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Boxee Beta: My official review




As my previous posts indicate, I am a Boxee and XBMC buff. On December 7th, CEO of Boxee, Avner Rosen unveiled the Beta version, to an impatient fan base. The alpha versions for Winodws 7, Mac OS and Linux, which are still available as downloads on the Boxee website, is one of the most stable of alpha software  that I have seen.

Avner said at the Boxee launch on Dec. 7th that the beta would be available for the general public, four weeks from the launch after it is officially released by CES. Soon, Lifehacker posted an entry in their blog that a leaked Beta Windows version of Boxee was available as a Bit Torrent download.
Before we get into the details of the Beta release,let us first look at Boxee and its offerings.So what can one do with Boxee? Why is it considered the breakthrough in Media Centers. Here are some of Boxee features.


 You can set up Boxee on a HTPC(Home Theater PC) hooked up to your TV and do the following:

  •  Stream media from all the computers and Laptops on your home network into your TV. When all your videos, music and  photos are spread across one or more computers on shared drives, you can bring them all into your TV. Boxee can play several  formats of music and video files. If you have backed up your CD collections as mp3s on your hard drive and your DVDs as ISO files,  you could play these files via Boxee on your TV.
  • Play internet media on your TV using Boxee add-ons. There are a number of custom add-ons included in the Beta release of Boxee. These include
    • A YouTube plugin to search for and play You tube videos on your TV.
    • Plugins for TV network sites like PBS, CNN, National Geographic and so on to play TV programs archived in such sites on your TV
    • Plugins for several educational and informative sites like Flora TV, TED talks and Open Courseware. Open Courseware is a repository of educational content from soem of the world's leading universities like MIT, Stanford, etc.
  • Rent movies from Netflix via Boxee.Boxee has a plugin for Netflix that allows you to login and access Netflicks content and have the content be streamed onto your TV
  • Another plugin for Clicker.com to access NBC and ABC programs. (This plugin is yet to work for me.)
If you do not have an HTPC and choose not to buy one, you can still run Boxee on any recent laptop or desktop.

So, with Boxee, one may cut the cable once and for all. Lifehacker.com has several articles to install and customize Boxee on apple TV and dedicated Boxee boxes.  During the Beta release CEO Avner unveiled a Boxee Box which will be manufactured by DLink and available in stores in Q2 of 2010.One rant I have about the Beta is that, personally I liked the alpha's green look at feel a lot more. This beta one is a bit too flashy for my taste.

Secondly I could play CBS and Hulu feeds in the alpha version. Someone said that I could use clicker to access this content, but I have had little success so far.The beta version offers better navigation among menus and streaming is a lot faster.

One feature that is lacking is the the ability to watch and record live TV. Though I suspect that Boxee is not getting into this aspect of media, doing so would make the Boxee  the undisputed leader of home entertainment. For now we must stick to Tivo, the Windows media center, Sage or MythTv to record or watch live TV.

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