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post #1 of 4 Old 10-26-2017, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
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HTPC in 2017/2018 just starting out

Greetings,

I posted these a few days ago in the wrong section. Advice on the bolded part would be appreciated. Thank you.

I have been on AVSforum for some time but mainly reading and posting on TV selection. Now I am venturing into setting up a HTPC system. I am a movie buff and have a large DVD collection (about 1500) and a growing BlueRay collection. I have older equipment, Sony DVPCX995V 400 disk carousels that I have been using for years along with an Oppo 103 Darby unit. The Sony units have served as storage and organization (great product) but they are no longer made and the disk concept seems to be waning from home theaters. Two years ago I purchased a mac mini, late 2014 model to prepare as an HTPC using PLEX. It has Thunderbolt 2, HDMI and USB 3.0. This year I purchased an LG OLED 65CP TV, an LG UP970 4K blue ray player and a week ago a Pioneer Elite SC-501 receiver and AppleTV 4K.

I am now at planning for a DAS unit along with software and a drive to do the ripping of DVDs. It was recommended that I get a Thunderbay 4 RAID 5 edition purchased with the drives to get the warranty, RAID software and single channel issues resolved (It costs about $130 more to buy with drives). What else do I need to be able to rip and set this system up? I know a blue ray drive of some sort. What is recommended? What about ripping software compatible with my mini? I feel guilty having a computer sitting next to a tv for two years doing absolutely nothing and never getting this up and going!

Also, I would like to hear thoughts on this kind of setup versus future-proofing vs the streaming now proliferating the video market. I like streaming but I am not happy about the lack of choice in viewing options. I am also not a fan of subscriptions and ongoing monetary commitments for services. It seems that 15 years ago (or so) it was vogue to have nice speakers, receiver, dolby ... and other niceties but now in homes it is Apple TV and screen hung on the wall with no speakers, etc. Am I headed down an obsolete path?

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post #2 of 4 Old 10-27-2017, 02:25 PM
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Have you looked into UnRaid? I have been using it for about 10 years now for recording up to 4 1080 OTA TV Channels at the same time and almost always while watching a 5th prerecorded show.. I get about 50 channels currently so not much need for cable. In those years I have upgraded, added drives, replaced drives with bigger ones, moved all drives to a newly built server, have had a few Hard Drives die along the way which I replaced and rebuilt the data on the new drive all with no loss. You can now add software like Plex etc with dockers and VMs to the system and run it as a media server. I personally use my 2011 Mac Mini with EyeTV to record and play and use the UnRaid server just as a NAS. I schedule and record daily all new shows to a Cache drive (not protected by the parity drive in UnRaid) then at around 2am they get moved to the protected array while I sleep. That takes the load of the array for smooth playback and recording. Everyone's usage is different so it pays to do your research. I also use hard wired ethernet instead of WiFi since WiFi can be a bottle neck with that much data. I don't do much with paid services for streaming though I do have Amazon Prime for other reasons and a couple Firesticks, but find I can go to Red Box down the street and rent DVD or BLUE RAY much cheaper.. what I can't find there is either free with Prime or I can rent from them. I rarely upgrade anything to be on the bleeding edge. Still running OSX 10.8 on my Mini and UnRaid is up to 6.3.5 and moving to 6.4, I'm running 6.2.4. I only upgrade when I really have to.
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post #3 of 4 Old 10-27-2017, 07:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for your reply Russ One. I just purchased a storage device- a Thunderbay 4 RAID 5 enclosure with 16TB. I did not plan on that size but it was an open box for close to the price of the 8TB. I have much to learn.
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post #4 of 4 Old 10-30-2017, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
What else do I need to be able to rip and set this system up? I know a blue ray drive of some sort. What is recommended? What about ripping software compatible with my mini? I feel guilty having a computer sitting next to a tv for two years doing absolutely nothing and never getting this up and going!
Don't feel too guilty, there's no sense starting to rip all your content unless you've already figured out how you're going to use it and also have some place to put it. Now that you have some serious storage space you can dive in. Handbrake and MakeMKV have been the two essential Mac ripping tools for many years. Back when storage space was relatively expensive, there was real value in something like Handbrake so you could create smaller size versions of your rips, many many hours were spent figuring out just how to tweak Handbrake parameters to give you a file that would look good & play back on an iPad and also on your big screen by a Mini or Apple TV. It seemed like a dark art at times. But that was ages ago, storage is very inexpensive these days, even inexpensive years-old Macs are capable of playing back full size blu-ray rips and while I don't call on Handbrake much anymore it's really up to you to decide whether it's worth your time.

As far as software, just start ripping with MakeMKV. That'll give you a file with video quality equal to the disc which can easily be played back by Plex, XBMC-Kodi or by an app on your AppleTV. Then decide whether to create & store smaller size versions or just transcode on the fly when needed.

Here's a good intro to ripping tutorial:

https://www.macworld.com/article/317...handbrake.html

Any USB external blu ray drive should work just fine with your Mini. I have a slim Samsung portable drive bus powered by two USB ports and also an LG 5.25" internal desktop drive in an external USB enclosure. I think the larger issue for you will be one of process and ergonomics--if your Mini is next to your TV do you really want to be getting up and down to pop 1500 discs in and control that process remotely from across the room? If you don't have any other computers in the house you may want to set the Mini up as a desktop ripping station somewhere convenient, where you can sit at a desk or in a comfy chair, do other things and control the process more easily. It's going to take you a long time to rip your discs.

I have a 2011 Mini & aTV3 at one TV and a 2012 Mini & aTV4 at the other, but my blu-ray drives are usually connected to other Macs, a Mac Pro and a Macbook Pro. I just find it easier to rip and import stuff with them rather than the Minis.

Quote:
Also, I would like to hear thoughts on this kind of setup versus future-proofing vs the streaming now proliferating the video market. I like streaming but I am not happy about the lack of choice in viewing options. I am also not a fan of subscriptions and ongoing monetary commitments for services. It seems that 15 years ago (or so) it was vogue to have nice speakers, receiver, dolby ... and other niceties but now in homes it is Apple TV and screen hung on the wall with no speakers, etc. Am I headed down an obsolete path?
Good sound should never be obsolete, but it is up to you to prioritize it. Even in this high def high tech age full of iOS devices, streaming options and modern cord-cutting sensibilities there's still a lot to be said for maintaining a very traditional-seeming set up of audio separates at home--a good AVR, good speakers and a good subwoofer for 2 channel and multi-channel listening. Route everything through you AVR, you can still have the large flat screen on the wall and the best sound you can afford in your space.

As far as embracing streaming, let me give you a real world example of where streaming may end up being less expensive in the long run--you're a movie fan, you may like arty foreign movies, you may have a good number of Criterion titles in that 1500 dvd collection, Criterion starts releasing blu ray versions, do you want to replace all your older SD dvds with higher quality HD rips? Does owning a movie, whether on dvd or blu ray, mean as much to you today as it did 10 or 20 years ago? What if a streaming service like Filmstruck comes along where you could watch any Criterion title on your big screen via the Apple TV or on your iPad anytime you wanted to, many of them in new HD transfers? Filmstruck is $100 a year, which is roughly the same cost of buying 4 blu rays--which is the better value? Does knowing there's something like Filmstruck out there make you more or less interested in ripping your older Criterion dvds?

Everyone will have different answers and different approaches, the goal is to figure out what works for you.
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