This page will (hopefully) detail the successful completion of a Media PC project. My experience in building PC's is limited and my experience of installing and using Linux (any flavour) is extremely limited.

Hardware

In the first instance I bought the hardware. I decided that the machine had to be as quiet as possible, but still have plenty grunt to cope with the demands of encoding and decoding video in realtime. Therefore I went for the following components:

From www.quietpc.com

Case

AcoustiCase C6606B

£92.83 inc VAT

PSU

Q-Technology 400W (Black)

£69.33 inc VAT

CPU Cooler

ActiveCool AC4G-D

£52.88 inc VAT

Other cooling

Northbridge replacement heatsink

£10.58 inc VAT

Hard Disk

Samsung Spinpoint 160GB SATA

£76.38 inc VAT

Keyboard/Mouse

Gyration radio keyboard and free space mouse

£92.83 inc VAT

From www.ebuyer.com

Processor

AMD 64 bit 3000+

£95.27 inc VAT

Motherboard

Gigabyte K8VNXP

£94.65 inc VAT

Memory

1GB (2x512MB) Kingston

£100.31 inc VAT

Optical Drive

NEC ND3500 DVD burner*

£40.26 inc VAT

Sound Card

CreativeLabs Audigy 2 ZS

£46.37 inc VAT

TV Capture

Hauppauge Nova-T PCI card (digital TV)

£62.94 inc VAT

From www.linitx.com

Display

8" touchscreen

£195.00 inc VAT

From www.overclockers.co.uk

Graphics

Sapphire Radeon 9600XT Ultimate (fanless)*

£99.95

*Items also available on the QuietPC site, but much cheaper elsewhere.

Prices checked 2004-12-26.

Operating System

Naturally it's Linux! I have chosen Fedora (Core 4) to start with, as I have found a good source of help that deals with installing Fedora and an application called MythTV.

Downloaded all 4 Fedora isos (the x86_64 versions) and burned to CD after verifying the md5sums. Boots from CD, skip media check, type 'linux xfs' at the prompt to allow the xfs file system to be used at the partitioning stage. Of course, if you have a DVD burner, then download or buy the DVD iso and use that instead. You don't have to keep swapping disks! One such site for DVD purchasing is Linux Media. I haven't used them and cannot comment on the service.

All goes smoothly following the guide mentioned above. I made one alteration from the script, I used uk.pool.ntp.org as the ntp server. The guide details installing apt and yum as package managers. As this LUG is mainly(!) Debian users then apt might be more appropriate if I run into trouble...

This is the point where things started to go awry. Apparently apt cannot cope with running two architectures at the same time. This is currently a necessity due to the relative immaturity of packages available for x86_64 architectures. So, I have to use yum, which is fairly similar to apt but can deal with both 32-bit and 64-bit libraries and applications. Another package manager, which appears to be gaining in popularity is smart. It has a nice graphical frontend (smart-gui) that makes it easy for those of us who prefer a pointy-clicky interface.

Hardware Installation

Having straightened out the fairly annoying updating problem I set about trying to get the more obscure hardware working. First the TV Cards. They're Hauppauge Nova PCI cards which can receive and decode Terrestrial Digital Broadcasts (DVB-T). These are a different entity to DVB-S (Satellite) and DVB-C (Cable). Any kernel after 2.6.13 should just work (tm). Note that you may have to add a line to modprobe.conf to load the cx88_dvb module. The remote control that comes with the TV card can be used to control the PC. You'll have to set up LIRC and irexec to pass the button presses to applications. Note that this is a fiddly procedure wrought with difficulty. I would document it further here, but I didn't take notes as I went along and now it's working I'm leaving it well alone! Maybe next time it breaks I'll have more useful info to put here.

The video card works out of the box for the standard video modes, but to enable the TV-Out you need to install the ati drivers. You'll find them on the ati website. Follow the site through Drivers, Linux and then the particular flavour of driver you require. Please note that the current driver (8.20.8 at time of writing) causes my graphics card to completely shut down - no VGA, nada. As such I am without TV-Out support, so I am reduced to watching TV on the 8" screen... I may buy a VGA to S-Video converter simply to get round this problem as ATI have not produced a fix in over a month. My advice is to go with a video card that does not require a closed source binary driver. I believe Nvidia are the better offering in this instance.

-- Update -- I replaced the video card with an Nvidia GeForce2 FX5200. The TV-Out works flawlessly after installing the drivers from livna.org.

The touchscreen facility on the 8" screen does not play nicely with Linux. This is not a high priority at the moment as my chosen application does not respond to mouse input. However, there are plans to introduce this functionality, so eventually I'll have to get this working.

Software Installation

The main application I plan to run on this machine is MythTV. This is a comprehensive, modular, media centre application. The basic application provides TV viewing, recording and scheduling. This can be expanded to include music playback with visualisation, photo gallery, news feeds, weather feeds, DVD playback, video playback (non TV), games from console platforms, VOIP client and a web browser. The modular nature allows you to only install the parts you want to. The latest stable release is 0.19. This release includes bug-fixes that are backported from the SVN trunk. I run the SVN trunk version to take advantage of the improved DVB-T support. You should note that the SVN trunk is prone to breaking every so often, so if you have it working as you want, don't upgrade unless you want a new feature. The install is fairly well documented, but make sure you ahve all the pre-requisites installed, and make sure they are the i386 packages, as these are the ones that Myth wants.

I have chosen KDE as my desktop environment. It is possible to run MythTV on a system with a much simpler window manager, but as I am migrating from a Windows machine I like the warm cuddly desktop environment.

There are other services running on the machine.

Conclusion

This is a long complicated process. I started it mainly to teach myself about Linux, and to have a nice media centre. I've certainly learnt a lot, but there are some things that still confuse the hell out of me. For instance, I have never managed to get my laptop to print to the USB printer attached to the Linux server. Samba and cups just don't want to talk! Other things that annoy me include documentation. Some of the available docs are very good. Some are absolutely shocking. For instance, the LVM HowTo is comprehensive and allowed me to setup an LVM spanning two disks in about 30 minutes. To set up sudo to allow me to perform routine maintenance took me four attempts over two months! Obscure error messages don't help either!

Certainly when I was googling for assistance on a particular problem, it did not inspire me that the only results were of me asking a question on a mailing list! What we more amusing was that a month later I got an email from Microsoft asking me to contact them regarding a position on their media team!!!

In conclusion, although a long and winding road has been followed it has been worth it.

MediaStation/MyFirstMediaPC (last edited 2010-05-28 17:13:19 by AdamTrickett)