This is a read-only archive. Find the latest Linux articles, documentation, and answers at the new Linux.com!

Linux.com

Feature: eAR

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

By Susan Linton on June 23, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

Share    Print    Comments   

Acoustic Reality is a Danish company that sells speakers, amplifiers, storage devices, cables, and other products to build top-shelf home entertainment centers. It recently released eAR OS Free Edition, a free media center system built on top of Ubuntu that features a free version of the Acoustic Reality software technology used in the $100 eAR RT-OS Enterprise Edition and in the company's hardware Media 4 products. It provides a user-friendly media center along with a nice implementation of Ubuntu.

eAR OS is an installable live CD. The boot options are similar to those of Ubuntu 8.04 and the installer is exactly the same. The only problem I noted with the installer was with user setup, which didn't actually add my user. The eAR desktop uses the "earmusic" user, with the password "earmusic."

I had high expectations for the Media Center, since it is the focus and purpose of this distribution. It opens full-screen with a list of multimedia tasks available, including Listen to Favorites, TV, DVD, Video, Music, Radio, Photo, and More. The menu list is navigable with the arrow keys or by using the mouse. If you'd like to access the regular desktop without shutting down the Media Center, you can use the Ctrl-Alt-Arrow key combination to change to another virtual desktop.

But you may not have to shut down the Media Center or arrow to another desktop, because under the More heading is a menu of commonly used applications that can be launched right from the Media Center. Key portions of the desktop will show as well, such as the panel and Simdock docking bar. This is handy in expanding the functionality of the interface, particularly on a computer that has been dedicated to being a home theater machine, where one would might prefer to leave the Media Center visible at all times. Some of the applications available include Firefox, OpenOffice.org, Pidgin, GIMP, Skype, and the GNOME Control Center.

The Listen to Favorites choice displays your personal playlist. It ships with a few examples, but you can add online radio stations, digital broadcast channels, on-disk music or videos, or music CD tracks to your Favorites. Depress the "p" key to access the list of Playlist Commands.

TV is for watching Digital Video Broadcasts using Kaffeine. That application must be able to detect and configure your TV card. I would like to see support for BTTV broadcast tuner cards included. I could use xawtv since Kaffeine doesn't support analog cards, but it's inconvenient and disappointing that this functionality isn't integrated into the eAR Media Center. As a compromise I was able to make a launcher in the eAR-More directory for xawtv so that it would appear in the More screen menu, but my family found it confusing to watch television through the More menu instead of the TV. Another alternative is to connect to a traditional television set (through S-Video or VGA-out for example), but that would require flipping the video input on the TV to watch, which is far from an integrated solution.

DVD is, obviously, for watching DVDs, and this choice too uses Kaffeine. Encrypted DVDs are no problem. The "d" key brings up the DVD menu, which gives access to other features available on a DVD. "s" controls subtitles, "f" raises the volume, "l" lowers the volume, and the space bar pauses and resumes a movie. The arrow keys fast-forward or go back in the video.

The Video menu lets you watch videos on your hard drive. Clicking it brings up a screen with several listed folders. Files should be stored in the subdirectories of /home/earmusic/eAR-Video, as there doesn't appear to be any way to add additional directories. All of the formats I tested (AVI, MPEG, and MPEG-4) played without issue.

Like Video, Music opens a screen of folders where your music should be stored. Also like Video, the files are stored in the /home/earmusic directory, and I didn't find a way to utilize directories of music stored elsewhere. You can listen to audio CDs too. While at the main screen with Music highlighted, if you use the right arrow key or move your mouse rightward, the entry will change to Listen to CD. If you choose that, Soundjuicer opens to play or extract the tracks.

Radio is for listening to Internet radio stations. eAR OS comes with an amazingly comprehensive list of stations to use, which is nice as I didn't see an easy way to add others.

Photo is for viewing a directory of images. As with Video and Music, images are stored in a hard-coded directory, specifically /home/earmusic/eAR-Photos.

