No need of hard drive, you just have to put the GeeXboX bootable CD into the CD-Drive of any pentium-class computer to boot it. Moreover, GeeXboX is a free software, created thanks to many open-source software.
This means that everyone can modify it and build his own release of the GeeXboX. You may wonder why you could have to boot on another operating system to play your media files, but just think about the Mini-ITX plateforms like VIA Epia/Eden or Shuttle barebones. It's now affordable to bring DivX to your home cinema, plugging this kind of computers directly to your TV. At the time of the first development release (December 2002), it was only able to play DivX movies, but for now, nearly every kind of media files can be played from GeeXboX.
An unofficial port of GeeXboX also runs on the Wii.
The second alpha build of GeeXboX 2.0, a Linux mini-distribution for Home Theatre PCs (HTPC) and media centres, is available for testing: "It has already been one month since 2.0-alpha1 release so here is alpha2.
This release fixes many bugs that have been encountered by our users on this first 2.x series preview: normalize LIRC configuration by providing generic binding for each and every remote control; initial port to ARM architecture; restoration of UPnP/DLNA feature with a brand new stack; restoration of internationalization support; upgrade of NVIDIA drivers - proprietary, legacy one and addition of nouveau; add Kernel Mode Settings (KMS) for ATI, Intel and NVIDIA drivers; upgrade to Linux kernel 2.6.33 kernel; fix live CD and win32 installers; fix OGG files playback issue...."
Read the rest of the release announcement for further information.
Download (MD5): geexbox-2.0-alpha2-en.i386.eglibc.iso (43.0MB), geexbox-2.0-alpha2-en.x86_64.eglibc.iso (60.0MB).
• 2010-02-15: Development Release: GeeXboX 2.0 Alpha 1
• 2009-06-20: Distribution Release: GeeXboX 1.2.2
• 2009-02-01: Distribution Release: GeeXboX 1.2
• 2008-12-28: Development Release: GeeXboX 1.2 Beta 3
• 2008-12-14: Development Release: GeeXboX 1.2 Beta 2
• 2008-11-02: Development Release: GeeXboX 1.2 Beta 1
GeeXboX comes with a utility called generator, which allows the user to customize the GeeXboX discs. The following options are configurable:
* Include your movie(s).
* Add non-free extra codecs.
* Add non-free firmwares for your drivers.
* Add extra fonts for Asian users.
* Add extra themes.
* Configure the network settings.
* Configure audio related options.
* Configure video related options.
* Configure the remote control and receiver to be used.
* Configure an LCD display.
* Change theme, fonts and charset encoding.
* Choose the services to be started with GeeXboX (like UPnP and SHOUTcast).
* Modify MPlayer's startup options.
GeeXboX, as described from its website, is a free embedded Linux distribution which aims at turning your computer into a so called HTPC (Home Theater PC) or Media Center. Being a standalone LiveCD-based distribution, it's a ready to boot operating system than works on any Pentium-class x86 computer or PowerPC Macintosh, implying no software requirement. You can even use it on a diskless computer, the whole system being loaded in RAM.
Despite his tiny ISO image size, the distribution comes with a complete and automatic hardware detection, not requiring any driver to be added. It supports playback of nearly any kind of audio/video and image files and all known codecs and containers are shipped in, allowing playing them through various physical supports, either being CD, DVD, HDD, LAN or Internet.
GeeXboX also comes with a complete toolchain that allows developers adding easily extra packages and features but that might also be used to give birth to many dedicated embedded Linux systems.
I downloaded GeeXboX 1.1 out of curiosity, and mainly because it is ranked among the top 50 in Distrowatch. You can download its latest version directly from here, and I promise that it won’t take long to completely finish the download. Anyway, so I got GeeXboX and then I tried and tested it via VMWare. Once the ISO was loaded, a boot menu appeared, and I pressed F1 to try other options. I opted to boot using the “install” parameter, but it failed because it didn’t found my SCSI VM disk. Although the installation fell short, I’m still quite amazed by just knowing that it is possible to install it on a hard drive or to an external USB storage device. There is even a clear installation tutorial that can be found here.
In a blink of an eye, I was taken to the GeeXboX’s plain and simple-looking desktop environment. The default desktop is very responsive as the system runs entirely on RAM. I also find it easy to use with its uncomplicated keyboard shortcuts for navigation. There’s a “help” option if you want some assistance or take a look at the useful commands, but I doubt if you will ever need it. Plus, if you have a supported infrared remote control, you can control the desktop at the comfort of your own couch, thanks to GeeXboX's LIRC (Linux Infrared Remote Control) package.
GeeXboX can successfully play variety of media files like DVD, DivX, MP3, MP4, AVI, MPEG, 3GP and a lot more (A screenshot of GeeXboX playing DivX video file shown below taken from GeeXboX website). There is also a TV-out option if you want to watch videos on the bigger television screen provided that you have an appropriate graphics card. It is said that GeeXboX also supports several TV tuner cards, Wi-fi cards, and it can even stream content through the internet.
GeeXBoX is really worth a try, and I will recommend it to anyone who wants a quick, lightweight and easy-to-use multimedia OS. Bottom line, if you are a multimedia enthusiast but has a really old computer hardware, forget about the obscure and resource-hungry Windows Media Center operating system. Use this 8MB “wonder” Linux instead.
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