Boxee – First Impressions

Boxee LogoI recently heard about a new program called Boxee. The program is currently in the alpha stage, so you will have to apply for an invite on their Web site. When I applied, I received my invite within a few days.

Boxee is a media player very similar to Windows Media Center. In truth, it’s actually based on XBMC (Xbox Media Center).

I signed up for the invite knowing that it was only available for Mac and Linux. However, I did not realize that the only Linux flavor for which it’s been built, yet, is Ubuntu (technically, Gutsy Gibbon and Hardy Heron). Thankfully, I was planning to install Linux Mint Elyssa on my home machine, anyway, which is based on Hardy Heron.

So, I went ahead and installed Linux Mint Elyssa (a post about that will be forthcoming) and then installed Boxee.

I have only delved into Boxee very superficially, as of yet. So far, I have found the interface to be rather impressive. It’s very attractive, and seems to have a great deal of promise.

Unfortunately, however, there are still a lot of things that will need to be worked out before I could really see it becoming usable.

Default Settings

The default settings are a little bit annoying to me. First of all, in order to use the mouse within the program, you have to manually edit the configuration file (there is apparently a way to modify the settings from the GUI, but I could not figure it out). The default configuration has the mouse disabled in favor of an infrared remote. Unfortunately, I don’t have an IR receiver on my computer, so I wasn’t able to control anything in Boxee when I first started it up.

In addition, and I realize this is also the way Windows Media Center is configured, Boxee starts fullscreen. You have no access to your window switcher, system menu, etc. once you start Boxee. To me, that’s annoying, but I’m sure some people would like that.

Speed

With those two things aside, the main thing that keeps me from using Boxee is the speed at which it runs. At this time, Boxee is dreadfully slow (at least on Linux Mint – I can’t speak for Mac). It literally takes between three and ten seconds (sometimes a bit longer) for Boxee to respond when you click anywhere. It also seems to respond a little slower when you actually click with the mouse rather than just hovering with the mouse and pressing the Enter button on your keyboard. Regardless, it’s still dreadfully slow.

Interface and Controls

Although I find the interface very attractive, I don’t honestly find it all that usable. It can be extremely difficult to figure out where you want to go within the program. With most applications, I’d be willing to fumble around a bit to try to figure out which controls I need. However, with the speed of Boxee, it can literally take me up to ten minutes to get back where I started (if I can ever figure out how to get back to the beginning) once I take a wrong turn.

Recommendations

At this time, if you are interested in testing very unstable alpha-version software, please download and install Boxee and try it out.

However, if you are looking for a full-functioning media center for your Linux installation, don’t bother with Boxee, yet. It is extremely far from usable at this point. I will keep you updated as the application progresses, as I have high hopes for it.

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4 Responses

  • hi curtis,

    regarding the speed issue you describe, it’s very atypical, unless you have pretty old hardware (it runs decently even on an eeepc).

    please see the thread at http://forum.boxee.tv/showthread.php?p=1491, you can also post additional questions there, email support at boxee tv, or me directly.

    tom

  • Greetings, Tom!

    Thank you for the advice. I had searched the forums a while looking for info, and didn’t come across the post you linked. I guess I just didn’t realize that I should have been looking for “UI/OpenGL issues” instead of “slow response”.

    I took the advice in the post, and got a much better response from Boxee. It’s still a bit slow, but it’s much faster than it was before.

    Now that I actually got to mess with it a bit, I’m even more impressed than I was before.

    Hopefully I will get a chance to write a follow-up post in the next few days, but I want to play with Boxee a little more.

    Thanks for checking out the post. I guess that means I don’t have to post those comments in the Boxee forums, now.

  • pierre

    can i get a invite please

  • […] the XBMC-based media player I wrote about a few weeks ago, has released a new alpha version. The official list of changesĀ (to the Linux version, at least) […]

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