IMPORTANT UPDATE: READ FIRST
As of 12.04 LTS, all of these issues are addressed and everything works perfectly. If you still experience intermittent WiFi drops, try updating your routers firmware - that fixed it for me.
It took me much longer than it should have to set up my new media box over HDMI. I've collected some good instructions from several other posts and forums in a single how-to to help any other newbies.
My media box is a Acer Revo 3700 with Nvidia ION chipset. There appears to be problems with primarily with audio over HDMI and system halting issues. HD video's also don't work by default in Youtube and BBC IPlayer. Fixes below.
Note: CTRL+SHIFT+c or v will copy and paste in terminal
1) Installing Ubuntu
I used 10.10 (Maverick). Installed from LiveCD. Wireless and ethernet worked out of the box for me.
2) Install Restricted Drivers
System > Administration > Additional Drivers
Activate the driver for NVidia and restart your machine. If the system hangs (halting issue) then press and hold the power button on the Revo for around 6 seconds to restart.
3) Fix Restarting Issue [Don't do this if you use the Revo's wireless - It causes intermittent wifi drops]
There appears to be some sort of issue with the wireless driver causing a system crash on halt. To fix you need to blacklist an item in the modprobe.
Open Applications > Accessories > Terminal and type:
sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
Enter your password and in this new file, type:
Save the file and restart (Pressing and holding Revo power if necessary). Your Revo should now restart without incident in future.
4) Audio over HDMI
It seems as though the audio drivers aren't quite mature enough yet to work flawlessly out of the box on this model which is a real ball-ache. We need to do a bit of tinkering to make them work...
First, in the terminal type:
Enter your password and in this file paste the following:
sudo gedit ~/.asoundrc
Save and close.
pcm "hw:1,7" # Always use pure hw. dmix will reformat/resample audio.
period_size 512 # If you get stuttering/or non-working audio, fiddle around with these
rate 48000 # HDMI, I'll assume 48kHz
format S16_LE # Should be default for pretty much any soundcard.
SOURCE (thanks asdf29)
Now, again in the terminal enter:
You will see this:
Press F6 to select device. Use arrow keys and enter to select 1. HDA Nvidia:
You can now see SPDIF outputs. Just set them all to enabled (00) from muted (mm) by using the arrow keys to select and the 'm' key to change:
Now restart and check that your audio is working. If you still aren't hearing anything, ensure the audio is turned up on the HDMI device, the HDMI cable is plugged in fully and that you are actually playing a sound. Double-check that those PFDIF channels are unmuted in alsamixer! Headphone jack will work to test if something is actually playing. The audio controls (up, down, mute) don't yet work using this method, but I have been getting by using the XBMC volume control and TV volume. Additionally, check that your ALSA version is at least 1.0.23. If it's not follow the tutorial here to upgrade.
4) Install XBMC
Currently, boxee, vlc, totem and flash plugin don't appear to offer hardware acceleration for the ION chipset, but fortunately the Dharma release of XBMC does. This is REALLY good news if you're wanting to play those x264 1080p MKVs!
Run the following from terminal to install XBMC Dharma.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lars-opdenkamp/xbmc-pvr
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc libva1
If you find that lines or "flicker" appear across the screen whilst playing video in XBMC then you may be able to fix this by disabling compiz.
Do do this, go to System > Preferences > Appearance > Visual Effects > None
For temporary deactivation of compiz run (ALT + F2):
5) BBC IPlayer
You can add the BBC IPlayer plugin for this version of XBMC. It will allow you to watch IPlayer right inside XBMC at all sorts of definitions. To do this, download the plugin from here. Extract the folder, rename the extracted folder from "IPlayer" to "plugin.video.iplayer". Copy this folder to /home/<yourusername>/.xbmc/addons/
If you can't see the ".xbmc" folder then press CTRL + H to show hidden directories. (Folders prefixed with . are hidden in Ubuntu).
Restart XBMC and you'll find the player under Videos > Video Add-ons > IPlayer (Right clicking any of the menu items will add this to the favourites menu which allow you to go straight to this menu from Favourites on the home page of XBMC.
Note that if sound is REALLY quiet, bring the sound up on the Ubuntu desktop AND XBMC. Just hit backslash to minimize XBMC.
6) Youtube HD Videos
There's a version of Adobe Flash Player out there, version 10.2. It (kind of) supports hardware acceleration with the ION 2. Using this method I have managed to get 720p videos to play in full screen without any problems. 1080p playback is still a bit flaky. Install 10.2 by running:
Restart Firefox and check out a 720p or 1080p video on Youtube.
tar zxvf flashplayer10_2_p2_32bit_linux_111710.tar.gz
sudo cp libflashplayer.so /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/
Running an automated update appears to break the system and prevents it from rebooting. It seems to just hang on reboot with a flashing cursor. I suspect a broken update so I'm holding off updates for a while until this device is a bit better supported. I disabled the automatic update in System > Startup Applications (probably a bad idea from a security POV). Feedback or improvements on methods used above would be appreciated.
I ran an update and it all worked without incident this time. Doesn't break on start up any more.
Added instructions for BBC IPlayer and HD Youtube support.
Removed the restart fix as it causes an intermittent wifi fault.