Watching movies on Kubuntu


Last week I talked about how I found the XBMC program and was able to watch my DVD on my laptop with Kubuntu.  XBMC has been ported to Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and of course the X-Box.  But, how is it for watching recorded TV?  Tonight I decided to find out…

For a little background, I have a home network set up.  For some reason my laptop can’t find my other computers via their host names, but it can via their IP addresses.  This is something that’s been around in XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Linux.  It presents a slight problem—but nothing that can’t be worked around fairly easily.

The first step was sharing the drive that I store my recorded tv shows on.  That was easy in Vista, and I’ve already set up sharing in Windows 7.  The only drawback to this is occasionally my drive letters change and sharing is mis-configured.

Next I booted into Kubuntu on the laptop and opened up XBMC.  I went to Settings, Network, and added a location.  Since I couldn’t find my computer via host name, I put in the IP address.  It found the computer immediately, and when I clicked on the IP address it showed my drives and folders.

I found the shows that I wanted to watch and started to watch them.  The first thing I noticed was that within about two seconds, there were some artifacts (like a scratch in a video) that lasted for a second.  Then the show restarted and everything ran normally.  Since this happened on every show, I assume it’s because it was getting the file via the network (and via a wireless connection) so it was buffering.

The quality was good.  I was impressed.  However the controls were a little flaky.  Nothing that didn’t take a little getting used to, and nothing that was really detrimental.  Just minor things like sometimes the rewind would fast-forward, and if you pressed the far right fast-forward key (or the far left rewind key) it took you out to the list of files.

What would I like to see?  I’d like the ability to fast-forward or rewind at 20 to 30 second intervals (like in Windows Media Center).  I’d like to see the controls become visible and stay visible if you move the cursor into the lower-left hand corner of the window.  If that’s not possible, then they should at least stay visible when you click the rewind or fast-forward button.  And if possible, I’d like to see the controls be a little smaller. They take up a good portion of the window in the lower-left hand corner when they’re visible.  You could even make them smaller and permanently visible—but that may not be feasible on the X-Box.

Overall I like the media center.  It will become even better when they are able to record TV or at least watch live TV.  Until then, it’s a really good method of watching tv shows on your laptop when you record them on a desktop (or vice versa).  I’d have to say that it would put me one step closer to leaving Windows behind.

Have a great weekend:)
Patrick.

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