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Boxee Browser

Of course, the easiest way to access Internet TV is via your web browser. Simple to do if you're using a computer, but no so much if you're using a dedicated media player. I've always wondered why media player makers didn't include a simple web browser. But a look at Boxee's implementation now makes me realize that it's more complicated than it looks.

The Boxee Browser is probably the single biggest thing that had me excited about Boxee. But, at least in its Beta form, it's the biggest disappointment and essentially unusable. Clicking on the Boxee Browser app icon brings up the screen shown in Figure 7. You can either enter a URL directly or search for content like I'm going to do.

Figure 7: Boxee Browser Search

You can set the Browser to Video Mode if you want to take your chances on Boxee's ability to do what it says in the explanation of Video mode in Figure 7. But that mode didn't work with any of the sites that I tried it with.

Figure 8 shows the result of my search. The only way you can select a link is to hit the right arrow key until you get to what you want. Each press moves you to the next link. For the page shown, this meant 14 links in the more menu and nine other links—including all sponsored links—until I got to the first search result!

Figure 8: Boxee Browser Search result

But all those key presses were for naught. Because when I finally got to the site, there was the stupid red box again (Figure 9)! Try as I might, I could not select a video to play.

Figure 9: Website in Boxee Browser

I tried other sites, and on the rare occasion where I was able to select and start a video, it stopped playing in pretty short order. In all, a very big disappointment.

Other TV

Boxee doesn't support any DVR features for live TV capture, nor is there a built-in Torrent downloader in Beta. There was one in earlier versions of Boxee. But since Boxee wants to make nice with the big content owners, it's removing features that can be construed as encouraging access to unlicensed content. It will be interesting if RSS video feed capability gets added back in.

If you do have your own video content, Boxee can access it. But I didn't have any luck getting Boxee to show any video or even music content served up via UPnP from my QNAP TS109 Pro.

Boxee supposedly can pull down metadata from imdb.com for movies and TV shows. But it's fussy about how files are named and I didn't even try wrestling with this, since I don't have much stored video content and I sure as hell wasn't going to go through the hassle of renaming it for Boxee's convenience.

Playing Other Content

Of course, once I get my media portal set up, I'll also use it to access my own stuff, mostly still photos, music stored and managed by iTunes and some MJPEG video off my Canon digicam. There are also some 720p an 1080p movie trailers that I have for testing.

By default, Boxee will scan for content in your Windows Music, Pictures and Videos folders. But, if you're like me, and keep your content on a NAS, you need to go to Boxee's Settings > Media menu and point it to your media shares. Figure 10 shows three UPnP shares that I added to Boxee, which it frequently insisted were "Not Connected", even though I could browse to content stored in them.

Boxee media shares
Figure 10: Boxee media shares

Figure 11 shows the settings for a media share. No matter how many times I clicked the Scan source button, content just wouldn't properly show up in the Music, Photos or Movies sections. At one point, I did manage to get my music to show up under Photos, though.

Boxee media share settings
Figure 11: Boxee media share settings

I think this was because I was setting up only one UPnP share, which contained Video, Music and Photo content. I tried setting up three different shares and that seemed to fix the photo / music mixup. But I never managed to get Music to show up under the main screen icon. UPnP flakiness seems to be a known issue that is supposedly being worked on. But for now, it's not helping me easily access stored content.

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