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Old 01-06-2013, 03:00 PM   #1
beatleuk
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Best solution for old PC as media player


Hi All,

First post here but I'm not new to forums so here goes.

I have an old desktop,
Compaq Deskpro EN
PIII 800MhZ
512Mb RAM
ATI Radeom 7000 64MB PCI Graphics
80Gb HDD
DVD ROM

I use this as a medi player in my daughters room and have had this running Windows XP pro streaming videos from a Windows 7 box using Windows Media Player no problem. Good quality AV with no stuttering or buffering.

I now very much prefer Linux over MS and thought this box would be a good candidate for Linux knowing it's not as resource hungry as Win.

Alas I have tried the following distros:
Ubuntu 10.4, 12.4(definitely not) and Xubuntu 12.10
and have used a mixture of SMplater, VLC, XBMC and native Video player but cannot get it to play video smoothly.

Does anybody have any suggestions on the best solution to make use of this PC as a media player and what mix of OS and media player to use?
 
Old 01-06-2013, 03:35 PM   #2
haertig
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You would want something with a light desktop for that system (i.e., not Gnome or KDE). You might try lubuntu. Or LinuxMint with the XFCE desktop. LinuxMint is not considered a light distro, but with the XFCE desktop at least the basic GUI is light, although many of the included apps are not (e.g. LibreOffice). I am surprised that the hardware you listed will even run WinXP at all, let alone stream video as well as you describe.
 
Old 01-06-2013, 08:07 PM   #3
frankbell
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If you could get some additional RAM, that would help significantly. Be sure to check the docs for the RAM specifications (you might have to take off the case and get the make and model of the motherboard; the manufacturer should have the manual on line). Many motherboards will accept only certain combinations (for example, two 512 chips or four 256 chips, but not one 512 chip and two 256 chips).

haertig's advice about Unity, Gnome, and KDE is excellent.

SalixOS offers a very nice Fluxbox spin--window managers don't get much lighter unless you're want to use something like TWM. You can run any window manager with any distro (I have run Fluxbox with Debian, Slackware, Fedora, and Ubuntu, for example), but having it ready to go out-of-the-box is nice if you don't want to learn how to configure up the window manager.
 
Old 01-07-2013, 11:19 AM   #4
trevoratxtal
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http://www.geexbox.org/
Have a look at this I found it a very simple and effective Media Player.
Trev
I have checked the minimum Ram at 64Meg and processor as 386, so would be worth trying on your rig, it can be tried without altering any thing on your hard drive.

Last edited by trevoratxtal; 01-07-2013 at 12:41 PM. Reason: Added information.
 
Old 01-07-2013, 11:28 AM   #5
snowpine
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Welcome to the forums!

Whoever told you "Ubuntu is less resource-intensive than Windows XP" didn't know what they were talking about. I recommend you leave Windows XP on this machine since it works fine for your needs and provides "good quality AV with no stuttering or buffering." I am pro-Linux in general, but do not see any advantage in switching your daughter's ancient Pentium 3 computer from Windows to Linux in this instance.
 
Old 01-07-2013, 11:45 AM   #6
lykwydchykyn
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Did you use the built-in open source graphics driver, or did you try the proprietary ATI drivers when you ran any of these?

I've had difficulties with ATI graphics and smooth playback on the limited number of ATI systems I've encountered. I think using a non-compositing desktop environment is a must (LXDE, or XFCE with compositing disabled).
 
Old 01-07-2013, 12:11 PM   #7
DavidMcCann
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Looking at my reviews (available on this site), I see the following that all run in less than 512MB and which played media very well:

Recommending a Pentium III.
Salix. I use it on my laptop with a 600MHz processor. Xfce desktop.

Recommending a Pentium II
Bodhi. E17 desktop. No software on the CD: you pick your own, which means you aren't installing LibreOffice on your media centre.
Swift. Ice window manager.
ZorinOS Light. LXDE desktop.
 
Old 01-07-2013, 02:52 PM   #8
beatleuk
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All,

Thanks for your responses, I will try as many as I can until I get the best solution and post my findings back here.

@frankbell Unfortunately 512Mb is the max this box can take

@snowpine I'd prefer to use an non MS product if possible, plus MS is retiring support for XP this year, the 8Gb HDD that came with the system filled up with MS updates and I can't seem to Image it to another drive successfully. Lastly I thought that whilst upgrading the HDD would be an ideal opportunity to try and find a NON-MS alternative. There's no rush as I'm using a MK802 in the interim whilst messing about with this setup.

