Junior year of college, I built my first HTPC. I had all these movies, music, and pictures and I wanted to watch them on the television I had just bought for our college apartment. So I built an extremely cheap computer, hit it behind the television, hooked it up and installed software called Media Portal which would serve as a front end and let me browse and watch all of this media from the couch.
It was really cool, and I was constantly tweaking Media Portal. A few years later, after the popularity of HTPC’s grew, I bought a sleek Shuttle HTPC. More recently, I installed new software called XBMC to replace Media Portal.
Then in the past month, I started reading about new front-end software called Boxee. It supports playback of your videos, music, and pictures just like any other piece of software like this. But it’s built with the social web in mind - you can add friends and see what they’re watching and what they recommend. Even better, it has built in support for a multitude of online video sites, from YouTube to Hulu to TED talks.
Unfortunately, until recently, Boxee was only available in Linux and Mac OS. My HTPC runs Windows. I thought, hey, accessible Linux seems to be all the rage nowadays, so why not try setting up my HTPC to boot into Linux.
Several hours later (not including the actual installation time), I finally had Ubuntu Linux up and running on my system. I load up Boxee, play a video, and … it freezes. No errors, no way to exit out of the program – I have to hit the restart button on my computer. I restart and try a few more times before giving up.
Then this week, Boxee releases an alpha version for Windows. I install it in one minute, and it’s flawlessly working the next.
There’s been talk of Linux giving Microsoft a run for their money since the turn of the century, but I stil l have yet to see any evidence that Linux is anywhere near being able to compete in an environment where ease and accessibility are key.