Transform Ubuntu into a Media Center with XBMC

This guest article was written by Vivek Kumar from, a blog focused on technology news, tricks and tips and Linux tutorials.

Linux has come a long way in support for multimedia and graphics. Today we will see how to transform Ubuntu 8.10 into a media center platform. You can achieve this using various software like MythTV and Boxee, but we’re going to use XBMC Media Center (formerly XBox Media Center).

Before going into the process of installing and configuring XBMC let’s take a look at what it offers.

XBMC logo

Home Page:

Description: XBMC is an award winning media center application for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and XBox. The ultimate hub for all your media, XBMC is easy to use, looks slick, and has a large helpful community.

Features of XBMC

  1. a one stop shop for all your multimedia needs: including videos, images and audio
  2. multi-platform, Internationalized, and localized media center
  3. enjoys a large community with over 50 developers and over 100 translators
  4. apart from being a media player, XBMC includes features such as playlist playback, audio visualizations, picture viewing, slideshows, and weather forecast functions, a RSS feed scroller on your home screen, along with community driven third party plugins and addons
  5. easy to install on Ubuntu
  6. a fluid animated interface which makes a perfect compliment to your Compiz Fusion powered desktop
  7. supports album and cover art
  8. a very customizable interface which supports skinning

A complete list of features can be found here.


Open System->Administration->Software Sources and select the Third Party Software tab. Add the following software source:

deb intrepid main

Close Software Sources and when prompted, choose to reload the repositories.

Install XBMC from the package xbmc (click the link to install), or by running the command below in your terminal:

sudo apt-get install xbmc

Optionally you can also install:

Starting and Running XBMC

All that is left now is to start XBMC. You can start XMBC by going to Applications->Sounds & Video->XBMC Media Center.

XBMC menu

XBMC weather

Here are two tips to get you started:

The interface is pretty user friendly, so feel free to explore.

If you want more tutorials and technology articles like this one, you can subscribe to the TNerd RSS Feed.

Archived Comments

Vadim P.

XMBC freezes badly - as in, horribly (sound loops until I shut down my computer) on my comp when I pause it.

Fujiko Fujio

I’ve been using XBMC for several weeks now, love it and so does my wife. However encountered some conflicts with it and the ever annoying PulseAudio. So I had to kill PA everytime I run XBMC.

Took me a while to get the library mode running, here’s a list of the shortcut keys which helped me a lot to enjoy xbmc:


Hi Tom,
I’m having some problems with this guide. When I start xbmc via GUI or via terminal, it gives me a segmentation fault. I’ve installed it with your repository and I’m not properly a newbie. Am I the only one? I’m on Ubuntu intrepid 8.10 with a Dell XPS m1330 machine.
Thanks for all!


What about Elise media player?
It’s native to Ubuntu and looks way better.


Try Team Razorfish’s MediaStream Skin for XBMC!
Absolutely Beautiful!


I have been running Boxee on mine under Xubuntu 8.10…and loving it!


I’ve been running a program called My Media System. For 2 years now, on every ubuntu release since edgy. With nothing more then a P3 800, 512mb, and a geforce 4. It might not been as fancy looking but it gets the job done.


XBMC is amazing!

However using Ubuntu 8.10 was a no go for me, i had audio freezing, frame skipping and general instability

Running it under 8.04 has been perfect! Even for HD movies (X2 3600, 1g ram, audigy 1)


I have been using XBMC for a month and I really like it. It’s full of feature, really userfriendly, enought stable and the animation a fluid. Compare to Elisa, XBMC is the winner : better interface, complete, design to be use only with a remote control, good dvd play back.

I Experience some problem reading some Video and Audio file (corrupt files). It’s seams that XBMC are less permissive for files with error. But well, I cannot complain. I didn’t retrieve the file from a save source.

Also, I really suggest to use it with Hardy and not avoid using it with Intrepid.


This is fine, but with Boxee, you get Hulu! And other web-based video like YouTube, Revison3, Comedy Central, and others.

Last time I tried vanilla XBMC (maybe 6 months ago) access to web-based content like this was very iffy, and based on user scripts (none of which worked for me).

I highly recommend Boxee (which is XBMC-based), unless XBMC has recently added this functionality.


I have used XBMC since it first came out on the XBOX and you had to compile your own binaries. I recently upgraded to the Linux version under Ubuntu for the XBOX CPU just didn’t cut the mustard for H.264 content. I am extremely happy with it and I have no troubles. The only thing I wish was that XBMC utalized the power from current gen video cards, currently it is decoding everything via the CPU. It would also be nice of it had a Blue-Ray decoder (well I can dream cant I!)


eh instructions to install a package.. wow

i dont see any transformation


I’ve tried XBMC on both windows and ubuntu. Let’s be honest, it’s not perfect. For those to whom HTPC is a term that include P(D)VR, forget it. XBMC has absolutely zero TV functionality.

Want a two column view to browse through movies, with a full-height portrait-oriented poster in one column and all the detail in the other column? Sounds like a nice way to browse huh? Not possible with the default skin at least.

