Media Server & Client Software

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by HTPC2012KK, Jan 1, 2012.

  1. HTPC2012KK

    HTPC2012KK
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    Hi all,

    I want to set up a Media + TV/PVR server (located in an upstairs home office) to stream all content (TV, music, Video etc.) across gigabit LAN to client devices connected to TVs in up to 5 rooms. I have a host of hardware to source and build but reckon I need to start with the software and user experience and then get the hardware to support that.

    I know that within a windows environment, the easiest solution appears to be a Win7 media center with xboxes as media center extenders. The UI appears quite nice and x-boxes are very inexpensive thin clients.

    However there are other windows options that I know nothing of, media portal, XBMC etc. Not to speak of the unknown world of Linux.

    Can anyone out there help me please? I would love recommendations, summaries of pros and cons, or directions to detailed reviews of the various software.

    Key for this project's success is ease of use of TV/PVR functions for satellite and terrestrial HD TV. My wife and young kids will be very disappointed if this solution is not as robust and simple as the sky interface they are used to. I do not mind technical stuff and would be confident in gettign stuff working in a windows environment, I would be less confident in a Linux environment, but would not mind the time investment to get a robust solution especially if Linux can significantly reduce costs along the way by reusing old hardware etc.

    I am very time poor however, so whatever solution I settle on has to have minimal ongoing maintenance requirements.

    Thanking you in advance for any help or pointers.

    John
     
  2. robbo100

    robbo100
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    There is a very similar thread started tonight discussing the use of MediaPortal for this: http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-entertainment-pcs/1567816-server-htpc-my-needs.html

    MediaPortal will do everything you need based upon your description above. It is basically designed with this in mind, but is often criticised for being difficult to configure and setup (although others like this because it gives a lot of flexibility to the way the system can be configured).

    Windows Media Center will not run a client/server based system, and each of your "clients" will need to have a TV card to watch live TV (or more than one if they want to be able to watch and record).

    XBMC is not designed for watching live TV, but it can be "hacked" to allow viewing of live TV using the TV servers from other software (I think it can be made to work with "for the record", MediaPortal and Myth TV). XBMC is a very popular choice for people who want to watch stored media (i.e. not live TV), because it is very fast, easy to configure and very pretty to look at. You need to ask others for advice on XMBC as I have never used it.

    There are other bits of software, but I have never used them and/or know nothing about them, so I will step aside and allow others to help from heron in.

    Robbo100
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2012
  3. HTPC2012KK

    HTPC2012KK
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    Thanks Robbo!

    Will follow with great interest.

    I'm not that great with the terminology regarding Windows Media Center, but as I understand it the xbox would act as a very dumb client to the Media Center, but nonetheless controlling it i.e. being able to stream content or live TV from it and allowing you to schedule recordings. There are simplicity benefits of having just one media center in the background managing all the recording and streaming, so that is what attracted me to it in the first place, but there may be many gotchas that I'm totally unaware of.
     
  4. robbo100

    robbo100
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    I am not sure that XBMC runs as a client to WMC as such. I think that people may use WMC to schedule recordings and then they use XBMC over the top of WMC to watch stuff after it has recorded. It is a pretty crude way of doing things and not very well integrated I would think.

    Robbo100
     
  5. HTPC2012KK

    HTPC2012KK
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    I've followed the thread Robbo100 as quoted below,

    By "Server" I mean a PC with lots of hard drive space running Windows 7 of some variety, it doesn't need to be WHS or anything like that (I am not even sure if MP will run on WHS or not).

    Whether the server is actually doubling as one of your clients, or a dedicated server without the client side installation depends upon:


    1) how much storage space you need and how small do you want the case

    2) how much heat/noise you are willing to tolerate
    3) are you happy to have it running in the main living space of the house for hours on end.
    4) can you run sufficient antenna cables to the server location in the living space (1 terrestrial antenna will service ALL DVB-T/DVB-T2 tuners, but you will need one LNB feed for each DVB-S DVB-S2 tuners). And are you willing to tolerate all the wires in the living space.

    I am not saying that a NAS won't work, and the difference may be undetectable, but I believe it is simpler from my experience (you only need to wake up one network device for the clients to be cooking on gas).


    Robbo100


    My answers to the questions are1) Current storage is approx 1 TB would see it expanding to 2-4 Tb over the next 2 years at current rates, but if the new system works well, might need more.
    2) Heat is OK for Home Office - noise is not
    3) Can run in Home Office location indefinitely, but would like to minimise running costs by going for low power components and smart use of sleep functions
    4) 2 satellite and 2 terrestial coax cables already in location.

    Attic would be a runner too all cables (2xsat + 2 x terr + cat 5e) and power are already up there, if noise became too much of an issue, but would worry about condensation & vermin up there (live in renovated old farmhouse and mice are a problem.

    Will wait and see or create separate thread for hardware recommendations.

    I'm conflicted now, as each TV will still need a box underneath it, no matter how limited its role, it will still cost >£200, so I'm tempted to see if I can build a smallish Quiet HTPC to sit under one TV and serve the others saving £200.

    If I limited it to 3 or 4 TB I may get something acceptable quiet and cool enough. When the inevitable expansion point comes, I could then create the server, and still have one box left under one TV.

    This making sense?
     
  6. HTPC2012KK

    HTPC2012KK
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    As an aside, I still think there will not be a cheaper alternative to the xbox 360 (acting as a Windows Media Center extender) sitting under the TVs.

    xbox 4GB = £150.

    But I may be missing something, everyone appears to be talking about media portal and XBMC running on PC clients under the TVs. There has to be good reasons for that.
     
  7. robbo100

    robbo100
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    XBMC started off life as an application that ran on an X-box (which is where the name came from), however it does't work like this anymore and must be run on a PC (win/Linux or mac).
     
