I have a small form factor (SFF) machine on the way to take up duties as a media center machine. After waiting for long, finally pulled the trigger on a Foxconn Barebones Book sized system and 4G of RAM. I haven’t ordered a hard drive - the plan is to run XBMC completely off a USB drive. As it is, media is on a 1TB external disk and the cost of 2.5" laptop HDDs has gone through the roof.
In terms of software, I’ve got to figure out which XBMC to use - the contenders are to either install XBMCBuntu or go with one of the specialized builds from OpenElec. I’m still new to both - so will need to do some reading up before I decide.
OpenElec has small footprint (100MB), customized builds for different chipsets. Its meant to be run from a flash drive - so it has a few optimizations to make sure that it doesn’t clobber your flash drive. Also, the stable version of OpenElec based on XBMC 10.0 "Dharma" has native AMD Fusion chipset support. Its also designed to be self updating and from reading the manuals, boots right into XBMC and OpenElec settings are all accessed via a XBMC extension so you never have to drop down to the linux machine underneath it.
At this point, looks like OpenELec is really limiting. I would really love to run a browser, use the machine for torrenting etc - and somehow using the XBMC interface for all those doesn’t sound too good.
Also, XBMC Eden is supposed to support AMD Fusion natively and OpenElec hasn’t been updated yet for Eden (there are nightly builds available though that are based on Eden).
XBMCBuntu is XBMC’s official liveCD - you can use the live CD to install to another USB drive media and provided the system can boot from USB, you’re off to the races. The thing here is that it isnt specific to a 'flash' drive - so there’s a small tradeoff in terms of the flash drive life. XBMCBuntu is based on Lubuntu 11.10.
Migrating the database
I also have to figure out how to migrate my XBMC database of movie information from Windows XP to the Linux setup - not sure if its even possible - but its something that’s definitely worth a shot. In any case, if it doesnt work, then will just let XBMC rebuild its database overnight.
The hardware’s supposed to come in april 2nd week - can’t wait for it :)