We recently published an article about the value of using your Xbox 360 as a media center. One commenter noted that the ease of its use can be enhanced with a media server program called TVersity.
My experience with using Windows Media Center as an extender for my 360 has always been lackluster, so I gave it a whirl. TVersity turned out to be a good, though not flawless, solution.
All Xbox 360s are configured from the factory to work with Windows Media Center. The only problem with this is that you need to use Windows Media Center. Not everyone is a fan of that, including myself, as I never use its live TV/video functionality. Enter TVersity, a third-party solution. It is built to work not just with the Xbox 360, but a wide range of UPnP and DLNA devices. We’re only going to talk about its use with the 360 in this article.
As a third-party media server, this software can host your videos, music and photos in its library on your computer. You can then access those files through your 360. There is no need to install anything on your 360 or use any tricks because the console has built-in apps for accessing movies, music and photos from a computer. TVersity streamlines the experience by offering a single interface in which you can organize access to your media from your 360.
Free vs. Pro
TVersity is entirely free to download and use. The only restriction on the use of the free program is the content you can access.
With the free version you can watch files saved to your computer and a few online content sources including YouTube, Google Videos and Flickr.
The paid version, which is $39.99, gives you access to Hulu, BBC iPlayer, paid YouTube content (i.e. the digital rentals) and a number of other channels. A lot of this functionality is replicated by content already available directly through your 360, however. If you want Hulu on your Xbox it’s a much better choice to just pay for Hulu Plus then try to beam in Hulu through TVersity.
I think most 360 owners won’t have any need to buy the full version, but it’s a good idea to donate some money to the developers if you end up using the software as part of your home media setup.
As you might expect, setting up TVersity begins by downloading the file from the developer’s site. The installer looks like every other Windows installer, but there are two options you’ll want to pay attention to.
One of these is the TVersity browser toolbar. It’s not unusual for a free program to offer some terrible toolbar, but the one from TVersity is actually useful. It lets you subscribe to video feeds that you find only through your browser, and as the installer suggests, subscribing via the browser toolbar is much easier than trying to enter the information manually. It does also include a crummy search function and some other buttons, but you can trim some of it down using customization options.
Unfortunately, only Internet Explorer and Firefox versions are available. Chrome users (like myself) are out of luck. You also don’t need to worry about installing it if you have no intent to source online content.
The other option is the installation of a codec pack. It’s a good idea to go ahead and download it. Otherwise, you might run into issues trying to play videos.
Accessing The Library With Your 360
Once you have installed TVersity, making it work is easy. Just launch the program and then boot up your Xbox 360. Go to the Video section of the 360 interface and open My Video Apps, then go to Video Player. You should see “TVersity on your-PC” available as a source, where “your-PC” is the network name of your computer. Open this option and you’ll enter the library, from which you can find and play content.
Music is accessed in a virtually identical manner through the Music section of the 360 interface. Photos are a bit more elusive, however. To view them you need to go to Apps, then open My Apps. Inside the menu that appears you’ll find an app called Picture Viewer.
The library itself is completely controlled by TVersity on your PC. In order to add files and folders to the library you must use the File System section, which is divided into Files and Folders. These are separate areas where you can add individual files or folders to your library. By default, TVersity should detect your default Windows Vista/7 libraries, but you’ll need to add additional files and folders manually.
Online content can be added via RSS feed by opening Media RSS Feeds, clicking on the type of RSS feed you’d like to add and then pressing Add Item. You will need to know the RSS feed’s address and enter it. Alternatively, you can add feeds using the Subscribe button on the toolbar Tversity installed.
Content that you add should become available on your 360 as soon as the library itself is updated with the new content you’ve added. If it’s still working you’ll see a spinning refresh animation besides the “Settings” button in the TVersity interface.
If for any reason you’re having trouble with the software being detected be your 360, try the Quick Start guide for the 360/PS3. Personally I had no trouble, but there are apparently a few known issues that you may run into.
TVersity has worked well for me. Although the Xbox 360 has a built-in YouTube app, it’s not great, and I prefer viewing YouTube through TVersity. I also find that the software works better than built-in integration with Windows Media Center, which was also troublesome on my PC.
As I mentioned, you can download this software and use most of its functionality for free. Let us know what you think – and of any alternatives you could recommend.