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MythTV…another build

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 16 2008

So I have really been missing the ability to record/rewind/pause TV. I haven’t had a full time MythTV box for over a year and a half. I sold my old MythTV computer and had been saving the money till something perfect came out to use as a fast and quiet MythTV computer and samba server. I actually bought a Mac mini about 2 months ago in an effort to get it working with a external hard drive for speed and storage. Needless to say, Apple did a good job of making the Mac mini too annoying to try and get it to work the way I wanted it to. I will post a little on my experience there later.
So I returned the mini and found the AOpen mp45-dr. It is about the same size as the mac mini (technically smaller) and it came bare bones. This is great because I could either get the same specs as the mini for cheaper or I could improve the parts I wanted to improve and not get the “features” I didn’t need (like internal wifi or internal laptop hard drive). Unfortunately, the mp45 had one thing I really needed to complete my HTPC, firewire. I looked around to see if I could get firewire out of the eSATA port or one of the two internal PCIe mini ports but I couldn’t find anything that would work the way I wanted and I needed firewire to record premium HD shows from my cable STB. So I found the mp945-dr which is just the older model of the same computer. It looks almost exactly the same but has a slightly slower video card, no eSATA port, and slower chipset (which included a slower FSB). When I really looked at it though, the parts it came with would be plenty for what I needed and so I used the money from my MythTV sale (and a few other side projects) and bought the AOpen mp965-dr.
Here is my build.
AOpen mp965-dr (from Buy.com)
Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 (from newegg)
2GB Kingston Ram (from newegg)
WinTV-HVR-950 Tuner (from newegg)
1TB ministack v3 (from other world computing)
Sata -> eSATA cable (from mwave)
I also already had a HDHomerun tuner and firewire cable for a tuner from my STB.

I am excited to get this up and running again and will post my build as time goes on. Here is a quick rundown/reference to the sections I will be writing. I will update these later with links.
Part 1: Setting up the hardware
Part 2: Choosing the software
Part 3: Setting up software
Part 4: Using the machine day to day

Buying a NAS part III

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 22 2008

Ok, it has been quite a while since my first two articles on this (Part 1 and Part 2) and I wanted to post a little update on my situation. I haven’t worked on my linkstation hard drive because I decided to go a slightly different route. Ultimately, I want something that has some sort of RAID set up for backup purposes but at this time I don’t have the time, money, or space for such a device. Instead I decided to use my MythTV computer as my network storage device on top of its current PVR functions. Because MythTV will be a full computer it will have a lot more features and options I can use to configure and set up the NAS exactly as I want. This will also mean that I only have to have one device on at all times instead of my originally planned 2 devices which will save a bit of money in power bills. I finally have a computer that is going to work for my new MythTV setup (more on that to come) so as I get that configured I hope to post some more how-to’s on my quest for the perfect cheap NAS solution.
Just so I get some of my goals in place here are my current needs for the NAS setup.

    1. Separate users to allow read only access to certain folders and write permissions to others.
    2. At least 500 GB.
    3. Upnp server to allow easy playback on my PS3, XBMC, WMP, etc.
    4. Under $300. While this is still a goal it is going to be quite skewed with my budget for my MythTV computer. I will try to add all the cost up correctly though.

Two more items were on my list from my first posting so I will echo them here as well.

    5. Be able to connect to a ethernet network without adapters. This won’t be a problem at all because my MythTV computer will be plugged into the network at all times.
    6. Low power consumption. While the MythTV computer will draw more power than my original Linkstation, the ability to get rid of the Linkstation in favor for just having one device will defiantly save power over having both devices turned on at all times.

So I haven’t given up on getting my NAS up and running but my plans changed a little. For now the Linkstation still gets used every day and it is helping a lot with temporary storage. I will keep the site update with my install notes and what has worked for me.

Buying a Nas part II

3 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 12 2008

The Linkstation was not satifying what I needed. So I turned to the internet to see what I could do about the problems I was having. I found a site called Nas-central which happened to have a ton of info about hacking the Buffalo NAS devices. The site had so much information it wasn’t well organized so I spent a good amount of time just figuring out what I could do with the Linkstation. I started my search by finding out more about what the Linkstation has out of the box, and then what I could do with it. It turns out the Linkstation runs a Buffalo modified version of Linux and because of that it is pretty easily hacked with a few utilities.

The first thing was to figure out what operating system I wanted to run on the Linkstation. I found a few main options. Most people would either hack the standard firmware, install a modified buffalo firmware called jtymod, install a more open version of the buffalo firmware called openlink, or install a full replacement with a build of debian linux called freelink. All three options had very good merits, but for my needs I tried to just wanted to get a better DLNA server installed so I decided to modify the current buffalo firmware using acp_commander.