The eAR Media Center is extremely easy to use. Although it didn't quite meet all my expectations, it provides extensive multimedia functionality. It looks great and was stable during my rigorous testing. I can forgive it for not supporting older analog TV cards, as they're at the threshold of antiquity and my workaround has sufficed. It comes with so many radio stations configured that everyone's tastes are likely be addressed. The only significant complaint is the hard-coded storage directories. I'd really like to be able to add my own storage directories to the choices.

OS infrastructure

Perhaps much of eAR Media Center's solid performance can be attributed to the underlying Ubuntu code-base.

The desktop is built using GNOME 2.22.2 and features SimDock 1.2. SimDock has several launchers, including ones for Firefox, F-Spot, the GIMP, and the eAR Media Center. The panel is set up with some handy applets such as Disk Mounter, Weather Report, Update Manager, Network Manager, Trash, and a Volume applet.

The menu contains a few standalone applications, including Wine, GIMP 2.4.5, Audacity, Sound Juicer, K3b, Kaffeine, Exaile, and VLC media player. For online activities Firefox 2.0.0.14 (with support for Web-based multimedia), Thunderbird, and Pidgin are available.

Under System -> Preferences you will find the GNOME Control Center, Screen Resolution, and Sound configuration, while present under Administration are the PolicyKit graphical configuration, Firestarter, Restricted Drivers, and Language and Network tools.

Like Ubuntu, eAR OS uses APT with Synaptic for package management. It comes set up with Ubuntu, Medibuntu, and WineHQ repositories. eAR OS uses codecs and libraries from the Medibuntu project to enable multimedia playback support that may be excluded from Ubuntu.

eAR OS features a real-time 2.6.24-17 kernel compiled with GCC 4.2.3. It functioned well on my Hewlett-Packard Pavilion notebook, as well as on two home-built desktops. The graphics are served by Xorg 1.4.1/7.3.0. The screen started in 1024x768 on the laptop, but I used the Screen Resolution module to adjust it to 1280x800, and I was able to easily install proprietary drivers using the Hardware Drivers module. Sound worked out-of-the-box and my volume and mute keys functioned. My keyboard and touchpad worked accurately and responsively. Removable media was auto-mounted if appropriate and associated applications opened. The wired Internet connection was enabled automatically if a cable was present.

Even better than that, with the Ethernet cable removed, my wireless connection was available as well. Although the Hardware Drivers module indicates that a proprietary driver is in use, it ships with eAR OS so I didn't have to have an Internet connection present to get my wireless Internet connection working. CPU Scaling was enabled by default, decreasing heat and saving energy. A battery monitor appeared in the panel when the electrical supply was removed. Suspend worked fine, but I did have issues with hibernate. Although eAR OS is designed to be a home theater system, it could be used as a mobile system if desired.

Closing thoughts

The eAR OS Web site has some Frequently Asked Questions with a few tips, and a README file on the desktop of a new install contains more instructions and information. You can install updates to the Media Center instead of downloading a new ISO for each release. An Enterprise Edition is available that offers added features such as support for IEEE 1394 FireWire audio and remote controllers.

Although I encountered a few issues that I didn't like, overall I had a positive experience using eAR OS. The desktop implementation is attractive, and the Simdock adds a touch of cool. The Media Center also sports an attractive appearance and includes useful functionality. It's not quite as inclusive as MythTV, but in contrast to MythTV it doesn't require complicated configuration to use. It would be ideal for a standalone dedicated home theater computer, especially if you have a DVB card.

If you're looking for an easy-to-use system for your home theatre PC or would just like a pretty media center for your current computer, then eAR OS is a worthy candidate. I'm going to continue using it for awhile myself.

Share    Print    Comments   

Comments

on New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

Wow, that's an amazing OS they built.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.74.196.44] on June 23, 2008 05:03 PM
No credit to Ubuntu whatsoever.

#

Re: Wow, that's an amazing OS they built.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.207.165.206] on June 23, 2008 05:20 PM
Does it have better video playback than Ubuntu? I've always had iffy video playback, even with all proper codecs installed. Any videos always look better and is without all the annoying hiccups in windows on my dual-boot box.