Hoping to get XBMC to tear through your media collection and assign meta data a a reasonable speed with your superduper broadband connection whilst not making any errors? Not likely unfortunately. However it also has to be said that with the fan art and so on, XBMC does do a the best job (eventually), of current HTPC software, at getting good meta data.

Also, don’t try to view some of the meta data gathering results before it’s finished that loooong harvesting process. You’ll freeze the application (not crash, freeze).


Actually, posted about this a while ago.

Somethings that are great:

* Interface
* Automatic Artwork finding for media
* On screen settings

Somethings that are not so great:

* Video settings don’t save correctly and need to be set each time.

* No “just shuffle play all the mp3 in this dir function”

* Sometimes the mini web server is there, some times no…

Fujiko Fujio

Vadim: try killing pulseaudio first, I used a script to launch it.

#! /bin/bash
pulseaudio -k

dave: i’ve used elise too, imho its nowhere as good as xbmc

Mohan: how do we even get boxee?? I signed for it weeks ago and heard nothing from them.


I suggest you guys try the awesome looking AEON skin for XBMC:

An eye candy galore feast when used together with Fan Art:


I was also having freezing and audio issues with XBMC on my Ubuntu 8.10 installation. After making the changes below all is well:

* Set System-Preferences-Appearance-Visual Effects to None.

* Disable and Remove PulseAudio.

1. Goto System-Preferences-Sound and set all three of the Sound Playback settings to ALSA - Advanced Linux Sound Architecture
2. Run the following terminal commands:

sudo rm /etc/X11/Xsession.d/70pulseaudio
killall pulseaudio
sudo apt-get remove pulseaudio
sudo apt-get install esound


Have to agreed with Vadim, it freezes on Intrepid 64bit when. To replicate, play a vid and attempt using the OSD controls or double-clicking for full screen…


Hi all,
I finally solved the problems. I discovered that the nvidia driver wasn’t loaded so XBMC wouldn’t start.
I have one question for you all, is there any way to remap the keys ? My Dell XPS m1330 comes with a little remote control, hardcoded in hardware, and the only key not assigned is ESC to go out from a menu. I would like to set it … Any ideas?

Cheers from italy


hi..i’m using this,
quite impressed with all the things here!
its really nice :)
but i got a problem connecting internet, its not fetching album art n library from net..


XBMC really pisses all over Elisa, as pretty as that project is. It has so many more features (Library mode, clipart icons for folders, skins that just work, easy install on Ubuntu, video rescaling, spdif audio, lirc support - the list goes on). The only issue is its problems with pulseaudio - but that’s easily fixed.

The main reason to use XBMC over Elisa is probably the DVD support. Elisa still has none (at least offically).

The latest release of XBMC is pretty much incredible. If they can bring Compiz and Pulseaudio integration to the table in the near future, you will not want for a better experience - on ANY platform.

XBMC for Mac is called “Plex” by the way. Dunno why. And you can install it on AppleTV too now.

Sorry for the rave - I’m not associated with the project, but having tried to use Windows MC, FrontRow, MediaCentral, Elisa and MythTV (and others!) in the past, it was a breath of fresh air finding this project. Amazing work.


“XMBC freezes badly - as in, horribly (sound loops until I shut down my computer) on my comp when I pause it.”

Same here, its usually at the end of a video, and then horrible static looping and it wont close and i have to reboot. I guess it has something to do with pulseaudio but im not sure. I couldn’t tell from the debug log. Hope they get this worked out soon, as the program seems quite slick, but currently unusable on 8.10


Yeah, I have to
killall pulseaudio
before running XBMC so it uses ALSA instead. That fixes the lockups/freezes and sound loops.


i’ve been using xbmc for several years on my xbox, works absolutely great. best mediacenter one could imagine (except hd capabilities maybe).

installed this one here on my laptop. it doesn’t work with compiz at all, get the flickering window thing. when i turn off compiz it works, but doesn’t play any video correctly. would like to use it as mediacenter on my pc also, but not like that.


vista users -do not attempt to install this app. result is a complete lockup which will not reboot. had to do a wall plug to get rid of this mess. this is a bad acting application. avoid it.


I’ve been using XBMC on my Xbox since the days of XBMP. I’m so glad to see that it’s now available on all platforms, because my Xbox 1 will not last forever!

Ryan Orser

I have just used it twice on Ubuntu and I closed it several times. Problem is that the window is not closing and when I checked top in terminal there was no process. The windows is still up. Any ideas?


Fixes for Intrepid Pulse audio

install the intrepid version of XBMC
works ok for me



This beats elisa and mythbuntu. Working with 8.10 the only thing I mis is a PVR….
So partly falling back to mythbuntu….


How do I uninstall XBMC?


Thanks gzambran, your solution worked for me!


Boxee ftw!


I installed it in Ubuntu jaunty , The only problem i am having is that though mouse is enabled in settings->appearance->look & feel my mouse freezes as soon as it comes inside the mediacentre window ne idea, my mouse is iball laser mouse


Question: can I install this on XBox? maybe using xubuntu?

Respond via email