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post #1 of 99 Old 05-07-2013, 07:03 PM - Thread Starter
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I am about to pull the trigger on an ESXi build.

My current I3-540 can't handle the silverlight transcoding of high bit rate 1080i home videos. I was pricing for either an I7 860 or a X3460 to replace It with and adding ESXi. It should fix my problem streaming over internet with WHS but I don't know how well ESXi is with my current motherboard ASRock H55m pro. So I decided that this will be the third time doing the server and to just do it right.

My list:

Supermicro X9SCM-IIF-B $185.99
Intel Xeon E3-1230V2 $228.99
2 Samsung 8GB ECC $137.98

I would like to run:
WHS 2011 - clean copy with nothing else on it. Planning on passing my M1015 on to this VM. I will be maxed out on SATA ports, any problem using some from the motherboard?

Windows 7 - torrents and ripping. Does PLex have any problems with using network shares?

pfSense - Wouldn't mind dedicated Lan ports.

I'm sure once it is built I will come up with more. I live alone so no problems shutting down for a while to build, configure and test this thing.

I have been doing a lot of reading on EXSi but without equipment to play with it is a lot harder to understand all of the conversations.
I wouldn't mind throwing my ceton in there also, but I've heard of bad results
How about the dataStore? I'm spoiled with SSDs. The one in my server now (64GB) i believe is too small. I also have on hand a 120GB Intel 320 and a WD Black 1TB.
How many Lan ports do I need?

Any Tips or suggestions? I guess we need to start on the hardware level, will this upgrade do what I want?

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post #2 of 99 Old 05-07-2013, 07:29 PM
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You can create datastores from SSDs and you can add SSDs as cache for mechanical HDDs in ESXi. I have my Windows Server 2012 Essentials VM on a 64GB SSD datastore with my M1015 passed through. My other drive is a basic 2TB HDD that has my other VMs. The SSD and the 2TB datastores are connected to the motherboard's SATA ports.

For pfSense you can get by with just two NICs (LAN and WAN). I'd suggest a dedicated NIC for each primary VM where you wish to have maximum bandwidth, such as the media server, but you can stack all the VMs into the single LAN NIC.

I almost built a very similar server to what you listed, but then saw an AMD ESXi whitebox build and the price difference was enough to make me pull the trigger. Hell, my motherboard was just $60 after Microcenter's $40 off CPU motherboard bundle. All the Intel chips compatible with the Supermicro didn't qualify for the discount, plus the extra cost of ECC and more expensive Xeon processor...

I'm running four VMs:
Windows Server 2012 Essentials
Win7x86 for IP cam monitoring and streaming
Ubuntu Newznab
pfSense

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post #3 of 99 Old 05-08-2013, 04:23 AM
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I run a fairly similar server; make sure you are getting unbuffered ECC RAM. It was a bit of a pain to find, but I also wanted 8GB sticks (maxed it at 32GB).

You can mix and match the SATA ports. That MB/CPU combo will allow you to passthrough the M1015, so that is your easiest route. For the onboard SATA ports you can RDM them to the guest, or just make them vmfs datastores and allocate them to the guest that way.

My esxi host (32GB, E3 1230v2):
Server 2012 standard (file server, running flexraid with M1015 passed through to it)
Ubuntu 12.04 (plex)
Ubuntu 12.04 (newznab) - dedicated 2TB HDD
Ubuntu 12.04 (sab/sb/cp)
Ubuntu 12.04 (gallery3)
pfSense 2.1

All of them sit on a 250GB Samsung 840, with about 70-80GB free yet.

Plex doesn't seem to have any issue whatsoever with the files stored on a different system. Had a heck of a time trying to get newznab running to the share, so I ended up giving it its own drive, and no more issues there. Performance is snappy, have yet to have any performance issues with any guests, and still have quite a bit of legroom for further growth and/or sandboxing.

In my case my servers are on 1 subnet, and my clients are on another, with pfSense handling bandwidth throttling so my downloaders don't kill my internet connection when my wife is trying to browse. This adds the complexity that now my LAN traffic must go from ESXi to pfsense (outside the virtual network) and then back into ESXi; been thinking of just letting ESXi handle the networking to avoid this, but not sure Ill really see any difference.
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post #4 of 99 Old 05-08-2013, 05:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruxl View Post

In my case my servers are on 1 subnet, and my clients are on another, with pfSense handling bandwidth throttling so my downloaders don't kill my internet connection when my wife is trying to browse. This adds the complexity that now my LAN traffic must go from ESXi to pfsense (outside the virtual network) and then back into ESXi; been thinking of just letting ESXi handle the networking to avoid this, but not sure Ill really see any difference.

