Since 2007, I used the webmail from xs4all.nl and that worked quite well. I only had couple of problems with this setup. For once, after 8 years, it was getting a bit full and I couldn’t get any extra space for that particular E-mail box. Secondly, I had to trust my provider for keeping backups and everything safe.
After a lot of thinking, planning and conniving I made the plans to set up a local webmail service up on my server at home. When the counter on my mailbox went from 98% full to 99% full, the time to take the plunge had arrived. Since this setup poses a few challenges to get going and I needed some structure. I documented everything on my local dokuwiki wiki, so I and maybe other people can get this going and benefit from it. Getting this working took quite a lot of work. Especially the little catches and headaches which needed figuring out. In the end it works quite fine and I’m happy to share my experience.
The page below documents the great outlines and most of the more elusive stuff. The more generic items follow the standard procedures, that you can find all over the internet. If you have any questions, you can pose them below and I’ll update the article. Or just ask me via Twitter @jhaand. The goal was not to present a cook book that every noob could follow. So you still need to figure stuff out for yourself sometimes.
For everyone who wants to have a webmail server at home using Roundcube, Dovecot, running on a Debian system or getting their mail via XS4all using fetchmail. See this wiki page on how I got this done and which little catches you need tackle.
This post briefly tells how I put together my media center using a mini-ITX board and XBMC.
The last couple of years I used an Asus O-play as a mediaplayer. While in 2010 it was really nifty, after 2 years it didn’t meet my needs anymore. The thing I really missed was watching Youtube movies on my TV and maintaining web-based radio station was also a PITA.
“Time for something else”, I thought in the end of 2012. Using XBMC on a small computer was still the hot thing to do back then. I tried XBMC on my laptop for 5 minutes and I was sold. Just do an apt-get install xbmc and a 6 year old laptop suddenly is a mediacenter. Well then it should also be possible to do it on a new cheap computer. Very cool open source stuff. At this moment I’m doing a software upgrade and that creates a great opportunity to write down how you build a nice home media center.
Here’s a brief intro on XBMC and how it works:
Note: This article might be late to the game after everybody and his uncle is now running XBMC from a Raspberry pi. But when I first build this system, there were still severe delivery problems with the Pi. Also I wasn’t convinced of the performance. Using a mini-ITX was the safest and fastest option. Also the Pi doesn’t run x86 code.
So these were my basic requirements:
The system shall get its content from the local network.
Doesn’t need an internal hard drive
I choose what software runs on it.
Hardware should be future proof somewhat.
Low power during operation.
It should also run games and a normal desktop based on x86 binaries.
100 mbit ethernet interface for receiving the content.
It doesn’t need to receive satellite television or record television shows.
It must show Youtube movies without too much hassle.
Figuring out the software part was not that hard. The Hardware was a bit more of a puzzle.
Choosing what hardware to use required some research. Using a mini-ITX form factor was a given and also I try to use AMD parts when possible. Fortunately a mini-ITX board with an E350 processor on it only costed around 60 EUR. I just needed to check if it had all the necessary interfaces
So just before Christmas I settled on the following parts:
E350 based mini-ITX board A friend of mine has a E350 based laptop and is very pleased with it. This board has everything except the RAM memory on it.
USB flash drive with 8 gB of space For 10 EUR you have 8 gB of storage space to run the system on, it even is future proof with USB 3.0.
4 gB of RAM memory Just remain on the safe side and be able to use 2 matched 2 gB modules to get extra speed from Multichannel.
Enclosure with PSU Since it will remain visible just next to the receiver and under the TV, You want something small and looking nice and with an external fanless power supply.
Keyboard and Mouse (wireless) I’ve mainly used the mouse during normal use. The keyboard is handy for gaming and troubleshooting.
2 quiet fans, size 40 mm. The stock fan on the board are quite loud.
HDMI cable Connect the audio and video of the PC to the receiver/TV
Optical audio (optional) If the HDMI goes to the TV, you need a separate digital audio connection towards the receiver.
Network cable Otherwise there is no method for delivering the content. I don’t trust wireless for media applications. Especially with Full HD blue ray movies.
USB stick for installation (optional) Installing the system can be done
Putting everything together went without a hitch. It’s just like a regular PC, but everything is smaller. The biggest hurdle was getting the fans quiet. The CPU fan worked flawlessly. The fan providing airflow through the enclosure provided a bit more trouble. The fan for the enclosure was mounted on the side and only fastened on the bottom of the chassis and the top side was resonating at a really annoying pitch. I was able to get it quiet by squeezing the power line for the fan between the fan and the upper lid of the enclosure.
Getting XBMC and installing
XBMC provides an image with Ubuntu i386 and the latest XBMC called XBMCbuntu. You can get it from their website here.
Just download the XBMCbuntu image and put it on a bootable USB stick using a tool like unetbootin.
note: You will only know if a USB stick is bootable after you tried it.
Start up the system using the bootable USB stick containing XBMCbuntu distro and install it on the 8 gB flash drive of the media center.
The last couple of years I’ve posted some images about an Arduino, LEDs, lots of wires and some wooden board where everything is mounted upon on facebook. Because it was a present, the whole thing had to remain a secret. This project is finally finished and we can give the present to my niece on her 3rd birthday.
So what was it all about: I’ve designed my first 2 layer board, 4 layer board, programmed an Arduino Duemilanove, soldered 48 current sources in too small packages on the PCB and a whole lot more. Like doing project documentation in dokuwiki, getting the hang of geda gschem and pcb, create all symbols and shapes, integrate the boards in a larger ssytem and so on.
Below shows a movie of the painting that shows how the painting works. At 1:50 you can see the back of the painting with all the electronics.
We gave the painting to my niece on her third birthday. It was an instant hit. The different figures we’re hanging all over the board. At least not in the location we had thought of. The other guests we’re also really interested in how it worked and what you could do with it. All in all it was a great success.
I’ve put some pictures together to illustrate more of the technical side of the painting below.