Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

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Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:31 pm

A new micro computer will be coming soon, to be used as a Home Theatre PC and I plan on dual-booting Linux, so I am searching for a good cross-platform media centre. I know very little about them, though, and looking back at the posts here, there is very little information, interest or comments about them.

Recommendations about any of the media centres listed here, or comments about them, are welcomed and should help me and others decide which media centre to use.

I have installed XBMC on a couple of Windows PCs because it is cross-platform and it works on the Windows PCs, but it would not install or uninstall properly in LM8. I looked at the XBMC threads here, but there isn't much interest in it, although I'm told by a friend it is the most mature and advanced. That's why I tried it with Linux first, but I'm not off to a great start. [edit] After a full delete and re-install, XBMC is working better.

LM's package manager has some other media centres, so my question is if there is one media centre to pick over all others? If enough good comments can be collected here, cross-platform or not, then maybe this thread can be used as a resource for people also interested in HT media centres.

If anyone knows of a comparison chart or site that reviews *cross-platform* media centres, that would be great! I'd rather start off with using the one with the best potential to improve and stay working right, without fiddling with a bunch of installations. It has to be used with non-geeks, so I only want to have to train them how to do things once. I also recognise the argument for going light and do use VLC on all computers, but that is not my purpose here.

Things I need to consider:

- use with Windows and various Linux PCs, PS3, NAS box, used mainly for playing movies (pictures, music and any other (Internet?) media may come later)
- the PC will be used mainly/mostly/only as a media centre platform, so it has to present itself and work well in this way (so program weight doesn't matter)
- the media centre needs to be current and remain in development (no dead code)
- we don't have a television service, so a PVR is not needed


Cross-platform Home Theatre Media Centres

Boxee - XBMC-based
Freevo - cross-platform (with some effort), mainly Linux oriented
GeeXBoX - XBMC-based
Moovida - Elisa-based (ver.1 only available for Linux; ver.2 coming "soon" :? ) (open source, but going commercial in 2010)
MythTV - multi-media server
SageTV - expensive
Swiss Center - cross-platform media centre, Internet radio and media player, and more
XBMC - multi-media server

Other Media Servers

HTMC Element - a HTMC focused Ubuntu/Xfce-based Linux distribution
Entertainer - no official web site?, for GNOME and Xfce desktops
LinuxMCE - devoted partition Kubuntu install
Sockso - cross-platform music server
Squeezebox Server - Logitech's Squeezebox cross-platform music server for their hardware players
VortexBox - Fedora-based music server / jukebox, or you can buy as an applicance

Summaries

The Linux Cauldron Top 5 Linux Media Centers, posted April 2009
XP Media Centre site Linux sub-site, posted Oct 2008

mintCast videos - mythTV

Hardware - Software - Backend

Magazine Discs With Media Centres
Ubuntu User, Issue #4 / April 2010 - comes with mythbuntu and Freevo
Last edited by ddalley on Sat May 08, 2010 1:21 pm, edited 20 times in total.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby AK Dave on Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:50 pm

I'm disappointed too in how much of a struggle it has been to get a decent home theater system running based on any of the packages you listed. On the other hand, I'm thrilled at how utterly simplistic it was to hook my wife's brand new HP desktop running Win7 directly to the TV (DVI-out to HDMI converter).

As much as *I* want an open source solution to work, I want a solution to work *right*.

So... I went with a networked blu-ray player that can act as a front-end to my NAS. It runs linux, has blu-ray, has netflix, supports my 7.1 surround sound, can play media stored anywhere else on my network, all for <$300 (less than the budget I had for building a HTPC).
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:04 pm

I was waiting for the next PS3 hardware revision, to use less power, but at a minimum of $300CDN, I went with this micro-PC, at $180US. I'll still need to add a Blu-ray player, at some point, but the main thing was to connect to the D-Link NAS box.

Which Blu-ray player with networking did you get?
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby AK Dave on Fri Mar 19, 2010 5:07 pm

ddalley wrote:Which Blu-ray player with networking did you get?


LG BD-390
It made my short list by virtue of -n wireless built-in. Then when I found a deal for one on Amazon for $258 that was the clincher.

