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Getting Started with Boxee

Boxee is a free Media PC application that runs on Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu Linux. With Boxee, you can integrate online video, music and pictures, with your own local media and social networking. Today we are going to take a closer look at Boxee and some of it’s features.

Note: We used Windows 7 for this tutorial. Your experience on a Mac or Ubuntu Linux build may vary slightly.

Hardware Requirements

x86 (Intel/AMD processor) based system running at 1.0GHz or greater

512MB system memory (RAM) or more

Video card capable of OpenGL 1.4, Direct X 9.0

Software Requirements

Mac OS X 10.4+ (Intel based processor)

Ubuntu Linux 9.04+

Windows XP / Vista / 7 (64 bit in Vista or 7)

Installing Boxee

Before downloading and installing Boxee, you’ll need to register for a free account. (See link below)

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Once your account is registered and verified, you’ll be able to log in and download the application. Installation is pretty straightforward…just take the defaults.

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Boxee will open in full screen mode and you’ll be prompted to login with your username and password. Before you login, you may want to take a moment to click on the “Guide” icon and learn a bit about navigating in Boxee.

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Some basic keyboard navigation is as follows. Move right, left, up, & down with the arrow keys. Hit “Enter” to make a selection, the backslash slash key “\” to toggle between full screen and windowed mode, and “Esc” to go back to the previous screen. For Playback, the volume is controlled by plus & minus (+/-) keys, you can Play / Pause using the spacebar, and skip using the arrow keys.

Boxee will also work with any infrared remote. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch you can download software to enable them as a Boxee remote.

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If you’re using a mouse and keyboard, hover over the username and password boxes to enter your login credentials. If using a a remote, click your OK button and enter credentials with the on screen keyboard. Click “Done” when finished.

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When you are ready to login, enter your credentials and click “Login.”

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On first login, you’ll be prompted to calibrate your screen. If you choose “Skip” you can always calibrate your screen later under Settings > Appearance > Screen.

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When Boxee opens, you’ll be greeted by the Home screen. To the left will be your Feeds. This will be any recommended content from friends on Boxee, and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Although, when you first login, it will mainly be info from the Boxee staff. You’ll have “Featured” content in the center and your Queue on the right. You’ll also have the Menu along the top.

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Pop Up Menu

The Pop Menu can be accessed by hitting the “Esc” key, or back on your remote. Depending on where you are located in Boxee, you may have to hit it a few time to “back out” to the Pop Up menu. From the Pop Up Menu, you can easily access any of the resources, settings, and favorites.

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Queue

The Queue is your playlist of TV shows, movies, or Internet videos you wish to watch. When you find an offering you’d like to watch, select it and then click “Add to Queue.”

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The selected item will be added to your Queue and can be accessed at any time from the Menu.

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TV Show Library

The TV Show library can contain files from your local hard drive or streaming content from the Web. Boxee pulls content from a variety of online locations such as Hulu and TV network sites. Click on the show to see which specific episodes are currently available.

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To search for your favorite shows, click on the yellow arrow to the left, or navigate to the left with your keyboard or remote. Enter your selection into the search box.

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My Apps

By default, the “My Apps” section includes a list of the most popular apps, such as Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and others. You can remove Apps from “My Apps,” or add new Apps from the Apps Library.

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To access all the available Apps, click on the left arrow button, or click on the yellow arrow at the left, then select “App Library.”

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Choose an App from the Library and click it to open…

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… and then select “Add to My Apps.” Or, you can click start to play the App if you don’t wish to Add it to your “My Apps.”

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Music, Pictures, and Movies

Boxee will scan your PC for movies, pictures, and music. You can choose to scan specific folders by clicking on “Scan Media Folders…”

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… or from the Pop Up Menu, selecting Settings > Media, and then browsing for your media.

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Conclusion

Boxee to be a great way to integrate your local media with online streaming content. It can be run as an application on your home PC, or as a stand alone media PC. It should also be noted, however, that your access to online content will vary depending on your country.

If you are a Windows Media Center user and and want to add the additional features of Boxee, check out our article on integrating Boxee with Windows 7 Media Center.

Download Boxee

Andrew is a media center geek with some serious Windows skills. He's never far from a WiFi connection or a great cup of coffee.

  • Published 03/16/10

Comments (6)

  1. Jason

    Boxee can be used on Ubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10. The website [http://www.boxee.tv/] and the screenshot used in this acticle shows that it can be used for Ubuntu 9.10 32 and 63 bit.

  2. Mike Dedmon

    I’ve been using boxee for about 6 months. I’ve upgraded to every new BETA version that has been released and I just HATE it. There are SO many things that it does badly.

    I have a huge collection of TV shows in files. Here’s how Boxee seems to find them.

    1) I pointed boxee to my SMB share for the videos and they’re setup per Boxee’s directory / file name rules.
    1a) I’ve setup Boxee so that it scans my local files “frequently” – whatever that means.
    2) Boxee instantly creates a thumbnail for every directory that I have.
    3) After a while, it finds the files as well and identifies them correctly.
    4) I go thru each show add it to “My Shows” so that new episodes will get added to my queue.
    Now, this is where it goes badly.
    5) My server automatically downloads the next episodes of TV shows as they become available, with correct names and file locations.
    6) Hours (sometimes a day) later, I turn on the TV and browse Boxee.
    7) The queue is VERY hit or miss. Mostly miss…
    8) If a new episode shows up in the queue, when I select it, the only options I have are to watch it streaming from the Internet. Even though I’m positive that the “local” file of this new episode is there and has been for a LONG time.
    9) So then I browse “My Shows” directly. The new episode doesn’t show up there either.
    10) So, I have to resort to browsing to the physical file (thru boxee) and then playing the physical file.
    11) 2 or 3 days has to go by for the local files to be found. By then, I’ve already watched them the manual way.

    At this point, I can do the EXACT same file browsing using Windows file manager and media player. Boxee is useless for my new episodes of local files. My husband is ready to kill me since I’ve moved to this in lieu of the Tivo.

    Plus – Boxee still hasn’t figured out the hardware acceleration for flash yet, so streaming video stutters and is sluggish. Outside of Boxee in the browser, it’s awesome.

    This week, I’m putting the Tivo back in place so that our TV watching can get back to normal.

    I’ve given up on this Boxee thing.

  3. Chronnotrigg

    @Mike Dedmon
    I’ve never played with Boxee before but I would wonder if your problem comes from downloading the BETA of it.

    Open Question:
    I use XBMC now. I haven’t found a file that it can’t play (even a few corrupted files), can boxee do this? Outside of that it seems that Boxee has the advantage of having Netflix. Did they ever get their Hulu support back?

  4. kzinti1

    Is this { the forward slash key “\”} a mistake or have I been using the wrong slash keys for almost 20 years?

  5. DigitalGeekery

    Ahh… two good catches. Jason is correct in that there is a 64-bit version for Ubuntu 9.10, and yes, kzinti1, it is a backslash. Correct key. Incorrect term. We’ll make the changes.

    @Chronnotrig – It should be able to play all the same files assuming the proper codecs are installed, and you are currently able to watch programs available on Hulu.

    Also, Boxee has been around for a couple years but is still beta.

  6. kzinti1

    Thanks for the confirmation DigitalGeekery . I wasn’t trying to be a smart-ass, just checking.

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