I'm not exactly sure which downloader you are talking about, but I assume you mean SAB. All I did there was to create a rule in SAB for the speed limit. I just have it set to under max speed until 2 am, then it is unlimited until 6 am, then goes back to limited until 2 am. I've got my current limit at 10 MB/s which leaves about 3 MB/s on my 105 Mbps downstream connection.

However, I'm just getting into pfSense so I might end up with some sort of throttle as well.

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post #5 of 99 Old 05-08-2013, 07:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruxl View Post

In my case my servers are on 1 subnet, and my clients are on another, with pfSense handling bandwidth throttling so my downloaders don't kill my internet connection when my wife is trying to browse. This adds the complexity that now my LAN traffic must go from ESXi to pfsense (outside the virtual network) and then back into ESXi; been thinking of just letting ESXi handle the networking to avoid this, but not sure Ill really see any difference.

I'm a little lost and intrigued by your setup

You have separate NICs correct?

I'm assuming dual NICs for pfsense, and then maybe onboard or a third NIC for the other VMs to share? Then your going modem -> (in)pfsense(out) -> (in) unmanaged swtich as well as "all-other-vms" -> (in) unmanaged switch?

Is this correct? If so, why would you need them to be on separate subnets? Also, for LAN traffic I assume you mean everything outside of ESXi that talks to your ESXi server correct? If you have them all on the same subnet and plugged into an unmanaged switch, I would think that all LAN traffic would be running through the switch. Only internet traffic heads through the switch and then into (or back into if from one of your VMs) pfsense then the modem and out to the world
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post #6 of 99 Old 05-08-2013, 07:18 AM
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I assume the subnets are for the internet facing services such as Newznab which contains a web server. Basically a DMZ keeping it away from the home LAN.

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post #7 of 99 Old 05-08-2013, 01:40 PM
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My goal is to be able to assign bandwidth to all the servers vs all the clients. Setting a limit in Sab only limits Sab, not newznab or any other download tools that may be running.

In my case 30% bandwidth is assigned to servers, 70% to clients with borrow enabled. I could do it via individual clients but that would become a bit of a management hassle when I play in the sandbox.
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post #8 of 99 Old 05-14-2013, 06:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

I'm running four VMs:
Windows Server 2012 Essentials
Win7x86 for IP cam monitoring and streaming
Ubuntu Newznab
pfSense

braynsj, I've been meaning to ask how much disk space the newznab needs? How many days backfill do you get? I'm not sure if that's the right way to ask, but how far back does yours go and can you specify how far back to go or do you only get everything new from the time you "commission" it?
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post #9 of 99 Old 05-14-2013, 06:57 AM
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It goes back to the time I started it, well maybe a day earlier. Looks like my oldest entry is sitting at 22 weeks. According to the ESXi summary I've used 250 GB out of a provisioned 400 GB, but that might just be the pre-allocated storage from when I first created the VM in VirtualBox as 250 GB. The properties of the NZB folder says only 111 MB which seems low.

I did some networking over the weekend and have Ubuntu in my pfSense DMZ on its own subnet blocked from my LAN and only opened required ports for it on the WAN. Now I have no open web server on my LAN subnet.

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post #10 of 99 Old 05-14-2013, 07:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

It goes back to the time I started it, well maybe a day earlier. Looks like my oldest entry is sitting at 22 weeks. According to the ESXi summary I've used 250 GB out of a provisioned 400 GB, but that might just be the pre-allocated storage from when I first created the VM in VirtualBox as 250 GB. The properties of the NZB folder says only 111 MB which seems low.
That does seem low, but I would be surprised if it used as much as I've seen other sites claim to be necessary. One of the articles is 0.5-1.5 MB at most right?
Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

I did some networking over the weekend and have Ubuntu in my pfSense DMZ on its own subnet blocked from my LAN and only opened required ports for it on the WAN. Now I have no open web server on my LAN subnet.
Nice security upgrade
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post #11 of 99 Old 05-14-2013, 07:18 AM
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I might dig into it when I get home and have direct access to the VM. Right now it is RDP over a spotty 3G connection to view the VM console... I'm now curious as to how much storage I've used in about half a year. Not that I'm worried about running out of space, I could easily throw a TB at it.

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post #12 of 99 Old 05-14-2013, 03:31 PM
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The official answer is that the entire system is using 44 GB. ESXi was counting the provisioned space.

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post #13 of 99 Old 05-14-2013, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

The official answer is that the entire system is using 44 GB. ESXi was counting the provisioned space.

Thanks for the info, vmware does that in player too for all vdi's
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post #14 of 99 Old 05-14-2013, 10:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy_Steb View Post

My list:

Supermicro X9SCM-IIF-B $185.99
Intel Xeon E3-1230V2 $228.99
2 Samsung 8GB ECC $137.98

I would like to run:
WHS 2011 - clean copy with nothing else on it. Planning on passing my M1015 on to this VM. I will be maxed out on SATA ports, any problem using some from the motherboard?