My feature wish-list didn't include the need to play games, as we're happy at home with a Wii. My brother went the PS3 route, and was thrilled when Netflix finally came out with PS3 support, but seeing the hoops he has to jump through to get everything to work that I take for granted just makes me chuckle. Oh, but he can play PS3 games. meh
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby DrHu on Fri Mar 19, 2010 7:01 pm

A media center PC is only a storage unit + a GUI (simplified menu to select various media types)
--as such, and apart from ensuring that the output to the monitor/TV screen works, any NAS will work, like freenas

And if a package is needed, any that you listed, online (subscribed) or offline(local) to your own home seems sufficient.
MythTV is the standard by which they all seem to derive
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythTV
http://wendy.seltzer.org/mythtv/
--older information for DIY fans..

Media center(s)..
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/using-your ... er-part-1/
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/enna-a-new ... ia-center/
http://thelinuxcauldron.wordpress.com/2 ... for-linux/
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Tue Mar 23, 2010 5:56 pm

When watching as many movies as we do, "sufficient" isn't enough.

I'll keep adding media centres to the list as I find decent ones.
There are quite a few that need mechanics licences to install.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby Quake3DeathGod on Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:59 pm

Ive been struggling to do something VERY similar here. I have found some very disappointing things in all my distro searches to even find one that will work with my TV. I have not found ANY that work with the dvi-hdmi converter and fit to my tv. Worse yet, I have very, VERY poor video quality in linux verses windows. I would like to know what, if anything, I can do about poor performance of all the players out there. From lines in the screen during fast motion, to just plain blockyness and noise in the video. Same movie, different OS, plays and looks an uncountable % better. Believe it or not, for best looking video, and pure performance, old power dvd 4 is absolutely brilliant! I can not find anything to surpass it in looks, clear video, smoothness in fast paced scenes. AND only uses 34% cpu time.... I've not come close to that in Linux.
What IS the best high quality video player out there, that will have great performance and great looks? I'm a die hard Linux fan, but I've been beat to death by Linux over the past 6 months, and went with win7 for my media pc. (yes 6 months, you can track my troubles all over this forum!) I cant get any other os to even compare. :( I just cant get nvidia drivers to do what they do in windows. BTW, when will the new drivers be updated in synaptic?
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby Lantesh on Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:55 pm

Quake3DeathGod wrote: I just cant get nvidia drivers to do what they do in windows. BTW, when will the new drivers be updated in synaptic?


You can get the latest drivers from the Nvidia PPA on Launchpad.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby Quake3DeathGod on Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:19 pm

I got the latest ones installed, but same ol problem... there is no resize button on the nvidia control panel. In windows there is, and you can make the resolution anything you want. I believe the DPI is wrong for the resolution anyway. AND, if that aint enough, there is not HDMI /with sound option like in windows either. So, my hdmi port has not sound in Linux, any version. I just cant seem to win at this one! Maybe I need to upgrade my tv??
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby Lantesh on Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:16 pm

Quake3DeathGod you can change your resolution with nvidia-settings. Just make sure you run it as root so your changes apply. As far as getting sound to run through your HDMI output you need to enable it. Install gnome-alsmixer, and run it. Now un-mute the IEC958 slider and raise it. Also depending on your video card you may need to run a cable from a S/PDIF header pin on your MB or sound card into the side of your video card.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby DrHu on Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:56 am

ddalley wrote:When watching as many movies as we do, "sufficient" isn't enough.

Well, OK then

This is what I meant by sufficient, and I still thinks it means: will do the job..
http://ardictionary.com/Sufficient/18340
    Sufficient 1
    Definition: Equal to the end proposed; adequate to wants; enough; ample; competent; as, provision sufficient for the family; an army sufficient to defend the country.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby markfiend on Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:47 am

XBMC works perfectly on my Mint box. You need to enable the XBMC repository before installing:
Code: Select all
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc
Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:11 pm

Recently, I've tried dealing with two HT media centre Linux distributions with the new Acer Revo R1600 that just arrived: XBMC and mythDora.

