The news that Samsung has acquired Boxee caught me a little by surprise. Boxee is software that I don't use much anymore, but it changed my life. Back in 2009 I first started using Boxee, which was then a fork of XBMC. Initially I was interested in the social aspects of the software, the ability to share and recommend content, but what became increasingly important to me was the presence of web content as a central feature of the user interface.
*** UPDATE! Now you don't have to say goodbye. The Public Whip has got new people to run it so this app will remain available. There may even be new versions in the future. ***
Sadly due to circumstances beyond my control it looks like I may have to remove the "Your MP" application from the Boxee platform. This is an application I did that was designed for UK users as an easy way to keep up to date with how their Members of Parliament were voting. The application gets a lot of its data from The Public Whip, who recently published an open letter (http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/openletter.php) stating their intention to close down the service as they felt it had become unsustainable. Once this site closes this will of course mean that the "Your MP" app will no longer work and so will have to be discontinued. If the closure goes ahead the last date that the app will be usable is expected to be 27th July 2011. However there may be some hope.
Although I have been using Boxee for quite a while both as a user and developing apps the closest I have come to seeing a Boxee Box was holding a prototype in my hands, and it wasn't even switched on. So it was a great opportunity to take up PR agency 33 Digital's open invitation to go see one in operation in their offices in London. They are representing Dlink, the hardware manufacturer for the Boxee Box on the social media scene and run the @dlink_boxee_box Twitter account. It was a great chance to have a play with this innovative bit of hardware and explore what it can do.
Having a nettop like the Acer Aspire Revo running Ubuntu and Boxee is a great addition to the living room. One thing that I have been meaning to do for a while though is add a proper way to shut the unit down from the remote control when I have finished using it. Walking across the room and using the power button just doesn't seem to be appropriate for a set top box experience! I followed the instructions I found on the Boxee forum to add this feature, but instead of changing the Suspend button into a power off button I decided to add a new button to the log out dialogue. Fortunately this was quite a straightforward procedure.
Just a short post to say that the "Your MP" application for Boxee has been slightly updated. This is an app that lets people in the UK see how their MP is voting in Parliament from the comfort of their armchairs. You don't need to know who your MP is, all you need is your postcode and the app will do the rest for you.
I am delighted to announce the release of a new application for Boxee: “Your MP”. The details and background to this application can be found in my original blog post about it: “An experimental Boxee app to keep track of how your MP votes” and at the time I said that if there was sufficient interest in it I would develop it further and release it. I am really pleased that there was interest and thank you to everybody who took the time to comment, tweet and spread the word about the app, I hope you enjoy it now you can use it! Since the original post I have added a couple of extra features too.
Google have now announced that they are to move into the Internet TV market with a platform named “Google TV”. This will aim to bring the world of web content to your TV screen in an easy to use way making video podcasts as easy to find and watch as regular TV programmes. It will not be a single product, but will be available in various products from set top boxes to televisions with the functionality built in. The announcement also came with the news that Google is working with big name partners such as Sony, Intel, Logitech and Adobe to make the product a reality. Engadget has a pretty good round up of the news in its article: Google TV: Everything you ever wanted to know. I believe that this is a very significant announcement and here is why.
We are experiencing interesting times politically in the UK. Maybe many at one point were happy to elect a Member of Parliament once every five years and pretty much let them get on with it. Talking about politics could make people feel uncomfortable, but a wave of recent events such as the expenses scandal and the Digital Economy Act have started to change that. With the election producing a hung parliament every vote of an MP could make or break proposed legislation, but do you know how your MP is voting? There are already excellent websites where you can find this out, but recently I started to wonder if an Internet TV platform like Boxee could be useful in this area, so I built an experimental “app” to try the idea out. Could finding out how your MP votes be like checking the football scores on Ceefax?
I did a fresh install of Boxee and the newly released Ubuntu 10.04 LTS on my Acer Aspire Revo today. The process has not changed significantly since I wrote my post How to install Ubuntu 9.10 and the Boxee Beta on an Acer Aspire Revo (including 64 bit option) back in January. You can pretty much follow these instructions to get everything up and running. One minor difference is in alsamixer where the entry formally known as “IEC958 1” now seems to be labelled “S/PDIF” (see below for screenshot) - unmute this as before. I used the recently released Boxee Beta version 0.9.21.11487 which works with Ubuntu 10.04, at the time of writing the Boxee site doesn't state this. It is also possible to integrate Boxee with the new Ubuntu One Music Store.