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"Primary" and "Secondary" HTPCs... is what I am considering possible?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I am in the process of spec-ing out an HTPC for my den, powered by XBMC. I want to use it to:

1) house all of my music files in FLAC format
2) medium duty gaming
3) file repository for all digital pictures
4) old-school game emulation

It will be in "always on" state and linked up to a backup site like crash plan (it will also house any important files we dont want to lose, tax documents, etc).

Even though my den contains all of my home theater stuff, my game consoles, and soon my HTPC, there would be times that I would want access to all of my awesomely organized media in other rooms in my house. This gave me an idea....

Is it possible for me to build a second, much less powerful HTPC with minimal storage space, and access the files over my wireless network somehow?
post #2 of 37
It's actually trivial.

If your using windows 7 on both machines the networking issues are non-existant.

on your "main" htpc, just be sure that the hard drives are designated as shared drives typically your operating system would be on a c drive, usually an ssd these days, and your movies would be stored in folders on other hard drives.as long as the hard drives containing media are all "shared" drives, they can be accessed from other computers on your network.

when you set up, sor example, media browser/media center on your "Secondary HTPC", you just designate the shared hard drives on your "Primary HTPC" as the location for your movies.

It gets more interesting when you use earlier versions of windows, and it definitely gets interesting when you try to mix versions of windows (like sharing between XP and Win 7). So far, I've had the best results sharing between XP to XP, and WIN 7 to WIN 7.

crack open your wallet and welcome to the club!
post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by heartsurgeon View Post

It's actually trivial.
If your using windows 7 on both machines the networking issues are non-existant.
on your "main" htpc, just be sure that the hard drives are designated as shared drives typically your operating system would be on a c drive, usually an ssd these days, and your movies would be stored in folders on other hard drives.as long as the hard drives containing media are all "shared" drives, they can be accessed from other computers on your network.
when you set up, sor example, media browser/media center on your "Secondary HTPC", you just designate the shared hard drives on your "Primary HTPC" as the location for your movies.
It gets more interesting when you use earlier versions of windows, and it definitely gets interesting when you try to mix versions of windows (like sharing between XP and Win 7). So far, I've had the best results sharing between XP to XP, and WIN 7 to WIN 7.
crack open your wallet and welcome to the club!

That is awesome news, I figured it was easy, I just dont know much about networking.

Follow-up question. My "primary HTPC" is going to be pretty beefy, because I will also use it for some gaming.

How much computing power do I need for the secondary machine to ensure smooth operation? Will just about anything do? Will I be able to run the emulators (NES, SNES, Atari) on the secondary machine as well?

The secondary HTPC will be in the main living room, so the smaller the form factor, the better.
post #4 of 37
What exactly with the secondary machine do, you have listed digital pictures, old school emulators, and music.

I think any cpu on the market today could handle that. I just looked at a couple snes emulators and the minimum cpu is a pentium 2 lol.

If you also want to do 1080p video then that will be a little more demanding. But you can still do that easily with a cheap little intel celeron and
the integrated graphics it has.
post #5 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteboy714 View Post

What exactly with the secondary machine do, you have listed digital pictures, old school emulators, and music.
I think any cpu on the market today could handle that. I just looked at a couple snes emulators and the minimum cpu is a pentium 2 lol.
If you also want to do 1080p video then that will be a little more demanding. But you can still do that easily with a cheap little intel celeron and
the integrated graphics it has.

I would like to able to stream 1080p video from the primary machine via XBMC. That would probably be the most intensive duty.
post #6 of 37
The cheapest dual core intel chip can do that just fine. Not saying AMD can't I just prefer intel.

One thing to consider. Wifi is not recomended for streaming high def. If you have a nice wireless "N" setup it may work.
Some folks here will tell you it works for them but the general consensus is to go wired whenever possible.

