How to Use XBMC to Play All Your Network Media

XBMC is one of the more popular Linux programs to install on a PC to play the media you saved there… music, pictures, videos, and more. But a great added bonus is its ability to access and stream media from all sorts of different devices. Let’s suppose you have pictures on your Windows PC, Music in iTunes on a Mac, some ripped DVD’s on your Linux file server, and a mix of files you have in the Box account. Here’s how to connect your XBMC box to them all.

The method to add all these sources to your XBMC installation is largely the same, with the exception of one screen. Let’s start with the music… click into the “Music” item on the XBMC Home menu.

xbmc-home-music

Clicking the “Music” item on this screen will displays the files in the default folder that XBMC sets up, and the “Music Add-ons” allows you to add additional features. To connect to another store of content, click “Add a source.”

xbmc-addsource

Next, click “Browse” in the “Add Music source” dialog.

xbmc-addsource-browse

This displays the a list of local folders and some “automatic” network protocols like Zeroconf and UPnP, but scrolling all the way down to the bottom reveals the “Add newtork location” option.

xbmc-addsource-networklocation

The next dialog, “Add network location” begins with the “Protocol” field, where you can scroll through a large list of options, including FTP, SSH/SFTP, HTTP/S, WebDAV/S, a few of which we’ll get to momentarily. For the music on your Mac (or PC, technically), select “iTunes music share (DAAP)” for the Protocol, plug in your Mac’s IP address, and click “OK” to confirm.

xbmc-addsource-daap

You can repeat this process for the pictures on a Windows PC by selecting “Windows Network (SMB)” and filling in the Server name on your local workgroup or domain, the share containing the media, and your username and password if required.

xbmc-addsource-smb

To access a Linux PC, use the SSH/SFTP (which any Linux machine worth its salt has installed, of course), and enter the IP address, the starting path (e.g. “/home/user/Videos/”), username, and password.

xbmc-addsource-sftp

Lastly, for your Box account. But there was no option for Box in that scrolling list. But remember, Box supports WebDAVS access which we used here to do offsite backups. So pick the “WebDAV Server (HTTPS)” option, and add the address, path within your Box account where the media is, username, and password for your Box account.

xbmc-addsource-webdavs

Add a name, then click “OK” to connect the share to XBMC.

xbmc-addsource-select

Once the share is connected, you’ll now see it in the list with the other defaults. Clicking on an entry will add it to whichever player (Pictures, Music, or Videos) you’re currently in.

The ability to easily connect XBMC installations to network-hosted media make it a great option for set-top box-style devices if, for instance, you’ve been lucky enough to get a hold of a Raspberry Pi. With a device like this, you can place a small, quiet device next to the TV that will connect to and play media from all your other devices and accounts.

To this end, XBMC also includes a few other useful options for sources of media as follows:

  • Zeroconf: You can browse any Zeroconf-enabled devices on your network by selecting this from the “Browse for new share” dialog.
  • UPnP: Likewise, Universal Plug-and-Play devices will show up when this item is selected from the “Browse for new share” dialog.
  • MythTV Client: Selecting this option will allow XBMC to access the media on a MythTV Server.
  • Web Directory (HTTP/S): Lastly, if you have a web server somewhere with media on it (perhaps your website’s photo gallery), you can access it over HTTP if the permissions are correct.

The ability to stream in remote media is a great feature of XBMC, and opens the doors to lots of appliance-type applications for a Linux + XBMC installation.