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Media centers are becoming an increasingly popular way to manage and enjoy the vast amounts of music, video, photos and even games that we often enjoy from the comfort of our computers, and one of the best ways of enjoying this content is via a dedicated media center application such as XBMC.
Software such as this can be run on any computer that is full of video clips and any other content that you would like to share with friends or enjoy on a big screen, and you will probably find that there is even an interface for enjoying content from YouTube or other streaming services.
Of course, navigating your way around a media center from the comfort of your sofa might be tricky, which is why apps such as XBMC Remote for Windows Phone 7 come in useful. This app, available exclusively from the Windows Phone Marketplace for a little under $2.50 (a free trial is also on offer) is ideal for remotely controlling an XBMC system, and can be used to browse and launch any content that you have in your XBMC library!
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What is XBMC?
XBMC is one of several open source multimedia library manager and content interfaces that are available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It offers many of the same features as Windows Media Center, but with a few extras that Microsoft don’t include, such as integration with a wide variety of online video services.
As you might have suspected from the name, XBMC actually has its origins with the first Xbox console; the old Xbox Media Center software was designed to change a standard Xbox into a media center, and XBMC is a fork of that project which has adopted many new technologies that the original Xbox consoles could not deal with, such as high definition video, for instance.
If you’re interested in XBMC it is available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux and you can download it from http://xbmc.org. Even if you don’t have or plan to build a media center you can still run it on your computer.
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Configuring XBMC Remote
In order to take advantage of the options opened up by the XBMC Remote app, you will need to first configure the XBMC application and then the app on your Windows Phone.
Begin by launching XBMC on your computer, and navigating to System > Network > Services, where you will find the options that you need to configure.
First of all, you will need to instruct the interface to Allow control of XBMC via HTTP, and then enter a preferred Port number (the default value of 80 is best left alone), a Username and a Password. You should also select both Allow programs on this system to control XBMC and Allow programs on other systems to control XBMC.
With these changes made, close the view and then switch to your Windows Phone and launch XBMC Remote. Here, drag the ellipses up from the foot of the screen to open the Connections menu and click the + symbol to create a new connection, entering the details as requested and matching the username and password to those setup in the XBMC network screen. Save these details, hit Back on your phone and then select the new connection and click the Select (tick) button to begin the connection to your XBMC installation.
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Using XBMC and the Windows Phone Controller
With everything setup you will be ready to start enjoying the benefits of both XBMC and the XBMC Remote on your Windows Phone.
Using the controls on the app display you can easily navigate up, down, left and right around the XBMC user interface, with the OK button in the center provided to allow you to make your selections and the play/pause and forward/back buttons at the top of the app for controlling the video, streamed Internet content, music or photos you are enjoying.
The menu and back buttons are also available on the app, allowing you to enjoy full remote access over your XBMC without the bother of a wireless keyboard and mouse.
However, there is more. You don’t even have to use the app as a standard remote control, pointing it at your TV and tapping buttons: this very useful app also features a movie, music and TV browser, which you can use to find and select the content you wish to play.
What this means is that all of the information that you have stored about each song or video file – such as a preview image, title, duration, etc., gets displayed on your Windows Phone, making browsing content easier and selecting the track you want to playback on your media center absolutely simple!
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Author's own experience.
Screenshots provided by author.