My home media setup.

By | March 3, 2017

I would like to tell you little bit more about my home media setup. I started playing with an idea of hooking up my computer to TV set when HTPC was still in infancy stage and my first build was very modest. It included 250G hard drive, dual core Intel CPU and analog Hauppauge TV tuners. As for recording engine I decided to go with BeyondTV. I tested other product but I was not impressed with GUI and its overall experience. Everything was running smooth until HD content started moving to the frontend and my HTPC was becoming noisier at the same time. Snapstream also decided to fold its activities in consumer market. Rebuild was inevitable. This time I went with AMD quad core, 2TB and internal Ceton TV tuners. I also ditched BeyondTV and move over to Windows Media Center. Recently, I removed Ceton tuners and replaced them with SiliconDust HDHomerun Prime. HTPC is showing some signs of wear and tear, however the only thing I would replace right now is a power unit and chassis fan. The AMD CPU is on low side of thermal usage. Its TDP is only 45W, so I can use fan less passive cooling. That CPU is a real gem and unfortunately is no longer available on the market.

Initially, I had also additional hard drive inside. It was storing some movies that I had in my collection. However, due to inconvenience of not being able play them on another computer, I decided to build small size home server. After doing some research, I settled on utilizing LimeTech unRaid, inside a Fractal Design small factor chassis. You can put up to 6 hard drives inside that tight space. Initially, I used dual core Atom CPU, and about 2 years ago I replaced it with new generation Atom CPU that has 8 cores. It is still low power, yet way more powerful.

My main computer is also something that I put together couple years ago. It has an Intel quad core CPU of older generation. It is sufficient for my needs, and at this point replacement is not necessary.

I like to listen to some radio shows. Specifically for that purpose I have dedicated computer with my own software solution. Initially, this computer was a small factor Atom build, and about two years ago I replaced it with a 5th generation Intel NUC. This computer runs 24/7 recording my favorite shows.  It converts them to mp3 format and creates RSS feeds. It has a running web server too, so I can get my podcasts anytime I want.  Very convenient and it is something I use on daily basis.

Latest addition to this setup is another small factor computer that runs Windows Media Center. This is really low end AMD CPU with similarly low TDP that should be able to run fan less, unfortunately I had to enable CPU fan due to overheating, probably due to incorrectly installed display drivers. Anyway, it runs smooth right now in my bedroom.  Before I started putting this computer together, I considered various options like Android TV or NVidia Shield. At the end I decided to stay with Windows Media Center.

As a backup, in case my HTPC fails I have a Roku device. However it is being rarely used.

Windows Media Center on HTPC is a primary TV recording engine. For watching archived media we use Kodi with MySQL running on unRaid server. This way it can be shared on all our computers. For mobile consumption I use Plex clients on my iPhone and NVidia Shield K1 tablet. Plex server docker is running on unRaid too. Recently, I started testing Kodi addon called PlexKodiConnect that allows using Plex server database as backend for Kodi. The biggest plus of this setup is that you can have a mobile client for Kodi. Technically speaking Kodi actually becomes a client for Plex Server.

I have to admit that I do not use that feature as much as I thought I would. Initially, I wanted to sync some content to Plex on my smartphone and watch it later at home in Kodi. However, I found that shorter clips are more suited for my commuting activity. Probably I will return my Kodi setup to its original MySQL backend. As for Plex, I like it as mobile client or even on Roku, but desktop application is lacking flexibility that Kodi provides. In addition, my wife simply does not like Plex’s UI.

As you can see this is fairly simple setup without major bells and whistles. Hardware is a little bit outdated, but for the most part it is serving its purpose. Although, I’m not replacing anything yet, in the future I would definitely go the route of lower power consumption.

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