I've been meaning to write this up for a while but have been very busy enjoying Boxee and the entertainment it offers! It has continued to gather momentum at great pace since the last time I wrote about Boxee, just over a month ago. An article about Boxee has appeared on the New York Times website, the Boxee Twitter account now has about 11,000 followers and thoughts have turned to the possibility of selling ready-made dedicated Boxee boxes. This is very good going for a software product that is only in alpha, needs a fair degree of computer know-how to get it up and running and is not yet publicly available for Windows. It is worth installing though, the software has that magical quality of feeling like things should have always been done this way, and the act of recommending a video podcast episode to a friend is so easy and yet is such a powerful concept. Boxee makes the most sense connected to your TV rather than being on a laptop. Media centre PCs that are designed to go in your living room are a perfect choice too. When you have a PC connected to your TV it is a different idea from having a laptop, you don't need some of the things that come with standard Ubuntu like an office suite and ease of configuration for things like codecs becomes more important. Fortunately Mythbuntu exists, which is a version of Ubuntu designed for media centre PCs that removes most of the desktop software and adds in support for MythTV. It is also a really good choice for a Boxee installation.
If you don't already have Mythbuntu you can download an installation CD image from their website: http://mythbuntu.org/ they also have an installation manual there. I've installed Boxee on 32 bit Mythbuntu 8.10. Make sure all of the updates have been applied to your MythBuntu installation, that MythTV is not running and you are logged into Mythbuntu. Open the Mythbuntu Control Centre by going to System -> Mythbuntu Control Centre and make sure you have any proprietary software drivers for you graphics card installed by clicking on the Proprietary drivers tab, this will give Boxee a bit of extra graphics power. Boxee tries to play all sorts of content from the Internet so you'll need to make sure that you have all of the codecs installed that are needed. In the Mythbuntu Control Centre go to the Proprietary Codecs tab and tick "Enable Medibuntu Proprietary Codec Support" and click Apply. This will add Medibuntu as an available software source to your system, this contains the codecs needed to view some video content from the web. After this process is complete, tick all of the available codecs (if legal in your country) and click Apply. Once complete, click on Quit to close the program.
Now we can install Boxee itself, go to System -> Synaptic, as Boxee has its own repository, we will need to add this. Go to Settings -> Repositories -> Third party software click on the Add button and enter:
deb http://apt.boxee.tv intrepid main
You'll then be prompted to reload the repository information to pull in the new repository, do this and then install two packages: flashplugin-nonfree and boxee. After this is completed you should be able to use Boxee! Make sure you register on http://www.boxee.tv though first or you won't be able to use it. If all is well, you might want to make it start in a more convenient way than having to start it from the desktop menu. Here there are two options, you cam either get it to start automatically when the system starts up and/or have a button to start Boxee from within MythTV.
To get Boxee to start automatically go to Settings -> Settings Manager -> Autostarted applications. If an entry already exists to autostart MythTV, you should remove it or alternatively use the method below to add a button to MythTV for Boxee rather than trying to autostart it. Click on Add, you will now see a configuration dialogue to get a program to autostart when logged in to the Mythbuntu desktop (you can set the log in to automatic by going to Settings -> Login Manager -> Security). Enter "Boxee" for the name, you can leave the description blank if you wish and enter "/opt/boxee/run-boxee-desktop" for the command. Click Ok to save.
You can add a button to your MythTV installation to launch Boxee and when you are finished with Boxee you'll be returned to the MythTV menu. This method was found on the Ubuntu Forums (the original thread is at: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=954269&page=2), thanks to everyone there for writing this up. You can add a button by modifying the file that controls the MythTV menu. This file is at: /usr/share/mythtv/mainmenu.xml, you should take a backup of it before attempting to modify it! Open this file up with a text editor (you'll need to put sudo in front of the command to edit it). Find the lines that read:
Above them add:
Save the file and when you next start MythTV you should see an extra menu optionto start Boxee. You should now be all set with your Boxee on Mythbuntu installation.
*** Update 14th February 2009 ***
It seems if you get your LIRC compatible remote control set up using "Infrared devices" in the Mythbuntu Control Centre, it will also work in Boxee! What a handy utility this is!