Windows - Intel NUC to replace AppleTV2 - Simplicity needed!

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MartyNg Offline
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I currently run a jailbroken AppleTV2 with XBMC. Seeing as how these are selling for $250 - $350 on eBay, I'm thinking this might be a good time to do a fun upgrade project.

On the AppleTV, all I use is:
-Official Netflix App
-XBMC to play video from a USB drive hooked to my router

The AppleTV plugs right into my TV via HDMI. I have no interest in 5.1 sound, or whatever the newest format is. I also have no interest in Blu-Ray playback. This Intel NUC is going for about $170 and looks like it would do everything I need. I would run either Windows 7 or 8 on it as I already have licenses for both.
http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Next-Computi...pXp3_0_0_0

My reason for upgrading is to have a more functional box hooked up to my TV, potentially for some web surfing or light gaming. My only issue is the simplicity of the AppleTV. My family and guests love the simplicity of the AppleTV menu. Is this possible to replicate on a Windows box? What I am envisioning is a "simple mode" that would only have Netflix and XBMC, I would leave it on this mode all the time, except when I need Windows functionality, at which point I would quit the simple menu. I would like a simple remote like the AppleTV remote for guests.

I already have this USB Keyboard/Trackball remote, which I would use myself, but keep hidden from guests.
[Image: 51AdKBrEujL.jpg]

Any suggestions on how to have a "simple mode" like I described? How about a "simple remote"? Thanks for any suggestions!
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Dougie Fresh Offline
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Post: #2
Dual boot Windows + OpenELEC?
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eirki Offline
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Post: #3
I am planning on buying a NUC for a similar usage scenario as you: a simple Windows HTPC for Netflix and local files.

I am seeing one potential problem, which is remote control. The version you have linked to does not come with an infrared receiver (the newest NUCs do), which means you would have to buy some sort of remote+dongle to have your guests be able to control it. I think USB IR dongles can be finnicky sometomes (for instance, I've heard they cannot be used to turn an htpc on). I intend on solving this by going for the newest haswell NUC. It is more expensive, but has built-in IR, which (I think) means that can be turned on via remote. (For more laborious tasks, I'll use a logitech k400, hidden away from guests like your USB Keyboard/Trackball remote)

Beyond that, I am not 100 % there exists a remote friendly version of Netflix for windows. The Windows 8 netflix app comes close, but it is really design for touch or mouse use. Lifehacker recently posted this guide on how to integrate Netflix as a remote friendly plugin to XBMC. I haven't been able to test it yet, but I am wary of relying on workarounds that are not supported by Netflix (they might be rendered useless by some future update). Thus, a probable scenario is that you might require some sort of mouse function to use Netflix.

Other than that, I hope that XBMC is able to provide this "simple mode" in a Windows environment.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I would be very gratefyl to hear other people's input - especially on remote control in Windows.
(This post was last modified: 2013-12-18 16:51 by eirki.)
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MartyNg Offline
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Post: #4
(2013-12-18 16:49)eirki Wrote:  I am planning on buying a NUC for a similar usage scenario as you: a simple Windows HTPC for Netflix and local files.

I am seeing one potential problem, which is remote control. The version you have linked to does not come with an infrared receiver (the newest NUCs do), which means you would have to buy some sort of remote+dongle to have your guests be able to control it. I think USB IR dongles can be finnicky sometomes (for instance, I've heard they cannot be used to turn an htpc on). I intend on solving this by going for the newest haswell NUC. It is more expensive, but has built-in IR, which (I think) means that can be turned on via remote. (For more laborious tasks, I'll use a logitech k400, hidden away from guests like your USB Keyboard/Trackball remote)

Beyond that, I am not 100 % there exists a remote friendly version of Netflix for windows. The Windows 8 netflix app comes close, but it is really design for touch or mouse use. Lifehacker recently posted this guide on how to integrate Netflix as a remote friendly plugin to XBMC. I haven't been able to test it yet, but I am wary of relying on workarounds that are not supported by Netflix (they might be rendered useless by some future update). Thus, a probable scenario is that you might require some sort of mouse function to use Netflix.

Other than that, I hope that XBMC is able to provide this "simple mode" in a Windows environment.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I would be very gratefyl to hear other people's input - especially on remote control in Windows.

