Best Media Center Software for Linux

It's been quite a long time since Microsoft first unveiled Windows Media Center. The entertainment tool catered to a special group of users who wanted to convert their computer into a full-fledged media center. And though Redmond's ambitious endeavor never really got the expected response, the idea of having a media center on a computer appealed to many users.

This fledgling interest in entertainment software gave birth to many Linux-based media center applications and distributions. Some of them took off, and some of them never hit the limelight; however, one thing was clear, the concept was quite fascinating, so much so that Apple TV, Google TV and even Ubuntu TV are very much inspired by these media centers. For example, Boxee, which is based on XBMC -- which, we’ll cover later in the article -- has gained quite a lot of popularity as an Internet TV box. Thus, there is very little doubt that these media center software are quite important and, to an extent, indispensable for some.

So, if you too are looking to revamp your computer into a complete media center, here are some of the best applications that will help you do that:


Moovida, formerly known as Elisa media center, is one of the best cross-platform media centers out there. Moovida supports a variety of file formats, making it easy to play all media files on your disk. Not only can it play files on your hard drive, it can also detect networked computers along with connected devices like portable media players. With its simple interface and intuitive controls, you can browse your entire movie or music collection without getting out of your comfy sofa. And, if you’re bored with all the stuff on your computer, you can install some cool plugins like YouTube, Flickr, Shoutcast, Grooveshark, and more to get more stuff from the Internet. Moovida is completely free and open-source and can be downloaded directly from the Ubuntu Software Center.

For the terminal junkies, here’s the command for you to paste or type:

sudo apt-get install moovida


Plex is a software designed to bridge the gap between your computer and home theater. The application comes with a stunning interface that is both easy to use and intuitive. Plex media server, which runs seamlessly on Linux, Windows, and Mac, connects Plex clients with local and online media. Written in C++, the server can also run on any compatible Network-Attached Storage device (NAS). Furthermore, Plex also offers Bonjour-based discovery, a feature that depends on Avahi. Though the stuff is still in Plex Labs, that is beta, you can download one that suits your distro (the choice also includes a ppa for Ubuntu users).

Even though you can fetch the required files from the download page, you can also try out the beta builds (comes with DLNA and WP7 support) by typing in or pasting the following commands in your terminal (Ctrl + Alt + T):

sudo -s
echo "deb beta main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/plex-beta.list
apt-get update
apt-get install plex-archive-keyring
apt-get install plexmediaserver

System Requirements:

• 1.6 GHz processor (2.4 GHz dual core for 1080p transcoding).
• 256 MB RAM
• Gigabit Ethernet recommended for HD streaming.
• N.B. Flash and Silverlight video playback is not supported on Linux.


XBMC is perhaps the most popular media center application for Linux. The free and open source software that inspired successful commercial applications like Boxee has made its place in the hearts of many entertainment enthusiasts. XBMC recently saw the release of Eden; successor to Dharma, which is the software’s 11th stable release.

For starters, XBMC is an award-winning FOSS media center application for Linux, Windows, and Mac. The software allows users to browse through their media, organize it, and play it just like you would on a home theater. Thanks to online integration, the software automatically downloads the movie descriptions, box covers, and fan art from the Internet. Furthermore, XBMC is so stable and versatile that it can play files in almost every format, even the ones inside Zip or RAR archives.

For the eye-candy fanboys, XBMC comes with a fabulous selection of skins that can help you dress up your media center any way you want. Moreover, you can add various features like online video integration and more using the feature-filled plugins that the software offers. The latest stable release of XBMC comes with features like UI improvement, Apple TV compatibility, AirPlay support and more.

To install XBMC 11 on your Ubuntu box, type in or paste the following commands in your terminal (Ctrl + Alt + T):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc

If you’re using any other distribution, follow the instructions given on this page.


  1. Wow, works great. Now I just wonder why you can't get these from the Software Center or Working in the terminal is a little scarry.

  2. AnonymousMay 12, 2012

    The support for rar files in XBMC is no longer supported in the linux version.