24 Mar

HTPC Ubuntu 10.10 Upgrade

Category:Hacking, Hardware, Howto's


Yesterday i started upgrading the HTPC to Ubuntu 10.10. I was having some problems with audio (no doubt related to pulseaudio….) and i had a bunch of updates waiting to be installed that i didn’t dare install. I have this nagging feeling that every time i do an apt-get upgrade, something breaks in XBMC. Might just be a feeling. Might not. Anyway. I started with a clean install of 10.10, installing propietary codecs and updates from the web during the install. After the installation, i tried to remove pulseaudio. I did an apt-get remove –purge pulseaudio, which still left some libraries like libpulse0 and others. I tried removing them by hand, but that resulted in some dependency-errors. Further trying to remove that resulted in me not having a stable gnome desktop to log into. It started GDM, but after that i just got returned to the login window. I did an apt-get install ubuntu-desktop, and a reboot, which fixed the problem. Then again apt-get remove pulseaudio, and left it at that.

After that i added a few PPA’s to keep my Nvidia and ALSA-drivers current. Alsa works better with XBMC, handling both Dolby Digital, DTS, as well as MP3 and other stereo audio. The latest Nvidia drivers have not always been problem-free, but i decided to give them a try. The PPA’s i added were from this, and this site, and the complete commands were:

/ some dependencies first /
sudo apt-get install dkms python-software-properties

sudo reboot 

/ after the reboot install the nvidia drivers /

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current nvidia-settings

/installing the audio drivers/

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-audio-dev/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-alsa-driver-modules-$(uname -r)

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ricotz/unstable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-sound-base alsa-base alsa-utils

After this, i rebooted, and ran sudo alsamixer. This starts a console-based mixer-application, that you can use to un-mute required outputs. Sometimes tihs is needed to get audio out at all, if you’re using for instance HDMI (i haven’t tried this), or say some analog output.

Then i added the XBMC ppa, which allows me to install the latest version.

/ some dependencies /
sudo apt-get install python-software-properties pkg-config
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc
sudo apt-get update
/ and the actual xbmc packages /
sudo apt-get install xbmc xbmc-standalone

Finally, starting XBMC produced an error that i didn’t have the required packages for hardware acceleration installed. I downloaded the libvdpau package, which cleared the problem.

XBMC seemed really well configured at this point already, because sound worked out of the box (thank you and goodbye pulse, and thank you alsa). Also, video acceleration was configured correctly out of the box. This is a stark difference to some of the old old versions of XBMC i had once installed.

I tried some playback already, but not in the living room with the amplifier and TV, so that’s up for later today. The current setup i have is:

  • Samsung 40B535 40″ LCD television
  • Harman/Kardon AVR-235 amplifier
  • HTPC
    • Silverstone HTPC-case, incl. 120W power supply (model Lascala SST-LC19S-R) – Current price 173€
    • ASUS AT3N7A-I motherboard with an Intel Atom processor (dual core 1,6 GHz), Nvidia ION chipset/graphics – Current price 155€
    • 2GB DDR2 memory – Current price 28€
    • 1 TB Western Digital Green hard drive – Current price 58€
    • Totally 414€ with current prices
  • Connectivity
    • HTPC -> TV with HDMI
    • HTPC -> Amplifier with SPDIF (optical cable)
    • Wireless Logitech mouse with the Universal Nano Receiver (model M215, red)
    • Wireless Logitech keyboard (an older Logitech Comfort)
    • Network: 1Gbit through an HP Procurve 1400-series switch

Things to note here. The price of the entire thing hasn’t gone down much in a year or so, which is pretty curious. You can get better ION motherboards now, so that’s probably something i’d change. Maybe with WLAN or more i/o ports? Perhaps. The case i am pleased with, though it could be entirely passive. The ION/Atom combo, plus the mechanical hard drive create a lot of heat,  and i think that this set couldn’t run without the CPU fan.

I would also switch to a bigger HD, since the amount of media has exploded. A 2TB drive is like 10 bucks more, or so. 3TB drives have just been released, though they are still rather expensive.

A remote control would be nice, but i’ve yet to spend any time researching that. I’m pretty good with just the mouse so far. I don’t need that far of an integration to the living room. It’s still a computer to me, and not an appliance.

The final afterthought goes toward a Blu-ray drive. The case fits a slim Blu-ray drive. The price of such a device is like 100-200€ depending on the model (i’m not sure they all fit?). I’ve read many positive reports that say Blu-Rays work just fine with Ubuntu + XBMC, but i have no first-hand experience. I may go this route, or i may just stick with the PS3, which seems like a great player.

2 thoughts on “HTPC Ubuntu 10.10 Upgrade

  1. Cool job. You’re right, XBMC keeps getting better and better.
    One pointer do. If you’re not using the machine for desktop work, you’re better off ditching gnome completely and just go with the XBMC Live kind of installation.

    Greets from Portugal.


    1. It’s something i’ve considered, but the machine does other things too, as i mentioned. It’s still just a computer and not an appliance. I use spotify for instance, and i also use it for the occasional web-browsing and stuff, when i’m too lazy to leave the living room 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

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