Linux and the HTPC
I am in the process of acquiring parts for my new HTPC which will be based around a Tyan Thunder S2915-E motherboard and an Nvidia GPU (likely a GeForce 260 of some sort). The HTPC will be running dual quad core Opterons and 32GB of DDR2 and will carry a 6TB RAID6 array.
My current system is running WinXP (x86, 32bit) but due to the hardware (64 bit) and addressing requirements I will need to upgrade from XP if I want to benefit from the upgraded hardware... that being said, I would like to avoid Windows7 if at all possible... however, when I say "would like" I am cognizant of the fact that ultimately this might be my only upgrade path.
I'm willing to take another shot at Ubuntu... my first less-than-stellar experience with Ubuntu being my old NC8000 laptop (limping along with no bluetooth, poor audio and graphics support).
Our current HTPC is used primarily for the following:
BeyondTV: watching and recording cable/broadcast TV via a Hauppauge video capture card. MythTV might be a possible replacement...?
Netflix: only compatible with IE however I've been told that it might be possible to get IE running in a VM of WinXP running on top of my Linux distro.
Hulu, YouTube, Pandora etc: should be okay as they are supported by Mozilla Firefox
BitTorrent: again, should run fine under Linux.
Rip DVDs/Virtual Drives: when I get movies from Netflix (granted, less and less these days do we actually get physical media, however it is still useful functionality to have...) I typically rip them immediately then return the movie. I keep the .iso until I get a chance to watch the movie at which point I erase the file (please understand, this is simply a convenience to maximize my turnaround with Netflixh and I've never nor do I intend to create pirate any of my Netflix movies). Currently I use Slysoft + IMGBurn + Daemon Tools under WinXP but will need some similar software under Linux to rip and mount dvd .iso files.
VLC/RealMedia: get a lot of .mkv and .rm clips and currently use VLC and RealAlternative under WinXP... I know VLC is supported for linux but is there any kind of .rm/.ram support under Linux?
I also have a wireless Bluetooth keyboard (that we like immensely since I favor having a keyboard+trackpad for my HTPC vs a standalone mouse).
So now... finally... my question:
If in the next few months I install Ubuntu 9.04 (64bit) how much of this functionality can I realistically expect to keep under Linux?
Along with my list of functionality I've listed out potential Linux "equivalents"... I know MythTV has been around for awhile but I feel like my VMWare->XP->IE->NetFlix solution may be a bit strained... however Netflix (instant viewing) access is make or break functionality that my HTPC must have, the only possible (undesirable IMO) alternative being some kind of Roku box that streams to a separate port on my LCD or Projector.
While attempting to build an HTPC with the above features what are the major obstacles/pitfalls that I should expect to encounter... what issues can I study up on in advance?
Several observations that may or may not be helpful.
For an HTPC (even one that is encoding multiple things at once [yes, even hd stuff]) that much ram and cpu aren't going to be beneficial because you're going to reach the limits of the disks io far sooner than you would hit either the memory bottleneck or cpu bottle... a single quad core and 4g of ram is plenty for the tasks most HTPC encounter.
Quite honestly it sounds more like you want a free windows clone than Linux. If that really is the case I'd suggest you try the Windows 7 RC (64b or 32b), it's pretty good and it's free till early next year. Anyone can download it off microsoft's site.
Windows isn't Linux.
It has strengths and it has weaknesses, expect to spend more time learning how to do things and setting it up and being annoyed than you would with windows... at first, mostly because you don't know it yet.
Once you learn *nix its generally far faster to do just about anything there than it is in Windows.
YMMV. Good luck!
Mainly, I'm just pissed at Microsoft for cramming it's POS Silverlight player down on Netflix. Then installing a POS .net plugin seripticiously in Firefox opening up a piss-load of security vulnerabilities. Then trying to force us (I work at a public University) to upgrade to POS Vista... and so pardon me now if I find myself lacking in faith when it comes to Win7. If I could stick with XP I would probably do that but since I'm committed to the effort of upgrading anyways I'd really like to learn a new OS.
(sorry for the rant)
I also plan to run a L4D server on the box (hopefully it will be built by the time L4D2 comes out) and possibly see if I can game using a VMWare XP clone running on top of Linux - if this latter option is feasible then I will definitely need the extra horsepower.
So got any idea of how I should start aside from just downloading Ubuntu 9.04 64bit and running by the seat of my pants?
If you have any specific problems come here and post and someone can help you out, at this point things are a bit to general to be a lot of help other than pointing you to a tutorial or something similar.
An excellent Linux based HTPC can currently be built very cheaply by taking advantage of the Nvidia ION platform, for a full list of related products have a look at the following page:
Sometimes less is really more! :)
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