Replacing the old (HT)PC  what should I be considering? - Page 3 - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
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post #31 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-07, 07:55 PM
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Yeah.. media portal has ALOT of functionality.. it sometimes can just take a lot of manual config to get it all working.
When I was using it, took me about a week+ to get everything configured properly and the way I wanted it.. but worked great.

As I was mostly using for playback only though, found my TV in the living room had a plex player app built in... so switched over to that (eliminating the need for a HTPC at that TV). Streaming outside of the house, worked out of the box (vs I never seemed to be able to get that to work on media portal). a friend of mine who can barely install a program on a PC, was able to get Plex installed XD

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post #32 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-07, 10:48 PM Thread Starter
 
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I will certainly need to get my head around media portal vs plex vs xbmc I know a lot depends on desired functionality, which in turn is a variable with respect live tv, PVR, burning videos, local network media streaming, web streaming, media libraries, roku integration, cloud integration, local tv locations, access via mobile devices,control via mobiles devices, NAS vs local storage, etc.

One random question that just occurred to me ( as I rebuild my old XP), is about music media. To date my music library of about 10,000 tracks has been managed with Mediamonkey , with about half the library in FLAC format. Do any of the media options handle FLAC format, or do they all need to be in mp3 format. Not a problem if they do, just curious. .

Also, what about album art. Mine are embedded in the file.. mediamonkey and iTunes and Apple TV process them no problem.

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post #33 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-07, 11:43 PM
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XBMC and MediaPortal (MP) both play FLAC files. XBMC should be pretty much plug'n'play for just about everything. With MP, codec installation and configuration is required. It can be a bit tricky to get everything playing just right. I like the music player portion of MP a little better than XBMC but they both work fine.

The trick with OpenElec is to get the right version. There are several and they don't support all hardware. Other option are XBMCBuntu and XBMC on Windows. If TV support is required, a separate TV back end (server) must be installed. This is a fairly new addition to XBMC and is not 100% functional. MP includes the server but it can be more difficult to set up than some XBMC back ends.
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post #34 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-08, 11:45 AM Thread Starter
 
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In terms of hardware :

1) the small footprint NUC, BRIX and ZOTAC have been mentioned here. And I will certainly check each out. I happened to have a large cabinet right behind the main TV so I have the real-estate for something larger. Am I limiting myself with small footprint, or is the whole idea more related to always-on, low-heat, lower- energy and thus smaller footprint really is better ?

2) What's the short list for NAS hardware if I also went with a separate NAS?

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post #35 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-08, 12:45 PM
 
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Am I limiting myself with small footprint...
Only in terms of not being able to use extension cards.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MyMedia08 View Post
What's the short list for NAS hardware if I also went with a separate NAS?
QNAP and Synology.
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post #36 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-08, 12:59 PM
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While I like the format of the Zotac-type devices, I find there's much better value in an off the shelf pc with a bundled OS (especially if you want Windows). Here's my hardware:

HTPC: Acer AX1430-EF30P
- This works great and draws less than one watt on standby, about 20 watts on idle, and 35 watts watching full 1080 HD video. The APU on this machine seems to be built for the HTPC role, though I realize that I'm just above the requirements of what I want to do. For more power, I'm considering one of the A6 units like the AX1470 that can be had for under 300 with Windows 8.

NAS: I went really cheap on this, with the goal being low power consumption and minimal investment. I have an Ineo Poseidon that I bought years ago for 30 bucks that holds a 1.5 TB drive (cost 70 at the time) and uses 5 watts at idle and less than 10 watts at the top end. While not super fast, it will deliver around 8 MB/s which is good enough to stream HD.

Tv tuner: HD-HR3 Homerun dual
Router: Netgear WNR-3500L running Tomato firmware

I'm always in search of the perfect remote, but our VRC-1100 has served us well for the last two years and cost less than twenty bucks.

I almost forgot the Android mini pc I'm playing around with. It's a quad core RK3188 model with 2gb RAM and 8gb ROM, and has no problem streaming HD or anything else I've thrown at it. Bought it for around 65 bucks on Amazon. I'd definitely consider this as it runs XBMC like a champ and gives you other "pc" functionality in the Android format. I may end up using this as my front end with my Acer as the backend tv server on Mediaportal.

Hope this helps... have fun!

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post #37 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-08, 10:49 PM
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Quote:
Am I limiting myself with small footprint
To a certain extent. Expansion cards have been mentioned, but they are not required with modern motherboards made for HTPC. Another limitation is available disk space. Even that may not be an issue since 1TB 2.5" drives are common and 2TB 2.5" drives are available. Heat dissipation is an issue. That limits the power of the CPU, That's not a big issue for HTPC since low power CPUs are powerful enough, even very low power CPUs will suffice.

