Most of you will have a desktop PC or laptop just lying around simply because it’s either too old for daily use or the resale value is too low for you to bother with it. Why not convert it into an HTPC (home theater PC) for use in your living room or bedroom? You don’t need any large capacity hard drives, high-end graphics cards or even an expensive operating system for the HTPC conversion. All you would need is your bank of media files either stored on the hard drive, external storage or on a DLNA/UPnP compatible NAS.
On booting from the USB drive, choose the XBMCLive option unless you intend to permanently install the XBMC OS on your PC's internal hard drive.
In this workshop, we will show you how you can use XBMC Live (formerly known as Xbox Media Center) on an old PC and connect it to your LCD TV to enjoy your movies and music on the network. XBMC is an open source cross-platform media player and home entertainment system application designed for a living room TV. It has a graphical user interface and allows one to play video, photos, music and podcasts on your TV.
You need to initially setup the networking parameters. Unless your router assigns the IP address via the DHCP server, you should specify the IP address.
XBMC Live is a free Ubuntu-based Linux distribution with XBMC for Linux pre-installed and pre-configured, and hence we can avoid the purchase of an expensive operating system such as Windows. For this workshop, all you need is a regular x86-based PC and a blank CD or a 1 GB USB pen drive. Your media files can either be on your PC’s internal hard drive, external storage on a media server available on your network. This server can either be a Windows PC with Windows Media Player configured to stream your movie collection, a DLNA/UPnP compatible NAS, or a router which holds your entire media collection.
Once done, you must add the source of your media files, be it the internal hard drive, a USB storage, a NAS, PC or SAMBA share, or DLNA server.
First, download the XBMC Live distribution from ‘www.xbmc.org’ or use the ISO distribution in the CHIP DVD. Download a utility called ‘UNetbootin’ for Windows from http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net. This application will help you create your XBMC Live USB drive, unless you prefer burning the ISO file onto a CD. That’s all; the XBMC Live media center is ready to play your favorite flicks over the network. Connect the PC reserved for the HTPC to the LCD TV (VGA/HDMI, whichever is compatible), run your audio wiring accordingly (from the PC to the home theatre speakers or amplifier),configure the BIOS to boot from USB/CD ROM and boot the PC from the USB/CD drive. You will shortly be taken to the XBMC user interface, where you can select the ‘Live’ option. If your media collection is on the internal hard drive or an external USB storage, make sure you have the drive connected before powering up the HTPC.
Select the source(s) accordingly and add them to the list. Once done, you will be able to select the source of your media files in the begining.
Once the XBMC media center is running, you can browse through your collection and enjoy your favorite flicks. If your media files are located on the network server, you will need to configure the network card or WLAN adapter. Also make sure you have connected the network cable before XBMC is booting. Usually, XBMC, being based on the Ubuntu Linux distribution, installs the network drives by default. If your PC is fairly new, you might need to download the necessary drivers and setup the network accordingly. In case you face any troubles with XBMC, you can always refer to the ‘xbmc.org’ website for any issues.
Remote control apps for iPhone as well as Symbian, Java and Android-based mobile phones are available for free.
The website also features downloadable skins for tweaking the user interface. Additionally, you can use your Wi-Fi capable mobile phone or a Windows Media Center remote as a remote controller or you can also use XBMC to act as a media server on your network. There are several other features in XBMC waiting for you to be discovered.
Add-ons and plug-ins for XBMC for playing movies and music over the Internet can be downloaded from XBMC's interface itself.