I have been using PlutoHome as a home automation solution to control lighting, media (A/V), and my home phone network. LinuxMCE is a direct branch of PlutoHome originally ported to run on top of an Ubuntu Desktop. With the latest Beta of LinuxMCE, the desktop of choice is now Kubunu, the KDE version of Ubuntu. This change was made in order to overcome a limitation of Gnome’s X11 implementation that is not apparent in KDE.
To start things off, I downloaded 3 ISO files.
- Kubuntu install disk
- LinuxMCE Packages disk
- LinuxMCE Cache Disk
The LinuxMCE Packages and Cache disk are available as a single torrent file.
After downloading the ISO files, they were burned to CD using Nero.
The first step to the actual install is make sure the target system is able to boot from a CD. This can be set by accessing the system BIOS, and setting the CDRom as the first boot device in the boot sequence. Refer to you Motherboard’s BIOS information for instructions on setting this up.
Place the Kubuntu install disk in the CD Tray, and re/start your computer. The computer will boot from the system on the CD and display a list of options. One of the options is to check the disk for errors. I always select this first to make sure the newly created CD is free of errors before starting the system install. Theres nothing worse than getting 2/3rds of the way through the install only to have it fail due to a read error of similar. Of course you could skip that part if you want. If you do run the disk integrity check, you will need to reboot the computer again assuming there were no errors found.
If you skip the integrity check, of you completed is successfully, you can now select the first option”Start of Install Kubuntu”. This will load the Kubuntu OS to memory and display a nice desktop with an install icon in the upper left corner. click the icon to get started.
Next you are asked to answer a few questions related to your location and language preferences. Answer these and continue.
Next you will be asked to partition your disk and given three options.
- Guided using the entire disk
I prefer to use the manual option and I use the following partition and mount settings for the majority of my Linux installs. This one is based on a single 30 gig drive. Typically you would want a lot more drive space, but I am only setting this up for testing.
- hda1 = (range) 60-100 MB Mount point – /boot Type – ext3
- hda2 = 1024 MB (1GB) Mount point – swap
- hda3 = (range) 15-20 GB Mount point – / Type – ext3
- hda4 = the rest of available free space Mount point – /home Type ext3
As partition settings were modified/created, I received pop-ups asking if I wanted to mount the drives or do nothing.
I selected the do nothing option. (note: this only happened on my first install attempt)
The partitioner will complete it’s process and present you with a new screen. Here, you will set up your main user account and password, and provide a name for the computer. Fill in all the fields and continue.
Now you are at the ready to install screen that shows all your selections and settings in a list. Double check the info and if everything is correct, press the “install” button. If you need to change anything, use the “back” button to return to the setup screens.
When you hit the “install” button, the installation process begins building and formating the partitions, copies the necessary files to the hard disks and sets up the new OS on the hard disks. This can take some time, so go make a sandwich or fresh cup of coffee (or both).
Once the install is complete, you will receive a message stating that everything is done. Close that message window, right click on the desktop, and select “log out”.
From the next set of options, select “Restart”. After a few seconds (maybe longer) your CD tray should pop open and the screen will display a message instructing you remove the disk, close the tray, and press “Enter” to continue. At this point, remove the disk, close the tray and hit “enter” on your keyboard.
If everything went well, you will now boot up to you brand new Kubuntu desktop…!!!
Log in using the username and password you set up during the install process.
Installing Kubuntu was very easy to complete and quite painless. I’d even go as far as saying it was as easy, if not easier to install as Windows.
Part one is now complete.
