Installation, Configuration and Features
If we had an “Editor’s Choice" award the media centers, I would vote without question for LinuxMCE. I have several reasons for this and I am sure you will appreciate this distributions huge potential for home automation as you reach the end of this article.
First of all, LinuxMCE is not a software package in the traditional sense, that you can install to your system, it is a complete Linux distribution based on Ubuntu, and the releases follow Ubuntu notation; such as the latest release being 0710, based on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon).
To download, you can go to the download page, download from torrents or ftp/http. To install, you have two options: if you have an existing Kubuntu 7.10 installation you can upgrade it with LinuxMCE (slowest and painful) or you can go for a fresh install from DVD (fastest and recommended).
The installation focuses on detecting your hardware, screen and other peripherals, which is different from a normal operating system installation. The first part is about choosing your screen (or TV) resolution and the connection type (VGA/DVI/S-Video/Component/Composite), adjusting your screen size, choosing connection type (analog audio, S-PDIF Coaxial, S-PDIF Optical), choosing sound volume, testing Dolby and DTS, and finalizing.
Do not get frightened by all these options, the installation wizard finds them automatically and asks for your confirmation before carrying on to the next screen. Everything is completed in five minutes with the wizard. But for the installation and putting everything in place, you need about 30 minutes depending on your computer’s configuration.
After the installation, you will go with the “House Setup Wizard". In this wizard, you will add the users of LinuxMCE. There is something important to note here: these users will be the users of the media center, not the entire installation. If you have a home network, I strongly recommend you go into each screen step by step, and define each and every room and every user. Making detailed definitions in this setup will enable you to manage things with greater ease later on. You can also add your home’s floor plan to the LinuxMCE, which I also recommend. When you are going through the wizard, you will see that LinuxMCE has passed the boundary of being a media center and reached the point of home automation center - If you have plug and play lighting systems, alarms, A/V equipment (DVD players, receivers, DVRs), climate equipment (thermometers, air conditions, pool, jacuzzi systems, sprinklers). Last (but not least) you can also connect your telephones to LinuxMCE. Overwhelming I know, but the good part is that all of these items need not have an Ethernet port, as you can go with X10.
Next: Remote controls, managing media, usage scenarios and our opinion.