Media Servers Aren't Easy - plus Moovida Install Tips

by Stephen Fluin 2009.12.05

My long time quest for the perfect media server had me purchase a new motherboard, processor, and memory stick two days ago. Since then, I have been fighting repeatedly with the Linux install that will work with this computer, these hard disks, the TV I want to use, and the streamed media I want.

Install Woes

There were two major problems whenever I tried to run the installer. The first was that the hard disk wouldn't show up in the installer. It showed up in Nautilus and Dolphin just fine, but for some reason Ubiquity couldn't see it. After 6-7 hours of debugging, and several forum posts and responses, I found the answer. I had to run sudo apt-get remove dmraid before launching the installer. I'm not quite sure why this works, but it does.

The second major woe was that Kubuntu's detection of my screen size was atrocious. I tried both VGA and HDMI, and neither way was I able to configure the screen to look like a normal computer. Ubuntu faired better, but I still had to do some manual configuration of the resolution. I still haven't been able to determine if it is a problem with the EDID reported by the TV, or something else.

Media Player

This was weeks ago, but I have tried 6 or 7 of my older computers, trying to repurpose them as a media player/server. It seems that the toughest part of decoding 720p video encoded in x264 and wrapped in a Matroska container is CPU speed. Each of the computers I had tried before couldn't play video off of a local disk using VLC or Dragon or Totem without dropping 70-90% of the frames.

Finally having a computer capable, with a kind-of working install, I wanted to try Moovida as the main program on the machine. Moovida is pretty high-level, running on top of everything I had set up. This meant that the video resolution issues I had been having with Kubuntu didn't go away. At this time I was pretty sick of these issues, so I thought "hey, I'll try Mythbuntu. Hopefully that will autodetect my TV properly.". When I booted the installer, it didn't autodetect the best settings, but it at least had them as an option. This combined with the remove dmraid fix allowed me to install Mythbuntu.

The next step was to boot into Mythbuntu and see it's capabilities. All of my media is local to my network and shared via Samba. I spent about 10-15 minutes looking for a Samba share browser in MythTV, and apparently one doesn't exist. The internet suggested I try adding an entry to fstab for the samba share. This fstab entry mounted just fine, but still wasn't listed or parsed anywhere in MythTV. Also, reading the menus revealed to me that the real purpose of having MythTV is to watch live or recorded television, which for now, I am completely uninterested in. There was also the minor problem of the untested audio, and the video resolution now being stuck back at 800x600.

Back to Moovida

Having again given up on a solution, I was back to Moovida. Moovida would be perfect in theory for my setup, because I want to navigate my network media, and the internet video/audio plugins would be nice too. I decided to try out Moovida again on my main desktop, before attempting another wipe/reinstall on the server.

When I launched Moovida, and selected Other Computers, nothing happened. Some plugin updates finished, so I restarted and tried again. This time I received the error no module named coherence.upnp.core. This error made no sense to me because I had the upnp plugin installed. After googling this issue for a minutes, I tried running Moovida at the command line, and found out that Moovida had a missing dependency on Coherence. I found Coherence in apt and installed it and tried again. Now I was missing dependencies for hildon and twisted, which was again weird, but this time because I already had python-twisted-bin, python-twisted-core, python-twisted-conch, python-twisted-web, and python-twisted-web2 installed. The solution this time was to sudo apt-get install python-twisted python-hildon.

Okay, now I started up the other computers browser, it would scan 400 media files (which ones?), and would report I had no media. Checking the command line again reported the upnp was working, but that the smb:// protocol wasn't found. At this point I gave up on an automated SMB browser and would attempt to install a fresh Linux Mint 8 Desktop, install Moovida, and manually setup the mount point for Samba.