The List: The Top 5 Media Center Programs for Linux (2013)

I thought I would share my thoughts on my exploits with the popular Media Center Solutions for Linux. While none of them are perfect some come very close. Please keep in mind these are my opinions and you do not have to agree with me, but I feel my points are pretty spot on as of 09/13 , the current month and year. Some of the points made are with my personal experience with the program while one is based off a review, as I had trouble installing it. Please feel free to comment or use the “Contact Us” page at the top of the site.  I would LOVE to hear any other suggestions for media center software if you have them.

~Enjoy!

Updated 2013-09-29

Plex

*check the corresponding post here on Plex for full installation instructions.

Good:

  • Server/Client relationship wherein you install the server and can use Plex on nearly any device (on Linux this would be the web browser)
  • Plex bookmark and plugin (Chrome Browser) enable you to quickly queue up non-HTML5 content for easy viewing later on (my most favorite feature).
  • very stylish
  • Very easy to setup
  • Good media organizing support
  • Extra channels that the Roku does not have
  • Simplistic, but not overly limited
  • Access your media on the go without the need to setup SFTP/FTP/HTTP/Apache servers
  • Highly* scalable and mobile!   Client side front ends available for Roku, Raspberry Pi, Android, and more such as TV sets.

Bad:

  • Limited options, not as “full” as XBMC
  • If permissions change on your folders after copying media from one area to another, changing permissions/owners can be a regular nuisance (latest updates help 20130929)
  • Does not always mutlitask well enough to watch through another device while Plex is scanning your library (which can be avoided).  Using better capable hardware for the “server” portion, alleviates this.

Conclusion:

  • Plex is quit literally the best Linux media center out there at the moment.  Not only can you stream from the media server application to almost any device in your household, outside of your home, you can still stream everything!  This is a huge advantage and makes being able to play your favorite tunes/movies/media on the go a great thing to have.  While limited in some respects, what Plex does do, it does it well.  Plex is the new hip kid in town, and old grandpa XBMC just doesnt want to catch up.  [4/5]

 

Enna

Good:

  • Very standard app with beautiful interface
  • Effortlessly finds and connects to UPnP, local, and networked servers and media
  • It packs the very basic features in a most enticing and graphical user interface.
  • Hit the market around 2010, and has been growing rapidly since
  • Reminds me a lot of the early promise of XBMC
  • Lot’s of exciting future planned features

Bad:

  • If you’re looking for a surplus of widgets and online connectivity, you’re probably looking for XBMC
  • Pretty basic feature set
  • Why does this app contain a BOOKSTORE???
  • Lacks top popular plugins/apps such as Netflix, Last.FM, Amazon VOD, and more.

Conclusion:

  • I quite enjoyed toying around with Enna.  I had to revist the project after trying its OS based package GeexBox (listed below).  It is a great option for those who wish to have a full system, and still get the best of GeexBox.  I am still in the early stages of testing different file formats, but I am pleased with its performance.  My major gripe with it, is lack of support for popular on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon VOD, a flaw XBMC knows all too well [3/5]

XBMC

Good:

  • Very clean and impressive interface, opening screen grabs your attention
  • Clean mouse movement and menu interaction
  • A simple backslash (found by accident) puts XBMC into full screen, right click to return to previous menu, very intuitive controls.
  • Loads of Apps and Add-Ons to install and run
  • Ability to run scripts (add ons like youtube)
  • Ability to create customized profiles
  • Robust settings menu
  • Easy install for all for many devices including Linux, Apple TV, Android, Raspberry Pi, Windows, and more!
  • You can control XBMC through HDMI if you have a new enough TV (thank you barblewarble)

Bad:

  • Lacks ability to run on non “typical” computers such as Roku, Boxee etc.
  • Netlflix and Amazon do exist via Blucop repository (Edit: possibly outdated/broken now), but to the naive, who would even know?
  • Plugins that sometimes don’t work (linux)
  • Can be tougher to install and configure for non techno nerds
  • Until XBMC’s website puts the scripts on their website, it can be hard to hunt down plugins if you don’t use Ubuntu (www.xbmcscripts.com is a great website when its up and running)

Conclusion:

  • XBMC was my personal favourite, from the clean interface to the spot on controls, everything felt just right. But honestly, the age of maintaining and using a full HTPC in your entertainment center are over.  There are just far better options out there (Smart TV, Roku, Boxee, etc).  However, XBMC will always and still has a special place in this list because it started it all. It’s a shame the project just won’t move forward.  Not many people like having full keyboards and mice sitting on their coffee table and the difficulty of setting up Linux to have massive icons and consistent large text across applications is a crapshoot at best, trust me, I’ve been there.  All in all though I still highly reccomend it.  [4/5]

Entertainer (depreciated)

Good:

  • pretty sleek interface
  • easy to add media, which adds fairly fast
  • decent internet media support
  • ability to organize media
  • promising upstart project

Bad:

  • Hard to install, must compile from source
  • Needs many dependencies unknown to user for the most part
  • not recoomended for beginner Linux users
  • Limited tweaking support at the moment, no themes or plugins on the project page at time of writing (likely to change, at least for themes)
  • needs more customization options for experienced users
  • Had to base my review off of others review, as I could not install this software due to numerous dependency issues / unknown packages.

Conclusion

    :

  • Entertainer was ok. The install was frustrating to the point where I just stopped and installed a pre-made source code package from Arch Linux’s User Repository. From what I read, Entertainer seems to be a very promising project, but I just felt like setting it up and compiling it for my distribution (Arch Linux) was a bit much, but I’m sure others have had more success. I didn’t see a guide anywhere on the site, and that would help a great deal for new users. [3/5]

GeexBox

Good:

  • A FULL linux distro devoted to media sharing
  • A plethora of options available
  • Support for many devices including the Raspberry Pi board and the CuBox
  • Full screen playback is smooth
  • Users used to the standalone XBMC will be right at home

Bad:

  • No seperate install, must be isntalled on a partition and run like a full linu operating system.
  • Highest resolutions require a nice dedicated grahpics card

Conclusion:

  • The fact that this had to be installed as a full operating system was a bit discouraging for a user that runs many other Server operations on his Arch Linux and Linux Mint computers. That aside, this media oriented OS was quite nice, however I didnt find it to be the “one stop” application that it claimed to be. I had to review it though, as it was very intriguing. [3/5]

Myth Tv:

Good:

  • Many plugins for all sorts of things
  • With all the available plugins, MythTV changes from not just a home
  • Home-brew TV PVR, but a full fledged Media Center Solution
  • Options like being able to manage netflix via MythTV is very nice

Bad:

  • I had to install some dependencies before hand
  • ALOT of plugins to install if you wish to use all the features of myth tv. Not built in beforehand

Conclusion:

  • MythTV is a very nice, robust media center solution, but requires a little bit of work before it can be the best it can be. I liked being able to manage netflix via the program, and its interface was very nice. Being able to easily view TV programs was nice too. The program still needs a little work but was quite good.[4/5]
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About professorkaos64

www.libregeek.org

Posted on 20130625, in Software, Software Roudup, Top 5 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Well put togehter, will have to try xmbc 🙂

  2. Interesting article… I hadn’t heard of Entertainer.

    It would have been good to distinguish between simple media browsers and those which support digital video recording via DVB or other means.

    A media centre which cannot record seems a little limited to me.

    Cheers,

    Doug

    • shadowkain99

      As far as I know, MythTV can record digital streams, the rest of the apps I believe are simply media browser such as Windows MCE

  3. I am interested in using at least one of these, but generally they require decent graphics drivers so I am waiting for the RadeonHD to have hardware acceleration for my card. I tried Boxee and it killed my dual-core setup without accelerated drivers (but, I think my overall setup is a bit borked right now, so it may have been that, and I am willing to bet that it is). On my Debian version, I installed the *buntu Boxee for Interpid, version 0.9.7.4826.

    However, for XBMC you said it has easy install for most versions of Linux — where? At their download page http://xbmc.org/download/ I only see it for *buntu and I don’t have it in my Debian Sid repositories at all, including Debian Multimedia. The downloads ONLY mention *buntu for the Linux version. Any pointers?

    • shadowkain99

      You can install from source, from the website or follow this guide for Ubuntu, it that is what you use. I found that in 5 seconds on google, if you still have problems let me know or google search. For Arch Linux it was in the repositories already. Sorry for the mishap, it was meant more of a review, not a how to install this review.

      If you had clicked on “Instructions” you would have been presented with exactly how to install it : Here they are

      Cheers!

      • Again, both of those links are for *buntu, which isn’t the easy install for all Linux like you had mentioned.

