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Popcorn or Sage -- General Advice

9678 Views 58 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  TheShadowWRX
Hello Everyone,

I'm about to install a whole home audio video system and wanted to get some input on the best way to execute it. I have an old computer that I am going to convert to a media server, if it is up to snuff. I need to rip it apart and check out the components and then I'll post my findings.

I want to store all of my media files and have them accessable in any room via cat5. I'm having 4 drops put into each room (two for hdmi balun, one for internet, one for media extender) and want to figure out the most complete setup. I will need 4 extenders and really want to have a DVD and TV show page where you see all of the cover art, select a movie or show, and it gives you a blurb about it - from IMDB i'd presume.

Can anyone recommend the best extender for this and what type of software would be best for the server?

The reason I brought up the Sage vs Popcorn in the title is because I'm considering putting a few TV tuners into the server and I know SageTV supports that.

Sorry this is a bit scatterbrained but I could use any/all guidance.


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These devices have very similar features and limitations. The only major difference is "look and feel", and that's entirely subjective. I suggest you google some reviews of both devices and see if the menus are aesthetically pleasing to you, since 90% of your actual use of the box will entail using them to find your media. I've given up on streamer boxes entirely in favor of a true HTPC setup, since no streamer can effeciently navigate large collections as well as XBMC.

But that's my deal. Your needs and preferences may vary. Nobody can quantitatively say which is better, so only you can figure out which one you're going to like.
The support for the DVR aspect seems to be built well into the sage solution and not as well integrated with the PCH even though the extenders/media players use the same hardware... I own a PCH and a bunch of devices running XBMC but I get my TV fix from 4 dual tuner directv HD-DVR's (2 of which have 1TB). Sage seems to be a good choice for those wanting to roll their own DVR's....

BTW: To get started almost any POS will work as a server. I served DVD's over my LAN for my 1st year to 2 clients using a 600Mhz laptop with a USB 2.0 external drive hanging off it running windows 2000. worked like a champ... unless you want to do something more (like encode/trancode video) and ole POS will work. I will warn you that you can spend a lot of time ripping all your audio and video and having some sort of backup strategy and good raid5 or better storage gets pretty important as time goes on.... I keep a couple hundred movies online at any given time. but I have spent ridiculous amounts of time ripping all my cd's (many mant months) and would hate to lose my audio or my pics.... DVD's... no biggie... but I listen to music constantly... much more than I watch movies.....

having a house fully wired is a wonderful benefit. both my houses are wired for Gige in pretty much every room. The newer house I pulle 2 x GIG-e for every drop. If I would have built it new I would do what you are doing for HDMI.

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DVR doens't have to be possible, I download most shows for my library and each room has a cable box that can dvr shows. I'm much more interested in having an efficient menu system for all of my movies and tv shows. I would love it if I could scroll through it with coverart - kind of like the verizon fios boxes on demand - or just see a movie list and you can click on it and get more info.

If I were to build one myself, could I install some sort of linux build solely for media streaming? I don't really want to but a hard drive in each unit nor a fan - these will be in bedrooms after all.


EDIT: Should I do more than just Cat5 drops in each room?
There are plenty of inexpensive solutions that work... some people think YAMJ is great some think its OK but that works...(me)

you can see if you like the PCH GUI by downloading YAMJ and setting it up. It just builds web pages which you can open in your browser to simulate what you would get on your screen..

If thats not cool enough then you want an HTPC or XMBC device....

It really depends whats important to you.... more info would help...

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I would pull some good ole RG-6 and maybe consider something additional for whole house audio but I never looked into thtat...

there are a variety of SLIM linux's made specially to be file servers...

some free like FreeNAS

others are commercial like unraid...


some only run on proprietary hardware.....

Lots of choices. you can use MAC OS, Windows, etc.... Choices on this stuff is pretty much endless....
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I don't really want an HTPC setup in each room. I will have one in the living room though. All I really want is an easy to navigate system that losts all my movies and shows, displays the coverart, and some info about the video. I want this to be as user friendly and inntuative as possible as the GF and her friends will have to use it as well. I don't really want to walk people through using this every other day. What other info can I give you to help me come to the best sollution?

Thabks again.


Originally Posted by TheShadowWRX /forum/post/16899687

What other info can I give you to help me come to the best sollution?

Any NMT device (popcorn hour, Egreat M34a, etc) is going to have the most browsing / display options, just because they've been around a while and have many 3rd party developers. Their interfaces are also notoriously slow, so that may be a turn-off though.

I've explored all the options fairly vigorously, and there isn't really a "best" device for everybody. These forums would be very quiet if there were
. Instead you have to decide which device's limitations bother you the least. As I was also looking for a device with a simple interface that supported artwork, plot and cast info, I ruled out all the currently available streamers as insufficient. XBMC on an HTPC was the only solution that met my needs.

Take sean_w_smith's advise and try out YAMJ on your PC and see if you can live with it. The Popcorn Hour C200 is shipping soon, and hopefully the more robust processor in that device will eliminate some of the UI sluggishness that NMT devices tend to suffer. If so, that may be the solution for you.
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Aside from trying out YAMJ on your PC, have you tried out Sage Media Center to get a feel for that UI?

My current setup:

-HP MediaSmart Server running WHS (8TB). All media is stored and served from here

- 2 HTPCs (family room and bedroom) running W7 x64. A use a mix of Windows Media Center and SageTV

- 1 Popcornhour (currently having hardware problems) and 1 SageTV HD200.

