HTPC/Server in one unit
#1
Here is what I am looking for. A low power HTPC. But I need a new setup for networking some drives since my awesome usb router died.

So, low power HTPC/Server?

I need it to playback 1080p files, nothing uncompressed but still fairly good quality with DTS audio. Also, these same files should be accessible for streaming from other devices on my LAN.

This will NOT be for gaming other than possibly some old school emulators.

I plan on running some cat5e to it and not bothering with wireless.

As of right now I will NOT be using any kind of raid platform at all, due to current hard drive prices I simply can't afford that. So, JBOD it is. I have a 3TB external that needs a new enclosure, and a 2TB which needs a home so those will be in there. These two drives are in NTFS and will not be reformatted as I have nowhere to move the data to as of now.


This is what I am thinking for hardware:
Main system:HP ProLiant N40L
GPU:GeForce 210

I have read that regular 240 pin DDR3 desktop ram is ok to use in this and as it happens I have an extra 8GB of it laying around. I'll give it a shot.




My main question is the OS to use? I have worked with some linux and to be honest, it looks like the better choice for lightweight hardware.

BUT I don't see FreeNAS playing nice with XBMC. And I don't see XBMC live playing nice with file hosting. So if I wanted Linux what does that leave me with? An Ubuntu based build? Or possibly Ubuntu Server?

I've also seen good reports of Windows Home Server 2011 on similar builds but I am worried about hardware acceleration for video decoding and the fact that I have never had great luck with setting up Windows based file sharing (between XP and 7 since chances are I will be using both).

I know FTP is old and clunky but it is what I used on my recently deceased router. And honestly, it works great for streaming media to XBMC on every platform so unless I can find something that works better, that is what I plan on setting up.

Now, does any of this raise some red flags as far as compatibility or just stupidity?
Also, a little help with the software?

--edit:
Quote:So far this thing is running pretty good. I have it set up with Xubuntu 11.10 which automatically signs in, runs proftpd in the background, and starts XBMC Eden RC2. As I am not a very experienced Ubuntu user (although I have used it on and off over the last few years) it took a lot of tweaking to get it working just right.

I did manage to get the 3TB drive mounted. Unfortunately I did have to reformat it to an EFI volume first using gdisk and then gparted. While I was at it I used the ext4 file system and it is incredibly fast compared to when I had it in NTFS in USB mode. (SATA II > USB 3.0)

The GeForce 210 is keeping up nicely although, I did have to mess with the heat sink pretty heavily. That said, it is staying at less than 70*C when watching 1080p videos which is really all I need it to do.

The G-Skill Value Series DDR3 1333 (2x4GB) that I had laying around is working great. No compatibility issues as it seems to have down-clocked by it self. (which is good since it is almost unusable when overclocking on my other system).

No optical drive as of yet. Eventually I may throw another hard drive up there or possibly some nifty HTPC gadget since there is a pile of readily available 4 pin molex connectors underneath it.

All in all it is working well so far and I would highly suggest a similar setup to others. Granted the CPU isn't the fastest around but it works just fine and has 4 internal 3.5" bays, a fast SATA II controller and a really good NIC (Not an easy set to find on a Mini-ITX board).
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#2
You want one machine total yeh?

If so FreeNas is not even an option its FreeBSD, unless your running it as a vm. XBMC live has been replaced with XBMCbuntu which might be an option. I am no expert but I would install ubuntu desktop and then just install xbmc on top. No problem to mount NTFS drives in ubuntu. I have no experience with windows home server. For streaming use NFS or samba
Guide to building an all in one Ubuntu Server - TV(vdr),File,Music,Web

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XBMC 1 ASRock Z77E-ITX, G850, 8GB RAM, SSD, BD - Ubuntu / OpenElec frodo
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XBMC 3 Raspb Pi
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#3
Right now I use XBMCLive (Soon to be XBMCbuntu), wich basicly is ubuntu backboned with xbmc as front so to speak.
Anyway, it works fine with XBMC and I get sound through the HDMI port of my GT210.
For downloading I use rtorrent with rutorrent webui.
And I've simply shared the folders to my windows network with samba.

I have no problem what so ever with storage, I'm not sure what you mean when you're saying you do. It works as linux should work.
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#4
charlie0440 Wrote:You want one machine total yeh?

If so FreeNas is not even an option its FreeBSD, unless your running it as a vm. XBMC live has been replaced with XBMCbuntu which might be an option. I am no expert but I would install ubuntu desktop and then just install xbmc on top. No problem to mount NTFS drives in ubuntu. I have no experience with windows home server. For streaming use NFS or samba

That was what I was thinkin.
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#5
errornumber419 Wrote:That was what I was thinkin.

