Recently we had a little bit of a Halloween party at our new house, and a few people commented on my HTPC rig. That along with a few other inquiries I have decided to put together a parts list and some basic instructions I followed to get XBMC (Live) running on one of those little Mini-ITX Boards.
Here is a screen shot of the UI, this one is specifically showing how you browse your Movies in your Library.
So here is the parts list:
(All costs were as of 19-Sep-2009)
MINI-BOX M350 Universal MINI-ITX Computer Case Black 1X2.5INT Works with Pico PSU – Black
Very small box, just large enough for the Motherboard (Zotac IONITX, see below).
Zero noise, small footprint and low power
The M350 is Industry's smallest universal enclosure (192 x 210 x 62mm , 2.5L) capable of housing mini-ITX boards ranging from tiny Atoms to fully featured desktop or mobile CPUs. The M30 permits fanless operation (natural air convection via hundreds of tiny holes) for TDP < 10 watts and CPU-only fan for TDP <= 65watts.
Patriot Extreme Performance PDC24G8500ELKR2 4GB 2X2GB PC2-8500 DDR2-1066 CL5-5-5-15 Memory Kit
Given that this machine has no hard drive, and really just boils down to a processor and video output you really dont need much RAM at all. It will not be used for any serious processing. I went with the 4GB option because I’m greedy, but have seen this same rig work just fine with only 2GB.
Patriot Extreme Performance (EP) Enhanced Latency line is engineered to provide PC enthusiasts and gamers the power to perform. It is capable of operating up to PC2-8500 (1066MHz) and at timings of 5-5-5-15. It is equipped with Patriot Aluminum Bladed?Heat Shield Technology to improve module stability and performance while operating under extreme overclocking conditions. Available 4GB Kit capacity, the Patriot Extreme Performance Enhanced Latency Line is the ultimate solution for gaming and extreme overclocking.
Mediagate Windows Vista MCE Infrared Remote Control for Home Premium & Ultimate Black
I actually have a Harmony remote which I love, but needed to get this kit for the IR receiver. If you already have a standard USB IR Receiver then you can safely skip this item.
OCZ Rally 2 High Performance 8GB USB2.0 Dual Channel Flash Memory Drive
The OCZ’s are well known for the awesome speed. I did some serious shopping around and read enough reviews to find that this device is probably one of the fastest USB Flash drive on the market. In the past, I have had a negative experience with OCZ Drives, but decided to not learn from that mistake and move forward with this purchase. It is actually holding up very nicely.
The OCZ USB 2.0 Rally2 Flash Drive is the sleeker and more ergonomic version of the original Rally. The redesigned Rally2 features a more stylish housing accompanied by a new signature OCZ ultra-bright orange status LED and still houses the renowned OCZ dual channel technology that made the first Rally the choice flash drive among enthusiasts. Thanks to the implementation of leading edge Dual Channel technology, the Rally2 puts data transferring in the fast lane and leaves the competitors in the dust.
Zotac IONITX-A MINI-ITX Intel Atom N330 NVIDIA Ion DDR2 GBLAN 802.11N HDMI Audio 90W PSU Motherboard
These little motherboards are amazing in size. It comes with the wireless networking and full gigabit nic and of course 1080 HDMI output. All of the bare minimums you need for streaming 1080 in your LAN.
Experience fluid and vivid high-definition video playback with the ultra-compact ZOTAC® ION platform. The mini-ITX form factor ZOTAC® ION combines a high-performance NVIDIA® ION graphics processor with a power-efficient Intel® Atom processor for the ultimate eco-friendly platform that has no troubles handling regular web browsing, e-mail, & productivity and HD video playback tasks.
BALANCE DUE: $425.57
So the previous owner of our house actually just dropped a bunch of cash into upgrading the home’s cabling, including running CAT5E drops to basically every room in the house. What this means is that I can actually stream at GB speeds, which you will need for the higher end videos.
Based on my simple observations, if you just want to do 720 or lower, 10/100 connection (10MB/s or slower) is usually good enough. You might experience some buffering in video playback. If your looking for full 1080, then upgrade to a GB network. This means you will need at least CAT5E on all of your network points, and you will need a full GB switch to sit in-between all of these points.
What I have is my external ISP is wired into my old linksys 10/100 router, which I will never see over 2MB/s from them either way so its good enough. Out of that I have a single line to an unmanaged GB switch which serves the rest of the house. You can pick one of these up at your local shop for about $100 to $150 if you like.
The last piece of the puzzle is what software to run. Given my parts list above includes no hard drive, I obviously went with a pretty minimal setup. Xbox Media Center (XBMC) has a LIVE CD version available for download.
All the Live CD is, is XBMC running on top of Ubuntu.
Personally I run the MediaStream_Redux Skin, here are some screen shots:
More screen shots can be found here.