eRacks Open Source Systems Blog

Making the world safe for Open Source

Imagine having the technology to store your music, movies and pictures in a central location and to access them from anywhere in the house. Even better, imagine that you can do this with little cost for hardware and zero cost for software. Not only is it possible, it’s never been easier.

The Network

In order to be able to access your central media repository, you’ll need to connect your computers to a network. With wireless networking, you can cheaply connect your machines almost anywhere in the house without having to run any cable. For the minimal configuration of one server (your media repository) and one client (the system connected to your home theater that lets you actually use the media), one wireless router and two wireless adapters will do. Even better, if the wireless router sits near the server, you can directly connect the two via a cable, saving you the cost of one wireless adapter.

The Hardware

Nowadays, with storage so plentiful and CPUs that are so powerful, it really doesn’t take much money to get good results, which is fortunate for those of us who have been negatively impacted by the downward turn in our nation’s economy. On the server side, a modest Intel Core 2 Duo with anywhere from two to four gigabytes of memory will do, and with one terabyte hard drives falling below $100, you should be able to save even more money. On the client side, with the new Intel Atom CPU, which is powerful, compact, quiet and highly energy efficient, you can build a thin client that sits snuggly atop your entertainment center.

The Software

Media center software has grown increasingly popular, and the open source movement has kept up nicely with easy to install, easy to use applications.

For the operating system on both the client and server side, you have a plethora of Linux distributions to choose from, Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/) being our recommendation. Then, on the server side, you’d simply have to configure your system to share your files over the network. On the client side, applications for managing your media include XBMC (http://xbmc.org/), Elisa (http://elisa.fluendo.com/), Entertainer (http://www.entertainer-project.com/) and MythTV (http://www.mythtv.org/ — note that MythTV is a little more involved with regards to configuration and has components that must run on the server side.)

Conclusion

With hardware becoming cheaper and more powerful, and with the added bonus of using free software, a capable home entertainment system can be had for a minimal investment. And, of course, eRacks specializes in providing its customers with the resources they need, whether it be selling systems pre-configured to your specifications or offering consulting for more difficult projects. Contact eRacks today and find out what we can do for your home!

March 24th, 2009

Posted In: media center, multimedia

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Ubuntu 7.10 Installation on the Micro Express IFL90 Laptop

1. Go into the BIOS by hitting the F2 key during post and make sure it can boot from CD

2. Insert the Ubuntu CD and reboot the system (make sure you use the amd64 version, since Intel's Core 2 Duo is x86_64.)

3. When the install menu for Ubuntu comes up, choose "Safe graphics mode install."  DO NOT try the normal install, or the system will hang.

4. Once the LiveCD is fully booted, you will see a desktop with an icon labeled "Installer."  Double click on it and wait for the installation application to open.

5. You will be presented with a series of questions related to the configuration of the system.  Making sure you setup the proper timezone and the sysadmin username, leave everything else at their default values.  When it tells you it's ready to install, click "ok" and wait for it to finish.

6. When the installation is complete, click on the "reboot" button.  The disk will be ejected, and the system will boot from the CD.

7. When you have booted successfully from the hard drive, and are presented with the graphical login prompt, hit ALT-F1 to drop down to virtual terminal and login as sysadmin.

8. As the sysadmin user, type the command "sudo passwd root."  Enter sysadmin's password when prompted to do so, then enter the root password for the system (eracks.)

9. Logout of the virtual terminal and hit F7 to go back to the graphical console and login as sysadmin.

10. You will be notified that there are updates available.  Go ahead and install them.

11. You will be notified that there are "restricted drivers" available.  Click on the little icon on the top right that looks like a little circuit board and click on the "Restricted Drivers" tab.

12. Make sure the intel wireless adapter is enabled, and also enable the Nvidia accelerated graphics driver.

13. On the system menu at the top, click on "System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager"

14. Install the package "linux-backport-modules."  This is required to make the sound card work.

15. Edit the file /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base, and add the following line at the bottom: "options snd-hda-intel model=toshiba"

16. Reboot the computer, and make sure to test the wireless adapter and sound card (by playing a sound) 

You're done!

March 31st, 2008

Posted In: Laptop cookbooks

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