Continuing down my, admittedly short, list of software that needs updating now that I’ve upgraded to Maverick, we come to Sopcast. I do like Sopcast (as has been discussed before), but even describing it as “a bit flaky” would be generous. The fact is that Sopcast usually requires attention after any upgrade or update to my system. I’m not complaining, mind you. It is free and when it works – it works well. Read more…
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.
Hmmm…all seemed well with my Ubuntu installation until I tried playing an AVI file the other day. Of course I was in a hurry, and needed to view the file quickly, so Totem decided to play 2 seconds of the video file and then stop. I could put the seek pointer to anywhere in the file, and the same thing happened!
Very frustrating – especially since I’d tested video playback after installing Ubuntu and everything seemed to work! But, being the patient and kindly soul that I am, I managed to contain my rage to just shouting at the screen. No humans, animals, or (valuable) inanimate objects were harmed.
The fact that video playback had worked and then stopped working confused me a bit. But the answer was relatively simple. After installing Ubuntu, I then went on to install all the whizzy compositing effects – wobbly windows, 3D cube to switch desktops etc. And this, it seems, was causing the problem. One solution, then, is to disable compwiz; however, as any fule kno, once you’ve experienced the joy of wobbly windows, you can’t go back! So a better solution is as follows:
Open a terminal window and type:
Click on the Video tab and change the Default Output plugin from Auto Detect to X Window System (No Xv)
Close it, and test video playback again. If it still doesn’t work then restart X Windows.
After this, video playback works flawlessly again. So I’m having to find other things to shout at now.