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Intro Post: My WHS and and XBMC HTPC


Mike Eckman
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Hello everyone, I am new here and thought I would throw up a post to introduce myself.

 

A little back-story first. My name is Mike, and I am 33. I live in the south suburbs of Chicago, and have been tinkering with computers since my parents bought me a Commodore 64 in the 80s. I built my first PC around 1991-92, and have been custom building PCs for myself, friends, and family ever since.

 

I got into the media server scene when I modded my first Xbox back in 2003 or so. Back then, I used XBox Media Player, which everyone knows today as XBMC. In those days, I mainly ripped my own CDs to MP3 so I could play them on my stereo and have neat visualizations on the TV. I later got into some downloaded movies and shows.

 

In later years, I expanded to dedicated PCs running XBMC with local storage. Then in early 2009, I discovered the HP Media smart Server and WHSv1. This was my first ever experience with a server operating system. As most of you probably did, I started organizing my pictures, movies, TV Shows, and music to all be accessible from the server. I rebuilt my XBMC HTPC to be a standalone "client" computer that accessed everything over the network, instead of having it all stored locally. This was a huge benefit since I liked to reload XBMC often! :)

 

Then this last June of 2011, I experienced my first drive failure on the Mediasmart server. Sadly, the internal "detection" didnt quite work out so well, and the only hint I had that something was wrong was that the server became unusably slow, and I started not being able to access any of my data. After about a weeks worth of frustration, I had it nailed down to one of the hard drives had failed, causing the whole drive pool to be unusable. I had already been aware of WHS2011 and that it didn't support the drive extender that WHSv1 had. Before the failure, I considered that a deal-breaker for WHS2011, but after it failed me, I gave it another look.

 

After many hours and days of research I decided to build an all new WHS2011 server and retire the Mediasmart server. I loved the form factor of HPs box, and the idea of the hot swappable drives was cool (even though hot-swapping with drive pooling is useless), I wanted more power and more flexibility.

 

The new server was built inside an Antec TWO HUNDRED case from newegg. I chose this case because of its combination of ventilation, 10 internal drive bays, and price. The rest of the parts are:

  • ASRock H61M/U3S3 Socket 1155 motherboard
  • Intel Pentium G620 Sandy Bridge Processor
  • 8 GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3 1333 RAM
  • 500 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200 hard drive (this is the OS boot drive)
  • Highpoint RocketRAID 2680 card
  • 5 x 2 TB Samsung EcoGreen F4 hard drives (4 are used in a RAID5 array and 1 is a hotspare)
  • Xigmatek 600 watt PSU (80 Bronze certified)
  • Xigmatek LOKI SD963 copper tower CPU cooler
  • 2 x Xigmatek 120mm ball bearing intake fans (the Antec case aready had two 120mm fans installed as rear and top vent fans)

Since building it, I added a Crystalfontz CFA-635 20-4 LCD panel to one of the drive bays. There is a pretty good review of this LCD here: http://www.procoolin...ticles&disp=139

 

 

Crystalfontz sells this LCD in a kit with a drive bay enclosure that allows you to mount the panel in a 5.25" bay while still mounting a 3.5" drive behind it, so you arent wasting a drive bay. I also upgraded the LCD screen with what they call the SCAB (System Cooling Accessory Board). The SCAB allows you to monitor up to 8 different temp sensors in any spot of your computer, and control up to 4 different case fans. I found this feature to be especially useful as I can now throttle the fans based on temps inside the case. This cut the fan noise down considerably on the server.

 

My HTPC is built inside of a nMediaPC 1000B aluminum and steel HTPC case. The rest of the parts are:

  • Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L Intel G31 Socket 775 motherboard
  • 2 GB Wintec DDR2 800 RAM
  • 250 GB spare hard drive I had lying around (this is only for the OS and XBMC)
  • Palit GeForce210 512MB HDMI video card
  • Coolmax 400w power supply

The HTPC is running Ubuntu 11.04 right now along with a Pre-Eden nightly build of XBMC. I prefer the skin called "Neon".

 

 

Right now, my collection of movies is about 1/3rd HD and the rest DVDs. Most of the HD rips are in 1080p. I encode most of the movies myself using Handbrake. They are stored in MKV containers using h.264 as the video codec and for audio, I try as often as possible to retain the original Dolby or DTS soundtracks. For movies with an especially memory commentary or alternate audio track, I retain that as well.

 

Since I've ripped my own movies, I keep all the original copies of the disc just in case the feds come knocking on my door and want to read me the Digital Millennium Copyright Act! :)

 

Other things I am using my WHS2011 for are:

  • Offline backup of all my photos (I've had a digital camera for over 10 years) to Amazon S3. I use Cloudberry Backup for WHS for this.
  • I host my own website, www.mikeeckman.com using Wordpress and Windows IIS.
  • Subsonic for streaming my own music to myself, friends, and family (its not public)
  • jAlbum which is a great open source photo publishing site for my most memorable photos.
  • MySQL is also running, both for Wordpress, and my XBMC library. Advantages of having your XBMC library on a server in MySQL instead of internally is I can synx my XBMC libraries between multiple machines. I can also completely wipe and reinstall XBMC on a machine without losing any of my settings, watched movie flags, etc.
  • I also have SabNZBd up and running.

So there ya have it. I've named the server SERENITY. All PCs on my network are named after either fictional or real space ships. There is ATLANTIS, ENTERPRISE, and MILENNIUM (short for Millennium Falcon).

 

 

Hopefully I will have something to contribute here and hopefully learn some new things for myself!

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As proof of how constantly in flux a hobby like this can be, last night, I swapped hard drives on the HTPC and loaded OpenELEC on it. For those of you who dont know, OpenELEC is not simply an application, it is a dedicated Linux operating system, designed solely for use with XBMC. To load it, you wipe the hard drive of the computer you are installing it on (there are ways to install it to a USB disk if you want) and it installs everything you need to boot your PC directly into XBMC.

 

The benefits are that most Linux flavors (especially Ubuntu) contain a lot of unecessary libraries and software. By building an OS entirely around only whats needed to make XBMC run, you gain a lot of speed, especially in boot time. When powering on the PC, the time after POST completes to where you are at the XBMC main menu is about 10 seconds.

 

Without changing any settings, OpenELEC got my video, ethernet, and Windows Media Center remote working right out of the box. I had to do some minor tweaking to get audio working, but nothing I didnt have to also do under Ubunutu.

 

Another cool feature of an OpenELEC installation is all updates happen automatically. When there is a new update to XBMC or the OS, it installs on its own upon rebooting. Basically like flashing firmware on a Blu-Ray drive or something of that nature.

 

Now, usually when theres something with pros, theres some cons to go wtih it. So far, I can say that I haven't come across any. All of the features I used in my Ubunutu based XBMC are still here. I was able to upgrade to a Nightly SVN feature, I can still remotely sync my library with MySQL on my server, the skin I used to use still works, and all of the add-ons that worked before stil work.

 

Ive only had it running for a couple of hours last night, but I could already see the benefits. We will see how long term stability is with it. I will report more as I learn more.

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This seems to be where Linux really shines: dedicated, special purpose applications like XBMC, routers, NAS, etc. I have never (and still don't) think any of the Linux desktop flavours are up to the standard set by Windows, but I love my Untangle internet router.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Welcome to the forums!

 

I have played with XBMC but never in production, also it layered over Ubuntu. I like how it played my mkv containers right out of the box unlike WMC where you need to install split and a bunch of codecs. I have an extra htpc I will have to try the new os and XBMC again. Wonder if it can access the my movies SQL or maybe it will just use the meta data in the movie folder.

 

Btw I love sabnzbd I have a how to In the forums on how to set it up as a native whs2011 service. If you are running it manually you may like to take a look at my post

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