Meet My Media Center: Ubuntu 12.04 64-bit

So you’ve got a decent machine and you’re wanting to try out this crazy Linux thing to build a home media center. I’ve used various Linux distributions for various projects, and they all have their strengths. If you’re a noob to the wonderful world of Linux, I’d recommend you start out with one of the many Ubuntu varieties. They have multiple versions for whatever environment and look you prefer. If you’re the type who likes things to ‘just work,’ aka the Mac type, Ubuntu (Gnome) is for you. Love getting buried in the details and customizing every nook and cranny of your workspace, Kubuntu (KDE) is your new best friend. Linux built for the classroom computer lab is dubbed Edubuntu (Gnome). Wanting to test Linux on an old machine before replacing the OS on your main box isn’t a crime, but you may want to choose Xubuntu (XFCE) or Lubuntu (LXDE). You can even run this stuff on your Android phone or TV.They also have derivatives for multimedia production, Ubuntu Studio (Gnome), and even Mythbuntu for building that home theater MythTV PC you’ve always wanted. Last but definitely not least, if you’ve got a rack that needs new life breathed into it, try the Ubuntu Server Edition.

We’ll be discussing the Ubuntu Desktop 64-bit Edition 12.04 primarily using the Gnome Desktop Environment in the post, however most is very comparable if not identical to the other variations.

Let’s discuss installation. The Ubuntu installation is a piece of cake (or pie if you prefer) and only a couple areas foul folks up.

  • You’ll need to get your hands on an Ubuntu install image. You can download one directly, via torrent, or if you have a spare USB thumb drive and a buddy who already has Ubuntu installed, have them make you a USB install stick.
  • Insert the install disc/usb stick and boot up the machine.
  • Select ‘Install Ubuntu’ and hit the ‘enter’ key.
  • Select Language for Ubuntu.
  • Where are you? Pick the Region and the closest City in your time zone, and click ‘Forward’
  • Keyboard Layout. The ‘Suggested option’ is generally perfect, click ‘Forward’
  • Select ‘Specify partitions manually’ and click ‘Forward’
  • HEAD’S UP!! Okay, this can totally hose your machine if you don’t pay attention and know what you’re doing. Make sure you know which hard drive you want to use for your Linux installation, otherwise you’re going to wipe out your music/movie/photo/game collection, your Windows partitions, etc. If you’re wanting to toss Windows out the, uh, window, this will overwrite those partitions if you choose. Just make sure you backup anything you want to keep on another drive, disc, server, etc.
  • That said, pick the drive/partition you want to install Ubuntu on and ‘Delete partition.’ To scrap the whole drive and use the whole drive for Ubuntu, choose ‘New partition table’ and click ‘Forward’
  • Now you have ‘free space’ on that particular drive/partition. Select the ‘free space’ and click ‘New partition’
  • Create a new partition.
    For the first new partition (swap), you’ll want to make sure that the ‘Type for the new partition’ is set as ‘Primary’
    ‘New partition size in megabytes’ as a general rule, needs to equal twice the amount of RAM on your machine. If you have 2GB of RAM, you’ll want 4GB of swap space. (1GB = 1024MB)
    ‘Location for the new partition’ should be set to ‘Beginning’
    ‘Use as’ needs to be ‘swap area’ and click ‘OK
    You’ll notice that your swap space partition now appears on your partition table screen.
  • Select the remaining ‘free space’ and click ‘New partition’
  • Create a new partition.
  • For this partition (root or /), you’ll want to make sure that the ‘Type for the new partition’ is set as ‘Logical’
    To use all the remaining space, leave the ‘New partition size…’ as it is. If you plan to have separate partitions for your settings (/home) or the like, choose the size to fit your preference.
    ‘Location for the new partition’ should be set to ‘Beginning’
    ‘Use as’ should be set to either Btrfs or EXT4, I prefer the latter
    ‘Mount point’ should be set to ‘/’ unless you’re planning to have separate partitions for your settings etc. If you choose the latter select the mount point to preference. Click ‘OK
    You’ll now notice that ‘free space’ is all gone and we’re ready to click ‘Forward’
  • You’ll see the last Warning about the partitions and a general summary of your install options selected thus far. Take this time to check again to make sure you haven’t selected the wrong drive/partition etc. Once you’re sure that all is well, click on ‘Install’
  • Now you get to tell Ubuntu what to name everything. When you’ve got that all filled out, click ‘Forward’
  • Now is a great time to go grab your beverage of choice and relax for a bit. Don’t get too comfortable though, this won’t take long.
  • Installation Complete! Yee-Haw! Click on ‘Restart Now’
  • Remove the CD/USB installer and hit the ‘enter’ key like it says

As always, feel free to comment or ask questions about any of the ideas shared in this post.


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