Media center upgrades – part two

So this is a continuation to my last post on my effort to upgrade the media center at home. While I wait for hardware to come, I’ve been reading up through forums and blogs online and am finding it real hard to get some good advice. So, thought it might help to list down concisely the situation as it stands currently, in the hope that it will server other folks who’re trying to find similar answers.

So what’s the fuss all about?

Getting XBMC on Linux with AMD fusion APUs to work nicely and render hardware accelerated video. Also, while we’re at it, also do it by booting off a pendrive (ie hdd less system)

Background

Graphics APIs

To get hardware accelerated video on ATI/AMD hardware on Linux, currently, there are two choices

  1. XvBA – this is AMD’s graphic APIs (similar to VDPAU on nVidia). Not very well supported.
  2. VAAPI – this is intels APIs. XBMC Eden is said to work well with VAAPI.

Drivers

  1. Open source Linux drivers for ATI chips lag behind the closed source ATI proprietary drivers. For HD video, you’re pretty much limited to using ATI’s proprietary drivers. So, let’s emphasize – from now on, driver means ATI Catalyst for Linux

The Contenders

OpenElec.tv

OpenElec is covered in the earlier post – but essentially you have a Fusion optimized micro builds that can run off an SD card/flash drive. From a video perspective, this should be identical to XBMCBuntu. The upside is that everything is pre-configured while the downside is that it’s pretty limited.

XBMCBuntu

Also covered in my previous post – lightweight Ubuntu based distro/LiveCD. XBMC Eden implements VAAPI and Catalyst Fusion APUs drivers can be used asa backend with these and provide hardware accelerated video. There are some cases where this bridging doesn’t/may not work well. On the other hand, since this is the officially supported method, its going to be around and improved upon, and likely to have more info available in public domain etc.

XBMC-XvBA PVR builds

So this is an unofficial build by the community. THe promise is that instead of going the VAAPI route, this has direct support for XvBA api so, offes better performance. The forum thread tracking this is available here. While the build is supposed to be quite usable, from the thread activity, it seems its also heavily under development.The goal is to merge this back to the mainline once it stabilizes.

I plan to go the path of least resistance – OpenElec, then XBMC-XvBA and finally settle on XBMCBuntu – but things might change once I actually get down to it.

Time for the big fat disclaimer – Nothing in this post is guaranteed to be correct. this is my read of stuff on the net and it could be wrong. You’re welcome to correct it in the comments and I’d be more than happy to fix the post.

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