Windows 7 - torrents and ripping. Does PLex have any problems with using network shares?

pfSense - Wouldn't mind dedicated Lan ports.

I'm sure once it is built I will come up with more. I live alone so no problems shutting down for a while to build, configure and test this thing.

I have been doing a lot of reading on EXSi but without equipment to play with it is a lot harder to understand all of the conversations.
I wouldn't mind throwing my ceton in there also, but I've heard of bad results

I have a similar setup X9SCM-F/E3-1230/16GB
This is a good combo for general purpose VMs and you can get a prebuilt VM for pfSense and you should consider getting dedicated NICs for the pfSense VM.

The weakness is video, the board has a Matrox G200 from 1998, and is not HDCP compliant.
This will cause a lot of DRM issues if you are going to record protected content via cablecard. WMC and HDCP required for this.
If you decide to add an external video card, you should check if ESXi will pass thru HDCP, it did not do this the last time I looked.

When working on my VMs, I like having USB connected devices like the scanner and BDRom next to me at the desk and not on the server, I use a USB Ethernet device server from Silex attach the USB devices from the VMs
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post #15 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 07:11 AM
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Where can I get more info on esxi? I want to build a i7 rig and have 2-3 virtual machines running on it but I can't seem to find a guide or more information. Is it specific hardware that is compatible with this?
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post #16 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 07:31 AM
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Your i7 rig might not be compatible, but you would need your processor and motherboard to support VT-d for device passthrough to work. All you need to do to figure out if it is compatible is to download and burn the ESXi .iso image, unplug all your HDDs, and slap a ~1GB flash drive into a USB port and try to install it. If it doesn't work then remove the flash drive and reconnect your HDDs, if it does work then still remove the flash drives and reconnect your HDDs. Then come back and figure out a migration plan. You should be able to export your current virtual machines to ESXi using either the VMWare converter or a third party one.

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post #17 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 07:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

Your i7 rig might not be compatible, but you would need your processor and motherboard to support VT-d for device passthrough to work. All you need to do to figure out if it is compatible is to download and burn the ESXi .iso image, unplug all your HDDs, and slap a ~1GB flash drive into a USB port and try to install it. If it doesn't work then remove the flash drive and reconnect your HDDs, if it does work then still remove the flash drives and reconnect your HDDs. Then come back and figure out a migration plan. You should be able to export your current virtual machines to ESXi using either the VMWare converter or a third party one.

I should have been more specific, I don't have the hardware yet, I plan on ordering and building a new rig. I never got into virtualization so its my first.
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post #18 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 10:04 AM
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I'd suggest searching for ESXi whitebox builds that use an i7 if that is what you are wanting to use. Choosing the right motherboard is important as well as using a non-K series processor. I was all set on an Intel processor and was leaning towards a Xeon when I discovered an AMD whitebox build. It was much cheaper, confirmed to work, and runs great for my needs. I'd pretty much written off any AMD builds, but it made since for my server and budget. My build is in my sig.

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post #19 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 12:11 PM
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I'm in the middle of building mine. Went AMD instead, FX 8320, with an ASRock 970. I based my build on bryansj's, but used a higher processor. So far its a blast, still learning some (like that you can't pass individual drives through to the VMs, you have to pass the entire controller card), but overall its getting there.
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post #20 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 01:11 PM
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To select components, first confirm that your CPU and motherboard of interest each support VT-d (Note - this is not the same as VT-x). I have a Xeon / Supermicro build, but would definitely suggest looking at an AMD-based build. Whichever route you go, be sure to also confirm that necessary specs of your RAM because server motherboards can be picky. Just do a little bit of research and you will be fine. It's already been mentioned, but I based my build off of someone else's successful build and for each component confirmed the specs. In this process, Google is also your friend - simply do a search with "ESXi" and the model number of the part you are considering.

One last piece of advice, I highly recommend a motherboard with IPMI or equivalent thereof. This gives my Supermicro board a dedicated LAN port to remotely manage the machine for all functions (e.g., power on/off/reset, KVM, install OS, mounts networked ISO, etc.).
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post #21 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 01:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tong Chia View Post

The weakness is video, the board has a Matrox G200 from 1998, and is not HDCP compliant.
This will cause a lot of DRM issues if you are going to record protected content via cablecard. WMC and HDCP required for this.
If you decide to add an external video card, you should check if ESXi will pass thru HDCP, it did not do this the last time I looked.

