Tag Archives: eeepc701

How to turn the eeePC into a media centre (and get iplayer to work in fullscreen)

I must admit to being a bit of a fan for the Asus eeePC. I have a black 701 model which I impulse bought after the price hit £150, and i’ve found it to be a really superb machine.

Although the default Xandros boots up very quickly and is handy for checking emails on the fly, I eventually installed Ubuntu eee onto a removable SD card. It took me a while to work out how to get it to work, so I’ve added some instructions to the Ubuntu eee wiki to make the process easier.

I remember when I first got my eee one of my friends commented on using it to watch BBC’s iplayer – now one of the most popular ways to watch telly in the UK. However when I tried the video was very choppy – and only worked when not running in the full screen mode.

Initially I put this down to the eee’s fairly paltry celeron processor – at 600 mhz it’s fine for a simple bit of web surfing and word processing, but for anything more taxing it’s a bit underpowered, so I assumed that full screen video was beyond the reach of the eee. However after a bit of digging I found a discussion of Linux v Windows on the eee Forum here, which indicates that it a problem with the firefox / linux flash plugin. Rather than install Windows XP – which once i’d spent additional money on buying anti virus would be almost as much as I spent on the machine itself, I wanted to find an open source way of getting round the problem.

I’ve been running XBMC (X Box Media Centre) on my old modded xbox for some time now – hooked up to a telly it makes a handy way of watching DVDs, online media and networked media off a NAS drive. Given that XBMC works flawlessly off a machine with 64megs of ram and eeePC should be no problem.

So a visit to http://xbmc.org/ later and an install I got xbmc working – and it works really well.

Note that there are a few steps to go through rather than rely on Ubuntu’s built in add new software tool – you have to add the sources to the software sources control panel:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-gutsy/ubuntu gutsy main

deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-gutsy/ubuntu gutsy main

then type the following into the terminal application:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc

but once I’d got that over with XBMC appeared in the applications folder like normal.

Next step is to install the iplayer plugin:

See http://code.google.com/p/xbmc-iplayer/

The iplayer plugin works by using the BBC stream intended for ipod / iphone users .

(See comment below) The iplayer plugin uses the same streams as the Flash interface on the iPlayer website, in all it’s VP6 quality (higher-res than the iPhone stream), and with future improvements to the XBMC RTMP client, may also be able to stream the high-quality H264 streams also offered via the Flash interface instead.

Which explains why it looks better on the eeepc than on my iphone.

And I can report that it works in full screen no problem with the eee. Which makes the possibility of the eee becomming a handy ultra portable media centre. There are a few issues – very occasionally it freezes after watching a programme, and it doesn’t work smoothly with compiz, but these are really minor – the more I play with XBMC the more it impresses me.