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Data Storage Media Networking Television Entertainment Hardware

Video Appliance For a Large Library On a Network? 516

Posted by timothy
from the wants-it-all-in-one-place dept.
devjj writes "For the past year or so I have been trying (and failing) to figure out a reasonable solution for bringing my large media library to my living room. All of my media lives on an Ubuntu server that sits on my network. It's been very reliable and it's fast enough for streaming purposes. My content is exposed via SMB. It's the living room side where I keep running into problems. I am currently using Windows 7 and XBMC, but the case is too big and noisy, I don't particularly care for Windows, and the whole thing just seems overkill. What I want is a device that can present a decent UI that the non-Slashdot crowd would be able to use, but that is still powerful enough to stream full-fidelity 1080p. I dream of a small box that can transcode video over a network, but that's probably a pipe dream. The new Apple TV would be great if it could connect to network shares. What say you, Slashdot? Is what I'm looking for possible, or should I just give in to the iTunes/Amazon/whatever juggernauts?"
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Video Appliance For a Large Library On a Network?

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  • Mac Mini + Plex (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drivelikejehu (601752)
    If you can afford it, get one of the new Mac Minis and install Plex [plexapp.com]. The new version that came out yesterday is incredibly slick. It'll do all you want.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A Mac Mini is just way too expensive to be abused as a streaming media player.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        A Mac Mini is just way too expensive to be abused as a streaming media player.

        Or as a personal computer.

      • Re:Mac Mini + Plex (Score:5, Informative)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:14PM (#33460110) Journal
        No shit, He can get a 1080p player from WD for about $120 that'll play just about any format thrown at it, uses something like 12w, and as a bonus is small and light enough he can easily take it and a USB drive anywhere he wants.I have set up a couple of these systems for those with kids and the WD boxes are pretty solid, no noise, and make a great replacement for the family DVD player. Blowing the money on a Mac Mini (or hell any PC unless he has an old SFF P4 laying around he isn't using) for a streaming player is just nuts.
    • Re:Mac Mini + Plex (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Firehed (942385) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:02PM (#33459438) Homepage

      As a heads-up, I just tried this and ended up having to return the system. There appears to be some bug with their HDMI which can cause the machine to kernel panic, apparently when powering on either the display or receiver it's plugged into*. A damn shame, as it's otherwise very well suited to that kind of use. A compact, quiet, and fairly cool system that doesn't use a whole lot of power but still has no problem playing back HD video. Hooking the tower back up to the TV just sucks, as it uses about 50x the energy** and is massively overkill for that kind of use, and is certainly not compact by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe I'll dig out an old unused laptop instead.

      * I'm not 100% sure that's the cause, but it was as close as I ever got to diagnosing the issue. And this was after exchanging the system for a full replacement. If only only happened to one machine I'd blame the hardware, but two systems with identical problems tells me something else is at play. Of course, it could be specific to my TV+receiver combo too.

      **Which only bothers me because of the power bill. Effing hippies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drivelikejehu (601752)
        That really sucks, but I've never run into that problem and I've had this setup going for several months now (got the mini as soon as the hdmi ones were released). I'd guess it's your TV+receiver combo then - I don't have any problems with my Kuro and Pioneer something or other receiver (the mini plugs into the receiver, the receiver goes to the TV).
        • Re:Mac Mini + Plex (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Vancorps (746090) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:45PM (#33460354)
          I just installed XBMCLive on a en Eeebox, the eb1501 handled bluray level playback without an issue. It's an Atom 330 so it's already kinda dated as the 510s with Ion2 will actually handle flash in full screen without the benefit of the crappy 3d acceleration now offered in Flash 10.1. It's based on Ubuntu 9.04 so there are some issues with certain wireless controllers but it took me all of an hour start to finish to get the thing setup how I want it. That even includes being able to launch Firefox with the Launder app, coincidentally this method will work with Pandora too although sadly Netflix natively is a no go but a lot of people have Bluray players already with netflix so you just use XBMC as a uPNP client at that point and you can enjoy all the benefits. My whole setup complete with SSD so there is zero noise after the sound of pressing the button.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Why not just use the minimal install [xbmc.org] option? This turns the unit into an XBMC appliance, so there isn't an OS for the end user to deal with.

