Mac Media Centre part two - Software

14 Jan 2006

FrontRow vs Others

So, now that everything is up and working, its time to find a GUI that will wrap it altogether. I could just use the default scripts in Salling Clicker to navigate between iPhoto, iTunes and DVD player using my phone, and this certainly works just fine. Lets face it though, a screen based interface is much nicer, and Frontrow is just the job. There’s the hack to get Frontrow running on macs that it isn’t meant to, and as mentioned above this works really well, but It’s a bit naughty, so lets look at the alternatives:

As mentioned in my sidenotes before, MediaCentral is a freeware FrontRow alternative. Its has a very simple interface – no icons or previews, just text arranged in a very iPod/Frontrow kind of way. This makes it faster to navigate, and works great. It has advantages over FrontRow too, as it also supports WebTV, EyeTV, AVI files and Video_TS folders. There is a Salling Clicker script to control it, but it isn’t as smooth as the FrontRow controller. Instead of just using the up/down/select buttons to navigate what you see on screen, it relays the menus back to the phone display, which I don’t find as easy. Also, there’s no option to view images in iPhoto.

Mediacentral main menu

Mediacentral iTunes menu

Centerstage is another project aimed at this area, and does include the functionality to view images from iPhoto. The initial screen where you choose which media to play looks good, but the interface from then on looks a little busy. Overall, Centerstage feels less like something I would want to use to browse, but its early days yet.

Centerstage main menu

Centerstage music menu

iTheater also looks promising (its open source too), and a public version is due to be released on 31st of this month, although this is a date thats been moving a lot in the past. Judging by the Storyboard PDF you can download from the site, it looks like a winner, but until the public release is out, who knows? One to watch.

Those are the dedicated ‘media centre’ apps, but there are 2 iTunes apps are worth mentioning:

Coverflow is my ideal way of browsing iTunes. I’d love it if this could be integrated into something like MediaCental as another way of browsing (you’d still need to access playlists and such easily, which you can’t do in Coverflow).

Coverflow

Coverbuddy offers a full screen view, but as far as I know, can’t be controlled by Salling Clicker. I also find its performance a bit jerky, even with a plain background. Handy if you have a Sony PSP though, as it can be used as a remote control.

There’s also the recently announced GriffinTuneCenter, but the limitations of iPod HD sizes rule that out for me.

So far, my favourite Frontrow alternative is Mediacentral, but I’m keen to see what iTheater have to offer. None of them quite have the finesse of FrontRow or the features of Windows Media Center, but it feels as if things are just starting to warm up.

Have I missed any? Let me know!

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