#

Re: Wow, that's an amazing OS they built.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.78.229.242] on June 23, 2008 07:24 PM
Yeah, just like ubuntu gives so much credit to debian.

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.69.65.169] on June 23, 2008 05:38 PM
Is it possible to install by adding their repositories and doing an apt-get install earos-desktop?

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.74.196.44] on June 23, 2008 10:24 PM

Fixed directory structure

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.125.235.182] on June 24, 2008 01:31 AM
Is it possible to link to other directories? I know it's not an integrated solution, but would at least give you some flexibility.

- Jeffrey Nonken

#

Re: Fixed directory structure

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.154.206.199] on June 24, 2008 03:57 AM
No, not directories, but I could link to individual movie or audio files. The directory links just wouldn't show up in the Media Center, but individual files would. It would be quite a lot of trouble for a someone with a large collection.

-susan

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.157.197.11] on June 24, 2008 12:51 PM
Thank you VERY much for the review.

--

You can add Analog TV yourself.

With version 1.09 (the reviewed version), here is how:
Open the script: /home/earmusic/.ear/digital-tv.sh
with your favorite editor and change kaffeine to the application you want, for example xawtv or tvtime.

With the newest version 1.10, here is how:
Open the script from a terminal: sudo gedit /etc/ear/digital-tv.sh
and change kaffeine to the application you want, for example xawtv or tvtime.

Now you have analog TV in the main menu :-)

All the best,
www.earos.dk

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.157.197.11] on June 24, 2008 01:18 PM
eAR OS version 1.10 has a wizard-places.sh utility. This script let you specify the path to music, videos and photos.

If you have a ton of media files you can create symlinks and the media files will be shown inside the media center. Here is an example:

Open up a terminal and write

cd ~/Desktop
ln -s /usr/share/backgrounds background

Now you can see the pictures stored in the folder: /usr/share/backgrounds
inside the media center.

You can add symlinks to music and videos too.

--

Sorry, I forgot to add a link to give credits to Ubuntu and Debian.
It will be added ASAP.

All the best,
www.earos.dk

#

Re: New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.157.197.11] on June 24, 2008 01:37 PM
Sorry, typo error :-)

cd ~/eAR-Photos
ln -s /usr/share/backgrounds background

#

Illegal in the United States...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.90.69.174] on June 24, 2008 03:33 PM
Looks nice, but of course it's ability to play back encrypted DVDs is a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and therefore this distro is illegal in the US...

I really wish distros would stop shipping with DMCA violating and/or known patent encumbered codes such as multimedia codecs. Allowing the users to easily install them from the internet is one thing, but one should be able to use and distribute a distro legally without modification.

#

Re: Illegal in the United States...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.93.88.69] on June 25, 2008 10:16 AM
Why should the world amputate their systems just because one country has a insane law. It seems that in Nigeria some keyboard layout is illegal, so the rest of the world should adopt their systems to this?

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.35.35.34] on June 24, 2008 06:11 PM
This is not a Distro in its own right at all. Its preconfigured Ubuntu - nothing more or less. In fact, its a crappy attempt at a Ubuntu Media Center at that. Slap a new wallpaper, setup AWN, add Mythbuntu, and VOILA! you've now got a much better, and more professional Media Center configuration than this garbage they are calling a Distro LOL!!

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.238.113.244] on June 24, 2008 06:19 PM
Too bad - US isn't the whole world - and by no means the most Linux using part of it. DMCA does not apply to Denmark, Europe or any other part of the American continent.
And you really, really ought to utilize some civil disorbedience against the DMCA, as it only limits the you and your possibilities. When Linux rules everywhere else , the US will still be limited by software patents and the obscenity of the DMCA :-] .

I have EarOS on my wifes computer - a 5 yrs. old Compaq - runs nice, fast and she likes the look. ;-) Oh, and way better than a clean ubuntu - which never liked that machine, never even installed w.o. errors.

