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post #1 of 12 Old 12-25-2013, 10:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Today, I turned my old macbook (2008 unibody aluminum with 8GB of RAM) into a Plex server. I did a few test runs today and it works awesome. I can't describe how awesome this product is! I was also planning on building a freenas soon because I wanted the backup functionality of a NAS. However, I already have a Time Capsule for my backups. Freenas combines both Plex, in a plugin, and a backup solution. The problem is that Freenas can be pricy if you want to do it right, meaning use ZFS and use server grade components like a super micro mother board and an intel Xenon processor with at least 16 GB of ram. This can start adding up really fast and I don't have old computer parts to use either.

Is this overkill tho? Do I really need a Freenas server grade build to do Plex and all the transcoding? Would a simpler high power HTPC work better for transcoding? I am shifting towards the Freenas solution because if I decide to put my entire movie collection on there, I would like some type of (raid) protection. Uploading all my movies on there will be time consuming enough. Discuss...

EDIT: I am aware that a Drobo or a Synology unit could do this. But is it powerful enough to stream to two different locations and transcode at the same time?
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post #2 of 12 Old 12-26-2013, 02:16 AM
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FreeNAS doesn't need the latest and greatest hardware. It will run quite happily on desktop grade kit with a JBOD array. ZFS takes care of the storage filesystem/resiliance side of things, so you don't need to spend a small fortune on hardware (although there's nothing stopping you if you wanted to). The only time you'd need very large amounts of memory with FreeNAS is if you're using the de-duplication feature, as this is very memory intensive.

A standard dual core CPU with 4GB RAM should be fine with even large arrays. Install FreeNAS onto a USB stick (or even small SSD) and you should be good (sans de-dup). I haven't tried the PMS plugin for FreeNAS though, but if it's anywhere near the grade of the full PMS, you should be fine.

Transcoding can be heavy on the CPU though, so what I'd actually recommend is a descent AMD/Intel quad-core CPU for this. My Athlon X4 can transcode two MPEG2 streams to two Roku's simultaneously without quite maxing out, but it can be heavy going. A newer i5 should be able to handle this with ease.
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post #3 of 12 Old 12-26-2013, 09:03 AM - Thread Starter
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I was thinking of a E3-1220v2 Intel for this application. I could possibly assemble something at the costs of a disc-less Drobo with that processor. My only concern is that a Drobo or a Synology box will not have enough processing power to do all the transcoding on the fly for multiple devices.

Could you recommend some other motherboards other than the SuperMicro motherboards? I think $150-170 is pricy. Maybe a different processor too, but all must include ECC.
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post #4 of 12 Old 12-26-2013, 09:18 AM
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If this is just for personal media you really don't need server grade parts. I also find those all in one solutions like the Drobo way too expensive. What I use is Windows WHS2011 (although you could just use Windows 7) with Flexraid. Flexraid is software based and just installs on your regular Windows OS. It provides parity based data protection.

If you plan on doing a lot of transcoding via Plex then I recommend getting a powerful CPU like a quad-core Intel i5. So basically what you're looking at is just building a normal Windows-based computer with as many hard drives as you like and installing Flexraid and Plex Media Server on it. With Flexraid it's also easy to add more hard drives later. Unraid is another option although Windows gave me more flexibility. For instance, a Windows based server could also double as an HTPC.
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post #5 of 12 Old 12-27-2013, 04:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockstar0215 View Post

I was thinking of a E3-1220v2 Intel for this application. I could possibly assemble something at the costs of a disc-less Drobo with that processor. My only concern is that a Drobo or a Synology box will not have enough processing power to do all the transcoding on the fly for multiple devices.

Could you recommend some other motherboards other than the SuperMicro motherboards? I think $150-170 is pricy. Maybe a different processor too, but all must include ECC.

You might be ok with that CPU, but you'd have to give it a try. If the devices your streaming to support direct play (ie, they can decode the streams in hardware), then you'll be fine. If they do need transcoding though, that CPU will have to work pretty hard, esecially with high bit rate MKV's for example. Most NAS boxes (e.g. Synology) can't transcode full stop as they don't have the CPU power.

Don't worry about getting a Supermicro board. A good quality ASUS or Gigabyte mobo should be fine, and save you a few $$.
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post #6 of 12 Old 12-27-2013, 05:41 AM
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I just wanted to chime in since I'm currently building something similar.

