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This specification describes the Ubuntu Media Center Distribution (aka UMC).

This effort, which is supported by the Ubuntu Media Center Team, will try to bring the Ubuntu paradigm (easy to install / use / update, beautiful artwork, feature rich and complete, ...) to this area.

It will only address the distribution part, that is to say an Ubuntu based system with multimedia features and out-of-the-box personal media center. Another Spec will address the creation softwares included in this distribution.

This specification also supersed the UMC previous attempt done by Sébastien Gripon. This one is still kept for the comments.


Ubuntu Media Center is available as a standalone distribution. The corresponding live CD exists in two versions :

  • The light version is based on fbdev for dedicated appliance that needs a quick boot and with which not many packages are needed. This version can be installed on an hard disk for media center purpose only.

  • The standard version is based on the Ubuntu Live CD. This version allows the user to switch to a standard desktop for working with other Ubuntu applications. This version is intended to be used for the installation of the Ubuntu Media Center distribution on hard disk.

It should be interesting to also make UMC available for embedded systems like set-top-boxes. Actually this is not on the scope of this project but it could became reality once the UbuntuEmbedded distribution is here (See https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+spec/embedded-ubuntu).

Use cases

- Evann installs a "Ubuntu Media Center" distribution. Media Center packages are installed automatically, configuration is done during the system installation process : media files places (movies, music...), hardware configuration (TV tuner, Wifi cards, remote control...). When the system boots, the Media Center is automatically launched (To be defined : maybe two different entries in Grub can be used to launch directly the media center or not).

- Celia wants to test the Ubuntu distribution and she wants her distribution to integrate a multimedia center for all the movies, music and pictures she has. She can use the "Ubuntu Media Center Live CD".

- Noam has a standard Ubuntu installed. He wants to move to "Ubuntu Media Center" : additional packages are installed and configuration is done after package installation.

- Nans owns an old PC that he wants to turn into a media box plugged on his TV set. "Ubuntu Media Center light" distribution allows him to have all the power of Ubuntu for the only Media Center Use.



The core of UMC (umc-core) is available as a meta-package that includes the media center software and all required tools. This core is able to work on any UMC version: UMC Live CD, UMC light Live CD, installed UMC and installed UMC light.

Additionally, a optimized kernel should be built for the UMC light version. This kernel should embeds only mandatory modules and it should be able to boot very quickly.

Prerequisites Before starting the generation of any UMC distribution, the first release of the umc-core meta-package must be available and functional, that is to say : installing this meta-package installs properly elisa, lirc, umc-artwork and all required dependencies.

Milestone 1 (Possible target Feisty + 1)

UMC is a standard Ubuntu distribution with the umc-core meta-package. This means that a standard Ubuntu Live CD is used to build UMC with the additional umc-core meta package. Ubuntu can be installed from the Live CD like a standard Ubuntu.

A fresh installation of UMC provides :

  • A fully functional Ubuntu distribution.
  • A functional Media Center Software.
  • A properly configured and functional remote control.
  • Maybe some UMC specific artwork.

Milestone 1 of the distribution embeds the software milestone 1. See Software specification for details.

Milestone 2

For this milestone, an optimized kernel is provided by UMC. The Live CD boots can boot either on this optimized kernel or on the standard one. The optimized kernel embeds only mandatory modules. It must allow UMC to boot as quickly as possible. Booting on this kernel launches the Media Center software (Elisa) at the opening of the default user session.

For this milestone, the Live CD has a UMC specific artwork. It should integrate UMC software milestone 2 if available (see Software specification for details).

Milestone 3

This milestone allows the UMC to use fbdev for UMC light version.


UMC distribution doesn't need to use specific modifications of existing packages. Only standard packages are used, and if an additional feature is needed, it is provided as a new pakage or has a modification that can be applied to the Ubuntu standard package without forking the distribution.

Data preservation and migration

Switching from Ubuntu to Ubuntu Media Center should not be a problem for data preservation. Only additional packages are installed and the migration is quite similar to a migration to KUbuntu for example.

Unresolved issues

Standard Common User Directories

Desktop users might be able to store their data in special directories that have the same kind of content. This is often the case for simple Documents but also for Music, Movies or Pictures. UMC provides standard common user directories to allow desktop applications and especially UMC software (overall Elisa) to be consistent in user disk usage.

The standardization of common user directories use is in progress on http://www.freedesktop.org. See this draft specification.

A specification can be found here. We must have a look at this to determine if it covers all our needs.

BoF agenda and discussion


Some usefull links to build a derivative Ubuntu distro :

CategorySpec CategoryUbuntuMediaCenter

MediaCenter/DistroSpecs (last edited 2008-08-06 16:22:41 by localhost)