Good points! Perhaps a bluetooth remote like this one by Satechi would work even better than an IR one. http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/261317712491?lpid=82

I also am hesitant to rely on any implementation of Netflix within XBMC. I have used several over the years, and none seemed to work well.
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Tobor Offline
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Post: #5
(2013-12-18 03:26)MartyNg Wrote:  I already have this USB Keyboard/Trackball remote, which I would use myself, but keep hidden from guests.

(2013-12-18 16:49)eirki Wrote:  (For more laborious tasks, I'll use a logitech k400, hidden away from guests like your USB Keyboard/Trackball remote)

I thought both of these statements were funny. We hide the good remote for ourselves, and our families, friends and loved ones get the cheap disposable stuff!

I have to admit that I cringe when guests use my Harmony remote. ("My Precious!")

Tobor
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Dougie Fresh Offline
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Post: #6
Maybe the fewer buttons/features it has the less chance the guests/in-laws can destroy your system Smile
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Maniac Offline
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I have one of these for my Intel NUC. It has integrated Bluetooth and usb-reciver that you can use if you do not have bluetooth on your unit.
It's a bit more expensive than the other alternatives (there are many out there), but I went for this one since it has media buttons at the top (very nice for xbmc), and has correct placement for mouse buttons contra the touchpad.

Chill Inovation - http://www.chill-innovation.com/no/7-tra...-keyboards
[Image: 2278764o.jpg]

HTPC Server - Windows 8.1 + XBMC Helix | Intel QuadCore, 4GB RAM, 4 TB SATA
Intel NUC D54250WYK - Windows 8.1 + XBMC Helix | Logitech Harmony 750
Samsung UE8005 | Bluetooth keyboard & mousepad
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eirki Offline
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Post: #8
(2013-12-18 17:05)Tobor Wrote:  
(2013-12-18 03:26)MartyNg Wrote:  I already have this USB Keyboard/Trackball remote, which I would use myself, but keep hidden from guests.

(2013-12-18 16:49)eirki Wrote:  (For more laborious tasks, I'll use a logitech k400, hidden away from guests like your USB Keyboard/Trackball remote)

I thought both of these statements were funny. We hide the good remote for ourselves, and our families, friends and loved ones get the cheap disposable stuff!

Hehe, I guess it sounds odd. I think it's more a matter of hiding away features that are not necessary in day-to-day use of the htpc - separating "using" from "configuring" the box. My dream-remote is something like the original WD TV remote:
[Image: WDTV_Remote_top.jpg]

No superfluous buttons, simply perfect. However, it is not an MCE remote or a learning remote, and I simply don't know enough about IR technology to know if it could ever work with the NUC. Come january, I'll probably buy a NUC and a simple MCE remote like this (which hopefully works with the built in receiver instead of the dongle)
[Image: $_3.JPG]

I'll use it as much as possible and rely on the k400 when I have to. Granted, the Chill Inovation one and the Lenovo one would also probably do the trick.

Edit:

I have now had the chance to check out the NetfliXBMC add-on described by Lifehacker. I managed to get it half-way working, but it is also fairly obvious that it is a workaround. I could not get much metadata or episode information to load in XBMC, and going back from the chrome window that XBMC launches was very tricky. As of now, I am not convinced that a "simple mode" similar to the Apple TV or other set-top boxes is possible in windows if one wants to use Netflix. If you are confortable with using mouse to navigate netflix (as I am), windows might still (IMHO) be a good solution.
(This post was last modified: 2013-12-18 20:44 by eirki.)
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Torroa Offline
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Post: #9
Why not add 2 XBMC profiles for the Harmony remote? A "guest" setting and an expert mode with all keys enabled.

With the newer Harmony remotes you could for instance have shot press and long press to enable different activities on one button
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Katch Offline
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Post: #10
Hmmmm Windows 8 would do this ootb.

Autologin and default to Metro (or whatever Microsoft are calling it now) - remove all the tiles there except for XBMC & Netfilx then you are only winkey+d away from the desktop and you can add other apps/tiles to the Metro UI if your family find other things they want to use.

I also imagine (although I haven't delved into it) that you could use group policy to prevent access to the desktop entirely - locking a user to the Metro UI. That way you could have the Metro UI user autologin - if you want full control log it out and log back in as your admin account.

Food for thought

XBMC Running on:
- Intel i5 750 & ATI 7770
- Intel NUC i3 Thunderbolt Edition
- Nexus 4 & Nexus 7
- Pivos XIOS DS M1
- Odroid-U2
- Ouya

If my post was helpful please click the +Reputation button.
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