  8. robbo100

    robbo100
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    It seems to me that you are going to be best off configuring one of your clients to double up as a server then. To be honest if you always install the minimum number of hard drives (utilising the largest capacity you can afford), then the noise will be minimised significantly.

    If you are willing to accept a LARGE case (like this SilverStone Technology Co., Ltd.- CW02), then you can fit a completely silent CPU cooler (like this: Ninja 3 High Performance CPU Cooler (note that if you run a dual core PC you can run this in completely fanless mode)). If you then get a nice quite PSU (like this: 400W be quiet! Efficient Power 80PLUS Gold ATX2.3 Power Supply - Aria Technology) and some very quite case fans (like these: NF-S12B FLX Ultra Quiet 120mm Flexible Cooling Fan) , then it will probably only produce at most about 40 db total noise (with two hard drives spinning). 40 db may seem like a lot of noise, but my living room background noise is about 37 db at at best (when the kids are in bed and the door is shut), so we really aren't talking much difference in reality (noting that an increase of about 6 db equates to roughly doubling the noise and a normal conversation is between 60-75 db - it is confusing because the db scale is logarithmic and not linear)).

    With this arrangement, if you need to expand the storage and are unwilling to accept additional noise, you could always get a NAS put the hard drives in (keeping the server where it is). You would just need to tell the clients to look to the NAS for their music/films (what ever files you have moved from the server to the NAS).

    Having a server in a living space need not look messy, as hopefully you will agree from my setup: http://www.avforums.com/forums/15979461-post34.html

    Robbo100
     
  9. HTPC2012KK

    HTPC2012KK
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    Dear Robbo,

    Firstly I must compliment you on your set-up, it looks great!

    However, my Missus would not tolerate anything in the living room as big as the SilverStone Technology Co., Ltd.- CW02.

    I know nettops or slimline cases are out if I want the TV tuner cards and min 2 TB storage, but is there a nice case out there that could accomodate these but looks close to a a DVD player?

    If not then I'm back to the home office solution where I'll go for a case that would allow me to add lots of drives, and not worry too much about noise.

    Can you recommend something inexpensive then for under the TV?
     
  10. bubblegum57

    bubblegum57
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  11. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Thanks.

    Basically, the smaller the case, the more fans you will need. The case I have got is an Antec Fusion and is quite a lot smaller than the massive one I showed you before. It can take 2 hard drives (so a 2 TB drive now and a 3 or 4 TB drive in a couple of years).

    In fairness, if all you want is room for two hard drives and two PCI-e tuner cards (and if you get a motherboard with a decent Graphics adaptor (ATI HD5450 or better), then there are many smaller cases that you can get.

    With very small cases things will start to get trickier with CPU cooling (in terms of having acceptable cooling without being too noisy), but there are many options to get around this which we can discuss later.

    I suggest that you go and find a case that you are happy with online. Post back the details and also list the following details, and then we can then help fill in the gaps for you.


    These (or lower spec versions) are perfect for you 4 remaining clients! Bubblegum is right, you could connect USB tuners to this sort of device and use a NAS, but there will be wires everywhere (but you could run a single USB cable to a cable and then have a USB hub and the tuners in the cupboard. I am not sure how many HD tuners you could run from a single USB port though, probably best to stick to one tuner per USB port in by view.
     
  12. Matt_C

    Matt_C
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    A very basic, and (relatively) inexpensive way would be take the WHS you already have, install the Plex Server software on it, then stick an ATV2 under each TV and install the Plex streamer software on each (requires jailbreak)

    I say in expensive as they are £99 each, as opposed to £150 for 360's, or more for the likes of Dune's etc.

    However, you're pretty much limited to 720p h264 (MP4/M4V/MKV) video files then, as the ATV2 doesn't have hardware support for anything other than h264 - so any HD xvid/avi is going to play badly....
     
  13. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Matt_C - Re-reading the OP, I don't think he has an existing WHS
     
  14. Matt_C

    Matt_C
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  15. robbo100

    robbo100
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    But the proposal to use ATV2 and Plex doesn't meet one of the key user requirements of acting as a PVR for satellite TV (I don't know much about PLEX and ATV2, but I didn't think they supported live TV?).

     
  16. Matt_C

    Matt_C
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  17. robbo100

    robbo100
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    :laugh:

    HTPC2012KK - this site is a good reference for HTPC cases: Kustom PCs HTPC Cases

    The photos are not all to the same scale, so some that look like massive high cases are actually tiny ITX cases (the size of the DVD drive door/slot is always a good reference for judging the size at a glance).

    You may well find the cases available elsewhere for less money on other websites though.

    I love this one - which was well outside my price range, and it can hold 3 hard drives - http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/info_1597.html (someone has written a MediaPortal plugin to drive the front display too!)

    Robbo100
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  18. spyder viewer

    spyder viewer
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  19. HTPC2012KK

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  20. HTPC2012KK

    HTPC2012KK
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    Thanks Matt, nice idea , but the PVR and streaming the TV is the main reason I'm takign this on.

    I'll bet that in a year probably, we'll be choosing between android and iTVs that won't require cleints at all!
     
  21. HTPC2012KK

    HTPC2012KK
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    Wish I had the cash, I'd love the Moneual. I'm browsing the other cases, but all the ones I like are on the high end price wise. I think it may be better to just get a functional ugly box and stick it in the home office. The extra I would spend to get something that looked and sounded as good as the xbox, would be more than the x-box itself.

    So am coming round to the home office server running Windows 7 Media Center and using xBox360s under the TVs acting as Media Center Extenders.

    I have setup a new thread looking for help specifying that box.

    Thanks again to everybody who helped out.
     

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