            I actually put this on a CF card with a CF to IDE converter. I use the PicoPSU-120 [mini-box.com] power supply and I removed all the fans on the mobo and cards with large heat sinks. It's completely silent. However, I only use mine for music so I don't have any large graphics cards, but I'm pretty sure you can get fanless cards capable of 1080p since I have a fanless one in my des

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Siridar (85255)

      +1 to this. I have a slightly older mac mini (C2D, 2Gb) hooked up to my TV with a DVI>HDMI cable, using optical to my amplifier for audio. Plex decodes 1080p content fine on this setup, and squirts out DD 5.1 just fine to my amp. I splashed out and bought a Harmony One remote, which is supported in plex - right down to Logitech adding a "plex" device to the keymap of the remote. Its simple enough that anyone can sit down and use it. Its also very quiet and cool.

      The recent release (9.0) adds a few nice fe

    • I have the most recent Mac Mini. With Plex, it cannot play full-screen 1080p, even 24fps (my test is Avatar, full blu-ray file). XBMC nightly builds can do it if you have h.264 acceleration on, so maybe Plex will work soon.

      All in all the Mini (even my 2.66GHz one) is probably not a good choice due to the slow CPU and high price.

      It's too bad too since the Mini does HDMI audio (7.1 channels, 24-bit, 192KHz).

      Also, if the Mini wakes up with no TV attached (because your amp is set to another input) it switches a

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Narcogen (666692)

        Both XBMC and Plex have supported hardware acceleration on the 2010 mini for a few months now. XBMC "dharma" supports it, Plex9 supports it, and there's a standalone binary of Plex 0.85 that supports it.

        If you haven't already I suggest enabling the "true fullscreen" option in Plex. (Go to windowed mode, and in the Plex menu, open "advanced settings" and enable "True fullscreen".

        If you're seeing dropped frames or stuttering that makes you think Plex9 can't do 1080p full screen, try this option. I've actually

  • Popcorn Hour (Score:5, Informative)

    by mewsenews (251487) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:24PM (#33458962) Homepage

    No transcoding but it plays close to all formats

    http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/ [popcornhour.com]

    • Re:Popcorn Hour (Score:4, Informative)

      by pilgrim23 (716938) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:30PM (#33459054)
      Agreed. I also use Popcorn hour, before that I used a Avel Link Player and before that a MyIhome from El Gato ALL use the Sybas software. The Popcorn Hour handles the most encodes and you can plug in multiple servers. plus it will take a BluRay and a hard drive. Also the client for it runs on PC (XP Vista Win7) Mac 10.3 and on with a G4 of around 900mhz and up or Linux. Highly recommended
      • Re:Popcorn Hour (Score:5, Insightful)

        by blair1q (305137) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:46PM (#33459258) Journal

        I just looked all over their website and I can't make head or tail of what the thing really does.

        Do I have to load data on it or is a just controller and link manager? Does it have native wireless capability (the spec pages say no, the comparison page says yes)? How many boxes do I need to handle 2 PCs , 1 dual-tuner satellite dish/PVR, a BD player, and 3 TVs?

        I will never understand why anyone tries to sell a product the customer can't visualize. I will never understand someone who buys something the seller can't explain simply.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by maxume (22995)

          It plays media streamed over a network. You need one for each TV you want to use one on. It won't do anything with your dish. You can probably use any PC on the network to serve media. Wireless is a for-pay option on each of the devices they sell.

