Building a media server + NAS - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 01-07-2014, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi,
After many delays I decided to go for it. I have 4 kids each one of them with his/her own 2 to 3 external HDDs. Things get messy a lot in my house with 12 external drives lying around.

So, I decided to build the ultimate Media Server + NAS.


Goals
  • Serve HD / SD Movies (two 46" LCD TV sets + 50" Samsung Smart TV)
  • Serve Home videos
  • Serve as a backup for all family photos
  • Serve as a backup for my personal data


Part I: Media Server Software

To do this, I toyed with XBMC and Plex PMS. I found the following:
  • Plex has a much better support for DLNA
  • Plex has excellent Smart TVs (Samsung) support
  • Plex uses UTF-8 for subtitles. Not good since most subtitles in languages other than English uses the ISO coding.
  • XBMC doesn't have a robust DLNA support
  • XBMC uses standard ISO page coding for subtitles which is good.

I found that XBMC is great as a front end and Plex is better suited as a backend. BUT, if I'm going to use XBMC as my front end using players that has built-in XBMC why do I need Plex? The only problem I need to buy a player for my Samsung.

Decision:
I was thinking doing Plex on the backend + XBMC/Roku/Apple TV on the front end. However, I will just forget Plex PMS and focus on XBMC/Roku front ends. Less components = less complexity and problems.

Part II: NAS software

The decision here is difficult. It's between four candidates:
  • FreeNAS
  • OpenELEC
  • Windows Home Server
  • OpenMediaVault

I prefer something that can boot from a USB drive (don't wana lose one HDD bay just for the OS). This rules out WHS and OMV. FreeNAS looks more robust but for me it's a bit intimidating (haven't tried it yet). OpenELEC is more fun (I'm a casual Linux user), but not sure about its NAS/RAID capabilities.

I'm thinking about two ways to serve media through NAS:
  • DLNA: difficult with XBMC, this forces me to use Plex PMS
  • SAMBA/CIFS shares: this is straightforward approach possible with powerful frontends (at least nice XBMC front end and mount the NAS drive).

Decision: Not made yet.


Part III: Hardware
This is relatively easy part smile.gif
I know I want medium power CPU + large storage. So,


I'm thinking loud here + need advice / pointer smile.gif

Cheers,
Abdul
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post #2 of 14 Old 01-07-2014, 11:46 AM
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post #3 of 14 Old 01-07-2014, 12:38 PM - Thread Starter
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@mike 01hawk
Thanks, that was a short to the point smile.gif. Will evaluate this option, few questions:

  • What streaming players do you use with your setup?
  • Do you play HD movies (WiFi and/or LAN?)
  • Do you play your movies via DLNA or network share (CIFS/drive mapping)?
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post #4 of 14 Old 01-08-2014, 03:52 AM
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Depending on your budget, I would recommend a HBA card, if not you should use the mobo with 6 sata ports... you can always buy the HBA card afterwards if needed...

The latest version of Freenas (9.2) will fulfill your NAS media server combo requirement... once you complete the FreeNAS setup, you can install PMS as plugin (Yes, Plex media server is now available in FreeNAS as a plugin) and set up your CIFS shares...

Everything is done from the GUI.
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post #5 of 14 Old 01-08-2014, 11:11 AM - Thread Starter
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@balky
Thanks for the advice. I tried PMS as a server (on a spare laptop running Ubuntu). Then using XBMC as player on another Windows laptop. Connection was made through DLNA over WiFi. It seems XBMC runs the movies fine; however, it couldn't locate the *.SRT files on the PMS!

Is that normal?
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post #6 of 14 Old 01-08-2014, 02:02 PM
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Is the H/W list you provided for the server or HTPC? If it's for the server are you restricted to the Mini ITX motherboard and that case because you want to keep a certain size?
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post #7 of 14 Old 01-08-2014, 03:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dman4x4 View Post

Hi,
After many delays I decided to go for it. I have 4 kids each one of them with his/her own 2 to 3 external HDDs. Things get messy a lot in my house with 12 external drives lying around.

So, I decided to build the ultimate Media Server + NAS.


Goals
  • Serve HD / SD Movies (two 46" LCD TV sets + 50" Samsung Smart TV)
  • Serve Home videos
  • Serve as a backup for all family photos
  • Serve as a backup for my personal data


Part I: Media Server Software

To do this, I toyed with XBMC and Plex PMS. I found the following:
  • Plex has a much better support for DLNA
  • Plex has excellent Smart TVs (Samsung) support
  • Plex uses UTF-8 for subtitles. Not good since most subtitles in languages other than English uses the ISO coding.
  • XBMC doesn't have a robust DLNA support
  • XBMC uses standard ISO page coding for subtitles which is good.

I found that XBMC is great as a front end and Plex is better suited as a backend. BUT, if I'm going to use XBMC as my front end using players that has built-in XBMC why do I need Plex? The only problem I need to buy a player for my Samsung.

Decision:
I was thinking doing Plex on the backend + XBMC/Roku/Apple TV on the front end. However, I will just forget Plex PMS and focus on XBMC/Roku front ends. Less components = less complexity and problems.

