What To Expect

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There was a lot of skepticism on digg that LinuxMCE really did what I said it did. The fact is that there was no smoke and mirrors, everything worked exactly out of the box, was entirely plug and play, and I never had to touch a keyboard or a mouse to setup a total home system with media in every room, lighting and a/v gear automation, and a phone system. However, the caveat is that the compatibility list is limited now; this is only version 1.0 remember. So to manage expectations, here is exactly what I did, step-by-step, to setup my LMCE system, and what hardware I used. Since LMCE's hardware compatibility list is quite limited, I try to give full disclosure with liberal Warning's in bold every time you are likely to run into a problem or not get the same results.

Time needed to install LMCE and get to the point in the demo, assuming you have the cd's already:

30 minutes Install Ubuntu 6.10. It's only 1 minute to complete the setup wizard, the rest is just waiting for the cd to install
1hr 30 mins Install LinuxMCE. 1 hour (with broadband) is the time it takes me to upgrade Ubuntu from the cd to the latest version using Ubuntu's online upgrade, and will vary because it's pulling the update from Ubuntu over the internet. The other 30 minutes is the time to install the LMCE software, which doesn't use the internet
2 mins Complete LMCE's AV Wizard to pick your screen resolution and audio connection
10 mins Complete the LMCE's Setup Wizard and have it setup your a/v gear, myth pvr, voip provider, lighting automation, surveillance cams, etc., so you're all ready to go. This assumes you have only LMCE plug-and-play compatible devices like in my demo sequence. If you don't, which is probably the case, you won't be able to do it all with only the remote control and 10' UI, and will need to use the built-in web admin panel, which takes quite a bit longer.

Here are the steps I went through and what equipment I have, and what warnings I can offer:

1. My PC has an Asus M2NPV-VM motherboard, which has an nVidia 6150 chipset. The onboard video works great with LMCE with UI2 and alpha-blending + 3D. I have 2 network cards, one connected to my cable modem, the other to my home's ethernet switch. Warning: Lots of motherboards don't work well under Linux due to lacking drivers, nVidia 6xxx or greater cards are more likely to work with alpha blending, although earlier cards (Such as the Ti4200SE are known to work) as support for legacy cards improves.

2. Boot up off the Ubuntu 06.10 live cd, install it, and reboot per the installation instructions.

3. In Ubuntu's desktop, bring up Firefox and go to linuxmce.com, click the download link, download the installer, click 'open' to run it, and 'install package'. This will add an 'Install LinuxMCE' icon to the desktop. Run it, and accept all the defaults, except choose 'Dedicated LinuxMCE' instead of 'Primarily PC'. That way you can leave it connected to a TV and LMCE will run automatically without needing a keyboard/mouse.

4. When the LMCE install finishes, before rebooting, press Ctrl+Alt+F1, and enter your username and password to log into a terminal. Run this command: sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/install-css.sh It's easiest to do this at this stage because LMCE's install will have added the required source.list entry so the command works, and once I choose to reboot, my system won't come up to the Ubuntu desktop again because I choose to make it a dedicated LMCE. Press Alt+F7 to get back to the Ubuntu desktop, choose System, Quit and Restart.

5. LMCE's AV Wizard comes up. I chose 720p resolution, DVI connection (actually using DVI->HDMI cable), reduce the size of the UI to fit the screen, chose 'spdif coax' sound, choose 'I can hear it' for both the dolby digital and dts tests. Warning: you don't actually hear anything with the dts test because there's no dts sample clip. Note: You can rerun the AV Wizard again by rebooting and holding down SHIFT while the system boots up.

6. When Orbiter comes up, answer 'no' to reload the router. On the 'welcome screen', make note of this device's IP address. Warning: http://dcerouter doesn't seem to work, but http://ip does. Note: For my setup I didn't use the web admin panel, I did it all within the 10' UI with a remote using the setup wizard. Chose the button on the orbiter using keyboard arrows + enter, or a mouse. Or what I did is plug in a USB UIRT i/r receiver. You will see a message in the upper-left corner that it's installing the drivers, and about 30 seconds later it will start to work and you can control it with a Windows infrared remote.

7. From the main menu, choose Advanced, Setup Wizard. Warning: The setup wizard is vague and unintuitive because it's designed to work with live video clips that explain all the options and show you how to do things like pair lighting modules. The videos haven't been shot yet, and the on-screen text isn't explicit enough to stand on it's own. Here I'll explain what I did at each step:

8. At the 'can you see and hear me', you won't see the video clip, just click 'next'. If you didn't connect an i/r receiver you may be prompted to do so now, just skip this.

9. At the 'names' tab, enter your name, and also the names of your other family members. Do not skip this step.

10. On the location tab confirm your location. it uses ip-to-location lookups to guess your default city, and in most cases is correct. If not, choose your city manually. The city is used for many purposes, including calculating longitude and latitude for sunrise/sunset events.

