Archive for the ‘XBMC for UK IPTV Internet TV’ Category

XBMC – Your “One Stop Shop” for UK Internet TV   3 comments

Main XBMC Screen with Videos Selected

Main XBMC Screen with Videos Selected

 

The screen image above shows an example XBMC set-up, with three sources of UK TV and YouTube installed under Videos. To view TV or watch YouTube you click one of the four icons.

Of course, XBMC is not a shop – it does not sell anything. It is a free computer program. It is Media Centre software – something which, until a year ago, I could happily live without. I had a vague idea of media centres and realised there must be more to it than just playing the occasional video on your PC.

Now I realise that a media centre is a collection of tools for managing your music and videos over your domestic local area network – your LAN. Fine if you have one of those and really want to access your videos from several laptops, desktops, tablets and your TV. Not me! At least, I didn’t think so. But something happened. The imminent loss of UK satellite TV in Europe.

It turns out that, along with streaming your in-house video collection to every conceivable  device, including your TV, a media centre can also stream live TV. Let’s be clear at this point. Sure, you can stream TV across your LAN to different screens – but a media centre can also manage the streaming (sort of downloading) of live and catch up TV from the internet.

True – you can already stream all the internet TV you could want on your  laptop – via websites such as iPlayer and FilmOn. But XBMC brings this all together under one roof, into a consistent user experience. I prefer to have XBMC running on the laptop with all my internet TV controlled by XBMC.  I don’t want to go to the iPlayer website to watch BBC and then to another site just to change channel. More important, though, you don’t actually need the laptop. Replace it with a small computer, a set-top box, and run XBMC on that instead and watch on the TV. Throw away the mouse and control the set-top box with a PC remote control.

Small XBMC Set-Top Box and Sony TV

Small XBMC Set-Top Box and Sony TV

TVCatchup

TVCatchup is a UK based internet TV provider of the UK’s Public Service Broadcast channels, including BBC and ITV.  You can watch TVCatchup on XBMC using the TVCatchup XBMC add-on.

If, because of the loss of UK TV, all your TV is via the internet, one thing you may miss is an electronic programme guide (EPG). A guide is to tell you what’s on and, of course, to switch channels. I presume that the EPG on a Sky satellite TV box will still work to show what is on. The only free internet TV EPG for the UK, that I know of, is part of the TVCatchup service.  The EPG is displayed when you select the TVCatchup icon from the main screen. Here’s a screenshot from XBMC of  the EPG:

TVCatchup Programme Guide

TVCatchup Programme Guide

 

The orange lines on the EPG (the vertical orange time-line and the horizontal orange lines) show the current programmes. On the image, ITV’s  “60 Minute Makeover” is selected. The programme starts when you press OK on the remote or click with a mouse. On the particular Sony TV shown in the photo,  the TV’s own remote can be used to control that small set-top box, called a Raspberry Pi.

My experience is that XBMC, even on a small set-top box, provides good quality video, that compares very favourably with anything I’ve seen. Screenshots taken when a channel is playing give an idea of video quality. These two shots are from XBMC streaming iPlayer live TV at high definition.

snooker2 snooker1

FilmOn

FilmOn is maybe the best known provider of free IPTV streams, including all the main UK TV channels. Selecting and switching channels on TVCatchup is easy with a remote or mouse. FilmOn can be a problem if you are running the FilmOn app on an Android IPTV box.

With XBMC, the ‘navigation’ required to switch channels in FilmOn is straightforward. FilmOn under XBMC is easier to control with a remote than the FilmOn Android app on an Android box.

FilmOn's UK Live TV Menu List

FilmOn’s XBMC UK Live TV Menu List

 

If you use FilmOn most of the time, you can leave a small XBMC box permanently switched on and showing the menu above. Of course, the menu does not have to be visible on the TV screen all the time. To change channels simply use the remote to return to the menu and then move through the list to select and OK the channel. In the screenshot, BBC2 is currently  selected.

It’s not so easy with the FilmOn app on an Android box. The app’s menu system is designed for a touch screen – not a remote. See below.

The FilmOn Android App Separates the Menu on the Left from the Video on the Right

The FilmOn Android App Separates the Menu on the Left from the Video on the Right

 

You need a mouse to move between the left and right sides of the menu screen, shown above. To change channels you click on the menu on the left. Then you use a mouse or remote to make the channel selection. If you do not subscribe to FilmOn’s HD video, the channel plays for about 30 seconds and then pauses. You are then given the option to continue watching in a low definition. If you opt to continue you can then maximise the video to full screen.  That process is repeated every time you change channel – very fiddly. Much easier on XBMC.

Remote Control for XBMC

You can use a PC remote control – preferably one which includes a mouse pad. You can use the Android App called Yatse on your phone or tablet. An ideal touch screen remote if you wish to use your phone or tablet for that purpose.

The Switch to the Astra 2E Satellite

The long-overdue switchover to the new satellite is now unlikely before Christmas. The indications are that satellite has still not started the move to its operational position. It is believed that the testing finished over a week ago, since when the satellite has simply been parked up at its test position.

It now seems unlikely that there will be time to move to  the operational position (maybe 15 days), check it out there and to begin full, commercial operations before the Christmas holidays. It seems likely that there will now be no switchover of the UK channels until the New Year.

A follow up to this post will cover how to install XBMC on a set-top box.