However, the best price point will be found in the mATX form factor. mATX motherboards are typically half the price of a comparable mini-ITX motherboard. There is also much more selection in mATX cases and some are more affordable than mini-ITX cases. A half height mATX case that matches other components in an audio cabinet is nicer looking and much more versatile than a mini-PC. For starters, mATX cases usually hold a standard DVD/BD drive. They also usually have room for 1 or more 3.5" and 2.5" drives. A 2.5" SSD boot drive and 3.5" data drive is a good configuration. There is better selection mATX components (cases, PSU, fans, motherboards, etc) and higher quality components can be found.

Quote:
What's the short list for NAS hardware if I also went with a separate NAS?
A commercially built NAS may be limiting since they generally use proprietary hardware and software. You may want to consider using a Windows PC due to the variety of HTPC media server software that is available. It can serve as a full blown back end for HTPCs and media players. Background chores, such as file storage, TV recording and media file processing can be offloaded onto it. Any PC will do but it makes sense to configure it to use as little power as possible on standby while having enough power to perform any media chores required of it. Again, mATX is a good form factor. A carefully chosen cube case or small tower case is adequate.
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post #38 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
 
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Really appreciate the discussion/insight here.

For better context, I have tried to articualte below a bit more of where I am coming from, and where I want to end up. I am the first to admit, I may be misguided in some of this, but thats what discussions are all about. I am here to share and learn!
TIMING-
INTENT: With the holidays coming, I can free up a whack of time to set all this up in the next few weeks, so I am a bit anxious to make some purchases anytime now, if i can convince myself that i am making the right choices. Holiday special pricing also helps!
GENERAL USE / REQUIREMENTS
NOW: Similar to the original post ( i.e. live TV and PVR from Rogers; HD content from blu ray players and Roku3 , ad-hoc internet from spare PC.
INTENT: Looking for replacement hardware to start making better use of steaming servicea ( Netflix, hulu), viewing content from cloud/server storage services (for personal and purchased content, like plex), for music management, and one day as an alternative to live TV and PVR I now get from Rogers.
HDTVs
NOW: 3 HDTV (in basement (102"), den (55") and bedroom (39") Each HDTV has a Rogers box and a nearby networked XP. Den tv has a Roku3
INTENT: No change

PC HARDWARE/OS/NETWORKING -
NOW: Multiple Windows PC's(3 on Win 7, 3 on XP) on a home network. Two routers (one set for unblock-us). Remote desktop to all machines via TeamViewer8. All wired - use wireless for tablet only.
INTENT: Replace up two XP machines now (for Den/Basement). these particular ones are the slowest and in the rooms with the larger HDTVs, that we watch the most. I am open to any OS that would make the most sense... but I suspect that it will end up being Windows given that I am on Windows throughout the house, and tools exist like XBMC for Windows, Media Portal etc.
MEDIA LIBRARY
NOW: Photos, digital music, docs. No digital videos (all on blu-ray/DVD disks). All recorded shows are on the Rogers PVR.
INTENT: I don’t think this would change re recording HD content, until such time as I am ready to cut the cable cord...so I guess this means I need to set up the capability for storing HD content locally or on a NAS.
NAS/ NETWORK FILE SHARING
NOW: No NAS. My Main pc (office) has tons of storage, multiple internal/external drives, backups etc, so it also acts like a 'file server'. In addition, as disk space is cheap, I auto REPLICATE the shared data to local drives (incrementally auto synced each night). This serves many purposes - extra backup copy, better performance on the local machines as some machines are slower, and networks can be slow.
INTENT: Open to the ideas, and like the concept of a dedicated NAS (with storage elsewhere in the house), but still not convinced (or "getting it") re the NAS benefit if I can get the content to be available locally when needed. But I think I am just not used to it and need to learn more.
FORM FACTOR/SPACE
NOW: Traditional large desktops fit in my rooms ( some hidden to the side or behind viewing area.
INTENT: Same- open to any options even if they end up with traditional desktops. Will of course want to be cognizant of power consumption.
UNIFIED REMOTE CONTROLS / TABLET CONTROL [B]
NOW: Not currently an issue ( wife not a big fan of a fully unified remote). I have used older Universal Remote MX-850's in the past. Also tried the Griffin Beacon/Ipad combination for a while.
INTENT: Main requirement is now also control the computer. With so much going on in general, I suspect tablet solution to new unified remote would work best.
VIEWING CONTENT ON MOBILE DEVICES
NOW: Rarely done. Occasional will view content from a website of popular local channels.
INTENT: Very cool , but no special needs here, Whatever is available on the tablet is a plus.
HARDWARE KITS VS PRE-CONFIGURED
NOW:To date I have done both. I frequently tweak and upgrade the older pcs.
INTENT: I am open to seeking out and self-installing components, but as a preference, I would rather not, and would instead prefer to focus my time on configuring the software side. As I need two boxes, perhaps I'll end up with one of each..
LIVE TV / TV TUNER /PVR
NOW: 100% off Rogers PVR
INTENT: Be in a position to cut the cord. So I want to see how this would work with a tuner card in the HTPC ( feed from basic cable or OTA), with PVR software...and the ability to remote control the computer.
WHERE RECORD/BURN VS STORE VS PLAY
NOW: I would do the heavy work (burn/render)on a separate pc ( eg my office pc), store on a shared folder, play locally.
INTENT:- Similar.

