Core Hybrid

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The “Core” is the main LinuxMCE server. The core computer can also be set up as a “Media Director” with audio/visual capability. This type of dual-use setup is called a “Hybrid”. Some considerations are as follows.

  • Chipsets – If a particular hardware product is documented as good or bad, often other products with a similar chipset will perform similarly. Its a good idea to check the chips for all hardware, including expansion cards. Certain audio, graphics, and LAN chipsets can give trouble.
  • Age – Ancient gear might not be up to the task. Bleeding edge might not be fully supported in Linux, nor is it necessary because LinuxMCE is not nearly as demanding as gaming. Probably best to stick with middle-of-the road gear. Buying last year's hardware on eBay is often cheap and effective.
  • Energy efficiency. The core will normally run 24/7 so efficiency is a plus. Boards with integrated video generally use less power, but these boards are also usually mATX and might not offer many expansion slots.
  • Two LAN ports. A core or hybrid must have two LAN ports – an external LAN to connect the box to the web, and an internal LAN to serve the LinuxMCE network. Usually the mboard will have one port, and a NIC can provide the second.
  • Serial ports. Seems nostalgic, but there is a lot of gear that is best controlled by RS232 ports. Examples include certain home automation controllers, amplifiers, TVs, and security panels. Serial ports can be gained by installing a serial card, or by purchasing a GC-100 that connects to the LAN via cat5.
  • Expansion slots. Estimate how many you'll need before buying a motherboard.
  • Computing power. A standalone core on a modest LinuxMCE setup need not be powerful. Some systems are running with Atom cores. A more powerful system is required if the LinuxMCE setup is more involved, or if it will be used as a hybrid. Dual-core Intel or AMD CPUs are efficient and powerful enough for most systems.
  • Memory. Its so cheap that there is little reason to struggle along with the minimum. Throw 2GB in there.