Kylo Browser for Media Center and HTPCs alike.

By | September 10, 2012

Many of you may already know about Kylo, but probably gave up on it some time ago due to the fact that it did not support remote control functionality.  Despite having a 10-foot interface, it still required some type of keyboard and mouse to browse with.  Well, with the recent announcement of Internet TV being yanked from Media Center, I had been on a search for streaming content providers to replace it with.  Not because I used Internet TV, but mostly because I still feel I need to plug a hole.  Well, I revisited Kylo Browser and was very much surprised of the changes it has undergone.

Kylo intrigued me for some time, but with lack of remote control support, I never really even tried it out.  Screenshots looked nice and whatnot, but if I needed to use a keyboard and mouse still, there really wasn’t much need in using something other than what I already had.  Well, with the aforementioned news, I decided to revisit it and found that Kylo has since gone open source and now has remote control support!  It’s not quite the remote support I was hoping for, but it’s a step in that direction, nonetheless.  You see, Kylo uses a remote’s directional buttons to guide the cursor around now, when configured correctly.  It doesn’t “tab” around like I had expected.  Not that big of a deal, although it I found it did not get the results I wanted on some sites where the remote control is supposed to work like a real remote -  for example, YouTube and Zinc.tv’s leanback interfaces…they have remote control interfaces, but it is counter-intuitive to the way Kylo behaves.  Oh well…I don’t have to use the leanback interface on either of them and no more than I intend to use them, it’s probably fine.  Good to have in any case.  Anyway, let’s take a look at Kylo while you’re here.

You can get Kylo from here.  I installed with the default settings, but do make sure you install the latest Adobe Flash plugin.  Kylo is built upon Firefox, so if you already have Flash updated for it, you should be fine.  Nothing wrong with being thorough, however.

Kylo Flash Player Kylo Flash Player installation

Once installed (if you chose defaults), you should have a Media Center Start Menu entrypoint.  Now, I did on one system and did not on another, so it may depend on how many custom entrypoints you already have…I don’t know.  It looks like this if you did get one…otherwise, it can be found in your Extras Library.

Kylo Start Menu entrypoint Kylo Start Menu entrypoint

With the Media Center plugin portion installed, when Kylo is launched, Media Center is also minimized…this negates any “always on top” functionality you may have enabled, which is good.

On first launch, Kylo browser’s homepage is filled with tiles that will direct you to numerous sites that are home to some of the most popular streaming content available.  I found it good enough to leave as my default homepage.  At the top there are categories to further filter your choices and then at the bottom, there are common browser controls.  If you look closely at the first YouTube tile, you’ll notice the Kylo mouse pointer.

Kylo Browser Kylo Browser

You will be forced to get accustomed to that mouse pointer.  Kylo doesn’t allow you to use a web page as a remote controllable screen, rather is uses your remote to manipulate the cursor as a mouse would using the directional buttons.  It’s actually not that bad, only a bit awkward if you’ve never done it before.

The best way to make use of Kylo, in my opinion, is through the use of bookmarks.  Using bookmarks you can easily access the sites you will visit most within Kylo.  It is also here that I made second notice of the “black border” around my displayed pages…compare the last two images and you will see it.

Kylo bookmars Kylo bookmarks

Let’s take a look at the settings for Kylo, represented by the “power” icon at the bottom right corner.  I wanted to go to the Display portion and change the way Kylo fits my screen.

Kylo fit to screen Kylo fit to screen

After accepting those settings, I can instantly tell that it fits my screen perfectly now.  No more black border.

That fits much better That fits much better

There are a good number of settings for Kylo.  I won’t go over them here, but thought it might be worthwhile to mention that Kylo comes with two skins; one for 720p and another for 1080p resolutions.  It is also completely skinnable, so you can make your own (or get others from the community forum)!

Kylo default themes Kylo default themes

Going back to the browser, Kylo has a full QWERTY on-screen keyboard for form fields and other text entry areas.  You can also use a keyboard, if you wish (and turn this off), but triple-tap with a keyboard didn’t work for me.

On-screen keyboard On-screen keyboard

Browsing with Kylo wasn’t too bad overall.  Visiting sites that were intended for typical keyboard and mouse use were quite easy once you got the hang of the remote control cursor.  I guess, if anything, it was just a bit slow and tedious for my liking when navigating in that manner.

XfinityTV XfinityTV

ZincTV ZincTV

Once focus was established on the page, I found that ZincTV worked well with the remote and the cursor was not needed.  Being able to grant that focus being the only issue.  You’ll also want to forget about using Hulu with Kylo…the great folks at Hulu have blocked full video streaming using Kylo as the preferred browser.  Thanks, assholes.  Luckily, the Hulu Desktop client and HuluLauncher still work well on my Windows 7 Media Center systems and I prefer it anyway.

So, while I know I didn’t touch base on everything Kylo has, I think I covered the basics as they pertain to Media Center.  Does it work?  Yes.  Does it work well?  I think that will be up to the individual.  It’s definitely better and miles ahead of anything else out there.  If you use something like a diNovo Mini, or other mini-keyboard/mouse combo for your remote already, then Kylo will probably be perfect for you.

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