Windows/Mac/Linux: XBMC, our favourite software for setting up a custom media centre, upgraded to a new version this weekend with lots of new features. Here's a look at what you'll find.
New Versions for the Apple TV, iOS and Live
If you have an Apple TV or iOS device, XBMC finally has new, official versions for you to use. Everything's been upgraded and both versions are in sync with the Windows, Mac and Linux versions. There's also a new version of XBMC Live, now called XBMCbuntu. It's essentially an XBMC installation over an LXDE-based Ubuntu installation, and while it acts just like XBMC Live (that is, you never see the desktop if you don't want to), you now have the option of booting into a desktop and using a web browser, managing your files, and so on. It's also easier to upgrade than the old version of XBMC Live, which is great.
One of our favourite features in the new build is AirPlay support. Now, if you want to stream media to XBMC from iTunes, your iOS device, or even something like Airfoil, you can do so. XBMC should show up as a valid AirPlay destination from any AirPlay-capable device or program, for videos, pictures, and music (though XBMC on Windows does not support music yet, unfortunately). Most platforms will require a bit of setup to get this working, so check out the AirPlay entry of the XBMC wiki for more info.
Lots of Software Improvements
Eden also has software improvements across the board, from "massive speed increases" (thanks to dirty region rendering and a new JPEG decoder) to better networking support to better unencrypted Blu-Ray playback. It also has much better remote control support in Windows and the addition of GPU video decoding for AMD devices in Linux. In short, there are a lot of technical things that will make XBMC faster and easier to use overall.
A Much Easier to Use Default Interface
The Confluence interface, which comes with XBMC by default, has been vastly overhauled and should be a bit easier to use for newbies. Now, each option on the home screen has a number of sub-sections, so you can instantly see your "Movies", "TV Shows" and "Add-Ons" sections under Videos, for example. You can choose library mode or file mode right from the home screen without having to deal with the hidden menu, which was a big confusion point for new users. It also puts recently added items right on the home screen, which is a nice touch. Of course, you still have the option to customise the home screen as you see fit or install a new skin altogether — this is just a really nice update for people that don't like to mess with their media centres too much. You can read more about the Confluence updates over at the XBMC Blog.
Lastly, this version of XBMC introduces the ability to roll back your add-ons to a previous version. This is great if someone updates an add-on and it doesn't work well for you, or gets rid of a feature you really liked. Without any hassle, you can just head to the add-on's page in Settings and choose Rollback. You'll get a list of versions to choose from, and you can reinstall it right then and there. You can read more about this feature over at the XBMC Blog as well.
Of course, these are far from the only changes in XBMC 11, but they are the biggest. Check out the full changelog to see everything new, or head over to XBMC.org and download it for yourself. You can also check out the XBMC blog post on the subject by hitting the link below.
XBMC 11.0 - Eden [XBMC Blog]