At the expense of sounding like a broken record, I have been fiddling with XBMC, yet again. However, with no false hope sprinkled on top, I have finally made major headway into figuring out how to get some things the way I want. My wife even said she liked the way it looked! So, what does this mean for my connected home?
I’m at the point where I really just don’t want to be defeated by XBMC. I want it to do certain things and it’s just being a stubborn old mule. Unfortunately, I’m usually the one that ends up looking like a jackass. However, not anymore after last night. I was able to get to a point where I could actually start using XBMC, on a trial basis, on one of my HTPCs. It’s the one in the spare bedroom, which is rarely used, but still!
I have the latest official release of XBMC 11 “Eden” running on a standard 32-bit Win7 Pro system, where Media Center/MediaBrowser typically live. I have a centralized MySQL server maintaining the video database and all works very well there. With my recent interest in the Boxee Box as a possible standalone device to replace some of my HTPCs, I have grown fond of the Xeebo skin. I’ve tried pretty much every skin I could find, but surprisingly, Xeebo actually gives me the number of custom entry points and layouts that I want. It’s not the traditional look I’m used to, but it’s quickly growing on me.
I’ve been able to manipulate some smart playlists and assign them as favorites to get around some of the issues Xeebo has with specific items placed in their custom home section, so I am finally able to get the one thing I’ve missed the most out of XBMC – my desired organizational structure. I can finally display my movies, kid’s movies, TV shows, kid’s TV, etc. individually – without much trouble at that. The biggest hurdle for me now is just picky stuff, like movie set covers. Having to go through context menus for each movie collection I have to manually set my desired cover is a colossal pain in the ass. I have hundreds. Click…click…click…click… That’s my future, I suppose.
As of now, I’m trying to find out how to get custom icons established for my “favorited” smart playlists. It appears that is either a bug or afterthought in Xeebo as I can’t set one. Even though they are set as favorites, it uses the smart playlist icon no matter what I do. I did find a thread of someone complaining about the same exact behavior, so word is out and the creator of the theme says it will be fixed. That’s awesome considering I spent a couple of hours last night creating icons for this theme, just to find they don’t get applied. Joy.
Although I have things in some sort of working order, I still have plenty left to discern. My remote doesn’t seem to behave as expected, but then again, it’s a Media Center remote, so I’m expecting Media Center functionality. XBMC doesn’t play by those rules all the time, it appears. I’ll have to figure that out as I go. For the most part, I can get around, so it’s a minor hurdle. Other things, like actor images, getting add-ons to behave properly, etc. will come in time, I’m sure.
I’m going to continue to push forward with things and see where it goes. I’m still nowhere near making XBMC my primary HTPC front-end, but it’s nice to know that it may finally be an option when I’m ready for some low-power devices to replace some of my older systems.
…and another breakthrough. I finally figured out how to get my actor thumbs populated from my ImagesByName People directory, as it is shared for my Media Browser systems. It appears the path to the thumb needs to be set within the .NFO file’s metadata for each actor, as I do not maintain a .actor folder for each movie. So, using metabrowser, I am reprocessing all of my media so that the actor thumb path is saved within the metadata for each actor. It looks like this (using a portion of the movie 8 Mile‘s cast section):
Once that is done, we still have to translate those locations into something XBMC can understand. So, we visit our advancedsettings.xml file and, for my specific path, add the following elements:
After making these changes, I restarted XBMC and went to a title that was updated to reflect these changes, entered into the title information screen, and opted to refresh. Since I store local metadata, I chose to not ignore it and fetch from the Internet so that it will re-scrape my local NFO file. Upon revisiting the cast section, angels sang…
So now all I have to do is finish reprocessing everything. Unfortunately, there is a drawback to this. XBMC only supports refreshing like this by one title at a time. An update of the library won’t get the job done. I will have to remove and re-add each source to initiate a full re-fetch of all metadata for each source I provided. I’ll live, I guess. I have wanted to implement the <name> tag since I plan on running two or three different databases once everything is settled. This will be as good a reason as any to blow it out and start fresh. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll update accordingly.