I haven’t found a better solution than Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition for playing movies / videos in my home theater. I’m getting ready to upgrade my Home Theater PC from MCE 2005 to Windows Vista. While this is still my plan, it looks like there may finally be a viable non-Microsoft alternative: Linux MCE. I’m running Ubuntu on my desktop PC / file server, I’ll give this a try and see how close it is to Windows on features, ease-of-use, and reliability. Because of the Digg effect, it appears the linuxmce.com site is temporarily down; if so, the home page can be accessed through digg mirror.
There is a demonstration of Linux MCE on Google video highlighting all of the features, which do seem quite impressive. The interface is fast and uses screen real estate well, it has nice transparency effects, it controls external devices (lights, television, VCR), it works with bluetooth mobile phones and other remotes, and it integrates with network home automation devices. See for yourself.
However, I can’t believe it’s as easy to setup as the narrator makes it out to be. Also, I’m a little disappointed with the biased comparison with Windows MCE. Despite what the video states, Windows MCE can be configured to play all sorts of media from network locations — I prefer the way it separates network shares into different folders (so television DVDs and movie DVDs are not required to be combined into one view.) Also, Vista Media Center is much more whole-house centric than the comparison suggests (and it works very well with the Xbox360, not just other Vista Media Center and Media Center Extenders.) These complaints aside, Linux MCE appears to be a very full-featured application with lots of future potential.
Story from digg submission: LinuxMCE is a free, open source add-on to Ubuntu including a 10′ UI, complete whole-house media solution with pvr + distributed media, and the most advanced smarthome solution available. It is stable, easy to use, and requires no knowledge of Linux and only basic computer skills.