Complete "HTPC/XBMC For Dummies" guide

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cfsb78 Offline
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Post: #1
Hello XBMC Community,

After assembling a number of XBMC HTPCs on both Windows and Ubunutu platforms and hours of Googling and searching for answers, I have come to the conclusion that a complete "For Dummies" style guide is needed. This document would attempt to cover all available features and a number of plugins available and how to find/install them. I am considering assembling such a resource. I know a number of small guides already exist but this resource would be much more complete and aimed toward complete novices. More than likely I would target the Ubuntu platform, since user would be able to acquire and install the operating system and all media free of charge.

I am hoping to gather suggestions and input from the community as to what this book/guide should include. What did you struggle with most? What causes you the most headaches? Below is a list of topics I have started compiling from brainstorming sessions. I will be combing the forums and web for more ideas/input over the next two weeks and plan to come up with an outline by then. I welcome any feedback and/or help for this effort.

- What is HTPC, Why XBMC?
- XBMC for Ubuntu
- General Installation and Setup
- Hardware Requirements/Recommendations/Discussion
- Optimizing XBMC Configuration
- Launching XBMC at startup
- MythTV and XBMC
- Creating and Maintaining your Media library
- XBMC and Emulator/ROMS setup (ZSNES, GameBoy emulators, Mupen64)
- Using game controllers/remote controls with XBMC
- Skins: What they are, how to develop your own
- Using and Installing Plugins (complete list)
- Music Addons, Video Addons, Picture Addons, Program Addons, 3rd Party Repositories
- What scrapers are, how to use them
- XBMC controls via Smarthphone/Tablet
- XBMC for Android
- XBMC community and available resources
- Descriptions of Indie Channels/Networks available on XBMC
(This post was last modified: 2012-07-25 05:58 by cfsb78.)
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wilson.joe Offline
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Post: #2
Is the intent of putting such a guide together to publish like the books out for mythtv that end up outdated by the time they are purchased.

In a world without walls and fences who needs windows and gates, open source, opens minds, so open yours today.

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Ned Scott Offline
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Post: #3
Or you could help out with our existing XBMC Wiki, which hosts the user manual, skinning manual, developer notes, etc.

But if you want to do something yourself, feel free to use the Wiki's content as a starting point, as all the content is free to use under CC-SA-BY.

You can make easy links to the XBMC wiki using double brackets around words: [[debug log]] = debug log, [[Add-on:YouTube]] = Add-on:YouTube, [[Adding videos to the library]] = Adding videos to the library, [[userdata]] = userdata, etc
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brando56894 Offline
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Post: #4
IMO the best and quickest solution to a simple HTPC install is to use OpenELEC, the installation takes about 5 minutes and boom you have everything ready and a ton of plugins at your disposal. This doesn't hold true if you want to use your HTPC for anything other than XBMC though....
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MassIV Offline
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Post: #5
How would that look according to you?
Maybe you could show an example of one point that can be compared to the wiki?
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srinir Offline
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Post: #6
(2012-07-25 05:57)cfsb78 Wrote:  Hello XBMC Community,

After assembling a number of XBMC HTPCs on both Windows and Ubunutu platforms and hours of Googling and searching for answers, I have come to the conclusion that a complete "For Dummies" style guide is needed. This document would attempt to cover all available features and a number of plugins available and how to find/install them. I am considering assembling such a resource. I know a number of small guides already exist but this resource would be much more complete and aimed toward complete novices. More than likely I would target the Ubuntu platform, since user would be able to acquire and install the operating system and all media free of charge.

I am hoping to gather suggestions and input from the community as to what this book/guide should include. What did you struggle with most? What causes you the most headaches? Below is a list of topics I have started compiling from brainstorming sessions. I will be combing the forums and web for more ideas/input over the next two weeks and plan to come up with an outline by then. I welcome any feedback and/or help for this effort.

- What is HTPC, Why XBMC?
- XBMC for Ubuntu
- General Installation and Setup
- Hardware Requirements/Recommendations/Discussion
- Optimizing XBMC Configuration
- Launching XBMC at startup
- MythTV and XBMC
- Creating and Maintaining your Media library
- XBMC and Emulator/ROMS setup (ZSNES, GameBoy emulators, Mupen64)
- Using game controllers/remote controls with XBMC
- Skins: What they are, how to develop your own
- Using and Installing Plugins (complete list)
- Music Addons, Video Addons, Picture Addons, Program Addons, 3rd Party Repositories
- What scrapers are, how to use them
- XBMC controls via Smarthphone/Tablet
- XBMC for Android
- XBMC community and available resources
- Descriptions of Indie Channels/Networks available on XBMC

Sounds like a great idea.

