Smart Home? NAS? HTPC? This old Fox needs to learn new tricks.

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware, Devices and Accessories' started by Vulpes Abnocto, Aug 18, 2019.

  1. Vulpes Abnocto
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    Vulpes Abnocto Not Dead Yet

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    Jun 24, 2008
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    Today I finished helping my mother and stepfather move out of their old home and into a new one.

    For background, my mom loves to have tons of movies at her fingertips, and my stepdad is a bit of an audiophile.
    Where do I fit in here? I build PCs as a hobby/trade.

    So as we're trucking a load of furniture, tools, electronics, collections of media, and bric-a-brac out of the old house, my stepdad asked me how much it might cost him to go "completely digital" with their collection.
    This is obviously much a much bigger undertaking than just building a PC, and it's going to involve a lot of things that I have little experience in, but that I'm hoping other 'Tempers might help me to understand.

    Here's the layout of the house:
    In the 1st floor living room they have a 50" 4K TV with a mid-range soundbar/sub by Klipsch.
    This is augmented with a cable TV subscription, a blu-ray disk player, and my mom's horde of DVD/blu-ray movies spanning six decades.

    Downstairs in the finished basement they intend to have something of a home theater.
    They've currently cobbled together a 5.1 surround sound system from various parts and set them around a 75" 4K TV.

    In the adjacent room of the basement is my stepdad's office space.

    He wants a system that is capable of preserving and serving movies to both TVs simultaneously with excellent sound and image quality.
    (wired, not wireless, because it shouldn't be terribly difficult to run cables in the drop ceiling)
    Meanwhile he also wants to upgrade his office PC to a system more suited to the current era, with an upgrade path.

    So I'm wondering if this means I need to build him a Workstation PC, attach a NAS*, and have some kind of low-profile PC at each TV;
    Or if the sort of system they want is perhaps attainable in a more efficient and elegant way.

    If the possibility exists they may also be tying their home surveillance into the workstation as well
    (They currently use a standalone surveillance solution)

    They currently do not use any streaming services that I'm aware of, but they're both savvy enough to learn them and could come to like them better than cable TV if I can train them past their initial frustrations.

    This project would preferably be done in a series of steps, rather than overhauling the entire system in a day.

    If you think your experience might be of assistance to me here, please share it.
    I'm not above hiding an old laptop behind the TV to act as a media server.
    So long as your idea is better than tying a string between two cans to make an intercom, I want to hear it.

    Thank you for your time.

    *Note: I have not dealt with NAS before. It sounds Different, but not Daunting.
     
  2. raystriker

    raystriker The powers that be

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    I think you'll find this video very helpful


    Alternatively, you could also ask about very specific questions/doubts at the Level1Tech forums
     
    Last edited by raystriker, Aug 18, 2019
  3. Dr.Hacknik

    Dr.Hacknik Advanced Maniac | Dev | Trans

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    inside your fridge
    I honestly think a server and some Raspberry Pi's would be perfect. Of course, that's vague but there's too many things you can do to count. Not to mention you can get Kodi on them
     
  4. Captain_N

    Captain_N GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    their physical dvd/bluray collection seems epic. they are gonna toss it? If so you can profit from that.

    They will need a server with a good 20TB raid 5
     
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  5. Vulpes Abnocto
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    Vulpes Abnocto Not Dead Yet

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    I'm actually subscribed to this channel, but have not found this video. This really could be useful

    I may rely on them when I have a more solid idea of how to handle this project. Thank you!

    That's a possibility, but I'm not ready to call that Plan A, yet.

    Absolutely not. I got my love of physical copies from my mom. She'll almost certainly keep those as her own personal backups.
    I did some initial searching and came across a video (from Pauls Hardware) recommending 4 drives in RAID5, as well.
     
  6. dAVID_

    dAVID_ Electrician's Apprentice

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    It might be useful to not actually use your Samsung TV as a playback device (I've seen problems when trying to play back anime on my TV).
    Instead it might be better to use a PC with MPC-HC installed, or even a Raspberry Pi 4 (though the decoding capacity of it is not that good yet).
    How many Blu-Ray discs do they have?
     
