Serving up media (Part 1)
A couple of weeks ago I embarked on a wee project.
I have a fairly large collection of LPs, CDs and even a few cassettes that have survived the years. I decided it was time to digitise the lot onto one drive acting as a media server.
Why bother, you ask? There are a few reasons why I am doing it. The main reason is to create a central store for all my media, so at least I know where it all is. Also the fact that it is all stored on a small box not much bigger than a paperback means the “hard copies” can be put away into storage. As it is a media server, its contents can be accessed from anywhere in the house by using a laptop or television.
For my server, I am using my otherwise redundant Iomega iConnect box which has a built in media server. The media is all stored on a 1Tb external drive plugged into the iConnect.
The media is accessed either on laptops or via an XBox which is connected both to the network and the main television in the house. The software for the laptops was one of the areas where I did have some difficulty however.
As a Linux user, I had the option of using one of the main two packages – Banshee or VLC Media Player. I had problems with each of these. where VLC took an age to connect and then had a nasty habit of duplicating everything, and Banshee was just plain flakey.
A good friend then recommended XBMC Media Center. This is available for all the main platforms so I installed the PPA for Ubuntu and installed the package.
I was impressed.
XBMC is not just an application but can actually be installed as a standalone operating system. To say it is graphically rich is an understatement. It is also fairly intuitive and I had no problem in hooking it up to my server (it automatically recognises most protocols including UPnP which the iConnect uses).
So far I have only had a couple of minor problems with the programme. The first is that it tends to just vanish if memory gets a bit tight (which just means I don’t run any memory intensive programs such as VirtualBox when I am running it). The second was a little more problematic – I discovered that some skins, while claiming to be mouse enabled, in fact weren’t. The problem then is that there is no way of changing the skin to one that works. In the end I used brute force and attacked the XBMC configuration file (home/.xbmc/userdata/guisettings.xml). I deliberately corrupted the skin entry (under <lookandfeel>) and then restarted the program. As it couldn’t find the corrupted skin it defaulted back to the standard one.
Problems notwithstanding, this is now my media player of choice.
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