After several solid years of hard use, my XBox displayed the red ring of death and refused to boot into XBMC, regardless of what keypad combination I tried, so it was time to scratch the itch and build the home theatre PC I’d been promising myself for so long.
Firstly, was I going to go with an out-of-the-box hardware solution, or a custom built HTPC? As I want the option to be able to add a satellite/TV card in the future, a custom built PC seemed to fit the bill very nicely, and also means I’ll be able to browse the web without some awful proprietary interface (Opera on the Wii anyone??).
I’ve been wondering which OS I should use for the past few months, but decided quite adamantly it was going to have to be Linux-based. I’ve been given a MacBook Pro at work and I’ve grown from being a staunch Mac-tolerator to be quite impressed with OSX. Recently I painlessly installed the iATKOS OSX 10.5.7 version onto my main home computer, a quad core with Gigabyte motherboard and an Nvidia GPU. By a huge, huge fluke this comination just happened to be the recommended hardware that plays nicely with OSX and has given me the confidence to actually build an HTPC with this OS in mind.
As for Ubuntu I’ve played with it several times over the past few years so thought that would also serve well as a contender. Needless to say support for this OS is a little more organised.
My next decision would be the HTPC software that would play my media. Obiously with Windows being crossed off the list I wouldn’t have to suffer the pain of using Windows Media Center or MediaPortal, both of which I had played with on HTPCs a few years ago. XBMC is the jaw-droppingly good, free, and most obvious choice. Recently Boxee have just released a beta of their media center front-end, based on XBMC, so regardless of which one I chose, XBMC would be in there somewhere.
So next I had to choose some hardware.