XBMC has come a long way since its humble beginnings as an Xbox media player. Let’s take a look at the latest 10.0 release of XBMC, also known as “Dharma”, to see what’s new.
XBMC is free and open source software that is released for Windows, OS X, Linux, AppleTV, and as a live image that can be run directly from a CD/USB drive or installed to turn an extra computer into a true HTPC appliance. XBMC gives you the functionality of many media streamers currently on the market but in a free DIY package that you can customize and use however you’d like.
Skin development in the latest release is top notch and many new features and refinements have been added to the skinning engine. Here is a quick look at some of the available skins for XBMC 10.0.
Alaska was being developed by one of the best XBMC skin developers who wasn’t able to finish the skin. He released all the work he had completed to the XBMC community and the community took over with a few different variations. Alaska Revisited Mod is shown below.
Transparency has been around for a little while and it has been fully updated to take advantage of the new add-on manager and other skin enhancements.
Shade is a very minimalistic skin that is a new release for XBMC 10.0.
Night has a Windows Media Center/Zune feel and looks excellent on a big screen. It is also a new release for XBMC 10.0 and is available in the official XBMC add-on feed.
Ellipsis is a skin by Team Blackbolt who have made some of the best skins available on the original Xbox and they have continued their work even after support for the Xbox hardware was dropped. This skin isn’t available in the official XBMC Add-on feed but you can download it from their website using the link below.
Xperience is another Team Blackbolt skin that is available from their website and resembles the NXE 360 dashboard for the Xbox 360.
In previous versions, users could extend functionallity by downloading python scripts to take advantage of more media sources and other tools. In the latest release, the developers wanted to provide users an easier way to extend their XBMC installation through centralized add-on feeds. The new add-on framework allows for automated download and installation of media scrappers, skins, visualizations, screensavers, python scripts, web interfaces, and other user customizable aspects. This framework also allows for third party developers to create their own private feeds and provide updates and new features outside of the official XBMC add-ons.
To adjust your add-on settings go to the system settings and select the add-ons option.
Each add-on type is broken into a folder for easy navigation and allows you to find exactly what it is you are looking to enable or disable.
Select get add-ons and then select your feed to install directly from within XBMC with a simple click.
Once installed you can either enable the item in XBMC settings, or use the add-on from the home screen. For icanhazcheezburger you can browse to pictures -> picture add-ons -> icanhazcheezburger to view all the crazy captioned cats you could ever dream of.
By default XBMC only comes with the official add-on feed. If you have a zip file containing an unofficial add-on feed you can install that with the install from zip file option in settings. Check the link at the bottom of the post to find more unofficial feeds.
Hardware and Codec Support
On top of many software fixes and features, the XBMC team also added new hardware support for the Nvidia ION and ION2 video cards as well as the Broadcom Crystal HD video processor. They also were able to add support for Google’s new WebM codec, Blu-ray disk playback, and many other playback enhancements.
Support was also added to store your XBMC library database on an SQL server as well as create movie sets in library view. New videos scrapers were also added to gather movie information from HD-trailers.net, Rotten Tomatoes, and many more.
Audio playback was also improved on all three major supported platforms and over 1200 tickets were closed.
XBMC has come a long way and isn’t stopping with version 10. Along with all the great features that have been added there is also initial support for ARM processors, support for gesture based controls, and support for DVR software backends.
If you are looking to purchase a media streamer to get all of your media content to your TV, you may want to consider the DIY route and set up a computer running XBMC.