The latest release of XBMC (9.11 Camelot) was a major milestone for the media centre with regards to both stability and usability. The release stabilised and improved a lot of the core features, vastly improved the skinning engine and came with a completely new and much improved default look and feel.
What most existing users will notice is the new skin, “Confluence”; the skin takes advantage of the new features in the skinning engine and has given XBMC a much needed facelift. XMBC now not only works better but also looks better from a standard installation. Installing a new skin is also easier than before as most skins are now much more complete and stable on the released version. Before this release a lot of the best looking skins took advantage of changes to the skinning engine that was not available in the previous major release. This meant that users had to download and install various different versions of XBMC from SVN repositories depending on which skin you wanted to use which could be both daunting and a lot of effort even for tech savvy users.
Some of the features of the XBMC 9.11 Camelot release were:
- New default skin “Confluence”
- Significant improvements to the skinning framework
- Improved support for multiple monitors
- Database performance improvements (SQLite)
- Added ability to scrape and scan TV Shows into the video library by air-date via TheTVDB.com
- Support for High Definition, Surround Sound, and Subtitle Flagging and Filtering in Video Library
- Support for more file extensions and speed improvements to RAW image loading
- As well as several playback, library and scraper improvements…
The XBMC 9.11 release took a major step towards making XBMC more accessible to average users and not just geeks and dedicated enthusiasts.
The next level – XBMC 10.05
While the dust from the XBMC 9.11 Camelot release is still settling the next major release is already well under way. The upcoming release 10.05 boasts several potentially game changing features that could completely change the way a lot of people use XBMC and make it an even more complete media centre software solution.
Here are some of the great features to look forward to in the XBMC 10.05 release scheduled for a mid-May release.
Probably one of the most requested features for XBMC is PVR support. Started over two years ago the feature has been on many an XBMC users wishlist for some time now.
What does PVR mean? PVR is short for Personal Video Recorder, basically it will allow you to use XBMC as an interface for a number of different PVR applications and seamlessly integrate recording and playback functionality with the rest of your media. XBMC will provide the interface whilst the PVR software runs in the background or even across a local network.
What does this mean for you? If you have a TV tuner card it will allow you to have full control of live TV, record TV shows, access electronic program guides and teletext all from within XBMC, no longer will you have to switch between different modes, programs or interfaces to be able to enjoy both TV and stored media. TV is going to be sexier than ever and you can scrap that TiVo or at least hold off on buying one till you’ve tried XBMC.
PVR Support is planned for:
- HTS Tvheadend
- VDR (Streamdev)
- MediaPortal TVserver
New add-ons browser GUI and API
Up until now using add-ons and plug-ins with XBMC has been quite a tedious and often too technical for the average user. The new user interface will allow users to browse, find, install and manage third-party add-ons from within the XBMC interface. This is a major step for XMBC towards more mainstream use and a huge improvement in general usability.
The new add-ons API will allow add-ons to be written in any programming language paving the way for the creation of even more add-ons which can only be a good thing.
Additional improvements to the GUI and Skining Framework
The 9.11 release brought the skinning framework a huge leap forward, the improvements in 10.05 aren’t as comprehensive but will nevertheless please quite a few. For users this primarily involves improved mouse support and control support for sliders and scroll bars as well as click handling to support long or short clicks.
The automatic scraping and collecting of meta-data for your media library was one of the things that impressed me most about XMBC when I first started using it. The next release will improve upon this even further.
Support for scraping movie trailers from both IMBb and TheMovieDB.org.
Certain skins for XBMC have support for displaying movie trailers in addition to the synopsis and movie information. Previously trailers had to be added manually to the relevant directory in your media archive or through the use of add-ons. This new feature will no doubt save considerable time collecting movie trailers for your media by automating the process almost completely. We’ll likely start seeing support for movie trailers in more skins as well.
There will also be a host of improvements to and support for new international scrapers for languages other than English.
Playback and performance improvements
10.05 brings a host of playback improvements including improved Blu-ray support, several improvements to both audio and video codec support as well as better support for subtitles. There’s also added support for Broadcom Cystal HD PCIe hardware accellerated video encoders to which allows smooth playback even on lower end systems. There are also several performance improvements to SQL database queries in the library.
Read the details and follow the progress of the XBMC 10.05 release here