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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well my Win2K HTPC is running smoothly and has been running smoothly for a long while. I've gotten it to where I want from a feature, functionality and useability point of view. So I'm bored... What's the fun of something that works? :)


My next challenge then is to replicate the functionality and feature set of what I achieved in Windows on the Linux platform. I figure this will keep me busy for a while. Plus it gets me up to speed in the Linux world. I'll be getting a PC to use for this project in the next few weeks.


So my question is: What is the best Linux distribution to use as a basis for an HTPC? Does it really matter? I was leaning towards installing Red Hat 7.2 and working from there but figured I'd better open the question for discussion first.


I'm sure a lot of you have been down, or are going down, the Linux road. Any comments?


Cheers

Lester
 

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RedHat comes with alot of stuff which not needed so maybe you should take a look at cleaner dist. Slackware is probably some cleanest but it requires that you compile almost ever thing yourself.


Have you looked into which software you want to use? I have used mplayer to play dvd:s but never connected it to my pj so I cant say much about the PQ.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by AndreasB
RedHat comes with alot of stuff which not needed so maybe you should take a look at cleaner dist. Slackware is probably some cleanest but it requires that you compile almost ever thing yourself....
I was hoping not to jump into the deep end of the pool right at the start. Therefore I'd like to stay away from those distros that require compiling just to work.


I haven't considered the software I would use yet. Your suggestion about mplayer sounds good. Where do I get it? Is there a particular Linux site where one could collect all the multimedia stuff like mp3 players, any existing DVD software, CD player software, etc?



Cheers

Lester
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Lester Jacobs
I was hoping not to jump into the deep end of the pool right at the start. Therefore I'd like to stay away from those distros that require compiling just to work.
I downloaded RH7.3 isos from mirrors.kernel.org last week, in case you're still thinking about RH7.2.


I don't have the hardware to build an HTPC, but thought I'd mention the newer version.
 

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Debian comes with a very small installation, and you "build" up your desired system by using their excellent package management tools. There's also a "roll-your-own" distribution out there... this might be good if you decide to produce your own HTPC distribution with just what's needed. Probably a bit tough for starting out...


As for easy to install distributions, I use SuSE 8.0 and have also had good luck with Mandrake. These two distributions come with a lot of multimedia software pre-installed. While I'm sure a HTPC can be built for Linux, I do have to question the amount of work you'll have to put into it just to get minimal functionality.


First, I don't know what kind of support exists for digital audio (Dolby Digital and DTS). There are also a bunch of licensing issues when it comes to the DVD decoders... and I don't know if X11 will give you the kind of performance needed for DVD playback and scaling.
 

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You might want to consider SuSE. At least from a mutli-media standard. SuSE is a large contributor to X window, and they also fund ALSA (which will be replacing OSS for sound in the 2.5.x kernal tree). Although redhat is fairly comparable, I like SuSEs installation program (Yast) better than RH.



These days you can put together an alright Linux HTPC. But you won't be able to do HD with it (i.e. HiPix). Other than that, you'll have a selection of tuner cards, and sound cards, and DVDs that will work just fine. GUIs are going to be a bit rough, and you'll find some projects are specific to certain window managers (KDE, GNOME, etc.)
 

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I think Mandrake comes with the most Multimedia stuff in the installer, and it is ridicliously easy to install if you are going to be only running Linux. You are in a GUI setup about 10 seconds after the computer reboots. Mandrake's not for the people who want to compile all their own stuff, but between its ease of use and all th i586 tweaks they did, it works for most people.


Drivers for your multimedia hardware are going to be the hang up. It detects most stuff (saw my Geforce fine) but audio is still kind of shaky thing as only the newest kernel had some audio stuff built into.
 

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But still you don't want to most multimedia software, that would be like running powerdvd, windvd, cineplayer, ati-dvd, asusdvd and so on, all on the same htpc.


mplayer can be downloaded at http://www.mplayerhq.hu/, but you should look in the packages selection at your local dist's ftp-site to get a pre-compiled version.


I couldn't get any digitalsound out of mplayer but I only tried it on my workstation which has a sonyo dragon plus mobo.
 

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It is reasonable for DMA to be run-time disabled in the IDE drivers when you first install Linux. That lets you tweak the settings with hdparm, starting with a stable system.


However, RedHat (7.2 in my experience) has some kind of superstition about Via chipsets. They don't just run-time disable DMA support, then #ifdef it out (compile-time disabled).


I grabbed a new kernel (2.4.x! 2.5.x is still in development), rebuilt & am getting much faster transfers now. (I did not install the kernel source package, but just grabbed the tarball from a kernel.org mirror).


Haven't been able to retest DVD playback (I'm mostly using Xine, though still considering Ogle) because of a sound driver problem.


Without DMA, DVD playback is stuttery on a 1.4GHz Athlon/VT266A. I know DVD is limited to ~6MBits/sec (I think spec is 10, but most disks don't really go that high), so DMA shouldn't matter, but it's probably more an issue of CPU utilization (it has to move all the data in PIO mode) than transfer speed.


If you look at your bootup messages in /var/log/boot or /var/log/messages, you'll see the name of the IDE driver author when it signs on. Google on the name & you'll find his posting to a Linux -devel list where he mentions this problem with RedHat.


This is a huge pain, but the nice thing is that once you figure it out, you can build as many HTPCs as you want (all your friends & family) with the exact same configuration (dd the images) without paying license fees to anyone.


-M
 

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Xine has reports of multiple people getting AC-3 passthrough with SB Live cards. I saw someone post to the user list asking about nForce, but no resopnse.


I think I might try playing with this some when I get back to my HTPC. Nvidia has a full driver suite (in rpm...so I might actually be able to get it to work :) ) available on their site.
 

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Quote:
What is the best Linux distribution to use as a basis for an HTPC? Does it really matter?
IMO it doesn't really matter. If you're new to linux in general then pick an easy to use/install distro like the ones mentioned here (Redhat, Mandrake, SuSE).

Quote:
Slackware is probably some cleanest but it requires that you compile almost ever thing yourself.
I agree with the first part of that statement, but not the second part. There's no compiling of software during the install and most software can be installed via pre-compiled packages. You'll find a huge assortment at linuxpackages.net .



Linux (Slackware) is my OS of choice. I've been playing with the idea of a Linux-HTPC for a while now. The multimedia capabilities are maturing and the customization and automation of the OS lends itself perfectly to a very capable HTPC solution. However, there are still limitations. Linux, unfortunately, doesn't have the vast hardware support that windows does. There's currently no HDTV support for Linux either but that may take a DeCSS-like solution...
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Lester Jacobs



I was hoping not to jump into the deep end of the pool right at the start. Therefore I'd like to stay away from those distros that require compiling just to work.
Lester,


Slackware will work w/o recompiling. After all the Linux kernel that you use to install the system has to work, and

Slackware gives you the option of installing that kernel as your boot kernel.


The installation kernel just has a lot of features - support for all sorts of hardware you don't have - after all it has

to run prior to Slackware installation - so it can do the install.


That would make the kernel a bit big - so you would be wasting memory - but it would work. Customizing a new

kernel for your hardware configuration isn't hard especially with a window-based configuration program - "xconfig".


Any Linux distribution should work - and if you follow the installation instructions diligently - should not be too

hard to get an install customized for your needs.


Dr. Gregory Greenman

Physicist
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Bdogg



However, there are still limitations. Linux, unfortunately, doesn't have the vast hardware support that windows does.
I saw somewhere an HCL for Linux that was larger than Microsofts. I think this is simply because of new driver models being enforced in Win XP and GNU/Linux's (who am I, RMS?) crazy backwards compatibility.
 

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I would love to be able to use Linux for my HTPC (currently running W2K and hating it). If only we could get V4L drivers for the MyHD or HiPix... :-( I think I could get everything else working. I am running an NFS server on W2K and use that to share video files with my Linux machine, so I can already play recorded video to my Linux box. If I had the capture drivers for the HiPix, I would do away with Windows entirely (feeling all warm and cuddly at the thought of that). ;-)
 

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Hi All,

I am a home theater and Linux enthusiast. I am a member of the Linux IEEE-1394 subsystem team, and I hack on a DV/NLE video editor called Kino.


My HTPC runs Windows98 though for several reasons. DVD playback is just becoming acceptable on Linux as menu/navigation support is immature and unstable on many titles. I am interested in DVD authoring capabilities in the long term.


My HTPC has the crappy WinTV-HD receiver, which uses the Teralogic Janus chipset and NxtWave tuner. There is little interest from Teralogic or NxtWave in supporting Linux development except Teralogic did make a press announcement this winter about Linux support for their Cougar platform. So, getting decent HD decoding performance is an issue. There might be some hope in the form of a fast processor plus a new XFree86 extension called XvMC, which is a standard API to hardware motion compensation. NVIDIA is supposedly supporting this extension. XFree86 is pretty good now for multimedia with things like XVideo for hardware YUV overlay and scaling, XvMC, and GLX.


My final issue is that I really like the functionality of JRiver Media Jukebox for Windows. To be honest, I have not explored enough this area of software on Linux.


This is not to say I am pessimistic. I only consider GNU/Linux HTPC enjoyable and useful if you are willing to help various projects or do additional integration work yourself. If you are not a coder, still be prepared to live on the bleeding edge and compile your own packages.


HD will be a reality very soon on GNU/Linux, however, as I have been helping 169time.com develop their satellite-to-DVHS solution. A fellow Linux1394 hacker is finishing up a new driver called mpeg1394 that provides D-VHS interoperability using MPEG2-TS over 1394. This means you can use Linux in conjunction with an outboard decoder such as the 169time.com HDVR or the JVC HD D-VHS deck. I am currently able to use the 169time HDVR and the mpeg1394 driver to capture to disk OTA ATSC streams and play them back from disk. This, combined with the forthcoming 169time satellite conversion module, results in an HD PVR solution capable of working with DirecTV and OTA with a D-VHS deck for archival.


The European guys at http://www.linuxtv.org/ have been working for a while now with DVB. They have code and applications for (de)muxing between MPEG transport and program streams and cuts-editing on GOP boundaries--see http://gopchop.sf.net/. This will be the next piece to integrate, possibly into Kino. Then, you will be able to assemble programs and clean them up before archival.


+-DRD-+
 

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I respect anybody willing to take on the HTPC route with all of the nasty hardware issues and linux....nuff said.
 

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If you're going to build a Linux based HTPC you should check out Freevo at Sourceforge . It's a Tivo-like application for Linux. I haven't looked into it much, but here's the blurb:
Quote:
Freevo is a Linux application that turns a PC with a TV capture card and/or TV-out into a standalone (TV+Remote) multimedia jukebox/VCR/PVR/DVR. It uses MPlayer, mpg123 and NVRec to play audio and video
Sounds good eh?


- Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for all the suggestions and software links guys! Looks like I will first try the Mandrake distro and see how that goes. I realize that building a Linux HTPC is a daunting task at present, which is half the reason I'm doing it. This will not be my main HTPC by any means. I already have a smoothly running Windows based HTPC. Therefore there is no risk at all for me in pursuing the Linux path.


I'll add to this thread by documenting my experiences as I go along. The PC I intend to use won't be available for a few weeks yet so I won't have much to report for a while.



Cheers

Lester
 
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