Best simple config for HTPC/Server?
Parents want to repurpose an old pc Dad got from work as a HTPC/Server.

Ideally I want something running XBMC, with Wake On Lan (have't played with the box yet so that one's a fingers crossed) that will act as a server too so they can watch movies on other computers/tvs.
Being able to access the media from outside the house would also score me major brownie points. And if I could remotely add media while I'm at home well... Rolleyes

XBMS seems like a perfect solution from the wiki:
Quote:It is capable of streaming all types of media and gives the option of sharing individual folders or entire drives. It can be configured through an easy-to-use GUI program installed on your PC. XBMS is very bandwidth efficient and it is a routable network-protocol which means that it is also ideal if you which to stream over the internet, (just make sure you open the TCP/IP network-port 1400 in you firewalls on both the server-side and the client side)

Just wondering if this is as simple as I'm reading it to be: Wipe computer, install new OS, install XBMC & XBMS, configure et voilà?

Also, what operating system (XP or Linux (Ubuntu)), would be the easiest to set up, considering there'll be machines of different OSes (XP, Vista and 7) trying to access the media?
A great deal of things are possible with XBMC but they don't happen by magic. There is a definite learning curve involved. Fortunatley there are a lot of great people willing to assist with questions.
My first HTPC build
My UnRaid Server
Kingston rebates and ASUS warranties are WORTHLESS FRAUDS
The trouble with old PCs is that they tend to have old video cards. That's not a problem as long as all you want to watch are DVDs, but for 720p or 1080p you need a video card that supports hardware acceleration. There is also the cosmetic issue i.e. old PCs tend to be big and noisy and this isn't ideal for an HTPC. Realistically, compared to a modern HTPC using an old PC is a distinctly second rate solution.

Having said that, lots of us use (relatively) old PCs as network servers hidden away in a cupboard somewhere. I have an old Poweredge 440 with 3TB disk space in the cupboard under the stairs. This acts as central storage and all my HTPCs play media from this server. Noise may still be an issue though, and old PCs tend to be rather power hungry.

I understand the hardware restrictions in that regard. I have a TB of media to offload on them, and most of it is DVD quality so there's no immediate fear there.
I can always upgrade the video card later if they want higher quality stuff.
As for the noise issue, the walls in the destination room are down so it's more than possible that we put the box behind a wall which will drown most/all the sound.

Basically I just need to know whether this is the right way about going, after that I don't mind a bit of trial and error. I just don't want trial and error if the trials are all doomed to fail from day 1
Yes, I think your plan will be fine. However access to the media from outside the house will be tricky unless you have a faster ADSL line than most of us. My ADSL line has about 1,000KHz upload speed and that isn't adequate for most videos.

Use whatever OS you feel comfortable with. I tend to use Windows because I'm a Windows developer and I've been using Windows for about 15 years so i know it pretty well by now :-).

Note that XBMS was XBox only and isn't in the current versions of XBMC.

Ah, see that plan definitely wasn't gonna work so.
Ok, I can deal with not being able to stream from outside the house, it was just something that would've been a nice bonus. Our cable provider is slowly upgrading people to 100Mb broadband, so maybe in a few years.

What's the best alternative, as I obviously don't want to be using an ancient XBMC release?
Your original plan sounds fine. Use the old PC as a server and install XBMC on PCs around the house as required. I would start with v10.1 (i.e. the current release) as it's nice and stable. v11.0 will be released probably before the end of this year, but it will be a simple upgrade.

*cracks knuckles*
To stream outside the house you could use Orb which would (seperately from XBMC) allow you to identify the type and location of your media and then allow you to stream to anywhere you log into your orb account. I do this to access my library on other computers, my iphone & ipad. Sometimes the buffering is not so great but for DVD and lower res TV files it's not too bad.
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