        • Re:Popcorn Hour (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:00PM (#33459402)
          posting anon to preserve moderations

          It's a catergory of device known as a NMT - network media tank. There are various ones, and I have a popcorn A110

          You can put a hard drive in it and store/play media from there

          You can hook a usb drive to it and store/play media from that

          It also acts a a usb device, you can plug it into a pc and use it as a usb drive

          you can plug it into a network and hook up multiple servers, either via nfs/smb or http streaming (no wifi on mine)

          It runs ftp / http so you can browse it and use it, the device it self, as a server to stream media to your PC

          It has 'web apps' built it so you can view many online video services and video/podcasts etc, (but not youtube afaik)

          It has hdmi,composite and component out for video output

          it has optical out and phono stereo for sound out (and the hdmi)

          it plays just about everything i've thrown at it, full 1080p, dvd rips, xvids, crappy phone vids

          no lagging, no jumping, seeking it very fast even on 18GB blu ray rips

          Support for various video modes, refresh rates and 24fps, progressive/interlaced.

          In terms of hooking it to your TVs think of it like a set top box - so one device per TV, unless you want to take the output and split it/distribute it.

          I got it because I was fed up of a myth tv box whirring away in the corner of the living room

          This thing (without a HD inside) is silent. And by silent i don't mean nearly silent, but actually silent, no moving parts.

          I just point it at my video share on my linux server and it plays everything.

          For movies, you may want to check out YAMJ, whichi makes it all shiny and nice (think apple TV / xbmc) but tbh I don't need any of that 'I watch, I delete'

          Also, with a HD inside you can opt to have a torrent client (transmission IIRC) which will download straight on to it for your viewing pleasure..

          for ease of use and WAF / Child AF totally recommend.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kava_kicks (727490)
      The popcorn is good, really good, but it is not perfect. The music playback is pretty crappy; the interface isn't fantastic; and it is a little buggy. I think it is pretty much perfect if ALL you want to do is play movies, but if you want to do more, I would use something else.

      I still prefer XBMC and after seeing a friend put it on a re-purposed Apple TV (not just jailbroken; completely overwritten), that is the way I am going.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      +1 for Popcorn Hour. They make very good media streamer with great community support and add-ons.

      I use the following setup:

      Popcorn Hour A-110 [popcornhour.com] hooked to wired ethernet
      Kroozbox [networkedmediatank.com] for TV user interface
      Personal Video Database [videodb.info] for video database management

      The way it works is I put a video file on a Samba share and run PVD from my desktop. PVD scans the share, finds the new video file(s), and populates the database with information from IMDB and posters from Amazon. Kroozbox runs on my Linux server and uses the PVD

  • O!Play (Score:3, Informative)

    by clarkn0va (807617) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [teg.tpa]> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:25PM (#33458974) Homepage
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3767/media-streamer-platforms-roundup/5 [anandtech.com] You can read a decent (although aging) round-up of your options there, or just go buy the O!Play. It plays anything that matters.
  • WD HD Live (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:25PM (#33458980)

    Get a Western Digital HD Live box. It's cheap, tiny, quiet and plays videos with a large variety of codecs. Also does music of course, plus Pandora, Flicker, etc.

  • Tversity (Score:3, Informative)

    by Deathnerd (1734374) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:25PM (#33458982)
    I've been using Tversity on my windows machine for 3 years now and I can honestly say it's the best solution I've ever seen. Transcoding to multiple devices with different codec/format requirement has never been simpler. I can stream to all the iPhones and computers in the house, as well as my 360 with minimal configuration.
  • by Era (193782) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:26PM (#33458994)

    You will want this: http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.asp?driveid=735
    And this: http://b-rad.cc/wdlxtv-live/

    Simple, effective and above all...cheap.

    • I had tried over and over to build a computer that would work well for playing video and that would be easy to control, the video always seemed a little jerky, couldn't get the remote quite right, so I finally gave up a bought a Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ (www.Newegg.com P/N: N82E16822148499). It was on sale for $70 when I bought it, then went on sale for $50, now is out of stock. If it can be found anywhere, I would recommend it because it works great for me (sounds like I was looking to do the same thin
  • Popcornhour (Score:2, Informative)

    by grub (11606)
    PopcornHour Network Media Tanks [popcornhour.com] ! We own two and LOVE 'em. Xvid, mkv, iso, vob etc. Up to 1080p.
  • MythTV (Score:4, Informative)

    by Onthax (1322089) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:28PM (#33459018)
    MythTV, do all the processing on the backend server and have a lightweight (quiet) frontend it should bolt onto your existing ubuntu server
    • Re:MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

      by XanC (644172) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:36PM (#33459132)

      Exactly. I've used the ~$200 Acer AspireRevo as a frontend. Full HD and everything. Even got a Windows refund! (Well, technically it's still being processed, but they've agreed I'm supposed to get one.)

