Poofyhairguy's HTPC Recommendation Thread

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XxTRAINEExX Offline
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Post: #16
poofyhairguy,

Thanks for posting this thread! I think I fit somewhere in between group 2 and 2.5 but I have a few questions...

- It would be awesome to have the streaming capability (netflix) so I don't have to swap over to my blue-ray player and use its horrible netflix widget. But is the full functionality there? (I read your post about hardware accelerated flash being experimental.)

- Is it your recommendation to use the "Live" installation on these boxes or should you do a custom linux build with xbmc on top? (Sorry if this is a newb question, just wondering if there is a huge advantage to a manual installation over the Live build)

- The 2 pre-built options in Group 2 (shuttle and zotac) appear to be slightly different. Shuttle is a barebone while the zotac comes with a hard drive and RAM. Do you have disk/ram recommendations for the shuttle barebone?

- Is the hard drive a factor if you have a file server on the home network? (windows or linux) I'm just unfamiliar with what other features a local disk brings to xbmc outside of media storage.

- If I'm reading correctly, the Zotac ND01 ($249) is recommended for Group 2 people. The Zotac ND22 ($269) is recommended for group 2.5 people but you still need to buy RAM ($28 for 2GB) & Storage ($7 for 4GB SDHC). This puts the delta around $55 correct? (I'm assuming the hard disk is not a factor.. set me straight if that's incorrect Smile )

Thanks again for putting together this awesome guide! Smile

~Brian

**EDIT: In my last bullet I assumed Live can be installed to an SDHC card. If this is not true, replace my storage link with an $8 USB stick.
**EDIT #2: Math fail in my last bullet... woops
(This post was last modified: 2011-02-16 04:36 by XxTRAINEExX.)
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #17
XxTRAINEExX Wrote:- It would be awesome to have the streaming capability (netflix) so I don't have to swap over to my blue-ray player and use its horrible netflix widget. But is the full functionality there?

Only in Windows, and even then I would still recommend using the Blu Ray player instead.

Quote:- Is it your recommendation to use the "Live" installation on these boxes or should you do a custom linux build with xbmc on top? (Sorry if this is a newb question, just wondering if there is a huge advantage to a manual installation over the Live build)

I use Live for everything. The great XBMC developers know their stuff, it is much easier to expand XBMC Live if you need something more.

Quote:- The 2 pre-built options in Group 2 (shuttle and zotac) appear to be slightly different. Shuttle is a barebone while the zotac comes with a hard drive and RAM. Do you have disk/ram recommendations for the shuttle barebone?

Shuttle is fanless, therefore silent. That is its upside. As far as RAM, I like Corsair or Kingston best, as far as an OS drive this SSD (minimum):

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.as...-_-Product

Quote:- Is the hard drive a factor if you have a file server on the home network? (windows or linux) I'm just unfamiliar with what other features a local disk brings to xbmc outside of media storage.

That is all really, but some people lack a NAS.

Quote:- If I'm reading correctly, the Zotac ND01 ($249) is recommended for Group 2 people. The Zotac ND22 ($269) is recommended for group 2.5 people but you still need to buy RAM ($28 for 2GB) & Storage ($7 for 4GB SDHC). This puts the delta around $55 correct? (I'm assuming the hard disk is not a factor.. set me straight if that's incorrect Smile )

Yeah. Its a 2x bump in CPU power, but that is only needed in certain cases like Netflix.

Quote:Thanks again for putting together this awesome guide! Smile

You are welcome.

Quote:**EDIT: In my last bullet I assumed Live can be installed to an SDHC card. If this is not true, replace my storage link with an $8 USB stick.

I recommend putting Live on a SSD like the one linked above. The OS boots very slow off pen drives and CF cards.

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #18
spartan711 Wrote:What about AMD Zacate platform? One board solution.

I will add it eventually, as soon as I know for certain what Group (I am thinking 2.5).

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #19
xecutionx Wrote:Great thread. One question though: what's wrong with Samsung HDDs?

