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Boxee, you are now free to be entertained on a laptop or connected to an HDTV

Boxee is a cross-platform freeware media center software with social networking features with a 10-foot user interface design for the living-room TV.

It is a fork of the open source XBMC media center software with some custom and proprietary additions.

Marketed as the first ever "'Social Media Center", Boxee enables its users to view, rate and recommend content to their friends through many social networking features.

Boxee is still under development and is currently only available as Alpha releases for Mac OS X (Leopard and Tiger), Apple TV, and Linux for computers with Intel processors, with the first Alpha made available on the 16th of June 2008. A Microsoft Windows version is currently available only by private invitation.
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Boxee said in 2009 it is planning to release its own dedicated set-top box (hardware) for Boxee, and also plans to license its Boxee media center software and its social networking service as a third-party software component to other companies for them to use the Boxee software in their hardware, such as set-top boxes from cable-TV companies or embedded computers built-in directly into television-sets. Boxee has also stated that their goal is to have Boxee run on as many third-party hardware platforms and operating systems as possible.

Boxee media center software is being developed by a startup company. Boxee supports a wide range of multimedia formats and includes features such as playlists, audio visualizations, slideshows, weather forecasts reporting, and an expanding array of third-party plugins. As a media center, Boxee can play most audio and video file formats, as well as display images from many sources, including CD/DVD-ROM drives, USB flash drives, the Internet, and local area network shares.

Through its Python plugin system, Boxee includes incorporated addon features such as Apple movie trailer support and subtitle downloading, as well as online internet content channels and services, like BBC iPlayer, Jamendo, Joost, Last.fm, NPR, SHOUTcast internet audio plugins, and movie trailers of apple.com, ABC, Blip.TV, CNET, CNN, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV Music (music videos), MySpaceTV, Netflix, Revision3, YouTube, Warner Bros Television Network[ internet video plugins, and Flickr and PicasaWeb picture viewing plugins. All are available as media sources available alongside your local library. Some of these are specialized connections to services (e.g., YouTube), while the rest are a preselected list of Podcast channels for streaming using generic RSS web feeds (e.g., BBC News).

Boxee had supported NBC Universal's Hulu quite early on, but in February 2009, was asked by Hulu to remove the service at the request of Hulu's content partners. Boxee later reinstated the feature using Hulu's RSS feeds, but Hulu once again blocked access. Boxee recently introduced a new architecture based on the XUL framework. Because Boxee will now use Firefox's core architecture, Hulu will see Boxee as "any other Mozilla browser so Hulu doesn't block the app." Hulu's latest attempt to thwart Boxee involves HTML encryption.

Through the processing power of modern PC hardware, Boxee is able to decode high-definition video up to 1080p. However, as Boxee does not currently support hardware video decoding, the entire load of the video decoding process is handled by the system's CPU which means that users need, by today's standards, a very powerful CPU to decode native 1080p videos encoded with a modern video codec like H.264.

Boxee source code is based on the XBMC Media Center project's code, and the Boxee developers contribute source code back upstream to the XBMC project.[22][23] Boxee open source parts is distributed under the GNU General Public License (with a few libraries used by Boxee licensed under the LGPL), however Boxee's social networking layer library, libboxee, is closed source as it deals with proprietary methods of communication with Boxee's online back-end server which handles the user account information and social network communications between the users in the Boxee userbase.

Boxee also includes a built-in BitTorrent client, with a frontend for it integrated into the Boxee interface, and there are also Torrent links to legal BitTorrent trackers download sites available incorporated by default. Through Boxee's Python plugin system it is also possible for end-users to add unofficial third-party plugins to enable Torrent downloads from sites such as thepiratebay.org.

Social Networking Layers

The social networking component of Boxee is its major differentiator from other media center software, in several ways, as follows.

Boxee requires registered user accounts, which form a social network of fellow Boxee users. Users can follow the activity of other Boxee users who were added as friends, and can publicly rate and recommend content. Users can also control what media appear in the activity feed in order to maintain privacy. If a user recommends something that is freely available from an internet content service then Boxee will let others users stream it directly. If a user recommends something that is not freely available then Boxee will try to show metadata, and trailers if it is a movie.

Boxee can export a user's media activity feed to other social networking services such as FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr. The list of supported sites is small, and this feature is one-way, (it is not yet possible to monitor Twitter feeds from within Boxee), but this type of third-party integration is different from the way content sources as treated. Through FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr it is then possible for a user to choose to post the Boxee activity feed to social networking sites such as Facebook, (currently through FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr apps for Facebook). The user's friends' Boxee activity feeds are displayed on the user's home screen, as is the user's own recent activity. Internet content is accessed through a sub-menu of each of the video, audio, and photo menu items, such as Video -> "My videos" and Video -> "Internet videos."

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Audio/Video playback and handling

Boxee can play multimedia files from CD/DVD media using the system's DVD-ROM drive, local hard disk drive, or stream them over SMB/SAMBA/CIFS shares (Windows File-Sharing), or UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) shares. Boxee is designed to take advantage of the system's network port if a broadband Internet connection is available, using the IMDb to obtain meta data information, thumbnails, and reviews on movies, TheTVDB for TV show thumbnails and metadata, CDDB (via FreeDB) for Audio-CD track-listings, and album-cover thumbnails via AMG. Boxee can stream Internet-video-streams, and play Internet-radio-stations (such as SHOUTcast). Boxee also includes the option to submit music usage statistics to Last.fm and a weather-forecast (via weather.com). It also has music/video-playlist features, picture/image-slideshow functions, an MP3+CDG karaoke function and many audio-visualizations and screensavers. Boxee can in addition upscale/upconvert all 480p/576p standard-resolution videos and output them to 720p, 1080i, or 1080p HDTV-resolutions.

Format support

Boxee can be used to play/view practically all common multimedia formats. It can decode these in software and optionally pass-through AC3/DTS audio from movies directly to S/PDIF output to an external audio-amplifier/receiver.

Supported formats/codecs:

* Physical media: CDs, DVDs, Video CDs (including DVD-Video, VCD/SVCD and Audio-CD/CDDA)

* Container formats: AVI, MPG/MPEG, WMV, ASF, FLV, MKV, MOV, MP4, M4A, AAC, NUT, Ogg, OGM, RealMedia RAM/RM/RV/RA/RMVB, 3GP, VIVO, PVA, NUV, NSV, NSA, FLI, FLC, and DVR-MS (beta support)

* Video codecs: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (SP and ASP, including DivX, XviD, 3ivx, DV, H.263), MPEG-4 AVC (H.264, including Nero Digital and x264), HuffYUV, Indeo, MJPEG, RealVideo, QuickTime, Sorenson, WMV, Cinepak,

* Audio codecs: AIFF, WAV/WAVE, MP2, MP3, AAC, AACplus, AC3, DTS, ALAC, AMR, FLAC, Monkey's Audio (APE), RealAudio, SHN, WavPack, MPC/Musepack/Mpeg+, Speex, Vorbis and WMA.

* Digital picture/image formats: BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, MNG, ICO, PCX and Targa/TGA

* Subtitle formats: AQTitle, ASS/SSA, CC, JACOsub, MicroDVD, MPsub, OGM, PJS, RT, SMI, SRT, SUB, VOBsub, VPlayer.


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About Hugo Repetto

Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that offers an operating system predominantly focused on desktop computers but also provides support for servers. Based on Debian GNU / Linux, Ubuntu focuses on ease of use, freedom in usage restriction, regular releases (every 6 months) and ease of installation.
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