A Linux Home Entertainment Center

As I mentioned in an earlier Linux Journal article, I decided to cut the apron strings with my television provider over a year ago. Bye bye, DISH Satelite TV!

Man, you should have heard them whimper. "But sir, is there anything we can do to keep your business?"

"No, thanks. I get all of my content off the internet now. Have you tried Hulu.com*? It's great!" I can be a real jerk sometimes.

In any event, I thought I'd share my system specs with you and tell you a little bit about how I've got it configured.

Here is the hardware that I used to build the box. Total cost was ~$520.

I installed the latest KDE (Kubuntu 10.04) on it and dumbed down the interface to where it only provides the media services I want: video & music. Here are a few screen shots:

As you can see, I use Amarok as the music player, Dolphin as the file browser and I have the Linux Hulu Desktop client installed. All of the local media is streamed via NFS from one of the servers in my home office over gigabit ethernet.

Combining this machine with a Denon AVR-890 800 watt Surround Receiver, a Samsung 47" LED flat panel, a Sony Blu Ray player, and my wonderful old Celestion 9 speakers and we can do some serious rock and roll on the home entertainment center.

*Note: Hulu.com is only available for streaming content from within the United States.



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Loved the bit about the cable provider....

Entertainment Centers's picture

Have you heard also about Boxee? Its in my digital Entertainment Centers

These guys also have a nifty interface. Not sure about Linux compatibility though...

Home Automation has taken on

Home Automation's picture

Home Automation has taken on a toll to higher advancement. Different gadgets and gizmos are entering the market just create a state of the art living room, gaming room etc. These high tech devices cater to all sorts of needs and not only make living standards more comfortable but also luxurious. It almost as if your own home encompasses the facilities found in hotels.

I have been trying to

Gumball's picture

I have been trying to understand this thread, only to be constantly hijacked by this shuford character who obviously thinks his opinion is worth a damn. Take your opining somewhere else please. For goodness sake.

DVRs may be more useful than we think...

Scott Atkinson's picture

Doug -

Long time Linux & dvr & all the rest user in various flavors here.

Also, news director of small tv station in upstate NY, and as such tend to read a lot of industry stuff.

While the idea of being able to do it all from some combination of Hulu/Boxee/XBMC is intriguing, I run up against a couple of walls. I'm still paying the cable co. a lot of money every month for broadband service and more important, it looks like the big media companies will be doing their level best to monetize (to use an awful word) on-line playout.

What I want is something that combines the best elements of mythtv with a Boxee or XBMC, and doesn't force you to switch from program to program.


Scott Atkinson
Watertown NY

Just a thought!

jshuford's picture

IMO: I would suggest that you consider SnapStream Beyond TV (http://www.snapstream.com/) for use within a VM.

My ideal set-up is one where I am running a Linux host, a Windows 7 VM and SnapStream Beyond TV v.

By using this configuration you can enjoy all of the benefits of "Boxee/XBMC/MythTV and Windows Media Center" without the hassles of "DRM" issues!

As for "Hulu" I am afraid that you will still be forced to use an "Internet Explorer" compatible browser to enjoy their services.

I am aware that the solution that I have offered is probably the most expensive, I have to say that I have evaluated most of the of the options out there and have found that SnapStream offers the best solution for all of my needs.


You still here?

dpickens's picture

I see you're still polluting this thread with your "nutter" garbage, jshuford.

And, you did not disappoint: clueless as usual. Hulu does not require 'Internet Explorer capabilities'. Hulu works just fine in Firefox or Chrome browsers on Linux boxes. It's a flash application, you see. The Hulu Linux Desktop Application also works flawlessly with (surprise) Linux.

I guess every forum needs a nut case. You can be ours.

My my my...

jshuford's picture

It only took about an hour for your response...too funny!

The use of an "Internet Explorer" compatible browser would allow for the saving of streamed programs from "Hulu".com. The "Hulu Linux Desktop Application" does NOT allow for the saving of streamed media!