Are you also setting up sabnzbd with sickbeard? if so I would have to inform you that "LOW POWER" such as an intel atom, etc.... would be a waste of money! You will be unhappy with its performance while using as a dual function machine...

I would recommend the minimum: Duo Core 3Ghz 1066Mhz Bus with 8GB RAM...
Now as far as storage, you want to make sure your OS/HTPC Software / Download folder / and Media Storage are all on separate drives...
otherwise look forward to delays and buffering while watching videos (Unless of course your running unix... then you can setup I/O controls).

If you are just setting up as a "Media server" technically it won't be a server... Just a HTPC with local media... if that's the case boot xbmc from USB and use hard drives for media... a "LOW POWER" atom will be fine and a min. 4gb ram (you can get away with less but ram is cheap enough!! so why not)
good luck
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#6
Go the N40L, but upgrade the RAM while you're mucking around with the motherboard/installing the GPU.

Just make sure that the RAM doesn't come with any heatsinks and stuff. And buy the cheapest you can get. DDR3 ram usually rated at 1066 Mhz, but the N40L bus limit is 800 MHZ, so just get the 'value RAM' option.

I replaced the 'ECC server ram' with 8 gig of 'desktop ram'.. that's the upgrade limit.
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#7
I have just built what I think you are after-

3x Noctua NF-S12B FLX 120mm Fan $78.00
1x Corsair CMX4GX3M1A1333C9 4GB (1x4GB) DDR3 $25.00
1x Seasonic X-400 Fanless Gold 400W $169.00
4x Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB ST2000DL003 $500.00
1x Lian Li PC-A04 Black $145.00
1x ASUS E45M1-I-DELUXE M-ITX Motherboard $229.00
1x Intel 520 Series 60GB SSD $155.00


The system is as quiet as you can make a computer. The only noise is from the green drives. But still extremely silent.

The computer has been tested to use only between 20-25 watts under full load.

Plays 1080p mkv's perfectly.
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#8
Just ordered the N40L, and the GT210.

In the end the specs should be:
-HP ProLiant N40L
-Asus GT 210
-320GB WD Caviar Blue
-3TB Seagate
-1TB WD Green
-No optical drive, might throw another drive bay up there.
-8GB DDR3

Digital Vortex Wrote:Go the N40L, but upgrade the RAM while you're mucking around with the motherboard/installing the GPU.

Just make sure that the RAM doesn't come with any heatsinks and stuff. And buy the cheapest you can get. DDR3 ram usually rated at 1066 Mhz, but the N40L bus limit is 800 MHZ, so just get the 'value RAM' option.

I replaced the 'ECC server ram' with 8 gig of 'desktop ram'.. that's the upgrade limit.

Yup, the ram I got is 8GB (2x4GB) GSKILL 1333 which is the same speed as the stock ram. (although the CPU can't even support that?) As with most systems/ram it should automatically underclock it just fine.


Tombf2g Wrote:I have just built what I think you are after-

3x Noctua NF-S12B FLX 120mm Fan $78.00
1x Corsair CMX4GX3M1A1333C9 4GB (1x4GB) DDR3 $25.00
1x Seasonic X-400 Fanless Gold 400W $169.00
4x Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB ST2000DL003 $500.00
1x Lian Li PC-A04 Black $145.00
1x ASUS E45M1-I-DELUXE M-ITX Motherboard $229.00
1x Intel 520 Series 60GB SSD $155.00


The system is as quiet as you can make a computer. The only noise is from the green drives. But still extremely silent.

The computer has been tested to use only between 20-25 watts under full load.

Plays 1080p mkv's perfectly.

Sounds quiet and very nice but way out of my price range. At the moment I have less than $300 in mine.

Lunatixz Wrote:Are you also setting up sabnzbd with sickbeard? if so I would have to inform you that "LOW POWER" such as an intel atom, etc.... would be a waste of money! You will be unhappy with its performance while using as a dual function machine...

I would recommend the minimum: Duo Core 3Ghz 1066Mhz Bus with 8GB RAM...
Now as far as storage, you want to make sure your OS/HTPC Software / Download folder / and Media Storage are all on separate drives...
otherwise look forward to delays and buffering while watching videos (Unless of course your running unix... then you can setup I/O controls).