I tried to install XBMC in its own partition, but hit a wall with two problems: 1) it didn't recognise my external DVD player for booting and 2) the distribution I used doesn't seem to have an install icon, so I am not sure what I did wrong there.

mythDora has not worked from the disc I made nor the mem-stick, so I guess I must try another way or just move on.

I'm beginning to think that I will simply have to install a Mint version on the hard drive, then install XBMC on its own, whereas I was hoping that I could just boot into a HT interface. At the moment, I am using XBMC from the Windows side and even it died because a library simply disappeared and I had to reinstall XBMC.

This is getting sufficiently frustrating.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Thu Apr 29, 2010 5:06 am

I really wanted to install the xbmc distribution on this Acer R1600, but it just would not do it. As far as I can tell, the current release is either broken or so flaky with my DVD or flash drives that it just would not install.

I repartitioned the drive and installed LM8/Xfce and then got xbmc to auto-run at boot time. Once I figure out why I can't set the install up without a login (this is a problem I never encountered before - ever), it should boot right into xbmc's interface.

By hook or by crook, it's working.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Sat May 22, 2010 4:28 am

Since the LM8 Xfce install caused some niggley problems which were not directly related to this purpose, I just yesterday installed the LM9 LTS off of a USB mem-stick I created with unetbootin, installed the XBMC package through the package manager, then added its PPA and set the media centre to auto-run when the computer boots. So, I shouldn't need to do much maintenance on this computer for a few years, now. More time to watch movies, too.

So far, everything is working as expected (except for some sort of Gnome screensaver annoyance that probably isn't solved properly yet, from what I have read) and all we have to do is turn on the computer and the XBMC desktop will be up in only a few seconds. I changed the LM9 desktop background to the black image, to see the icon text better (not that they will be needed much) and to keep the room darker. XBMC's "shutdown" button can't shut the computer off, as far as I know. It just shuts XBMC down, when it is installed this way (instead of being installed as a distro).

I also need to figure out how to get copies of my hundreds of DVDs onto the NAS box and what format to use. For the life of me, I have gotten nowhere, for years, with understanding this. A point-and-click process would be nice. The Linux version of Vuze does not have "Devices", so I now have to figure out how to convert some movie files into a compatible form for the PS3 to run them. The PS3 is the LCD (lowest common denominator) when it comes to finding a compatible video format because of its limited codecs, and the Windows Vuze version is handy for this time consuming job.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby Lantesh on Sat May 22, 2010 12:48 pm

ddalley wrote:I also need to figure out how to get copies of my hundreds of DVDs onto the NAS box and what format to use.


I have my DVDs ripped as .iso image files. XBMC reads these perfectly with full menu support. As a side bonus if you ever lose the original DVD you can burn the image to a blank DVD.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Sat May 22, 2010 2:39 pm

Ok, I didn't know XBMC could do that, but one reason I haven't tried is the amount of file space doing it that way vs shrunk formats. I'd need about 16 terabytes just to handle the movies we watch often.

I also haven't figured out how to access more than one drive in the NAS box. The second drive isn't even listed.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby Lantesh on Sat May 22, 2010 5:08 pm

Wow that's a lot of storage space you are going to need, but it would be doable. My current network storage is an unRAID box that I built. You might want to look into building one. It's not that difficult to do, and you can make it out of almost any old hardware you have laying around. The big benefit is that you can mix and match drives sizes and types.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Sat May 22, 2010 7:22 pm

I know a bigger box could hold more drives, but I am learning as I go and the D-Link DNS-323 is efficient cost-wise and uses little energy and is low maintenance.

With somewhere around 1300+ DVDs (numbers don't go high enough to count them all :mrgreen: ), if I want to network them for easy access from any TV or computer, I have to start somewhere. That's why I wanted a multi-platform media centre.
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Re: Home Theatre / Media Center Comparisons

Postby ddalley on Sat May 22, 2010 7:39 pm

Lantesh wrote:I have my DVDs ripped as .iso image files.

Isn't the file size limit of the 32-bit EXT2 file system on the DND-323 2Gb?
(I'm not sure what block size they used.)

I'm not sure what the largest file I have on it right now, either.
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