From the beginning of the project I was clear on the software I wanted: XBMC running on top of Linux. I feel comfortable enough with the operating system. And all the information and screen captures that I saw of XBMC made the choice easier. Besides, I didn’t want to incur the extra expense of purchasing a Windows license.
I used Arch Linux when I was setting up the system and testing the setup. I’m really fond of that distro. It requires some knowledge but you’re in full control. I installed Dharma on it and after some configuration, it went well. It needs tinkering, so it won’t work out of the box. There are numerous resources about it, including how to get XBMC working properly.
After the HW part was set, I started looking for SW options. It was during the time that Eden came out. With the new version the XBMC folks also offered a revamped XBMC Live, based in Ubuntu. I was intrigued by it, specially with the option of having a desktop. The installation of XBMCUbuntu went OK, except for the part which I couldn’t see much of the text because of the font. But I ended up installing it. My problem with it is that the desktop (out of the box) is practically useless because of the layout (font and icons were really small). Also, I didn’t get 5.1 surround sound via S/PDIF. There are ways of configuring all of this, but this nuisances gave me the perfect excuse to try an alternative.
OpenELEC is even easier to install than XBMCUbuntu. Everything worked out of the box. It shouldn’t be a surprise because you have to use a version of it designed for the platform you are running (in my case ION2). I’m running 1.95.3 and I love it. Everything worked out of the box. It even has options lacking in the official Eden version (e.g. SABnzbd, Sick Beard). It’s fast and I have a SSH prompt into it, in case I need a command prompt.
I’m still on the fences about having an alternative desktop. It would open the possibility to use the system as PC, in case I wanted to (Skype comes to mind). If I ever feel like it, I might try Arch Linux again. But in the mean time, I love my new gadget. I have copied a couple of movies for the kids, and me and the wife enjoyed a couple of episodes from our favorite TV series, and I didn’t have to move from the couch. Even the subtitles, the plugin worked great and I didn’t have to spend time searching for it. The wife was impressed, and believe me, it takes some effort to impress her.
Temperature is running between 45/50° for both GPU and CPU. I can live with that. I have wanted to make this for a long time. It was worth the wait