Weekend Project: Get Your Open Source Media Center Groove On

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 14, 2008

Slowly but surely, open source media center applications have evolved into rich applications that anyone can get a lot of enjoyment out of. There are now many players in this space, and the applications show a lot of range. In this post, you'll find introductions to three of the most interesting projects out there, including a media center that can transform and energize a home theater PC, an open source way to get TiVo-like DVR functions, and an innovative mashup of social networking features and slick media center capabilities. Any of these can make for a great weekend project.

Fluendo's Elisa Media Player is my personal favorite open source media center. You can use it to organize and consume photos, music, movies, DVDs, and more. It also came out in a new version just a few days ago, and runs on Windows and Linux. This media player is targeted at home theater PCs, set-top boxes, and is a favorite of many Linux users. It runs the GStreamer media framework, so all the media formats supported by GStreamer play automatically.

Elisa Media Player is not DVR (digital video recorder) software; rather, it's focused on organizing, playing and viewing media. It's great for viewing Flickr streams (with slick, smooth transitions), and its interface for music is very Mac OS X-like. You can view big shots of album art, cycle through albums and songs in a Cover Flow-like way, and watch movies and video in full-screen mode. Check out more in this video.

But what if you are interested in digital vide recorder features? You want your own open source TiVo lash-up? Check out Kristin's success story about getting TiVo-like functions and more with MythTV. She warns that putting together your own MythTV is not "for the faint of heart," but confirms that her setup has been humming along in her living room for almost a year.

Schedules Direct, a non-profit organization that supplies channel line-up feeds to MythTV (and similarly oriented) applications is less costly than a TiVO subscription. And Kristin notes: "MythTV is a genuinely fine bit of DVR software. Plug-ins allow for weather reports, web browsing, viewing Netflix queues and listening to streaming media. I can view pictures, videos and listen to music."

Boxee is one of the more interesting open source media center projects I've seen. It's available in an alpha version, and you have to apply for an invitation to get it, but anyone can get it. I've used it in demo situations, and been very impressed with its slick interface, ability to mash up music and online video content, and how it works so well on HDTVs.

Boxee is designed to merge media center functions with social networking, so you can use it in conjunction with friends to share multimedia content, and you can even see what friends are viewing or listening to (if you're invited to). You can use Boxee on an AppleTV, on Linux, or on Windows, and the application recently won a $50,000 prize and CES exhibit space in the iStage competition. Check out more details here, including how to watch Hulu with an AppleTV.