If you are just setting up as a "Media server" technically it won't be a server... Just a HTPC with local media... if that's the case boot xbmc from USB and use hard drives for media... a "LOW POWER" atom will be fine and a min. 4gb ram (you can get away with less but ram is cheap enough!! so why not)
good luck

I will run the 320GB as an OS / software drive with everything else being data (divided by media vs backups) spread across the other two drives.

The AMD dual core in this benchmarks significantly higher than the atom series so that should do just fine.

Chances are I will be running and xfce desktop with xbmc as a standalone application that just runs on startup. Should be more than light weight enough for it since the GPU will do the video decoding.
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#9
Tombf2g Wrote:I have just built what I think you are after-

3x Noctua NF-S12B FLX 120mm Fan $78.00
1x Corsair CMX4GX3M1A1333C9 4GB (1x4GB) DDR3 $25.00
1x Seasonic X-400 Fanless Gold 400W $169.00
4x Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB ST2000DL003 $500.00
1x Lian Li PC-A04 Black $145.00
1x ASUS E45M1-I-DELUXE M-ITX Motherboard $229.00
1x Intel 520 Series 60GB SSD $155.00


The system is as quiet as you can make a computer. The only noise is from the green drives. But still extremely silent.

The computer has been tested to use only between 20-25 watts under full load.

Plays 1080p mkv's perfectly.

Hi Tombf2g,
I am also looking for a HTPC/Server and your setup looks very good to me. I only couple of questions:

Which OS are your running?
Are you using any Raid config?
Would this setup be good enough to run Zentyal SBS and XBMC the same time?
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#10
errornumber419 Wrote:Just ordered the N40L, and the GT210.

In the end the specs should be:
-HP ProLiant N40L
-Asus GT 210
-320GB WD Caviar Blue
-3TB Seagate
-1TB WD Green
-No optical drive, might throw another drive bay up there.
-8GB DDR3


Were you able to install the Asus GT 210 on N40L? I had trouble making it work even with the heat sink off. The heat sink is too big to fit in the case without some mod.
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#11
hutbay Wrote:Were you able to install the Asus GT 210 on N40L? I had trouble making it work even with the heat sink off. The heat sink is too big to fit in the case without some mod.

Turns out I had to take the heatsink off and do a little modding, wasn't too pretty, but so far it is running fine.

One problem though. I am running Ubuntu 11.10 and I cannot get it to mount my 3TB NTFS volume when it is in the drive bay. If it is on USB however it works fine. I have seen people do it fine through Windows 7 and WHS.

Any ideas or am I stuck going back to Windows?
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#12
Trash NTFS. By pure nature it's slow, inefficient and fragments a lot. I'd reformat into ext4, the drives will become Linux-friendly and performance will go up to the roof (this is from personal experience!).
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#13
Lunatixz Wrote:Are you also setting up sabnzbd with sickbeard? if so I would have to inform you that "LOW POWER" such as an intel atom, etc.... would be a waste of money! You will be unhappy with its performance while using as a dual function machine...

Lulz. I've been running my Acer Revo 1600 (Atom/ION) as my XBMC/sabnzbd/sickbeard/couchpotato 1080p media machine for a couple years now and it hasn't so much as hiccuped when performing all tasks at once.

Two external drives storing my media have always been connected via USB, and have had an internal SSD running XBMClive. No problem.
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#14
So far this thing is running pretty good. I have it set up with Xubuntu 11.10 which automatically signs in, runs proftpd in the background, and starts XBMC Eden RC2. As I am not a very experienced Ubuntu user (although I have used it on and off over the last few years) it took a lot of tweaking to get it working just right.

By the way I did manage to get the 3TB drive mounted. Unfortunately I did have to reformat it to an EFI volume first using gdisk and then gparted. While I was at it I used the ext4 file system and it is incredibly fast compared to when I had it in NTFS in USB mode. (SATA II > USB 3.0)

The GeForce 210 is keeping up nicely although, like I mentioned earlier, I did have to mess with the heat sink pretty heavily. That said, it is staying at less than 70*C when watching 1080p videos which is really all I need it to do.

The G-Skill Value Series DDR3 1333 (2x4GB) that I had laying around is working great. No compatibility issues as it seems to have down-clocked by it self. (which is good since it is almost unusable when overclocking on my other system).

No optical drive as of yet. Eventually I may throw another hard drive up there or possibly some nifty HTPC gadget since there is a pile of readily available 4 pin molex connectors underneath it.

All in all it is working well so far and I would highly suggest a similar setup to others. Granted the CPU isn't the fastest around but it works just fine and has 4 internal 3.5" bays, a fast SATA II controller and a really good NIC (Not an easy set to find on a Mini-ITX board).
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