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  7. Joe88

    Joe88 [λ]

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    I have an htpc, but its nothing what you have/need.
    Its a desktop from around 2015 (slimline model), thats hooked directly up to a tv, running win10 and boots directly to kodi. I installed an internal ir kit on it so the pc could be turned on from S5 mode (fully off) from a remote control, and it allows the connectivity for the remote to control kodi. All I have is a 1TB drive in it but all the stuff I watch I put on the drive itself, I dont really stream anything or use a server to access anything.

    Another way of doing it would be instead of the pi's is to use firesticks (since they are cheap, user friendly, and come with a remote) and plop plex server on them, and the pc with all the content would be elsewhere with the actual server software running.

    You could just go the hardwired route with 2x hdmi with a cloned display and do like what I did in the first paragraph but you would need to split the ir sensor input. The only problem with this is whatever one tv is watching the other will be on it too.
     
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  8. Vulpes Abnocto
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    Vulpes Abnocto Not Dead Yet

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    While they don't watch anime, they do have a lot of Disney animated films, so that problem could still be applicable.
    Exclusively blu-ray disks? I'm guesstimating 100-150

    That last point is a dealbreaker. They need to be able to watch completely different feeds at one time.
    Hacky mentioned (on Discord) that I could use Android Boxes (similar to Fire Stick, I think) at each TV. So far that seems to be a leading contender, because the ones I'm considering have both enough power for 60Hz 4K, and a way to connect them directly to good audio equipment.
     
    Last edited by Vulpes Abnocto, Aug 19, 2019
  9. MicmasH_W

    MicmasH_W Cat boi

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    Hooooooo! That sounds like my dad's collection of DVD's.
    My goodness!
    Have you looked into an Intel Compute Stick/ any computer stick in general?

    The intel atom version (2016) is supposed to do pretty good with movies, but it's almost $179 new ; the core m3 and m5 are amazing but cost $310 and $580, respectively, (no os installed).
    They are extremely small however. The signal reception isn't that good so maybe need a dongle.

    I love my compute stick, it's the atom but believe it or not it's actually decent. HOWEVER! you absolutely need an extra sd card because 32gb of internal storage isn't enough when windows has half of it.

    I think the best thing about it is that they are super small, and have no fan yet don't get very hot, and it runs off of 5v 3a.

    There's two left, this is where I bought mine from.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Intel-Comp...AOSw72Nc~6rm:sc:FedExHomeDelivery!79255!US!-1

    The reason I even put this here is because their a sweet $80 instead of the regular $180, hope this isn't against the rules.
     
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  10. Vulpes Abnocto
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    Vulpes Abnocto Not Dead Yet

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    I have not yet looked at compute sticks, though I have been considering NUCs. I'll add that to my research. Thank you!
    What benefits might a compute stick have over a NUC? (apart from size, of course)
     
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  11. Tom Bombadildo

    Tom Bombadildo G'nome

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    I forgot
    For my house currently, I have a Raspberry Pi acting as a NAS which can then be accessed by any device around the house connected to the router. It might be a good way to serve the content to any device, just throw some huge external HDDs on it (the Pi 4 now has USB 3.0, and has Gigabit ethernet which is more than enough for multiple Blu-ray content over wired connections) and then use something simple like an Android TV box or more Pi's as media PCs that they can then use. Setting up the NAS on the Pi would be super easy, just install OMV, setup SMB or FTP or whatever you want to use to share media files and bam, you have a server.

    Alternatively, if your parents don't care about leaving a PC on all the time, you can just do something simple and use the old PC as a server, shove some huge HDDs in it, share them, and then bam you have a server. I used to do that with my gaming PC, it'd run an FTP server 24/7 and then I'd just use that as my house server. Worked fine for forever, until I got bored and decided I wanted a separate media server that doesn't eat a ton of power :lol:


    For viewing, I use Pi's for media centers myself (and a Shield TV in the bedroom), but I think going with an Android TV box would be the better bet because you can add a ton more media options like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and junk like that if they ever want to switch to the FUTURE OF MEDIA, they're really easy to figure out and use for old people, and you can usually setup CEC so they can use their TV remote with whatever device to control it. Setup Kodi, connect it to whatever network storage you end up setting up, and bam they can watch all the things.