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.197.80.167] on June 24, 2008 10:59 PM
do bad it wont install on my IDE drive.

#

where is the printer setup at ?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.43.206.196] on June 25, 2008 12:56 AM
i normally go to systems-admin-printers but don't see it any where ? anyone ?

#

Re: New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 210.50.106.88] on June 25, 2008 11:27 AM
>> do [sic] bad it wont install on my IDE drive.

The 1990s called...

Does EarOS use libdvdcss2 (that's possibly illegal in the US, although never been tested in court) or some licensed DVD decryption software?

#

I never cared for Ubuntu

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 170.232.128.11] on June 25, 2008 01:11 PM
But this I like! This was the first distro / remaster I've tested in a vm and ran jack with no xruns at 46ms latency (all default settings). That was enough to keep my interest to play more. I've since put it on a test machine with a Delta 1010lt which it found and configured with no problem. I suspect this could make a good daw os without much fussing.
If I had a faster machine (AMD +2000) I could be styling running Reaper under wineasio (installed just fine). I get no xruns, but the Reaper process climbs over 60% CPU utilization and starts to stutter even with the simdock closed. I would imagine Ardour users would have much better luck on my hardware.

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 77.182.3.93] on June 26, 2008 08:09 AM
Sadly the author never mentions the base!
www.mymediasystem.org

Let's see if the Live-CD contains the sources !!!

#

Re: New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 60.54.59.247] on June 26, 2008 02:41 PM
sadly the base never mentions its base! :(

#

Re(1): New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.157.197.11] on June 26, 2008 06:47 PM
Sadly, I left the mms project 1,5 years ago, because we could not agree about the user interface. mms is not for everyone and it has far too many bugs.
After I left the project I made this fork, and did you know? mms is a fork of other projects too! This is the goal of open source!
This new fork is pretty error-free. I don't know any bugs.

If you read the readme file:
Credits to the whole Linux community. Without their work this project would not be possible.

The source code of the fork is in /usr/local/src on the Live CD.

However, this is just an application you are talking about.

eAR OS is a complete Operating System that everyone can install to be working out-of-the-box.

BTW: I am currently writing a new media center from scratch.

With kind regards,
www.earos.dk

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 79.138.153.165] on June 30, 2008 09:27 AM
It's kind of fascinating that so few people know of MacOS X. The so-called EarOS GUI including the media player is all carbon-copied from MacOS X. Once Apple realises this, they'll sue, big time.

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.157.197.11] on July 01, 2008 12:13 AM
I have a brand new 24-inch iMac Alu, it comes with a bad OS, today it is OS X Leopard Free, and now it works :-)
I designed the graphical theme, today the dock bar has changed to a panel with mirror reflections (see the new version 1.10).
Next version of OS X will steal that, no question asked. Apple did steal the current one from Sun, see the Looking Glass project.

79.138.153.165, use the brain before you post.

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 121.44.185.83] on July 06, 2008 01:20 AM
On changing the default media directories, from http://www.earos.dk/README-FREE.TXT:

"You can run the utility "wizard-places.sh" and specify folders for music, pictures and videos.

For example, if your media files are located on USB hard disks or network drives then you can run the
"wizard-places.sh" utility to specify where your media files are located.

You should alwayis initial run this utility."

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 77.182.181.194] on July 17, 2008 05:48 PM
Nice .. I had a chance to get a glance at the sources ... except for (only) one change, all changes done to the source are renamings!
There is not a single change regarding stability compared to MMS (www.mymediasystem.org) v1.0.9!

It's so easy to fork and claim all kudos for oneself!

The goal of opensource is not only taking, but giving, too ...

#

New media center OS is pleasing to the eye and ear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.157.197.11] on July 21, 2008 11:06 PM
But-head, you don't know what you are talking about.
eAR OS is a distro, an Operating System, and not a single program. mms is in its original full of bugs. The user interface is different, indeed.

#

This story has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.



 
Tableless layout Validate XHTML 1.0 Strict Validate CSS Powered by Xaraya