Also see: Hardware Category
Picking The Right Components
The most important component is the "Core". This is the main LinuxMCE server that runs all the applications. A good Pentium 4 with at least 80 GB of storage and two network cards (Gigabit ideally) is often sufficient. A high-end server with RAID-5 storage is best.
It is best to dedicate one PC as the Core server. You can put this computer somewhere out of the way and not connect a monitor to it. If there will be only one computer in your LinuxMCE system, that computer will be a "hybrid" Core server and media player. It will defnitely require a connection to a TV.
Media Directors (MDs) are PCs with outputs to connect to a television (such as S-video or RCA jacks). Sound outputs to speakers, from a good sound card, is also important. The MDs play all your streaming music and video from the Core, from network attached storage (NAS), and from other MDs in your system. Output to a TV and speakers can create an awesome multimedia experience.
Orbiters are the devices used to communicate/interface with LinuxMCE at the user level. The Orbiter devices display the standardized Orbiter User Interface (UI) from which users control all user-aspects of LinuxMCE. LinuxMCE provides for multiple Orbiter options such as using a generic PC, wireless tablet PCs, PDAs, mobile phones running Symbian or Microsoft Mobile, or through a web interface accessible to any computer within your LinuxMCE network, or even from the Internet. (The web interface requires user authentication.) Media Directors have their own on-screen Orbiter UI.
In addition, Orbiter can be skinned in a variety of different ways, We have a default skin, Titanium, which has multiple variations for data grid color, and a dark version called Slate.
Network Attached Storage
An alternative to having a lot of storage space in the Core PC itself is to store your files on a network attached storage (NAS) server. You can store large music and video collections this way. Your LinuxMCE system can also record TV shows (using MythTV) and video from your security cameras (using Motion), both of which require lots of hard drive storage space. An example of an NAS is the Buffalo Terastation.
- Home automation devices for controlling your lights
- security cameras
- a plasma screen TV
- a streaming media music player such as the SlimDevices Squeezebox
- an alarm system with a serial interface
These are examples of devices that require a controller device called a gc100. The gc100 allows these and other devices that communicate using a serial port (e.g. alarm panels) or an infrared port (e.g. a TV) to connect to the network and talk with your LinuxMCE Core.
Plug 'n' Play Capabilities
Once LinuxMCE is installed, you can treat it like an appliance -- plug it in, turn it on, and leave it alone. You don't even need to install any software on the media PCs that will be used as Media Directors. If these PCs are connected to the Core by wired Ethernet, they can usually be set to boot LinuxMCE from the Core server over the network whenever you want to use them as a Media Director. The rest of the time they can be used as a regular PC, using whatever operating system is already on their hard drives.
The LinuxMCE Core must be the DHCP server for your LinuxMCE network so that it can offer both plug-and-play and network boot services. The Core server bridges your "external" home LAN and an "internal" LinuxMCE LAN. For this to work, it is recommended to have dual network cards in the Core -- one to connect to the "external" network (which can be your home LAN or simply your Internet connection), and one for the "internal" LinuxMCE network (to which all your LinuxMCE devices are connected). The LinuxMCE Core server effectively acts as both the DHCP server and the firewall for the "internal" LinuxMCE network.
Note that you can easily have PCs outside of the LinuxMCE internal network, if you choose. Simply do not connect them to the LinuxMCE network. Alternatively, you can choose to have all PCs in your house be part of the LinuxMCE network. In this case the Core server provides DHCP and firewall services for your entire home LAN.
The connection between the Core server and the Media Directors requires a significant amount of data transmission. Furthermore, netbooting is not very easy wirelessly and therefore must usually be done over a wired connection. For this reason, it is recommended that a wired Ethernet connection be used between the Core server and each peripheral Media Director.
Other devices which do not have as high data transmission requirements, such as PDAs used as Orbiter remote controls, can be used wirelessly through a wireless access point (which can be connected later to the LinuxMCE LAN).
Additional Hardware Resources
Choosing hardware components can be difficult. There are multiple articles regarding hardware selection in the Hardware Category.
Setting Up The Hardware
Using your own PCs
LinuxMCE is Linux-based. Sometimes drivers are not available for Linux as soon as they are for Windows. If you bought some new exotic hardware, there may not yet be drivers for Linux. Check out the Hardware Category first. Also, check out linuxcompatible.org for a list of Linux-compatible hardware. As a last resort to find out if your hardware might work, post a message in the LinuxMCE forums.
