Linux: HTPC

I set up an HTPC. I wanted it to do several things:

  • Play my local and network music, TV, and movie files
  • Play and record over-the-air television
  • Stream videos from the internet
  • Play and stream Steam games
  • Do desktop browser things, including YouTube and Twitch

These are just my notes on what exactly I did, in case I ever need to reinstall or do it all again for some reason or another.


  • Sandy Bridge i3
  • Gigabyte GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3 micro-ATX motherboard
  • Hauppauge WinTV HVR-2250
  • SeaSonic 400-watt power supply
  • Old case
  • 8 GB leftover RAM


I originally tried using SteamOS and I considered OpenELEC, but I realized that I wanted Steam to play nicely with other applications like XBMC (with TVHeadEnd) and Plex. That (at least for me) meant a normal desktop distribution, with HTPC applications installed and easily accessible. I settled on Debian Wheezy/Stable, amd64. It has the contrib and non-free repos enabled. From Debian, it has a barebones XFCE4 setup as a desktop. I also have ssh installed for convenience, cifsutils for samba client access, and flashplugin-nonfree for YouTube and Twitch in the browser. In addition, I have other packages from various repositories:

All these packages are built for Wheezy, but I’m not sure how all this repo-mixing is going to work out. We’ll see.

PLEX HOME THEATER for local files

I’ve had Plex Media Server running on my home server for awhile now, so streaming local media was as simple as installing the Plex Home Theater client. I’m still trying out the add-ons from the Unsupported Appstore Channel.

XBMC for streaming

I wanted XBMC, less for local files (for which I already had Plex), but for a live TV frontend and media streaming. For easy installation of XBMC add-ons, I also installed Fusion Installer and SuperRepo. I’m still trying out different streaming add-ons. So far, I like  GoTV for TV shows, GoMovies for movies, and SportsDevil with p2p-streams for sports. I also use OpenSubtitles for subtitles and Trakt for tracking.


I chose Tvheadend instead of MythTV and VDR; it just seemed easier to use. Getting my video capture card to work required placing the saa7164 firmware in /lib/firmware and a “modprobe saa7164.” After that it was just a matter of scanning for channels in Tvheadend.

I also set up the EPG using mc2xml to get the actual data and tv_grab_file to send it to Tvheadend. Note that tv_grab_file needs to be in /usr/bin for Tvheadend to pick it up.

STEAM for games

Steam Big Picture‘s In-Home Streaming just went into open beta. It’s actually much more stable and smooth than I expected. I’m getting some triangular graphical glitches in the Big Picture UI itself from my onboard Intel graphics, but I think the problem is just that Debian’s a couple mesa versions behind. The games themselves don’t have graphical glitches, so the UI thing is just a minor annoyance.


There’s not a whole lot left to say. The HTPC does everything I need it to do. Tada! (At least until the mix of repos topples it over.)

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