Media PC ideas

"Please leave a message at the beep, we will get back to you when your support contract expires."

Moderators: phlip, Moderators General, Prelates

masher
Posts: 821
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 11:07 pm UTC
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Media PC ideas

Postby masher » Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:19 am UTC

Has anybody setup a media PC?

I'm starting to research one, and I'm currently looking at Mythbuntu as the OS/media software, mainly due to the fact that the Ubuntu repositories are hosted by our ISP and the I've read good things about MythTV.

Are there any hints on different hardware setups, RAID vs non-RAID, how much storage is good....?

Currently, I want to store all (~70) my DVDs and all (~200) CDs on disk. I'm also looking at running two dual DVB cards.

Also, any ideas on the best EPG? I'm in Melbourne Australia...

Carnildo
Posts: 2023
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:43 am UTC

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Carnildo » Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:32 am UTC

In regards to RAID, unless you're doing something silly like storing uncompressed video, you don't need RAID-0's speed. You might want RAID-1 (mirroring) for security: in the event of a drive failure, re-ripping all those CDs and DVDs takes time.

For calculating storage, figure you'll need 8GB of space per DVD and 200MB of space per CD (assuming you use FLAC rather than high-bitrate MP3). I don't know how much space DVB takes per hour; storing ATSC requires about 8 GB per hour.

Mzyxptlk
Posts: 513
Joined: Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:41 am UTC

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Mzyxptlk » Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:56 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:For calculating storage, figure you'll need 8GB of space per DVD and 200MB of space per CD (assuming you use FLAC rather than high-bitrate MP3).

Uncompressed, this is correct. Otherwise, 1.4GB per DVD rip (XVID) and 100MB per CD (V0 MP3) is reasonable.

As for hardware, if you intent it to solely use it as a media pc (no gaming, no graphics work), the low end of the spectrum should do you fine. Random cheap AMD processor with ditto motherboard, 1GB worth of RAM, HD4670 or 9600GSO graphics card and a load of 1TB HDDs (4, in raid 1+0?). Personally, I'm no audiophile, so onboard sound is fine for me, but if you are, it might be worth looking into getting a proper sound card. I'm sure someone else can help you with that better than I can.
"Once upon a time, an infinite number of people lived perfect, blissful, eternal lives."

User avatar
Axman
Posts: 2124
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2007 6:51 pm UTC
Location: Denver, Colorado

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Axman » Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:30 am UTC

First of all, Vista's Media Center is just great. It's really worth considering, especially given Windows' hardware support. But it's not free. Might be worth it, especially if you're interested in high-definition media and hardware video acceleration.

That said, RAID is a great idea, RAID 0 in particular. You might not need the speed if you've only got one or two tuners, but the real advantage is having a single very large partition (although this is a Windows issue). Concerned about redundancy? Ain't no RAID like 5.

For volume, 1TB is a good place to start. Seriously, you'll always want more, especially for the movie collection. Fortunately, the one 2TB drive is relatively inexpensive and a quiet, fast performer. I'd say that's about right.

I can't help you find an Australian retailer, though. I understand that sucks.

masher
Posts: 821
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 11:07 pm UTC
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby masher » Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:02 am UTC

Axman wrote:First of all, Vista's Media Center is just great. It's really worth considering, especially given Windows' hardware support. But it's not free. Might be worth it, especially if you're interested in high-definition media and hardware video acceleration.


Not interested in real HD yet - only have an SD TV, but I would be interested in downsampling if there is different content. Can winMCE copy DVDs and CDs to disk?

You're also right about hardware support. That was the one thing against MythTV (or Linux in general) was the requirement to get specific revisions of specific cards.

Mzyxptlk
Posts: 513
Joined: Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:41 am UTC

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Mzyxptlk » Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:03 am UTC

You should add at least 1 more GB worth of RAM, should you go with Vista.
"Once upon a time, an infinite number of people lived perfect, blissful, eternal lives."

Carnildo
Posts: 2023
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:43 am UTC

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Carnildo » Tue Feb 03, 2009 11:15 am UTC

Mzyxptlk wrote:
Carnildo wrote:For calculating storage, figure you'll need 8GB of space per DVD and 200MB of space per CD (assuming you use FLAC rather than high-bitrate MP3).

Uncompressed, this is correct. Otherwise, 1.4GB per DVD rip (XVID) and 100MB per CD (V0 MP3) is reasonable.

Hard disks are cheap. I see no reason to accept the quality loss that recompressing a DVD would produce.

As for hardware, if you intent it to solely use it as a media pc (no gaming, no graphics work), the low end of the spectrum should do you fine. Random cheap AMD processor with ditto motherboard, 1GB worth of RAM, HD4670 or 9600GSO graphics card and a load of 1TB HDDs (4, in raid 1+0?). Personally, I'm no audiophile, so onboard sound is fine for me, but if you are, it might be worth looking into getting a proper sound card. I'm sure someone else can help you with that better than I can.

Don't go too cheap: if this is going to be sitting next to your television, you want it to be as close to silent as you can get. In particular, you'll want to watch out for small, high-speed fans on the graphics card and mainboard. It's common to cut costs by using a whiny little fan in place of a large passive heatsink.

Mzyxptlk
Posts: 513
Joined: Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:41 am UTC

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Mzyxptlk » Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:35 pm UTC

Carnildo wrote:Hard disks are cheap. I see no reason to accept the quality loss that recompressing a DVD would produce.

Fair enough.

Carnildo wrote:Don't go too cheap: if this is going to be sitting next to your television, you want it to be as close to silent as you can get. In particular, you'll want to watch out for small, high-speed fans on the graphics card and mainboard. It's common to cut costs by using a whiny little fan in place of a large passive heatsink.

