Media Centre

Media Centre

 

I recently managed to get a compact PC (eMachines ER1402) for a bargain price for £99.99, in the Ebuyer “MAYhem” sale. After reading around, I decided to turn the PC into a media centre, using XBMC, to allow me to create something compact enough to have either attached to the back of the TV or to tuck away with the AV receiver. I wanted the media centre to be able to stream my High Definition content from my server, over the LAN, and the XBMC Live distribution fitted my requirements, and so I downloaded and installed using a Sata to USB converter and my desktop’s DVD drive. XBMC Live runs on a Ubuntu back end, with the XBMC interface, this meant that there was a lot of support for any problems or tweaks required.

Once installed, I had to perform a few changes to get the hardware to work how I required (having Audio and Video over HDMI). I was able to easy SSH into the box, and transfer files using FTP. To get the audio to work over HDMI, I had to use the following guide, but instead of using the “cat” command to create the files, I had to use the command line text editor, nano, to write the files. I am not sure why I couldn’t get cat to work, but nano worked just fine in the end. Because I had left the original OS (Linpus) installed, I changed the GRUB options using the following commands:

sudo nano /etc/default/grub
there is a line of text a 5 or 6 from the top ‘Grub timeout = 10’ change the 10 to a 2, to allow 2 seconds to select OS to boot from.
press ctrl+x, then y, then enter to save the file
then type ‘sudo update-grub’

And finally, to get the Wake On LAN (WOL) to work, I followed a couple of guides, as I had some issues getting this to work. The first guide I followed was this, and as that did not appear to work, I then tried this simpler guide for Ubuntu, which also did not appear to work. After much frustration, I eventually found out that it was a setting in the BIOS, located in the power management, I had to disable “deep power off mode”. So I am not sure which settings actually made WOL work.

To control my media centre, I bought a Lenovo multimedia keyboard from ebay for ~£25, from China, which arrived after a couple of weeks. The keyboard isn’t too bad to type on, and the trackerball is also easy to use and the built quality is excellent, however it has to be said that it is a fingerprint magnet and it would have also been nice to see a backlit keyboard, but that would be asking a lot from £25! I also bought a Logitech Harmony 555 remote to control my devices, which it does excellently! I had to configure the remote to act as a “Chinavision CVSB-983”, so that it worked with the cheap IR receiver I had gotten years ago, pic here. I highly recommend the harmony remote, and it is definitely worthwhile if you have multiple devices to control, as it can switch them all on/off, switch inputs etc. at the same time, and is extremely customisable.

I am really happy with the results, as I was worried that it wouldn’t be able to handle the 1080p HD films, but I have so far not come across anything that it will not play with ease. One of the best features of the multimedia PC is that it only uses about ~20W of power when in use, and therefore is very cost efficient to run. In short, if you come across this PC at this price, and are looking for a cheap media box, don’t hesitate to buy it, and I would highly recommend XBMC for a multimedia suite.

 

See my youTube channel for videos of the XBMC interface and start up times etc.

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