GeeXboX: Lightweight Media System
GeeXboX is a live distribution that can quickly turn a PC into a straight-forward media playback solution. It can be installed to a hard disk, but it works quite well when booted from a CDROM or other removable media. I'm going to examine the existing, stable 1.x series and also take a look at what the forthcoming (but already usable) 2.x series has lined up.
GeeXboX 1.2.4, The Stable Edition
For fans of lightweight distributions, things look promising from the start as the GeeXboX ISO is only 18MB in size. Upon booting, the user is presented with a startup menu giving options for booting into GeeXboX itself or installing to a HD. After a few seconds, GeeXboX assumes the default option and boots from the media, a surprisingly fast process. The boot time from a physical CDROM on real hardware was considerably faster than booting from an ISO image with a VM on the same machine, a point worth bearing in mind when assessing GeeXboX.
If you have booted from a CDROM, the disc then ejects as it is no longer needed. I've no doubt that the sheer speed with which GeeXboX can boot will allow many users to do away with installing it to a hard drive altogether.
The main GeeXboX menu is quite simple and there is no media library system at all. Effectively, GeeXboX is front end to MPlayer that can be easily operated via the keyboard or a remote control. It can play individual files on mounted volumes or network resources and it can also play DVDs. There are some controls to calibrate the screen and choose an output display.
For users who want to setup an HTPC that gives access to an enormous library of media files, GeeXboX 1.x is probably too simple, but it's perfect if you need to quickly turn a computer connected to a TV into a media player that can cope with most popular file formats.
GeeXboX 2.0 alpha
GeeXboX 2.0 is based around a custom media player called Enna. Overall, the 2.x series offers more functionality, but at 43MB, no one can accuse the team making things bloated. In addition to the playback features of the previous version, 2.0 includes video and music library facilities in addition to a weather application and an online comic browser.
GeeXboX 2.0alpha. The development team seem to have been able to add the extra facilities without adding unnecessary complexity
Now, I like the idea behind GeeXboX so much that I'm suspicious of any new version. However, being pragmatic, although 2.x does deliver on the new feature front, it's still so slick that there is nothing that you could do on the old version that you can't also do on the new version.
Alternatives such as MythTV and XBMC are applications that offer a full screen interface to media, online content and simple applications such as vintage computer emulators. As such, they do a lot more than the current stable branch of GeeXboX. Dedicated distributions exist (see our overview of two of them) to simplify deploying either solution on a dedicated media box. Despite being more complicated than GeeXboX, both in use and when setting up, they would be my first choice when setting a dedicated media playback box such as a living room HTPC. However, the new 2.x line of GeeXboX is starting to overlap with the capabilities of those larger systems.
As it stands, GeeXboX is hard to beat for quickly turning a standard PC into a simple media playback station. I hope that the developers can continue to improve the system without greatly deviating from the efficiency and simplicity that have become the GeeXboX niche.
The GeeXboX website.
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
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