I’d been considering setting up a wireless home media server for a while and decided yesterday to use an old HP G60 Windows laptop and install Linux.
I’m computer savvy but always hesitated in the past to mess with Linux on a laptop given its reputation for quirky drivers and arcane command line input.
But installing Linux was a breeze. I chose Ubuntu partly because I just like the name, but mostly because it seemed one of the friendlier flavors. Installation involved burning a “live disk” ISO install image to a DVD (the image is too big for a CD) and setting the laptop BIOS to boot from the DVD first. I could have used a thumb drive but couldn’t find one.
After booting up Ubuntu I was presented with the option to try it out for a while or install it right away. I fooled around with it and was immediately impressed. The user interface was intuitively familiar to a Windows or Mac user and the OS was screaming fast even while running off the DVD drive.
I had a choice of either a dual-boot Windows/Linux setup or wiping the disk and installing Linux only. I chose to wipe out Windows and I can’t describe just how liberating this felt. So far I haven’t regretted it for a second.
The first thing I did was install Chrome to replace the default Firefox browser. Oddly, it wasn’t available in the Software Center so I had to get it from Google. I got a warning that it didn’t conform to Ubuntu standards while installing, but I blew it off. I mean, cmon…
The open source Plex media server seemed to get decent reviews and I noticed it was available on my Roku box. I installed it without any issues. My Roku box immediately recognized the Plex server and I was off to the races after downloading some music files and videos from my Android phone. My only complaint is that it seems media files, whether photos, video or music, cannot be organized in folders, but must be dumped into their respective directories without using any organizational directory structure. I certainly hope they fix this pain-in-the-ass “feature” soon.
Plex did a great job of quickly recognizing my mp3s and determining the artist, album, year, genre, etc. It even came up with snappy art for both the artist and the album. I had video files in multiple formats and it transcoded them on the fly for streaming with no problems.
I’ve encountered very few issues with Linux so far. It was easy to set up Samba to wirelessly access shared files on a Windows computer and the GIMP image editor is close enough to Photoshop that it was easy for me to figure out the basics. Google cloud print worked great.
I’m extremely pleased with this experiment. Linux has certainly come of age.
And not only is it free, but it boots in less than 30 seconds. Fuck Windows.