The next thing I needed to decide was what DLNA server I was going to install. I had no idea there were so many DLNA servers out there. The main options I found were mediatomb, ushare, FUPPES, and twonky. I was already pretty familiar with mediatomb because I was using that on my desktop for sharing media. I was familiar enough with it to know I wanted to look for something else. While ushare and FUPPES seemed pretty limited in their options they had one big advantage over twonky.  They are free whereas twonky costs $30. I really liked the features of twonky 4.4.4 so I installed the 30 day trial and gave it a test drive with my PS3. I was very impressed. Not only did twonky have a great web interface to configure everything you could want, but it also worked right away in Windows Media player 11. As soon as twonky scanned all of my media I was able to play almost everything on my PS3 without problems.  I had a couple of problems with videos cutting out but quickly realized that the wireless network was not able to keep up with the high bit rates of some of my videos. It turns out that with twonky installed and the default DLNA server turned off a lot of the hard drive noise was gone as well.

So I got a replacement DLNA server installed and fixed the problem with the drive being loud. But I wasn’t finished. The default firmware still gave me very limited samba settings and required all of my folders to be ordered in a fassion that only my grandma would do if she had 200 GB of divx files. So next I need to installed Freelink.

Buying a NAS Part I

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Apr 12 2008

I have been looking for a network attached storage (NAS) device for some time because keeping everything on my desktop was not the best solution. Here is what I needed my NAS to do:

  1. Connect to the wired network without adapters. Wireless would be nice but lets face it.  With media files you really want it on a wired network no matter what.
  2. Be quiet and use low power.  Not silent desktop kinda quiet (see refrigerator), more like the wife will forget it is behind the couch kinda quiet. I have free computers that I could easly put FreeNAS on and just have it sit somewhere but that would not be quiet enough and would draw more power than a dedicated device.
  3. Lots of storage! 400 gb of usable storage was my minimum and having expandability through USB would be a plus.  RAID 1 was also a desire but was out of the question for my price range.  Manual backups would have to suffice for now.
  4. SAMBA server and DLNA server built in. I have used XBMC for about four years to stream my media to my TV and it uses samba to stream all of it’s content.  I have just recently started using my PS3 for these tasks because it plays all the codecs I need and it is easy!! I don’t have to explain to someone how to search the network or share a folder on their computer. This has been a life saver for my setup because I don’t need to worry when a folder changes.  The DLNA server just scans it and shares the media exactly the same as it was.
  5. This was probably my biggest opsticle…I needed the solution to be under $300. I know that this may seem like a lot, and when I was first looking I thought I wouldn’t have any problems finding what I needed. It turns out there wern’t as many available options as I first thought.

I had been looking at the Buffalo Terrastation for a little while because it came with 4 drives and had everything I wanted, minus quietness, but the system started at $700 and quickly climbed in price from there. I had also been looking at the Terrastations lower priced cousin the Linkstation Pro‘s but they did not support DLNA and were quite expensive when I was looking.

I was at Fry’s one weekend and saw the Netgear Sc101 for $40. Wow, $40 for a two drive NAS enclosure how could I go wrong? The device only supported IDE drives but I wasn’t too worried because I had a few 200 GB IDE drives that I could use in this to get the storage I wanted.  I also figured that I could find some way to mod it, or follow directions online to mod it, to get some of the missing features to work. I brought the Netgear home and put in my two drives. I open up the manual to see how I can map the drive in Ubuntu and quickly find that the hard drive can only be used in Windows because it loads a proprietary driver into windows to mount the drive locally. So back in the box it goes and sits for another week until I am able to go back to Fry’s to return it.

I returned the Netgear and waited for the next weekend to see what new deals would spring up the following weekend. I went back the next Saturday and saw that they had the Linkstation Live 500 for $170. There was only 1 left on the shelf and I didn’t know much about it but I saw on the box that it supported DLNA so I bought it on the spot and brought it home with much anticipation of how awsome it was going to be. I open up the box and plug it into a local switch and start a disk format.  The drive already showed it was formatted but if this is going to be my main storage device I want to make sure everything is as clean as can be. The format seemed to be taking a little while (hours) so I just let it run through the night.  In the morning the format was still not done and I was getting worried. I let the format run while I was at work and when I got home I was greated with a nice “the drive is not formatted error” in the web interface.  I upgraded the firmware to the current one on Buffalo’s website, 2.10, and started another format.  This time it went much faster ~30 min. and I was ready to transfer everything over.  I started with everything on my desktop because my hard drive had 20mb left of free space and ubuntu was starting to complain.

Once I got most everything copied over from my desktop, 1 day of transfering, I enabled the DLNA sever and tested it with my PS3. I was very disapointed! I could see the server but couldn’t see/play any of the files. The drive also seemed pretty loud. So far this was not a good solution for what I wanted…