be prepared to either perform a clean install or be comfortable manually removing and upgrading add-on packages. With so many XBMC derivatives willing to roll out new versions with PVR support included, hopefully XBMC 12 (Frodo) won't be far behind.

The OpenELEC team is proud to release the first release candidate of OpenELEC 2.0!

Internally this is known by the less-catchy name OpenELEC 1.99.1 Smile and we really hope its one of the latest prereleases before our OpenELEC 2.0 final.

OpenELEC

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