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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Last night I had a dream!


This is what I dreamt:-


I got a cheap motherboard and a Celeron 1GHz processor. Then I got EIGHT of the new Maxtor 160GB Hard Drives (which go for around $300 each). Each of these drives also comes with a PC/133 controller card that can support 4 IDE devices.


Now I used just two of these cards (the other six cards were dumped) and I hooked up the eight 160GB drives to these two controllers. Then I got a cheap 20GB drive which was hooked up as a boot drive to the on-board IDE controller.


Then I installed NT Server and configured the eight drives as one RAID 5 array. So the capacity of this one large virtual drive was 1.1TB!!! (160MBx7). And since it was RAID 5, the data would never be lost even if a drive died!


This was my server. What did I do on this server? I stuffed it with DVDs using SmartRipper. At an average DVD capacity of 7GB this server could hold 160 movies!


Then I make 3-4 home theatre PCs. Each has Radeon LE card, etc and were hooked up to the server.


So for about $5000 I got 3-4 home theatre PCs all having access to these DVDs from anywhere in the house! And all could view the same DVD at the same time!


Then I ran out of space and so I built me another TeraByte Server…


So is this possible????


Can my dream come true?
 

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Yes, sure it is true, but now for the down side. Your whole system is based on a single Celeron 1 GHz. Feeding video to 4 htpcs is going to have lots of network contention. So do you now have to set up 4 network paths (I nic for each HTPC). So the obvious is to have 2 or more CPU's, except that isn't true either since adding a CPU doesn't increase performance on a 1 to 1 level because of bus conflicts. I would guess the performance would be closer to 1 + (n-1)/n, 2 cpus = 1.5 x , 4 cpus 1.75, etc.

Now you are way outside of your $5000 - closer to $15000.


This is not a very economic solution in my mind. While 160 DVDs at an average of $20 is $3200, I would doubt that want of having the same DVD played simultaneously on multiple HTPCs is all that common. For the $5000 you would be better off buying those DVDs that would be multiplay in duplicate.


I have not looked into it, but a firewire DVD changer might also have some merit.
 

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Or...just build 1-2 HTPC's and have it/them output to a digital RF Modulator then you could have your DVD's played on an unused channel(s) fed to all your tv's. Your would save ALOT of money.


Personally, I would wait a few months, Buy a DVD burner, and not worry about all the other junk. Being first is always a bad and costly idea!!


But overall, I give your dream a 10 for creativeness.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The purpose to build the server is not to copy DVDs. I already have more than 300 DVDs and I like my DVD collection. And as already mentioned it would NOT be cost effective!


I keep my DVDs locked away and safe. My wife and my kids are always after them. They misplace them, they scratch them, you name it.


So my idea was to put most of them on the server and so the main purpose for this is convenience and the “cool factorâ€. Not to mention many other advantages, like no spinning DVD noises!


So that is the reason. Now let’s address the technical hurdles.


If a Celeron 1GHz is too weak, I could get a Dual Socket 370 board and stick in two Pentium III’s.


As for a RAID controller, that would be out of the question. The price would skyrocket. Not only would you have to pay for the SCSI RAID controller itself, but the equivalent SCSI hard drive, the 180GB Seagate Barracuda is like FIVE times the price of the Maxtor 160GB IDE! So it’s gotta be IDE! Will it be a problem to run SIX IDE channels instead of the usual TWO?


As for Network bandwidth, from what I understand the max rate for DVD is 10Mbits/sec. So even if all four PCs demand DVD, that would be a maximum of 40Mbits/sec and that is will under the 100MB limit of standard Ethernet 10/100. Right?


The DVD changer is a good suggestion but won’t permit 4 different DVDs to be viewed at the same time.


Any comments?
 

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well, if it an absolute necessity, then how about copy before play. Rather than "playing" the DVD from the server, you first copy the entire DVD to the local HTPC. The hardware you describe then may be sufficient. You might be able to devise some "menuing" system that does the actual coping. I doubt that you would want direct access by the kiddies since they may "Move" the file instead of copy and also avoid the dreaded overwrite. I don't see much use for RAID in this scenario either, since it a basic write once, read often pattern.
 

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I don't understand the write once read many comment not compatible with RAID. One feature of RAID is distributing reading across multiple drives so speeds things up.


RAID applications are more difficult with lots of writing.


