Thursday, May 13, 2010

XBMC Web Remote Control for Android and iPhone

NOTE:  I have created a new version of the remote that has many more features and is compatible with the latest version of XBMC.  Go here for details.

**NOTE: this will no longer work in the latest releases of XBMC Dharma and is left here in case anyone is still running older versions.

For those of you who don't know XBMC it is Home Theatre PC software. What's that you ask? Basically it is software you can run on you computer when it is connected to your television to give you a nice TV and remote control friendly interface for watching movies and listening to music etc. One of the best things about XBMC is that it runs on Linux, Windows and OSX so you can bask in its awesomeness no matter what OS you run.

Unfortunately the current XBMC web interface doesn't really work too well on small touchscreens like those on Android and iPhone so I decided to go ahead and write my own.

This is the Beta version of what I am calling XMBC Web Remote(XBMC-WR). It uses XBMC's built in webserver so installing it is as easy as copying it to XBMC's web folder. The XBMC Web Remote allows you to easily browse, play and queue up music and video from your phone or other touchscreen device.

Some of the key features:
-Ability to browse your Music, Video and Picture libraries
-Queue up videos and music
-View video and music playlists
-Play, pause, volume, etc.
-Menu navigation buttons

The Main Menu screen:

Selecting a video:

Playback Controls:

Installation on Ubuntu:

Step 1 - Enable XBMC web interface
Open XBMC and from the main menu select "System" then "Network".
In the Network Settings menu select "Enable control of XBMC via HTTP".

Step 2 - Install XBMC Remote
Open a terminal and then run the following commands..


sudo unzip -d/usr/share/xbmc/web

Installation on Windows

Step 1 - Enable XBMC web interface
Open XBMC and from the main menu select "System" then "Network".
In the Network Settings menu select "Enable control of XBMC via HTTP".

Step 2 - Install XBMC Remote
Download and run the installer

Installation on OSX

Step 1 - Enable XBMC web interface
Open XBMC and from the main menu select "System" then "Network".
In the Network Settings menu select "Enable control of XBMC via HTTP".

Step 2 - Install XBMC Remote
I'm not sure where the XBMC install folder is in OSX, I don't have a Mac to test it on. You should be able to download the zip file here and extract it to the "web" folder in you XBMC installation directory. If someone could test this out and let me know I'd appreciate it.

To test that the install is working start XBMC if it is not already running. Next open a browser (preferably Chrome as animations etc will only work in webkit based browsers) and go to the address

*Note: this assumes you are using the default port 8080

To use the remote from your Android device or iPhone just open a browser and go to:

http://<the ip of your XBMC box>:8080/remote

Any feedback, comments and feature requests are welcome. It is still in Beta so if there is something you would like added let me know and I'll do my best to get it in the final version.

You can check out the XBMC forums thread about the web remote at:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blumpit Firefox Plugin for Touchscreens Review and Walkthrough

I recently tried out a rather nifty Firefox plugin called Blumpit which is designed specifically for touchscreen devices. Blumpit is currently in alpha so it is still a work in progress but the alpha release is relatively stable and functional. My inital thoughts on Blumpit: Almost Awesome! When I say awesome I mean not just the product, but the idea. The use of a Firefox plugin to achieve the end result(ease of browsing on a touch screen) is a very novel idea and also means cross-platform compatibility. When I say almost I mean the product is still in the alpha stage and is not yet considered finished so there are plenty of rough edges. If the Blumpit team can polish it up before the final release then they will have a very slick applic ation which offers a universal touchscreen browsing experience regardless of the OS platform(as long as it runs Firefox).

I think the best feature of Blumpit is the the on screen keyboard. It works well and appears automatically when you click a text input on a web page and slides back into the bottom of the screen when not needed. Another nice feature is the "Web Applications" screen which functions kind of like a desktop, with big glassy icons for all your favourite web apps.

I guess the niche I could see Blumpit filling is for use on convertible netbooks/laptops which combine both a keyboard and a swivel around touchscreen for use in tablet mode. If you are using a touchscreen only device you are probably better off using a touchscreen oriented operating system like Android. I'm using it with the Asus eee T91 and Blumpit provides a quick and easy way for me to switch from a full desktop operating system to a touch based interface without the need to reboot.

One feature that is quite obviously missing from the alpha version is touch screen scrolling, however this can be easily overcome by installing Grab and Drag plugin for Firefox. Another feature that is missing is multi-tabbed browsing which I sincerely hope will be coming in the 1.0 release. Autocomplete on the search box is also missing but will hopefully be in the next release too.