Watching downloaded videos over a network on an Xbox 360 or PS3 is doable, but clunky. You also have to make sure those videos are in a format that either machine will accept for playback, or set up some kind of transcoding solution that steals cpu cycles from your desktop machine. Kind of a drag.

So I’ve been looking into the possibility of setting up a HTPC. While I definitely don’t need one, it seems like a fun idea and might be a neat project to tinker around with. It looks like the ultra-customizable XBMC and its Boxee offshoot are the best options out there, and Lifehacker helpfully pointed out hardware that’ll run XBMC for a mere $200.

Just look at the Aeon skin. That beautiful open-source UI (!) tops just about anything you’re likely to see from Tivo, FIOS, U-Verse, or any other major media provider.

I had the hardware in my cart at NewEgg, all ready to pull the trigger. Then I had a thought, did some research, and gave up on the whole idea. XBMC has zero ATSC TV tuner support. No DVR functionality at all! It’s not even on the roadmap.

That means that any TV shows you’d watch through it would need to be downloaded torrents. I don’t mind downloading an episode here or there to catch a missed recording, but I shouldn’t have to sacrifice a/v quality to do it on a permanent basis for the sake of convenience…and I shouldn’t have to open myself up to receiving an ISP nastygram either!

Boxee has dedicated hardware coming out next month that may right this wrong, but they’re not talking specs yet.

So for now XBMC remains a ‘neat’ rather than ‘useful’ curiosity. Maybe Boxee will shake things up next month. We’ll see.

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