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Home Theatre Sever

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by richjthorpe, Oct 26, 2005.

  1. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Hi all,

    In my set up I am thinking of a Server to store all of the media in order to distribute throughout the house.

    Question is, what do I need for the server ? Does it need to be powerful or a slower 2500 Sempron for example ? Obviously large number of Hard Drives. How much RAM ?

    Plus, I'd want to install DVB-T cards in it in order to record straight to disk. Is this possible to install the cards in the server and have control over the DVB-T from client HTPCs ?

    Which software would be needed to run on the Server, a Media Centre (MCE, Meedio etc) or just XP ?

    Thanks all,

    Richie.
     
  2. Lucas

    Lucas
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    As long as you don't plan to play video on the server any machine capable of running XP will suffice. 512Mb RAM is enough if you don't do any heavy tasks like converting mpeg2 video to divx etc....

    With the small price differences though, unless you already have an old cpu, I would go with something that will be able to handle the OSes of the next 3-5 years. Say a P4 or like around 2.8GHz.

    I built my original HTPC 18months ago in a nice case for the living room with 512Mb and a P4 2.8GHz. I started with 250Gb and when I reached 800Gb and no space in the case, I got the same idea as you.

    I recently relegated its internals(everything, including the TV cards) to a server case which now does what you want to do.

    I distribute content over a LAN to another more uptodate HTPC(using the old HTPC case) and 2 Hauppauge Media MVPs in the bedrooms.

    The software that I use are WinXP and SageTV.

    I am not sure what the current capabilities of MCE extenders are but I decided to stick with SageTV since it is very configurable and has excellent scaleability.
     
  3. rdhir

    rdhir
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    Processors

    Anything from a 2300 - 3000 is good. If you didn't have the DVB-T tuners then certainly the low end is adequate. You can even run software raid 5 using windows XP pro using a low end processor.

    Motherboard

    Get a cheap motherboard with the features you need - see later, socket A bargains are a good idea, but there is a whole load of socket 754 bargains to come out soon. Save yourself even more my going for onboard graphics.

    If you need to run MCE on it to store the files (but you can use other tools), then I suggest you go for the new 6100/410 6100/430 or 6150/430 combos as they make great value and are MCE compatible. You are not really using it to look at the videos but MCE may be fussy as it was not designed to run as a server.

    ASRock K8NF4G-SATA2 is a suggestion of where to start.

    Memory

    Again for MCE get 512-1024MB. For non MCE then 512MB is fine, even with shared memory graphics, and running raid 5. Get Value Select, or bog standard memory do not buy fast memory.

    Hard disks.

    You really should go for a large number of disks, but it is possible to squeeze a terabyte onto 4 drives. Always buy identical drives. I stick to WD but Samsung and Maxtor are popular too. SATA vs PATA will make no difference, base it on cost. If you want a lot of drives you will need to buy one or more controllers. You can probably find some cheap PATA cards with several interfaces and this would allow you to have a lot of drives cheaply. Alternatively a SATA card would be newer, might come with RAID more cheaply and the internal airflow and hence cooling for the drives would be better. Raid will give bags of performance and will mean that if you should have a drive failure, you can replace it without the tedium of re-ripping or losing exiting broadcast recordings. Software raid will be fast enough, but if you can fiund a cheap hardware card feel free to do so.

    Case.

    If you want lots of space and room for expansion, then go for a well made tower with a decent hard drive cage, preferably with drive rails, which means drives are easier to pop in and out. If you have four or more drives, get one which will take 120mm fans around the drive cage to provide additional cooling.

    If you want to go the small silent option, I built a system with an ANTEC Aria case, as it is one of the only microATX cases which takes four hard drives. A terabyte in the space of a slightly large cube is not so silly.

    OS

    For a plain server Linux is good choice, but not an option for you as you wish to record your TV on the server. Windows XP Pro is fine. Never tried MCE. You can hack down Windows XP to a much lighter and faster install using Windows XPLite. This is a great tool which can rip the guts from XP leaving you with a nice OS which does not consume vast resources.

    An alternative to having the MCE machine in the cupboard as the server, you can simply build a Linux/Windows XP server and save your files to the network shares. (Map the server as a drive to your MCE machine and have it store the files there.


    Happy to provide more answers to more questions - this was typed in a hurry

    Cheers

    Rajiv
     
  4. Monty Burns

    Monty Burns
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    Couple of other pointers:

    1 - Not sure how many clients you are going to have so be aware that XP Home/Prof (the client) can only accept 5 (Iirc) connections. This is designed like this to stop people using it as a small office server.

    2 - Don't forget to maximise the system for disk IO rather than processing. To do this right click "My Computer" and select properties. Select advanced, performance settings, then advanced again and set these to background services and System cache.


    Other than that, as Lucas/Rdhir have covered the rest .... go rock n roll! :thumbsup:
     
  5. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Thanks for the info guys !

    I'm not sure of MCE running as a Server either. If I was to use XP, which software would I use to control the DVB-T cards or would the control come from the Client PCs ?

    Lets say I have 4 tuners in the server, person A is recording BBC1 while timeslipping on BBC2. At the same time, person B is recording Channel 4 and timeslipping E4. For them to set up recording, would they only need go into the EPG on the local Client PC or would they have to remotely access the server ?

    Rajiv, Ill be looking at the new 6150 boards as a HTPC mobo. I'll not be using the Server as a machine to watch anything so onboard graphics will suffice.

    Monty, the house isn't that big for more than 5 connections I think ! The whole system will be LCDs in lounge and master bedroom with Sqeeze boxes in the Dining Room and second bedroom......maybe for the bathroom too, but that could be a little excesssive !

    For positioning of the server, I was thinking about placing it in the loft space. Do I need to do anything to the loft (Line it and board it) so that temperature fluctuations don't damage the internals ?

    Richie.
     
  6. rdhir

    rdhir
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    If you want live TV I think you'll need to have the tuner on the client PC unless the device is a media extender and this functionality is supported.

    But I did read in another post here that MCE does not allow you to stream to network shares which may put a bummer in that.

    Got to say that since I went the PVR route (TIVO) I don't watch live TV.

    What I meant was that if you had to run MCE on the machine then these motherboards are MCE compatible, and cheap I am not sure if some of the other chipsets with onboard graphics have MCE drivers.

    I picked up the 6100/310 K8NF4G-SATA2 for £35.45. That's cheap for skt754 onboard graphics. So You could have mb,cpu,ram for £100-£120+VAT - bargain. A socket A solution might save you £40.

    I would not worry about Vista or a OS upgrade for a server.

    Also one thing to remember about Monty's comment. That limit is for Microsoft Networking. If you use Slimserver clients for audio or some other uPNP server provided by the media extender client, that won't count against the limit so you ought to be ok. I have three client PCs attached to my server. My server also runs Skype, Slimserver, fax sending (I send the Skype to a seimens handset via a Siemens M34 USB dongle.

    As long as the temp is not regularly below 0 you should be fine. The biggest danger would be condensation. If you live in the country you might also have the occasional mouse eating cables.

    Cheers


    Rajiv
    Richie.[/QUOTE]
     
  7. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    That's a bit of an arse. Oh well, I suppose getting the Dual Tuner DVB-T PCI-E cards will mean only 1 card slot is used. Would have been good if everything was in one place though.

    How do you mean ? Do you mean recieving TV on a Client PC and streaming to the Server to record it ?

    Shouldn't drop below zero in London especially with the heating on. If it does, I'll buy a fleece for it :)

    Richie.
     

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