I'm happy owner of a MacBook and an iPod touch and took the usual route (dos, windows, linux) getting there.
My experience with windows taught me that it's incredibly easy to mess up your system by installing the wrong codecs in the wronger order, so I tended to reinstall systems quite a lot.
Now, since vmware has decent multimedia capabilities, I'm going to outsource media conversion tasks to a virtual machine (i did that before for development ... works just swell). But since drive space is kinda restricted on a notbook and system resources are an issue as well, I'd like to optimize the VM I'm going to use for encoding (probably using mencoder for everything).
The tasks I'm going to perform are mostly converting videos from varying formats (ogm, mkv) and codecs (h264, divx, whatever) with embedded subtitles and sometimes several audio tracks into an iphone compatible format with a single audio track and hard encoded subtitle.
I usually used the Windows Software MediaCoder for most of the time, but recently I encountered tons of source videos that resist all my efforts. Audio track out of sync, 24 minute episodes shrink to a garbled 4 minute flick, or subtitles mysteriously disappear. One way to work around that was to rip video/audio/subtitle streams seperately and combine them to a single file manually. And since no known gui is going to take this work from me I might as well ditch the guis altogether and script it in linux, which brings me to my original request:
* I need a small fast distro that doesn't install anything unneeded for these specific tasks.
* It obviously needs video/audio playback capabilities and may have a desktop environment (I tend to xfe, which is why I don't consider xubuntu anymore: It's half gnome by now).
* It would be nice if it autodetects network shares like ubuntu does (xubuntu doesn't) because the to-be-converted movies will be in vmware shared folders or network shares.
* I really don't want to install everything from scratch. When I say barebone I really mean fleshed out (but not bloated). I don't need open office for video conversion but graphic text editor and file manager are ok.
So, which is the distro of my dreams ?