I'm going to be building a computer and setting it up as a media center for the guys I live with. The things I would like it to do are show up in iTunes as a shared library, and probably be able to stream videos and things from its harddrive to things like boxee but also game consoles if possible. Is there a specific software package that will let me do that or Is it going to be a little more difficult that that?

3 Answers 3


This really depends on your familiarity with linux. If you are running this computer purely as a server then I would reccomend either Ubuntu Server or Arch Linux as far as the distribution goes. If you are planning on running a GUI then you may want to go with Ubuntu or, if you are comfortable with linux, Arch.

As far as streaming music to iTunes, I have read good things about Netatalk for hosting files on a mac network. If you are on a windows network, however, then you will need to set up a Samba server on your new computer.

I am going to venture a guess and say that you and your roommates are probably all running windows. In that case here are the tutorials you will need for setting up Samba:

Samba Tutorial - Ubuntu

Samba Tutorial - Arch

To my knowledge there isn't a distribution that comes with Samba or Netatalk but they are both fairly simple to set up on most distributions. If you are looking for something simple to get you up and running with this server, go with Ubuntu. If you are looking for customization and strong documentation, go with Arch.

Hope this helps.

  • How does Ubuntu server compare to say, Fedora? I've recently switched from ubuntu to fedora because I wasn't a huge fan of the unity shell.
    – bringel
    Jun 21, 2011 at 14:25
  • Fedora is a test platform of RH, so be aware that sometime the program you'll download and install may become instable. If I were you, I would go for a CentOS, more stable than Fedora, and got some good repos (never display unstable repos, always made sure they are stable!) With Centos it's more simple to try thing out. In the CentOS wiki if I recall good, there is a howto for multimedia center. Jun 21, 2011 at 16:19
  • You can always use Ubuntu and not use unity. There is an option to switch back to the classic theme (I am not a fan of unity either). Ubuntu and Fedora are bot viable options for a media center system but I agree with Anarko, if you must use a Red Hat compliant distro, use CentOS, it has great documentation. Samba for CentOS: link Jun 21, 2011 at 17:34
  • Recommending Arch for a server is not a good idea. Arch is a cutting edge distro so if you have used it long enough I'm sure you have experienced bugs in new version as the result of a pacmman -Syu. This is also the philosophy that keeps getting repeated in Arch Wiki. A good server admin should keep his server up to date but now he lives in fear because updating things often breaks production. pacman also provides no official easy way to roll back to previous version.
    – kizzx2
    Mar 26, 2012 at 16:23


I think this is the easiest solution, and very cool.

  • Does xmbc run as a server? I wasn't aware
    – bringel
    Jun 21, 2011 at 13:58
  • What kind of services do you need ? I'm installed xmbc on my ubuntu, so now you can control the media pc with remote control, in this nice gui. So I added samba to share my files over our small home network and rtorrent to handle my "backups".
    – MSpike
    Jun 22, 2011 at 6:35
  • You may get up-votes if you will explain why you think it's the easiest, & what makes it cool.
    – Philomath
    Jul 21, 2011 at 8:39

Setting up a file or media server will generally be very similar across Linux distributions so you should choose whatever distro you are most comfortable with. Some good server-oriented distros are

CentOS - According to distrowatch, the most popular Linux distro for servers these days, probably due to it being just a free clone of Red Hat Enterpise Linux. This would be a good choice if you've ever used Fedora.

Ubuntu Server - Becoming more popular nowadays owing to the success of Ubuntu Desktop. If you've used Ubuntu Desktop before, this will probably be a good choice.

Debian - Very similar to Ubuntu since Ubuntu is based on Debian. It has a reputation for being very stable. If you're used to Ubuntu, this could also be a good choice for you.

ArchLinux - A minimalist, cutting-edge, rolling-release distribution. It is designed primarily for experienced Unix/Linux users. However, it has excellent documentation. I often find myself using Arch documentation for setting up stuff on other distros.

I second Chris's suggestion of using SAMBA. I would also like to add that, if you want music or video streaming, a lightweight HTTP Server may be a good idea. Nginx and Cherokee are both very good choices for serving up static files.

  • It looks like the general consensus is to use a debian based distro instead of something liked red hat, yes?
    – bringel
    Jun 21, 2011 at 14:26
  • if you're really not familiar with RHEL/CentOS/Fedora environment then you must choose a better user's friendly like ubuntu. (For me Ubuntu server is not really cut to be a good server, but still a good way to start playing with linux as server. ;) Jun 21, 2011 at 16:15
  • For new users, I would recommend the stable release of Debian (currently Squeeze) or the LTS release of Ubuntu Server (currently 10.04 Lucid Lynx). They are both stable and user-friendly.
    – Zhehao Mao
    Jun 21, 2011 at 16:23

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