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post #1 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 06:33 AM - Thread Starter
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HTPC as virtual machine

I'm curious how many of you guys are running your HTPC is a virtual machine, as opposed to a bare metal installation. If so, what's the usage scenario and why? Is it on a server, or standalone hardware? (By server, I mean running along with other VMs, regardless of hardware/OS). Pros and cons? Which hypervisor?

I know some of the reasons why this might be desirable, but wanted to get some opinions and hear about some real world use cases before I head down a new rabbit hole. I may or may not go this route, but I'd like to read about what you're doing.
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post #2 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 06:54 AM
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I've been planning an esxi build for sometime (had a thread about it too not long ago) and have not taken time to do it just yet

That being said my intentions were a few different things, none of which involved running a bunch of HTPCs as VMs with hdmi outputs going all around the house

My preference is to have a full blown server os with separation of duties since wmc specifically doesn't run on any server os and serverwmc very nice to have
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post #3 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 07:33 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm thinking more along the lines of:

1. Running a single Windows 7/8 VM on standalone hardware for the main HTPC serving one TV. Purpose is to have the ability to tinker offline and quickly upgrade the VM or restore it if something gets screwed up. This would be virtualization for its own sake as opposed to running multiple OS or serving up video to multiple monitors. Like you, I have no desire to have long HDMI runs all over the place.

And/or

2. Running a Windows 7/8 VM on a central server (also running other VMs) for centralized recording/playback to extenders. The other VMs could run the gamut from pfsense to Windows Server OS to a OS X TimeMachine backup server.

Of course, I can always keep running my Windows 7 HTPC as it is now with no virtualization and run a server without centralized recording/playback. I'm really just trying to explore options and find out what others have done, what works, and what doesn't.
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post #4 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 07:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkimbro View Post
I'm thinking more along the lines of:

1. Running a single Windows 7/8 VM on standalone hardware for the main HTPC serving one TV. Purpose is to have the ability to tinker offline and quickly upgrade the VM or restore it if something gets screwed up. This would be virtualization for its own sake as opposed to running multiple OS or serving up video to multiple monitors. Like you, I have no desire to have long HDMI runs all over the place.
Intriguing... are you talking about a bare metal hypervisor and just a single VM or were you thinking more along the lines of something like this:

http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials...tart-boot.html

The latter obviously isn't true virtualization, but it does give you similar abilities to tinker with it offline.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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post #5 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 08:13 AM - Thread Starter
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I was thinking bare metal hypervisor, but the VHD approach looks like its worth some further reading/investigation.

I'm wondering if either approach kills the WAF if there's an issue that requires rebooting.
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post #6 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 08:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkimbro View Post
I'm curious how many of you guys are running your HTPC is a virtual machine, as opposed to a bare metal installation. If so, what's the usage scenario and why? Is it on a server, or standalone hardware? (By server, I mean running along with other VMs, regardless of hardware/OS). Pros and cons? Which hypervisor?
I had considered doing this a while back but technology wasn't quite there to allow for hardware acceleration or GPU passthrough. I'd be quite interested to see how this all works out for you.
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post #7 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 08:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ilovejedd View Post
I had considered doing this a while back but technology wasn't quite there to allow for hardware acceleration or GPU passthrough. I'd be quite interested to see how this all works out for you.
It may be a while before I get around to it (lots of other home networking stuff to do first), but I'll post results here if/when I do.
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post #8 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 09:34 AM
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It'll probably be a while for me to, but I'm subscribed here nonetheless. It looks like we have somewhat similar goals . . . I'll update my thread as well when I ever get around to doing the installation
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post #9 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 09:54 AM
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I've been doing this for a year now, and I meant to post a more comprehensive topic about it but I haven't had the time yet. But anyway, I'm running a Windows 7 VM under ESXi 5.5. All TV viewing is done through extenders. With this, I can centralize storage and recording into one VM. I have a Supermicro 24 bay case bought from TAMS a while back. I'm also running another (Windows Server 2012 R2) VM that acts as general backup for random things and Time Machine (among other random VMs such as pfSense, phone system). So with the 24 bay server, I have 8 bays on one M1015 passed through to Windows 7, and another 8 bays on another M1015 passed to Windows Server 2012. The motherboard I'm using has one more PCIe slot for another M1015 if I ever want to use the last 8 bays. Windows 7 uses FlexRaid Snapshot w/pooling, and Windows Server 2012 uses FlexRaid tRAID to manage storage and RAID.

Things I like: I don't have to have a separate computer that records and then transfers the recordings to the server for storage. The extenders have been appliance-like and reliable. I don't have HDMI issues or any other else really. I can make backups/snapshots of the VM, so before any major change, I can rollback if needed. I'm not "wasting" a 24 bay case since I don't have enough TV to fill 24 bays (yet :O)

I haven't tried GPU passthrough since I can't do long HDMI runs, and the extenders work great. I am passing through the M1015s and NICs with no issues though. I'm pretty surprised it works as well as it does. I haven't had any PlayReady issues or missed recordings in the year or so I've been running this.
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post #10 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
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@rc05

Thank you...Thus is exactly the kind of feedback I'm looking for!