Mr. Atkinson had mentioned an interest "DVRs may be more useful than we think..." Thus the suggestion I had made!

The rest of my post obviously reached "well" above your ability to comprehend and I forgive you for that as well.

Instead of acknowledging that I had submitted a decent response to a reasonably posted need by a reader; you have resorted to child-like behavior and only embarrassed yourself!

Who's the "nut" now? PUNK!


LF does not exist anymore ?

pbardet's picture

So did you find me the info I was looking for in your wonderful UK publication ?
Cause it took you a few days to come back, but still no info. Only claims !

I see...

jshuford's picture

Actually I did find what you were looking for...I think that you may need to use better search parameters in the future!

No comment about my reader response? Weak!


No comment

pbardet's picture

On advising to use windows software in a Linux related publication. I don't call this a solution. But if it suits you, great.

I'm still waiting for links. I won't forget. I completely accept my flaws and I surrender to the power of the keywords that has been granted to you by the lord of computers. Oh mercy, mercy ! Please welcome the master of keywords who will soon enlighten me since I haven't inherited such privilege to hold the right parameters.

You've got all night, even more, I've got all the time. I already waited a few days to get news from you, I can wait more to let you chill and shine by sharing such knowledge of yours. Until then, Iĺl have to go pray in my bed that I will soon discover the light.

Oh, don't forget to register yourself, Mr "I'm not a stranger, but I don't want to be verified" ! So easy to sign with a fake email address and claim you're not anonymous.

Well now...

JShuford's picture

As for the advising/using of Windows software: Since I really think the use of Microsoft products is appropriate for entertainment purposes, well...

As for "still waiting for links", do your own home-work! Here is a little help to get you started: http://www.linuxformat.com/forums/search.php?mode=results

As for "keywords" try: PVR, DVR, HTPC, Computer, T.V., WINE, VMWARE. I use dictionaries and thesauruses, encyclopaedia's, Bibles, Websites, The Stars and of course my "toes".

I have registered; I hope that you feel better now!

BTW; Does this "fine" publication actually answer reader questions or do you "guy's" just attack others that simply try to help? (You do realize that the constant need to "demean" others is a sign of...inadequacy.)

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!


pbardet's picture

I am stupid. I would never have thought that the LF forum would be written by LF authors, so I only searched their web site to find their articles and the forum did not even show up in the results. Stupid me.

I should really be friends with you, since you requested this ! Or not.


JShuford's picture

Too bad we can't be friends :(

"I am stupid. I would never have thought that the LF forum would be written by LF authors"...I concur!

Have a nice day!

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!

My my my...

jshuford's picture

It only took about an hour for your response...too funny!

The use of an "Internet Explorer" compatible browser would allow for the saving of streamed programs from "Hulu".com. The "Hulu Linux Desktop Application" does NOT allow for the saving of streamed media!

Mr. Atkinson had mentioned an interest "DVRs may be more useful than we think..." Thus the suggestion I had made!

The rest of my post obviously reached "well" above your ability to comprehend and I forgive you for that as well.

Instead of acknowledging that I had submitted a decent response to a reasonably posted need by a reader; you have resorted to child-like behavior and only embarrassed yourself!

Who's the "nut" now? PUNK!



dpickens's picture

One idiotic response was not enough? You had to repeat yourself?

Relax, dude! You've already won the Linux Journal Honorary Nut Case position. It's yours. Chill.

Well now...

jshuford's picture

I felt the need to repeat myself because I wanted you to understand!

It's too bad that you are unable to refute my response or provide the readers a better alternative.




dpickens's picture

I say if being a complete dipshit works for you, go with it! Your reputation is solid in this regard.


jshuford's picture

More like the "Shiz-nit"

Too bad I just F0CkEd you guy's again!!!

