Posts Tagged ‘XBMC

04
Oct
11

Mounting External HDDs at Startup on OpenSuse

OpenSUSE 11.2

Image via Wikipedia

Although Linux Mint will be my favorite flavor of Linux, I am trying hard to give OpenSuse a chance. Last month, I was telling you about a couple of small annoying things I came across on OpenSuse and how to “correct” them. Since then, I switched back to Mint and back to OpenSuse (since yesterday) and I’m hoping to stick to one particular OS for a while, because frankly, it’s becoming some kind of habit…

Anyway, back to our topic. Now I know what most of you are thinking: “Why the hell do we need instructions on how to mount an external HDD? Since the Dark Ages, you have your standard plug n play on Linux mister! Pop it in and all your files are there!” Well, yes, but as it usually happens, mine was a slightly different case than usual. Yeah I know, I got to do something about it.

I have three external hard disks, which host most of my entertainment. These are permanently hooked on my PC and I want them shared via Samba, so I can access them through a Windows 7 box that acts as my current Media Center. For an explanation on why I am using Windows and not XBMC with Linux, have a look at this post. As you probably guessed, the disks are formatted in NTFS and this is what complicates matters.

In case my disks were formatted in a Linux format, such as ext4, things would be simple enough: I would choose to automount them in KDE (I think Gnome has a similar option) and every time I turned my PC on, they would be mounted in /media folder under folders matching their label. Then, I could set up file sharing as usual and everybody would be happy.

NTFS, does not support the same permissions as extended file system. This means that upon mount, Linux applies “fake” file permissions which you cannot change! If you were using ext4 for example, you could easily chmod the files to suit your needs, but in this case, although chmod will report nothing strange, no actual changes were made. Even so, for most of you this will not be a problem, since you will be the only one using this disk and by default you are the owner, so you can do pretty much everything. In my case, I wanted to be able to allow read/write access not only to myself, but to all members of my group too. So here’s what I did:

Since automount through KDE was not good for me, I had to do it the old fashioned way, by adding entries in fstab. First I created a folder for each of my drives under root and gave them the appropriate permissions:

sudo mkdir /Videos
sudo chown -R rosenred /Videos
sudo chgrp -Rv users /Videos

Now, we need to add the mount commands in fstab. The safest way to go, is with each disk’s uuid, a unique identifier that will remain stable even if drive letters change. So we need to find our what is the uuid of our disk:

sudo /sbin/blkid

In case you followed my advice (or are using a different distro) you don’t need to add the /sbin to the command. Write down the uuid of your disk and then edit /etc/fstab using your favorite editor and add the following line:

/dev/disk/by-uuid/7A7ACDEA7ACDA2ED /Videos       ntfs-3g users,locale=en_US.utf8,uid=rosenred,gid=users 0 0

If you wish to add more than one disks, add more lines to fstab accordingly. Reboot and hopefully everything will work just fine.

I don’t plan on writing a separate post about how to configure Samba, there are a ton of tutorials on the subject, however I have one tip that might save you a lot of money from a broken screen/desk/wall:

If you set everything up and for some reason Windows refuses to see the shared directories, go to YAST and disable AppArmor. I know, makes little sense, but apparently it’s a bug in OpenSuse 11.4 as I found out here.

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03
Feb
11

Windows 7 Media Center vs Linux Mint Media Center.

Screenshot of XBMC 9.11 home screen using defa...

Image via Wikipedia

Some years ago, it wasn’t but a handful of people who tried to connect their PCs with a TV set and turn them into “Entertainment Systems”. Where most were OK with a descent DVD player, that could also support music and pictures, others wanted to be able to watch movies and surf the web from the comfort of their sofa. Recently however, the initials HTPC are part of many people’s lives and there’s a whole branch of the industry dealing with “Media Centers”.

My own interpretation of a Media Center, has always been a spare PC next to or under my TV. Because of my line of work, I often come across pieces of hardware, so having a box or two laying around is really no bιg deal and through the years, a number of systems found their way to my TV. The latest incarnation of “Largo” is a system with the following specs:

Intel Dual Core @ 1,8GHz

2GB RAM
ATI RADEON x1950

Not exactly top notch, but I thought I did not really need anything more than that. When I first acquired this box, I chose to install Windows 7 and use XBMC as my media center software. I am a huge fan of XBMC and I always regretted not having an XBoX to play with. My motherboard features the Intel HDA sound chip, which means it should be able to handle 7.1 digital and analog sound. At first, I would not care about that,

since I used my TV for sound, having no receiver or speakers.

Sometime ago, I came across a set of 5.1 active speakers (meant to be used with a PC), so you understand I wanted to have surround sound. For some reason that would not work at all. Feeling an urge to experiment, I decided to try out Linux for my media center.

First of all, I installed Mint, my favorite (so far) flavor of Linux. Installation was problem free and as soon as it was finished, it prompted me to install the proprietary drivers for my ATI card, which of course I did. I then did a system update to be sure I have the latest whatever. Next thing was XMBC for Linux.

According to the XBMC Wiki, all I had to do was the following four steps:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc
sudo apt-get update

Simple stuff, no? A few minutes later, I was finished and I eagerly sat down to try m

y new Media Center out.  At first I tested it with an SD Avi file and everything was OK. But as soon as I tried to play HD content, it all went down hill. Even at 720p, playback was choppy and of course I did not have 5.1 sound.

I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how to fix surround. I read a lot of tutorials, I tried a lot of solutions, but I could not seem to make it work. At some point, I even managed to break stereo sound!

I was beginning to feel very frustrated. If it was some other time, perhaps I would bust my ass off to try and fix it. I mean others have had no problems with machines similar to mine, so I figure if I had insisted, I might have made it. But now, I just wanted to be able to watch my movies and series on my TV, so I went to plan B:

First of all, I installed again Windows 7. There were no missing drivers, so I just installed all the recent updates. Then I followed this guide. Basically, what Kris did, was to install CoreAVC, Haali’s Media Splitter and AC3 Filter. In my case, Haali’s was installed together with CoreAVC, so I only had to download and install AC3 Filter.

If you follow Kris’s guide, you will see he’s doing some registry mambo jumbo at some point. The reason for that, is that Microsoft tried to hi-jack  multimedia playback, by introducing Media Foundation. Among other things, Media Foundation locks media playback to use Microsoft’s native decoders, which in our case means that video will not be played through CoreAVC and we have a reason for installing it don’t we?

At this point, I have not yet performed the registry hack and 1080p playback is smooth. This probably means that I’m using Microsoft decoders, or the developers of CoreAVC finally found a way to circumvent Media Foundation. I am not sure which one is it, so I will have to run some tests. Finally, I no longer use XBMC, but switched to Windows Media Center, at least until I figure out a way to fix multichannel analog sound in XBMC.

Bottom line: I am able to play HD video and have sound in all 5.1 channels and I am very very pleased. I would suggest you give the Linux/XBMC solution a try, because after all, we are talking about free open source software. I will get back to it, as soon as I get my hands on a more powerful machine.




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