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It is possible to use LinuxMCE as a standalone Home Theater PC. A basic LinuxMCE system, however, can also be set up with a relatively modest PC and networking hardware. More advanced (though not necessarily expensive) systems can work with virtually any device that allows some form of input/output control capability (including Ethernet, infrared, or RS232 devices) and with devices using a home automation protocol (such as X10 or Insteon).
- Check out the hardware category for an organized list of hardware
- Check out the newbie pack category for an organized list of newbie packs
- Check out LinuxMCE Products for a list of products made specifically for LinuxMCE
LinuxMCE hardware terms
Here is a list of LinuxMCE-specific hardware terms.
- Core - a single PC which is the central server and processor for your LinuxMCE system.
- Media Director - a PC that is locally connected to your entertainment center AV devices and to the Core through the LAN.
- Hybrid - a single PC that serves the functions of both the Core and a Media Director.
- Orbiter - a user interface to control the system, running on a Media Director or elsewhere, for instance on a lightweight portable device such as a web pad.
Minimum Core (PC) Requirements
A Core server, a Media Director, and a Hybrid all have significantly different hardware requirements. See the specific sections on each for more detail. The guidelines below are very generic and are meant only to suggest that many systems can potentially be used with LinuxMCE.
A LinuxMCE Core-only machine can be run on a slower CPU (such as a P3) only if media encoding/decoding is not done on the core. However, running the database, web server, and other system services can put a reasonable load on your CPU, so for the Core (or hybrid), bigger is better. In contrast, Media Directors have much less CPU requirements, but have other requirements.
- A PIII/733MHz system can encode one video stream using the MPEG-4 codec using 480x480 capture resolution. This does not allow for live TV watching, but does allow for encoding video and then watching it later.
- A developer states that his AMD1800+ system can almost encode two MPEG-4 video streams and watch one program simultaneously.
- A PIII/800MHz system with 512MB RAM can encode one video stream using the RTjpeg codec with 480x480 capture resolution and play it back simultaneously, thereby allowing live TV watching.
- A dual Celeron/450MHz is able to view a 480x480 MPEG-4/3300kbps file created on a different system with 30% CPU usage.
- A P4 2.4GHz machine can encode two 3300Kbps 480x480 MPEG-4 files and simultaneously serve content to a remote frontend.
Any Linux-compatible motherboard (95% chance yours will work) will run smoothly, give or take a few features (SPDIF, etc.). See the mainboards category for more information and experience with these.
For a bare minimum core, 256MB+ of RAM is needed. For machines encoding/decoding media and/or running desktop applications 512MB+ is needed for smooth function. 1GB at least is recommended. (4GB+ will require a 64-bit OS (now available in LinuxMCE 0710 and later versions)).
Each Core PC's hard drive(s) should have at least 4 GB (to install the OS). You will need additional media storage for network-boot images, PVR storage, etc. However, with NAS, external hard drives, and extra internal hard drives either on the Core or other Media Director PCs, the system's overall storage capacity can easily be increased.
A DVD drive is required on the Core PC if installing with the Quick Install DVD. However, the LinuxMCE system can also be installed on the Core from CDs (and therefore only a CD-ROM is required), as long as the Core is not going to be used as a hybrid. Each Media Director PC ought to have its own DVD drive, in order to insert and watch DVDs locally.
The graphics cards that work best with LinuxMCE are those with an NVIDIA chipset. It is recommended to use one from a NVIDIA GeForce 6200 to a GeForce 8500. (Others may work, you may have to test them or look at Graphics Cards category to see if someone's already tested yours, or one you're considering purchasing).
It is not recommended to use ATI cards because the drivers have some bugs that LinuxMCE is using. ATI cards may work with the standard UI1 interface but they aren't officially supported.
See the section Display Drivers for the installation steps of the drivers
TV Video Capture Cards
Also see the TV Cards Category
- pcHDTV manufactures and supplies cards just for Linux that provide HDTV and analog capabilities. An example is the HD-5500.
- Plextor ConvertX PVR devices are supported through Linux drivers. MythTV can use the Plextor to capture hardware encoded MPEG-4, lowering CPU requirements for similar functions.
- IP Recorder (RTSP, RTS, UDP)
- MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and H.264 internet TS stream recording is supported using the IPTV recorder in MythTV. This recorder expects the channels to be supplied as an m3u playlist. If your DSL/Fiber provider supplies television service, but does not provide an m3u playlist for the channels, you can construct one for your own use. You do not need to download it from the same server as the streams themselves, and can also read it from a file if this is more convenient.
- If your provider uses 5C encryption on a particular channel, you won't be able to get any content.
- DBoxII or other devices running Neutrino
- You may use the Ethernet port of a DBoxII or a similar device to capture MPEG2. Your set-top box has to be running the Neutrino GUI.
- USB Capture Devices
Also see the Audio Category
The system needs a sound card or an on-board equivalent on the motherboard to play back and, in most cases, to record sound. Any sound card that can be operated by the ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) kernel modules will work with MythTV. However, some cards and drivers will provide better quality or compatibility than others. In particular, many audio devices included on motherboards can be problematic.
A common practice for capturing the audio associated with a video is to run a cable from the "audio out" of the video capture card to the "line in" on the sound card. Some video capture cards, however, provide on-board audio capabilities that work with the Linux kernel btaudio module. The need for a cable is eliminated for these cards. When multiple capture cards are used in a single PC, this capability becomes important, so that each capture card will not need its own sound card.
A separate sound card is still required for playback when using btaudio. Often, audio recorded in this way will be mono only. See the btaudio section for more information.
- LinuxMCE supports the Sony VGP-XL1B CD/DVD jukebox (drive + changer), as well as the compatible PowerFile models. These jukeboxes require a FireWire connector.