Do I want a dedicated Core?
In LinuxMCE's whole house solution, you designate one computer to be the "Core" or brains for the whole house. You can then have any number of other computers acting as media directors.
You can install the Core software on your existing PC just like you would any other software, meaning the PC is non-dedicated. However you will lose a lot of the advanced benefits and features that a dedicated Core offers that can't be done with a regular Windows/Linux/Mac installation. For example, whole house plug-and-play lets you plug all sorts of devices anywhere into your home network--telephones, surveillance cameras, interface modules, audio players, etc.--and LinuxMCE will detect them and set them up automatically. It's like plug-and-play in Windows, but it extends throughout the whole house.
Also, a dedicated Core offers all your Media Directors a Network Boot for Media Directors service. This means whatever computers you want to use as Media Directors can boot up the media director platform without using their own hard drive. A frequent complaint with media pc's is that when you want to watch tv or a movie you don't want to mess with a pc--you want an appliance that you hit "play" on the remote control and that's it. With network boot you get the best of both worlds. Hit a button on the remote and it boots up like a normal pc, like it does now--LinuxMCE won't change a thing. Hit another button and it turns into a media director appliance--no start menu, no software to install, no viruses to worry about. It maintains itself and will still work without interruption even if you crash your hard drive, get a virus, or mess up your Windows operating system.
A dedicated Core also does hundreds of other tasks behind the scenes to make your experience better. For example, it automatically throttles the internet bandwidth when someone is using an internet phone or video conferencing so they have a smooth, uninterrupted conversation. And it sets up a web server, email interface and all sorts of stuff for you automatically.
A dedicated Core or hybrid is also much easier to setup. Just put the Kick-Start CD in the drive and turn it on. It will "take over" the PC install and its own operating system. There's nothing for you to do, no software to install and it's self-configuring and maintaining. You can leave it on and forget about it, or if you're a Linux user, you can still use it as a regular pc. It's an Ubuntu PC and LinuxMCE's Core software runs in the background.
The drawback with a dedicated Core is that you need to devote 1 computer to LinuxMCE since the Kick-Start CD will erase what's on the hard drive and install it's own operating system. If you don't do this, and choose a non-dedicated Core where you add LinuxMCE's software to your existing Windows or Linux PC installation, you may not get all the advanced features, and the setup may be more difficult since we cannot test all possible software/driver combinations.