You can also put multiple cards in the Core, such as analog phone line interfaces (e.g. from www.digium.com), or analog video capture cards for surveillance cameras. Make sure they are Linux compatible, as above. There are several choices as to where to install these cards in your LinuxMCE network. For example, you could put a PVR/satellite video capture card in an individual Media Director PC, or you could put it in the Core server PC (where it will be more easily shared throughout the system).
Bluetooth mobile phones can be used as remote controls by adding a USB Bluetooth Dongle to each Media Director (around $25). Each Media Director will report the signal strengths of each mobile phone (this is how the Core figures out what room you're in). Since all resources in the whole house are shared, you will be able to control any device in any room from anywhere -- as long as you're within Bluetooth range of a Media Director (within 10m, or 30feet).
You can also use low-cost network audio players, like the Squeeze Box, which can be placed anywhere in the system.
A Dedicated Core
The Core is the central point of the LinuxMCE system and runs applications and daemons needed for the other devices to exchange data and commands. A dedicated Core controls all of the LinuxMCE components. In this LinuxMCE configuration, the user does not use the Core as a Media Director at all. Other PCs will need to be used as Media Directors in order to play movies, listen to music, and watch TV. This kind of setup is recommended when you have a lot of extra devices, all of which will have full access to the Core's resources.
A Dedicated Hybrid
A "hybrid" is a PC that runs the "Core" software while also serving as a Media Director. This is often done with standalone LinuxMCE setups, with a single PC in the Home Entertainment Center. However, other Media Directors can still be added into the system later.
The Core server (and therefore a hybrid) generally requires more processing power, runs hotter, needs more cooling fans (and is therefore noisier), and is often a bigger PC than those used only as Media Directors. For many users it is less desirable to place such a PC in their Home Entertainment Center.
However, there are now multimedia-oriented PCs made with this in mind, that are quite suitable for use as hybrids.
A Media Director cannot run without first setting up a LinuxMCE Core (or hybrid) server.
Installation of Software Components
There are currently two methods of LinuxMCE installation. The DVD installation requires a single installation disk. The CD method requires 3 disks (one of which is the Kubuntu LiveCD), but offers more flexibility in installation.
Setting Up LinuxMCE
Tell LinuxMCE About Your Home
- Also see the Quick Start Guide.
- The appearance of LinuxMCE depends on your graphics card. Read Graphics Test for information on how to determine the capabilities of your current video card.
- Also see the legacy instructions: Tell LinuxMCE about your home
Setting up your LinuxMCE system consists of 4 steps:
- Providing some general information, such as what kind of network you have.
- Specifying the devices in your home (lights, TVs, surveillance cameras, etc.).
- Creating scenarios. A "scenario" is a group of commands, or tasks, you want executed when you touch a button. Each scenario you create will appear on the Orbiter remote controls as an option button.
- Scenarios are generally organized into 5 categories: lighting, media, climate, security and telephone. You can create, for example, a lighting scenario called "Entertaining" which turns on all the lights in the house and in the front yard. A button labeled "Entertaining" will then appear on the Orbiters in the lighting section -- touch it to activate the scenario. Any scenario can do anything. For example, just because the "Entertaining" scenario is a lighting scenario doesn't mean the scenario only affects lights. You can make the scenario also play some music, and maybe open the front gate. You can use the "Advanced, My Scenarios" menu option for low-level control over a scenario, to make it do whatever you want. However the Wizard includes pages that make it very easy to create scenarios. For example, when you add a lighting scenario with the Wizard, it lists all the lights in the house and lets you pick the ones you want to change with the scenario.
- Creating event handlers. This is how you tell LinuxMCE you want it to do something in response to some event. For example, you may want LinuxMCE to turn on the Front Porch light when a motion detector is tripped. Or you want it to play a loud message on the TV when there is a security breach. Perhaps you would like to stop watering the lawn when it rains.
The Audio/Video Wizard is designed to allow for easy setup of the components (ranging from a simple monitor to an HCTV with composite inputs and outputs) to which a Media Director outputs the multimedia content that is streamed from the Core.
House Setup Wizard
This allows you to specify the floorplan of your house and to assign scenarios to each room.
Media Player Wizard
This allows you to specify the location of file shares and other media locations within your system.