- AppleTV collecting dust

- Xbox360/PS3 used soleyl for game play and BR playback (PS3)

- All devices connected via Cat5e/Cat6.

Big drawback (at least for me) with the HD200 is that it does not support DTS downmix, so if you have movies with only HD Audio and it is not conencted to a receiver that can decode you will get no audio (my way around this is to make sure the movie also have a non HD audio track to switch too). If you are serious about TV Tuners and having a whole house setup then SageTV is most likely a good fit. One additional thing SageTV does is that it can play a dvd/blu ray that is in the Server Rom Drive from any HD200 in the house. I don't think there is a perfect media player out there yet (IMO), and right now I still prefer dedicated HTPCs, but I think we are getting closer.

Here are a few articles I have written and some other resources:

HD200 Setup

SageMovieWall Setup - I have been testing out the next version and will post updated screenshots once it is public, but it looks great so far.

Geektonic - excellent resource for SageTV
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This is what the default YAMJ looks like at my house:

It is being played through the HDX-1000, which is very similar to the Popcorn Hour PCH-110 or other NMT (networked media tank), but it is fanless and has an aluminum case. When you click on each movie, it will display the cover art and information on the film. As long as the file name is correct, it will pull this automatically from IMDB (and other databases for TV shows). For this setup, you would need an NMT in each room and a single run of CAT5e. It will stream HD video over a 100 bit network. Also, unlike candre23, I don't think that the interface is that slow.

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Speed and how well u like the interface is all a personal choice and statement of experience.... most folks who have owned or used some device running XBMC or MCE tend to think the interface is slow, crude and lacks flexibility. If your coming from the stock interface on an NMT or a PS3 then its the greatest thing since sliced bread....

I really like the HDX unit that was posted above. Is that just xmbc running on a linux build? I wouldn't mind building these units myself, never built anything with a MicroATX setup before.

Are there any threads or posts to help me learn the server setup process and what software I need to run?

I'm not trying to sound like a total noob, just never had the need to research a media streamer before....


Originally Posted by TheShadowWRX /forum/post/16901778

I really like the HDX unit that was posted above. Is that just xmbc running on a linux build? I wouldn't mind building these units myself, never built anything with a MicroATX setup before.

Are there any threads or posts to help me learn the server setup process and what software I need to run?

I'm not trying to sound like a total noob, just never had the need to research a media streamer before....


Here is a good thread that I follow for building an HTPC/Server ( http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...2#post14239742 ). I am following the Home Media Server for my build. Keep in mind for a server, you can get a prebuilt like the HP MediaSmart Server (which I own) or the Acer Easystore, both of which run WHS.
I have a P4 3.4ghz computer I am going to use, just need to get some ram and 8tb or so have HDD space.

Originally Posted by TheShadowWRX /forum/post/16901878

I have a P4 3.4ghz computer I am going to use, just need to get some ram and 8tb or so have HDD space.

If you use WHS with your P4 then you would be using JBOD, which would allow you to mix and match HDD sizes. You would then enable duplication which would help protect your data in the event of a HDD failure. WHS will also allow for nightly pc backups, remote access, etc... I have RAID 0 set up for my desktop pc but have not tried using a RAID setup for a server.
WHS being Windows Home Server I presume?

I am probably going to do a Raid5 setup for speed and backup reasons.

As far as menus go, I really like the one that was posted in this thread as well as the Media Browser one ( http://www.mediabrowser.tv/ ). Can I run any of this on the Popcorn or SageTV? I'm thinking building my own might be the way to go, but then I have to deal with what software to run.

Ugh, usually many options is a good thing but this is going to make my head explode.

Is there any sort of windows media extender software I could run? I really don't want to have a harddrive in these devices if I don't have to...

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media browser is for PC not NMT.... The fancy GUI they show there is much more similar to XBMC than it is to YAMJ.

try the YAMJ like we suggested and see if you like it. If you do NMT's are a good solution.... If not start looking for these new ION based PC's.....


you dont need to have HD's in these devices...

NMT's run fine without hard drives...

HTPC can run XBMC live (using a USB Stick as a HD). it boots straight into XBMC via linux just by plugging the USB drive in the usb port. There is no HD.

Again there are lots of options do some reading and
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windows media center extenders depending on a windows media center server which needs to be hacked/extended to support DVD playback etc....

thats yet another route.....

I'd rather not go the windows route, I'd perfer to go with a linux build specifically for this type of stuff.

I defintaely have a ton of reading to do, just not a lot of time to do it in...

I'll probably do a whs for the file system stuff and have xmbc or something for the playback in every room.

WHS has some advantages is you need to run server side software but its raid support is poor. It does raid 1 so you if you have 8x1TB drives you end end up with 4TB net. if more than one drive fails the other drives are still good.

With Raid 5 typically 4x1TB nets 3tb times 2 units get you 6 TB. if more than one drive fails all data is lost.

if you look at unraid and use 8x1tb you get 7TB net. if more than 1 drive fails the other drives are still active. unraid also allows you to mix and match drive types EIDE, SATA, SCSI, USB, Firewire etc and drive sizes....

There are pros and cons to any choice it just depends what you choose and what types of custom software your solution will need....

devices like the PCH and XBMC will talk to about any server type and not require server side software. There are plenty of other solutions that require server side UPNP servers or proprietary software that limit your platform choices...

maybe by the time you get around to buying this platform with XBMC will be stabilized and widely avaialble....


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