I started wanting a computer for viewing movies and television because I like to have a seperation between my workspace and leisure time.
I first installed XBMCbuntu which is a pretty good way to go if you have lean hardware. Lean distro’s like the Raspberry Pi oriented OpenELEC. has fewer frills to save cycles for playing video and the GUI for XBMC. Of course codecs and bit-rates have a big effect on playback and some HD can be too intense for the wee little Pi.
I found myself limited by having to install so many things from terminal. Handling fstab and samba from webmin helps. I decided to spare the processing and go for a more functional Linux server. If you want, XBMC creates a user that runs pretty lean as a desktop environment. Then you can tuck back into Gnome or Cinnamon or whatever environment you like for tweaking or adding things.
Enter Ubuntu 13.04 and all it’s glory.
I got the whole thing up and running with the exception of a proper Netflix client. Linux doesn’t yet have one. There is a wine port which will give you the windows interface. I have moved to new beefier hardware and now enjoy all desktop environments as I had been given a damaged motherboard in a trade.
The build has undergone some changes and upgrades as the original motherboard failed (kicking and screaming) late last month. The new guts are Intel based and dissimilar or not to the AMD architecture, Ubuntu booted up fine and I was ready to go with a quick update.
My only comment is one must think about power management and how if your system goes to sleep will you be missing any of it’s services. Some things are just best run on a router.