Archive for May, 2004

The Babelfish of Video Streams

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

I’ve already spouted the wonders of XBox Media Center before now. It’s apparent ability to handle all your living room media requirements, however they present themselves is unparalleled. However, it’s always a bit of a let down when you find that one video file that appears unable to play on it.

This was the situation earlier this week and the fact that Windows Media Player, even after codec installs couldn’t do a much better job was little consolation. Step in VideoLAN – the all purpose video player. I must admit when I first heard of VideoLAN that I didn’t really see the point in it, however I had been told of its babelfish-like ability to understand whatever codec a video file was encoded in and spew it out into whatever video your machine could understand. Sure enough, VideoLAN had no problem whatsoever with my obscure video codec and the picture and sound played perfectly. Brilliant!

Impressed, I was still however keen to watch this downstairs in the comfort of my living room instead of on my little 17″ computer screen. I think it was around this point that the genius of VideoLAN became obvious: Start a stream of this video on the PC upstairs using a more common codec and simply point XBMC at that stream. VideoLAN makes this very easy, and really the hardest part was simply picking which codec and protocols you’d like. After you’ve done that you simply hit “Go” and it starts streaming merrily away.

Downstairs on the XBox, XBMC needs to know where the stream is. I created a bookmark entry under the video section of XBoxMediaCenter.xml as follows:

<name>Iain's VideoLAN server</name>

Hit that and you’re away – XBMC simply connects to your PC and streams the video right off it.

*Edit:* Apologies to everyone that’s been trying to get this to work for the last few months. The explanation I’ve got here is incomplete. The way I have it set up is to create a file called (e.g.) VideoLAN.strm which contains the address and port of VideoLAN on your PC, e.g. You can then either share this file on your PC or FTP it to the playlists folder in XBMC and enqueue it when you want to connect to your VideoLAN stream.

Additionally, you should be able to directly reference that file inside XBoxMediaCenter.xml in the same way that you would reference a Samba share.

Browse Naked

Monday, May 10th, 2004

I’ve just uploaded a new mini-project of mine – Godiva Browser. Godiva Browser is designed to offer the most minimalist browsing interface possible so that a page can simply be opened with zero fuss (via a shortcut, for example) and then closed when you’re done.

Good for web interfaces on routers, etc.