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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Maybe a lot of you do this already, but over the weekend I put together a W2K server for the primary purpose of streaming HiPix datastreams. I learned a lot in the process and thought I would share my experience. First of all, I proved that HiPix streaming can be accomplished with a very minimal system. What got me started, was a sale this past weekend on the Maxtor 120Gb/5400rpm/ATA133 drive that comes with an ATA133 controller card. It was on sale at Fry's for about $130 with mail-in rebate. I threw this card and drive into a very cheap server that I had built based on spare parts. The machine is/was based on an old AMD K6-233 processor with a 4Gb IDE/33 drive, 256Mb memory, PCI video card (Diamond Stealth, 97 vintage), cheap 10/100 card, cheap CD player. Like I said, I paid nothing for this machine, save the new drive/controller card, and was built from spare parts I had laying around.


To my amazement, I was able to play back HiPix files from the server with absolutely no glitches. It played back perfect. I made a mapped drive of the Maxtor ATA133 drive that contains HiPix files and I played the networked files using the latest RC1 HiPix software on my HTPC. My HTPC that has the HiPix card is based on an Asus P2B-LS, running a Tualatin 1.3 Ghz processor. That machine is running XP, the server is running W2K.


The last time I tried this, was back in the early days of HiPix and I tried it with a very slow NetWare server. It was based on a P-83 and had a straight IDE drive (not even an ATA-33). With that experiment, it worked, but I would get severe stuttering interspersed with clean playback. Since then, network playback has been broken with HiPix on certain platforms (W2K) until I think the first AVScience Beta.


Well, the project at this point got ugly. After seeing the usefulness of a media server, I set out to build a cheap server based on current hardware. In the process, I wound up also building up a HTPC, which was an afterthought.


I started with finding a great case that was perfect for my needs. I found a Server case with 6 - 5-1/4" bays behind a door. In addition to the 6 bay's, it has one hidden 5-1/4" bay and another exposed bay for a CD/DVD player, for a total of 8 5-1/4" bays. It has one 3-1/2" bay for a floppy as well. The case has a 350 watt P4 power supply and is a mid-sized tower. The case even had wheels. I was able to get that case for $70 which I bartered for because it was the last one and a floor model. My goal is to load up the 5-1/4" bays with removable enclosure's I have standardized on for HiPix archiving. I use the In-Close removables as do many other HiPix users.


Remember, my goal was cheap at this point. I wasn't really thinking about a HTPC. I picked up a ECS K7S5A motherboard ($50) and a AMD Duron 1.3Ghz processor ($89 including heatsink). I picked this motherboard primarily because of the price and it allows for the older style 72pin memory that I had laying around, plus sockets for newer memory. The motherboard has a lot of bang-for-the buck. It has built-in IDE-100 ports, and the standard array of built-in ATX ports including analog audio and Lan. I am using the built-in 10/100 Ethernet port, which is nice that I could eliminate another card. This all worked fine, no real hitches installing W2K server on this machine.


Next, I realized that I had the basis for a HTPC as well as a server. I have a Princeton Graphics monitor/TV in another room. It is a 32", VGA monitor, capable of 800x600 and 1080i HD. I decided this was going to be where the server lives. So my next stop at Fry's was a DVD player and Video. Since cheap was the model, I found a $50 DVD player and I picked up a Radeon 7000 for $79. This also went without a hitch and DVD playback is working great too. For software, I got bundled with the ATI card, the ATI player. Bundled with the DVD player, came PowerDVD 3.0.


Somehow, I spaced out about the audio. This has been the only real problem I've had. I first tried the on-board analog audio. It was horrible. Even worse than I could have imagined. I already had digital in this room, so I set out to find a sound card with digital passthrough. I had previously bought a cheap $200 receiver that does DD and DTS. Amazing, how cheap this stuff is now.


I haven't had much luck. Since I wanted optical, I bought a Hercules Fortissmo II card. This card is cheap $49 and has optical connectors. It also claims DD/DTS passthrough and support for 98/me/W2K/XP. Well, bottom line is it didn't work for W2K and I took it back (nice to be able to "rent" computer parts at Fry's ).


The other "cheap" card I've been eying is the Zoltex Nightingale. People seem to be having luck with it. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get "instant" gratification and was unable to find it at any local store. So time for plan B. Here's where I blew my budget. I wound up buying the M-audio Audiophile 24/96 bundled with TheaterTek player for $209 from DigitalConnection. My plan is to swap out the SB-Live/Hoontech combo out of my main HTPC and put the m-audio card in it. I shouldn't have any problem with it and XP, right? Then I'll put the SB-Live w/ Hoontech into the Server machine. I've already proven that this hardware will pass DD and DTS under W2K, although it was very, very painful getting it to work under W2K. I know the tricks now though.


Lessons I've learned.


(1) It's not worth the time or money to resurrect an older AT-style motherboard. It's hard to find parts - cases, no AGP, onboard ports, memory, etc. Motherboards are so cheap and loaded with stuff, it's ridiculous. Plus, it's tough finding drivers and support for old hardware with the newer OS's.


(2) It probably would pay to get a motherboard with on-board digital out. I didn't have a HTPC in mind when I bought mine, but if I did, I would have considered it.


(3) Read the Faq in this forum on recommended equipment. I consulted that Faq often along the way.


(4) The bottleneck for streaming HiPix video appears to be transfer speed from the drive/controller on the server, not server CPU speed, network speed, etc.


Chris
 

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Nice, thorough writeup!


The Zoltrix Nightengale is not sold at many stores online and I've never heard of a brick and mortar store that carries it.


