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Television Media Software

Boxee vs. Zinc vs. Hulu 116

For those with a Windows PC and some time for TV, DeviceGuru writes "Which is the best Internet media streaming application for a media-center PC? Boxee, Zinc, or the new Hulu Desktop? A post at DeviceGuru.com reviews these three media streaming platforms and draws some interesting conclusions. Key pros and cons are tabulated and numerous screenshots are included. Interestingly, despite lots of Boxee hype, Zinc already has a number of valuable features that Boxee is scrambling to add to its next version, due out in the fall. On the other hand, Boxee boasts far more third-party content-access applications support."
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Boxee vs. Zinc vs. Hulu

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  • None of them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:17AM (#28512577)

    Since stupid rights managements mean they're only usable in one country.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by AtomicJake ( 795218 )

      Since stupid rights managements mean they're only usable in one country.


    • Re:None of them (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:57AM (#28512911) Homepage Journal

      Agreed that they aren't too useful for me, but Boxee does torrents and runs on Linux, so it's really my only choice of the three.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RyoShin ( 610051 )

      Why isn't there some company in another country trying to do the same thing? Won't be as much American TV, obviously, but surely there are European companies trying to make a European(-country) version of Boxee/Hulu/Zinc.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        As an American with taste, I'm not interested in american TV.

        i actually find that the BBC and stuff made in Australia are far better and less "stupefied" than the crap we get here.

        Seriously, the Us population Must be drooling morons if you base it on what is poplar on our TV networks.

        • There's good stuff everywhere. Despite the fact that most of the stuff on Hulu is garbage, I still find plenty of good, fun stuff to watch. You needn't be so condescending. It's not like Britain and Australia and everywhere else doesn't have garbage TV, too.

          Now, if there were a way to get BBC stuff via a Hulu-like service, I would be in hog heaven. But there's always Netflix, and for those series I really love, buying the DVDs. We have the complete Red Dwarf, Jeeves and Wooster, Monty Python, Fawlty To

        • Just wandering, (if you've seen any) what do you think of Canadian comedy and TV? As one of the very few people in Southern Ontario who actually knows what the term "Americanization" means, I'd like to hear the opinion of say Corner Gas of someone with taste living in the middle of the Televised hellhole. Its bad enough that a good 95% of what I get up here is Americanized, I'd like to know if what little distinction remains is actually good or if I'm just holding on to the last bit of non mainstream Americ
      • Zattoo? [zattoo.com]
    • Re:None of them (Score:4, Informative)

      by daybot ( 911557 ) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:34AM (#28513237)

      I use Hulu from the UK through the Witopia VPN [witopia.net] service. Such services totally break IP-based location checking systems.

      • by Blade ( 1720 )

        I tried a couple of VPN solutions, they did work but performance was terrible.

        • Depends where you are. I found myself a nice VPS on the US east coast for $7 a month with unmetered bandwidth. I manage to get 150KB/s to it from South Africa, combining this with FoxyProxy allows me to watch YouTube videos and the like faster than through my normal connection.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Since stupid rights managements mean they're only usable in one country.

      Uhm, Boxee has the BBC iPlayer for use in the UK, is actively trying to get Canadian content, and has many "Apps" that are location agnostic.

  • Zinc (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:29AM (#28512649) Journal

    Wasn't Zinc just proved to cause loss of smell in people? Then I guess you wouldn't be able to tell if it stinks or not!

  • Fixed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:32AM (#28512675)
    "For those US residents with a Windows PC and some time for TV"

    There, fixed.

    As a non-US resident, Mininova is still the best bang for the buck to me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by azior ( 1302509 )

      slashdot focuses mainly on the us, but i'd like to see statistics of their userbase... i wouldn't be surprised that alot of users are from other countries, as google would seem to indicate: http://www.google.com/trends?q=slashdot.org [google.com]

      • Unusual behavior. I follow the link you sent and if I continuously click 'Search Trends' on slashdot.org (as you provided), I see a noticeably larger spike randomly appear in 2007 Q4. Maybe a graphic rendering issue? Can anyone reproduce this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nsebban ( 513339 )
      And yet, those big corporations keep wondering how they could make those silly non-american people pay for their content.
      • Don't feel singled out. By and large they're making the american people pay for their content too.

  • by paziek ( 1329929 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:38AM (#28512731)

    For some it doesn't matter. For example, if u are on linux, then it boils down to Boxee and... Boxee. (Assuming that crappy table in "conclusions" switched OS Support columns)
    If you are outside US, then again, it limits your choice.
    So, this might be relevant, but only for people living in US and using Windows.