Note - HDCP-based graphics are not required if you follow the guide below from MissinRemote:

http://www.missingremote.com/guide/override-digital-cable-advisor-windows-media-center-7

By using the override, my Win7 virtual machine records cablecard content and hosts extenders even though the motherboard has the crappy integrated graphics.
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post #22 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tcs2tx View Post

Note - HDCP-based graphics are not required if you follow the guide below from MissinRemote:

http://www.missingremote.com/guide/override-digital-cable-advisor-windows-media-center-7

By using the override, my Win7 virtual machine records cablecard content and hosts extenders even though the motherboard has the crappy integrated graphics.

I've often thought about this, but since I use my cablecard often to record HBO/Showtime/Starz, they get flagged with machine-level content and thus, they aren't viewable except by extender.. which kind of makes my livingroom HTPC inert.

I'm interested in disk performance as a network NAS running under ESXi, because I would be interested in how this plays out.
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post #23 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncarty97 View Post

(like that you can't pass individual drives through to the VMs, you have to pass the entire controller card).

Can you elaborate on this?

What if I have a 2 TB HD and 4 VMs, can I allocate space to each VM?
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post #24 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 02:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrted46 View Post

Can you elaborate on this?

What if I have a 2 TB HD and 4 VMs, can I allocate space to each VM?

Yes. You would allocate the 2 TB to ESXi as a datastore. Then you would have 2 TB to store your VMs. Think of this drive as your OS disc.

He is talking about presenting HDDs to the VM for the purpose of media storage. It isn't exactly practical to create multiple TBs of datastores and present them to the VM. What you do is connect a controller card and passing the controller through to the VM. Any discs attached to the controller card are available to the VM. Doing that you can run a program such as FlexRAID on the attached HDDs.

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post #25 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 02:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncarty97 View Post

... (like that you can't pass individual drives through to the VMs, you have to pass the entire controller card)

I could be mistaken, but I do not believe that this is completely accurate. The below article describes how to do raw device mapping of local hard drives:

http://blog.davidwarburton.net/2010/10/25/rdm-mapping-of-local-sata-storage-for-esxi/

I can't comment on whether this works because I pass a controller card to my OpenIndiana-based VM for ZFS storage.
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post #26 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 02:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tcs2tx View Post

Note - HDCP-based graphics are not required if you follow the guide below from MissinRemote:

http://www.missingremote.com/guide/override-digital-cable-advisor-windows-media-center-7

By using the override, my Win7 virtual machine records cablecard content and hosts extenders even though the motherboard has the crappy integrated graphics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmservo View Post

I've often thought about this, but since I use my cablecard often to record HBO/Showtime/Starz, they get flagged with machine-level content and thus, they aren't viewable except by extender.. which kind of makes my livingroom HTPC inert.

Adding an HDCP-graphics card to the ESXi box will not solve the problem. With such a card installed and successfully passed though to the VM (apparently difficult to accomplish), the HBO/Showtime/Starz content can only be viewed on the VM (i.e., on the HDCP-monitor attached to ESXi). The content is still not viewable on your living room HTPC.
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post #27 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 02:52 PM
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What you would want to do is simply share the tuners across the network to the HTPC that you wish to view it on.

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post #28 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 03:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

What you would want to do is simply share the tuners across the network to the HTPC that you wish to view it on.

Exactly. The only caveat is if your cable content is all marked as "Copy Freely" like mine (Comcast subscriber without a subscription to HBO and other premiums), then you can use a VM to record all available content and playback on clients throughout the house.
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post #29 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

What you would want to do is simply share the tuners across the network to the HTPC that you wish to view it on.

Right. But in doing that, I somewhat defeat the whole point of the ESXI, if I'm using the tuners in the livingroom smile.gif

Don't get me wrong, I love me some VMWare.. use it in all my work environments, but in the end, since most of my content is protected content that I would record, I'm struggling to think of significant benefits at least for my environment. But I'll definitely keep following to see where those who use it make it go..
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post #30 of 99 Old 05-15-2013, 08:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tcs2tx View Post

Note - HDCP-based graphics are not required if you follow the guide below from MissinRemote:

http://www.missingremote.com/guide/override-digital-cable-advisor-windows-media-center-7

By using the override, my Win7 virtual machine records cablecard content and hosts extenders even though the motherboard has the crappy integrated graphics.

I find overriding DCA to be a crapshoot with the occasional need to run TV Setup again.

The other major stumbling block is this only works for content where the CCI Copy control flags are not set, if CCI is non zero HDCP is required and you can only watch it on the server HBO, Starz for example

The G200 is barely able to decode SD MPEG2 streams, HD MPEG2 or H.264AVC will chew up too many cycles on the CPU especially in a VM environment

I used extenders for a while controlling the thing via Remote Potato, I ended up with a MacMini and pulled the DVR out of the server. The E3-1230 at full bore running Showanalyzer or Comskip chewed up 2.5X the power of the MacMini
Tong Chia is offline  
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