11. On the rooms tab, add all the rooms in your home. For example, if you have 1 master bedroom and 2 other bedrooms, go to master bedroom and add it once, and go to other bedroom and add it twice. Hit next to confirm or edit the default names. Warning: Nothing will work until you specify the users and rooms and tell the system which room this core is in, per step X below. This is because most plug-and-play devices ask you questions like "which room is this in?" or "who does this belong to?", so until you specify rooms and users, pnp and a lot of functions are disabled. As soon as you confirm the room names, pnp is enabled, and you will start seeing messages about devices as they're detected.

13. When I get to the lighting tab, I connect an ACT USB->ZWave dongle. It asks me if I want to use it, I say 'yes'. The setup video is supposed at this point show how to pair light switches with the ZWave remote. Do this now according to your ZWave remote instructions, and choose Next. The next screen is supposed to show you how to tell your ZWave remote to copy the pairing information to the LMCE core. Without the setup videos it's easy to get lost on which screen is which, but at this include screen, it's waiting for your ZWave remote to send this data. On an Intermatic this means holding down include until it says 'copy', and then pressing '1 on'. About 15 seconds later, the ZWave remote says "Successful" and you will see a message about listing the lights you added, and it will start flashing them one at a time asking you what room each is in and what type of light/blind/etc. it is. This is done so it can create a bunch of activities for you automatically, like the 'Showtime' activity which will be in every room that has a TV and which lowers the ceiling lights to 10%, and the 'house to sleep' activity which will be in any 'master bedrooms', which turns off all lights in public, interior rooms. Warning: At this moment only ZWave automation is plug and play. You can add X10, EIB, and some others using the admin web panel. Insteon is not yet supported.

14. When asked for my Alarm Panel, I choose none. The alarm panels aren't yet plug and play, you'll need to add them in the admin web panel, and it's a bit more tedious since you have to list all the sensors in your home.

15. When asked for my VOIP provider, I choose teliax, and put in my username, password and phone number.

16. This is the end of the "House setup wizard", where you specify global settings for the whole home. Chose next to go to the "Media player wizard" where you specify options for this media station. Note: If you chose to installed the Core (ie backend) software only, you won't go to the media player wizard. You will be taken to this wizard for every new media station you add, including the Core if you choose the default option of having your Core be both a back end and front end system.

17. Choose the room this core is in.

18. At the TV tab, I connect the RS232 cable from my pc to the Sharp Acquos LCD I have. Note: When you connect a serial device like this it can take LMCE up to a minute to figure out what it is because unlike usb, serial devices don't conform to a standard protocol so LMCE just needs to keep trying lots of init codes until it figures out what it is. Warning: Only certain Sharp, Pioneer, HP, Runco and Mitsubishi TV's are plug and play, and only TV's with serial, usb or ethernet control can ever be made plug and play. All other TV's can generally be controlled with i/r, but you need an I/R transmitter. If you have one, you can choose the option in the setup wizard to control the device with I/R. However, the I/R database is very limited and you'll probably need to use the admin panel to learn the codes by hand. You will then pick the input from a list of known inputs, and the wizard asks "if you connected the video cable directly to the tv or to a receiver". I choose 'directly to the tv'.

19. At the receiver tab, the missing video clip will ask "How did you get the sound going?" at which point you choose the option of saying you use the tv speakers or a receiver. I choose 'receiver' and connect the serial cable to my Yamaha receiver. Warning: Only Denon and Yamaha receivers are plug and play for now.

20. At the 'add other devices' tab you can add all your other a/v devices, like vcr's, etc. Warning: The compatibility list is small right now, and in most cases you have to learn i/r codes with the admin panel.

Also see the Important concepts about A/V distribution and sharing in Usage_Intro

21. While still at the A/V Devices tab, I plug-in my Squeeze Box audio player. Once I tell the squeeze box whether I use ethernet or wireless and to get an IP automatically, the LMCE core will detect that the Squeeze Box has come on the network (based on the mac address in the ip request), and will ask you what room it's in. At this point you don't need to use the Squeeze Boxes remote anymore. Just use any orbiter (mobile phone, web pad, etc.), say it's in the same room as the Squeeze Box, then choose music with the media, audio menu. It will automatically play on the squeeze box if that's the only device in the room capable of playing audio. Warning: I don't know if any devices but SqueezeBoxes are plug and play.

22. Next I connect my Hauppauge WinTV-PVR USB2. Don't connect it until you get to this point. It asks me if I want to set it up automatically, I say yes, and it takes me to the next tab, providers, where I put in my data direct username/password (a free tv listing service in the U.S.). You don't need to run myth setup; MythTV is configured automatically. Warning #1: If you have a Hauppauge 150/250/350/500, LMCE also says it's plug and play. But for me it's crashing all the time, deep in the ivtv drivers. I don't know why, they are stock ivtv drivers. Warning #2: I've found that although Myth is more stable with the WinTV-PVR USB 2, it's still crashing a lot, either with "Error displaying video" messages, or a gray screen, or it just freezes. I don't know why. LMCE uses the stock pre-built Myth / Ubuntu .20 packages so I'm not sure why it's crashing. If you heed the on-screen to wait at least 20 minutes (during which time mythfilldatabase is using a lot of cpu), and then do a full reboot, it usually works. Note: In my case I'm not done with the setup wizard, so I'll keep going for now and reboot later. I skip add software.