How is your TimeMachine backup set up? I've only got one Mac in the house, and I've read a lot of conflicting info about setting up TimeMachine on a Windows Server OS or on its own VM. If it's too much if a pain, I can continue using a USB drive for TimeMachine backups, assuming I can get my wife to plug it into her MacBook once in a while.
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post #11 of 17 Old 08-09-2014, 01:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkimbro View Post
Purpose is to have the ability to tinker offline and quickly upgrade the VM or restore it if something gets screwed up..
This is the primary reason I virtualize. Always being a few clicks away from reverting to a working configuration is indispensable.
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post #12 of 17 Old 08-10-2014, 08:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkimbro View Post
How is your TimeMachine backup set up? I've only got one Mac in the house, and I've read a lot of conflicting info about setting up TimeMachine on a Windows Server OS or on its own VM. If it's too much if a pain, I can continue using a USB drive for TimeMachine backups, assuming I can get my wife to plug it into her MacBook once in a while.
I'm using a usb 3.0 portable hdd plugged into my Asus AC68R for time machine backups

If you are in the market for a new router, it's a cheap way to get there since you can find pretty good deals on them refurb, they have better performance than apple time capsule (until Apple updates it again), and you can add whichever USB3 storage you have (might not be great if you have to buy storage too, but I had a spare HDD I no longer use - my rmbp is using about 80GB on it's system drive and the timemachine backup size is a little over 100GB)
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post #13 of 17 Old 08-10-2014, 08:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post
I'm using a usb 3.0 portable hdd plugged into my Asus AC68R for time machine backups

If you are in the market for a new router, it's a cheap way to get there since you can find pretty good deals on them refurb, they have better performance than apple time capsule (until Apple updates it again), and you can add whichever USB3 storage you have (might not be great if you have to buy storage too, but I had a spare HDD I no longer use - my rmbp is using about 80GB on it's system drive and the timemachine backup size is a little over 100GB)
Thanks. I have a couple of routers that have USB capability, an old NETGEAR N600 with USB 2.0 (currently just used as a 10/100 switch) and a newer AC1450 with USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports. I also have several USB drives I could use. I've done that for a makeshift music server for my SONOS system, but hadn't thought about it for timemachine backups. That seems like a much simpler solution (but maybe less cool ) than trying to setup a timemachine backup as a VM on a windows machine.
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post #14 of 17 Old 08-10-2014, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by dfkimbro View Post
@rc05

Thank you...Thus is exactly the kind of feedback I'm looking for!

How is your TimeMachine backup set up? I've only got one Mac in the house, and I've read a lot of conflicting info about setting up TimeMachine on a Windows Server OS or on its own VM. If it's too much if a pain, I can continue using a USB drive for TimeMachine backups, assuming I can get my wife to plug it into her MacBook once in a while.
It is somewhat of a pain, plus I haven't actually tested to see if I can do a complete restore from the backup yet

There are a few methods, but the one I use is this: Create an HFS+ sparseimage of X gigabytes you want the Time Machine backup drive to be using Disk Utility. Put that sparseimage on the network share from the Windows server. Mount the share (if it's not already), mount the sparseimage, then in Time Machine preferences, set the sparseimage as the backup drive. You won't need to do the trick in Terminal to backup to non-AFP shares this way.

So the tricky part is that you will always need the Time Machine sparseimage (and Windows share) to be mounted for backups to work. I'm pretty sure it won't auto-mount the image/share like it does with a Time Capsule. My Mac is a desktop so it's not a problem. But on a laptop, where you're going to be coming in and out of your network, it's somewhat important to unmount the sparseimage before you leave, or else it'll be an unclean unmount and might corrupt the sparseimage.

There might be a better way than this, but it's been backing up consistently for almost a year, and I've successfully retrieved several deleted items through the Time Machine app. But I still haven't tested whether it would restore the whole computer if the hard drive died.
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post #15 of 17 Old 08-10-2014, 05:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rc05 View Post
It is somewhat of a pain, plus I haven't actually tested to see if I can do a complete restore from the backup yet

There are a few methods, but the one I use is this: Create an HFS+ sparseimage of X gigabytes you want the Time Machine backup drive to be using Disk Utility. Put that sparseimage on the network share from the Windows server. Mount the share (if it's not already), mount the sparseimage, then in Time Machine preferences, set the sparseimage as the backup drive. You won't need to do the trick in Terminal to backup to non-AFP shares this way.

So the tricky part is that you will always need the Time Machine sparseimage (and Windows share) to be mounted for backups to work. I'm pretty sure it won't auto-mount the image/share like it does with a Time Capsule. My Mac is a desktop so it's not a problem. But on a laptop, where you're going to be coming in and out of your network, it's somewhat important to unmount the sparseimage before you leave, or else it'll be an unclean unmount and might corrupt the sparseimage.

There might be a better way than this, but it's been backing up consistently for almost a year, and I've successfully retrieved several deleted items through the Time Machine app. But I still haven't tested whether it would restore the whole computer if the hard drive died.
I see. I also found this. He's basically created a Debian-based time machine virtual appliance.

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/nas/nas-howto/31609-how-to-make-a-windows-time-machine-server-part-1
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post #16 of 17 Old 08-10-2014, 07:21 PM
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I'm running a central Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V host (my setup) with separate baremetal HTPCs at the TVs. I have a central TV server on the host which feeds my HTPC clients. I found that I needed to install the TV server software in the host OS rather than a VM as the software required direct access to the TV tuner. This was using Argus TV and a physical tuner cars so I'm not sure whether it's the same with WMC or a HD Home Run.

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post #17 of 17 Old 08-11-2014, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by dfkimbro View Post
I see. I also found this. He's basically created a Debian-based time machine virtual appliance.

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/nas/n...-server-part-1
Thanks, this is one of the other methods I was looking for. It pretty much simulates a Time Capsule, so you should get auto-mount and all that good stuff. In my case, backup storage is run on Windows and tRAID, and while a Linux version of tRAID is coming out soon, I don't need a simulated Time Capsule right now.

Apple has said they're deprecating AFP in favor of SMB, so I wonder when Time Machine will make the switch? It might become easier to host Time Machine backups on Windows when that happens.
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