I chose the E3-1230v3 for hyper-threading (and also because I'm using this as an ESXi All-in-One host). I ran into a 'gotcha' yesterday with my motherboard, so if you want to virtualize FreeNAS and JBOD using on-board ports (there's nothing wrong with this approach), you'll want to choose another board. Here is my complete build list so far with prices at the time of purchase:

Xeon E3-1230v3 $249.99
SUPERMICRO MBD-X10SLL+-F-O uATX Server Motherboard $184.99
Crucial 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1600 $199.99 [RAM is super expensive right now so I'm upping this to 32GB total when it's cheaper]
SeaSonic Platinum Series SS-400FL2 Active PFC F3 400W ATX12V Fanless 80 PLUS $129.99
SanDisk Cruzer Fit SDCZ33-008G-B35 8 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive $8.55 [I'm booting ESXi from this]
Silverstone Tek Micro-ATX PS07B $74.99

For storage, I'm experimenting with FreeNAS so I've taken 4x500GB 2.5" laptop hard drives (my family has slowly replaced all of our drives with SSDs...) and mounted them in these cool Rosewill adapters:
Rosewill RX-C200P 2.5" SSD / HDD Plastic Mounting Kit for 3.5" Drive Bay

It's not a lot of storage, but since I'm experimenting with FreeNAS I want to make sure it's solid before I put all of my media on it.

I picked up two 3TB WD RED NAS drives from Amazon and I'll pick up two more when another deal is on. I worry about having all HDDs from the same production line.

About the motherboard -- at this moment, the Haswell Lynx Point RAID controller cannot be passed through to VMWare virtual machines. This allows a virtualized version of FreeNAS to access the controller as if FreeNAS was running on bare metal. If you are looking to build just a FreeNAS box, by all means this motherboard is suitable. If you want to virtualize it because you would like to run more than just FreeNAS, you'll need to upgrade to something with a standard-issue SAS card integrated into the motherboard (SUPERMICRO MBD-X10SL7-F-O, $249.99) or purchase a PCIe card like I did ($100, eBay...). As you can see, it would have saved me some money to purchase the motherboard with the integrated controller.

Lastly, here are two fantastic posts about building your own NAS/ESXi Whitebox:

Building a NAS (Uses FreeNAS)
Building an ESXi Whitebox
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post #7 of 12 Old 12-28-2013, 09:03 AM - Thread Starter
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That's a great build! Have you had any issues with using Haswell instead of Ivy Bridge? I heard that X10 motherboards have a few bugs but can be worked around. There's no serious price difference between v2 and v3, why did you choose v3 (Haswell)?
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post #8 of 12 Old 12-28-2013, 01:36 PM
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The only issue I've had is doing SATA controller passthrough, but that's related more to the motherboard than to the Haswell platform. I'm not sure if VMWare will ever approve it for passthrough since it's technically software RAID and they don't want anyone relying on software RAID (even though I'm not using it for RAID at all).

I chose Haswell specifically because there is no significant price difference to be on the latest Intel platform and the power usage should be lower on the V3 (even though TDP is higher -- it's because of the integrated video). I love the IPMI management of the SuperMicro motherboard though. While I'm testing I've been able to shut it down and bring it online using the IPMI management website.

I'll report back when I have my IBM MegaRaid card in sometime next week.

I know that my implementation is slightly different since I want to be able to run multiple VMs. If you're creating just a NAS it's probably best to run FreeNAS on the bare metal.
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post #9 of 12 Old 01-06-2014, 05:29 AM
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UPDATE: I received my IBM MegaRAID 1015 card and flashed it into IT mode for maximum compatibility with zfs. I had some problems with the process until I realized I needed to use the UEFI shell because of my UEFI-based motherboard. I purchased a break-out cable to connect one of the two SAS ports on the card to the 4x500GB 2.5" drives I'm using for testing.

Passing the card through to my FreeNAS VM was a piece of cake. On the configuration tab for the host, you just click "Advanced Settings" beneath the Hardware section. VMWare recognizes the card as an LSI2008, so you simply click the box next to the card to enable it for pass-through and reboot the host. Next, I modified the FreeNAS VM by adding a PCI device on the "Hardware" tab -- the LSI2008 card. FreeNAS could see the volumes and I created a RAIDZ2 volume using all 4 drives. The GUI for the volume manager is a little confusing -- I couldn't simply select RAIDZ2 from the Volume layout menu. Instead, I had to drag a slider to see the RAIDZ choices appear in the drop-down. I'm not sure if FreeNAS was trying to suggest I use a traditional RAID layout with my 4 disks or what.

