About njbetzen

Nathan is the community manager for XBMC, the face behind the XBMC and Twitter acounts, and a web developer (among a ridiculous number of other things). He also slays dragons, when the opportunity presents itself... Which is rarely. Feel free to contact me on my Google+ page or Twitter. You can also reach me at njbetzen AT gmail DOT com.

I am a Windows user. There, I said it. For those who must, you may as well stop reading now. Most of the rest you could probably also stop reading, as this is CES week, and there are WAY more awesome things to hear about, including one exciting bit of info that I’m hoping will manage to make its way to SCALE this year.

And that brings me to today’s topic: the Southern California Linux Expo (aka SCALE).

Last year was the first year I’ve ever acted as an exhibitor in an expo or conference. I have certainly BEEN to many Expos…

Nathan and Felicia at Comic Con

Yes, I met Felicia Day, the queen of the internet, at Comic Con. No, I never pass up an opportunity to show this picture off.

But I have never exhibited at one. So I was pretty nervous last year.

I arrived at about noon on Friday. I didn’t know what I supposed to do, so mostly I just brought along laptop-like things and prayed that I was going to the right place.

The first thing I discovered was that a magical rule of tech-heavy expos says we are going to forget at least one major detail. Last year, it was getting awesome content before the day of the show. Friday night and Saturday morning, we were frantically trying to load up content onto our Zotac ZBOX boxes.*

*Which were awesome, btw. Seriously, if you want XBMC on a full HTPC, there are very few boxes for the money that can compete with the ZBOX. Really, really good stuff.

In the end, we grabbed a few kickass trailers and Big Buck Bunny.*

*Fun note. Back when I was originally writing the XBMC Quick Start Guide, I needed an example movie, so I used Big Buck Bunny, because its CC license and multiple formats makes it a perfect example movie in almost every situation. However, I suddenly found myself in need of a SECOND movie. So, Continue reading

Open Source is good for meMy plan is to tell some stories about my experiences with XBMC in 2011. Many of these stories aren’t going to be about XBMC developments. They are going to be about the life of a FLOSS Project Manager/Community Manager and the people behind XBMC. Consider yourself warned.

2011 started off quickly and with much enthusiasm. On December 18th (2010), XBMC 10: Dharma had been released. To the outside world, we all behaved as if we were terribly excited about Dharma. Behind closed doors however, Davilla had been hard at work preparing for XBMC for iOS. The entire team was intensely excited about this release and waited anxiously as Davilla and gimli and amet worked tirelessly to turn all the A4 line of iOS devices into XBMC powerhouses.

My contribution to these proceedings was Continue reading


Wait, who are we talking about again?

What follows are entirely my own views and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Team XBMC, any members of Team XBMC, or any partners and affliates of Team XBMC.

A few months ago I wrote a post describing my understanding of the differences between Plex and XBMC. Today I’ll probably do the same thing with Boxee, but first I’d like to say a few words.

To begin with, the relationship between Boxee and XBMC has always been a pretty good one. Continue reading

zappy-santaEight minutes after midnight on December 23rd, theuni (Cory) made a general announcement that final additions had been plugged into the XBMC Eden branch. At that time, he asked that Davilla (for OSX and iOS) and Wiso and CrystalP (for Windows) sign off on the code for their respective systems.

At 3:21AM, Wiso gave the all clear.

At 11:49AM, Davilla added his agreement.

And finally, at 7PM, CrystalP gave the remaining thumbs up.

Unfortunately, in the seven hours between Wiso’s go-ahead and Davilla’s approval, developer Olympia threw a giant wrench into the operation. Continue reading

Well, I got a positive enough reaction last time that I figure I’ll write another journal entry. If you guys keep reading, I’ll try to write yet another on Saturday. Or not. Christmas Eve may be calling then. Have you given the gift of XBMC yet? Apple TV‘s are only $94 at Amazon right now. Or, if you wanted to spend a few more bucks, you could give your relatives the gift of some real powerhouses (plus your tech skills to make it all work).

communication-canAnyway, last time I provided a few stories about some of the difficult issues the Team has run into in the push for Eden. Today, I’d like to go another way entirely and talk about Team XBMC’s ability to communicate with the users. Or, more accurately, our ability to do a decidedly so-so job at communicating with the users.

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A year or two ago, a user was absolutely furious at the XBMC Foundation because he believed the organization was shady. The issue was that the Foundation was “staffed” by developers who spent pretty much the entirety of their time writing awesome code for XBMC and an absolute bare minimum of time authoring legal statements about the Foundation.

At least, that was obviously what the situation was from within the Team. Outside the team, Continue reading

Behind the XBMC CurtainI’ve decided to start up a mini-blog within my personal blog where I keep track of XBMC developments from within the team. As a warning, if you like surprises, I highly recommend avoiding these entries. The goal here is to talk about what it’s like behind the scenes at XBMC, and by definition that means talking about a lot of things we tend to avoid being very public about, because, honestly, people appear to make it their job to misconstrue reality as much as possible. For that reason, note that all opinions are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone on Team XBMC. Furthermore, any stories that you don’t like or like for the wrong reasons are entirely fictional and should just be attributed to a bad fever dream (or to my intense desire to replace my five year old laptop with a Macbook Air). Anyway, here are some stories.

