If you haven’t heard of XBMC, it’s probably because you haven’t built a home theater PC before. XBMC is an essential framework to several HTPC programs, including most notably Boxee, DVDFab Media Player, and Plex. Not only that, but the software is impressive in its own right, offering an open-source solution to many of the tasks you might find suited to an Apple TV or Roku set-top box.
Basic features include add-on support for services like Pandora, Netflix, and Flickr, scraping of metadata from IMDB, vast codec support for all types of video and audio files, and user-customized skinning. This latest revision adds several key features that bring XBMC back to parity with competitors, even cribbing features like AirPlay support from the Apple TV. It also introduces XBMCbuntu, a free OS that launches straight into XBMC and is based on the Lubuntu variant of Ubuntu (which also ensures basic Linux app support like web browsing through Chromium and official/automatic Flash updates).
If you have last year’s PC lying around doing nothing, it might be worth hooking up to your HDTV with a fresh copy of ‘Eden’ in tow. With the slick updated interface and solid underpinnings to keep you busy, it may stave off an Apple TV, Roku, or Boxee Box purchase.