Playing with LinuxMCE and thoughts

July 29, 2012 by · 17 Comments
Filed under: Hardware, Linux 

Long time no writing for various reasons. I’ve played around with LinuxMCE for a few days as it looked like a really sweet solution for home automation etc. I’ve previously had a HTPC running mythbuntu as a main server for my home network, then switched for a Guruplug to save electricity and now finally decided for an Atom D525 platform to use as a personal NAS because it draws very little power (17’ish watts), I can hook up a lot of harddrives etc to it, and finally it’s i386 meaning a lot of stuff that was unavailable for the guruplug would start working again (management tools for my UPS for example).

Anyways, I also moved to a house in the last few weeks and decided to start fiddling a bit with home automation and to give one of the dedicated distributions a shot, LinuxMCE because it has support for such a hell of a lot of features etc. Unfortunately, after 2 days of trials I’m severely disappointed by all the bugs and stuff that just wont work with the default settings etc. For example, it took me 1,5 days to get a basic weborbiter (remote controller via web interface) to work. Secondly it took me another 4-5 hours to realize that LinuxMCE absolutely will not run properly with LVM. I have always used an LVM for storing files etc. The LVM currently consists of 2.5TB spread over 3 disks. The only solution I’ve been able to deduce is to get another set of disks, install in LinuxMCE, then copy all the files to that set of disks, and then have 3 disks that I don’t really need atm. On top of this, just getting the graphics output to work was … let’s just say, not easy, and will only work with a very limited set of hardware. On top of this, the Android qOrbiter is extreme alpha quality (crashes so much I can’t describe it, it’s completely useless on 3 different devices).

Over all, I think LinuxMCE could be a really badass solution, but it isn’t because of all the bugs and lousy documentation. Imho, the feeling I get is that the system is developed and installed by a limited group of people who knows about the issues and knows how to get around them. Ie, the claims that “similar” products cost XXXXX USD is offset by the fact that this system really requires a lot of knowledge about this system which will take weeks (if not months) to get and requires you to get a consultant to do the installation for  you.

After a few days of trying to set up a Core/Hybrid properly with a few remotes and a Media Director I just realized I’ll reuse an old harddrive in the machine that was to be the Media Director and set up mythtv on it, and setup the “supposed to be LinuxMCE Hybrid” as a Debian server which replaces the guruplug for network control and basic operations. I’ll have to figure something out when it comes to remote controlling music etc, I’m unsure what yet.I hate being this negative about LinuxMCE, but I really wish this system had worked a bit better for me because it ticks a _lot_ of boxes I’m interested in. I’m guessing the main issue that I stomped into this thinking I’d be able to preserve and reuse existing hardware and harddrives etc, which I’m apparently not able to and obviously caused a lot of headaches. If  you are still interested in trying this out, make sure to start from scratch, do not expect to reuse old tablets etc, get new (old) ones etc.

Christmas ending

January 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Hardware, Linux 

So, christmas and new years holidays is coming to an end. A long and arduous autumn/winter at work has ended, and an equally joyful christmas holiday is ending. This has been the year of working for my part, and the experience has been incredible. In all honesty, I’ve never had the opportunity to work in such a stimulating environment as I have the last few months, and I’m very happy for it.

Me and the girlfriend had the bad habit of buying an Xbox 360 for ourselfs this christmas, which made us realize we have a really small tv, so within 5 days we bought a new one. Then, we realized how bad speakers we have, so we winded up buying a set of bose speakers and new spdif cables within 2-3 days as well. This in turn, and the fact that I finally had some spare time, lead to me spending a lot of time finally getting the HTPC configured and working.

The entire HTPC is worth mentioning since I’ve put it together from parts, and installed/configured everything on my own. My opinion is that mythtv and ubuntu (mythbuntu) has come a long way as a platform for end users, but they still have a long way to go I’m afraid. My biggest annoyance is still the same it was 12 years ago unfortunately, and I think it’s to some extent become even worse over time. Graphics and Sound drivers…

I personally have fairly new nvidia card which I want 3d graphics on, and all the hardware accelerations etc, in other words I’m stuck with the nvidia drivers. You would think it would be easy with the proprietary hardware drivers stuff in Ubuntu, but it’s not. It’s actually worse than some years ago when I last handled these setups, then all you had to do was compile and install drivers in the correct kernel modules directory. Now you have to fight with umpteenth other installers which crashes and overwrites eachothers and so forth, and then when you do an update, all of a sudden you overwrite your working drivers with nonworking versions and you’re stuck trying to figure out just what happened. Also, the choice of good graphics cards has become smaller imho. If you want something powerful, you’re stuck with nvidia or ati. Both drivers are completely horrible to get working. I’m hoping the rumours I’ve heard lately will turn true here, and we’ll finally see better support for open source software from both companies, at least if they could make a single decent installer for the proprietary drivers in the common Linux distributions.

And my final gripe, which isn’t so large as the other ones, the sound drivers. Sound was absolutely horrible back in the days with OSS, whatever soundcard I tried to install, I winded up with either having to run the trial OSS drivers, or choosing between no sound and buying the OSS drivers. This has become much better happily. It’s still not working flawlessly as I just found out (SPDIF took a few hours to get working, and I still haven’t gotten 5.1 output to work correctly over SPDIF).

These are critical areas of an OS (you expect sound and graphics to “work out of the box” these days, not having to screw around with settings/drivers/installers as soon as you deviate by a single micron from the specifications.

On top of this, I had some more serious issues with my iMON PAD remote, once again after reinstalling the system. That I can live with, but it’s a serious annoyance. For some reason, the configurations shipped with mythbuntu had a bunch of codes that where off by a few numbers every here and there, and then there was a lot of buttons not connected between lirc to mplayer and mythtv.

Apart from this, I’m very happy with the setup by now. The basic functionality is there, but it’s made for tweaking and having fun, so there’s still a lot of things I’m interested in doing on it :-).

By now, I’m mainly waiting for work to start again, I feel rested, I’ve gotten to fiddle with some hardware and software, and I got new energy for the new year. I just need to try and get working on my webpage and stuff like that a little bit more so I can finally finish it. Like all IT projects, it’s running very late ;-).