Jan 232012

Do you have a nice TV or projector? You are in the right place. Today we will see how to make an incredible and surprising combination of a low-performance PCs and a nice TV or projector. Our goal is to turn that old PC into a fantastic Media Center, which will give you many possibilities. From the view of Film and/or video, to listen to music (excellent if you have connected a good sound system), an excellent way to show photographs and browse the web with a simple click .

All of this will be possible with XBMC

Deutsch: XBMC Screenshot

Image via Wikipedia

XBMC Media Center (formerly Xbox Media Center) is a free and open source cross-platform digital media hub and HTPC (Home theater PC) software with a 10-foot user interface designed to be a media player for the living-room TV. Its graphical user interface (GUI) allows the user to easily manage video, photos, podcasts, and music from a computer, optical disc, local network, and the internet using a remote control. The XBMC project is managed by the non-profit technology consortium XBMC Foundation.

PC Installation

The first thing to do is to find the PC that you want to turn in the Media Center. The latest generation of PCs Is not mandatory,. It’s enough a Pentium 4 with a CPU at 2 GHz and 1 GB of RAM. The other hardware is superfluous and at your discretion, a good video card could be useful to have directly a hdmi output, otherwise you’ll have a VGA output, a large hard disk could be useful if you want to store a lot of Multimedia files, but again it’s not a mandatory requirement. Once you choose the PC it’s time to move to the second step. The installation of Ubuntu.

Just download the Ubuntu ISO from the official website. Burn the image file to a CD, or with UNetBootin put it in a USB stick and run the installation by starting the CD or boot from Pennine and continuing in steps of installation. Everything is very intuitive.

You could have some doubts at the time of partitioning. Choose the advanced mode. Create a new partition table, Add one for the root partition (the root of your Linux operating system) that will be marked by a single “/”, and then create the partition for your data, the home partition, recognize that for the characteristic “/home”.

Finally, create a swap partition. A sort of virtual RAM, which will be used when the physical RAM end. Make the first partition, the root,
no less than 10GB, the second at your discretion, while the swap can be of just 1GB.

Now, after the installation, we will have a working operating system. Remember, to set during the installation the automatic access and updates. In this way you’ll boot directly into the Media Center. Now, you just need to install the software dedicated to the Media Center.
So, go to “Applications – Accessories – Terminal,” and enter the following commands that will install the software. I recommend to do them one at a time, do not be hasty!

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

And now, on “Applications – Multimedia” you will have: XBMC Media Center . Now, that it’s installed, we just have to configure it.

XBMC Configuration

The first goal it’s that it starts automatically. So go to “System – Preferences – Startup Application.”
Click on Add, enter what you want in the first field, and xbmc where it asks the command. Also while we’re here, set the desktop to start automatically, if you have not done it previously.

Then go to “Administration – Login Screen” and click on Unlock you’ll be able to set the automatic logon.
Now, restart your computer and wait until the start of XMBC.

Now roll up our sleeves because the “fun” it’s starting.
This part is highly customizable, for this reason, I will leave the choice up to you. I will only tell you where to go to perform the various tasks

First, let’s move on the System menu. Select the “Download more information during updates” and then “Update the archive on
startup “. Now we have a basic version of XMBC, what do you think about installing a few small applets and/or add-on ?.

So, move on “System” and click on Addo-ns. WoW!
That’s a nice list, don’t you think?

Now it’s a good moment to set the source for Video, Music and Photos. In practice, we must tell the program where to find our movies, videos, photos or whatever you want! The method is very intuitive, just some tips.

First locate where XBMC puts your default video. You will need to know that: if for music and photos, no problem arises, what do you think when XMBC maybe put in the directory of video films, episodes of TV series, the first season yes and not the second.

So it’s better for you to know that you must follow the following sequence. In the folder Videos create the folder Movies and the folder TV Shows. In the first place your movies and in the second, television shows. For the movies simply create, within the Movies folder, a folder with the name of the movie (if possible include also the date with a format like [19xx]) and inside that folder put the movie file, this is not so simple in the case of the TV show. You will be forced to put it inside a TV Show folder with the name of the show, for example, “Witch” and inside that a folder for each season. For example, “Season 1” and “Season 3”.

These are just a few simple steps and tricks … But I leave the best for you. I tell you one last thing:
go to “System – Appearance – Skin” and then “more …”.
You’ll see a lot of nice options there.
Well … At this point I wish you a good view!

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  6 Responses to “XBMC!How to turn your Ubuntu into the Media Center of your dreams.”

  1. XBMC is brilliant, I’ve been running it on my modded original Xbox for years now and use it nearly every day. I’ve been looking into building a HTPC or buying a nettop to run XBMC on because the Xbox can’t handle high def video. Boxee is a pretty good media center based on XBMC, but they won’t be releasing their software for general purpose computers anymore because they want to focus on settop boxes, so I’m sticking with XBMC.

  2. Indded, XBMC is the best core software of the media center pc. I have been using it on a dedicated, custom HTPC Ubuntu machine since 2009, and it never failed! My best wishes and kudos go to the XBMC team for their effort and accomplishments!

  3. Unfortunately, it won’t stream Netflix.

  4. XBMC has his own distro.


    you don’t need a full ubuntu install.

    Have fun 😉

    PS: you can use a Pandaboard as your machine.

  5. Hi

    What is the recommendation for partitioning when using a 60GB SSD ?

    You recommend 3 partitions root – home and swap. Is this required when only using a small SSD? Or is one partition OK?

    All media data is on another server machine.


    • In general if you have a /home separated from / you can reinstall from scratch without losing all your information, for this “in general” it’s advisable to have that partition.

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