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It doesn’t seem that long ago, but we began gearing up for the release of Eden on August 30th. At least, that was the day one of our developers, Scott Davilla, posted the internal forum message suggesting that we begin gearing up.

This has been a very different release for the Team, as compared to past schedules, because the entire release has been operating without Jonathan Marshall, whose real life has forced XBMC to take a backseat for at least a while. Continue reading

For this week’s Feature Friday, we decided to go a bit different in our theme. Rather than focusing on one setup, we decided to pull together as many setups as we could under a common theme, where the winning entries would receive a Pulse Eight USB CEC Adapter or a TotalMount. (Once again, thanks to Pulse Eight for sponsoring the contest.) With more than three dozen submissions, I believe we fairly successfully accomplished our goal. And with hardly any repeated methods for hiding htpcs and otherwise displaying them in an elegant manner, it has been incredibly difficult to choose a winner. Next time we do something like this, we may need to come up with a better way to narrow entries.

Nevertheless, rules are rules, and a winner must be selected. First, I’d like to toss up some honorable mentions, who almost certainly would win on any other given day.

First up: The XBMC Table by Oscar. Here we have a table that totally folds up so that you might assume it was nothing more than your traditional living room coffee table. But then, when it unfolds, BOOM: XBMC. Inside the table are a projector, a subwoofer, and a screen. An additional screen pulls down from across the room.  (Note: This table was absolutely awesome, but somewhat unqualified for either award. The ATV2 can’t accept the HDMI-CEC Adapter, and the ATV2 is built into the table (and no TV exists), so there’s be no real use for a TotalMount. Nevertheless, we wanted to highlight the amount of craftmanship and ingenuity involved in designing so awesome a table.)

Next, the XBMC Subwoofer. One of these subwoofers doesn’t put out any sound, but it does have a tiny HTPC surprise for those willing to check it out! Continue reading

Thanks to some unexpected freeing up of time (and more news unrelated to Feature Friday), we are happy to announce that Feature Fridays are back on the menu. As always, if you have a setup you’d like featured, feel free to send it in to natethomas AT xbmc DOT org (also, see the end of this article for a new contest).

This week, we turn to Matt, who successfully managed to buy his massive collection of harddrives before hard drive prices went crazy. Like all good enthusiasts should, he’s hidden his server running Ubuntu in a back closet, where his 12 TB of harddrive space can spin quietly, away from earshot.

When Matt designed his entertainment center, he decided that visible wires were for crazy folk. The problem was, he didn’t have an entirely new room to work with when building, and he didn’t want ugly speakers hanging out of the walls. So, he did this: Continue reading

Sometime around 2006 or 2007, I modded my first Xbox. I admit it, I’m practically a n00b in the realm of XBMC hacking. I didn’t even know what YAMP or Xbox Media Player were until I researched them! I bring this up because since that amazing day I haven’t felt the complete astonishment of a perfect merge of hardware and software until this past weekend, when I connected my TV to my pc via the Pulse Eight USB-CEC Adapter.

The HDMI CEC adapter

Here we can see the tiny adapter connected on both sides to HDMI cables and a mini-USB cable attached on the end. Those aren't over-sized HDMI cables either. The adapter is REALLY tiny.

First, a bit of back story: Often, people don’t understand why the Team so excitedly awaits the coming of Binary Addons. To put it simply (and probably factually inaccurately), binary addons mark the step in which much of XBMC becomes self-updating.

Since XBMC Atlantis and Babylon, the team has slowly been trying make XBMC more and more modular, so that pieces of XBMC could be updated without the need for a complete reinstall of the system. A highly successful example is our scrapers, which were once built into the system, and are now easily and often updated.

Unfortunately, many pieces of XBMC are simply too integrated to ever fully get pulled out or added onto without the use of an independent program. Likewise, a great deal of functionality can never be added using the simple python addons we rely on today. Thus, the necessity for independent, binary addon programs becomes clear. Continue reading

Let’s talk about brilliant user Jon from Florida. Jon has two things going for him. First of all, he started using XBMC back in the glory days when “XBMC” wasn’t a recursive name for XBMC Media Center. Second, he doesn’t do things half way. When he decided to install XBMC into his home, he decided to install XBMC into his entire home. It is running through his walls. It has wrapped its adamantium tendrils around the thick bones of Jon’s Ft. Lauderdale house, and it is going to do its very best never to let go.

Network Switch and Drobo

Network Switch and Drobo

The Brains of the Operation

Less poetically, Jon has fully wired his home with Cat5 ethernet, installing four ethernet drops in every room in the house. All of this ethernet ends up attached to a switch in a tucked away closet, as you can see in the picture to the right.

On the other end of this switch is Jon’s server, a 5 drive Drobo, holding five 2 terabyte harddrives, for a total storage of about 9 terabytes of space. This Drobo provides all the storage Jon needs for the setup of his entire home. Speaking of which… Continue reading