Keep it Simple, Stupid!

Posted By: Team XBMC on Jul 11, 2009 in Site News

A primary goal of Team XBMC has always been to make the user experience as straightforward as possible.  The theory goes that I should be able to accomplish nearly everything I want from within the XBMC interface.With that focus in mind, as some of you may know if you troll the message boards enough, the team has been seeking to improve and streamline the way additional applications and skins are installed into the XBMC system. While it isn’t exactly painful for a user of Windows Vista to figure out how to get to the appdata folder, forcing her to do so for the sake of installing a prettier skin or a method of viewing trailers just doesn’t seem to fit the XBMC mantra.

Huh?

Huh?

To fix this problem, in the short term Nuka1195 and BigBellyBilly have provided us with something called an SVN Repo Installer, which is automatically packaged in the Windows and OSX builds of XBMC. If you can find it (hint, it’s in the “Programs” folder*), you should be able to install all those skins and programs you know and love WITHOUT exiting the XBMC user interface. If it is not in the Programs folder, just click the SVN Repo link above to get the most recent download.

*With a clean install of XBMC, the Programs folder may not be immediately available. Do not despair. Simply click “Settings” in the home window and then click “Skin settings,” which may be found on the left portion of the screen. Highlight “Home window,” and then click “Show programs in main menu.” Voila!


All of which brings me to my point today. I recently decided to nuke my entire XBMC install, and, as I prepared to install the newest Windows revision provided by Knoxville, TN native kricker, an idea occurred to me: What if I tried to install all of my traditional installations without once leaving the XBMC interface?

I wasn’t even sure if it was possible, but I figured I’d give it a try.

One word of warning before I continue. The SVN Repo Installer is, at best, beta software. Aside from the work of the application creators and the occasional glance of an XBMC dev or two, none of the products currently receive any form of Quality Assurance. My understanding is that, as the Repo Installer (and addons in general) become a bigger part of the XBMC experience, this may change. At present, though, it is not officially supported by anyone or anything. (In fact, it may not actually exist at all!) You may get help in the Forums for each individual application, but don’t expect a whole lot of support elsewhere. Therefore, as always, attempt these things at your own risk.

First, I clicked the Programs folder. Then I clicked Program Plugins. And then I was there. The SVN Repo Installer Holy Grail! Ahhhhhhh!

Ahhhhhhh

Ahhhhhhh

I clicked the link and found myself at a new menu.

The SVN Repo Main Menu

The SVN Repo Main Menu

This menu was intense and not clear at all. I could guess what “check for updates” means, but who knows who dandar3 or queeup are? Hopefully, when the dev team has figured out its solution, this section will make a bit more sense.

Anyway, before I went any further, I figured I’d like to add a few skins. I’ve lately been a pretty big fan of Transparency! and MiniMeedia, because both do a great job of really emphasizing the fanart. Plus, the Transparency! author ronie is an even bigger nerd than I am when it comes to getting excited about new features. As far as I can tell, there are almost no user created mods of Transparency!, because ronie is too quick to change his own skin when something new and cool pops up.

So I clicked xbmc-xbox-skins. I’m guessing these skins are mostly for xbox users and not Windows 7 users, like myself, but I thought I’d give them a try anyway. Then I clicked the link entitled “skin.” Finally I was at a directory of “lite” skins. And luck was with me! Both MiniMeedia and Transparency! were on the list!

Hooray!

Hooray!

I installed both. MiniMeedia was downloaded pretty quickly. Transparency! took longer, but Transparency! has always been a large file. XBMC does not give you the option of automatically applying the skin after download, but it was a simple matter to change the skin myself by going back to the main menu, clicking Settings, clicking Appearance, and then selecting Transparency!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Transparency!

Transparency!

Transparency!

Alright, I’d gotten my skins. I figured that was a pretty big step already, but I wanted to see what else I could do. So I clicked xbmc-addons, figuring that was the important one, as it had the right name. I’m a sucker for video applications, so I clicked through the plugins until I got to the video list.

It’s quite a list.

Some Video Apps

Some Video Apps

So, just for the sake of seeing what I could see, I installed a bunch of apps, from Game and Apple Movie Trailers to Family Guy and Adult Swim to the MTV Network and CBS.

With my apps installed, I returned to the main menu. Transparency! actually allows me to make a link specifically for Video Plugins on the main menu, so I naturally did that. After clicking the link, I found myself at this page.

Pretty Awesome

Pretty Awesome

And here it is looking even more awesome!

Even More Awesome

Even More Awesome

And here it is looking vaguely like a cooler version of my… small mp3 player that shall remain nameless…

Ipho... I mean, Really Awesome

Ipho… I mean, Really Awesome

So there you go. Without leaving the interface, I was able to install my favorite skins and grab a bunch of pretty awesome looking applications to boot.  Keep an eye out for future updates, as the team works to make plugins a much bigger part of the XBMC experience.

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Discussion - 11 Comments

  • Johnny T. Jul 12, 2009 

    Thanks for the helpful info! I’ve been looking for a feature like this ever since other “dashboards” for the original xbox had the ability to do this too. Looks like I can cross this off my wishlist.

    Now VDPAU (or some method to offload to the GPU) for windows/mac and PVR in the future would probably ascertain XBMC as the greatest media center of them all.

    Keep up the good work!