23. At the 'done' tab, I plug in the rest of my devices. First I connect a Panasonic IP camera. You have to use Panasonic's software to tell the camera to get an ip address automatically from DHCP--it's annoying that it doesn't do this by default. But once you do LMCE will auto-detect it, ask you which lights and security sensors are in proximity to it, and then add a button on all your media stations, mobile phones, webpads and other controllers to view it. When you view the camera, it will turn on whatever lights you said are near it, and return the lights to their prior state after 30 seconds. If the sensors you indicated are close to it are tripped and your home's alarm system is triggered, and if you have paired bluetooth mobile phones, it will notify you on the mobile phone and show you the camera. If you give the camera a username/password, choose: dceadmin, dcepass.

24. Next I turn on Bluetooth discovery on my mobile phone. It's detected, and I say 'yes' to use it, and an applet is fed to the phone to use it as a remote control. Warning: The list of compatible phones is frustratingly smal right now. Only MS Smart Phones and the older Symbian Series 60 v2 and v1 models. Note: Each time LMCE detects a new bluetooth device it will ask if you want to use it, ignore it once, or permanently ignore it. If this gets on your nerves, in the admin site, go to advanced, configuration, devices. Choose Core, DCE Router, Orbiter Plugin in the tree. And check the "Ignore State" box and click save. It will ignore all Bluetooth mobile phones from now on. Under Advanced, Unknown devices, you can remove a previously ignored mobile phone to redetect it.

25. Next I bring up the internet explorer web browser in my Samsung Q1 web pad, and navigate to the LMCE core: in my case. Click the link to install the orbiter software, choose X86/Windows, and run the installer. I chose the simplest options, basic skin, 640x480, etc. from the installer on the Samsung. Wait until it's done generating the gui for this device, and say 'no' to reload the router. You'll have an icon on the desktop to start the orbiter.

26. I power on a Buffalo NAS which has a bunch of movies and music on. When it requests an ip address, LMCE asks me if I want to use it. I do, and I choose the option to "make all the media public". LMCE scans and catalogs the music. Warning: LMCE does't do audio fingerprinting like the new Vista Ultimate does (ie listen the music to figure out what it is and retrieve cover art). If you have the cover art and other meta data stored in the id3 tags, it will pull it, and if you ripped the cd in lmce in the first place it will be there. But if not, you'll need to go to the admin panel and choose Files & Media and cover art and activate the 'scanner', which does lookups on amazon and let's you match the cover art+attributes to the audio file. DVD's ripped within LMCE will be stored as a .dvd file, which is an .iso, and an .id3 file which has actors/genres/cover art/etc. If you ripped the dvd's in a windows ripper, LMCE should pick up the xml file that WMCE uses and import all the attributes and cover art. If not, use the cover art scanner.

26. Normally you should be able to click 'start using the system', answer 'yes' to regenerate the orbiters, and you're finished. Warning: Since I added a pvr tuner, and as mentioned above, the MythTV that comes with LMCE is kind of picky for some unknown reason, I found it best to leave it here for about 20 minutes to let mythfilldatabase finish before proceeding to 'start using the system', And if choosing Media, TV, doesn't make MythTV come up within about 20 seconds, try rebooting by choosing Advanced, Advanced, Reset the Core/Hybrid. If that still doesn't work, go into the admin panel, choose Core, DCERouter, MythTV Plugin, check the box "Don't auto-configure", hit save. Then run mythsetup from the Advanced, Computing options and try using the normal mythsetup. For me it's 50/50 whether myth tv works out of the box with auto configuration, even though lmce sets up the mythconverg.settings exactly the same way each time. Hopefully some folks from MythTV can help with this. All other subsystems, like the phones, i/r control, cameras, webpads, etc., work flawlessly for me and I'm not experiencing any crashes even with constant, all day usage.

27. Warning: Although the media playback LMCE does in Xine for movies and music is quite stable, and has really nice trick play and smooth playback controls, there is some video tearing when using the UI2 with alpha blending. It seems to be a bug in the nVidia's drivers composite extensions as far as I can tell. When watching 1080i HD content, and 480i content, LMCE doesn't do de-interlacing by default. In the admin panel go to Wizard, Devices, Media Directors and pick a de-interlacing setting to enable this. None of them are up to the standards of a commercial de-interlacer, and some of them make xine very unstable. I've had most success with the 'Good' setting. Hopefully in the next release, which will be for Ubuntu 7.04, the integration within Ubuntu will be improved, the Myth problems and the Xine de-interlacing will be resolved, and the videos for the setup wizard will be included. At that point the only major weakness in LMCE, imho, will be that it needs greater hardware compatibility so more users get the same experience as those with compatible gear.