Home Made Media Center with Ubuntu

During the Christmas holidays I spent some time “refurbishing” a netbook me and my girlfriend have, but is not used, into an home-made media center, running (at the moment) plain Ubuntu 12.10.

We watch some TV, during and after dinner, mostly for TV series and movies, and we used to do that loading everything on a USB key attached to the TV. A boring, and repetitive task. So why not giving some new life to that small netbook?


All the ingredients for this recipe are:

  • A netbook (this one has an Atom N570 CPU, 1GB RAM, 500GB disk)
  • Copy of Ubuntu 12.10 32-bit
  • VGA cable
  • 2 USB hard-disks
  • A Hi-Fi system (optional)

Installing the operating system, the necessaries codecs and all the updates is an easy-peasy experience nowadays. Nothing special to report, everything works flawlessly. After connecting all the cables, safely hidden from the eye (the back of the TV is turning into a jungle), the netbook-turned-media-center is now stored in a shady place in the living room, connected to the TV via its VGA cable (unfortunately the only video output), linked to the Hi-Fi via Bluetooth (hurray! one cable less!), with close to 2TB of USB-connected disk space, sharing videos and music on the internal network.

At the moment I’m piloting the media center via a VNC connection from a Nexus 7, but I’m planning to find a (or write my own) keyboard and mouse app for the tablet to pair up via Bluetooth with the netbook. Or a special Ubuntu oriented Android app to control an Ubuntu machine in an easy way.

I tried installing Rygel to serve media files, but had no luck in making it work. I will have to dig deeper and give it another try. The other solution I was pondering was to install XMBC. Time permitting, I’ll probably try it out.

Of course everything is not perfect: I have some high quality videos, Matroska files weighing from 2 to 8 GB, that the system is not handling in a good way. The smallest ones are not reproduced correctly, audio and video are out of sync, the biggest ones are not reproduced at all: or you get video, or you get audio. Guess the decoding is not that fast to handle everything is a smooth way. Listening to music via the Bluetooth connection to the Hi-Fi, is not as bad as I would have thought: it actually provides a really enjoyable experience.

Ubuntu Made Easy Promo Code

For the English speaking audience (but not only). If you are interested in a new book on the latest LTS version of Ubuntu, No Starch Press is promoting “Ubuntu Made Easy” for one week, 40% off on the paper version, and you get DRM-free ebooks format (PDF, mobi, epub) with it.

The link to the promotional code is here:

Spread the voice, and grab it as fast as you can!

The book is really worth it if you are getting closer to Linux for the first time, but still an interesting reading for all.

PS: I technically reviewed the book.

Kindle 4 PC Under Linux

If you are trying to install or use Kindle for PC under Linux, I had a problem with the version of Wine shipped by default in Ubuntu 12.04 (that is Wine version 1.4).

After installing Wine PPA and upgrading to version 1.5, I had another problem, but this one is easily solvable: it is necessary ro rename or remove one file from the Wine installation directory. The file is:


and Kindle 4 PC will work in all its glory. Just saying it here since I found different results on the Internet, with different solutions, none of which were really working. Somebody is also reporting the necessity to have ttf-mscorefonts installed to have it work, I didn’t install them, or they have been installed by default.

Why using Kindle for PC? I’m trying to export books bought via the Kindle Store, but without the DRM. Looks like Calibre is able to do it, but I had no luck. There are plugins that should help you with that, but I still have errors while trying to import a DRMed book.

What should be necessary is a Kindle PID, not the serial number, that can be found out easily, plus your Kindle serial number. With both of them, nothing will change. I do not know if with the latest Kindle generation Amazon changed something in their encryption mechanism…

If anybody out there had more luck, fancy sharing your experience?

Report from UDS-Q Day 1

Here I am, writing from San Franciso, the first report for the (ongoing) day 1 of the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) that will shape Ubuntu 12.10.

It all started in a very good way, flight was (almost) on time, Alessio was blocked for a couple of hours at immigration, Leo was stopped and had to open up all of his bags, but eventually we made it to the hotel safe and sound.

Oakland, on the other side of the San Francisco Bay, looks to be a nice city to hang around: there are small restaurants around the corner from our hotel, some local breweries, a board games shop just in from of us, a sunny and warm weather, everything that you need!

Already quite a lot of interesting stuff heard and discussed about: Mark and Calxeda showcasing the first Ubuntu ARM server, numbers of Ubuntu installation around the world, HP talking about its certification for 12.04, a lot of chats about juju and charms, and devop, Linaro… Looks like cloud is the big word around here (tomorrow there will be a cloud summit too).

Interesting week ahead.