    Also, there are Linux only solutions, like for example MythTV, can't say about selection of videos there thou... I guess its small.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      (sorry guys: OSes now corrected in the table)
    • What are you talking about? I'm on Linux and I think Hulu is the best of them. The only thing I don't like about it is that fullscreen is choppy on my Intel VGA chipset.

  • WMC plugins? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WiglyWorm ( 1139035 )
    Are these stand alone apps or WMC plugins? I have a windows vista (I know, I know, but I've had a ton of issues getting mythbuntu to work and work well) box running the Media Browser [mediabrowser.tv] plugin, and it's a really awesome set up. It automatically adds my new media to its library (this is a basic WMC feature), it pulls movie posters, cast information, and all relevant metadata from IMDB... it's just all in all fantastic. I'm not looking to add another standalone program to my HTPC box, but I would be fine with
    • Re:WMC plugins? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Excelcior ( 1390167 ) <excelciorNO@SPAMalleylamp.com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:55AM (#28512885) Homepage
      Hulu Desktop is nothing more than a dedicated browser for the Hulu website. It gives you a flashier interface, smoother video playback, and [in my experience] better buffering. It's entirely Flash-based.
      That having been said, I've switched over to it exclusively for my Hulu viewing. One less program running (IE) is a huge benefit on my less-than-stellar Celeron when playing full-screen video.
      It does not, however, display your media library, or in any other way act like a Media Center application.

      • Re:WMC plugins? (Score:5, Informative)

        by djtachyon ( 975314 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:55AM (#28513441) Homepage Journal
        Exactly! .. To me this is a bogus article and story. If you are going to compare something, at least try to stay in the same genre of software/services. Oh, and maybe add a few more of the well qualified choices. Hey let me give it a try!

        Media Center Software:
        • Boxee/XBMC
        • Windows Media Center
        • Media Portal (I'm using now, may switch to Boxee 4 Windows)
        • Zinc
        • Beyond TV
        • MythTV
        • SageTV
        • Freevo
        • GeexBox
        • VDR
        • Cyberlink PowerCinema
        • Nero Home
        • WinDVD Media Center
        • xHub
        • Media Central
        • Centerstage
        • The list goes on and on...

        Streaming Content Services:

        • Netflix
        • Hulu
        • CBS
        • BBC
        • CNN
        • Comedy Central
        • YouTube
        • etc..etc..etc..

        so .. apples to apples next time?

    • by mozzis ( 231162 )
      In my experience, Zinc doesn't get in the way of WMC at all. I used Link Studio from Greenbutton.org to create a link to Zinc under More Programs, so I can even launch it with the remote from within MCE. FWIW Zinc also has a launcher for MCE in it, haven't tried it though.
    • by john83 ( 923470 )

      The hulu site says it's optimized for WMC, but seems to indicate it is a standalone program. Does anyone have experience with it?

      I used it while I was in the US. I found it didn't buffer nearly enough, and eventually gave up on it entirely. That was on a windows box with all the bandwidth a university provides.

  • Plex (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I prefer Plex over all of those. Surprised it was not included.

  • I tend to agree that the "social" aspect of boxee is a bit in the way in the main interface, but what the reviewer didn't mention is whether zinc or hulu do anything with local media. From the zinc website it seems like it too can scan local media like boxee, what I would have liked in the review is some coverage over how well each one worked. In my experience, boxee does a really good job at this and includes a built-in interface for correcting the mistakes (aka Wrong Video link). I do agree that boxee

    • Why did you convert away? Add a menu entry to mythtv that launches boxee (literally 3 lines in an xml file) and that way when boxee crashes (which it does, its alpha) you're back to mythtv, and you can still watch live tv. That's my current setup (in the midst of a painful 8.04 -> 8.10 -> 9.04 upgrade since boxee abandoned Ubuntu LTS [grr..]).

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by neotokyo ( 465238 )

        Other than the livetv part, there isn't much to love in mythtv. Mythvideo is *horrible*. It doesn't have much in the way of automatically finding and acquiring metadata around your local media. The navigation menu assumes one big flat folder with everything in it. While it does work with directory trees, you end up having to click through that to get the video. Boxee really shines here -- it separates TV series from movies, and for tv shows, groups them according to season. This was exactly what I wan

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          Actually Boxee falls down here even harder unless you are using
          the Browse view in which case you are using it in the same way
          that you would be using MythVideo. Separating movies from show
          and then throwing them in a big pile isn't really an improvement.

          • Not sure why it fails for you, but I have a fully populated Movie and TV browsing in Boxee -- I never use Browse because everything is in either Movie or TV. You may want to look at the boxee forums on media naming conventions to ensure it can classify your local media correctly.