I also think you should move the file before watching. You should have part of the menu system a copy file from DVD server to local machine. Watch movie from local server then delete if you want.


If you use 100 mbps switch then you get 100 mbps bandwidth between any two machines. Since you would be using a DVD server then this will be your bottleneck.


-Jym
 

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Leica Man,


For the last year, I have operated something very close to what you had dreamt about.


My setup is based on Asus P2B-D motherboard with dual P3 500MHz, FSB 100MHz. As memory was getting cheap, the server is now using 1GB SDRAM.


I use Lion-Li PC61 black aluminum case that can house 12 devices, with the dual fans conveniently placed in front of array of disk drives.


Over the last year I ended up with six DiamondMax 80 drives and 2 removable bays. As the disks are getting full, I will be looking in replacing some of them with the new 160GB drives. Disks are connected using Promise FastTrack100 controller and on-board ATA33. DVD streaming is at such a low rate that I have played 2 movies simultaneously from the same drive without any noticeable degradation. Drives spin down when not in use, which saves on heat, electricity and extends their life.


OS is W2K Advance server. Machine is always on.


Apart from movies the server is acting as internet router (DHCP server) and firewall, fax server, it has some limited connection with Panasonic PBX. Ultimately I would like to use it for house security and other control function. It is connected to permanent ADSL internet connection (of a NATed variety so it cannot be addressed directly, i.e. no real IP address).


re: Playing of DVD's


I have notices a while ago that networking speed of a W98 client machine is much less smooth than a client under W2K Pro. When using W98 DVD playing was choppy. That can be improved with some tweaking of networking parameters, but never to my full satisfaction so my main HTPC runs W2K.


It was only with the arrival of PowerDVD XP that most of annoying problems with playing VOB files were resolved.


You can now have SPDIF pass thru under W2K and DeltaDio soundcards. Aspect ratio of the original picture is properly interpreted, and PQ is excellent.


I usually transfer DVD using SmartRipper, splitting the movies into chapters. In this way next chapter command skips nicely to the next logical chapter. This results in the larger number of smaller files and PowerDVD XP has a slight break on jumping to next file but I can live with that for the time.
 

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The main feature of RAID is failure protection. In RAID-5, if one of the drives fail, you can hot swap it for a new drive, and the RAID-5 system will fix the problem by restoring the bad drive (no reloading of data.) This is used for high reliability servers where 0 down time is essential. I doubt that it would be of much use in a home. If every time you wanted to view a DVD, you copy it from the server to the HTPC, you are only writing to the server when you first place the image of the DVD. There is a much lower chance of failure in this case.


Perhaps RAID-0 (zero) is more appropriate, basically hard disk mirroring. If one drive fails, the mirror is used until the primary is repaired.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Leica Man


Then I installed NT Server and configured the eight drives as one RAID 5 array. So the capacity of this one large virtual drive was 1.1TB!!! (160MBx7). And since it was RAID 5, the data would never be lost even if a drive died!
Hi Leica Man and all,


I must be confused about RAID 5. How is it that you would have 1.1TB!!! (160MBx7) of data capacity (only using 1 of the drives for RAID reduncancy? I always thought that every drive was duplicated leaving only 4 X 160MB of available data space. What am I missing?


Thanks,

Kirby
 

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RAID 0 is striping, you one big drive equal to the total of all you physical drives, it has no fault tolerance.


RAID 1 is mirroring, all of your data is written on two separate drives for fault tolerance, you loose half your space for fault tolerance.


RAID 5 is striping with parity, your data with parity is distributed across all the drives, you loose one drives worth of space for fault tolerance.


All RAID levels except RAID 0 protects you against a physical drive failure. They do not protect against overwriting or corrupting data.


I'm not sure any of the IDE RAID products allow you to hot swap (replace a failed drive while the system remains running). Most SCSI RAID products provide hot swap.


Rob
 

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Make it easier on yourself, then ripping all the DVD's. Just buy the 200 disc DVD player that runs over firewire...there was a thread where Kei had it up and running no problem. they even have a version with 2 built in DVD drives.


That way you could not only have the DVD available (and they are able to daisy chain also) but also can access DVDDB for info on each of those movies.


A new toy as well!
 

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Quote:
Make it easier on yourself, then ripping all the DVD's. Just buy the 200 disc DVD player that runs over firewire...there was a thread where Kei had it up and running no problem. they even have a version with 2 built in DVD drives.
I looked into this unit (Called Power Play) and found out it cannot stream DVD to a PC network! With the option above I believe you can stream over a home network.


