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Ask Slashdot: Best Kit For a Home Media Server? 355

First time accepted submitter parkejr writes "I started off building a media library a few years ago with an old PC running Ubuntu. Folders for photos, ogg vorbis music from my CD collection, and x264 encoded mkv movies. I have a high spec machine for encoding, but over the years I've moved the server to a bigger case, with 8 TB of disk capacity, and reverted back to Debian, but still running with the same AMD Sempron processor and 2GB RAM. It's working well, it's also the family mail server, and the kids are starting to use it for network storage, and it runs both link and twonkyserver, but my disks are almost full, and there are no more internal slots. The obvious option to me is to add in a couple of SATA PCI cards, to give me 4 more drives, and buy an externally powered enclosure, but that doesn't feel very elegant. I'm a bit of an amateur, so I'd like some advice. Should I start looking at a rack system? Something that can accommodate, say, 10 3.5" drives (I'm thinking long term, and some redundancy)? Also, what about location — I could run some cat6 to the garage and move it out of the house, in case noise is an issue. Finally, what about file format, file system, and OS/software? I'm currently running with ext3 and Debian Squeeze. Happy with my audio encoding choice, but not sure about x264 and mkv. I'd also consider different media server software, too. Any comments appreciated."
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Ask Slashdot: Best Kit For a Home Media Server?

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  • by InterestingFella ( 2537066 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @12:07AM (#38491694)
    Why would you change away from x264 and mkv. They are the industry standards. Not just in computers, but every way in the distribution chain. Going about it for some FOSS reason is just stupid because they're only for your own use, not for distribution. You would be either spending double the space or get half the quality by going with something other than H.264, and on top of that you introduce yourself additional problems because they are not what everyone uses.
  • by Kagetsuki ( 1620613 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @12:37AM (#38491838)

    I'm sorry, did you read the summary? Do you honestly think a Mac mini is a step up from that or solves the problems presented?

  • by sirsnork ( 530512 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @12:38AM (#38491848)

    Yup, start again.

    Pick a board with plenty of SATA ports, put a modest amount of RAM and CPU in it. Make sure it's got PCI-E slots (what hasn't these days) and go from there.

    Use bigger drives than you are currently, it's a bad time to buy drives so wait if you can but just build a new box from scratch and save yourself the headache of trying to migrate drives or retain data while upgrading drives one at a time in an existing array.

    New machine, 3TB drives x as many as you want (6 would about double your capacity), add a 4 port PCI-E SATA card if you need it and rsync all the data across, job done

  • No Garage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WoodburyMan ( 1288090 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @12:56AM (#38491934)
    I would think about putting the box in the garage. Yes it seems like a great location, it's out of the way and such. However it might not be the cleanest place in the house. I for one know my garage to be one of the dirtiest places. In the winter the car drags in massive amounts of sand from the the winter roads, and leaves in the spring. Spiders and other insects, not to mention baby snakes and rodents, also make their way in from time to time and would just live a nice warm dark place inside the case to city area's it could also attract roaches in from outside. (Despite sonic repellents and traps they still get in). Combined all that with being near moisture (wet car or rainy days). I don't see the case lasting long there. It would need to be cleaned out fairly often to keep fans and heat sinks from gunking up. Of course I understand some people's garages are nice and clean, and not subject to some of these things, but just saying I know for me it would not work out well.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @12:59AM (#38491944)

    Raid seem silly in a home setup. People see it as a backup solution when it's not, and I doubt a few extra tenths of a percent of uptime is really significant at home. Just have one or two big disks for all your media and stuff, then buy the equivalent to use for regular rsync backups. You can get a third to take "off site" occasionally (e.g. your sister's house, a friends house, a drawer at work) if you want to be really careful - just rotate the backup disks every so often.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @01:01AM (#38491962)

    I'd say it would be better for him to get a separate system for the kids. Some time they are going to want to move away from home and move to college/into their own flat.

    At that point, they are going to have to buy their own data storage then and transfer everything across.

  • Re:I use mythtv (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @01:08AM (#38492016)

    If you really want Netflix cheap you can buy a Western Digital Live TV Plus. They are under $100 and do extremely well with Netflix and a bunch of other apps. I have gone through several firmware updates and they keep adding new apps. In addition to the apps you can do streaming from just about any kind of server and USB connected flash drives.

    HDMI and even optical audio out if you needed it. Netflix has a lot of HD titles, plus 5.1 audio on quite a bit too. I believe the Ethernet is gigabit, but I don't know off the top of my head.

    Only thing it does not do well at all is DVD ISO files.

    For under $100 though with a nifty little remote you will find yourself using it for more than just Netflix on a regular basis.

    Consider it a nice little addition to a HTPC.

  • by Ltap ( 1572175 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:53AM (#38492572) Homepage
    I find it amazing that you are even trying to argue that "fewer supported codecs" is a good thing. MKV isn't MKV isn't MKV -- it's all about the codecs you use, and that's what it should be about. The container is a way of gathering together media streams, but doing something like designing a player and assuming that, for a given container, there will be only a single or a couple of codecs (when that container actually supports many) is ridiculous. If your player can't examine a container it theoretically supports and find out which codecs it uses, then you shouldn't use that player because its manufacturers made far too many underlying assumptions. If you are arguing that MKV allowing unusual or poor codec choices means people will make them, then yes -- some people will, for various reasons. But does that mean people shouldn't be allowed to make a decision just because you don't think it's a good idea, based on your usage case? If there's anything FOSS has taught me, it's that many people will have truly unique circumstances which require very specific things to happen to reach a proper solution and flexibility is everything. What you seem to be arguing is that no one should be allowed to use a hypothetical ideal container in ways you don't want because you consider those improper.

    Device support might be important to you, but I've just never understood why people contort themselves into making decision which are, frankly, idiotic simply because they have a crappy DVD player or something which only supports a few things in a handful of configurations. The most sensible and flexible solution is ... tada! A PC hooked up to a television with a cable, where the television is just yet another display device, no different from a monitor. Trying to wrestle with a DVD or (ugh) Blu-Ray player is just asking for some manufacturer to screw you over.

    What I care about most is media support. What can you fit in? MKV's subtitle handling is simply the best around bar none. You get complete flexibility to store hardcoded or softcoded subtitles in any way you want and you can easily do the same with audio, something which cannot be said for most containers. Unless you are trying to square the circle by wrestling with uncooperative devices you are unwilling to give up, there's really no reason to use anything else, at least in the present.
  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @06:32AM (#38492956)

    Power costs. Having a bunch of always on machines starts to add up. That, plus the progress of technology (by the time the kids move away we might be on to using SSDs for everything) means that it's usually better to try and aggregate costs. Plus it can be an interesting hobby!

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian