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HTPC Advice

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, i'm looking to start setting up my apartment with some HTPCs and whatever stuff i can that goes with it.

Hardware:
Sig Rig
HP DL380 G4 server

i am willing to devote this server 100% to my setup

what i want:
A large DVR share on the server
HTPC on each of my TVs (2)


First off i have never done anything with HTPCs. I want to integrate everything so that i can watch whatever is on the server on either of the two TVs. I also want the capability to stream cable through the HTPC so that i can just watch regular TV AND record whatever i want to the server.
I just need some basic knowledge on where to start and what my possibilities are so i can start digging my heels into this. I am completely out of the loop with this stuff i have no idea what kind of power each of the machines will need and i am also unfamiliar with Micro ATX boards and everything that goes along with them. I wanna build everything from scratch unless there is something otherwise recommended.

What is your dream setup and how would you build it?
- what software
- what hardware
- what capabilities/functionality
- what's the goal of the system



any info or advise is greatly appreciated
thanks cheers.gif
post #2 of 17
Thread Starter 
bump
post #3 of 17
Erm no bump needed in less then 24 hours...

This is not our dream, so we need more info from your dream. Budget? What other spare parts do you have laying around? Is your apartment networked some how? Guessing you are going wireless/powerline? What type of streaming will you be doing? 720 1080 blu ray 3d? Any gaming on these machines at all? What is the current setup (config/hardware) of your DL380 G4? How much storage will you be needing? What type of TVs do you have? Give us all you can...
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post #4 of 17
To share media from your server to other computers, I highly recommend using PLEX rolleyes.gif, a software built upon XBMC. Plex takes the file and automatically associates a short synopsis, artwork, and theme song with the file if available. You can stream the media from the server to computers, smart phones, or directly to some LG smart tv's. You can adjust the streaming quality to account for slow upload speeds from the server, and can also share libraries with friends. We installed it on my fraternity's server and it works pretty well. They recently made a web-based streaming I believe.

But for more, a budget would be helpful. mATX boards certainly are worth it to use a smaller case. I suggest getting basic 1600MHz ram, you don't need any crazy, and even integrated intel SB/IB graphics will be able to play full HD movies at 1080p or even an AMD APU. I suggest quiet fans to keep the ambient noise down, and depending how much media, one or two 2 or 3 TB harddrives to have expandability room.

All in all, as Deeeebs said, the more info you can provide the better wink.gifthumb.gif

Edit: Just looked into it, Plex is now even more 'universal' than I remembered working on max ios, android, windows phone 7, as well as the computer Plex Media Center App for Macs/PC's, Roku, LG like I mentioned, as well as Samsung and Google TV. Hope this helps
Edited by 1623 - 11/30/12 at 2:52pm
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deeeebs View Post

Erm no bump needed in less then 24 hours...
This is not our dream, so we need more info from your dream. Budget? What other spare parts do you have laying around? Is your apartment networked some how? Guessing you are going wireless/powerline? What type of streaming will you be doing? 720 1080 blu ray 3d? Any gaming on these machines at all? What is the current setup (config/hardware) of your DL380 G4? How much storage will you be needing? What type of TVs do you have? Give us all you can...

no budget - im planning on building over time (so any and all things great - i'm all about spending money up front on quality products rather than having to fix shoddy products in the furture)
i don't know if i wanna mess with wireless - i can run cable pretty easily - faster, cheaper, and better quality
not really any other parts laying around (at least that would be usefull)
i have a basic domain network which is user credential based - the DL380 is my domain controller at the moment (i don't mind changing that if you have a better suggestion)
i plan on doing around 5T storage - it's definitely upgradable since i want it all on the server (which has 8 HDD slots plus 2 PCIe if i want to add more).
i want to stream 1080, highest possible quality
my TVs are just basic 62" Samsung LEDs 1080P (i have 2)

honestly i really don't even know where to start with this stuff - i was more hoping i could get a breakdown of some options and capabilities of all this stuff. Not sure if this helps?


Quote:
Originally Posted by 1623 View Post

To share media from your server to other computers, I highly recommend using PLEX rolleyes.gif, a software built upon XBMC. Plex takes the file and automatically associates a short synopsis, artwork, and theme song with the file if available. You can stream the media from the server to computers, smart phones, or directly to some LG smart tv's. You can adjust the streaming quality to account for slow upload speeds from the server, and can also share libraries with friends. We installed it on my fraternity's server and it works pretty well. They recently made a web-based streaming I believe.
But for more, a budget would be helpful. mATX boards certainly are worth it to use a smaller case. I suggest getting basic 1600MHz ram, you don't need any crazy, and even integrated intel SB/IB graphics will be able to play full HD movies at 1080p or even an AMD APU. I suggest quiet fans to keep the ambient noise down, and depending how much media, one or two 2 or 3 TB harddrives to have expandability room.
All in all, as Deeeebs said, the more info you can provide the better wink.gifthumb.gif
Edit: Just looked into it, Plex is now even more 'universal' than I remembered working on max ios, android, windows phone 7, as well as the computer Plex Media Center App for Macs/PC's, Roku, LG like I mentioned, as well as Samsung and Google TV. Hope this helps

yes this helps a lot, thank you.
do you know of any software that i can run the cable box through that can record (scheduled recordings) shows and movies?
i've used windows Media Center before but i wasn't sure if there was anything else out.
i guess it might be possible to have the Media Center directory setup as a share and then schedule robo-copy or something to import it up to the server...if i was to do this, could i use PLEX to stream it back to the TV?

EDIT:
after reading into PLEX i found that it can link to a ROKU box
have either of you ever used it?
i'm assuming a HTPC would be better?
what benefits does an HTPC offer over a ROKU in the scenario explained above?
Edited by Hazzeedayz - 12/3/12 at 11:23am
post #6 of 17
At home, my server is not a DVR but rather a PVR. I use usenet (newsbin or sabnzbd client on server) + sickbeard (on server) + xbmc (on htpc clients).

A digital tuner card for your machine can get pretty pricey. Sickbeard is a pretty cool software that will monitor when a show beocmes available via your usenet or torrent souce and then snag the associated NZB file to download your episode(s). Once newsbin or sabnzbd downloads, pars and unrars your file, Sickbeard will post process the file name to your show (season, episode etc...) and move it to your final resting spot in a folder you choose on your server (Z:\downloads\tv\simpsons\season1\The Simpsons S1E1 - Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.mkv) <==example. Sickbeard really is pretty easy to configure via a localhost webpage on your server and is also contollable from other machines.

As for the server. Since you say it has 8 slots I'm guessing its a SFF G4. According to the HP specs it will only support up to 1.8TB of internal storage. I am not sure if the old raid card in that machine can handle new 2.5" 1TB drives even after a firmware upgrade. I would ditch it really. When you say you can add a PCI card or two, were you talking USB cards for external storage? If you were talking internal raid card where you going to store/mount the extra drives? lol That G4 is a power hungry beast and I'm sure noisy and heavy... I would just build a new sandy bridge quiet simple fast and greener... Then you would not be prone to older technology failures.

All in all you could build pretty much 3 of the exact same machines and make your two HTPC and one the server (just add the storage/raid controller here). None of them will really need to be beefy at all unless you are wanting to game on them. I would just leave that to your sig rig. The AMD APU chips or the IVY Bridge chips with the integrated HD 4000 would be perfect for the HTPC. For the server you could step down to HD2500 or HD3000 Sandy/Ivy Bridge chips. You probably wont need more than 4GB of ram for each machine and a small 60GB SSD for each HTPC (depending on OS could go smaller for XBMC or Linux). Your server can use just a HDD. It will not bennefit much from the SSD since servers are not rebooted much.

For networking if you dont mind the wires on the ground in your apartment then that is the way I would go. How much traffic do you see happening on your server/network on a regular basis?

Hope this helps. thumb.gif

EDIT: I have never used a ROKU box. I would think you would be stuck with the ROKU OS. Building a HTPC will give you all the bennefits/downfalls of a PC though.

EDIT #2: I just thought of this. You will need some sort of harware to control each pc from the bed/couch. Most smartphones have apps that can do RDP or control XBMC wirelessly (iphone, android or tablet). Could save you some $ on input devices and get a wireless access point and make all your wireless devices happy. tongue.gif
Edited by Deeeebs - 12/3/12 at 2:54pm
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post #7 of 17
I also have never used a ROKU box, and I haven't tried recording media off of my cable box yet, I'm sure there is software/hardware for that, I'm just not familiar with it

I can however go into more detail with HTPC's

I'm a big fan of HTPC's, you can find some pretty sleek cases to show them off as part of your home theater set up, or just get a basic case and have it blend in as they don't produce much heat.

^^^Deeeebs hit it right on the money with the hardware.

The nice thing about these programs such as PLEX offer is the use of additional "channels"

for example, I have my netflix and crackle apps signed in with PLEX so if I want to watch something I don't have I can look there.

With the holidays, it's a great time to slowly build up the parts, for the server, look into the seagate 3tb internal harddrives, they're 7200rpm, and I have 2 now and both haven't given me any problems (knocks on wood). I just picked up another from amazon for $102! There are always good deals between amazon and the egg.

depending on the mobo's you select, a few have pretty good integrated audio... an mATX board will fit into a nice sleek case, and can offer lots of features.

I built my sig rig first as an HTPC, now am slowly upgrading it to more of a gaming rig, but I'm looking into building another HTPC, and it's always fun to try and piece more and more pieces together, the different possibilities are mind blowing.

thumb.gif
post #8 of 17
for dvr, you really need to know what cable company you are going with before you can start setting it up.

but i would mainly say,
use the server to connect the cable to via tuner card
set it up as a pvr
have it record and save the shows onto your drives on the server
connect the server to a fast router
connect all the other pc's to router
share the fold that the shows are stored in across the network
use sickbeard to monitor the folder the shows are in and use the post processing feature to rename and sort tv shows into separate folders
use xbmc on the remote htpc's
add the tv folder as a source in xbmc
 
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post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
wow guys thank you
i really appreciate all of the info
now to look through all of this and do some research

also Deeebs, i guess you're right about the server
prolly best to keep it out of this project - gunna take your advice and build something more appropriate
i'm gunna go make up a hardware list and research some of this software to see what i need and what i gotta do.

thanks again and stay tuned cheers.gif
post #10 of 17
If you are going to have quite a bit of traffic on your server you might want to look in to adding a secondary NIC. This way you can bind NIC1 and NIC2 together for a 2Gb connection to your lan. It really all depends on how much downloading and streaming will all be done from the server at the SAME time. The only bottlenecks I like are the ones on my beers!!

Holla if you need anymore advice. thumb.gif
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