    • Re:MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

      by TrevorB (57780) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:41PM (#33459184) Homepage

      Being a Slackware user for many years, I went the MythTV+Slackware route when I got my HTPC up and running. One day I managed to totally break my system and decided "What the hell, let's give MythBuntu a go". What used to be a 2 hour+ set up time went down to 10-15 minutes. I actually switched my server over to Ubuntu soon afterwards and haven't looked back.

      MythTV and Ubuntu (and mediabuntu) marry well together on both the backend and frontend. It's worth an afternoon to try out if you have the hardware around. I used nfs instead of smfs to connect the two, but the principles the same. Plus I have additional "TV" sets all around the house with dual booting partition. Those took a little extra time to set up but it is a bonus.

      Some of the new mini SSD based machines (Like the Acer Revo) might be the way to go for the frontend. They're powerful enough and can playback HD video. MythTV works great on my Asus EEE 901 running Ubuntu Netbook remix.

    • MythTV, do all the processing on the backend server and have a lightweight (quiet) frontend it should bolt onto your existing ubuntu server

      Question: my server is running Debian Lenny. Can I run the backend on that?

      • by XanC (644172)

        I think that should work. As long as the versions of MythTV are close enough. Check Marillat's Debian multimedia repository.

  • mac mini / front row (Score:3, Informative)

    by sl0ppy (454532) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:29PM (#33459030)

    personally i use a mac mini with front row. i map my fileserver via smb, play content using sapphire, the hulu plugin for front row, boxee, etc.

    it works reasonably well.

    • Does the mac mini come with the little remote? That would be super handy and possibly enough to justify the cost all by itself.

      Also, what sort of output does it have? DVI? HDMI?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Yvan256 (722131)

        The remote isn't included, but it has the infrared port required for one. You just need to buy the remote separately, unless you want to use an iPhone/iPod touch/iPad to control your media (free "Remote" app).

        The new Mac mini has both HDMI and mini DisplayPort outputs.

  • XBMC + Asrock ION (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:29PM (#33459034)

    check out the nvidia ion based boards and systems.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856158009&cm_re=asrock_ion-_-56-158-009-_-Product

    enough muscle for 1080p, all packed into a tiny, quiet package

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235)

      Seconded. An Ion system with xbmc is what I use and so far we haven't found anything it can't play... case isn't much bigger than a DVD player and even with the optional CPU fan installed it doesn't make much noise.

  • My Setup (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nexzus (673421) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:29PM (#33459036)
    I run PS3MediaServer on my fileserver. Streams (and trancodes when necessary) over the network to my PS3. Works well.
  • PS3 (Score:4, Informative)

    by dtmancom (925636) <gordon2 AT dtman DOT com> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:30PM (#33459046) Homepage
    I researched this long and hard. I wanted what is known as a "Networked Media Tank," but I didn't have the bucks to make a poor decision and try again. I just plugged the PS3 into the receiver I already had, plugged it into the network, and pointed it at the folder on the server which had all of my music/photos/movies. On the server I installed "PS3 Media Server," which is freeware, pointed it at my media folder, and that, literally, was all it took. Plus the PS3 will play your Blu Rays, and as it is Sony, the firmware updates for new releases will always be available... unlike with the dedicated BD player I had from Samsung. Over a year later and I have never regretted the decision.
    • Re:PS3 (Score:4, Informative)

      by r3verse (1202031) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:47PM (#33459266)
      I second that. PS3, PS3 media server [http://code.google.com/p/ps3mediaserver/], HDMI into your TV. Transcodes anything the PS3 can't handle. That simple, and all for a ~$300 outlay, plus you get BD capability into the bargain. Can't be beat.
    • My understanding is that there is one downside - the PS3 is pissy about video framerates. So, if you have anything that is 25fps (standard for UK and Euro TV shows and often used for their movie releases) it won't play on a USA-version PS3. Almost all dedicated "network media tanks" and most standalone bluray players will play any framerate video and do a pretty good job of matching it to your display, be it 25fps, 24fps, 30fps, etc.