The main problem that is have is they report incorrect temps. That alone makes me mad. Also they have lower performance in my tests than other comparable drives. Finally (big deal to me) they don't work good with Unraid.

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
(This post was last modified: 2011-02-16 10:09 by poofyhairguy.)
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eskro Offline
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Post: #20
poofyhairguy, then, what are the best unRAID drives to use? Hitachi? and why?
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #21
Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs

First of all I often advise people to use SSDs as their OS drive because they cut boot times, heat, and they make the interface snappier in some cases due to faster access to fanart and the database if you host them on the client. Any SSD 8GB and larger will work for XBMC Live and any 30GB model will work for Windows 7. Intel is the best brand overall.

As far as hard drives go, I think any hard drive less than 2TB is a waste. When you figure out the slot costs and compare that to the small price difference between 1, 1.5 and 2TB drives it is obvious that 2TB drives the only value worth pursuing. High Def data takes up a LOT of space, even single 2TB drives are nothing.

In the issue of local storage vs a NAS, I ALWAYS think a NAS-type device is better. HTPCs + NAS combo machines are a cheaper option at first, but the combined heat of 1080p playing GPUs and the working HDs means that either the box will be loud with fans, or you will be killing hard drives (unless they are all WD Greens). Benefits of pure NASes include being able to use NAS specific OSes with special features (more on that later), the ability to easily have multiple clients, and the ability for your NAS to do other things for you in some cases.

If you must put storage space inside your HTPC, the only drives I recommend are WD Green drives. They are the only drives on the market that stay cool enough that I feel safe recommending them in HTPCs. Try to limit it to about three or so though.

Which brings me to NASes. There are two paths on this: build or buy. Buying gives you an easier path with more support and possible power savings, building gives you more customization and lower per slot costs. If you are gonna buy, here are my recommendations:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.as...6822107034
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.as...-_-Product

As far as building a NAS goes there are many different methods. Many people use older hardware they have laying around, some build from scratch. The four most common custom NAS OS options are Linux software RAID 5/6 (Ubuntu), FreeNAS (ZFS), Windows Home Server, and Unraid. The latter two are pay for software, the first two are free. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For lots of good into on most look here.

My favorite option, and the only one I use, is Unraid (note I have nothing to do with those who run Unraid other than I like the software). You have to pay money for this software, but I think its very much worth it because its the only NAS software on the market which is pretty much designed for mediaservers.

Advantages of Unraid
-Allows you to mix and match drives of different sizes and makes into a single "User Share" of pooled storage (one big folder across drives)
-Allows you to pull the drives of the array out and read the data on them on another computer
-Allows drives to spin down if they are not being accessed, saving power and possible prolonging their life
-Unraid allows for the growing of the array in size by replacing one drive at a time with full use of that drive after addition and no data loss
-Unraid is easy to install, runs off a pen drive to save sata ports for data, and is configured by and easy to use web interface

Downsides:
-Unraid costs money for real versions
-Unraid's write speeds are pretty low without a cache drive
-Unraid's read speeds are slightly lower than the drives by themselves, but still more than fast enough for media
-Unraid is a dedicated NAS OS, meaning that it can't easily do other server stuff for you

In the end Unraid gives you a media server that is grown periodically as storage is needed, one cheapest disk available at a time, yet it can easily stream mutliple HD movies to multiple (I have tested up to 5) clients on your network. Here is a recommended Unraid build:

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid...ght=unraid

As far as what hard drives to buy, I have tried almost all consumer 2TB drives and here is my order of preference:

1. Seagate 7200RPM HDs - super fast but expensive
2. Hitachi 7200RPM HDs - cheaper than Seagate but nearly as fast, they run hotter than green drives though
3. Western Digital Green HDs - NOT for RAID or ZFS, but great for Unraid as they are fast enough and they are the coolest drives
4. Hitachi 5950RPM HDs - these might move up list as I use it more
5. Seagate 5900 RPM drives- if you are willing to make sure the one you buy has new firmware they are great

Not recommended drives:

1. Samsung drives (especially F4s) - they have data loss issues and updates that you can't confirm

Finally on external drives, I like WDs the most because WD Greens are inside them often and those are great drives. Please note though that USB2 lacks the speeds needed for full Blu Ray rips.