Using the LinuxMCE Admin Website
Although there are automated wizards to assist in setup, there are more options provided in the LinucxMCE Admin web page. The user can create and modify any and all devices that LinuxMCE controls through the Admin page. It is displayed by any web browser, such as the ones available both on the Core/Hybrid and on each Media Director.
Scenarios, Events & Security
In the Scenarios page, add the scenarios, or buttons, you want for each room. For example:
- A Lighting scenario in the Bedroom called 'Go to sleep' can dim the lights.
- A Security scenario in the Living Room can view a camera.
When you do a 'quick reload router', DCERouter will automatically add Media Scenarios for each room which will include the media devices that are located there.
Your new scenarios will then be visible on the Orbiter remote controls after you regenerate.
Add Events to specify conditional events (such as turning on a light) when something else happens (a motion detector is tripped, the sun sets, etc.). This can be used for security. For example, you want to be notified (by VOIP, a message on a TV, etc.) when certain events happen in the house (motion detector is tripped). Settings will take effect next time you reboot or 'quick reload router'.
Configuring Myth TV
Most of the setup for MythTV is done automatically. For more information take a look at the following link.
Upload Your Media
LinuxMCE is capable of accessing Microsoft Windows-compatible network shares using the built-in Samba network protocol. LinuxMCE also creates a "public" share folder on the Core (or NAS) for storing the files that the whole family can share -- movies, music, etc. A "private" share folder for each family member is also created on the Core (or NAS). These network shares can be accessed from Windows-based PCs on your home LAN by listing the LAN IP address of the Core (or hybrid) as a network share (it is usually 192.168.80.1).
Once you copy your media into the appropriate folder, go to the LinuxMCE Admin web page-->Files & Media--> Media Files Sync and be sure your media is now in the database. You can now add attributes (artist, actor, etc.) and choose cover art.
General Usage Pages
- Monitor surveillance cameras
- Arm or disarm the alarm using the Orbiters
- Arm or disarm LinuxMCE's alarm using proximity sensors
- Automatically take pictures when sensors are disturbed
- Have LinuxMCE notify me of security alerts
Controlling A/V Equipment
- Have LinuxMCE automatically control the TV and Stereo
- Control the media director's volume using either a receiver
- Use network audio players for a whole-house music solution
- Use a satellite/cable box with the PVR
- Control a TV or cable/satellite box
- Control regular A/V equipment
- Control A/V equipment with RS232/USB/Ethernet
- Watch a DVD/Listen to a CD
- Rip a CD/DVD to the Core
- Watch/Listen to media stored on the Core
- Play the same media in multiple rooms simultaneously
- Play Games on LinuxMCE
- Flag media stored on the core as private
- Flag whatever media I am watching now as private
- Catalog media with attributes
- Search for media by attributes using the Orbiters
- Make LinuxMCE do something when I start media
- Have my media follow me
- How are media files organized?
- Use my own pictures in the Screen Saver
- General Usage Guide
- Make phone calls using a VOIP provider listed at VOIP Service Providers.
- How to Configure Phone Lines Manually
- Make phone calls using a regular phone line (POTS), ISDN or T1
- Do video conferencing
This troubleshooting guide assumes some basic knowledge of Linux. In LinuxMCE, everything is a device. In the LinuxMCE Admin Website, you can choose Devices, to see a list of all the devices in your installation. We recommend you don't make changes here - you can break things! The top level device is usually a computer, either the core or a hybrid or an orbiter. All the logs for the devices on that computer are stored in /var/log/pluto. You can ssh in to the core using the root password you chose, and from there, you can ssh to all the media directors-shared keys were automatically setup.
All current activity is logged in the file that ends in ".log". At bootup, certain device logs are archived into /var/log/pluto/*.log.*.gz files
All DCE devices are running in separate screen sessions. Type "screen -ls" to see all active screen sessions, and "screen -r PID" where PID is the id you saw in the -ls list to attach to the screen session. There is not much for you to do or see though since all the output on stderr and stdout is going into the logs. DCERouter is running the same way on your core or hybrid.
- Security & Privacy Issues
- Installing Dansguardian
- Add support for new remote controls
- Automatic diskless boot of media directors
- Change the look and feel of the Orbiter
- Create my own skins or GUI for LinuxMCE
- Turn off photo screensaver
Accessibility and Languages
- Accessibility Tools to make Linuxmce accessible