The Linux media centre project is now complete, and I’m very happy with the results. In this post, I’m going to talk a bit more about the final hardware configuration. Part 6 will discuss the actual Mythbuntu configuration, with a summary of the project and photos!! Read more…
Despite the complete lack of any blog posts about it, I’m still working on my Linux media centre project. Things slowed down a bit over the winter due to a lack of both time and finances, but I’m now hoping to have the system completed(ish) within the next month or so.
We’re now getting to the fun stage, where I can start customising the Mythbuntu software. Here’s a quick recap of where I left off, and what I’ve bought since: Read more…
After sorting the case, next on my list was a motherboard. I say “list”, but I’m using the word loosely. I’m not the best at organising myself, so the “list” is purely mental and not in any particular order.
Anyway, it seemed a bit pointless to have a box with nothing inside, so I went shopping for a motherboard, and soon realised what a bewildering array of them there are. It was time for another list!!
- It must be a MicroATX to fit the case
- Cheap, preferably!
- It must work with Linux
- Ideally support up to Quad Core processor
- Have SATA and ATA interfaces
- Have a PCI-Express slot
That didn’t reduce the list much! In the end, I spoke to some friends and colleagues and settled on Asus as the brand. I do want HDMI out, and some Asus motherboards do come with that feature; however I think I’d prefer it to be on a separate PCI-e card, so decided that the extra cost wasn’t worth it. Eventually, I managed to find a brand new Asus P5KPL-AM for €20, which seemed to tick all the right boxes.
It’s a nice, compact board with reasonable features. 1333/1066/800 MHz FSB – 1600 if overclocked, PCI Express x 16 slot, SATA and ATA interfaces, and up to Quad Core support. Everything was included in the box and it slotted into the Antec case beautifully.
Now I just need to control myself and not buy a Quad Core processor!
The Search For a Case
The first step in building the media centre was, for me, to find a suitable case. And by suitable, I meant that it satisfied the following criteria:
- Be pleasant to look at
- Fit into my existing TV unit
- Have room for expansion
- Provide sufficient cooling
Let’s face it – most of the time, computers are not the most attractive of objects – especially PCs. The average desktop PC is an ugly, functional slab of plastic. I know the Mac evangelists will point towards the iMac, which, for sure, is a nice looking piece of kit, but it’s way above my budget. The result was that I felt like I had a challenge on my hands to find a case that met all of my requirements.
After doing quite a bit of research online, I was drawn towards the Antec enclosures. They’re not bad to look at, and seem to tick all the boxes. The main problem I’d encountered with Antec in the past was that their non-standard power supplies were notoriously unreliable, and then impossible to source a replacement for. This meant that I had a new requirement to add to my list: the power supply must be more dependable than a paper hat in a thunderstorm – or a standard, replaceable part.
Eventually the search turned up the Antec NSK2480. Strange, perhaps, when you consider what I just wrote above; however, it’s a nice box, and looks more like a piece of high-end stereo equipment than a computer. Even better, the power supply is standard and so when (not “if”) this PSU becomes kaput, I can replace it with a standard ATX supply.
Other nice features – it has dual, controllable, ultra-silent fans. These can be controlled with the integrated switch, or attached to a fan controller. The hard disks sit on little silicone grommets to reduce vibration, and the 5.25″ expansion bays lift out easily. The finish on the case is very good too, it doesn’t have any nasty sharp edges, so I shouldn’t have to count my fingers after fitting the motherboard. Access is via a single screw on the upper rear of the case, and the screw has a thumb-grip for easy removal. Inside, it has a triple-chamber design, which helps with noise and vibration reduction and also aids airflow.
So far, so good. Now all I need is something to put in it, but it is October now, so I can start shopping for a motherboard!
The adventures in Linux continue, as I’m now starting to build a full media centre/PVR in Linux from the ground up. This will replace my current DVD recorder, old VHS recorder, and (probably) the surround sound system too. As such, I’ve made a list of prerequisites.
- It has to be attractive enough to be in my sitting room, in the TV unit.
- It has to be quiet.
- It must be easy enough for ourselves and guests to operate, without needing extensive computer knowledge.
- It needs to be able to link into my freeview satellite box and HDMI-ready LCD TV.
- I want it to have plenty of storage, and to be expandable.
- It must be cheap!!
Impossible is nothing
I briefly considered a Mac Mini as a media centre, but it didn’t check all the boxes. I really don’t want to compromise on ease of use, so instead I’ve settled on a ground-up build with Mythbuntu as the platform.
The downside is that I can only afford one major component a month, so this isn’t a short-term project! It will also probably change many times until I’ve finished too. But at the end of it, I hope to have a fully-functional media centre, along with a record of exactly how to do the same yourself.
In the next post – choosing the case.