User Ferdi-T from the XBMC Forum asked how the community behind XBMC works. Specifically, how do we decide what goes into the final build, what doesn’t, and who makes the call. Ditto for addons. Since I imagine this is a fairly common question for XBMC users, here is the response.

Hey Ferdi. Good questions, and quite possibly questions not answered anywhere officially. Because XBMC is open source, you can actually branch Team XBMC’s source whenever you want, make whatever changes you like, and then release those changes yourself, so long as you abide by the GPL. Likewise, you can always make your own addons to be sideloaded and even make your own addon repository to be added to XBMC, as many developers have done.

To add code to Team XBMC’s “proper” version of XBMC, initially you must submit code to official members of Team XBMC using Github. That code is then typically reviewed by members who are familiar with that portion of the codebase. For example, Jonathan Marshall would likely review any code you submit related to databases. If he deems your fixes as being useful, non-redundant, well-coded, and ready to be merged, he’ll push the code into the master version. If he spots errors, he’ll send it back with suggestions.

If you submit enough quality code, you will likely eventually get invited to join Team XBMC and be given write access to the code base. At that point, you will actually be given the reigns to make changes following our pull request rules. Those rules are pretty relaxed, and we try to give each developer as much free reign as we can. However, even after you have write powers, it is considered polite to have somebody else in the field sign off on the code to make sure no mistakes were made. We get pretty sad when code is pushed into master that breaks XBMC!

As far as addons go, for the most part we try very hard to let as many addons as possible through. The most likely reason for us to hold an addon out of the official repo is because it might be broken in some way on submission or otherwise cause XBMC to fail. For that review process, we have a dedicated group of Team members who spend WAY TO MUCH of their free time accepting and reviewing for major faults. It’s a thankless job, and they are superstars for willingly taking on the task.

Thanks to user Ferdi-T. If you have any questions about the background workings of XBMC, feel free to ask in the linked forum thread or in the comments below.

Imagine a console that never used physical media. A console that could play the best games at the highest possible graphical settings. A consoles that was constantly upgradeable, that could be navigated by controller, remote, keyboard, or mouse, and that could play all your music and video content on demand. Imagine a console that was social AND open with an OS that was entirely free to upgrade. Imagine a console that could accept all of your old PC controllers and could deal with any future controllers with similar ease. Imagine a console with a dashboard that looked… however you wanted.

That’s the future that could be made possible by Valve and Steam’s transition to include Linux. For the past 17 years, the frustrating truth about PC gaming has always been that Windows is a truly awkward bottleneck.

The Windows Bottleneck

As anyone who has tried to replace the Windows shell with XBMC will tell you… it really sucks to try to replace the Windows shell with XBMC. Microsoft prefers that users start with Microsoft’s home screen before navigating to whatever they truly wanted to accomplish. As a result, the guy who wants to spend a few hours blasting (actually, let’s be honest, hiding from) zombies in Day-Z will see the very same boot up screen as the guy who needs to write a contract for a large publishing firm.

How absurd is that dichotomy? Is it really any wonder that console gaming, with UIs totally dedicated to games and entertainment, is demolishing PC gaming? Continue reading

The Pivos XIOS DS – The revolution starts here

When XBMC shifted to Linux, OSX, and Windows, it took with it video playback, music playback, and pictures from the Xbox. And it left behind games and opening other applications. With the announcement of XBMC for Android, we finally get all that back again.

Let me back up a moment.

In all this excitement about XBMC for Android, I get the impression that most authors are pumped about the possibilities of XBMC on cheap devices, but are missing out on something much more fundamental.  XBMC can provide the best 10 foot user interface for Android… in the world.

Android UI Realities

To put it simply, Android sucks on anything that isn’t touch based. You are presented a huge list of items in a grid with maybe a few widgets littering the screen. You have to navigate using a mouse or some other alternative to  your finger. And from 10 feet away, you have to somehow see what all those app icons mean without any hope of en-biggening embiggening* them.

*Thanks to user gilles_duceppticon for providing the correct way to spell this made up word!

On top of that, the standard Android UI acts as if everything you might like to do in front of a TV on your couch is of equal importance. You don’t have quick access to a list of your TV shows or movies or TV guide. You don’t have easy access to your music catalog. It’s all just indistinguishable app after indistinguishable app. One of the great moves made by MS with the Windows Phone 7 was to present ACTIONS on the home screen, rather than apps. They called them tiles, but the idea was to let a user click on an action he wanted to perform, rather than clicking on the app he wanted to perform the action in.

It’s a minor distinction, but an important one to make, because that’s exactly how XBMC works. The XBMC home screen presents actions. We don’t ask, “Do you want to open DVDPlayer?” We ask, “Do you want to watch a movie or view live TV? Do you want to listen to music or view a slide show or open an application that doesn’t neatly fit into one of our built in Media Center categories*?”

*At this very moment, Jonathan Marshall is working on a new way to come up with new user created actions for the home screen called “nodes.” As of the May dev cycle, if you are handy with xml files, you can already create new nodes for your video files.  With luck, we should see this new power extended to home screen nodes in the next few months.

The XBMC Switcheroo

XBMC is simply 100% better at the 10-foot UI space than stock Android. So from a user perspective, wouldn’t it make sense if we could drop the Android UI altogether and replace it with the XBMC UI, the same way you could replace the default Xbox 1’s dashboard with XBMC? Of course it would. Which is why, on the Pivos XIOS DS at least, that’s exactly what you will be able to do. Continue reading

I swear it’s not as awkward as it looks!

I’m typing this in the kitchen on my iPhone with my bluetooth keyboard, several rooms away from my laptop.

How crazy is that? I graduated from high school in 1999, and I occasionally like to imagine conversations with my past self where I simply describe what I’m doing at a given moment. I have a feeling my past self would be absolutely bewildered by the above description.

And that, in a nutshell is what the Nexus Q represents. It’s a device that is looking at the world of today and saying, “Y’know what? Let’s just skip to the end.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why it was so important for XBMC to become Airplay compatible across platforms. The reason it was important (in a nutshell) was because the world is finally taking its first big step away from using an IR remote and an interactive television guide as the means of navigating to video/images/audio on a living room screen.

Today, I can control both XBMC and my A/V Receiver with an iPhone app. If I wanted to go through the hassle of buying the necessary accessories, I could also fully automate my home and turn on my car in the morning with an iPhone (or Android) app. I could open my garage door and listen to music on my car stereo with various mobile apps. I am a Kansas City Royals baseball team fan, and I live right in the heart of Royals nation. Yet it is not a terribly uncommon thing for me to listen to a Royals game using my MLB iPhone app sending audio to my car stereo over bluetooth, rather than listening to the game on FM by simply switching a few dials on my car’s receiver.*

*Admittedly, I’m a pretty weird dude.

Here’s my point: your mobile device, whether phone or tablet, is purpose built for interacting with content. It is specifically designed to make getting to your media (whether written, audio, or video) a simple process that takes, at most, only a few taps. And the best part is, if you don’t like the interface that comes with your mobile device, you can completely replace it with another interface (for Android via skinning, for iOS via installing XBMC).

And that’s awesome, because the reality of the situation is that, unlike your iOS or Android phone or tablet, your television is, not to sugar coat it too much, TERRIBLE at presenting a way to get to your media. Continue reading

The last item necessary to fully pull all versions of XBMC into par with AirPlay support has been added in the June dev cycle. Thanks to the work of Memphiz and WiSo, Windows XBMC users can now receive AirPlay video, which has been an option for a while, and music, which has not. This added functionality should already be available in a nightly build, but, unless you are extremely comfortable debugging, at the very least it is recommended that you wait until the June cycle is completed.

Getting to feature complete in this category is a very important step for XBMC in much the same way Addon Rollbacks were a big step. Over time it’s becoming ever more clear that users value easy of use and control over any other thing.

Consider the original Xbox Media Player. Why did people like it? It had attractive menus. It was vaguely reminiscent of TiVo. But most importantly, it did an absolutely amazing job of giving you an easy way to access your movies, pictures, and music in the way you wanted to access them.

As time rolls on, XBMC (or a derivative) remains the single best way to to view your local content on the big screen. But with the passage of time, the innovation comes, not from bigger and better screens or faster and more accurate menus, but from new, alternative (and easily setup) ways to interact with media altogether.

People often make fun of the Nintendo Wii as being a kids toy, but can anyone deny Continue reading

Way back in mid-December 2011, I wrote Behind the Developer’s Curtain, a look behind the scenes at XBMC development, on my personal blog, Hey Facebook. I then casually linked that post to XBMC’s Facebook page, more as an experiment than anything else. I was curious how interested people were in XBMC stories.

