Thursday, October 16, 2008

Homework for media PC

Well, I've been spending a bit more time looking at different options for a media pc for the house. The hardware isn't an issue as there are various vendors around who are able to supply the parts that I need (I would build my own rather than an off-the shelf unit).

The sticking point is the OS to use. There are a couple of options, ranging from free to very expensive. At one end is the preferred Linux-based option. I like Linux because it is free and because I hate Microsoft. I'm not going to use an Apple solution since I don't have any Apple pc's available but apparently iLife has some pretty good functionality built-in.

Having done my homework, it appears that there are two main options - Windows Media Centre (either built-in to one of the newer top-level Vista releases or the older XP MCE)or LinuxMCE . There are a couple of other distributions (such as Mythbuntu) but LinuxMCE shows the most promise.

The first thing to do is to determine what I actually want. So after some thought, here is my current list of requirements for the HTPC:

  • It needs to be a "dum" unit - power on, use, turn off. No login, no passwords, no need for a keyboard during normal use.

  • Simple: it needs to be controllable with just a remote and be easy enough to manage that any non-technical person in the house can use it with no (or only basic) prior knowledge.

  • Play DVD movies from a disc.

  • Play audio CD's from a disc.

  • Play avi movies from the drive (with a variety of codecs such as DivX and Xvid).

  • Play digital music (mp3, wma, ogg, etc) from drive.

  • View images from drive.

Having said that, there are also a lot of features available that I don't need.

  • I don't want it to connect to the internet.

  • I don't want to record or watch TV.

  • I don't need it to connect to anything else other than the screen and amp.

LinuxMCE has quite a lot of features for controlling the entire house, multiple computers, PVR functions and so on - lots of stuff that I don't want.

So on the balance of things, it looks like I'll be going for either a Windows based MCE or using a normal Linux distro (such as openSuSe) and just modifying it to act as a Media PC. The trick will be getting it to work with a remote and have all the codecs it needs.

No comments: