Expert Eye

Using Ubuntu for a Media PC


So, you’ve taken delivery of your shiny new Acer Aspire Revo computer. You’ve got it all hooked up, and you’ve had the obligatory 10 games of “Tux”, but what you really want to do is set it up as a HTPC so you can play all of your HD content and wow your friends…

Having worked with Linux for a number of years now, I know how daunting the config can be, especially when it comes to multimedia, so I’ve put together the following guide to show the ‘easy’ way to get it all set up.

The guide has been written with Ubuntu in mind, as this is what comes pre-installed on the Revo, however it can easily be ported to your Linux distro of choice. One of the wonderful things about Linux is that there are literally thousands of Open Source packages available for it and, of course, being Open Source means that you get to keep your wallet in your pocket as they won’t cost you a penny. Most of the popular and commonly used packages are stored online in “repositories”, so this will be our first port of call – making sure you have the correct repositories enabled.

First of all, you need to call up a terminal window (Applications menu > Accessories > Terminal) and then enter the following command string into it;

sudo wget`lsb_release -cs`.list –output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list; sudo apt-get -q update; sudo apt-get –yes -q –allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring; sudo apt-get -q update

Now that the computer knows where to look for the packages, we can get to work installing them. In the same terminal prompt, enter the following command string;

sudo apt-get remove gnash gnash-common libflashsupport mozilla-plugin-gnash swfdec-mozilla && sudo apt-get install alsa-oss faac faad flashplugin-nonfree gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad-multiverse gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly-multiverse ia32-libs ia32-sun-java6-bin icedtea6-plugin libmp3lame0 non-free-codecs openjdk-6-jre unrar

(Installing Java will prompt you to accept Sun’s EULA because this is not open source. To do this, press [tab] and [enter])

Media Players

Next up it’s time to choose a media player for AV streaming. As with Windows, a lot of this comes down to personal preference but I’ve included instructions for setting up Gecko Media Player below to get you started 🙂

You should still have a terminal window open from the previous step but don’t worry if your haven’t. Just fire up a new one and enter the following commands;

sudo apt-get remove kaffeine-mozilla mozilla-helix-player mozilla-mplayer mozilla-plugin-vlc totem-mozilla xine-plugin

sudo apt-get install gnome-mplayer gecko-mediaplayer

Assuming that you are reading this blog on the Revo, restart your web browser to propagate the changes made above.

You should now be able to stream Audio and Video in most popular formats. Check out some of the trailers on the link below to see whether it has worked;

Apple Trailers

DVD Playback

I know that the Revo doesn’t have a DVD drive built in but it’s perfectly possible to hook up to an external USB drive should you have a large DVD collection that you’d like to play back.

As with the other steps, it does require a bit of pre-config but it’s very basic. Just a single command into the terminal window this time;

sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2 libdvdread4 libdvdnav4 vlc

You should now be able to play back DVD’s in the media player of your choice.

If you’ve followed all of the steps above then you’ll have made quite a few changes to your systems configuration so, with that in mind, my “best practice” advice at this stage would be to make sure that everything is absolutely up-to-date and then give the system a much needed reboot. The following command sequences will do all of this for you;

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

From now on, you can just reboot as normal.

I think that just about covers the basics. Obviously there are countless different methods which can be used to configure your system and even more options and packages available but this really isn’t the place and I’m almost certainly not the person to guide you through them. However, I do is suggest you check out the Ubuntu Forums and also our very own Open Source Software Forums where you’re sure to find all the guidance that you need.

Oh and if you’re feeling really adventurous…why not take a look at setting up Linux MCE?

Now there is a challenge for you…

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