Best place to document this would be in the wiki so it becomes a community asset that people can contribute to and use.

Please post a link here if you create a skeleton for this on the wiki.
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Ned Scott Offline
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Post: #7
(2012-07-26 03:24)srinir Wrote:  Sounds like a great idea.

Best place to document this would be in the wiki so it becomes a community asset that people can contribute to and use.

Please post a link here if you create a skeleton for this on the wiki.

Again, most of this is already on the wiki right now. We just need people to help keep things updated, connect links between pages, etc. It's all nice and fine to say "that would be great" but if no one does it then it never happens.

You can make easy links to the XBMC wiki using double brackets around words: [[debug log]] = debug log, [[Add-on:YouTube]] = Add-on:YouTube, [[Adding videos to the library]] = Adding videos to the library, [[userdata]] = userdata, etc
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freakydisco Offline
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Post: #8
Again, most of this is already on the wiki right now. We just need people to help keep things updated, connect links between pages, etc. It's all nice and fine to say "that would be great" but if no one does it then it never happens.

Bull. It is without a doubt the worst wiki I have ever used. The information is about as useful as telling someone "To change the tires on your car, remove the present tires and replace with new ones." That doesn't really explain which tools to use and which steps to follow in a comprehensible way... unless you've already gone to the trouble of familiarizing yourself with the entire wiki. Click here and open another page to see what I mean. And then click another page to see what that page means. And then click open four more windows to understand the terms referenced on those pages. After giving up on XBMC many many years ago because I found it too frustrating and convoluted compared to other media centers, I managed to figure it out through trial and error and advice from friends. Click here to see which friends and what they said. However, when I decided to google one simple question hoping for a straight answer, I found pages upon pages of useless information that assumed I was familiar with code and jargon which totally escapes me. Click here to see which code and jargon I'm referring to. I'm not a stupid person by any means. In fact, I'm usually the person everyone calls for help with technology. Click here to see what kind of technology. But even I find myself clicking on link after link, going in circles, taking more steps to find an answer than are likely involved in solving the problem. I shouldn't have to open 16 browser tabs just to get an answer that could be summed up in a sentence or a simple FAQ. Click here to see the FAQ. Alas, I have to research and understand the inner workings of the entire system just to stumbles across a simple command. If people easily understood the wiki, they wouldn't be asking for a simpler version -- so responding to requests for a coherent explanation shouldn't be answered with replies like "it's already there." Click here to see what's already there. Do you get it yet?? Are you annoyed?? Going back to my car analogy, a person who has never changed a tire needs to be walked through it in terms the average Joe will understand. But alas... I've learned to take apart my car in less time and I still can't figure out an answer to my XBMC woes. I've been struggling with XBMC on and off for eight years now. I learned to drive, fix my own car, started my own business, and renovate a house in less than two. The wiki is friggin ridiculous Frown
(This post was last modified: 2013-04-02 06:30 by freakydisco.)
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Martijn Offline
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Post: #9
Just seems that a bit if self reading is too much.
Hundred thousands of users have managed to get it working and now all of a sudden the wiki is total crap.
Sure,sure

Always read the XBMC online-manual, FAQ and search the forums before posting.
Do NOT e-mail Team-XBMC members asking for support. Read/follow the forum rules.
For troubleshooting and bug reporting, make sure you read this first

For your mediacenter artwork go to
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(This post was last modified: 2013-04-02 10:00 by Martijn.)
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pecinko Offline
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Post: #10
(2013-04-02 06:37)Martijn Wrote:  Just seems that a bit if self reading is too much.
Hundred thousands of users have managed to get it working and now all of a sudden the wiki is total crap.
Sure,sure

May I suggest NOT continuing with a previous poster's style and instead answering:

1.Please use examples of what exactly needs to improve
2. Do not use that kind of language, please
3. Posts not comfirming with above will be deleted as useless

My skins:

Amber
Quartz

(This post was last modified: 2013-04-02 10:00 by Martijn.)
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Martijn Offline
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Post: #11
Like said give specific examples where and what needs changing or improving. Saying it's all bad is simply not true. Sure it needs improving but it is far from totaly useless and the worst there is
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artrafael Offline
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Post: #12
(2013-04-02 06:29)freakydisco Wrote:  I've been struggling with XBMC on and off for eight years now. I learned to drive, fix my own car, started my own business, and renovate a house in less than two. The wiki is friggin ridiculous Frown