For this purpose, I'd rather get a cheap graphics card with a quiet after market fan than an expensive one that comes packed with one. That said, yes, investing in silence is definitely a good idea.
"Once upon a time, an infinite number of people lived perfect, blissful, eternal lives."

User avatar
Axman
Posts: 2124
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2007 6:51 pm UTC
Location: Denver, Colorado

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Axman » Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:22 pm UTC

Mzyxptlk wrote:
Carnildo wrote:Don't go too cheap: if this is going to be sitting next to your television, you want it to be as close to silent as you can get.

For this purpose, I'd rather get a cheap graphics card with a quiet after market fan than an expensive one that comes packed with one. That said, yes, investing in silence is definitely a good idea.

Hell, integrated graphics is good enough for the HTPC--AMD 780G or 790GX, or NVIDIA 8200, all can handle 1080p HD video. Low power, no fans...

I'm going to knock the suggestion for the current 9600 series. Both cards have less-that-perfect hardware video acceleration and both are power-inefficient for this purpose. If integrated isn't enough, look at HD 3850s, HD 4650s and 4670s. NVIDIA doesn't have an entry-level gaming card with perfect-looking video playback (but their 200-series does it great).

masher wrote:Can winMCE copy DVDs and CDs to disk?
It can definitely play them.

You might end up doing this on another PC and transplanting the files via network--because doing this on an SD TV is really tough and also because an HTPC doesn't need a powerful processor; mine has an old Athlon X2 64 3800, and it's running just fine.

Eventually, you're going to want a cheap HD TV. Shop around for models without tuners. They're essentially just monitors made from TV parts, and they're much less expensive. I just wrote an article on HTPC construction, I'll link it when it's published.

The preview is basically this:

790GX motherboard (good IGP, good Southbridge RAID options)
Athlon X2 5400+ Black
PCI-Express ATI TV Wonder 650 (NOT PCI, it's a single tuner. Express is dual)
2GB of the finest, cheapest RAM you can find.

masher
Posts: 821
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 11:07 pm UTC
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby masher » Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:04 am UTC

After a little research, I'm looking at this system, most likely running Mythbuntu:

SILVERSTONE Silver Aluminum front panel, 0.8 mm SECC body LC20-S ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3R LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard
ZALMAN ZM750-HP 750W power supply (probably the 600W one though...)
Fusion Dual 4 Dual Digital LP PCI ->probably get two of these - 4 tuners!!!
Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - I'll get 3 or 4 of these
Western Digital Caviar SE WD800AAJS 80GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - one of these for the OS
GIGABYTE GV-NX84S512HP GeForce 8400 GS 512MB 64-bit GDDR2 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready Video Card or something like this - one less fan is probably better
Intel Pentium E5200

What say ye?

Suggestions, queries, WTFs?

Carnildo
Posts: 2023
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:43 am UTC

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Carnildo » Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:33 am UTC

My first reaction is on the order of WTF:

1) That case only has provisions for 80mm fans, not 120mm ones, so you'll need to make sure you're using quiet cooling fans.
2) Western Digital does not have a reputation for making quiet hard drives. Everyone's gotten quieter over the years, though, so this may have changed.
3) That 750-watt power supply is about 400 watts more than you need.
4) I'd be concerned about using that mainboard in a horizontal case: the covers on the heatsinks will limit airflow.

The graphics card looks decent, though output is limited to DVI, VGA, and S-video. You haven't said what you're going to be displaying things on, so it might or might not matter.

masher
Posts: 821
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 11:07 pm UTC
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby masher » Sat Feb 07, 2009 8:37 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:1) That case only has provisions for 80mm fans, not 120mm ones, so you'll need to make sure you're using quiet cooling fans.
2) Western Digital does not have a reputation for making quiet hard drives. Everyone's gotten quieter over the years, though, so this may have changed.
3) That 750-watt power supply is about 400 watts more than you need.
4) I'd be concerned about using that mainboard in a horizontal case: the covers on the heatsinks will limit airflow.

The graphics card looks decent, though output is limited to DVI, VGA, and S-video. You haven't said what you're going to be displaying things on, so it might or might not matter.


1) OK. I'll have a look at the cost difference between another case and quiet fans.
2) I don't know anything about noise; just use Seagate or WD.
3) They also do a 460W PS. I just need enough cables to do a SATA DVD drive or two and up to 6 SATA HDDs
4) How does this one look? http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813131295 I need 3 PCI slots for 2 tuners and a wifi card with PCIe for graphics.

5) Current output will be to an SD CRT TV - hence the S-video. Current budget won't allow for any TV upgrades for quite a while, so another video card purchase may be necessary later, but isn't justified atm.

.

I'll most likely be running the storage HDDs in software RAID 0+1 or 5, probably with mdadm.

Carnildo
Posts: 2023
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:43 am UTC

Re: Media PC ideas

Postby Carnildo » Sat Feb 07, 2009 10:26 am UTC

That mainboard looks better, if a bit cramped in places. I don't know how big your tuner cards are: will they interfere with the rear-most SATA connectors? It's also got unfortunate placement of the power connectors: you'll need to be careful that the main power connector doesn't put too much pressure on the video card, and you'll need to run the P4 power cable so that it doesn't get tangled in the CPU's cooling fan. You'll also need to keep in mind that only six of the eight SATA connectors are independant. The other two are connected through the onboard RAID chip, and may not be usable outside of a hardware RAID array.


Return to “The Help Desk”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests