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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Installing XBMC Dharma Beta on the Acer Aspire Revo

XBMC Dharma Setup Guide
XBMC recently unveiled the first official Beta of their “Dharma” release. It includes numerous enhancements from the last complete version.


Note:  original post updated with general links to XBMCFreak’s site for the latest Dharma iso.  The process is otherwise unchanged. 

The most notable for me include:


  • Windows hardware-accelerated video through DXVA (though I’m sticking with Linux for now)
  • OSX hardware accelerated video for H.264
  • A new awesome addon system that makes it MUCH easier to install plug-ins (now “addons”) without ssh’ing into your box to copy plugin data
  • Support for embedded PGS subtitles (the kind that are standard on Bluray rips)


And lots lots more.  


I’ve been happily using XBMC on two Acer Aspire Revo 1600s with xbmc-standalone on Ubuntu (Jaunty) for the past ~9 months.  One of these is connected to a 1080p projection system with 7.1 audio, and the other to an older 720p TV with stereo sound.


In general, the release looks very promising, but for me, the real problems I was hoping it would solve were:


  • Problems with playing interlaced content:
    • 1080i 60fps content commonly captured by personal HD video cameras.  My Canon Vixia HD cam captures in this format, and with the previous version of XBMC, despite dozens of hours of tweaking, smooth playback of these types of files was just not possible.
    • Also, a rare number of Blu-ray discs like Rush: Snakes and Arrows and Harvard vs Yale, both of which are mastered in 1080i instead of 1080p caused very jittery playback on the previous XBMC version.
  • Problems with a very limited number of videos that caused minor stuttering during playback.  This was primarily with full bit-rate Blu-ray rips and was not due to CPU limitations.
  • Problems with high CPU usage and resulting stuttering video playback when using PGS subtitles on HD playback (this wasn’t an XBMC problem at the time, it had to do with a library they were importing I believe, but I was still hoping they would have integrated a fix by the time the new release came out)


Quick Setup Guide (Linux: using XBMCfreak LiveCD)


Tonight I tested by installing the XBMCFreak version of the Dharma Beta release.  Here are the quick steps for those who want to do the same.  You really should be able to do this inside an hour following the steps below, but let me know if you have questions and I’ll do my best.


  1. Download the XBMCFreak iso using the link directly above.
  2. Burn the ISO to CD or, easier, to a USB disk using Unetbootin.
  3. Boot your Revo from the USB disk you just created with Unetbootin.  (press F12 during the Revo’s boot up to select the disk you wish to boot from)
  4. Select the option to install XBMCLive.  You can install to a separate USB key plugged into the Revo or to the Revo’s hard drive.  In my case, I installed to another USB drive first as I didn’t want to blow away my primary install until I did quite a bit of testing with the new version.
  5. Once the install completes, remove the  XBMCFreak Live CD/USB and boot to wherever you installed the Dharma Beta.
  6. If you are using Analog audio, everything pretty much works out of the box (it did for me at least).  If you need HDMI audio, read on.
  7. Open a terminal connection to your Revo using putty
  8. Install wget so that you can download the NVIDIA driver.
    1. sudo apt-get update
    2. sudo apt-get install wget
  9. Grab the 256.53 NVIDIA driver using this command:  “wget”
  10. Kill X:  sudo pkill X
  11. Completely remove all current NVIDIA drivers to ensure you have the most current compatible driver. sudo apt-get --purge remove nvidia-*. [Thanks Balthazaar for the tip]
  12. Install the drivers using “sudo sh”  (follow the prompts until it completes)
  13. Fix the screwed up channel mapping in multi-channel PCM (i.e. FLAC and TrueHD tracks) by downloading these two files (will they ever get this correct?!)
    “sudo wget -O /etc/asound.conf”
    ”sudo wget -O /usr/share/alsa/cards/HDA-Intel.conf”
  14. reboot for good measure
  15. Within XBMC, configure Settings \ System \ Video \
    1. Audio Output = hdmi
    2. Custom Passthrough device = plughw:0,3
  16. Enjoy!

Thanks to Roelio on the XBMC forums for some of this information from a slightly older post.

Note, you can also follow any related discussions on this guide on XBMC’s forums.


I’m still testing, but so far, most/all of the previous problems mentioned above appear to be resolved by upgrading to this new version.  Awesome!


If you’re looking for information on how to set up custom remote commands with irexec in XBMC, check this post.


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