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Installing XBMC 12.2 on an ASRock ION 330HT

Here are some notes for an XBMC 12.2 (Frodo) install job that I did for a buddy of mine on his ASRock ION 330HT. We were both a little nervous about performing a full upgrade, but due to smart partitioning, everything upgraded perfectly.

Here's what I did...

Backup Prior Install

Using Clonezilla, I made an image of his current install, which was an Ubuntu 10.04 install with XBMC on top of it. I just went ahead and backed up the first 10G partition on his internal hard drive. Everything went smoothly. A small trick for booting something like Clonezilla from a flash drive with the ION 330HT is to have a keyboard plugged in and then mash the F11 key on bootup. You should see a small boot menu appear and then you can select to boot from the corresponding USB stick.

Download and Install XBMCbuntu

Since he only uses his ION 330HT as a media box, he didn't need a full fledged Ubuntu install. So, we decided to go with XBMCbuntu, which is available for download on the main XBMC page. We installed that ISO onto a USB drive using UNetbootin (for Mac! Didn't know they had this now...).

Next we booted the ION 330, mashed the F11 key, and started up the live USB. It's important to select the Fixed DPI (120x120) option if you are installing with an HD TV attached, as otherwise the installer text is way to freakin' small. With the fixed DPI it's totally manageable.

We quickly selected our keyboard and timezone options, and reformated the 10G partition he had from his previous install on the internal harddrive. Then, we made sure that the installer pulled down the latest packages and set his user to automatically login on bootup.

Then we hit GO!

Rejoice!

After the install finished, we rebooted into our wonderful new XBMC machine. And frankly, it pretty much worked just fine after that with two small caveats:

Automount Drives

We wanted his drives to automatically mount on bootup, so we can always have his media at the ready. We did this by finding each drive's attached UUID using

$ sudo blkid

After we found the partition's UUIDs, we created mount points under /media. For example

$ sudo mkdir -p /media/Media
$ sudo mkdir -p /media/Media_640G
$ sudo mkdir -p /media/FusionHD

The first two are for his internal drives, and the last one is for an external he has hooked up over eSATA. Then, I edited the /etc/fstab file to include lines like the following for each drive:

UUID=<the_uuid>    /media/FusionHD     ext4 (or ntfs-3g)  rw,user,auto,nosuid,nodev     0    0

After that, upon reboot, all necessary drives in the fstab file will automount and appear as media locations in XBMC.

Fix HDMI Audio Output

While almost everything worked out of the box on the ION 330HT, including the remote and display, the audio was a little wonky. My buddy has his ION feed out to a Sony receiver over HDMI, and the audio channels were a little screwed up for his 5.1 setup.

Luckily for us, this is a solved issue. All that is necessary is to boot into the XBMCbuntu desktop (which you can do by exiting XBMC (not shutdown!), and then selecting "XBMCbuntu" from the login manager's dropdown menu). Once you are in the desktop, open up the asoundrc file located in your home directory:

$ vim ~/.asoundrc

Simply follow the instructions located in the XBMC wiki here. I backed up the asoundrc file and then copy and pasted the settings right into the file. I completely blew away all of the previous contents.

Then reboot. Once you login to XBMC again via that login manager from earlier, you should be able to playback your media over a standard receiver with no issues, as long as you make sure to set your Audio Output Device to *hdmi_direct (which we get from that wiki link). *

You should be good to go!

A few notes...

First of all, make sure that you go into the ION 330HT's BIOS and give the shared video memory a full 512MB of RAM. This ensures smooth video performance.

Also, if you have DPI issues with XBMCbuntu AFTER you have installed it, simply add a line to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file under the "Monitor" section. There should be a few other entries and another Option entry, so just add this to the end of the Monitor section:

Option   "DPI" "120 x 120"

Then logout and log back in. You should now be able to actually read the OS desktop text on a Full HD television.

After all of this was said and done, I booted up Clonezilla once more over a USB and made a backup image of the known working configuration. That way he can fallback on it if anything ever screws up.