Saturday, March 26, 2011

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (MCE 2005) and Netflix Workaround with XBMC

So you are still using MCE 2005 and you want to watch Netflix but there is no support to install Netflix on MCE 2005 because, well, Windows XP is no longer supported. So you have two options. One you could make your own application that would work inside MCE. Two, you could run another application like XBMC to watch Netflix. The problem with option two is that you would have to get out of MCE and then navigate to XBMC with mouse or keyboard. Not an elegant solution if you are trying to control your entire experience with the MCE remote. With that said, let's see how we can link XBMC inside MCE 2005.

First you will need to download and install XBMC from the download section on the XBMC website. Version 10.1 of XBMC was used at the time of writing of this post.
Install XBMC using all the default options. You may select only the languages you will use. When the installation is finished.

Go to Settings and then to Skins and downloads the Back Row skin.To me, this is the easiest skin to see from the couch. While that is downloading go to Videos and then Video Add-ons and then to Get More.. and download XBMC Flicks.

Go back to Settings and then go to skins and change it to Back Row.

Navigate to Video Add-ons and right click on XBMC Flicks add it to favourites.

Go back to Settings then Skin Options and then the Shortcuts tab. Go to Home Shortcut 1 and name it Netflix. Click on Selected Favo. and select XMBC Flicks. For the icon box browse to the XMBC icon which can be found under C:\Documents and Settings\{user name}\Application Data\XBMC\addons\\icon.png. (Note: You may need to go to Appearance under settings, File lists tab and enable Show hidden files and directories.) Then check the button to the right of Home Shortcut 1. Go to the Home tab disable the following; Programs Control, Movies Control, TV Shows Control, Music and Pictures Control. Of you don't have to do this but it keeps the Home screen cleaner if you are just going to use this for accessing Netflix.

Go to the Home Screen and open XBMC Flicks, click on Discs by Mail and link your Netflicks account to XBMC Flicks. Once that is done click go back to XBMC and click OK. Note this may take some time to create the link(about 30 minutes).

Download and install Media Center Link Studio. It can be found by searching for Media Center Link Studio on

Browse C:\Program Files\XBMC. Right-click on XBMC.exe and create a shortcut. Cut the newly created shortcut (Shortcut to XBMC) from the desktop and paste it into C:\Program Files\XBMC.

Launch Media Center Link Studio and click on New. Next to the Run box and browse to the newly created shortcut (Shortcut to XBMC). Note: you have to select the shortcut and not the XBMC.exe as the file needs to be writeable when it is called from MCE.

For the Thumbnail Images browse to  C:\Documents and Settings\{user name}\Application Data\XBMC\addons\\icon.png. Note you need to enable show hidden files in windows explorer view options.

Set the title to XBMC Flicks and click save and then close.

Open MCE and there should be a shortcut to XBMC in the More Programs list. Click on it to launch XBMC. To navigate back to MCE push the Green button on your remote.

What keys do what when Netflix is playing
Note: You may need to press Tab to get the player in focus.
tab = focus on player
space OR enter = pause/play
ctrl+alt+shift+left arrow OR just F = full screen
esc = exit full screen
ctrl+spacebar = put it's into frame mode to allow ffwd and rwd using arrow keys
shift + left arrow = rwd
shift + right arrow = ffwd
ctrl+alt+shift+m = menu
alt+f4 = shutdown web page (forcefully) 

You may download the MCE Remote application for XBMC which can be downloaded by going to Programs, Program Add-ons, Get More... After MCE Remote is installed you can configure some of the seldom used buttons on remote to be useful when playing Netflix streams.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Avoid Idea Plateaus with a Plan

Avoid Idea Plateaus with a Plan

This is a great video to watch if you have a lot of ideas but don't follow them through. Basically the speaker is advocating tools for creative people to use to make their ideas come to fruition. Have a plan!

Give to the People in Japan

Please give to the people in Japan. Living Social will match your $5 donation. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recording TV Shows

Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) seems to be a pretty good media center for recording over the air signals and basic cable TV. I've been using MCE 2005 for about 6 years now and am very happy with it. I know it is long in the tooth since it runs on Windows XP but being a frugal and not wanting to pay for something I don't need there has been no reason to upgrade to Vista or Windows 7. So I'm interested to see what other frugal people are doing to record TV shows that are not available to be streamed on the internet (i.e. Oprah). Let me know your thoughts.