View Full Version : The entertainment pc, a multipart guide. (using free linux software)

08-03-2006, 12:41 AM
The entertainment pc, a multipart guide.

Tell me what you think if this is useful ^^

This guide is dedicated to making a computer ready for the multimedia convergence that is dominated the market place. People who watch compressed video from a pc format, like to game, or listen to music will befit to this guide. This guide is open for input from anyone who reads it ^^ including additions and experiences. Projects are welcome as it will help users.

Each computer will be divided into different categories to indicate its use and requirements. Each installment of this guide will show you how to configure the hardware and software of each system. These are my own opinions based on my own hobby work, the target functions can be done on older hardware but this is best for stability and speed.

So what makes this guide special? I will be using free software ^^, linux and gnu stuff.

Computer type A (for listing to music and storing / ripping music/ a music server for network)

Processor: 400 MHz or better P2 class system or Ahtlon (a via c3 or Eden chip can be a good alternative for this system configuration)

Ram: 256mb of ram as ubuntu is the best bet here

Video card: a supported frame buffer with 4mb of ram or better as video functions are not used other than song selection in most cases. If used in the living room a scan converter or video card with TV out is a good idea ^^.

HDD: 20GB or better to hold mp3s and other audio formats

Optical drive: a decent 32 x or better drive with decent DAE abilities

Soundcard: SoundBlaster live or better as the stereo performance is good for music (miles above AC97). On this AC97 is the devil, you might think that you are cool for using onboard sound with AC97 linking but just say no, the dacs are usually really crappy.

Speakers: a good sounding set of 2.1 speakers or a nice hifi set with inputs (audio quality is subjective to the listener, so if you like the sound stick with it)

Network card: so you can stream shout cast and share music file from other networked computers.

Other suggestions: use an old computer you have laying around with those specs to save a lot of money, maybe all it needs is a new soundcard to make it usable.

Operating system: in this case the best would be to use Ubuntu to keep costs low, also the os includes free downloads to all the audio ripping and playback packages you need.

Coming in my next posting: I will be using an old compaq I had laying around to make this system ^^.

Bryce W
08-04-2006, 01:49 AM
Good tutorial. However I dont think that a P400 would be good for playing DVD's without it getting choppy, though I think divx's and such would be fine.
Since your using Ubuntu for this perhaps you can mention in your next article about installing the codecs?

08-12-2006, 01:28 AM
The first system again I will be focusing on is a computer designed just for music playback and ripping with the mp3 and ogg formats.

The candidate for this is an old Compaq deskpro with the following specs (this system has been upgraded a bit ^^)

P II at 450 MHz
384 MB ram (using 2x 64 MB and 1x256MB)
20GB Hard Drive
Add in soundcard PCI ESS Allegro (ess 1989) as the onboard would not be detected in Ubuntu)
CD-rom drive (32x Hitachi with Compaq firmware I think ^^’ ? )
Rage pro AGP
a network card and broadband internet is a option and a good one, especially if you have your computers networked

here is the pc i will use with his friend, ichigo ^^

all that ram I installed ^^, next to the passive cooling solution

stupid onboard unsupported sound ^^, I am saving you trouble so go out and make sure ubuntu supports it before going on.

ichigo found me a pci card laying around with the 1989s ESS chipset (allegro aka) ^^. According to the specs it is a AC 97 based linking controller with digital coaxial out (great for home theatre music use ^^, yet to test if Linux outputs to it bec analog works). It supports 4 analog speaker channels out, though for this app stereo is more likely the solution, and it works quite well for being a low end card.

make sure your video device is also supported by doing a search or looking at the ubuntu site. Mine was luckily supported ^^’.

Now you can use anything really with a p2 350 or better for the music purpose and a decent soundcard supported under ubuntu

Compatibility of hardware is your biggest concern before worrying about softweare. Here is a good place to look first ^^ https://wiki.ubuntu.com/HardwareSupport . If you don’t find it at that place trying using Google or a search engine of your choosing. The soundcard I had working was not listed on the previous site but it was found elsewhere by doing a search. For example try using “rage pro ubuntu support”.

08-12-2006, 01:37 AM
This is the OS we will be using in its free CD form stamped ^^. The people on the package look happy, so hopefully we will be also.

You will need the operating system and maybe some help if this section does not help you. Here are some links:

http://www.ubuntu.com/ (the main page for ubuntu)

http://www.ubuntu.com/download (download, use a iso burning tool to burn to CD)

http://www.deepburner.com/?r=download (if you don’t have a cd bruning utility that supports iso burning like nero try the free version of deep burner)

https://shipit.ubuntu.com/ (order it on stamped CD, yes for free ^^ no obligation)

http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Dapper (a great ubuntu guide for beginners ^^ wiki made by users, if you can find a link to your question on the official page try this)

08-12-2006, 02:14 AM
Now you might have heard or even witnessed earlier or different distributions being very non user oriented, ubuntu is designed for ease. The interface of installing apps and the OS are very polished and easy.

Make sure the bios on your computer has the optical drive ubuntu is in ready for boot.

After booting you will come to the live cd desktop. If you would like you can explore some features of the operating system here. Once you are ready to install, double click on the “install” icon on the desktop.

Select the language you primarily use and press forward.

Select your current time zone and press forward.

Select your keyboard type and press forward. (The test box lets you type messages for verification of proper keyboard function).

This page allows the setup of the primary administrator and the password. This also lets you setup your computer name and you actual name. Pick a user name and password you will remember. The password is epically important to remember if you use one. All functions that install software at root level require you to input this password, this will be illustrated later. I decided to call this computer Renji instead of the auto naming ubuntu does. This computer makes a good Renji, a goodly friend of ichigo ^^, mentally slow, but can physically hurt the user through blunt force.

Choose the top option in this case to let ubuntu setup the partition information as the primary drive will only be used for Linux. Remember this drive will be formatted so make sure it has no important data on it.

Well you have made it this far. Now you need to press install and offer a prayer to the Shinto god of Linux.

If install starts functioning this means your Shinto prayer worked ^^.

I will assume no problems have existed as they are rare, once install is done the system will ask if you want to reboot. Choose yes and take the disc out (it will auto eject the drive). On the reboot if everything worked correctly the system will boot to ubuntu form the hard drive. This will be much faster than the live cd .

08-12-2006, 02:16 AM
Start playing with the interface of Gnome and get used to how it functions, next up will be how to install media players and audio codecs for you music computer. sp what is your thoughts so far ^^?

Bryce W
08-17-2006, 05:51 AM
I love Ubuntu and I am glad you found a supported sound card. The passive cooling system is also a good idea. I couldnt stand fan noise on a media PC. Keep it coming, im quite interested in this.

I still have concerns about the DVD video playback on this though. With Windows XP the MINIMUM video card ram requirement for playing DVD Video is 8mb and this is only 4mb. I know we are using Ubuntu instead but I am not confident it will perform well even in Ubuntu.