Boy, you sure got me there

dpickens's picture

I guess you win this one too. How tiresome for you.


jshuford's picture

Boom Shakalaka!

Your hubris has come Full Circle

Bad Breath Brigade's picture

The comment section to your 'description' (not "How-To"?) of your Linux Home Entertainment Center article/NewEgg advert has been hijacked by technologically-adept/socially-inept Bad Breath Brigadier jshuford --just like you attempted to do to the writer of the Spotlight: PCLinuxOS article, with your six gazillion New Mexican Nonsense comments on 64 bits.

How does it feel?
They tell me that Crow tastes bitter.
Tell us, Wise One, did that kUbuntu enlighten your 64 bit dreams?

Many thanks to Linux Journal for the free content that they provide; as I was never one to complain about a Free Lunch. This article is one of the most original and innovative NewEgg adverts that I've ever encountered; and your comeuppance was well worth the price of admission.

Sad, Lonely

SPancho's picture

It must be a very sad and lonely existence trolling around the technical journals under a cute little made-up name, making a nuisance of yourself.


INS's picture

How did you get in here?


obx_ruckle's picture

Thanks for the article. Not as technical as it could have been but I see it as a starting point. I love the way everyone is so encouraging with ideas for improving the article. I would be interested in the Linux Mint 9 results. Once you publish that article we can improve that one.


Doug.Roberts's picture

I'll get right on it. I live for people telling me how to improve my stuff.



zb's picture

If anyone is interested in watching Hulu they just need to get a US based virtual server and use a socks proxy to access restricted US sites via that server. There are plenty on Howto articles around if you search. I have used this to get iPlayer content from the BBC in the UK for a couple of years and it works very well and is not expensive unless you want to watch several hours every day.


PS who is this jshuford guy. He is what we Brits call a nutter!

Here in the US we have a different name for his type

SPancho's picture

But it's not very polite.

Hulu Plus

Caranguejo's picture

btw, with hulu plus, you have a couple more features... HD, support for iPhones, Internet-enabled TVs can stream hulu content with a plus account.

as library and membership grows, there will be even more options.

http://hulu.com/plus done.

streaming cable news

bonez2046's picture

I'd LOVE to access all tv content over the 'net, but what I really want access to are a few niche cable outlets including FooNews, a few cooking channels and some other news channels. The ONLY reason I'd ever subscribe to cable would be to get access to those. Can HULU or other options provide access to such content, and if so what would something like the foxnews channel cost for access?

In a previous comment I

HarryH's picture

In a previous comment I mentioned that there are US web sites not available in Canada

This week I watched streaming video of the Queens arrival here in Halifax and the next day the fleet review..In the small window the quality was superb ,full screen, at a prober viewing distance OK .. What would be interesting is would the cbc.ca site be available in other countries and viewers able to see this streaming video ... The weather was not the best , rain the first day and fog and over cast the second


Element OS, A Media Distro you may have missed

Kevin Element's picture

The premise of this blog is the reason I began developing a system to fulfill such needs.

Doug check it out if you have time.

Element OS

A Ten-Foot UI adapted to an XFCE Environment. You'll dig it for what you are doing. Unless your a KDE diehard as it does use GTK.

Just letting you know.

We'll have a 1.3 release of our app stack out in the next couple of days and you may want to wait till then.

Really Cool

Doug.Roberts's picture


Your Element stuff looks really nice. Good work!

Re: KDE, funny you should mention that. I'm actually a bit tired of KDE and will be reinstalling the home entertainment system with Linux Mint 9 this weekend. I'll add Element to my list of OS/apps to try out.


blog v article

marytee's picture

Wny does jshuford attempt to elevate a blog entry (Doug Roberts Blog) to the level of a full-fledged 'article'? A blog entry is simply the observations (i.e. opinions) of a blogger regarding some topic. On the other hand, an article is subject to the constraints of the magazine, editor, etc. It seems to me that Doug Roberts was simply blogging his experience regarding his media center.

