Since my PC running XP Media Center 2005 edition died in december last year, I’ve been looking for a replacement. Since I mostly use my entertainment “hub” for listening to music and and watching an occasional movie, I decided to go for something relatively inexpensive as a replacement.
So I got Asus Aspire One net book, connected it to 32″ LCD TV and plugged in all external hard drives with my media on it. I’ve also set up VNC for remote control, and everything was working once again. However I began to miss the looks and functionality of a proper media center interface, so I began looking around to see what could be done.
After doing some research, I decided to evaluate Team MediaPortal and XBMC. Even though MediaPortal has some extra features (like TV tuner support, which I don’t have) I found it to be very resource hungry compared to XBMC. Navigating MediaPortal’s menus with my solution for remote control (more on this later) was also not very accurate. Therefore I decided to stick with XBMC.
XBMC stands for XBox Media Center (as it started its life on first generation XBox consoles), and can be downloaded for free from http://xbmc.org/.
Installation and configuration are pretty straight forward, and there are lots of resources on their website in case you run into problems.
Once everything was installed and my media library indexed, I had to find an easy way to control the media center remotely. One option was to go and buy a remote with USB receiver, but I decided to go different path.
Since I already have an iPhone I though it would be good idea to try and use it as a remote if possible. So I started doing some more research and found Logitech TouchMouse – which consists of server application which can be found here, and an iPhone app which is downloadable via iTunes. Both server and iPhone app are free. Once server and app are installed and configured, you can use your iPhone as a wireless mouse / keyboard to control your media center (and the whole PC as well).
Simple, effective and free (if you already have all the necessary hardware) media center solution.
To set up media center, you will need the following:
– XBMC media center software
– Logitech TouchMouse software
– Install and configure XBMC on your PC
– Install and configure TouchMouse Server on your PC
– Install TouchMouse app on your iPhone