I’ve been using my new HTPC for a few weeks now. I’ve mainly been running Boxee to access all my media and stream stuff from the net. Overall it’s been pretty good and since everything has been hardwired I haven’t had too many issues with videos buffering (although there still has been some which I’ve narrowed down to the router so I’m trying to get that replaced).
The one real issue that I’ve run into is with Flash content. Flash is a horrible piece of software at the best of times, but on non Windows machines it’s a massive resource hog. Flash 10.1 on Windows allows the GPU to do the heavy lifting but this isn’t enabled on Mac and Linux. This means that some Flash content, notably HD videos, is unplayable in Linux on an Atom processor. This is a bit of a disappointment. I’ve tried installing Flash 10.2 beta and that works brilliantly with Youtube through Firefox – playing 1080p videos with ease. The only issue is that Boxee has not been configured to take advantage of it and Lovefilm Player flat out refuses to play anything.
I’m hoping that the final release of Flash 10.2 will iron out this issue because the rest of the Boxee software (except for the embarrassingly basic Music player) is amazing. I love that I can see a video I’m interested in at work, click a bookmarklet labeled ‘Watch Later’ and when I fire up Boxee it’s ready to be watched in my queue. Browsing TED lectures from the sofa is treat and having access to many 4OD comedy shows is great even with the poor 360p streams from Youtube.
The reason I mention XBMC in the title is because I’ve been playing with that a little as well. XBMC is very similar to Boxee (Boxee having been built on top of XBMC code) but the focus is much more on local content. Plugins for TV catch up services, for instance, are harder to find and install. XBMC, however, has a much better iPlayer application. Rather than use the website so the stream, the XBMC app accesses the raw files encoded in the GPU accelerating friendly format H.264. This means HD streams play perfectly on my Revo’s Atom/ION combination.
The XBMC iPhone remote is also much nicer allowing you to browse your library from the phone and instantly play the file as opposed to having to navigate the menus through the TV.
So overall, there are still things that need to be cleaned up before us Linux users get a smooth Boxee experience. Hopefully Flash 10.2 will solve most of these issues which makes me a little worried as I don’t like to rely on Adobe for anything.