Because he's a jerk?

Anonymous's picture

jshuford gives every indication of being an insecure little jerk attempting to draw attention to himself. Every forum has at least one.

You're right, this was just a blog post in which the author described his Linux media center.


Anonymous's picture

"Every forum has at least one."

In fact I think he has posted at least once into every forum ;)


Another Media Centre

Stomfi's picture

In Australia, I bought a second hand 40GB PS3, a DIY replacement 500GB drive, and a new PlayTV peripheral, and a remote. All hooked up to my HD TV, sound system, and Internet.
Works out of the box and plays Blue Ray too.
Free to Air digital TV including our multicultural foreign film and news channels and our local TV station, photos, images, music, USB archive to connect the daily updates to my Linux wireless network server to entertain the neighbours. I suppose I could even play games if I found the time between using the media centre whilst hacking away on Linux.

The only thing missing is interoperability, but I can't go past the PS3's functionality even with using Linux solution. Total media centre cost $AUD600.

Streaming all your TV is not really an option here unless you are one of those families rich enough to afford the charges undersea cable operators add to make our telecommunication costs too high for the masses.
One of these days someone will work out how to bounce lossless free data around the world with those disused satellite channels.

Linux walks all over PS3

Anonymous's picture

A well configured mythtv/xbmc combo on Linux beats the PS3 hands down. You can't even play an mkv on the PS3 without transcoding apps meaning you need a beefy PC behind it to make it useful anyway. Add to that the severe limitations of the tv plug in with the PS3. A myth server allows virtual tuners so you can record multiple shows from the one transport stream with a single tuner. VDPAU support provides brilliant picture quality on very low spec hardware (with a decent nvidia card). XBMC is the best HTPC software every written in terms of style, appearance and functionality and myth is the ultimate in PVR functionality wise. There's so many reasons why a dedicated Linux PVR is better I couldn't list them all here!

Pity Hulu isn't available worldwide!

Home Entertainment Center

Daedalus's picture

I have done the same thing this summer. I do not have Cable Tv , I can not afford it as I am disabled and on a fixed income, I get the Internet and now watch Tv that I want to watch.
This helps give access to people like myself who can't afford the cost of Cable.
I did as you did and It works great. Also I am glad to see that you put this forward for others to see, this seeds the Idea so all can use this to have entertainment to there home for little cost!
This in it's self may help drive down the cost of Cable that has risen in cost every year without much added if anything for the value.

A nobody

Anonymous's picture


This jshuford person appears to be a bit of a nobody who, as it turns out, is apparently from Austin, Texas. So much for his international "expertise". He spends a lot of time whining on crackberry.com and various ubuntu forums. If I might suggest: he's not worth you wasting any more time on. Nice try at civility, though.

Loved your article, btw. Hulu.com really is a great resource.


Doug.Roberts's picture

On the internet nobody knows you're a dog.

Well now...

jshuford's picture

When I first encountered your article on my "yarr" I was exited at the prospect of someone else out there doing something useful and helping others that may want to do this for themselves. I came to this site with the intent of reviewing your article and quite possibly referring the article to others that may be interested in the same type of idea!

My initial criticism of your article was limited to that of a statement of ignorance for international users. Your initial response was "I'll be sure to let my family in Germany know about my "international ignorance"!" You went on to say something to the effect of having been to Libya...and so on!

When I mentioned other aspects of your writing and replies you continued to remain steadfast in that it was I who was wrong and NOT you. You even went as far as having others come along and criticize me...Too bad for you; and Linux Journal.

Now that I have returned to this site to further review today's exchanges I now realize what I had missed earlier: You really have no clue as to what you are writing about or as to what you are doing!

Other people have submitted their thoughts and you went after them with as much gusto as you had with me earlier today (...so you save $600.00 ann). I should have known that the article was written and published for the exclusive use by yourself and not for the benefit of others. "All of the local media is streamed via NFS from one of the servers in my home office over gigabit ethernet.

