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I'm planning on turning an old laptop into a media center for our home. However, I need some pretty specific features:

  • Netflix integration
  • Hulu integration
  • YouTube integration
  • XBOX controller support (Using 360 Wireless for this project)
  • Possibly Steam integration for gaming.
  • Possibly a web browser.

I can run on any platform, but I'd prefer Windows or Ubuntu for this. Also, I want the media center to have true controller capabilities. This means it's not an emulated mouse. The controller can actually select things. If possible, I would like to be able to assign hotkeys so I can use my dPad and similar for play/pause, FF/Rewind, and volume. If absolutely necessary, I would be okay with scripting actions.

I would prefer free, but cheap (less than $30) would work as well. I am fine with plugins for an existing solution.

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I think you'll find that a good choice for what you desire can be realized by using XBMC for Windows. It's a full featured media center that supports many "add-ins" including hulu, netflix, etc. You don't need a keyboard or mouse to control it. There are many third party apps that allow you to control it from your phone or tablet. Oh, did I mention it's free?

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OpenELEC

(I'm not sure if this qualifies as a separate answer since it's also based on XBMC. Let me know please)

OpenELEC is a free and open source standalone linux distribution that boots directly into XBMC mentioned in rrirower's answer with no need for a parent OS. It can achieve much better performance with minimal system requirements, which would make it perfect for old devices. You can install further features as add-ons. All the following links are to their respective pages on the XBMC wiki:

There is no integrated web browser, but here is a link to the unofficial add-ons index where you can install a variety of third perty add-ons, including Opera Web Browser

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    No, I'd keep this as an answer. While it is XBMC, it's a different platform. Looks cool!
    – Kaz Wolfe
    Oct 31 '14 at 18:05
  • Problem though: OpenELEC and EFI do not like each other.
    – Kaz Wolfe
    Nov 1 '14 at 3:56
  • @Mew Reading through the forums shows that a few people managed to make it work by compiling it from the source. But you're right, it doesn't seem straightforward. Maybe running it from a USB stick is easier?
    – Tymric
    Nov 1 '14 at 13:38
  • I'll just see if I can build my own using Xubuntu. Thanks for the links. They really came in handy. +10 rep to you.
    – Kaz Wolfe
    Nov 1 '14 at 19:04

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