Now that I am logged into he Kubuntu KDE desktop, I see that there are 57 software/system updates available for download. Run the Adept Updater to update the available packages and make another sandwich…. This part is Highly Recommended..(the updates, not the sandwich)
Once the updates are complete, insert the LinuxMCE packages CD and open it for viewing. On the CD you will see a folder labled deb-cache and a file labeled mce-installer_2.0.1-1_i386.deb. Right click this installer deb file and from the menu, select “Kubuntu Package Menu” > “Install package”. At this point, you will be asked to provide your password in a pop-window. A few lines will appear ending with the instruction to “Press <enter> to exit…” Now you will notice a new Icon on the desktop labled “Install Linux MCE”. Click this Icon to start the LinuxMCE installer. Another prompt will pop up asking for you password again. Enter your password and continue.
*** The next screen that appears is the linux MCE Installer screen displaying two options. At this stage, you need to specify if you want to run this computer as a dedicated core, or as a hybrid core/media director. For my purposes, I am selecting the first option “Yes, install all the media playback and remote control software and make this computer my first media player. For testing purposes, I find that it is helpful to use a hybrid installation. Next press the “forward” button.
The next screen asks you if you want to use the open source nv driver (still a bit buggy) or the commercial nVidia driver. This is the video driver for the system and is pretty important, especially if you want to use 3D acceleration, so I select the more stable nVidia driver. Note that selecting this requires a system reboot. Make your selection and press the “forward” button….
“Installing nVidia Propetary Drivers…Please Wait” (note: I did not misspell Proprietary.. that is exactly what the message says) ;-p
Still Waiting …
Still Waiting …
WOW, This is taking more time than I would expect.. (going on about ten minutes so far). I can see activity on my CDrom and HD according to the led lights so I assume it doing something..for now….
Time to make another sandwich…
… … … … over an hour and still waiting… this can’tbe good!
My HD led is solid, my CDRom led is solid (disk access) so I decided to check the logs. DANGER DANGER!!! My logs are showing hdc I/O errors and media errors. Could it be a bad burn… even after i ran the integrity test.. I decided to try copying the contents of the CD to the desktop and run it from there.
“Please Wait…” revisited
After copying the contents of the CD to the desktop I started the LMCE install again (refer back to the *** marker a couple paragraphs up. this time around, after receiving the “please wait” message box, the computer rebooted after about a minute (maybe a little less) as it should have. Now my screen resolution has been reset to 640 x 480.. Well that won’t do..
From the Kmenu I selected System Settings and then Monitor & Display.. Under the Hardware tab, my Graphics Card is showing up as nv with the nvidia driver, but I cannot increase my resolution beyond 640 x 480 (BTW, I am using an nVidia GForce2 400MX video card)……. Back to the installer to change my video settings. After restarting the installer again, I do not have the option to change the video driver… Things are getting ugly.. I’ll try to reboot again and then start the installer… tick tock …
No go GhostRider… Apparently, I cannot easily revert my display settings back to what they were. Ehh, I figured that wouldn’t work, but it was worth a shot anyway. Seeing that this is being set up for testing, and I have no intention of using this system as a desktop OS, I will continue as is..
The next step in the LMCE installer is to configure/confirm the network interfaces. The installer has correctly detected my two NICs and that ETH1 is connected to the internet. I now have to option to accept the current interface config (IP, subnet, gateway and DNS) or change it manually. For now I will accept the existing settings because I will need to change them manually later to set up PPPoE for internet access thorugh this computer and the second interface as my internal network. Make your selection and hit the “forward” button.
Next, you need to select a Download Mirror close to your location. This allows the installer to grab any additional packages it needs right from the internet. You can select a mirror from the dropdown list, or manually add one in the provided field. I selected one from the list and hit the “forward” button.
The next step is to select how the installer will get the packages it needs to install. The installer asks if you have the “Kubuntu extra packages CD” (in the case of the Beta, I will assume that refers to the Cache CD). If you do not have the cache cd your other options are to use the internet and allow the installer to download the packages, or to use an ISO image from a hard disk. If you dont have install disks for LMCE, you could download the ISO from a LMCE source to your hard drive and use the ISO without having to burn it to a CD. I selected to use the CD that I burned.