Part II: NAS software

The decision here is difficult. It's between four candidates:
  • FreeNAS
  • OpenELEC
  • Windows Home Server
  • OpenMediaVault

I prefer something that can boot from a USB drive (don't wana lose one HDD bay just for the OS). This rules out WHS and OMV. FreeNAS looks more robust but for me it's a bit intimidating (haven't tried it yet). OpenELEC is more fun (I'm a casual Linux user), but not sure about its NAS/RAID capabilities.

I'm thinking about two ways to serve media through NAS:
  • DLNA: difficult with XBMC, this forces me to use Plex PMS
  • SAMBA/CIFS shares: this is straightforward approach possible with powerful frontends (at least nice XBMC front end and mount the NAS drive).

Decision: Not made yet.


Part III: Hardware
This is relatively easy part smile.gif
I know I want medium power CPU + large storage. So,


I'm thinking loud here + need advice / pointer smile.gif

Cheers,
Abdul

Hi Abdul. I didn't read all replies you get. But i can tell you i was in similar situation. So step by step. Everything has it's pros and cons. I tried WHS 2011 and ended up with FreeNas. If you have not much time to spend with tuning freenas, playing with plugins and plugin jails, then forget it. It is not really simple. But if you have time, go ahead. I set everything and didn't touch it since, i even forgot how i did it, i just remember setting of DLNA plugin - it was pain in the ass. Maybe also because english is not my mother tongue. Torrents were not that difficult, also Transmission (music) was not difficult. The problem is that these plugins are not built in Freenas (current 8.3.1 i think) For freenas you need more RAm, 16GB, if you want to run RaidZ. I have 7x2TB in Raid Z2 and 16GB. No issues, streaming any content perfectly.
I would also rather suggest WD Red instead of greens. REDs are tested for long running, they are designed for servers.
Freenas - no XMBC, no PLex plugins, at least when i installed it 1/2 year ago. Since that time i didn't check. But i doubt.
I believe WHS could also boot from USB stick, but note sure, sorry.
If i have to decide now, knowing lack of backend possibilities for XBMC or Plex and others, i would go for WHS.

Martin
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post #8 of 14 Old 01-08-2014, 03:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dman4x4 View Post

@balky
Thanks for the advice. I tried PMS as a server (on a spare laptop running Ubuntu). Then using XBMC as player on another Windows laptop. Connection was made through DLNA over WiFi. It seems XBMC runs the movies fine; however, it couldn't locate the *.SRT files on the PMS!

Is that normal?

DLNA doesn't support subtitles...as far as i know...forget DLNA...i planned using of DLNA in my house but also because of this i quit this option. I didn't investigate more but as far as i remember it was also unable to play some movie formats. I am not professional but i feel it in the same way as if you try to use media player in your TV, for example if you plug SD card to your TV and want to play 1080p content from it...forget it...
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post #9 of 14 Old 01-09-2014, 07:45 AM
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Abdul - have you looked at unraid at all?

List of plugins available - http://lime-technology.com/wiki/index.php/UnRAID5_Plugins. There are more than this if you look in there forum.

Boots from USB as well.

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post #10 of 14 Old 01-10-2014, 02:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dman4x4 View Post

@balky
Thanks for the advice. I tried PMS as a server (on a spare laptop running Ubuntu). Then using XBMC as player on another Windows laptop. Connection was made through DLNA over WiFi. It seems XBMC runs the movies fine; however, it couldn't locate the *.SRT files on the PMS!

Is that normal?

There is some setting (I can't remember off head) I think under advanced in the PMS settings where you have to enable subtitles and choose your default subtitle language.
Subtitles should work after you finish the changes, but to be honest, I never tried with DLNA... I always used the plex server / client combo...
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post #11 of 14 Old 01-10-2014, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
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@Spec4, the hardware list was originally for a combo of NAS+miniserver+HTPC in the mean living room. Funny you noticed this because I was reading my own post and the replies and thought I need to split this to more of a proper NAS server (I do have a small storage room up stairs that hosts a small mini 6U rackmount + my fiber connection and many CAT6 to main locations in the house).

Now I believe I will go for 2U rack with at least 8 drives.
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post #12 of 14 Old 01-10-2014, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
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@embeathome

Thanks a lot Martin. That's another option. So, ditch all media servers and just FreeNAS + DLNA Plugin with the option of CIFS open just in case if I need subtitles. I will play with this option next weekend. Not sure if an old core duo laptop wold be enough.

Will give it a try. BTW, did you use ZFS with FreeNAS? RAIDZ2?

Cheers
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post #13 of 14 Old 01-10-2014, 05:00 PM
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FreeNAS is a bit intimidating from a quick glance but their documentation is superb. I would advise setting up a virtual machine and run through configuring it so you can familiarize yourself with it's offerings. I personally am doing the same as I am debating moving away from WHS. FreeNAS has a Plex plugin which is my primary media server solution, so that is why I am seriously considering it at this time.

I will say Plex is very simple both from a setup and usability stand point. There are things lacking in certain areas that I personally would love to see fixed/improved/added, but from a WAF it passes all the tests. Really has become a set it and forget it (until I decide to update) solution. Plus the web based access doesn't hurt.

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post #14 of 14 Old 01-11-2014, 06:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dman4x4 View Post

BTW, did you use ZFS with FreeNAS? RAIDZ2?

Cheers

Yes i did and running it still...setup is easy, you just loose some of your storage capacity. I have 7x2 TB and with ZFS RaidZ2 i eneded up at approx 8-9 TB...
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