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Multi-room HTPC system

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by baldrick, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. baldrick

    baldrick
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    I'm starting to design/spec a multi-room A/V system for our new house. I'm planning on using HTPCs as the room sources, with all the machines built in rack-mount cases and centrally located.

    All of these machines will have access to a server storing all of the media.

    This is my first foray into the world of self-build and I've gone through and specced a server.

    I now wish to be a terrible burden and ask those with experience to have a look at my spec and let me know what you think...

    Case Queenserver RM411 http://www.xcase.co.uk/acatalog/Queenserver_RM_411.html £75.00

    Motherboard Abit AL8 PCI-E S775 i955 http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=230490 £83.04

    Processor 630 Intel Pentium® 4 LGA775 CPU http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=260260 £97.30

    PSU - TBD ADVICE PLEASE

    Graphics Card Radeon X300SE http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/MPa...F9A0C59A5CA7304&WSMD=AL8&WSPN=CT2KIT6464AA53E £29.89

    RAM 2 GB crucial - 4 * 512MB http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/MPa...F9A0C59A5CA7304&WSMD=AL8&WSPN=CT2KIT6464AA53E £60.99

    RAID Controller - I don't think I need one at the mo with this motherboard?
    HDD Seagate Barracude NCQ 300GB http://www.dabs.com/uk/shopbybrand/seagate/ProductView.htm?quicklinx=3K62 £89.97 6 Drives running in RAID 5

    DVD Sony DWQ28AB http://www.dabs.com/uk/channels/com...ers/dvdwriters/productView.htm?quicklinx=3Q1W £25.23

    Drive Bay Converter Coolermaster 4-in-3 http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=131964 £9.99

    Thanks for any input on this and I'll be back for more advice along the way.

    Cheers,

    Ben
     
  2. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Ben

    before you get in to the detail of the spec, are you planning sending the video from the HTPC's to the displays? If so is this over CAT5, what are your displays etc?

    These are the most important things you need to figure out, basically the high level design of your system (are you sending video and audio signals to the rooms, ready to go direct in to displays/speakers, or are you sending data to the rooms and they do the processing locally)

    once you have that clear (and the decisions you make there make a big difference in terms of cost/quality/ease of use) then the rest becomes more clear.

    good luck
     
  3. baldrick

    baldrick
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    David, I'm going to distribute picture over CAT5. I'm going to floodwire the house and then use baluns etc... to route the different signals wherever then need to go.

    Screens will be LCD/Plasma with all processing/amplification occuring centrally.

    The rooms will have screen and in-wall/ceiling speakers along with a control interface.

    The box I've specced here is purely a file server, with a view to storing all content (music, movies etc...), hence the low end graphics card and vast storage!!
     
  4. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    sounds a nice project...there is of course no 'right' answer to how to do this, each one has its pros and cons.
    The centralised route that you are looking to do means no clutter of kit in the rooms, but you have the challenge of how to remotely control / source select from those rooms. Are you going for IR or something like Xlobby?

    Also I presume that you are using VGA for best picture quality to the displays, the baluns that you will need arent cheap to do this (about the same price as a Mac mini!)

    the reason I mention that is that is that you will probably want to access web/email type functions from the rooms, and so you then need to start thinking about KVM type solutions rather than just baluns if you keep it all central.

    cant go wrong though with the cat5, that lets you build it and then figure it out later :)

    if there is anything that you need then let us know

    cheers
     
  5. baldrick

    baldrick
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    Primarily the system will be used for music, tv and movies, and I was planning on using component over CAT5 although as discussed using CAT5 as the medium allows of experimentation...

    For control I was think about using a combination of things especially the Nevo remote and something I've found through a car forum....

    http://www.xenarcdirect.com/store/product.php?productid=16136&cat=249&page=1

    The kitchen for instance could have one of these set in the wall, with a VGA link to the relevant HTPC and you're laughing...
     
  6. Baloo

    Baloo
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  7. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Yes, you can get a USB sender and receiver. 1.1 for <£30, or USB 2.0 like this one is £65
     
  8. Baloo

    Baloo
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    Great, just what I was looking for in my setup. So would I be right in thinking you could plug a usb hub on the end of this to have more ports? We have a computer in a cupboard but I want USB connections near the tv for gamepads to plug in.
     
  9. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    I haven't bought one yet, but it is part of my grand scheme. It should work. As I said, you can get USB 1.1 extenders for much less.
    My scheme - PC goes under stairs, and for the next couple of years I'll mainly use 1 room as a study - so I've run usb extension cables to this point. But when this room becomes a kids room, I'll go to another room, and get one of the usb extenders so I can use usb over the cat5 I've installed.

    I can also control and view my PC from any room in the house over cat5, via a KVM extender (keyboard, video, mouse extender, £80 ebay).

    How many baluns will you need? They're not that cheap if you need lots. Also, if you're running cat5 everywhere, will you terminate it in sockets in each room? Baluns don't expect a socket, but want to wired directly to the cat 5 cable - although I intend to ignore this, and wire the baluns to a patch cable, and put that into my cat5 socket - but that may lose me a little quality.
     
  10. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Take a look a the Lilliput Touch Screens, I think they are a little cheaper.

    Richie.
     
  11. baldrick

    baldrick
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    Thanks for the input/comments.

    I know the baluns aren't cheap, but they allow you to add screens/sources with much greater freedom.

    I'm still hoping that some people will cast an experienced eye over the machine I've specced, remembering that it is a file server running RAID 5 across the 6 discs (Would it be beneficial to run it in 2 groups of 3?).
     
  12. JohnS

    JohnS
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    My experience with media on raid 5 is that its great if you want to create one big volume therefore less drives to manage but drives do fail. I've had more than one 2 drive failure which destroys the data. I would definitly go with more smaller arrays which gives more parity drives but costs more.

    I'm following a thread on avs http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=6315649 where they are doing raid but in sperate volumes in linux but booting from a usb drive with everything installed. It uses a single parity drive but if you have 2 drives fail, you lose the data on 1 drive and the parity, not the whole array and after replacing the parity drive the array can be rebuilt. It allows expansion of the array by adding larger drives one at a time as the price per gb becomes more realistic. The other feature I really like is that the drives spin down when they are not being used ublike my raid arrays, less heat, less noise, hopefully the drives should last longer and be less suseptable to multiple failures as most of the time you are only using 1 + the parity drive.

    I think that the above solution for movie storage is probably the way to go. Its only because its more convenient to have it online than get the disc off of the shelf. I'm fed up with reripping movies.

    I keep my music in a dedicated xlobby server (in raid 5 across 3 drives) and data on another machine which uses 2 drives in a mirror.
     
  13. baldrick

    baldrick
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    I figured I'd push this back up to the top and hope somebody may give some advice on the hardware specced...

    Failing that can anyone recommend a good self-build forum and or site with relatively friendly reviews etc...?
     

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