User Manual

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Welcome to LinuxMCE,

home of the home of the future.



What is LinuxMCE?

Built on the solid foundation laid down by Debian and Ubuntu, LinuxMCE (Linux Media Center Edition) is a free and open source media centered Linux distribution designed to allow a computer to act as:

  • a home theater PC (HTPC) for the living-room TV
  • a personal video recorder (PVR)
  • a home automation, lighting, and climate control system
  • a surveillance and security system
  • a VoIP phone system with support for video conferencing


LinuxMCE is loaded with all kinds of goodies for the home of the future. It is able to record digital video, automate your home, function as a telephone switching hub for your home (in lieu of a boring intercom system), and tie it all together using an advanced messaging infrastructure.
You can read more about it on the LinuxMCE site and on Wikipedia.

LinuxMCE software components

LinuxMCE brings together a number of software components in an integrated environment. It is a collection of many pieces of open source software.
Each LinuxMCE installation is a custom mix made of a selection of devices, plug-ins, and other modules. LinuxMCE Home's primary documentation aims to explain how LinuxMCE works, how to install it, set it up, and use it, if you have a standard installation made with devices and plug-ins from the HCL. Please start with devices that are known to work with LinuxMCE, then move on to more advanced things.

Here is a list of the software components that make LinuxMCE run:

Functionality Platform/software used
Operating system Kubuntu
TV & video recording MythTV / VDR
Telephony . . . Asterisk
Home automation Pluto
Surveillance camera recording Motion
Video plaback Xine

Each software module has a detailed section which explains how to use, configure, and program it. The LinuxMCE Home Software Sections is a menu that lists all the software modules included in LinuxMCE. You can use it to explore each of the software components that are part of LinuxMCE.
Since each of the software components have their own websites and development communities, you will find yourself at home with the ones that are familiar to you. Feel free to expand on what the community has already done by adding your contributions to this community effort.

Open Source and licensing

More information regarding LinuxMCE's relationship to Open Source can be found on the following pages:




The LinuxMCE system

This section introduces you to the components of the LinuxMCE system and explains what each system component's role is. Once familiar with the system as a whole, you can proceed to the tutorials section to learn how to install, configure, and use each of the system components.

Composition of a LinuxMCE system

LinuxMCE enables various hardware devices to operate together as a system. At the heart of the system lies a server called the Core, which coordinates the interactions of all the hardware components that make up the system.

A LinuxMCE system is made of the following components:

Diagram1.jpg
  1. The Core
  2. Media Directors
  3. Orbiters
  4. Security
  5. Home Automation
  6. Telecom
  7. Network Attached Storage (NAS)


The Core

A Core is a single dedicated PC acting as a server that interacts with all the components of the system. It is the heart and brain of the LinuxMCE system. You can read more about it on the Core page.

Personal Computing with the Core

LinuxMCE is running Kubuntu Linux, complete with Office suites and all the programs you would need for everyday Personal Computing. See details on Personal Computing with LinuxMCE.



Media Directors

>>>>> This section is work in progress. Architecture Intro is being integrated (12/15/2014 - mcefan).

A Media Director (also known as a Media Station or Media Manager) is a PC running LinuxMCE that is connected to your TV or sound system to deliver music and video. In your entertainment area, it serves as the player for media that you watch on your TV, or listen to on your sound system. The Media Director in a LinuxMCE system is hooked up to a TV or stereo, and becomes an integrated media player, PVR, video conferencing station, intercom, and, a monitoring and control portal for everything in the home. All Media Directors work together seamlessly as a whole-house solution offering the same convenience throughout the house.

To learn more, read Media Director.



Orbiters

Orbiters are high-tech remote controls. An Orbiter is the device that displays the LinuxMCE User Interface. It is used to send commands to devices in the LinuxMCE system.
LinuxMCE allows a wide variety of devices to function as Orbiters. Ordinary laptops, wireless tablet PCs, PDAs, mobile phones running Symbian or Microsoft Mobile, or any PC with a web interface that is able to connect to your LinuxMCE LAN can be used as an Orbiter.

To learn all about it, read Orbiters.



Security

Security is a big part of LinuxMCE. Security functions include light control, surveillance camera monitoring, and, motion detection.

Events can be triggered based on detected motion or various sensors. LinuxMCE can send alerts to your mobile phone, set your alarm based on different schedules and scenarios, and even automatically lock the door when you leave your home. Find out more on the Security page.



Home Automation

The Home Automation features of LinuxMCE are convenient and energy-efficient. With Home Automation you can control lights, climate and even the whereabouts of music or video played in your home. Mobile phones can also be turned into remote controls for your entire house.

More about Home Automation



Telecom

Telecom is integrated into LinuxMCE in a sophisticated fashion. The VoIP system provides great flexibility. Each member of your family may have his/her own personal voice mailbox. The system can keep track of where you are and route incoming calls to the nearest phone in your home, or to your mobile phone if you're not at home. Incoming calls automatically pause media, allowing you to take calls without interrupting your relaxation time.

More about Telecom



Network Attached Storage (NAS)

You can extend your Core's storage with a NAS device used in your LinuxMCE system as storage for your music and video collection, for PVR functions, or as a storage location for your files.

Connect a NAS to the network, and LinuxMCE will recognize and automatically integrate it into the system. See Network Attached Storage



Understanding LinuxMCE operation

LinuxMCE's main concepts are Devices, Commands (aka Scenarios, or, Activities), and Events.

This section explains the roles of Devices, Scenarios, and Events in the operation of the LinuxMCE system, and their interactions that constitute the operation of LinuxMCE.

Devices

A device is generally a piece of hardware or software, like the Xine Media Player, a light switch, or a mobile phone. Devices have three functions, abbreviated "DCE" (Data, Commands, Events):

  1. Retrieve configuration data
  2. Perform a command (turn on, turn off, fast forward, etc.)
  3. Report certain triggered events (e.g. 'motion detected', 'playback started', etc.)


Scenarios

"Scenarios", "Activities", and "Command Groups" are interchangeable terms -- they mean the same thing.
A scenario is a group of commands that can be sent to a device (or series of devices).
To perform an action in LinuxMCE, a scenario is chosen from the ones created by the user, or from one of the categories that are created by default during installation (located on the main menu of an Orbiter).

Each scenario is a group of commands, or tasks, that appears on the Orbiter as a button.




Events

Devices report events, such as 'Playback started' and 'Motion Sensor tripped'. If you want something to happen automatically in LinuxMCE, you create Event Handlers that react to these events. For example, you can create an event handler that listens for the 'Motion Sensor tripped' event from a motion detector and turns on the lights in response. An event handler might listen for the 'Sunrise' event, which could then prompt the sprinklers to come on.

LinuxMCE creates several default event handlers. In rooms in which you have a TV and lights, an event handler is created that listens for the 'Watching Media' event sent by a media player. When the event is detected, the Showtime scenario (which dims the lights) is executed in response. When you start a movie, therefore, the Showtime activity will be executed and the lights will be dimmed. There are other default event handlers that monitor for events like 'Security Breach' and 'Fire Alarm' (from a home security system).

Interactions

Commands or groups of commands are arranged in Scenarios that control devices in the home when activated. Orbiters ("remote controls") load user interfaces that have buttons (Scenarios) used to send commands to the system. Devices report events to the Core, which uses the information to send predefined commands (Scenarios) and set the state of things throughout the system. The Core uses key presses and event reports it receives to coordinate the interaction between devices. Each device responds to commands based on what it is designed to do, and the magic happens.



How to get started with LinuxMCE

Next, go to the How to get started with LinuxMCE to learn how to install, and start using the system.