For years MythTV has been regarded as the best media center application for the Linux platform and is extremely popular with HTPC enthusiasts. MythTV is open-source and serves as a digital video recorder with support for reading TV listings and it supports a variety of TV tuners. In addition, through various modules the functionality of MythTV can be extended to be an online photo gallery manager, serve as a music player, RSS newsreader, fetch weather forecasts, and provide quite a bit of other functionality. However, MythTV now has a new competitor and that is Boxee. Boxee is a "social media center" that is based upon the Xbox Media Center (XBMC) with versions for Linux, Windows, and MacOS X. What the Boxee developers have added, however, is a social media aspect to media playback. Whenever you are watching something through Boxee, it will record that information and share it with your friends using Boxee and the user also has the ability to recommend the media they are listening to or watching with their friends. Oh yes, it is also open-source.
Boxee is still under development and its alpha version is currently in a private testing process. This software had first launched for MacOS X and then last week the beta program had begun for Linux (and of course, we took part in this program). Boxee is currently only supported on Ubuntu 7.10 and Ubuntu 8.04 and is distributed via a Debian package repository. Among the dependencies for Boxee are SDL, libfaad, libmad, and libvorbis, but shipping within the Boxee is package is rTorrent and various plug-ins that are scripted using a Python interface. The skin profiles for Boxee are XML based.
In addition to the Boxee client, there is also a web-based control panel that allows you to see what your Boxee friends are viewing/listening to as well as connect with other friends and change your account information. The Xbox Media Center -- for which Boxee is based -- is open-source and licensed under the GNU GPL. As a result, Boxee does publish the source-code to their modifications. From the web-based control panel, testers are able to download the full 70MB source package to this media center program.
After using Boxee, one thing we are extremely fond of is its default theme. This theme, icons, and the layout of Boxee user-interface are excellent. It's much cleaner than the default theme with MythTV and looks great on both a monitor and large TV.
In addition to being able to listen and watch media that's stored locally, Boxee also ties in with a number of web services through its plug-in architecture. Among these third-party media sources are blip.tv, Revision 3, YouTube, CNN, BBC, Flickr, Last.FM, SHOUTcast, and NPR.
While Boxee is considered alpha quality, it's been running fairly smooth in our testing thus far. There are a few known bugs but as a whole it's been a very pleasant experience. This isn't an open testing process, but the developers behind Boxee have allowed us to give out invitations to be part of the alpha testing process for Linux. If you are using Ubuntu 7.10 or Ubuntu 8.04 and would like to test out this Linux media center application, check out this thread on the Phoronix Forums.