Recently picked up a couple Acer Aspire XC-603 desktops as they were rather cheap (£129 inc VAT on offer @ Ebuyer) but come with FreeDos which isn’t really particularly useful for most people.

A lot of reviews state that they only work with windows 8, a few others were stating they would work on windows 7 after a Bios update but that Linux can’t be used on them, I can’t speak for other Distros since I’ve not tried any (Yet at least) but Kubuntu 14.04 can certainly be installed on them.

Mine Shipped with Bios P11-A1L After changing a few Bios settings mine seemed to have no trouble booting Kubuntu 14.04 from a USB stick.

Note: if the settings below do not work for you or are missing you might need to update the Bios first, the Acer download for the Bios appears to be windows centric but I’m led to believe the driver CD downloadable from the Ebuyer product page can be booted from to flash the Bios. (I didn’t bother trying as mine was working)

For Linux try the following Bios settings.

Set the Hard-drive to ACHI mode (Advanced > Integrated Peripherals)
Set USB key emulation to HardDrive (Advanced > Integrated Peripherals)
**Set secure boot off (Authentication) **
Set Launch CSM to Never (Boot options)

You should now be able to boot your Kubuntu installation media.

Once you have Ubuntu/Kubuntu You can install the XBMC Media centre following the instructions here

You will probably need to go into the sound settings on both the desktop and XBMC and change the default audio output to HDMI if you have the PC connected to a TV/Theatre system, it seems to be able to output at least 5.1 over HDMI.

 

Just for reference the Specs of this machine (Taken from the Ebuyer site) are as follows:

Processor

  • Intel Celeron J1900 2GHz
  • Quad-core (4 Core)

Memory

  • 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Expandable to 8GB

Hard Drive

  • 500GB SATA

Optical Drive

  • DVD Writer

Software

  • Operating System: Free DOS
  • Click here for Windows 7 drivers

Display

  • Not Included

Graphics

  • Intel HD

Input Devices

  • Keyboard and Mouse NOT Included

Networking

  • Ethernet Technology
  • Wired LAN RJ-45 port

Power Supply

  • 220 Watt

Dimensions

  • Width 369.6 mm
  • Depth 266.5 mm
  • Height 100 mm

Interfaces

  • 1 x HDMI
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x RJ-45
  • Audio Line In
  • Audio Line Out
  • 1 x VGA Port

Expansion

  • 1 x Mini PCI Express Slot

Warranty

  • 1 Year Manufacturer Warranty

 

Update: 3/7/2014 : There are mounting holes for a 2.5″ drive in the HDD bay meaning you do not need any adapters if you wanted to replace the HDD with an SSD.

Also sound over HDMI doesn’t appear to work out of the box in Kubuntu 13.10 (The lesson there is don’t go about installing the OS when half distracted by something else, Hadn’t even noticed I’d burnt a 13.10 image to my usb key instead of 14.04)