For some time now I’ve had a Mac mini connected to my TV and I love it. Everything that plays on the TV goes through the computer: Live television (via a tuner), DVD playback, music, music videos, streaming TV shows, streaming movies, photos, etc. Great little HTPC.
However, I’ve been constantly struggling with the 10-foot user interface. The built-in Front Row is too limited for my needs. Sure, I can do everything with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard; but it’s hard to control the regular Mac OS X interface from a couch. My eyesight is good, but not that good.
I’ve tried several “Media Center” applications for Mac OS X and I’ve been very underwhelmed so far. The best I’ve been able to come up with is Remote Buddy, which let’s you use the minimalistic Apple Remote to control and switch between many applications, but it’s still not quite perfect.
Then my friend Juan M. Reyes (who normally goes by his stage name Johnny Kings) sent me an invite to Boxee. It is based on the also Open Source XBMC project, which was originally meant for the first generation XBox but now supports many other platforms and has evolved into a very capable application. Boxee adds “social” features, so you can see what your “friends” have been playing or listening to. I’m not sure I’m thrilled about that.
I haven’t spent too much time toying around with it yet, but so far I’m impressed: It let’s me stream from YouTube (useless), Hulu, Netflix, etc. I use Hulu a lot to watch TV shows and I’m very happy with the quality of Netflix’s streaming service, except for the selection which hopefully will get better with time.
I hope to also try Plex sometime soon. It’s another XBMC Mac port. I’m not sure how it compares to Boxee. In the meantime, if you’d like to try Boxee, drop me a line and I can send you an invitation.