If you are planning to scrap out your old 200MHz PC with 64MB of RAM, and buy a brand new one, then there’s a buy one get one free offer going on. Buy a new computer get a home theater free and no conditions apply! Just Joking, its GeeXboX which will make your old junk machine transform into a powerful home theater PC.
Its a Live CD based Linux distribution with a jaw dropping size of 8.9MB. GeeXboX first development release was on December 2002. The project then was only capable of playing DivX movies. But it developed very fast and showed as the first public release on 16th May 2003 ( GeeXboX 0.90-1 ), which supported a lot of media formats other than DivX. This project was accepted in the Google Summer of Code 2007.
GeeXboX is a Live CD Linux Distribution of a standalone embedded media player based on MPlayer. It directly boots from CD,USB drive. It completely loads itself into RAM, so it can run on even disk less computers! Despite its small size, its very powerful. It allows you playing 2 channel audio, video and viewing image files of almost all formats. It allows playing a media from the hard disk, CD, DVD,LAN, or Internet. It supports TV Out , USB, a variety of remote controllers, Joystick and keyboard for controlling. The only things you should have to run this awesome thing is a working CD drive.
Currently it contains 72 packages which delivers various features. It automatically configures all hardwares, and boots up without any kind of setting, or driver addition.
It supports MPEG1/2,DivX, XviD,H.264,Real Media, Windows Media, Flash, MP3, Ogg/Vorbis, WAV, AC3, DTS, MPC, FLAC and more formats. Supports WebRadio, WebTV, TV Out, playing files from LAN through Remote NFS, Samba, UPnP.
In picture, supported formats are BMP, GIF, JPEG, PCD, PNG, PNM and PPM. It plays Single/Dual Layer and HD DVD ,VCD, Audio CD s. It can also play a movie CD/DVD ISO image file directly. You can make an image of a DVD and keep the .iso in your disk, and play it. Once the OS is loaded into RAM, any media containing audio,video or images, can be inserted and played.
And above all it comes with an amazingly easy interface, with all needed functions and a full set of keyboard shortcuts.
Ready-to-Burn .iso images are available. The best part of GeeXboX, is the feature for the geeks. An ISO generator can be downloaded for Windows ,Linux and Mac OS, with which one can graphically customize the GeeXboX parameters, add movies, music,pictures, add other codecs,fonts, themes, configure menus, options, and compile a personalized ISO with some mouse clicks.
From the download page Here get the latest bootable GeeXboX ISO (8.9MB) (Currently v1.1) for your platform (PC or Mac). And burn it in a CD or DVD with any CD burner. And you are done. And for the geeks, they can download the latest GeeXboX ISO Generator from the download page. For full instructions to use the ISO generator package visit Here
It can also be installed inside your USB drive. (See below)
Make sure that your motherboard supports booting from CD, and you have enabled booting from the CD first,i.e the primary boot device should be CD. Change the boot device priority if needed. Keep the GeeXboX CD inside and reboot. After the CD boots you will be greeted the GeeXboX loading screen,and the OS is loaded and the CD drive is ejected within seconds. Its lightning fast. You can take the CD out and place a media to play from it. You will be presented with a short menu listed below.
- Open: Browse CD,DVD,HDD
- Control: Media playback controls
- Preferences: Audio,Video, Chapter Selection etc. options
- Options: TV Out, Screen Size, Sleep Timer, and more options
- Help: Some Handy Commands List
- Quit: Exits GeeXboX
All controls and configurations for playing, music and video can be done from the menus. GeeXboX also supplies a great set of keyboard and remote shortcuts, which help to manage playing media with ease and speed. Some important keyboard commands are listed below.
|Navigation||Up,Down, Enter or Right to select, Left to Cancel, Right to change values in some menu.|
|Display/Hide OS Menu||M, ;|
|Play-Pause / Stop||Space, P / Esc , Q , A|
|Playlist Next/ Prev||G/ F|
|Play Entire Directory||P (when a directory is selected)|
|Fast Forward (10s/ 1min/ 10min) / Rewind (10s/ 1min/ 10min)||(Right Arrow/ Up Arrow/ Page Up) / (Left Arrow/ Down Arrow/ Page Down)|
|Volume (+,-) / Mute||NumPad (/,*) / C|
File delete,and copy-paste can also be done. To copy a file,first select the file and press C to copy,then visit the destination directory press D (sets as destination). To delete a file,press R when the file is selected, then press O to confirm deletion. Be careful when you delete files.
When viewing images press H and it will come up with a help window. You will find commands for image mode, like zoom, rotate, pan, and others.
A Full set of commands for keyboards and remote controllers can be found in http://geexbox.org/en/controls.html. For tweaks, tuneups like, enabling post processing for smoother and better picture, and other information, check the Documentation page. Check out the FAQ, the Wiki and the Forum section for even more.
Get it into the USB drive
Installing GeeXboX in USB drive will delete all data inside. So back up the data before you do this. Plug in your USB drive, keep pressed F1 when the CD is booting. You will get a screen (check out for more tips in this screen) with some information, and a prompt at the bottom. Type in “install” and press Enter. Then follow the instructions. Be careful, and make sure you select the USB drive. When installation is finished, you can copy back the backed up data (movies!). By same process a separate Linux partition in HDD can be created and GeeXboX can be installed.
The Current version 1.1 kernel v126.96.36.199 was released after almost a year after the 1.0. But the development is going one, and the developers expect that the next updates will come soon. Currently it officially supports 32 bit computers,(It ran successfully in my AMD Athlon64 X2, except image viewing).The team is now working hard for the next version 2.0 which will come soon. GeeXboX 2.0 would use the Freevo, a linux based open source HTPC platform. Check http://freevo.sourceforge.net to know about Freevo. Future updates would come up with more features including those in Freevo, support for 32 and 64 bit platforms, HDTV full native support (currently at beta), more codecs, optimizations, and would be faster (Upto 15%). No mouse support is in the current version, and is unlikely to be included on the 2.0 version. There is a technological preview of GeeXboX 2.x which can be downloaded from http://www.geexbox.org/%7Eben/v2/geexbox-sherkhan-20061231-en.i386.iso.
This release is about 20MB and needs at least 128MB RAM,and has limited functionality. This is for testing purposes only and should not be mixed up with an official release. For future the GeeXboX team is thinking about porting GeeXboX into Sony Play Station 3.
This small and fast,open source, easily customizable distro booted from CD or USB drive, with a simple interface, which supports all (almost) media formats, runs even in the lowest hardware, can be carried in a USB drive along with songs, and movies,which can boot in any computer. It has a potential to make itself a dedicated and a portable media center, and transform any machine to a HTPC. In future GeeXboX along with Freevo, has a high probability of being a full powered embedded media player.
Geexbox 1.2 with a lot of changes upgrades and additions, has been released officially and is available for download in the GeeXboX official website. I will update this article soon after i try and test the new release. So for now please visit the official site of GeeXboX and get the information there.
First Publish Information : This article was first published in Linux For You (LFY) Magazine August 2008 issue under Creative Common License. Editing is done to the original article
Author : Arjun Pakrashi