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Boxee – a work in progress

November 10, 2009

A friend of mine was ruminating about buying a MacTV simply to run Boxee so that he could get rid of……

“Wait a minnit, wot’s Boxee?”, sez I.

“It’s a video content aggregator” sez he, “It allows you to draw together all your on and offline video content from streaming, such as Netflix or Hulu, or physical sources such as DVDs or downloaded movie files.”

“Huh” sez me, “This sounds interesting, but why wouldn’t I simply go to the individual sources and use whatever application I preferred to interact with it?”

“Because you have just one interface to learn, you can even turn your iPod Touch or iPhone into a remote control for it, so any thirteen year old can use it, and if your computer has HDMI (or DVI to HDMI conversion capability) you can feed your HDTV. With all the included sources of content, Boxee could free you from the cable company”

B.’s relatively new Vista laptop has an HDMI output, which we’d occasionally used for watching streaming Netflix on the HDTV (great experience, by the way, except for having to fiddle with the default sound device to be able to hear anything). So, I thought I’d give it a try.

Sign up and download at Boxee was straightforward enough, as was installing the software. Where it went horribly wrong, was in trying to use the software. Everything is in huge ‘Microsoft Bob’-like fonts, and the interface, whilst clean, is hardly intuitive.

The first thing I tried to do was run a wmv file I had on the desktop. That seemed OK, but the aspect ratio was completely out of whack. Eventually I found the menu item to change it, buried deep within the administrative tools.

Then I tried to stream a Netflix vid. After hooking Boxee into our Netflix account, it connected, and I waited. And waited. Oh, OK, here’s what Netflix looks like in Boxee. I tried to start a movie. And waited. And waited. Eventually, it started. I could pause it but I, for the life of me, could not find out how to stop it.

I tried to start up a dvd in a local drive. I couldn’t. It insisted on continuing with the Netflix stream. It seemed that the only way out was with the three-fingered salute and Task Manager.

I restarted the laptop, and tried again with the DVD. Even though it was set up to recognize a video dvd when inserted, Boxee didn’t do anything with it (this could be because of the lame way that HP has set up the default, and it would seem only, way to play a DVD – windows media player doesn’t work, either).

To be fair to Boxee, the application was clearly marked ‘alpha’. For Windows, some work is needed. It’s glutinously slow, and there’s no way to exit the application from within the application, which, in my mind, is an absolute fail.

An idea worth watching, though. Its time is coming.

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Categories: computery stuff
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