Message: “Please Wait… Caching Ubuntu Extra CD” …. I hope this isin’t a replay from earlier.
After about 30 minutes, I decided to cancel this and use the “I have an ISO image on my harddrive” option. Luckly, I was able to copy the downloaded LinuxMCE-1.1-cache.ISO from one of my network shares to the local system. At least I know networking works. I selected the option, and navigated to my desktop where the ISO was located, selected it and pressed the “forward” button.
Next I am prompted to insert the LinuxMCE CD in the drive again, or select the ISO on the hard drive. Ok, since the local ISO option seemed to work so well, I copied the downloaded Linuxmce-1.1-packages.ISO from my network share to my desktop. I make the selection and hit the “forward” button…. another “please wait” message box…
After about two minutes, a new screen pops up… now we’re making progress..
This next screen starts the set up for the network settings that LMCE will use. It is required that core act as a DHCP Server in order to manage media directors and devices to get all the benefits and features of the system. In this screen, I select “yes” to running it as a DHCP server and give it my internal network (first three octets – ie 192.168.1). You do not provide the last octet for this part. Press “forward”.
The next screen asks what interface you want to use (UI1, UI2 or UI3). Because of the video resolution issues I ran into, I will select UI1. This is the most “basic” of the three options. The screen also provides a Graphical Test Application to help you determine the best selection with a link button to online documentation explaining the Test. At least, I think thats the intention. When I tried the test, I saw a rotating cube covered with the LMCE logo in each side and a plain red background, but there was no documentation explaining what I should be seeing when I used the button link, just an empty page stating “Graphics Test (there is currently no text in this page)”. How unfortunate.. Hopefully, this will be available with the final non-beta release. I’ll play it safe and stick with the UI1 (for testing).
The next screen after pressing the “forward” button was a nice addition over the plutohome installer. This screen informs you that the software to play encrypted commercial DVDs is not installed and that, if it is legal in your area, the installer can fetch it and install it. If you are legally allowed to use this bit of software i your area, and you are using setting up a Hybrid Core, you would want to add this in order to play protected DVDs. For legal reasons, this is not installed by default as part of the installer package, But I like that LMCE gives you the option to install it (if its legal in your area), something PlutoHome installer does not do. …SIGH… unfortunately, it is not legal for me to install that software here so I will need to select the “No, It’s not allowed here, Don’t install it” – “forward” button
The next screen asks you how you plan to use the computer. Generally, your options are as a dedicated LMCE system, or as a primary PC. The difference is:
- A dedicated LMCE system by default starts LMCE at boot. Kubuntu can be started manually.
- A primary PC starts Kubuntu at boot. LMCE can be started manually.
For a whole home solution, it makes more sense to select the dedicated LinuxMCE option because this computer will need to be running 24/7. I selected dedicated LinuxMCE and hit the “forward” button.
The next step displays a “command/terminal” type window with the header: “Installing ubuntu Packages needed by Linux MCE”. You will see a lot of text scrolling by in the command.terminal window, and this can take some time to complete…. I think we’re almost done… and then…. So much for progress..
Because I was locked in at a resolution 640×480, the bottom half of this last installer screen window was cut off at the bottom of the monitor screen. I couldn’t see what messages or progress might be at the bottom of the window, or access any buttons that I assume had to be there, for example, maybe cancel, finish, forward.. I had no idea what the status of the installer was. I could not continue to the next step, assuming there was a next step. I thought I could maybe set the task bar to hide and be able at least see a piece of what it was hiding, but no…. again the window to set the changes for the task bar was to large for the screen and the buttons at the bottom were cur off there as well.!!! … … Talk about frustrating… So what are my options now? Kill the installer, and try to muck with the X11 config. No thanks… I’ve wasted enough time..
