Xbox Media Centre (XBMC) was originally created to be media centre software for the original XBOX. Media Centre software supports playing back audio, video and displaying other content such as pictures. Since its humble beginnings on the Xbox, XBMC has progressed to being available for Windows, Linux, Apple and BSD platforms.

If you want an alternative for cable TV or Apple TV then XBMC is something that you should definitely look into, at a base level you can receive free to air (FTA) television, use it as PVR to record programmes, store your own movies and TV shows and have it be the entertainment hub for your home. In addition to this XBMC has Universal Plug n Play (UPnP) functionality, this means you can stream content to any other XBMC’s and play content to other UPnP devices in your house.

All you need to do is download the XBMC software and you are ready to go, by default it will come with everything needed to play back music, videos, podcasts, pictures and even display the local weather. If you already have content available just point XBMC to it and it will show in the appropriate areas in the interface e.g. movies will appear in the Movies area. The main advantage of XBMC is that you can store all of your content in one place rather than searching around the house for that disc.

You can store information about your content which will display in XBMC when searching. There are programmes to manage metadata such as Ember Media Manager which allows you to create the appropriate information or scrape the metadata for the content you have on your hard drive. Please ensure that what you are doing is legal and not going to get you into any trouble!

The default functionality of XBMC is pretty good, but if you want something extra then you just need to start looking at the Add-Ons area. Items such as the following can be added:

•             Skins (changes the way XBMC looks and sometimes adds extra functionality)

•             MusicBrainz (Music Artist Information)

•             Dailymotion

•             Pandora Radio

•             9Gag

•             TED Talks

There are hundreds more Add-Ons available but I won’t list them all.

After using XBMC for a while you can change the way it looks by downloading any one of the skins available so you can customise XBMC to your liking; my favourite skin that I use is Aeon Nox. This skin is probably the best available and I am flawed by the job the guys who developed this did.

If you use XBMC on a computer that is connected to a TV there are many remote controls that you can use; personally I have found the Logitech Remotes to be great and have not had a single problem with them.

XBMC is open source software which I think should be supported by everyone, all the people working on it have done an amazing job and I love using it! If only I was able to code I would definitely be contributing to the project. The guys generally do a major upgrade early each year and refine and update during the year when required.

Once you check it out I think you will be shocked that it is free!

Get it here:

www.xbmc.org/download/