        • Yes, but MythTV NEVER crashes. It is ROCK solid (on my hardware anyhow). I love boxee for all the reasons you mentioned, but with one click of the remote, I can relaunch it from my MythTV main menu (which is the main use myth gets now :) )

          • That's a very fair point on stability. Boxee certainly could use something that can restart it when it crashes; mythtv frontend makes a nice place to do that.

            • Although it IS overkill for just a remote control launcher.. but I DO use it for live tv viewing and recording some OTA HD series.

  • MythTV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:54AM (#28512881)
    Why settle for a bunch of DRM streaming that they will pull the run out from under you at any time. Most of the content is available to be recorded or you can rent. Either it will not have commercials or MythTV will automatically skip them. You get to pick what happens.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      How do you use MythTV without breaking the law and without having a tuner/etc in your computer? All of these sites do that quite well.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Well of course you have a tuner in your computer.

        Or you could "break the law" I suppose and buy your own content.

        That would be an interesting lawsuit. One wonders if the judge would
        throw it out as soon as he saw it.

        "You see your honor, we want to punish this fellow because he bought
        a bunch of our stuff and didn't use it in exactly the way we wanted it."

      • How do you use MythTV without breaking the law and without having a tuner/etc in your computer? All of these sites do that quite well.

        For over-the-area channels, you can get an hdhomerun [silicondust.com] and stream the raw transport stream via ethernet. Plays well with MythTV. [mythtv.org]

      • Re:MythTV (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:15AM (#28514375)
        If you think you are breaking the law watching content you record you are a victim of propaganda.
        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          The same goes for CD or DVD rips.

          This is just stupid nonsense FUD intended to make open systems look unecessarily bad.

          I suppose I could just buy all of the stuff I have on DVD as iTunes files but
          I would end up paying more, would be highly restricted in terms of what devices
          I can play back on and I would have a lot narrower selection of videos to choose

          iTunes looks cool as long as you don't pay any attention to Amazon or Tivo.

        • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

          Where did I say I had recorded anything, or that recording anything was illegal?

          Reread my message again keeping in mind that those are requirements and not veiled slams on -anything-.

      • Some of us *don't* care about breaking STUPID laws.

    • Why settle for a bunch of DRM streaming that they will pull the run out from under you at any time. Most of the content is available to be recorded or you can rent. Either it will not have commercials or MythTV will automatically skip them. You get to pick what happens.

      The big thing is: any content you want, whenever you want, free and legal. While Cable's network OnDemand feature combats this, it's less comprehensive than Hulu.

      It has a large catalog of older stuff that I cannot find (or easily find) on current Cable / Fios to record. If I'm suddenly in the mood to watch a mini-marathon of "Buck Rogers," "The A-Team" or SciFi's "The Invisible Man" I can just hop onto Hulu and view it legally. If I want to rent, then I'd have to rely on Netflix (since the Blockbusters n

      • by Dan667 ( 564390 )
        All great until they no longer have it on their site or they decide that they are not making enough money and pull the plug. Then what are you going to do? Mythtv can still have it on a terabyte disk recorded legally (and you do know Mythtv can have as many tuners as you like right? half a dozen, no problem).
        • All great until they no longer have it on their site or they decide that they are not making enough money and pull the plug. Then what are you going to do? Mythtv can still have it on a terabyte disk recorded legally (and you do know Mythtv can have as many tuners as you like right? half a dozen, no problem).

          Fine, when they start pulling the content I care about or pull Hulu all-together then I'll worry. When things change, I'll change with them.

          But MythTv still doesn't solve everything. As I said, recording isn't they best option if you want something dated or something you didn't think of recording. And renting is something a hassle, as in my case the rental places near me have very poor TV selections, and Netflix requires waiting at least 2 days.

          Yes I'm aware of MythTv's abilities. But it still comes dow

          • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

            MythTV (or even Boxee) allows you to decide what remains online. For
            Hulu, Buck Rogers is perhaps not the best example because it's about the
            cheapest thing out there. OTOH, Alien Nation doesn't seem to be online
            (the series, not the movies). So just in the first section you've got a
            relatively recent series that doesn't seem to be available.

            The DRM problem ultimately leads to usability issues relative to
            more sophisticated playback methods. Little things like bookmarks,

        • Why not just have both? Aren't more options better? I have an entry in my MythTV main menu that launches boxee. See, we can all play nice. I can have the stuff I care about on local disk. I can stream what's available as its convenient. Either way it means I haven't paid a cable/satellite/content company a dime in over two years :).

