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Best WHS/MCE Alternatives??


Jay
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Hi there,

 

Just registered for the forums so first post here despite listening to the podcast pretty much from the beginning. I am not sure if this should be in this forum or even if I should be asking non MS questions on these forums - If not please accept my apologies and delete the thread or move it to a more suitable forum.

 

I am a UK user of WHS V1 and W7MCE and have lately been getting dis-illusioned with the direction MS are going with the whole connected home concept. In WHS2011 I was , like many other users hoping for better integration of WHS and MCE - a combined solution in one box that will record my TV shows, serve my media to extenders/htpc's - If my box is going to be on 24/7 I would like to get my monies worth out of it (I know this can be achieved by using third party solutions over WHS but was hoping for a solution easily and centrally managed from the WHS console). Despite this I was still willing to upgrade to WHS2011 when it is released. Now with the demise of Drive Extender, I have started looking at alternative solutions before I foot the bill for the cost of a new 64 bit system and WHS2011.

 

The alternatives I am looking at are Amahi (runs on top of Fedora 14) and Linux server with MythTV running as a backend server. I am by no means a Linux expert but am willing to learn - My Linux usage at the moment is an install of Ubuntu Desktop 10.10 which i have to say i have been impressed with so far during my limited experience (7 days). I also have another box running trixbox 24/7, so this was another reason for looking at a Linux eco-system, I could also integrate this running asterisk so it could all be run from one box.

 

Has anybody else looked into alternatives like this over WHS and if so what was your experience? Should I stump up the cash for a WHS2011 system or use it on Nettop PC's/SFF PC's running MythTV front ends?

 

My current hardware is a 32Bit system running WHS V1, 32 Bit W7 serving an XBOX360 and a Linksys DMA2200 extenders.

 

Thanks for reading and apologies again if this thread is not allowed.

 

Jay.

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Welcome to HSS!

 

One other very serious contender to look at is Sage. They have hardware extenders that are superior to what Microsoft has and you can install the server onto a WHS if you want to (Be it V1 or WHS2011). I agree that MS seems to be dropping the ball since they haven't added anything useful since Vista TV Pack. In the US, the only thing that holds me back is that MC is the only version that supports CableCard, but you don't have that limitation. I'd say give it a quick try to see if it works. MythTV is pretty good, just realize that the WAF is not as high as a Windows box would be.

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Yes, a lot of people were hoping for WHS/MC integration. But I assume you don't need to move off v1 right now, so why not pick up a Revo or something similar for use as an HTPC? Small, quiet, able. I'm going to suggest that you may not want a server in the living room, with all those spinning drives. As to 24/7, you could always use Lights Outs add-in to manage the on/off times.

 

trixbox? That's a VoIP phone system, right? Tell me why you're using that in your home? I'm curious.

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Hi there,

 

Just registered for the forums so first post here despite listening to the podcast pretty much from the beginning. I am not sure if this should be in this forum or even if I should be asking non MS questions on these forums - If not please accept my apologies and delete the thread or move it to a more suitable forum.

 

I am a UK user of WHS V1 and W7MCE and have lately been getting dis-illusioned with the direction MS are going with the whole connected home concept. In WHS2011 I was , like many other users hoping for better integration of WHS and MCE - a combined solution in one box that will record my TV shows, serve my media to extenders/htpc's - If my box is going to be on 24/7 I would like to get my monies worth out of it (I know this can be achieved by using third party solutions over WHS but was hoping for a solution easily and centrally managed from the WHS console). Despite this I was still willing to upgrade to WHS2011 when it is released. Now with the demise of Drive Extender, I have started looking at alternative solutions before I foot the bill for the cost of a new 64 bit system and WHS2011.

 

The alternatives I am looking at are Amahi (runs on top of Fedora 14) and Linux server with MythTV running as a backend server. I am by no means a Linux expert but am willing to learn - My Linux usage at the moment is an install of Ubuntu Desktop 10.10 which i have to say i have been impressed with so far during my limited experience (7 days). I also have another box running trixbox 24/7, so this was another reason for looking at a Linux eco-system, I could also integrate this running asterisk so it could all be run from one box.

 

Has anybody else looked into alternatives like this over WHS and if so what was your experience? Should I stump up the cash for a WHS2011 system or use it on Nettop PC's/SFF PC's running MythTV front ends?

 

My current hardware is a 32Bit system running WHS V1, 32 Bit W7 serving an XBOX360 and a Linksys DMA2200 extenders.

 

Thanks for reading and apologies again if this thread is not allowed.

 

Jay.

 

 

Jay,

 

Welcome to the forums and I will take my attempt at answering your questions. Let me first start by saying that in my opinion a box for WHS 2011 will not be any more costly than a V1 in most cases. Although the hardware requirements are a bit higher, they are low in today's standards therefore the hardware will not cost you anymore if you had to go acquire it. WHS 2011 runs better in lower spec boxes than V1 did. If we compare apples and apples, the cost should be roughly the same for most people. I believe the enthusiast that want 20T will pay more but most use cases will be the same.

 

As to your other statements, there might be some opportunities there as well. Although there are no real innovations in integrating media center into WHS 2011, architecturally there are plenty. The fact that DE is gone and that you have just a core OS means you can add almost any hardware/software that you could to a PC. Things that were not possible before are now possible because the layer that caused the most concern is gone. You can now add tuners, and other media related hardware which will open up the possibilities of how you use your server you did not have before without the fear of causing compatibility issues.

 

Lastly, my “opinions” on the connected home are a bit different. The WHS or any server should function as a central repository and central storage, not necessarily a multifunction box. You can use almost any front end be it Boxee, HTPC, or even Sage but fundamentally you should pull from one source especially if you have more than one TV or viewing area. As to pulling from other alternatives such as Amahi, that is certainly your choice however I would encourage you to look more at the whole value and performance. I would argue that the cost of one vs the other is not that significant when you consider other key features such as backups. At present, there are no better ways to backup your data and if you have crashed or lost data as I have, you can relate. Ultimately the choice is personal but I would certainly weigh the pros and cons realizing that the capabilities and functions of a server are not the same as a media playback box and to me they never will be or should be. That being said, that does not mean that you could not throw in some tuners into a WHS box record tons of shows, store them on your server next to your DVD collection and then use your favorite playback devices to play content. Just my two cents, and again welcome to the forums and thanks for the post.

 

 

Mike

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Let me first start by saying that in my opinion a box for WHS 2011 will not be any more costly than a V1 in most cases.

Except he already has the V1 hardware.

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Hi guys and thanks for the replies.

 

The only negative I have discovered about Amahi so far is that there is no auto backup of clients as yet but i don't really see that as a problem anyway as there are other manual ways to backup.

 

@usacomp2k3 - I hadn't really thought of SageTV but will give it some thought and may test it on my V1 box with my HTPC as a client. Thanks for the heads up.

 

@dvn - I use trixbox at home as i run my business from home and it is useful sometimes when working away to be able to connect to my trixbox with a softphone to take calls - it works well for me. There are Windows solutions available that run on WHS (e.g. 3CX) but I have got used to trixbox. I also find it cheaper to run my business calls over SIP. Regarding Lights Out, If I go the SageTV Server route, would that let the Server come out of sleep to record TV shows? Also, would it wake when a request comes in for remote access/file sharing? I should have been more clear in my first post - My server is located in a data cabinet in the garage with a W7MCE HTPC in the living room. The HTPC currently serves an XBOX360 and a Linksys DMA2200 which are located in the kids rooms.

 

@pcdoc - I agree that a server is possibly designed to be used as a file server but if i just wanted a file server i probably would have gone for a NAS box. I was just thinking that i have three seperate boxes performing 3 different functions pretty much 24/7 and was going along the lines of streamlining them into one box on top of one OS - but then if that dies I am screwed unless i can backup the whole machine - Would RAID be an option for this (I have never used or had the need for RAID)? - Does RAID perform well on a HTPC configuration?.

 

I guess another option would be to run with my V1 box and virtualize W7MCE and trixbox? Would a HTPC work well in a virtual machine?

 

Again thanks for the replies guys

Jay

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When I tried amachi I found adding and removing drives to be to much of a hassle, is it working well or you?

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Jay, you could always load Crashplan (free) on each PC and the Amahi server. While it will not give you the full restore capability of WHS, it will auto backup all the files you chose.

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but then if that dies I am screwed unless i can backup the whole machine - Would RAID be an option for this (I have never used or had the need for RAID)? - Does RAID perform well on a HTPC configuration?.

Welcome Jay.

 

My only comment here is the old saw, "RAID is not a backup". RAID is a way of getting faster performance at lower cost and improving uptime (e.g. 1 drive dies the array degrades but doesn't stop; swap in a replacement drive, rebuild, back to normal).

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Well, I loaded up Amahi on an old test box - but just couldn't fall in love with it as much as i wanted to.

 

I mean it was pretty and everything but it just doesn't have the same ease of use, ease of navigation - WHS just works as you think it would. I have not given it long enough to get used to it, but neither do I have time to understand/learn Linux at the moment in case anything goes wrong. I guess it does what it does well but there is just something missing - maybe I am just an MS fanboy.

 

I am going to stick with WHS V1 (don't really see the point of upgrading to 2011 at the moment with reduced functionality) and virtualize trixbox on its own drive - at least i can lose one box and maybe use that as another HTPC for one of the rooms. I have a budget of around UK£400 to either build another HTPC to run in the living room with the extenders or even Revo's hanging off - or do i use the money to fund a SageTV install (TV Server on WHS) including 3 or 4 HD Theater 300 extenders? Do they even work in the UK?

 

What to do?

 

Jay.

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