What is OpenELEC? At first thought when an email from the distribution's developers landed in my inbox this morning about "OpenELEC" it sounded like it would be an uninteresting Linux distribution re-spin like Fedora Electronic Lab, that's just bundling of extra software packages for electrical engineers, etc. However, it's actually a multimedia Linux distribution that's focused upon XBMC integration.
OpenELEC stands for Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center and it's a lightweight Linux distribution that's "built from scratch" for creating XBMC media centers. "OpenELEC is designed to make your system boot as fast as possible and the install is so easy that anyone can turn a blank PC into a media machine in less than 15 minutes."
The developers behind OpenELEC say they have been working on the 1.0 release for two years and that it will boot and be ready in less than 10 seconds, has self-updating software, and requires no previous Linux experience to use. OpenELEC 1.0 is using XBMC 10.1 Dharma and ships on the Linux 3.1-rc10 kernel pre-release.
OpenELEC 1.0 is using the open-source graphics drivers (with Mesa 7.11) by default, unfortunately. At least proprietary drivers are available for those who want them, which for a media center / HTPC is really the only viable choice at the moment: the binary AMD / NVIDIA drivers have proper power management support and hardware video acceleration on their respective video engines and exposed via XvBA / VDPAU. The exception is Intel where their open-source driver has reliable power management support and VA-API video acceleration on their modern hardware (namely for Intel Sandy Bridge where the VA-API support is beautiful).
To learn more about OpenELEC 1.0, visit the project's web-site.