  • I have really been liking Zinc - very smooth operation, plus it looks so cool. Since I can use Zinc to access Hulu (and it does a pretty good job of runing Hulu - maximizing when it can, letting me pause and skip and so forth with the remote) and so many other sources, I see no need for Hulu Desktop. My Media Center bliss is nearly complete... If only it would aggregate Justin TV (a nice source which could really use a UI makeover)
  • Screw them ALL! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarkSarin ( 651985 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:02AM (#28512965) Homepage Journal

    Since none of them support OS X unless you have an Intel processor, I'm ticked at them all. XBMC DOES, but so far I can't get it to stream Netflix OR Hulu (there are ways, but they require you to have another computer and to purchase Playon...FAIL).

    Look, I'm not going to shell out hundreds of dollars just to have a media center computer. I happen to have some older hardware that is suitable for the task. PPC support makes sense because I think a fair number of people are walking the same path. So until Boxee gets off their collective butts and decides to support PPC, I'll pass.

    • Re:Screw them ALL! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by macaddict ( 91085 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:34AM (#28513233)

      Since none of them support OS X unless you have an Intel processor

      Hulu does. I'm running Hulu Desktop on a G5.

    • Let me summarize what you are saying, "I don't know why new software isn't supported on a computer and OS that is 3-4 years old. Good thing I have something older that works. Until these new software makers decide to support my old hardware, I won't be able to use them."
    • I'm running virtual box on ubuntu with a windows 7 VM and I am watching them that way....of course my desktop is pretty Beefy
    • I run Boxee on a 3 year old Mac Mini, though it's Intel-based, and it works just fine. If you feel like hiring someone to update the code that's necessary for decoding everything on PPC, then feel free. I'm sure they'd be happy to help you out once you provide the resources to get someone "off of his/her non-collective butt". But, once you start wanting to view HD content that's heavily compressed, good luck using that old PPC system without massive stuttering.
  • Apple TV for me (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjvn ( 11568 ) <sjvn@vn[ ]com ['a1.' in gap]> on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:06AM (#28512999) Homepage

    Nice overview Rick.

    For myself, I'm still finding that Apple TV and iTunes are the best combo. The new Apple TV firmware upgrade 2.4--http://practical-tech.com/entertainment/apple-tv-2-4-well-worth-the-download/--in particular has really made the Apple TV more useful than ever. Apple doesn't whisper a word of it, but the code's really been cleaned up and the result is a much more efficient media box.

    The list of my problems with that combo--starting with the simple fact that it's proprietary as proprietary can be--is longer than my arm. Still, for me it's the best choice.


    • AppleTV is a strong offering. I had considered it in setting up my own HTPC. Especially considering it can be hacked to run Boxee, also. So what is missing within AppleTV can be supplemented by Boxee. The main thing I felt was absent within AppleTV was support for viewing local content stored in a variety of formats (DIVX for example).

      I also had an idle AMD XP3200-based mobo system laying around, so I just went with that and a Ubuntu OS. The persistent advantage of AppleTV over the linux route is you get
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        The Apple remote is a joke with too few buttons to be really useful or usable.

        Even if I were running MacOS on my Macs I would still replace it in favor
        of a less pretentious remote control.

        Beyond that stupid remote, the ATV a very nice form factor. Although it is a little
        underpowered. It doesn't have enough CPU or GPU to handle the larger h264 files.

        Something like a popcorn hour is more future proof.

        • Try using the Boxee remote app on an iPod Touch or iPhone. Then come back here and tell us that the AppleTV remote has too few buttons.

          Because there are no physical buttons on the Boxee Remote, you have to look at the handset to make every single navigational click. Then you have to look at the tv screen to verify the navigation through the interface. To preserve battery power, you have to sleep your iPhone, and when it wakes up, you have to go through the process of re-launching the Boxee remote app and i
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Hack the apple TV to run XBMC. all done.

        it even plays the 720p local video files on my NAS perfectly.

  • I had been using rtorrent, pytvshows, screen, and rtgui to manage media downloads on my mythbox. I've since switched over to boxee, although it's running on top of the same mythbuntu install I was using before, and could easily revert back to. I don't really use the streaming apps boxee includes, not do I need to use its torrent capabilities since my own system is more robust. Boxee won me over simply because the interface looks slicker, it grabs cover art and show information automatically, gives one-cl
  • PC or Platform (Score:4, Interesting)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:09AM (#28513561)

    The summery first talks about the PC and then about a platform. Which is it?

    For the PC I prefer MPlayer-plugin with Firefox. As a platform I use my Linux hosting and as a player I use http://www.gdd.ro/gddflvplayer.html [www.gdd.ro]

  • I for one want more of a "youtube" experience so far as the tech goes- I want to be able to see the services on my archos and ps3 and whatever other media device supports flash and streaming media rather than having to install a PC application in order to view it- I want to sit on my couch or in a hotspot watching not in front of the computer since there are already a ton of options if I wanted to sit in front of the computer

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.