That night, I got 350 views on my blog. That’s about 247 better than the average. The next day I posted another story which garnered 850 views. With each new post, the total number of views increased. Finally, on January 11th, I posted a column on Ubuntu TV and got 2,557 views. Over the next few weeks, I posted a few more stories about XBMC, but a nagging voice in the back of my head said it wasn’t really appropriate to keep directing people to a personal blog for XBMC stories (plus, at least one person in the grand world of the internets said out loud that I was displaying impropriety, and we all know that we should always take everything said online at face value). So my XBMC stories mostly dried up.

Since then, we’ve released the final of XBMC Eden. We’ve begun a new program in which we go through a monthly development cycle that promises to both speed up development and make the entire process more stable from the get-go. We’ve looked at FLIRC, went to LinuxTag, and finally got an iOS remote control to match our already available Android remote control.*

*I could link to all that, but seriously, just visit the blog and forum. Almost all of it is there.


That’s a lot of news! And that only touches on the really BIG events. Raspberry Pi was released. The new was jailbroken… seriously, I could be here a long time listing events that all play on XBMC. And, because the main blog has become more of a place for official and semi-official announcements, it’s been awkward relaying all this news to the casual and hardcore XBMC user. To some extent, I thought it might be worthwhile to mention all these things on the main blog, but it’s remarkably difficult to selectively choose the appropriate news for that blog, knowing that there’s a certain reticence against over-sharing and annoying our users.

I was so irked by this communication malfunction that I decided something had to be done. And from this decision was born xbmc us. The idea behind this site is fairly simple. I believe that users want to hear all this news, along with opinions of people on the front lines of the cordcutting express. And so I’m putting this site together under my own authoritarian editorial rule with the singular goal of allowing all of us to talk XBMC, cordcutting, why I probably need the new Retina Display Macbook Pro, which ridiculous features make for the best home theater room, etc., etc.

Your Job

Your job is simple. Visit the site. Read what you like. Don’t read what you don’t like. If you do read what you don’t like (possibly by accident or because you love becoming enraged), submit a scathing comment. Continue reading

Quick question: Would you rather be good at your job but disrespected, or bad at your job, but respected for your work?
RespectabilityFor example, let’s say you are the manager of a struggling major league baseball team. You just read an article that says that if you get rid of your short stop and center field, and replace those positions with two half-center outfielders who always play close, your defense will improve, automatically, by 75%. Rigorous testing and research back up this statement. The facts are definitely clear. Now, all you have to do is face ridicule if you are either wrong or unlucky, and your team could win 25 more games a year than they otherwise would have.

If you are like most major league managers, you will choose to ignore that article. Sure, you might win more games. But you might also suffer massive shame both in and out of the community and eventually lose your job. The odds are better for the first possibility, but the results are much worse for the second.

Historically, this has happened numerous times. The most famous example in recent years is the decision whether or not to “go for it” on fourth down in American football. In almost every circumstance, statistically, going for it is a better idea than punting. Yet zero coaches are ever actually willing to go that route, due to fear of ridicule.

I bring this up because XBMC is at an awkward stage in its life cycle right now. The program and organization have been around for nearly 10 years.*

*December 14, 2002, y’all!

In many ways, we are no longer the angry kid in his parents’ basement, screwing around with broken Xboxes. Continue reading

Editor’s Note: As always, below is a developer’s diary. All of the opinions found below are only those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the team. Also, sorry for not posting last week. I was just a teeny bit busy.

scalezappyTo say that SCALE this year was eventful would be an understatement. Over the past three days, we performed releases, we hung out with open source hero Jon “Maddog” Hall, and we demoed hardware that virtually no one has seen before.

As is always the case when preparing for Expos, SCALE started for the team several months earlier, during the call for exhibits and speakers. This year, XBMC did not participate in any speaking events, though that’s certainly something I wouldn’t mind seeing change for next year. We did, however, decide to provide an exhibit.

Until fairly late in the process, our plans for this exhibit were reasonably limited. The previous year we’d demonstrated XBMC Dharma on two Zotac Ions, and we saw very little need to mess with a winning formula. Simply put, the NVIDIA ION htpc experience for XBMC is one of the best experiences around. Naturally, we planned on demoing XBMC Eden, but that was the only planned switch.

And then Raspberry Pi emerged on the scene. Continue reading

Let me begin by saying that, to my knowledge, Ubuntu TV contains zero XBMC code. I could be entirely wrong about that. As far as I can tell, Ubuntu TV is based on Unity and not on XBMC at all. If you can say different using actual code evidence, feel free to do so in the comments.

I’ve seen a lot of opinions over the past few days about whether UTV would succeed, and as I read these opinions, the big question in my head was, “What does ‘succeed’ mean, dawg?*” Continue reading

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