At first when I read it quick, I thought you meant you were playing back HDTV on a K6-233. I was shocked and reread :)


As for using the onboard digital sound, this isn't an extremely popular option. I'm one to talk, because I use with my nForce, but it is not that common. I've seen a few posts this week with people having trouble getting onboard sound on Asus and Iwill motherboards working. They are also possible shortcomings in the quality of them and how much jitter they give. Again, I'm one to talk because part of the audio cable I use is a torn-up jumper block soldered together with some resistors and wrapped in old electrical tape.


Something like the Zoltrix card gives you a lot of input choices for ~$50, which isn't a bad deal. While you might have spent a lot on that M-Audio, you can be secure in knowing you've got a good digital as well as analog card. You also got a $70 value in the TheaterTek player...
 

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Hi Chris. Thank you for the detailed account. May I ask a couple of questions?


Did you have any difficulty putting the Maxtor ATA133 card on the K7S5A? I added the controller to the K7S5A that I have been goofing around with, but the drives on the controller card do not get recognized at startup. The Bios gives a message like "ATA133 card searching for drives", but it does not find them. I wonder if a BIOS update would help. (?)


BTW, the MaxBlast software indicates that there were drives detected, but it would not format them, giving only the choice of primary and secondary IDE, not the PCI controller card.


Thanks for any help you can provide.


A couple more questions. Have you tried multiple drives? Were they all configured as masters? I tried playing ripped DVDs off of slave drives, but the playback was jerky. When I switched the drives to masters, the playback was smooth.
 

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I too built a budget minded HiPix server.


Here is what I used.


Tyan mainboard with Intel 815 chipset w/ onboard video $70

700 Mhz CPU (dug out of the trash at work) $0

4- 120 Gb Western digital $175 each

C-net 10/100 network card $9

256 Mb PC133 Ram $35

Junk desktop case with cracked front w/300 Watt power supply $35

Adaptec PCI SCSI card & Teac SCSI CD Rom (dug out of trash at work) $0


Ability to watch 2 recorded programs HD programs at one time PRICELESS….
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Jeffrey,

Quote:
Did you have any difficulty putting the Maxtor ATA133 card on the K7S5A? I added the controller to the K7S5A that I have been goofing around with, but the drives on the controller card do not get recognized at startup. The Bios gives a message like "ATA133 card searching for drives", but it does not find them. I wonder if a BIOS update would help. (?)
I didn't have any problem with this at all. The card detects the drive. I currently only have one drive connected to the ATA133 controller. It is the one that came bundled and it is on the primary IDE controller. The Bios of my card also gives that message - "ATA133 card searching for drives", but it finds the one drive right away. My boot drive and DVD player are on the K7S5A onboard controllers.

Quote:
BTW, the MaxBlast software indicates that there were drives detected, but it would not format them, giving only the choice of primary and secondary IDE, not the PCI controller card.
I didn't have this problem with either of the motherboards I tried the controller card in.


MikeEby,

Quote:
Ability to watch 2 recorded programs HD programs at one time PRICELESS….
That is the logical next step - to buy another HiPix card for my server/HTPC. I'm curious if you've tried this scenario? Play back a recorded program from the server to a client machine with a HiPix card via the network. At the same time, play back on the Server or a second machine with a HiPix card, a different program? I don't know how beefy the media server needs to be to serve multiple HiPix clients. Perhaps it would be sufficient if the files were on separate controllers.


Chris
 

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I took advantage of the same deal as cpete, but haven't gone as far yet in building a standalone server.


Jeffrey:


I did have trouble getting the Maxtor drive to format on the ATA 133 controller with MaxBlast II software at first. I was trying to do it from a boot floppy that MB2 created. In the process of futzing, I burned a new floppy, rebooted, and suddenly all was fine.


I don't remember which floppy was burned from the CD and which floppy was burned from the files at Maxtor's website. (I think the working one ws from the website image.) I thought I had just used a bad floppy diskette, but since you had the problem, too, maybe it was the CD image (assuming I've kept my floppy versions straight.)


So, what I'd suggest is to try downloading MaxBlast II from Maxtor.com, and burn another floppy.


MikeEby:


How do you watch two HiPixes at once? Two cards in two machines besides the server? (I'm assuming you have two different displays, yes? And congratulations on your superior ability to attend simultaneously to both displays with one eye each!)


Also, what OS on each pc?


-yogaman
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by yogaman


How do you watch two HiPixes at once? Two cards in two machines besides the server? (I'm assuming you have two different displays, yes? And congratulations on your superior ability to attend simultaneously to both displays with one eye each!)


Also, what OS on each pc?


-yogaman


Workstation - Win2k (HiPix Development Machine) P4 1.5 Ghz w/Hipix

HTPC - XP Pro (Theater) P3/833 Mhz w/Hipix

Server - Win2K server in workgroup mode. no/Hipix


I seldom do this but it’s nice to know I could. I did leave it run for about 10 hours playing the same program on each Hipix and it didn't miss a beat. The network switch was working its butt off.


JoeQ has done recording and playback via network at the same time however I have not tried this but I don't see why it wouldn't work. It can give you ability to pause live HD. Just start recording on the first machine then watch on the second machine from the recorded folder on the network. Just be sure you use the RC1 drivers and app. They are optimized for network functionality.


Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Regarding install problems with MaxBlast. I forgot that I downloaded the latest version from Maxtor's site. I was forewarned by a friend that the 1.0 version that is included in the retail box is buggy.


As another aside, I find the Maxtor's install to be better than the Western Digital install. The Maxtor's let's you copy NTFS files systems as well as FAT32 and FAT. Western Digital's doesn't allow you to copy NTFS.


Chris
 

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Thanks for all of the tips re: Maxblast. I will download the most recent and give it another try.
 
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