Kubuntu 9.04 and XBMC—a potential windows killer for me.

I’ve been trying out Kubuntu Linux on a fairly regular basis, and haven’t stuck with it at all.  This weekend through a quirk of fate (and an ars technica article), I may have found one reason to give it more of a shot.

Last night, I rented four movies from my local Blockbuster.  The intention I originally had was that I’d take them with me and watch them while I did my laundry.  And it gave me the opportunity to try out Kubuntu a little more (along with Windows 7).  However, when I tried to play the DVD’s in my stock Kubuntu system, they wouldn’t play.  I downloaded the updates that I thought would fix the issue, but no dice.  I even downloaded the restricted updates.

I gave up on the idea, and started watching them on my Windows Vista (main computer).  All was good, except for one movie.  It took an act of God to get Media Center (and my computer) to even recognize that it was in the drive.  Then about 90 minutes in, the movie hit a couple of bad spots and stuck.  I gave up on watching it altogether (and didn’t even try it in Windows 7).

This evening, I saw an article on Ars Technica about the XBMC project (X-Box Media Center) and how they’ve ported it to Windows, Mac, and Linux (ubuntu no less).  So I checked it out and downloaded it on my Kubuntu box.  Then for the heck of it, I popped my DVD (the one that wouldn’t play) in and fired it up.  It played perfectly.  I skipped ahead to a point where it was frozen on Windows, and it ran perfectly there too.  So, I was able to finish watching the movie.

Now, XBMC isn’t the fix-all and killer for Windows Media Center.  It doesn’t have DVR capabilities, so you’ll still need another program to record your favorite TV shows.  And it’s not an extender (that I could find) for Media Center PC’s.  So, you can’t just watch something that’s recorded via Media Center on it.

But, it’s a heckuva good start.  It’s given me the potential to at least play the DVD’s on Kubuntu, and with a little tweaking, it’s given me the option to watch movies somewhere other than in front of my PC.  You can still watch them via the network—it just takes a little more work (sharing drives/folders and setting up the networking features in XBMC).

And if you have an older PC, this gives you something to use it for.  You can install Kubuntu (or Ubuntu) and then install XBMC on that.  Within reason of course.  It does have some hardware requirements but they aren’t nearly as demanding as Vista is.  If you’ve recently purchased (or are going to purchase) a new computer and don’t know what to do with the old one, then this gives you some other options.  And a reason to wipe off the non-supported and potentially unsecure version of Windows that you’ve been using.

XBMC can be found at http://www.xbmc.org and Kubuntu can be found at http://www.kubuntu.com.

Have a great day, and any comments or opinions on XBMC are greatly appreciated and wanted.:)


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