Freevo Technical Details

Posted by Tejus Parikh on December 9, 2006

As a follow up to my previous, somewhat nonsensical post, I thought I should provide some technical details on what Freevo is, what it does and why I wanted to use it.

The why is pretty simple. I wanted an easy to navigate front end to my collection of movies, photos, and music. Granted, a lot of good front ends exist. Nautilus doesn’t completely suck anymore and is becoming pretty usable. Amarok is extremely good and highly recommended if you run Linux. Gthumb does a pretty good job of providing slideshows. However, they all suffer from one fatal flaw, they all require a mouse and a keyboard to be used effectively. Normally this is not a problem, but normally the computer you’re trying to control isn’t connected to your tv in the living room.

This is where Freevo comes in. It provides a simple interface to all of these types of media that can be controlled with a regular universal remote control.

On to the technical details:
The hardware for my box is pretty simple. I used a Biostar ideq 210v. The motherboard comes with on-board optical out, which I’ve connected to my receiver. The graphics card is based on the nVidia GeForce FX 5200. The version I have is made by PNY and has two rgb outs and one s-video out. I’ve used an AMD Athlon XP 1200+, 256MB of RAM, and a Samsung DVD+/-RW drive. In other words, relatively cheap and inexpensive parts.

As far as software goes, I installed Slackware 11 and the latest Dropline Gnome. Slackware is an almost trivial install (or maybe I’ve done it way too much) and dropline has very good instructions.

Once all that was setup, I installed all the freevo pre-requisites. I already had a lot of these, but mplayer and Lirc were two key non-python things that Slackware and Dropline don’t have. Thankfully, these are also relatively easy to install from source.

After that, just run the freevo install script and it should all be up and running.

Some caveats:
Lirc can be a real pain to setup. It took me a few times to get a sensible remote file. The key to using the irrecord tool is to hold the buttons down long enough. If the program writes out a configuration file in “raw mode,” it’s unlikely most of your buttons will work.

Freevo comes with a lot of plug-ins. The only ones I’ve tried using so far are weather and rss reader. Both seem to have issues. The weather plug-in grabs data from an msnbc web service, which returns very random looking data. The rss reader appears to crash on some feeds, but works for most of them. I really hope some of the other plug-ins work better.

And finally, a picture of the home theater setup:
Picture of my media center

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Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: