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This thread is intended to be a guide for those of you who may be new to Linux and/or HTPC's. Hopefully, it will provide you with the information that you will need to make sound decisions concerning hardware and software configurations as well as provide you with a better understanding of the terminology used here and in similar forums.

FIRST AND FOREMOST, YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY THE SCOPE OF FUNCTIONALITY REQUIRED FOR THE SYSTEM(S) THAT YOU ARE CONFIGURING!


This is easily the most important part of the entire process because all other decisions will stem directly from this one. Just ask yourself a few questions about what you're trying to accomplish:


* Do you want to watch and record live TV? If so, what is your TV source? It can be free, over-the-air (OTA) local stations received by antenna; cable-tv via set-top-box (STB) and/or QAM ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QAM_tuner ); satellite-tv via STB (e.g., DirecTV and Dish Network); and/or free-to-air (FTA) satellite ( http://www.tech-faq.com/free-to-air-satellite.shtml ).


* The system that you have connected directly to your TV/projector/monitor will be called your "frontend". Will you be storing all of your media files on your frontend, or will you be using a fileserver and possibly sharing your media collection with other systems on your network?


* It's understood that you will be ripping and storing CD's, DVD's (or, at least, playing them), and possibly Blu-Ray's and/or HD-DVD's. Will you be transcoding these into other formats in order to conserve drive space and/or bandwidth?


* Will you be viewing Flash content online (e.g., hulu, youtube, etc.)?


* Will you be using HDMI, optical or coaxial SPDIF, or analog audio?


* Is your display device fully supported, or are you willing to purchase one that is?


Once you answer these questions, then you will be able to begin to select the software that you will need and determine the hardware that will be required.


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A common scenario and a good place to start is by hooking up an existing system to a TV and using it to play DVD's, video files, and music.


The easiest way to do this is to boot to an XBMC Live cd . Doing this will also give you a clear indication of how well your particular hardware devices are supported.


I won't go into troubleshooting hardware and software problems here, but if you run into problems, search through the XBMC forums and elsewhere -- most likely someone else has already experienced and solved the same problems.


Once you're happy with it, you can install the XBMC Live distro to a spare hard drive or USB stick. From here, you can install firefox and the program launcher plugin so you can view Flash content online. Look through the XBMC forum for details.


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The next most common scenario would probably be setting up a media server to hold all of your audio and video files so that all of the systems on your network can access them.


This is simply a file server and is quite easy to set up in any distribution. If you have Windows machines on your network, then you just create your media folder on the server and share it with Samba. You can then map the network drive in Windows and have access to all of your media files.


The main concern here will be storage configuration and management. Your options will depend on the number of drives you have and their capacities. Keep in mind that certain filesystems are better suited for different purposes. For example, XFS was developed specifically for the purpose of storing and accessing large multimedia files.


A typical setup will have the OS installed on a single, smaller drive using the ext3 or ext4 filesystem and 3 larger drives (each having the same capacity) configured as a RAID 5 array using the XFS or JFS filesystem for data storage.


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Then, we have watching and recording live TV. You will most likely be using MythTV for this, but you also have the option of using VDR . I'll assume that you'll be using MythTV here.


As mentioned above, the first thing you have to do is decide which video source(s) you will be using:

a) free over-the-air (OTA) local stations that you receive via antenna

b) cable that you receive via a set top box (STB)

c) cable that you receive without a STB (Analog or QAM)

d) satellite that you receive via STB (DirecTV and Dish)

e) free-to-air (FTA) satellite that you receive via C-band and/or Ku-band dish and receiver

I think that Europeans have another option for DVB-S, but I don't know anything about that.


This, of course, is where it can get confusing, so it's necessary to properly identify the kind of content you want to receive because each type of source requires a different method for getting it onto your hard drive.


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I'll continue with this when I return. Sorry, I've been busy this week.
 

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Good idea, here are a few more questions I would add to determine hardware requirements based on user needs:


* Do you plan to use your HTPC to watch Flash based streaming Internet HD-video (Hulu, BBC Iplayer, etc)?


* Do you need more than one front-end (lounge, bedroom, kitchen, etc)?
 

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My advice to newbies is not to design their ideal system from scratch, but to start by building a "toy" system that has enough functionality to be interesting but avoids the features that drive complexity. Take an existing desktop computer with a keyboard, mouse, and VGA monitor, buy an OTA/QAM tuner, and install MythBuntu. Play around with this toy to watch live TV, schedule recordings, rip DVDs and play them from the hard drive. Explore some of the other plugins as well, like MythGallery and MythStream.


After you have had fun with this for a few months - assuming that you did in fact HAVE fun - then it will be time to start thinking about building a real HTPC for the living room., where all the considerations which mythmaster is compiling become relevant.
 

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And keep in mind that some (very few) of us folks have NO(or very little) interest in recording OTA material.. simply want a PC connected to watch DVDs (ripped or not) and internet (ie. Flash unfortunately) material which can be a pay-for-content (ie. cable, satellite) replacement for those willing to make it work.
 

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Inspired by this thread and by the recent comments from some less experienced posters, I have added a glossary to my ' Best Linux HTPC Motherboards ' article.


I'd happy to contribute the content of the glossary to some sticky thread here too, if you think it could be useful.
 

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In this Topic Each and every thing is explained in Step by Step Procedure. Great to learn from this forum.
 

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Hi, could you make the first one a basic setup, like just for storing/watching DVDs or music accessed via remote? Then maybe version 2 has a TV capture card and can record what you watch? Then maybe version 3 has things for looking at pictures and whatever I am forgetting? And could you keep the acronyms to a minimum for us dummies?
 
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