Video and music with XBMC, Boxee, and Windows Media Center

Here’s what I do today. Mostly I’m running XBMC on Linux on a computer under the TV. I get TV shows via bittorrent — mostly documentaries from PBS. I also boot into Windows 7 so that I can watch streaming Netflix via Windows Media Center (which is built in to Win7). Unfortunately, I hate the music interface to WMC, so I use 2 programs.

I just tried the (closed) Boxee beta today. Someone figured out how to download the beta and posted it to bittorrent (see [1] below). Running on Win7, it searches all the various places to get media (such as and Netflix). It presents you with a listing of, for example, various TV shows and then connects you to the service that will stream it, whether it’s netflix or or whatever. That’s nice, and helps with the chaos described in the NYT article.


  • Unfortunately, Netflix still hasn’t provided a Linux version, hence Win7.
  • The video streaming services are still trying to decide what the rules of the game are. For example, there’s a popular piece of $150 hardware called the Popcorn Hour that allows you to play DVD’s, music, netflix, etc. — but Google has just shut down their YouTube access.
  • Boxee has played cat-and-mouse games with some content providers, trying to circumvent their blocking the video streams. For many sites it has a contract agreement (e.g., Netflix) and that will probably be the wave of the future. Honestly, most of the sites appear to be funded via inline ads (just like regular tv), so that business model should still work.

The Boxee Box (hardware) was recently announced (due at CES in January) and should cost $200. It’s not really possible to replace a cable subscription yet, IMO. But, if you’re a non-rabid consumer of tv like me, it does work acceptably well (especially with Netflix streaming).