Workaround: XBMC/Boxee and Windows Live Sign-In Assistant
I didn’t know how else to get this workaround out there, so I figured this must be the place. If the subject title makes no sense to you, go ahead and skip this post.
There is a vexing and frustrating problem for a number of XBMC and Boxee users. For well over a year, Microsoft’s Windows Live ID Sign-in Assistant has been causing all kinds of problems for non-Windows systems that rely on the open-source Samba project for networking. The symptom is that you will attempt to connect, be prompted for your username and password, and appear to fail authentication every time.
The workaround up until recently has been to uninstall the Windows Live ID Sign-in Assistant from your PC. This, however, will prevent you from using any of the software included with Windows Live Essentials 2011 or any game that depends on Games for Windows, the latter of which made the Assistant mandatory. I tried to use the uPnP features of Windows 7, but it stopped working after a few days, would never index all of the media in my folders, and didn’t let XBMC create metadata. It was starting to look a bit like I’d need to retire the venerable first gen Apple TV and get a different media streamer.
Then a friend on Twitter gave me a great idea: why not setup an FTP server? Indeed, why not? XBMC streams just fine using that protocol, and there’s a number of freebies out there for your use. Here’s how I configured FileZilla Server to work with XBMC.
First, download and install FileZilla Server with the default settings. When the install is done, it will open up the management console. Click OK to connect with the default settings. If you have multiple folders you need to connect to XBMC, create a new dummy folder (mine is E:\FTPHome). In the FileZilla Server console, click the Options button (it looks like a gear) and change both ‘Connections timeout’ and ‘No Transfer timeout’ to 0 to disable them. Click the Users button (it looks like a person in front of a PC). On the ‘General’ page, click the Add button to the right to setup a new user account and assign it a password. Check the box for ‘Bypass userlimit of server’. Click the ‘Shared folders’ page, then click Add beneath the ‘Shared folders’ pane to add the folders you want to share.
If you’re using multiple folders, you’ll also need to add the dummy folder you created earlier. You’ll also need to right-click each one of the other folders you added and choose ‘Edit aliases’. In the box that pops up, enter the path to your dummy folder (mine is E:\FTPHome) with the name of the folder appended to it (e.g. E:\FTPHome\Movies). This is an important step to make sure that everything is visible, especially with files across multiple drives.
In XBMC, you can now easily add the FTP folders to your list of sources. Open up Video, Music, or Pictures and make sure you’re in the List View. Go to ‘Add source’, choose ‘Browse’, then ‘Add Network Location’. Change the protocol to ‘FTP server’, put your PC’s name or IP address in the ‘Server address’ field, the name of the folder you want to access in the ‘Remote path’ field (using the example earlier, I used ‘Movies’), then add in the username and password. Once you’ve added it, scroll through the list in the ‘Browse for new share’ window and pick it. You can now add it just like any other source.
It’s very frustrating that Microsoft chose to willingly release a product that breaks other implementations of SMB. It’s also frustrating that both XBMC and Boxee don’t see too interested in providing a fix for Apple TV users. At least now I can keep on using what I have instead of scrapping a perfectly good streamer and starting over.