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Playing subtitles nicely with Boxee (and XBMC) on AppleTV

I have written yesterday that I had some issues with Boxee and subtitles . It turns out that my Matroska muxing was not needed and indeed it plays .srt subtitles just fine, but the default install of Boxee selects a font that is not installed by the AppleTV OS. At least not in the 2.3.1 software I’m running; probably this is quite the same problem I encountered with XBMC, which disappeared after tinkering with the settings.

There are two ways to solve the issue properly? Well, the AppleTV software provides the Times New Roman font, but I don’t really like serif fonts, in general. I tend not to use them at all, finding sans-serif much more readable. None of my systems have serif as default font. Since copying over the Microsoft fonts is not something I’m likely to do (I don’t like them that much that I’d go as far as breaking an EULA to have them), I just took the latest tarball of DejaVu fonts and copied over the DejaVuSans.ttf file in my AppleTV’s /Library/Fonts (scp’d over; luckily the OpenSSH installed by the new patchsticks support that; I remember the first patchsticks for software 1.1 used the copy from Tiger and only supported protocol version 1), and then changed the configuration file.

If you’re interested in what the change consists, the file you need is AppleTV.local:~/Library/Application' 'Support/BOXEE/UserData/guisettings.xml (remember to quote the space twice, since it needs to be quoted on both command-line and remote server), replacing BOXEE with XBMC if you’re using the latter. You can download the file on a different box and then the value to change, using XPath to represent the path (because it makes sense to humans too) is /settings/subtitles/font . Set it to the name of the .ttf file (without extension) you uploaded in /Library/Fonts and the trick is done.

Now, while Boxee has some proprietary stuff and I don’t really like that tremendously, it still is based upon XBMC which seems quite nice; also, it seems to be more oriented toward the six buttons interface of the Apple Remote that the AppleTV uses, which is a nice thing since I run it there. The subtitles’ fonts problem is probably the only one that is very bad; the skin I don’t like but I guess that’s not much of a problem by itself; the fact that it still does not start up and stop together with the AppleTV is nitpicking…

Altogether, I’m quite happy since it actually allows me to watch my stuff on the TV almost flawlessly!

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