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New HTPC server build help

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September 24, 2008 3:54:35 AM

Hi guys, I’m relatively new to all this and am looking for some advice on setting up a Home network/Home media network.
What I want to do is set up a home media system, fully hardwired and integrated into the house.
Id like to do most of it myself as it’s a hobby, and also it ensures I know how the system will work eventually (and be able to do repairs and upgrades).
I’m an engineer so have no trouble with the technicalities of it, and have built my own PC’s before with no trouble and consider myself fairly computer literate.
In this situation let’s assume I’m not needing to be super tight with my money and am happy to buy things if they’re worthwhile. (Without getting excessive and spending 100’s of 1000’s!).
Problem is I'm not really well versed on how to build servers and what goes with them in terms of running them. Id ideally love a LINUX system as it is completely open to my adaption, but I simply don’t know enough about programming at this point to do it, so at this point unless there’s better suggestions id go with Windows Home server 2008 and versions of Windows media Centre. (Please feel free to advise me of different softwares available).
What I want to do:
Set up a Data network throughout the house.
I would ideally like to set up a server system in a rack configuration within a space in the house.
One that I can add to and upgrade when needed.
I have searched high and low for references on how to build a server and what would be needed for my purposes, but it’s not easy to find anything, especially in terms of rack architecture.
What I want it to do:
• To serve as a file server – being able to stream all media to every outlet in the house INDEPENDANTLY. I.e. can watch multiple files simultaneously in different zones.
• To be a massive storage hub & backup destination for all files from HTPC’s and desktop PC’s
• A PVR server would also be useful if that’s possible – again to be able to be used simultaneously from each centre. I understand this will require multiple Tuner cards which is fine – but is it possible to house the multiple cards (lets say 5) in the one Rack mount case (1U/2U/4U), and if so what else would be needed to make it work? MOBO/Ram etc?
• A print server
• An internet Router to serve all access points.
The questions I have which are arising from my research:
 Are you able to daisy chain multiple servers with HDD’s I’m sure you can? I’m not sure of how the HDD setup would work/be configured? Do you have the one server and then just link up as many cases of HDD’s as you want? Or do you need a full new Server&MOBO with each new case?
 What sort of hardware would I need to build the servers?MOBO, Graphics Cards, RAM, HDD etc.
 How would I piece together these servers?
 What would the cabling requirements be? Can everything be in HiDef (1080p or higher for future..) and Digital audio (7.1 min)? for every media outlet throughout the house? Cat 5? Fibre Optic?
 The main media room will have a dedicated AV receiver to distribute 7.1 sound. The others will not. Is it possible to have that output capability (i.e. 7.1+ speaker cable connections) on the back of each HTPC (much like an AV receiver)? Or conversely have it run from the server hub?
 Can anyone suggest links to companies and sites which could help me in my search / selling products?
 How would all this sort of thing be cabled up to work properly? Can anyone help with the architecture or recommend someone who can?
Ideally I’m imagining having a rack unit (or more if necessary) of cases dedicated to each component (file server, PVR, Print etc) then have them linked into multiple 4U rack cases simply filled with HDD’s. Is that how they work? Or does each server need its own HDD’s and work independently?
The idea is to have simply a TV and a smaller HTPC at each access point and that’s it. Then everything is controlled at the Server Hub via each HTPC or PC with a nice GUI. I.e. recording, viewing, listening etc. it would be as if each access point is its own independent centre however they’re all linked into the one big server. All the processes are accessed through each access point TV screen via a remote control. So you can watch anything, listen to anything, record anything etc and then also get into the file manager and move/rename etc files (if you add a keyboard) from every access point. Ideally you can also use it as a home PC to web browse and maybe word process/play games/view docs etc.
I would ideally also like to add a Sky/foxtel/Pay TV dimension to this system. Again with multi-room capabilities. (Whether I do this legitimately or not is not under consideration at this point – I simply want to set up the infrastructure and know if it’s possible). Could I hypothetically take out all the guts of multiple Satellite boxes (dreambox?) and stack them in say, a 4U rackmount case? Then have this slot nicely integrated into my rack system? How would I configure it?
This is by no means exhaustive either, so if anyone has the know how or expertise and wants to help me work my way around and through this project it'd be greatly appreciated!

More about : htpc server build

September 24, 2008 6:41:20 AM

Thanks for the MOBO tip gators, although i dont think the link you sent is quite what im after - i already have 3TB of stuff and its forever expanding. i like the idea of hotswappable in theory, but id kinda prefer just to keep having all my archived data at my fingertips so i can choose what i want when i want and not have to interchange HDD's. that was the reason i was going for rakmount servers so i can just keep on adding them as they fill up.
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September 24, 2008 7:48:10 AM

As for as the OS windows vista ultimate may be the way you want to go.
1. Windows media center combined with a TV tuner can act as a pvr. Multiple tuners will allow you to record and watch more channels

2. Windows vista can meet you file sharing needs through simple folder sharing. You can map network drives from the client pc to the server and instruct your backup software to store the data there.

3. simple network sharing and a switch will allow it to act as a very basic router. I would really suggest a seperate router. if you pc locks up your entire network will be w/o internet. Vista Ultimate will allow you to run virtual machines which you can use to install server software too if you want to have a more robust routing solution.

About how many rooms do you intend to have? I honestly can see 1 server PC handling the jobs you want. You'll prolly want to employ a hardware based raid 5 solution.

Somthing like this raid card here.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I would have no less then 5 1TB drives.

The card is pci-express 8 which should be electrically compatible with pci-express x16. so get a board with crossfire or sli support. I don't think that a actually server board and server chip would be necessary here.

AS for cabling, unless your serving a hotel then cat5e should be fine. Just make sure you have gigabit all around. gigabit should give you server 125Mb/s theoretical throuput. should be more then enough to stream HD video to 2 maybe 3 rooms at a time.


September 24, 2008 9:08:23 AM

i tend to agree with psy the only thing is if you have time on your hands you might be able to make a very robust solution using a linux server distribution but it would probably have a much steeper learning curve
!