    In regards to upgrading their PC with a good upgrade path, build a Zen 2 PC. Best CPU performance per dollar right now, and AMD has been amazing with future upgrades because they don't change the socket of their mobos every other 5 minutes like Intel does and generally continues support for their old chipsets.
     
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  12. Plstic

    Plstic Guru Meditation Error

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    I would not use a raspberry pi. They do not have ECC ram. I would have gotten this https://kobol.io/helios4/ if I didn't buy an hp 14 bay rackmount server.
     
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  13. MicmasH_W

    MicmasH_W Cat boi

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    @Vulpes Abnocto
    To be completely honest, only real advantage is the price and of course portability. I think the Intel Atom version would be good enough for streaming, while the Core m3 would be good for some nicer programs.

    A NUC is pretty expensive just for streaming, but keep in mind I am in no way qualified to give this kind of advice! Just a recommendation.
     
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  14. Vulpes Abnocto
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    Vulpes Abnocto Not Dead Yet

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    Re: Android boxes at each TV
    This sounds like the sort of path I'm currently on. I do want the data to be accessible to anyone using the network, so I'll have to configure the NAS to connect directly to the router. And I think once they have the hardware in place they'll be far more likely to accept using netflix, hulu, etc rather than paying cable TV rates anymore.
    Here's a wrench to throw into the works; They leave the living room TV running 24/7.
    For the dog.
    No, I'm not joking, they're not always home and they leave the TV on for their Great Dane, so she always has human voices in the home and doesn't feel completely alone.

    That Helios is certainly cool, but it's a pre-order and I can't be sure when it might be fulfilled. I need to stick with something off-the-shelf in this case.
    Anything rackmount is going to be too much for my mom to agree to. I can talk her into a tiny little NAS, though.
    Why do you consider ECC RAM to be so important in this usage case?

    That's fine, I didn't ask for qualified advice. :vul1:
    I was considering NUCs because I'm also considering my nieces that spend a lot of time at this house, and they do like casual PC gaming. (Peggle, Limbo, Superflight.....I even got the older one hooked on Trails in the Sky)
     
    Last edited by Vulpes Abnocto, Aug 19, 2019
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  15. MicmasH_W

    MicmasH_W Cat boi

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    Ahh ok! Yeah, Core m3 stick at the very least but it seems like a better option to get a NUC at this point.

    The Atom is great for older/open-source/fan games but by old I mean Battlefield 2, Half-life, Halo etc.
    Mere megabytes of ram and video card requirements, to say the least.

    On a side note, your nieces might enjoy Open-Clonk, it's a very neat game but maybe too complicated, I don't know.
    Oh, and the original Cave Story, both are free :)
     
    Last edited by MicmasH_W, Aug 19, 2019
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  16. Vulpes Abnocto
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    Vulpes Abnocto Not Dead Yet

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    Actually, I'm thinking it might make the most sense to put an android box at both of the public screens,
    but on the 2nd floor the girls have their own room with a 1080p 44". I bet a NUC would be most useful there. And I won't be able to hard-wire that one so it needs to have excellent wifi.

    I'll look into both of those games. OpenClonk seems pretty cool to me.
     
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  17. PityOnU

    PityOnU GBAtemp Maniac

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    I think you are right to be looking at Android TV boxes or generic streaming sticks. In both cases, you can usually find apps that support whatever media server environment you end up using (Plex, Emby, Kodi, etc.), and they are much less error prone than general purpose PC's.

    Dedicated HTPC's were very popular at one time, but are now starting to go the way of the Dodo with the plethora of other, cheaper, more "smarthome" integrated offerings from various other companies. The latter also usually support streaming services in addition to your local collection of media.

    And before anyone says it, yes there is still that small, dedicated HTPC fanbase, and there are unofficial ways (i.e. community plugins) of getting much of the same functionality, but they will never be as straightforward/up to date/cheap as something like a Roku or Fire TV.
     
    Last edited by PityOnU, Aug 19, 2019
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  18. bodefuceta

    bodefuceta GBAtemp Regular

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    I have a cheap rockchip client that's great at decoding. I tried android and it sucked, thankfully it works with libreelec. I have only one TV so it was cheaper to just leave a hard drive plugged into it and use ssh for managing backups and downloads.
     
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  19. Captain_N

    Captain_N GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    All these posts about specialized hardware for servers... Just use any old desktop with a 64bit intel core 2 duo and up and/or amd x2 or phenom and up. install windows server 2008 r2 (just use a windows 7 activator) install a raid sata card and your good. you dont need no server cpus or ecc ram....
    You can then use smb shares and what ever media server software you want.

    A simple nas box can be made out a pentium 4 machine using free nas 7. one of mine is a celeron 1ghz with 192 mb ram lol.

    if you have any old desktop laying around then your good.

    as for the drives the cheapest way to get good drives are those western digital external 8tb and 10 tb drives. they are often on sale for under $180. They contain 3.5 inch desktop sata drives and are basically wd red nas drives but have a white label. just open the box and take out the drives.
    there is the issue of the 3.3v sata pin issue that some power supplies dont supply. simple cover that pin on the drive and it works. you can google it for more info. The raid 5 will supply the data redundancy you need for a media server. one drives fails and replace it. then rebuild raid.

    the drives are the only expensive part if you use old desktops. the software is all on the torrents so no cost there. Id say at least $500 if you can get the drives on sale.
     
    Last edited by Captain_N, Aug 19, 2019
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  20. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

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    Sounds like a potentially fun setup there. Even more so if you get to try to make it somewhat seamless

    CCTV then. While the cheapo Chinese stuff is better than it is was a few years back then many CCTV systems will still try to get you to use an awful activex control in internet explorer or their nasty little phone app, and most "western" ones on the "I am just wanting to make sure my car is OK, not run a casino" side of things go for pointless subscriptions. For some kind of more seamless integration then that gets more tricky. Indeed I think I would sooner buy another HDMI capture card, get some kind of HDMI switch, or lose a port from one to pull that off for something in house. You do however then get the fun of tying it into some kind of universal remote, or if it is just want to watch live feeds and if something real happens then no worries about booting something better up then that makes life easier.

    NAS then. They are not scary. If you have ever set up standard windows SMB shares, ftp shares or similar then you have done the scary part here. Cheap all in one boxes are less fun (get more than about 4 hard drive slots and you start paying for it, want anything resembling a business user password setup and you start paying, want much more than basic RAID 0, 1 or 5 and you start paying) than something you build yourself from an old machine and a copy of freenas (does your motherboard and sata/raid cards support it and linux? Congrats you can get it done) but they are somewhat drop in, 5 minute config and go.

    DVDs and blu ray then. Hard drive space relative to dvd/blu rays size is cheap these days so I would probably consider not doing some kind of automated conversion which does spare you a headache at some levels (don't know what the raspberry pi's MPEG2 decode licenses are doing right now, or if software only is enough on modern ones). I am not sure what we are suggesting for rippers these days... indeed I don't think I have ever ripped a blu ray film. Looks like DVDfab are still doing well though and those would probably be the ones I suggest for a simpler insert, few obvious options and press go.
    If you are feeling nice you could probably also VNC into one of the machines (I would suggest VNC on everything but I imagine you already know of the delights of family tech support via teamviewer (other VNC programs are available)) and convert them the videos if you have 20 minutes here or there. Generating names and images to select from/feed into a database might be a bit more tricky but if it is DVDs and blu ray discs you might also be able to call a more general database (don't know what is out there right now) rather than the fun pirate ones which try to guess names and use other metrics.

    I like raspberry pis and other things you can crowbar XBMC or a derivative onto but PC is still better when it comes to streaming services, or at least usually dodges the "ooh you have something other than a PC, time to sign up and pay for something worse than the plain PC offering" thing (to say nothing of the ability to block adverts).
     
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