Chuck
 

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I'm building a similar system with 80GB drives and RAID0. However, I'm also converting my dvds to DIVX/AC3-DTS so the server will hold three times as many dvds. Now, If that Tirco stuff got released, I could control everything from my little LCD screen.
 

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For _ALOT_ less money you could just get one

of the DVD jukebox/changers that hold a whole

bunch of DVD movies.


I have heard alot of horror stories from people

who configured RAID and then it didn't work

properly when one of their drives died.


I still keep my movies on seperate non RAID

drives. At least if one drive fails I only

loose that one and not a whole RAID

array worth of data.


Maybe alot of RAID systems work as advertised,

but I think there are alot of bad RAID

implementations being sold out there.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Jym
I don't understand the write once read many comment not compatible with RAID. One feature of RAID is distributing reading across multiple drives so speeds things up.


RAID applications are more difficult with lots of writing.


-Jym
Jym


Just a note. RAID 5 does speed things up a bit on the read. But on the write it is very slow. Simply because it has to write the data AND the parity information. The ideal situation would be a RAID 10 (or sometime called 0+1) where you create a stripe set and then mirror that set so you have failover. RAID 0 is the fastest Read write capable. Raid 1 is pretty fast but not as quick as RAID 0.

Quote:
Originally posted by Rliest
I'm not sure any of the IDE RAID products allow you to hot swap (replace a failed drive while the system remains running). Most SCSI RAID products provide hot swap.
Rliest


That is an incorrect statment. The only way a SCSI Raid controller provides hot swap capabilites is IF the hardware where the drive conencts to can provide the 5 VDC needed to start the hard drive first. If you don't believe me try and plug in a normal SCSI drive on the chain without rebooting. It will not come up. That is why if you notice most hard drive that do support hot swap they are on a 1.) a tray of some sort 2.) have an SCA connector in the back.



Quote:
Originally posted by Lieca Man
.....I hooked up the eight 160GB drives to these two controllers. Then I got a cheap 20GB drive which was hooked up as a boot drive to the on-board IDE controller.
There is one slight problem here. With that many hard drives you NEED at least a 500+ watt power supply if not more. And then you would need to stagger there spin up time. Other wise you WILL fry the powersupply on start up. SCSI supports 5 second interval start up. IDE does not.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by PVR
For _ALOT_ less money you could just get one

of the DVD jukebox/changers that hold a whole

bunch of DVD movies.
Hmmm...Let's see... buy 200 DVD's X $25 = $5000

Or ...Rent 200 DVD's X $3 = $600


$4400 difference (pays for 12 or so 160 gig drives at ~350/each)


Watch the DVD's once or twice and then delete them and blow them all out for new....


Other than the illegalities, this appears to be an excellent dream!


...Kirby
 

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Some comments:


1. Not sure about others' comments about network bottlenecks. I have sucessfully played DVDs (three separate movies) from one 'server' machine to three separate machines on the network without any stutter issues whatsoever. The only time I saw a throughput problem is if I put a player in FFWD mode.


2. Other than fault tolerance, what is gained by RAID? I understand you get all the storage in one logical drive, but is this necessary. If you're looking for speed, refer to #1 above. All 3 movies played from the same drive (no raid involved)! Yes, the drive keeps busy, but it also keeps up. And if you're concerned of fault tolerance, you can always re-rip your movies if a HD dies...


I definitely agree on needing either Win2K or WinXP (or something else entirely) to pull this off, though. Win98 network support is sub-par.


Jon
 

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Hardware issues aside on how to best configure the drives (to RAID or not to RAID), I would suggest running Linux with Samba as your DVD file server.


Linux will be stable, readily supports multiple NICs for added throughput, and the network access overhead of accessing an SMB share on Samba vs NT/2K is much lower. Also, in a non-raid configuration, you could have multiple drives, and with the way you mount drives to the directory structure (not as physical drive letters) so you could have 1 visible shared drive, with subdirectories underneath - each subdir could/would be a separate physical drive. The dirs could be by genre, etc...


I personally run a linux/samba file server at home and wouldn't go back to having my commonly used files on a win32 based machine....


The client OS, OTOH, definately would use 2k/xp to watch the movies from...


cheers,


Rich
 
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