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HTPC and setup questions

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
So I recently scrapped my beginnings of my original HTPC setup I had running off my Dell 435MT desktop that was running Windows Media Center. I could never quite get it running the way I wanted with Media Browser.

Anyway now I picked up a Dell Optiplex 960 SFF:

2.8GHz C2D (I think off the top of my head)

4GB of RAM (could still add another 4 for overkill)

added a Sapphire 1GB 64bit Sapphire HD6450

Samsung 840 250GB SSD replaced the 750GB drive it had.

broken DVD/RW drive that I plan on replacing with something like the Panasonic UJ240

I also have a PS3 hooked up to the network as well can be used as blu-ray too obviously.

I moved the 750GB drive that came with the Optiplex to the 435MT so the MT now has 1.5TB of space but will mainly be used for light gaming and extra backup space.

I also have 2x 2TB WD Red drives but no enclosure yet. I am looking for something I can use as a NAS for them to ultimately transfer my 200 - 250 DVD's to network storage. About 40 of these discs are TV series (about 5 discs per show or season)

I'm looking at trying out Plex or something else. Possibly XBMC but only have experience with that from the Xbox1 as a dashboard.

So this is as much detail as I can think of about my setup here are the questions.

1. I don't want to keep the 435MT on all the time so that is why I was looking the NAS option as opposed to a RAID enclosure. Is the new Shuttle or other 2 or 4 bay options ok? Not looking to spend an arm and a leg.

2. Plex? Windows Media Center again? give XBMC a new try?

3. I want to be able to stream from pretty much anything if need be, even remotely. No Apple products in the house. Windows and Android

4. Format for backing up my collection? I started just raw with VOB folders and that had the best compatibility with Media Browser sort of. This cause me to run out of space quickly. I only need 5.1 DD or DTS and am running to a 1080p Panasonic plasma. for the largest screen it will be played on. 4TB dedicated strictly for movies and maybe 32 to 64GB for music and photos.

Sorry for such a long post but I wanted to make sure I got as much data in the initial post and question as I could. Thank you!
post #2 of 5
I'm not hardware expert by any means. But overall, sounds like the Dell should work for your needs. The only concern I can think of is if you choose to use Media Center and have yrour DVR recording on the machine. That SSD is really small for that kind of operation. I've read having the recordings done an NAS can be problematic with Media Center; it can be done, but it's beyond my knowledge since I've never needed to do it.

I can address some of your other questions better though. First, for your movie and TV show collection, I would suggests using MKV. One, the file size is smaller and can be much smaller depending on bit rates used and resolution. You will loose all the disc menus. Special features have to be rip separately and there may not be metadata on the internet for them; you may be able to create your own. It's also very popular and more and more devices can play the container. I believe it may be MediaBrowser friendly; I'm not familiar with Media Browser beyond what I've read other people say about it.

As for media suite, why not try them all. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses. From what you said, Plex may be your best fit. I use it and have been for on and off for two plus years. It will allow you to stream to anything with a front end client at home or away (assuming both ends have an internet connection). There are clients for Roku, PC, Android, iOS, some TVs/BR players. They even have a web based player; it's still in beta, so it has limits, but does work. It's pretty easy to setup. It doesn't have any live TV or DVR functions; at least not yet. There was one live TV channel, but it was earlier alpha and the developer may have quite the project. But Plex will play Media Center DVR files (wrt), but no metadata; just gives the file name.

XBMC may be more good one stop solution. Not much different on the user experience for local media. It does support HD audio better. They are working on streaming away from home. The Android app is still in beta, but seems to be getting positive feedback from what I've read. There is a Plex channel to use the Plex Media Server. This could let you use both to fulfill different needs and wants. I haven't used XBMC in over a year, and there have been a few changes. More recently they added a live TV and DVR functionality. Doesn't support cablecards or copyonce DVR flagged recording or playback.

Since you're using Media Center, I don't have explain it much. I feel for live TV and DVR functions, it's the easier PC solution available. It's also one of the only that supports cablecards and QAM (encrytped) channels, and copyonce flags. There are some third apps that can give the ability to stream away from home, such as Hot Potato. I've haven't used them, so I can speak of how well they work or setup ease. There are plenty of mods too. If you use Media Extender, you use that for copyonce flag recording viewings away from the HTPC.

On the same note, you may want to keep your eye on the upcoming Silocondust's HDHomerun (HDHR4). They're adding DNLA and hardware transcoding. They've released a firmware update on the HDHR3CC, but limited devices support at the moment. Silicondust said they will be releasing apps for the HDHR4 too; I believe Android was mentioned.

I really can't say much on music photos. I either use a mobile device or just the web browser. I know Plex, XBMC, and Media Center all support them. I don't know the formats they support, but you can look them up. For music, I've use media center and Plex. They didn't get any different experience that what I can now on a mobile device. I just find the mobile device more convenient. Photos, I just connect the camera or mobile device directly to the TV.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info. I'm not planning on using it for DVR purposes just yet since I will need to do a bit more research on how to properly get that set up through CableCard and internal low profile or external tuner. As for when that time comes the hard drive space won't be an issue for recordings because I have some other drives I can use as external DVR space.

It seems my main issue is going to be getting the front end set up and running the way others in the house have an easy time running it. The other bigest problem I had before was Media Browser never seemed to get the metadata and cover art correctly or it would always break and not show anything at all.
post #4 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodles3 View Post

Thanks for the info. I'm not planning on using it for DVR purposes just yet since I will need to do a bit more research on how to properly get that set up through CableCard and internal low profile or external tuner. As for when that time comes the hard drive space won't be an issue for recordings because I have some other drives I can use as external DVR space.

It seems my main issue is going to be getting the front end set up and running the way others in the house have an easy time running it. The other bigest problem I had before was Media Browser never seemed to get the metadata and cover art correctly or it would always break and not show anything at all.
If you want to use a cablecard setup then WMC is your only option.

1. Look for a NAS with some kind of parity solution. Losing 2TB+ of movies/shows really sucks.

2. XBMC is great but you are stuck with WMC.

3,4. Someone else will have to answer this. Sorry, I don't care for transcoding. I will mention that your cpu is probably not powerful enough for blu-ray transcoding.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by macks View Post

If you want to use a cablecard setup then WMC is your only option.

1. Look for a NAS with some kind of parity solution. Losing 2TB+ of movies/shows really sucks.

2. XBMC is great but you are stuck with WMC.

3,4. Someone else will have to answer this. Sorry, I don't care for transcoding. I will mention that your cpu is probably not powerful enough for blu-ray transcoding.

Looks like I'll be revisiting WMC and Media Browser again. it's been over a year since I have used MediaBrowser and it looks like they have made some improvements to it. I don't have too many blu-ray movies at the moment so that shouldn't be a huge issue. If I need more horsepower I can always use the 435MT that has 8GB of RAM and a Core i7

Ultimately I'm trying to cut a chunk out of my cable bill as well as freeing up space in the house by putting all my movies into storage.
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