Of course you can always try it first and find out.
post #7 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteboy714 View Post

The cheapest dual core intel chip can do that just fine. Not saying AMD can't I just prefer intel.
One thing to consider. Wifi is not recomended for streaming high def. If you have a nice wireless "N" setup it may work.
Some folks here will tell you it works for them but the general consensus is to go wired whenever possible.
Of course you can always try it first and find out.

I just bought and installed a new wireless N router and bridge. (see links).

Router: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833127215

Bridge: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833127256


I have a few wired devices (Xbox 360, Denon 2112 receiver, blu ray player) plugged into the bridge. So far gaming over the bridge works just fine.

So if I put N wireless cards in both HTPCs, would that be fast enough to handle 1080p streaming? Would there be a difference if I go with an N wireless card to the router vs wired into the bridge?


Wired is not an option unfortunately, my house was built in the 20s and has very nice hardwood floors. No way I am drilling any holes (hence the bridge). The attic is out too, no good way to run through the walls, and I dont see an ethernet cable dangling from the ceiling as an option either...if I want to stay married. smile.gif
post #8 of 37
if N doesnt work, powerline networking is another option.
post #9 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by aliaskary77 View Post

if N doesnt work, powerline networking is another option.

Thats an idea I have not considered. Would it be faster than N though? Arent there some situations where wireless can actually be faster than wired?
post #10 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

Thats an idea I have not considered. Would it be faster than N though? Arent there some situations where wireless can actually be faster than wired?

No. Its about quality and and not quantity of speed and connection anyway for HTPC and streaming.
post #11 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

I just bought and installed a new wireless N router and bridge. (see links).
Router: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833127215
Bridge: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833127256
I have a few wired devices (Xbox 360, Denon 2112 receiver, blu ray player) plugged into the bridge. So far gaming over the bridge works just fine.

So if I put N wireless cards in both HTPCs, would that be fast enough to handle 1080p streaming? Would there be a difference if I go with an N wireless card to the router vs wired into the bridge?

Wired is not an option unfortunately, my house was built in the 20s and has very nice hardwood floors. No way I am drilling any holes (hence the bridge). The attic is out too, no good way to run through the walls, and I dont see an ethernet cable dangling from the ceiling as an option either...if I want to stay married. smile.gif
I'm no wireless expert so I can't really comment on what will work. There's also too many factors like distance and how your house is built.

Like Assassin says its more about the quality of the signal. You may even be able to hit great speeds with the wireless N but can it hold it steady for a 2 hour movie without dropped packets etc. Best way to go is try it and find out.
post #12 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

No. Its about quality and and not quantity of speed and connection anyway for HTPC and streaming.

so what is your expert opinion based on my current network equipment? Great site by the way... I have learned a lot!!
post #13 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

so what is your expert opinion based on my current network equipment? Great site by the way... I have learned a lot!!
I'm no expert but just going to give my .02

If you still need to buy both wireless N adapters. I would take a serious look at powerline adapters. If you can make your setup work where you
only need to buy a pair then the price could be pretty similar.

Just as thought to avoid the wifi headache all together.
post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

so what is your expert opinion based on my current network equipment? Great site by the way... I have learned a lot!!

It's impossible to make a determination without actually checking out the site. Wi-fi signal quality is dependent on a number of factors - size of house, layout, any neighbors using wi-fi, anyone using the microwave oven, any other devices using the 2.4/5GHz bands, maybe a shelf full of CDs/DVDs interfering with the signal, etc, etc. This is the reason wired is the more "fool-proof" option either through cat5(e)/6 runs or powerline networking.
post #15 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ilovejedd View Post

It's impossible to make a determination without actually checking out the site. Wi-fi signal quality is dependent on a number of factors - size of house, layout, any neighbors using wi-fi, anyone using the microwave oven, any other devices using the 2.4/5GHz bands, maybe a shelf full of CDs/DVDs interfering with the signal, etc, etc. This is the reason wired is the more "fool-proof" option either through cat5(e)/6 runs or powerline networking.

Agree and understand 100% what you are saying. Allow me to eliminate some of those variables. I am not expecting a firm yes or no... just a best guess. Obviously I will have to test and see eventually, just want to know if it is feasible.