Installing and configuring the Plex plug-in was a little bit more involved than I thought it would be, but I found a helpful video tutorial.

After a frustrating afternoon of attempting to get DLNA 5.1 audio working (and ultimately giving up), I stumbled upon PlexConnect. It's definitely not the greatest front-end for streaming, but I don't have any other options given my hardware: PS3, PS4, AppleTV2. I'm also experiencing audio problems with any DTS-encoded streams, so I'm trying to figure out if it's because of my wireless (I don't currently have the luxury of ethernet to the front-end device but the NAS itself is connected via gigE) or the AppleTV2 itself.
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post #10 of 12 Old 04-24-2014, 05:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dysfnctnl85 View Post

UPDATE: I received my IBM MegaRAID 1015 card and flashed it into IT mode for maximum compatibility with zfs. I had some problems with the process until I realized I needed to use the UEFI shell because of my UEFI-based motherboard. I purchased a break-out cable to connect one of the two SAS ports on the card to the 4x500GB 2.5" drives I'm using for testing.

Passing the card through to my FreeNAS VM was a piece of cake. On the configuration tab for the host, you just click "Advanced Settings" beneath the Hardware section. VMWare recognizes the card as an LSI2008, so you simply click the box next to the card to enable it for pass-through and reboot the host. Next, I modified the FreeNAS VM by adding a PCI device on the "Hardware" tab -- the LSI2008 card. FreeNAS could see the volumes and I created a RAIDZ2 volume using all 4 drives. The GUI for the volume manager is a little confusing -- I couldn't simply select RAIDZ2 from the Volume layout menu. Instead, I had to drag a slider to see the RAIDZ choices appear in the drop-down. I'm not sure if FreeNAS was trying to suggest I use a traditional RAID layout with my 4 disks or what.

Installing and configuring the Plex plug-in was a little bit more involved than I thought it would be, but I found a helpful video tutorial.

After a frustrating afternoon of attempting to get DLNA 5.1 audio working (and ultimately giving up), I stumbled upon PlexConnect. It's definitely not the greatest front-end for streaming, but I don't have any other options given my hardware: PS3, PS4, AppleTV2. I'm also experiencing audio problems with any DTS-encoded streams, so I'm trying to figure out if it's because of my wireless (I don't currently have the luxury of ethernet to the front-end device but the NAS itself is connected via gigE) or the AppleTV2 itself.

PlexConnect can be routed somehow into the Apple TV, I tried it and it worked but took way too long. I use my Oppo player to play DLNA through that or a Dune player. Works great! All from a 2008 Macbook and an attached 3TB hard drive....for not at least.
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post #11 of 12 Old 04-24-2014, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by rockstar0215 View Post

PlexConnect can be routed somehow into the Apple TV, I tried it and it worked but took way too long. I use my Oppo player to play DLNA through that or a Dune player. Works great! All from a 2008 Macbook and an attached 3TB hard drive....for not at least.

I found a great set of instructions that most tech-savvy people could follow: https://langui.sh/2013/08/27/appletv-ssl-plexconnect/

I have since moved to powerline ethernet since I do not have the ability to run my own lines at my current home. This did not resolve any DTS playback issues, but I can now pause, rewind, and fast-forward with relative ease.

Until DLNA comes to the PS4 or I find a new media player with a small footprint, this will do for now smile.gif.
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post #12 of 12 Old 04-25-2014, 07:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dysfnctnl85 View Post

I found a great set of instructions that most tech-savvy people could follow: https://langui.sh/2013/08/27/appletv-ssl-plexconnect/

I have since moved to powerline ethernet since I do not have the ability to run my own lines at my current home. This did not resolve any DTS playback issues, but I can now pause, rewind, and fast-forward with relative ease.

Until DLNA comes to the PS4 or I find a new media player with a small footprint, this will do for now smile.gif.

I tried a raspberry pi with RasPlex. For playing Bluray MKVs, it's horrible. I was hoping I would use that but nope...
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