  • WiSo Jul 12, 2009 

    Just a note for Windows user: XBMC for Windows ships with the svn repo installer and a predefined favourites.xml file. Just click on favourites and you can start the installer.

  • ronie Jul 12, 2009 

    nerd? moi???

    Great review of those nice build-in features of xbmc, natethomas.
    I’ll surely be looking forward to your next entry.

    cheers,
    ronie

  • GreenGrass Jul 13, 2009 

    I wish you did a grammar check and get someone else to proof read your blog before posting :P

    The phrase “troll” as you use it does not mean what you think, I believe you meant to say “lurk” instead, you do not want people trolling in your message boards ;)

    THE SVN Repo Installer, which is ALREADY SHIPPED WITH the Windows and Mac PACKAGES :)

    Change “theoretically” to “literally” since it is not a theory since you can actually do do it.

    Should be “Plus Ronie, the author of the skin Transparency, is…”

    “At present, though, it is not officially supported by anyone” remove the “or anything” part.

    “In fact, it may not actually exist at all!” huh? The SVN Repo Installer is what your article is about, how can it not exist? That is not a fact.

    “Transparency!” what is the exclamation mark for? Maybe that is not you, in any case the use of an exclamation does not fit in the title of a product :(

    “XBMC does not give you the option of automatically ACTIVATING the skin after download”

    Loads of other smaller things in the writing style that irritate me as well but I will refrain from listing them all.

    Sorry but I can not help myself, my native tong is not English but reading through that just hurt the literary side of my brain.

    Regards from the grammar police :D

  • natethomas Jul 13, 2009 

    Being a fellow grammar police officer, let me assure you that I know an awful lot, not just about language, but about creative methods for humorously misapplying language.

    In this case, “trolling” was a pun for both acting like an internet troll and trawling for information.

    You got me on the second one. I meant to write “… which is automatically packaged in WITH Windows…”

    I wrote “theoretically” because, being beta software, the SVN Repo Installer is surely going to break frequently, meaning the goal will be to install, but the reality will be to do nothing.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way I wrote about Ronie. Your change is merely a stylistically different approach.

    “or anything,” once again, is a joke. In the States it is called hyperbole. I was exagerating the extent to which the item was not supported.

    The lack of existence, once again, is a form of hyperbole.

    The title of Ronie’s program is “Transparency!,” much as the title of Yahoo is actually “Yahoo!” I merely included the exclamation mark because, A) doing so is technically accurate, and B) it seemed fun.

    Activating and applying are, for all intents and purposes, synonyms. As such, the change is once again only a stylistic choice.

    Finally, my native TONGUE is English. My native tong is… the generic brand? I don’t grill much.

    Regards, likewise, from the grammar police. ;-)

  • ronie Jul 13, 2009 

    @GreenGrass

    a) my name is ronie, not Ronie.
    b) the name of the skin is Transparancy!
    why i did include the exclamation mark, first because i don’t see anything wrong with a little creativity when it comes to picking a name for a skin and second, because i was a big Wham! fan in my younger days.
    c) my apologies for not properly capitalizing every sentence in this reply. ;-)

  • robgue Jul 13, 2009 

    Thanks for the write up. The svn repo installer is a step in the right direction. Hopefully it’ll evolve into something maintained and a little less cryptic, not only in it’s prominence within xbmc but within the installer itself. You mentioned for example, “This menu was intense and not clear at all. I could guess what “check for updates” means, but who knows who dandar3 or queeup are? Hopefully, when the dev team has figured out its solution, this section will make a bit more sense.” Totally agree.

  • BigBellyBilly Jul 22, 2009 

    ““This menu was intense and not clear at all”

    They’re a list of SVN repositories where the sources are kept, but you knew that right?
    The plugin does set a title for that screen but its down to the skin in use as to whether its displayed or not (obviously not in PM3.HD)

    Personally I’d like to see the use of a single official repository, then that menu screen can go all together. Hopefully the w.i.p official builtin implementation will do that (I’m not involved with it).

    Thanks for highlighting this Addon.
    Appreciated.
    BBB

  • Dan Dar3 Jul 22, 2009 

    A more then welcome article, I’m sure newcomers will appreciate the introduction as well as the tip on how to enable the Programs menu entry (although if you ask me that should be enabled by default, most people are looking for XBMC addons first thing after playing a couple of movies).

    I should probably make the note that those entries in the SVN Repo Installer are addon/skin repositories (hence the Repo in the installer name). Probably not the best choice but it all started around the Google Code source repositories.

    I would see the installer evolving into something different actually – first develop the XBMC.org Download section to allow for users to view addons/skins and authors to upload zipped versions of the addons / skins with details, changelogs, links for forum support threads, and second an XML driven installer to download install them in the appropriate places. That would solve two performance problems, one is downloading larger addons / skins and second browsing the addons now takes a bit too long now, even longer the more addons are introduced.

  • Jarrett Jul 29, 2009 

    Is XBMC playing catchup to Boxee here? Why not just copy what they have done as they seem to have put much thought into it. Respectfully curious.

  • Craig Aug 04, 2009 

    Why is the SVN Repo Installer not included with the Linux version? Does it not work?

About XBMC

XBMC is a free and open source media player application developed by the XBMC Foundation, a non-profit technology consortium. XBMC is available for multiple operating-systems and hardware platforms, featuring a 10-foot user interface for use with televisions and remote controls. It allows users to play and view most videos, music, podcasts, and other digital media files from local and network storage media and the internet.