Is Linux viable for home media PC?

I got a new PC and I want to turn the old one into a media PC. That is hook it to the TV and have it play video files and DVDs and browse images. I’ll probably want to connect it to the new PC as well.
So I don’t want to buy another OS for this system. Will a Linux OS be any good for that? Is it going to be very hard to get this to work?

Haven’t tried it yet m’self, but GeeXBox might fit the bill – is a dedicated home theater linux distro, has a bootable live CD that should be fairly painless to try.

Mythbuntu might be worth a try. As the name says, it’s a Ubuntu version that is built to run Myth TV relatively easily.

This ExtremeTech article from a few weeks back explores a few options. The creators/maintainers of KnoppMyth and FreevoLive even enter the discussion (if only to flame the author).

As usual the internet overwhelms me with options and possibilities.
I’ll try one of the live cd’s distros first to see which one is the most painless. Thanks for all the info.

I recently started moving my video-watching experience away from an Xbox running XBMC to an HTPC, only because the Xbox 1 isn’t fast enough to deal with HDTV resolutions. I looked at a lot of Linux options before finally just buying an OEM copy of Vista Home Premium for like 100$ and using Windows Media Center. This is one of those cases where the phrase “Linux is only free if your time is worthless” applies, IMO. There are a ton of options out there for Linux but most of them are a pain to setup and IMO all of them ultimately give you a pretty poor user experience once you do get them working. I will reevaluate the situation when XBMC for Linux has a real release, since XBMC is awesome.

I’m so getting a T-shirt printed with that slogan. Bumperstickers will follow!

Say what you will about Vista, but Media Center is seriously fucking awesome. It is WAY better than the alternatives in any category: Apple, Open Source, proprietary, you name it.

It’s a steal at $100.

I have MythTV on my media PC box at college. It’s pretty good, though it was a pain to setup. I hear distros with MythTV preinstalled like MythDora are pretty good though.

I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart though, it requires a fair amount of technical knowledge such as knowing what MySQL is, and so on.

If you want no-hassle, get Vista Ultimate. If you want geek cred, get MythTV.

I don’t really think that the old PC can run Vista very well. Its an Athlon 2500+ with 512MB, and other then getting it a new / used mobo and case I don’t want to invest anything in it.
Anyway I don’t need it to do anything fancy, just run video files.

I downloaded Geexbox last night and booted with it. Seems simple and nice. One thing confused me. The ISO is maybe 20MB. I also got Mythbuntu which is about 700MB. Why the huge difference?

Why would you need Vista Ultimate? Vista Home Premium is all you need, and it includes Media Center. Ultimate is a waste of money.

For one, Geexbox doesn’t have MythTV at all.

Is a Tivo pretty good at being a media player? Tivo runs Linux.

That’s pretty much it right there.

Well, this really isn’t as answer. I’ll rephrase - what does MythTV with it 700mb does, that Geexbox doesn’t.
Really, I’m just looking for advice on how to play video files - nothing more - on my TV with as little as possible expense and hassle. I’m not gonna buy Vista ultimate / home / shack or whatever variety it comes in.

You only get to choose one.

Seriously though, I’m in the market for a HTPC and looking for options too. The machine won’t have a TV tuner, it’s going to be used only as an upscaling DVD player and for playing xvid/divx/h.267 videos from network shares.

That’s exactly what I need.

Another thing I’m wondering is whether Linux has any driver support for video cards that have an HDMI-out with 5.1 audio pass-through.