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Out your HTPC & Media Servers!

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Prasius, Mar 29, 2011.

  1. Prasius
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    Prasius iPad Enthusiast

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    Seeing as there isn't a more specific area for this... Would anyone like to chat about their HTPC (Home Theatre PC) and/or Media Servers; specs, how they've integrated it into the rest of their home entertainment system, and their Apple (and other..) devices? :)

    I've just got curious while i'm waiting for the delivery man to drop off a whole batch of goodies to rebuild my 'media server' into something more becoming of a HTPC.

    My old build was a ropey old 3.0Ghz P4 with 1Gb of DDR1 ram in a full tower case running XP - I was going to die before I ripped my DVD collection!

    My new build... *swoon*:
    AMD Phenom x4 840 3.2Ghz
    2 x 2Gb DDR3
    160Gb drive from my 'old' PC for the OS
    2Tb drive just for my iTunes library
    Coolermaster Elite 360 case
    ASUS M4A88T EVO/USB3 motherboard
    Windows 7 Pro

    The motherboard has an HDMI output, so I can now plug it straight into my Onkoyo AV receiver. I'll be using my AppleTV2 as the 'front end' of my iTunes library, and XBMC for all the other 'media'.

    I'm a little excited and it takes my mind off the iPad2!
  2. Lusid
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    Lusid iPF Novice

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    I've been running HTPCs since early 1998 in some form, and its evolved considerably since the 20th century.

    I won't bore you with the evolution, but here is the current setup:

    Tuner:
    HDHomerun Dual ATSC/QAM in QAM mode

    Server:
    an old laptop: C2D, 3gigs, with dock and a 25" lcd tv, multiple external drives, and a broken screen. Just enough CPU for the task at hand, dirt cheap, and about a 30watt power draw.

    Software:
    Win7 64bit
    MCE for unencrypted qam recoding
    Sickbeard for when I miss it live, or if its not on a clear qam channel
    iTunes for serving to my iPad
    PS3Media server for serving my PS3 and my Samsung DLNA TV.
    Playon Media Server for serving hulu, netflix, etc to DLNA and iOS clients
    XBMC for local viewing (server is in my office)

    Clients:
    PS3: the primary front end in the living room. Network access to everything, built in bluRay player, built in CD ripper, Netflix, etc.
    Samsung TV with DLNA: the bedroom TV
    iPad: the mobile front end, also used on the treadmill, etc. Either itunes streaming, FileBrowser off a CIFS share, Playon Ipad client, or TimeWarner app.
    PSP: Has remote access to everything the PS3 can access, via built in remoteplay PS3 client.
    Other PCs: itunes streaming or CIFS share access to media

    Older media is archived on an NAS, which can stream directly to DLNA clients or iTunes clients, or to the iPad via FileBrowser

    For 10 years I had a dedicated HTPC under the TV, but its been completely displaced by the backend server and front end PS3.

    I never, ever watch anything live except the news. So that has clearly impacted the design (no trick play DVR at the TV).
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011
  3. Prasius
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    Prasius iPad Enthusiast

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    (currently fitting a motherboard!)

    That's one serious set up! Probably worth adding that i'm a Virgin Media subscriber (cable provider In the UK), which gives me a set top box with a HD capacity I can't remember, three tuners, and provides me with all my SD and HD channels. This is why I don't have any TV tuners at the moment. I might think about getting a tuner for terrestrial free view at some point in order to expand my options with recording.

    Thanks for sharing - do you find it does everything you need? What would you do to improve it? (picking your brain in case there is something I haven't thought about!)
  4. Trky
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    Trky iPF Novice

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    I go through cycles. When I build a new gaming pc, my old gaming pc gets demoted to media server, and my old media server gets trashed or scrapped.

    Right now my media server is more powerful than it needs to be.

    AMD phenom2 x2 555 @ 3.8ghz with aftermarket scyth cooler. (air cooled)
    4 gigs of Ballistix ddr2 1600 ram
    ati 4850 with 1 gig of ddr3 memory.
    80 gig raptor drive as main drive.
    500 gig hdd for storage
    700 gig hdd for storage
    sony dvd burner.
    500 watt corsair 80+ certified psu.
    and a 47 inch samsung LCD tv.

    What do you use to stream with? I use orb and I have plex to my ipad. Orb has issues... I'm just starting to use plex but it's starting to seem like a much better alternative.
  5. Prasius
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    Prasius iPad Enthusiast

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    I haven't dealt with that problem yet - my main concern being lack of an unlimited data subscription on either my phone or iPad. I just accept I have what I have really :(

    I'm aware that mine is massively OTT for what i really need for an HTPC, but at least I shouldn't need to mess with it for a few years!
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2011
  6. Lusid
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    Lusid iPF Novice

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    My cableco's only offering is a dinky little DVR with 20hours of HD capacity, and no way to watch any of it on anything except the TV the DVR is hardwired into. That just doesn't fit my lifestyle, so I had to go DIY.

    Its pretty good in that I can get to just about every media source from just about every device, and there is some reduncancy for when one source fails for whatever reason.

    Its also got a suprisingly high WAF.

    There is a little bit of automation that needs work. Recordings generally aren't ipad friendly, so I need to do some scripting to post process them, tag them, and publish them in itunes. In a pinch Playon can stream and transcode them on the fly, but it works better if I post process and load them into itunes.

    For now though the amount of effort required to do the scripting seems to outweight the amount of effort it takes to queue things up manually in handbrake, so I haven't automated that part yet. If I had an ATV2 as one of my main front end devices, I'd probably invest the effort.

    An ATV2 would make a much better front end for the music database than either the PS3 or the DLNA TV so I'll be looking at them more seriously as time goes on.

    Its also slightly underpowered to do a ton of transcoding. Its predecesor was a distributed mythtv system with a dedicated node for transcoding. So when I have a lot of transcoding to do I pull the old nodes out of storage and spread the load. If I was scratch building a dedicated server, a 6 core nahalem would be about all I would need.
  7. Prasius
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    Prasius iPad Enthusiast

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    I could do with working out a way to take a feed from my V+HD cable box and copy it to my HPTC, but Virgin lock their boxes down more than Apple(!). I think the only thing I can do is pass it via SCART or another analogue means which is obviously far from ideal.

    Oh.. And I need to sort out some kind of remote.. I'm struggling to find anything decent at a sensible price.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011

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