Combining this machine with a Denon AVR-890 800 watt Surround Receiver, a Samsung 47" LED flat panel, a Sony Blu Ray player, and my wonderful old Celestion 9 speakers and we can do some serious rock and roll on the home entertainment center." WOW!

I have given you enough opportunity to modify your article so that it truly does benefit others and you have refused to do so.

When I publish my review of this Website and it's so-called "experts" I will do so with a copy of today's discussions and replies. Perhaps you should consider working more hours at your "real" job involving "real-estate" and leave the technical stuff to the pro's.

Real Estate?

Doug.Roberts's picture

I continue to be duly impressed by your fervor, jshuford.

Your facts remain on shaky ground, however. How in the world did you come to the conclusion that I am in any way involved with real estate? I am a computer scientist; have been for about 34 years now, last time I checked. High-performance computing, to be specific. You know: Linux clusters, kernel development, large-scale distributed agent based models, big SMP boxes. I've worked at and with several national laboratories in the United States, and before that as a consultant to large overseas corporations.

I shall, regardless of this small oversight in your background research, await the publishing of your website review with breathless anticipation. Please send me a link to it when it is ready.

I'd even be happy to proofread it for you beforehad, if you like. To, you know, check it for errors.


jshuford's picture

I use the term "real-estate" loosely! (privacy).

Again I reiterate that you have written an article that seems entirely for the benefit of yourself!

I will gladly provide you with a link for the article once it is published.

I'll leave you now to the wonderment of your own refection...


Doug.Roberts's picture

I believe you meant "reflection"...

"Refection", as I am sure you will agree, makes no sense whatsoever.

Main Entry: re·fec·tion
Pronunciation: \ri-ˈfek-shən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English refeccioun, from Anglo-French refectiun, from Latin refection-, refectio, from reficere to restore, from re- + facere to make — more at do
Date: 14th century
1 : refreshment of mind, spirit, or body; especially : nourishment
2 a : the taking of refreshment b : food and drink together : repast


jshuford's picture

"refreshment of mind, spirit, or body"; No...I stated what I meant!

Look at that; YOU learned something today!!!

What about arrogance ?

pbardet's picture

You already know that word. Isn't it ?

Maybe you should start writing and see if the editors will consider your articles since you know so much better, instead of polluting this article forum !
Take a break. This stuff is published for free, unlike the other source you referred to earlier ! And LJ is always welcoming new contributors.


jshuford's picture

...I understand.

I learn something *every* day

Doug.Roberts's picture

However, I have yet to learn not to engage in exchanges like this one.

Perhaps I'll learn about that tomorrow.

"I love the smell of napalm

jshuford's picture

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning"

"How refreshing, a flame war! I haven't seen a good flame war since, well, I don't know when!"...Forgot your exchanges?

"Perhaps I'll learn about that tomorrow."

You would think that with your "vast knowledge and experience" you would have realized your mistake earlier! Whatever; when the article is published you will then understand.


Why build a media center without TV and DVR

ArtInvent's picture

I find articles like this fairly pointless. All you have done is hooked up a TV as the monitor for a PC, and put the sound through a stereo. No TV tuner? No IR remote?

To me a media center has got to have TV tuners and a DVR. Hulu is fine, but the content on it is quite limited and there's really nothing on it that doesn't get broadcast over the air. I can and do DVR all those shows (and tons more) in true HD, no cable req'd.

I use Ubuntu on my main machine and hate to say it but frankly Windows Media Center works pretty brilliantly and came set up on our HP computer with a dedicated remote and all, so that's what hooked up to the TV. I have messed with MythTV and while it looks powerful it was not nearly as user friendly and slick as Win MC. And not exactly easy to set up. The newer versions look more promising. It would be nice to see some howtos on getting this running perfectly.