The two PCs will actually only be about 15-20 feet apart, with the router right next to the secondary HTPC. Only one wall separating. Its only my wife and myself, so I could eliminate any other use of the network when I wanted to stream in HD. And of the other "band using" devices (Xbox, laptops, cell phones, etc) would not be in use during streaming.

Obviously no one can tell me for sure if it will work or not. Just trying to get peoples gut feelings.
post #16 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

Agree and understand 100% what you are saying. Allow me to eliminate some of those variables. I am not expecting a firm yes or no... just a best guess. Obviously I will have to test and see eventually, just want to know if it is feasible.

The two PCs will actually only be about 15-20 feet apart, with the router right next to the secondary HTPC. Only one wall separating. Its only my wife and myself, so I could eliminate any other use of the network when I wanted to stream in HD. And of the other "band using" devices (Xbox, laptops, cell phones, etc) would not be in use during streaming.

Obviously no one can tell me for sure if it will work or not. Just trying to get peoples gut feelings.

It's hard to guess really. I live in a densely populated area and can pick up around 20 different APs. Wireless 1080p streaming is a no go for me despite a 10' distance from the router to my bedroom. Heck, even 1080i ATSC gives me drop-outs. There's an easy enough way to test if wi-fi is enough. If you've got 2 laptops, put each one in the location where you plan on installing the HTPCs and see if they're capable of wireless 1080p streaming without any snowing/pixelation, freezing, etc. If they work, good for you. If not, then try something else.

P.S.
When I say 1080p streaming, I mean full quality Blu-ray rips. If you're dealing with, say, Netflix, iTunes or re-encoded content, I reckon wireless N will suffice. Heck, even G will probably work just fine. Needless to say, DVD (even a 1:1 rip) and FLAC are both a non-issue. There should be enough of a buffer to handle the occasional dropped packet.
Edited by ilovejedd - 7/31/12 at 10:39pm
post #17 of 37
Thread Starter 
I do live in a neighborhood where the houses are close together, but I live on the corner. There are usually 2 or 3 wireless networks visible to my laptop in addition to my own, but the other ones are very low signal strength.

Most of the streaming would be DVD quality and FLAC. I do plan on ripping my Blu Ray collection (a whopping 8 discs) once I build my HTPC. I am very anti-compression. So my Blu Rays, CDs, etc, will be ripped at full resolution onto my primary HTPC. If I will probably also down-convert my music to iTunes for convenience (iPod in my car, etc), but I want full resolution files of my content available and I then I can put the physical copies in a storage bin in my attic or basement.

Actually I stupidly just realized something, my living room TV is only 720p. [its a 2006 Samsung DLP. I keep saying once the bulb blows, I will consider replacing it. Still on the original bulb 6+ years later!]. So really I wont be streaming 1080p for a while. Still, the option to stream 1080p content from my den HTPC might push me to upgrade sooner!

Funny, my wife is on Pintrest, and somehow that website always leads to her wanting to spend money on something, so I am constantly cursing it. I guess she could say the same thing about this forum, I went from building one HTPC to building two HTPCs and buying a new TV in the matter of one thread!
post #18 of 37
My advice would be to give up on the wifi dream...... too inconsistent... you'll spend all your time tweaking your router as apposed to enjoying your media.

If running cat5e is not an option go with powerline..... wired = no headaches!

Good luck!
post #19 of 37
Unless you can build the secondary HTPC for under $200, your best bet would be to use Windows Media Center as Primary, and Windows Media Center Extenders or XBOX 360 (no PS3, no Wii) as secondary.

You will be able to share pretty much everything, as long as the extender supports the format, including Live and Recorded TV even the encrypted TV like HBO and Cinemax.
post #20 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueiedgod View Post

Unless you can build the secondary HTPC for under $200, your best bet would be to use Windows Media Center as Primary, and Windows Media Center Extenders or XBOX 360 (no PS3, no Wii) as secondary.
You will be able to share pretty much everything, as long as the extender supports the format, including Live and Recorded TV even the encrypted TV like HBO and Cinemax.

I have an older computer that may do the job as the secondary HTPC. So that would be free, or cheap with some minor upgrades.

I already have 2 Xbox 360s (one hooked up in each room where my HTPCs will be), so maybe that would be the better option if I use Windows Media Center? I assume there is a thread somewhere in this forum that explains the pros and cons of XBMC vs Windows Media Center?
post #21 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

I already have 2 Xbox 360s (one hooked up in each room where my HTPCs will be), so maybe that would be the better option if I use Windows Media Center? I assume there is a thread somewhere in this forum that explains the pros and cons of XBMC vs Windows Media Center?

Countless but to sum it up, it all boils down to personal preference.
post #22 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueiedgod View Post

Unless you can build the secondary HTPC for under $200, your best bet would be to use Windows Media Center as Primary, and Windows Media Center Extenders or XBOX 360 (no PS3, no Wii) as secondary.
You will be able to share pretty much everything, as long as the extender supports the format, including Live and Recorded TV even the encrypted TV like HBO and Cinemax.

Additional question:

When you say sharing "live and recorded TV, even the encrypted..." That assumes I have cable running into my HTPC, right? Am I correct in stating there is no good way to do this with DirecTV? I know I can use the Hauppage Colossus, but that would mean SD content only, so to me that is a non-starter. I dont watch much TV anyways outside of sports. Switching from DirecTV is not really something I am interested in, it is the best service (though certainly not the cheapest) for someone who loves sports.

So my HTPC setup will probably be a little non-traditional, in that I am not really interested in having it replace my set-top DirecTV box. Its more of a supplamental, a place to house all of my media that is currently in various formats (mostly on physical media). Unless there is a way to incorporate HTPC and DirecTV that I am overlooking?
post #23 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

Additional question:
When you say sharing "live and recorded TV, even the encrypted..." That assumes I have cable running into my HTPC, right? Am I correct in stating there is no good way to do this with DirecTV? I know I can use the Hauppage Colossus, but that would mean SD content only, so to me that is a non-starter. I dont watch much TV anyways outside of sports. Switching from DirecTV is not really something I am interested in, it is the best service (though certainly not the cheapest) for someone who loves sports.
So my HTPC setup will probably be a little non-traditional, in that I am not really interested in having it replace my set-top DirecTV box. Its more of a supplamental, a place to house all of my media that is currently in various formats (mostly on physical media). Unless there is a way to incorporate HTPC and DirecTV that I am overlooking?
Yes you are right there is no PC tuner for directv. Although the collosus can record HD. You just do it over component. But thats more of a capture device. You still keep the Directv dvr so kind of pointless if you ask me.

If tv is not a concern to you that makes things a lot easier. Any pc in your network can access the media on your main htpc or server. Xbox 360 is an extender so it gives you the ability to view encrypted recordings on a host machine.But since you don't need that your better off with that old pc. Xbox has really crappy video codec support.

As far as XBMC and WMC. Taking TV out of it I agree it's all about preference.
post #24 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

Additional question:
When you say sharing "live and recorded TV, even the encrypted..." That assumes I have cable running into my HTPC, right? Am I correct in stating there is no good way to do this with DirecTV? I know I can use the Hauppage Colossus, but that would mean SD content only, so to me that is a non-starter. I dont watch much TV anyways outside of sports. Switching from DirecTV is not really something I am interested in, it is the best service (though certainly not the cheapest) for someone who loves sports.
So my HTPC setup will probably be a little non-traditional, in that I am not really interested in having it replace my set-top DirecTV box. Its more of a supplamental, a place to house all of my media that is currently in various formats (mostly on physical media). Unless there is a way to incorporate HTPC and DirecTV that I am overlooking?

Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteboy714 View Post

Yes you are right there is no PC tuner for directv. Although the collosus can record HD. You just do it over component. But thats more of a capture device. You still keep the Directv dvr so kind of pointless if you ask me.

Yes, with a Colossus you can record HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio that is indistinguishable from the original DirecTV HD feed. And it's not pointless at all. I consider a DirecTV DVR to be a temporary storage device. If it's something I want to keep, I record it to my HTPC using my Colossus.

Actually, if you look in the Colossus and HDPVR threads here, I think you'll find that there are a LOT of people here doing just what you want to do and are using those devices in conjunction with their DirecTV DVR, not as a replacement for their set top box or DVR.
post #25 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

Additional question:
When you say sharing "live and recorded TV, even the encrypted..." That assumes I have cable running into my HTPC, right? Am I correct in stating there is no good way to do this with DirecTV? I know I can use the Hauppage Colossus, but that would mean SD content only, so to me that is a non-starter. I dont watch much TV anyways outside of sports. Switching from DirecTV is not really something I am interested in, it is the best service (though certainly not the cheapest) for someone who loves sports.
So my HTPC setup will probably be a little non-traditional, in that I am not really interested in having it replace my set-top DirecTV box. Its more of a supplamental, a place to house all of my media that is currently in various formats (mostly on physical media). Unless there is a way to incorporate HTPC and DirecTV that I am overlooking?

Sorry, didn't know you had sattelite TV. No, there are no sattelite TV tuners for PC's.
post #26 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueiedgod View Post

Sorry, didn't know you had sattelite TV. No, there are no sattelite TV tuners for PC's.

that is what I thought.... thanks. Now that I have switched to DirecTV (and the NFL Sunday Ticket) I cant imagine going back. It is not the cheapest option, but you get what you pay for in my opinion. Better than ATT Uverse (though I liked that service) and MILES AND MILES better than Time Warner.
post #27 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zon2020 View Post

Yes, with a Colossus you can record HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio that is indistinguishable from the original DirecTV HD feed. And it's not pointless at all. I consider a DirecTV DVR to be a temporary storage device. If it's something I want to keep, I record it to my HTPC using my Colossus.
Actually, if you look in the Colossus and HDPVR threads here, I think you'll find that there are a LOT of people here doing just what you want to do and are using those devices in conjunction with their DirecTV DVR, not as a replacement for their set top box or DVR.
Ok I was looking at it more from a DVR replacement prospective. It would be cool to have it to archive some stuff that I like to keep. In a more universal format. For me personally theres not much I record on tv that I want to keep.
post #28 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteboy714 View Post

Ok I was looking at it more from a DVR replacement prospective. It would be cool to have it to archive some stuff that I like to keep. In a more universal format. For me personally theres not much I record on tv that I want to keep.

I sort of think of my Colossus as I used to use a VCR, or as I used to burn DVDs with my old JVC DR-MX1S (hard disk-DVD-VHS combo). That is, to archive things for long term. Most stuff gets recorded, watched, and then deleted off the DVRs, but there are movies, concerts, specials and sports that I record to keep. And instead of going onto tape or DVD (as it used to years ago) now it goes onto hard disk storage, and, even better, it's in 1080i HD with digital surround sound.

I have a total of 9 tuners and 3 TBs of storage on my DirecTV DVRs, and the recorded programs are available whole-house. So I don't need my HTPCs to serve as conventional DVRs.
post #29 of 37
Yah that does sound really cool. For stuff I do want to keep I would much rather store it on my server with the rest of my media than keeping it on the dvr. I probably wouldn't use it enough to justify it though. Thanks for the info.
post #30 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

that is what I thought.... thanks. Now that I have switched to DirecTV (and the NFL Sunday Ticket) I cant imagine going back. It is not the cheapest option, but you get what you pay for in my opinion. Better than ATT Uverse (though I liked that service) and MILES AND MILES better than Time Warner.

You must be closer to the equator. Up here any kind of incliment weather causes pixelation in any of the sattelite feed. And we have incliment weather 7-8 months out of the year.
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