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
(This post was last modified: 2011-07-20 22:14 by poofyhairguy.)
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spartan711 Offline
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Post: #22
Quote:Please note though that USB2 lacks the speeds needed for full Blu Ray rips.

Really? That bewilders me...

Theoretical speed USB2: 480 mbps
Theoretical Max Bitrate of Bluray: 56 mbps

That's 11.67% saturation... I have achieved higher speeds transferring files to my external.
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #23
spartan711 Wrote:I have achieved higher speeds transferring files to my external.

Sure it can spike higher, but sustain higher (with no minimums lower than required)? That is where USB2 fails. Without sustained bandwidth Blu Ray rips stutter. Honestly though this is only a problem with really high bitrate content. If you must use external drives Firewire 400 and eSATA can do the job though.

I must admit it surprised me too though when I first discovered that limit. Yet more proof you can't trust specs...

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
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topfs2 Offline
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Post: #24
poofyhairguy Wrote:I must admit it surprised me too though when I first discovered that limit. Yet more proof you can't trust specs...

If you read the specs closely then you'll see that speed is only in one access protocol or type or whatever they call it, which is only ever meant to be for short stuff. So the spec actually say quite clear (in the hundreds of pages for the usb spec) that its only spike and not sustained Smile

Sustained is muuuuuch slower. But yeah, I was also very surprised when I first heard this.

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Nasa Offline
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Post: #25
Great to see you back poofy.

poofyhairguy Wrote:-Custom Box with Nvidia GT430

Does that also include a ION/ION2 system + GT430?
Is this powerful enough for 3D?
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eskro Offline
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Post: #26
thanks for that post about HArd Drives Poofy!!
Very Very informative!!
Thumbs up!!

@Nasa: yes!! its powerful enough for 3D!!
(This post was last modified: 2011-02-16 16:23 by eskro.)
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xecutionx Offline
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Post: #27
poofyhairguy Wrote:1. Samsung drives (especially F4s) - almost all report incorrect temps, F4s are completely incompatible with Unraid due to performance problems

This is the first time I'm hearing about it being incompatible with Unraid. Over at the Unraid forums, many people use Samsung drives in their builds. What worries me is this:

[Image: sambf.png]
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gabbott Offline
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Post: #28
xecutionx Wrote:This is the first time I'm hearing about it being incompatible with Unraid. Over at the Unraid forums, many people use Samsung drives in their builds. What worries me is this:

http://lime-technology.com/forum/index.php?topic=9339.0
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wsume99 Offline
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Post: #29
xecutionx Wrote:This is the first time I'm hearing about it being incompatible with Unraid. Over at the Unraid forums, many people use Samsung drives in their builds. What worries me is this:

[Image: sambf.png]

You are both right.

The Samsung drives use advanced format sectors so if you use them with unRAID v4.6 and earlier then you could see a performance hit (especially with random reads). Now that v4.7 has released, unRAID can handle the advanced format drives with no performance hit. So if you want to be sure there are no problems then you should be using v4.7. Some users reported that the performance hit on v4.6 (and earlier) was not too bad so long as you were performing sequential reads (which media streaming basically is entirely sequential reads).

Now another issue altogther is the firmware problem that they recently had which could cause data loss. That is the reason I'm not using them now that v4.7 has been released.
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Superorb Offline
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Post: #30
^^ There is an even newer FW out for the JP1 drives (according to Samsung a non-JP1 drive can flash their drive with this FW successfully) that has a different version number so that you can verify a good flash, but it's so new that I haven't heard of people with non-JP1 drives confirm that the bug has been fixed.
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