XBMC (setup guide with DVB-T)

22 November 2012

Windows Media Center (WMC) can be considered dead. In Windows 8 it's no longer included with the OS (requiring an additional purchase/license key) and has no updates since Windows 7's Media Center. As such, it's time to look for viable alternatives.

XBMC has always been a viable alternative for non-PVR HTPC duties, but if you needed PVR support (particularly with EPG), you were somewhat out of luck. XBMC v12 (aka Frodo) introduces PVR support. XBMC itself won't directly interact with any tuners or handle the recording, but presents a standard way to present EPG, LiveTV and recording commands. This allows the XBMC devs to concentrate on what they do best, and let preestablished PVR software do what it does best. Not reinventing the wheel is a great idea, and it means XBMC clients on platforms like the Raspberry Pi can get PVR support.

This client/server setup that XBMC has allows for something that WMC can only do via certified WMC-Extenders (which are hardware devices only, not other PCs): Live TV across the network.

Limitations

My configuration

My current setup is:

This setup lets me watch TV in one room, and the wife gets the big TV to watch whatever.

Requirements

Downloads

Depending on what platform you're on, there is an array of options for the backend, but for this guide I'll use Windows/MediaPortal

Optional

Installation/Configuration

This guide is assuming the default skin - Confluence - and a fresh install. If you've changed anything, they may be hiding elsewhere.

Backend

  1. Install MediaPortal as a "server only", which will download/install all prereqs.
  2. Copy the MediaPortal XBMC plugin (MediaPortal_v123_TVServerXBMC_plugin_bin_rev118\Release\TVServerXBMC.dll inside the rar) into C:\Program Files (x86)\Team MediaPortal\MediaPortal TV Server\Plugins (default install path on x64 systems)
  3. Launch and configure MediaPortal (shortcut name is 'TV-Server Configuration')
    3.1. Scan for channels

    3.2. If you're installing XBMC on another device, make sure you setup accessible shares for Recording and Timeshift (this can be with or without a password, but XBMC will need valid credentials to access it) and that you allow MediaPortal through your firewall. By default it will use port 9596

Front end: PVR

  1. Install XBMC
  2. Run XBMC.
  3. System -> Settings -> Addons -> Install Addon From Zip -> Browse to where you've downloaded the XBMC MediaPortal Addon
  4. Configure the MediaPortal Addon

    1. Set the IP/port/passwords
    2. Enable the plugin
  5. Enable PVR/EPG. It may tell you that you've attempted to enable it without enabling a PVR-client addon (which you should have done above), but will take you to the menu to reenable a plugin.

  6. A "LiveTV" menu will appear

Optional LiveTV Config

I'd highly recommend setting up deinterlacing detection and set the deinterlacing type - Auto/DXVA Best gives great performance and quality (for me, anyway) on my desktop, but on my older HTPC I needed to switch to Auto/Deinterlace

Front end: other stuff

Presuming you're coming from WMC, XBMC can be somewhat overwhelming. With great power comes great nested menus. There are two 'modes' in which XBMC can present media "file" and "library". By default, everything is just listed as files, and the library requires a bit more work.

Music

Go into Music -> Files -> Add and then enter the path to your Music collection. If it is a (Windows) network share you'll need to prepend smb://. That is, smb://myserver/music

Once you've done that, right click (or press the 'menu' key on your keyboard, next to the Windows key) or press 'info' on your remote, and select Scan item to library

This allows you to search and browse by artist, album, songs or genres, rather than by file structure.

Movies/TV

Movies/TV are much the same in that you add via Videos -> Files -> Add, however there is one additional step in the 'add folder' process.

Based on whatever you're importing at the time, you should change This directory contains to either TV shows or Movies and set the appropriate metadata scraper. This allows synopsis, actors, genre and poster information to be pulled down.

For both music and videos, you should go into System > Settings > (Music or Videos) > Library > and enable 'Update Library on startup'

Front end: "catchup" services.

This is specifically for Australia, but various free-to-air channels provide on demand playback of shows online. XBMC can hook into their services. There are two options here, xbmc-catchuptv-au repo and Bog's XBMC Addon repo. The former has all networks, but I couldn't get their SBS plugin to work, whereas Bog's worked fine.

Install them (via the zip), then you'll have another option under 'Get Add-ons'. Go into there, then Video Add-ons, and install the relevant channels. You'll need to configure the addons individually - for SBS2 you should boost the bitrate from the default 128kbps to 1500kbps.

These services appear in the Video / Addons submenu, and then will (unfortunately) present a flat/folder navigation system. While it might not be the most ideal layout (compared to the services directly on the websites), it's still a helluva lot better than not having access to it at all.

Front end: Remote tweaks

If you're using a MCE remote, install the MCERemote addon. Also go into System > Settings > Input devices and enable 'Remote control sends keyboard presses'. Without that set, you can't use your remote to use the on-screen keyboard (in search dialogs, etc)

Disabling mouse & touch will remove a few icons that would only be useful as hit zones. If you're using it on a (IR) remote controlled system, I'd recommend disabling that.

Remote access

Don't try using the Windows RT remote apps to remotely control XBMC on the same machine. WinRT apps cannot access 'localhost'. Another machine on the network is fine.

XBMC lets you access and control your XBMC system via the web or via remote devices (these use the JSON-RPC API). All smartphone platforms have at least one remote, and the same goes for the tablet OS's.

System -> Settings -> Services ->Webserver. Change the port away from port 80 (you'll have issues using that port on Windows), then enable Allow control of XBMC over HTTP

For me, the 'default' web interface is broken (but that doesn't effect remote apps), but installing the AWXi web interface solved the issue.

Performance issues for HD?

Make sure that DXVA2 is selected for playback and you've got audio output/passthrough selected properly (even if nothing is being passthrough). The latter, when unconfigured, caused ~1FPS playback - once it was set, 1080p/h.264 wasn't an issue.

[^1]: I like the look of this particular remote, that isn't to say that its the best or that others are worse. Personal preference.

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