So in your 8-year ordeal with XBMC, you've only just decided today to register to the forums... and then only to bitch about the inadequacy of the wiki? You could have had your questions asked and answered over this 8-year period if only you had been more pro-active about seeking help. Of course, today *is* April 1, so I'll leave it at that.
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nickr Online
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Post: #13
Well the powers that be can be a little defensive, but the wiki does have it's dead pages, wrong pages, confusing pages and circular links...

Wikis do tend to become unmanageable, and outdated. The lack of version info and dates of the posts (unless you start tracking through the page changes) is a problem.

But it is far from the worst wiki I have ever used.

Freakydisco, you have obviously joined here to help, so get a wiki account and start fixing!

If I have helped you or increased your knowledge, click the plus button and increase my reputation :)
(This post was last modified: 2013-04-02 07:34 by nickr.)
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Ned Scott Offline
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Post: #14
(2013-04-02 06:29)freakydisco Wrote:  Again, most of this is already on the wiki right now. We just need people to help keep things updated, connect links between pages, etc. It's all nice and fine to say "that would be great" but if no one does it then it never happens.

Bull. It is without a doubt the worst wiki I have ever used. *snip*

Actually, the root problem is XBMC. A perfect program shouldn't require a manual. It should either be intuitive or have some kind of in-app guide/wizard/descriptive settings/whatever.

We just can't have everything we want. We can't have a free, open source, super flexible and powerful media center, without some complexity. At least not without time. Even then, as time goes on, more features get added, cycle repeats. We're improving, sure, but I doubt there will be a time when XBMC doesn't require a manual for something. We should aim for never needing a manual, but that would mean stopping all other development, kidnapping more developers, and forcing them at gunpoint to develop something that might not even fit everyone's needs. By the time it wouldn't need a manual, it would be outdated and no one would want to use it anymore.


About the wiki:

The wiki has it's problems, for sure, but it's a wiki. Everything is editable on a wiki. Every. Single. Letter.

I know about wikis, but I have to learn about manuals. I wasn't born knowing how to teach. When I write a how-to, I have to figure out an easy way to state something for other people to understand, or making sure it isn't overwhelming, or the advice doesn't break something else. Often it also involves learning about that topic in XBMC in the first place (no one person, not even on Team XBMC, knows the in's and out's of every single feature off the top of their head.)

Because the wiki is so editable, that also means often coming up with the layout and navigation from scratch. How should a group of topics be laid out? Should they be separate pages? Does that look like a wall of text, thus making multiple smaller pages better? But then you have to hop around pages? Where do you draw the line?

Ah, but there's technical solutions to some of this. The wiki has what's called templates and labeled section transclusion, which I'm slowly working into various pages. Basically, it's a way to have information show up in multiple places, but only have to update/edit it from one place. That way you can have specific pages for a task, without having to hop around to other pages, but without having to worry about those specific pages becoming outdated.

Still, I had to learn how to install those wiki extensions to enable this, and learn how to best use them. Then I have to learn how to teach other people to use them. Even after all that, those tools only make it easier, they still don't do the job for you.

On top of that, most of the content on the wiki existed long before I joined Team XBMC, and it's a lot to go through. Most of it just needs some reorganization to make things easier to find. You should have seen it when it still talked about the xbox being supported and some things would have 5 pages on the same topic, because 5 different people started pages without knowing about the other 4 pages. We've come a long way since then.

Did I mention that I'm a human that has to work to feed myself, and no one gets paid to work on the wiki?

We basically said "help us improve this, because we already know it's not the best" and instead of giving feedback and being part of the solution, you've dismissed the entire thing, including all the countless hours that I've personally spent on it. That's a good way to tick people off.

You can make easy links to the XBMC wiki using double brackets around words: [[debug log]] = debug log, [[Add-on:YouTube]] = Add-on:YouTube, [[Adding videos to the library]] = Adding videos to the library, [[userdata]] = userdata, etc
(This post was last modified: 2013-04-02 20:48 by Ned Scott.)
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bmsovick Offline
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Post: #15
I've also looked for something slightly more user friendly than the current wiki, however Ned's post has inspired me not to give up on it! Keep up the good work bro and thanks!
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