        I can find the instructions that I need for Debian I am sure, I just thought that I had missed them after a bunch of digging, thinking I was completely missing something obvious for other distros…

        Thanks for the review!

      • shadowkain99

        Sorry for the mistake, here is the information you require:

        http://xbmc.org/forum/showthread.php?t=41582

        On Here It’s hard to imagine you could not add a PPA or repo, it should be similar as Ubuntu is based right of of Debian. If the first link gets you no where, please at least try the guide mentioned just before this sentence.

        Apparently, the process I would think is:

        Add to /etc/apt/sources.list:

        deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-hardy/ubuntu hardy main
        deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-hardy/ubuntu hardy main

        Terminal:

        sudo apt-get update
        sudo apt-get install xbmc

        New Skins:
        sudo apt-get install xbmc-piel-*

        Remote controls:
        sudo apt-get install xbmc-eventclients-*

        Scripts:
        sudo apt-get install-scripts xbmc

        I hope this helps you. This post Is the same, but try the steps above first. Good luck, and if not, im not sure, you might have to Google around a bit more. Thats what I found in a 5 min run on Google.

        Thanks for reading!

        _Nano

  4. Nice round-up — I typically use Macs, but that matches most of my Linux MCE experiences too.
    A few notes about boxee — the next build (already out for Mac and Apple TV) has Hulu stuff fixed by way of an XUL implemented browser for playback. Works like a charm.

    Also, there is no real “windowed mode” because it is designed to be used as your main interface. You can make the window smaller (non fullscreen, but I can’t think of the Ubuntu keyboard command right now).

    I’ve had great success running boxee on an Apple TV, my MacBook and an Atom-based box that my fiance and I built for a small media box. It works best with a remote (the Microsoft Media Center remotes work great and are pretty cheap), and I found it fast — though I don’t know what Ubuntu you tested in.

    I’m sold on boxee but as a long time XBMC fan, I also like that for Linux-based systems.

    • shadowkain99

      Thank you very much. I will update the post when the new version of boxee comes out for linux. If you dont mind, could you post back if it improves as you say? I would like to keep this updated. Thank you.

  5. CHRISCLAP

    These were all great reviews on great media players but personally i have to say that the media player i use an sware by is Moovida.

    For me it is perfect offering so much while bing so user friendly an colourful.

    I highly advise it to anyone – http://www.moovida.com

  6. There is an easy script/plugin installer from XBMC Zone – try XBMC Zone Installer, should work on all platforms.
    http://www.xbmczone.com/plugin_details.asp?id=66

  7. -,. that seems to be a great topic, i really love it ~-‘

  8. Elisa no longer exists at the address given. Instead the link takes the user to “Moovida” a media player for Win XP and up OS. I’m not sure what happened to the Elisa OS. No trace was found on the Moovida site.

  9. One of the best list found on Google related to media players for Linux 🙂

  10. Plex looks amazing, BUT there’s no front end to actually play anything through a Linux Box (only a front end for Win/Mac).
    Therefore for my situation of having my main Linux computer hooked up to a TV, Plex appears to be completely useless? Someone please correct me if I’m wrong!

    It would’ve been nice if you’d mentioned that fact in the review, especially as this is linuc cauldron, I assumed the screenshots shown were achieved on a linux box.

    • professorkaos64

      You simply open a browser and point it to “http://localhost:32400/manage”. Those wishing for a software front end can install XBMC’s plex add on (http://wiki.xbmc.org/?title=Add-on%3APleXB), which works fine. There are other methods for other devices. PlexApp for Roku is what I use, so I can use paid content from Amazon, Netflix, and so on, while enjoying my content. In your case, the XBMC add on may work just fine, and integrates nicely with XBMC. I’ll add a bullet to Plex above to clarify this. But, like most, you have to get out to Plex’s website to actually take a look. The software listed here all works on Linux without any front end outside of your computer.

      p.s. Even if you are not on Arch Linux, this page gives a general overview of what I was speaking about: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Plex

      _professor

  11. Thanks pertaining to providing this sort of very good written content.

  12. Fer de Tejeda

    Thank you so much! your reviews are nice!
    I’ll try xbmcbuntu.

    • professorkaos64

      Not a problem. Mythbuntu is another nice one of that nature. This list needs updated a little but most of it is still valid. Thank you reading!

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