The time came to renew our cable subscription (promotional period was ending) and we decided our usage did not justify keeping the television portion of our cable bill. We also receive our broadband through the cable company and so we debated other broadband offerings but as in most places, the options are limited to cable or telephone providers. Cable was going to give us the speed we wanted to stream all of our video online, so we just downgraded our cable service.
A few months before, my wife upgraded here laptop and we had a spare lying around that I moved straight to the entertainment center. The specs are not that impressive but it was a spare:
- Acer Aspire 5630
- Processor: 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo T5200
- Memory: 1GB DDR2
- HD: 120GB hard drive
- Optical: Double-layer DVD±RW
- Graphics: Integrated Intel GMA 950
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium (upgraded)
- 1 Tb attached USB external HD
Around the same time we also upgraded our display (television) to an internet connected model (Vizio Via SV472XVT). I wanted to see first hand the capabilities of the integrated widgets which I had previously talked about here.
I first experimented with Windows Media Center. I “looked” on every dvd I owned for a “digital copy,” and if there was one, I put in on the computer so I could access it through WMC. I also installed the Media Browser plugin, which gave me the ability to obsess over all the meta data associated with my movies. I also grabbed the Hulu desktop plugin which gave me some amount of streaming capability. The Hulu selection paired with antennae reachable stations (network, PBS) was not quite enough coming from our 57+ channels and nothings on. I decided to give Boxee another shot, having tried it prior and found that the pre-beta versions choking on most feeds. The new beta did not have the same stuttering issues that I found prior but did have some staggering that may be related to the video card or the cpu load. Boxee also offered a greater selection of television shows as well as easily usable apps. I was disappointed that Boxee did not offer any way to manually identify movies and other video data stored on my computer. I looks to be a greatly requested feature from the Boxee community and my OCD concerning extra meta data will hopefully be satisfied soon.
Toting a full keyboard and mouse around was not option for control so we looked to our mobile device to control, a Motorola Droid for both my wife and myself. Since I had decided on Boxee, we went for the Boxee Wifi Remote from Sunil Sadasivan (qr code below).
I am still interested in the upnp server concept that would act as the media server which Boxee mangled in its current form from the XMBC code base. I would also like to upgrade the hardware of the system to get a smoother video playback and I question adding a Bluray drive at this stage because streaming/online HD content is still too rare. I do think that the disc model will go the way of the PC software CD-ROM. Looking at content, there are very few live streams of any cable or network content and bandwidth is still too much of an issue to try to ease compression on the online streams. I’m sure I will have more to say about dropping cable in the future but for now, I love tinkering with my system and do not miss cable even with the occasional video stutter.
Boxee remote qr