Back to square one… reinstall.
this time around, immediately after installing kubuntu, I made a backup of the original xorg.conf file before proceeding with the LMCE install. just like the first attempt, after opting to use the “proprietary” driver, my screen resolution was a mess. This time, however, I renamed the xorg.conf file to xorg.broke (just in case I needed to put it back later) and copied the original xorg.conf file back then restarted X and crossed my fingers. When my screen came back up, my resolution was back to where I wanted it.. Could this be a workaround..?
Keep Dreaming.. as soon as I got past the first step in the installer, It should have skipped the step asking what driver I wanted to use, but no!.. there it was, mocking me again and again.. If I tried to select the Open Source driver option, I had the same issues as before. I’d get a message stating that the driver was changed and the installer would exit. The problem is it never did. It was a dead end. The only way I was able to continue up to now was to chose to install the proprietary nVidia driver. The problem this time is that if I selected it, I got an error and the driver could not be installed. I’m guessing it has something to do with changing the xorg.conf files. So i did the next logical thing. I copied the xorg.conf file (remember I renamed it to xorg.broken) back to the X11 directory and restarted X figuring at the very least, I be stuck with a screen resolution of 640×480 again. This is where things went from bad to worse… now I get a black screen with a white blinking cursor in the top left corner.
Third Times A Charm
After packing up for the night and getting a fresh start the next day, I decided to give one last go around. Starting from the beginning, I set the process in motion….Again… As we know, my biggest issue has been with the screen resolution and video drivers. When I get to the screen asking about what driver I wanted to use, I did the same dance again trying to select the Open Source nv drivers…And again…I got the same result… So I have to select the proprietary nVidia driver at which point the installer reboots my computer and I am left with the (by now) familiar screen resolution of 640 x 480 which we already know is to small to complete the installation (windows get cut off). Note that before starting the install I once again created a backup of the original xorg.conf file just in case as xorg.orig. However, this time around, I tried something different. I opened a terminal sudo’ed the su and copied both the xorg.conf (LMCE version) and the xorg.orig (backup of the original version) to my desktop as xorg.lmce.txt and xorg.orig.txt files. I then opened the two txt files and copied the “Monitor” and “Screen” sections from the xorg.orig.txt and pasted them in place of the “Monitor” and “Screen” sections in the xorg.lmce.txt file. I then went back to my sudo’d terminal, and renamed the xorg.conf file to xorg.lmce.backup. Then I copied the xorg.lmce.txt file from my desktop, back to the X11 directory. I crossed my fingers and restarted X… I watched my screen go black and waited in anticipation as X restarted… tick, tock…tick,tock. Then the moment of truth (or partial truth). My desktop came back up at my preferred resolution… Whew!!! Almost home. Now to see if the settings were going pass the installer… I started the installer again and,,,and,,,and….YES!! After answering the first screen, the installer skipped the screen asking which driver I wanted to install for my video card. From here, I continued through the installer, same process starting here (but without all the issues).
The good news is that in the end I was able to complete the installation at which point the installer instructed me to reboot the computer to complete the process. Reluctantly, I rebooted and waited for the system to come back up.. And it did.. With a nice little launcher window providing options on how I wanted to start LMCE. This was another nugget that PlutoHome does not offer and I thought it was a pretty nice feature. Once LMCE starts up and finishes generating it’s screens, I begins walking you through the user, rooms, devices etc set up.. This is available only if you selected to run the core with a media director installed AKA a hybrid Core. Otherwise, to set up the system details, you would need to log into the Administration site. I personally prefer to set up the user details and rooms from the Administration site.
The next stage for me is to set up my zwave interface and include my zwave devices to be controlled from LMCE, And to set up a MD for audio streaming. I also have an FXO card to interface my PSTN line with internal VoIP phones using the built in Asterisk server.
One thing to keep in mind here is that this IS a beta release and some problems are expected. This was just my experience and others may have better results, depending on their system hardware, Karma, and the alignment of the moon. The other side of the coin is that this process was just getting the software installed… who knows what demons lie within… MMWAAAhahahahah… that may be a topic for another post.