@lykwydchykyn I used the buitin drivers and ran the check for proprietary drivers but it came back with no results. I'll check the drivers on my next rebuild.

Thanks again and will report back soon!
 
Old 01-07-2013, 03:43 PM   #9
snowpine
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Understood that you prefer a non-MS product, but that being said, I wouldn't worry too much about the XP end-of-support if all the computer is used for is streaming media over the local network.

Out of curiosity do you see a difference in quality when you play a video streaming vs. the same video copied to the local hard drive?

For comparison, several years ago I ran CrunchBang (a lightweight Openbox distro based on Debian) on a 600mhz Pentium 3 with some kind of integrated ATI graphics. I was able to get as high as about 480p watching videos locally from my hard drive using mplayer; I never had any luck with higher-definition or streaming. (If the videos you are trying to stream are 720p or higher then try converting them to lower res.)
 
Old 01-08-2013, 10:47 AM   #10
lykwydchykyn
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Is the HDD 8 GB or 80?

If you want to try something REALLY small and fast you can look into TinyCore or Slitaz, both of which will run VLC.

At the risk of pushing my own blog, I have a series on Linux for old computers that might be helpful to you:

http://www.alandmoore.com/blog/2011/...-expectations/

Also another article about non-Linux FOSS operating systems on older hardware, which might give you some ideas:

http://www.alandmoore.com/blog/2012/...ossible-tasks/
 
Old 01-08-2013, 11:04 AM   #11
cascade9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
If you could get some additional RAM, that would help significantly. Be sure to check the docs for the RAM specifications (you might have to take off the case and get the make and model of the motherboard; the manufacturer should have the manual on line). Many motherboards will accept only certain combinations (for example, two 512 chips or four 256 chips, but not one 512 chip and two 256 chips).
RAM wont help much if at all, if you have the right distro. It doesnt even need to be a super light distro.

Up till late 2011 I was using a P3/866 with varing amounts of RAM from 192MB to 512MB running Aptosid Xfce. There was 0 difference between 192MB and 512MB for use as a media box. Playing any video media file the system could handle RAM use was under 192MB. If it could play big formats that were unplayable due to CPU/GPU limitations (e.g. big resolution .mkv files) extra RAM might help...but with an old P3 you dont have the CPU power or GPU features to decode the bigger files.

@ beatleuk- that ssytem is so old that a lot of the 'features' that some of the 'easy' distros like ubuntu offer (e.g. the 'hardware drivers' tool with ubuntu used for adding closed source drivers for video cards, etc.) are pretty much piontless. Everything should run 'out of the box' with any current distro.

I'd probably try antix.

http://antix.mepis.org/index.php?title=Main_Page
http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=antix
 
Old 01-08-2013, 04:27 PM   #12
beatleuk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lykwydchykyn View Post
Is the HDD 8 GB or 80?.....
When the box was running WinXP it had a 8GB HDD which has run out of space. Whilst upgrading the HDD to 80GB I thought I'd try to run a different OS, hence my post here!

Still working on it so I will formulate a report back

@cascade9 Thanks, I;ll look into your suggestions too!
 
Old 01-08-2013, 04:29 PM   #13
beatleuk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowpine View Post
.....Out of curiosity do you see a difference in quality when you play a video streaming vs. the same video copied to the local hard drive? ...
As the box only had 8GB when running WinXP I never copied anything to the local HDD and only ran it streaming from the Win7 box.
 
Old 02-09-2013, 07:38 AM   #14
mjolnir
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It's just a thought but you might install both hdds and run XP untill you find a distro you like.

"Compaq Deskpro EN PII 450 - Adding 2nd hard drive..."

http://h30499.www3.hp.com/t5/Busines...ve/td-p/221217
 
Old 02-11-2013, 10:41 AM   #15
beatleuk
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So I have tried numerous distros and I have not been able to get that config streaming video smoothly.
I have however found the reason which is purely the drivers for the display card. There are only windows drivers for that ATI GPU (or at least that's all I could find). I did find a linux ATI driver pack but it didn't support my specific card.

So I have had no option but to go back to Windows XP. I put in a 80GB HDD, installed XP pro with SP2, all updates, anti-virus and malware. ATI drivers easily obtainable from AMD support site and just using Windows Media Player it works a treat.

I am sure that if I changed the graphics card to one I could get Linux drivers for I would have had more success but alas windows has won this round!

Thanks for all of your input and suggestions, I really do appreciate it.

Cheers!
 
  


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