Each one of us love watching content on a large screen. HDTVs are becoming popular and they are getting more and more affordable as well. DTH services are being produced with HD channels but there still isn’t enough really good quality content. Playing videos on demand isn’t possible either. An HTPC is a great source for audio and video content and you can do so many other things with it. There are plenty of software designed to be used on a HTPC software. One of the older and popular media centre software out there is XBMC. The software was recently updated to version 10.1 as well. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a try. It’s available for free for OS X, Linux, Windows and Apple TV.
Automating XBMC startup
If you use a HTPC that is dedicated for media playback, you should setup XBMC to startup on bootup. The easiest way to do this on Windows is to add a shortcut of XBMC in the Windows Startup folder. Browse through the Start menu in Windows, right-click and select Explore to access it. It works particularly well when you only have a single user account with no password set. This way, XBMC can boot up directly into its interface without you having to manually start up the program each time.
Adding media sources
XBMC can access videos and audio from multiple sources – everything from external hard drives to Blu-ray drives to network shares. Click on Video or Audio, then click on Add Source. Click on Browse, choose the paths and add the videos and other media content to the library. XBMC will then scan all of the media and download cover art if any.
Enabling hardware acceleration
XBMC has DXVA support which basically means support for hardware acceleration. Browse to Settings > Video > Playback. Check the Allow hardware acceleration (DXVA2) option.
Hardware acceleration built into XBMC
If you have a discrete graphics solution, you should see smooth HD playback performance. Another feature called Adjust display refresh rate to match video allows for smoother playback on TVs that have some shuddering issues.
One of the neat things about XBMC is that it’s really simple to stream content from the web through various sources such as Youtube and Greasemonkey. In order to do this, you need to enable the XBMC plugins for Youtube.
Content on Youtube accessible on XBMC
You can do this by going to Videos > Add-ons > Get More. Use the similar steps for the Music section. To access the content, click on the corresponding type of content and choose one of the plugins installed.
If you’re the kind who has data scattered all over the hard drive and it’s not possible to map all of those folders using the library feature in XBMC, you can always resort to the built-in File Manager feature which allows you to access folders on the local machine as well as network PCs.
Using File Manager to access folders not in your XBMC library
The easiest way to access is to click on System > File manager and browse through the folder structure of your drive.
Remote controlling XBMC
XBMC can also be controlled remotely using any network device such as a notebook or a phone or tablet using a web browser. To enable the feature, head over to System > Network > Allow control of XBMC via HTTP.
Enabling web access to XBMC for remote devices
Select a port, a username and password. To access your XBMC, open up your web browser and access http://YOUR_IP_ADDRESS. This IP address can be found through the network connection status or you can also find it using the ipconfig command in a DOS command prompt.
Android app for accessing XBMC remotely
If you use an Android device, then there are readymade apps that let you control XBMC. The official one is available in the Android market and can also be used to access your HTPC XBMC installation without having to use a keyboard or mouse.