LinuxMCE 710 – An Overview

LinuxMCE

LinuxMCE is of course a open-source media centre distro.  But did you know you can use it as a home automation controller as well?  Other goodies are lurking under the bonnet too such as the integrated Asrerisk VoIP system, already pre-configured for many providers and phone hardware.  Read on for the overview of this amazing free system.

Submission by: Peer Oliver Schmidt – LinuxMCE is known foremost for its Media Centre functionality.   LinuxMCE does media, yes. TV viewing and recording, by utilizing either VDR or MythTV, DVD/CD viewing/listening and ripping, utilizing Xine as a media player, initial support for Blu-ray Disc using MPlayer.

But media is only 20% of the LinuxMCE experience. On top of that LinuxMCE facilitates whole house automation. Anything that can be electrically manipulated, LinuxMCE can control.  Combining media and Home Automation produces synergy effect. Starting to play a media file automatically dims the lights in that room for example.

On top of media and home automation, LinuxMCE provides a phone system. Utilizing a full blown asterisk distro with out of the box configurations for VoIP providers, plug and play support for hardware VoIP phones, LinuxMCE eases the use of Asterisk for the average user.

Combining media, home automation and telephony allows the media to stop, the lights to come back up, when an important phone call comes in. All unimportant callers can be automatically routed to a voice mail box, when you are watching a movie for example.

LinuxMCE

But LinuxMCE goes even further. When you leave you arm your house, and LinuxMCE utilizes analogue and IP cameras to monitor your property as part of its Security System. LinuxMCE turns off all your AV gear, and your lights. If one of the motion sensors, or one of the cameras detects movement then lights associated with those motion sensor or those cameras, can be turned on and the picture of the intruder will be sent to your mobile. On your phone you have the ability to click a button and talk directly to the intruder via your AV gear and the connected speakers.

That’s around 80% of what LinuxMCE is all about. The last 20% is, each Media Director, the devices that control your TV and/or projectors, are also usable as full blown Linux KDE desktops, with OpenOffice.org, The Gimp, Firefox and Thunderbird, just to name a few of the applications available.

LinuxMCE can be used by all kinds of Orbiters. An orbiter is the user interface to control the system and with it your entire home. From a Nokia n810, over a Cisco 7970, a web based front-end, a windows front-end, to a regular IR remote using the TV and on-screen-orbiter, there are wide variety of control possibilities. All projects  utilized by LinuxMCE are under a single coherent user interface. The user does not need to care, whether LinuxMCE is using VDR or Xine to play a specific media. For the user the interface is always the same.

LinuxMCE supports a number of different home automation systems and you can use multiple protocols simultaneously . You can use old X-10 stuff, together with the latest Z-Wave products, because LinuxMCE is the big brother of all controllers. Apart from those two, LinuxMCE currently supports PLCBUS, Insteon and EIB/KNX. To add support for additional protocols and controls, one needs to get have the protocol for the controller and a couple of weeks time.

LinuxMCE

LinuxMCE works best, if you follow the guidelines available in the Wiki (http://wiki.linuxmce.org) regarding hardware recommendations. For the beginning, one should really follow the rules and install  LinuxMCE the way it was intended to be used. That way you achieve a much better out of box experience.

LinuxMCE is freely available from http://www.linuxmce.org. A friendly support forum is available at http://forum.linuxmce.org. The IRC channel #linuxmce is carried on irc.freenode.net

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3 Responses to “LinuxMCE 710 – An Overview”

  1. Looks & sounds pretty cool, the high level of integration between a number of different aspect of HA (Media, security, phone, CCTV etc.) is very appealing. I wonder if that might make it something of a jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none type solution though? I think I’ll download a copy & give it a whirl though, – I have plenty of spare hardware so I’m sure I could accommodate it’s requirements.

  2. Please bear in mind some of the extra abilities such as setting up an extra diskless interface are buggy at best. Setting up HD resolutions is spotty and difficult as most Linux distros tend to be. Also LinuxMCE is slow to come out with a new release. This is understandably so as they (the developers) have undertaken a large and bloated project.

    My point is don’t expect to give it a try and it to always be perfect. I so wanted my LinuxMCE media experience to work and each time I have tried it I have been sorely disappointed.

  3. Peer Oliver Schmidt May 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    A note (after two years or more years). Support for HD is finally there. Setup and hardware compatibility are still issues, as well as telecom is in dire need for a maintainer.

    The automation part of LinuxMCE has received a couple of new and updated drivers for 1-wire, more EIB interfaces via eibd, and EnOcean.