What does all this mean in terms of buying what I need? ..For the first 'box', i'm wondering aloud if something like this makes sense ( please punch holes !!)
  1. - no rush for the NAS decision- I can implement that, or not, at a later time.
  2. - think more along the lines of "full size HTPC"
  3. - pre-configured pc from ASUS or DELL or ACER
  4. - modest CPU Intel Core i3 or AMD APU A6 re power/heat considerations
  5. - 4GB RAM ( more?)
  6. - Windows 7 or 8.1
  7. - SSD boot drive
  8. - modest hard drive storage ( until NAS decision made)
  9. - suitable HDMI video card with good GPU (with ASIC support); AMD seems a choice
  10. - Hauppauge or HD Homerun tv tuner card
  11. - HD audio
  12. - play with XBMC for Windows, Media Portal and Plex
  13. - maintain my ready reference links here to keep my sanity tv.mediamanhost.com

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post #39 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 01:36 PM
 
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No need to go "full size" even if no plans to have a NAS.
Get a case like this and you can have 6 drives inside.
If/when you run out - you will need a NAS...

There are quite a few good mini ITX motherboard choices on the same site...
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post #40 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 03:58 PM Thread Starter
 
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If I went a NAS route, I would want a super solid reliable wired gigabit router .. what is the short list of choices.

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Last edited by MyMedia08; 2013-12-09 at 04:22 PM. Reason: Removed reference to USB
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post #41 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 04:04 PM
 
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RT-AC56U/66U/68U

Why USB3? Directly attaching storage?
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post #42 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
 
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Sorry , NAS would be connected to ethernet port, not USB . My bad.

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Last edited by Dr.Dave; 2013-12-09 at 04:30 PM. Reason: Unnecessary quote removed. Please don't quote the post above yours.
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post #43 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 05:39 PM
 
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Since you'll run out of ports on a regular router with your number of PCs, start with a good Gb switch (or maybe 2-3 of them).
This way you can run different subnets and avoid traffic on one (e.g. hidef streaming from the NAS) affect other traffic.
Uplink them all to the router and manage from there...
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post #44 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 07:41 PM
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I think nas, might just be adding something not needed.
If going with a fairly full size box for the ability for tuner cards, etc.. it would be just as easy to turn one of these into the 'nas' server.. doing PVR type recordings at the time of that change, etc... and it could host out any stored media to the more 'child' media boxes elsewhere in the house.
Or even the box that does the recordings (or boxes) could copy their content over to the office PC which is backed up properly, etc.

(this is why I moved my media server from one of my playback boxes, over to my home server. It was always on anyways.. as well as runs proper backups, etc)

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post #45 of 361 (permalink) Old 2013-12-09, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
 
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Seems there are two camps on the NAS implementation.
  • Internal, ie as part the fuller size HTPC, which is kindda what I am used to -not saying its optimal, just what I can currently relate to, ie one box, one OS, with SSD drive, multiple HDDs ( some for NAS function) , tuner card, etc
  • External NAS direct to router. Here I would need to be juggling a number of smaller boxes, ie small HTPC/SSD plus external NAS plus external TV tuner. I was alos hesitant here as my routers in the past have been flakey at times. But with a new solid router, and with the NAS in a closet, this could work as well.
One difference of course, that may tip the scales, is that with the external NAS, the shared content continues to be available to the network even the HTPC is off. And indeed, I had not intended for this HTPC to be always on, or doing so much double duty for the other house functions.

Also, if I understand correctly, an external TV tuner option (eg HD homerun), is interesting in that it is "an Ethernet attached TV tuner that turns each of your networked computers into a full-featured digital DVR". Slingbox like I assume.

Finally, I also need to consider that I have multiple HDTVs in the house (and each with some sort of current/future networked pc capability). And needs may change over time.

So one plan is :

-a solid reliable router
-common external NAS to router
-common external TV tuner to router
-mini (or mATX) HTPC1 suitable for Room1, say with extenal roku. blu ray player
-mini (or mATX) HTPC2 suitable for Room2, say with blu-ray player
-mini (or mATX) HTPC3 suitable for Room3
-all HTPCs running Windows with XBMC or MediaPortal.
-all HTPCs with SSD and modest local HDD
-Plex in there somewhere
-conventional performance pc for burning/rendering. etc

Certainly will sleep on it tonight!

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