    • by Sancho (17056) *

      A long time ago (back when 60GB PS3s were still on the shelves) I tried this out. I found the experience to be lackluster, particularly since rewinding didn't work at all on transcoded streams. I ended up taking the PS3 back. Has this issue been resolved yet?

    • by jonabbey (2498) *

      I use MediaTomb on my Linux server and the PS3 as the living room appliance. Works a treat, and no one in the family has any problems using it at all.

      Plus, Blu-Ray, games.. bingo.

    • Re:PS3 (Score:5, Informative)

      by zaffir (546764) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:14PM (#33460100)

      I do this for my PS3, and there are a few issues that would make me NOT recommend it for the OP.

      Occasionally my PS3 refuses to find the media server and both have to be restarted. Not a huge deal, but annoying- especially to someone who doesn't know how to reboot the media server.

      Sometimes PS3 Media Server doesn't get the auto-transocde right. So you have to browse to the TRANSCODE folder on your PS3 and select a transocde preset manually. Very handy for a techie, not user friendly at all.

      The interface on the PS3 kinda sucks. It's a basic hierarchy-style file browser. Yes you can find something if it's labeled properly. I have a "TV" and "Movies" folder, and in there each show or movie has its own folder and in that is the media file(s) associated with it. But after using XBMC or Boxee which automatically find your media, pull all of the metadata you'd ever want about it, then make it easily searchable, you'll realize just how much the PS3 is missing. They both offer WAY more in terms of usability, plus Boxee streams all kinds of fun internet content. I had occasion to run Boxee this summer after using my PS3 for 2 years, and it was like fucking magic.

  • Puget Systems Echo: http://www.pugetsystems.com/echo.php [pugetsystems.com]

    There is an Atom / Ion version that may suffice for your needs (Echo I) and a more powerful Core i3 / i5 model if you need extra horsepower (Echo II). Both are very small, pretty darn quiet, and could run whatever software you'd like. I personally prefer the Windows 7 Media Center interface, but it sounds as though you aren't a big fan. Other nice options to check out are MythTV (Linux) and Boxxe (Windows or Linux).

  • Bandwidth (Score:3, Informative)

    by hardburn (141468) <(hardburn) (at) (wumpus-cave.net)> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:32PM (#33459078)

    Bandwidth probably won't be your limitation. The Blu-Ray format has an absolute max transfer rate of 54 Mb/s [wikipedia.org], and only 48Mb/s for A/V bandwidth. Even movies on disc won't usually max that out, since they'll be VBR-encoded. Movies on a file server will usually be compressed all the more. Even at 50% throughput loss, a 100Mbit ethernet will still be able to keep up.

    Don't know what your experience has been, but when I was using Samba, it often bogged down and caused the stream to stutter. I made my movies available over Apache w/DAV instead and the problem went away.

  • AppleTV (Score:3, Informative)

    by term0r (471206) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:32PM (#33459080)
    I run an AppleTV and have done the following non-standard things with it:

    -Hacked it to enable SSH and read/write FS
    -Installed Mplayer and XBMC
    -Made it so a folder called ATV on my desktop computer automatically syncs with the ATV using rsync regularly so whatever I have downloaded is always on the ATV
    -Ordered and installed a Broadcom CrystalHD mini PCI card that renders video and takes processing that away from the ATV's limited CPU
    -Installed kexts that support the above and a nightly build of XBMC so I can now play 720 and 1080p media using XBMC

    Works perfect for me. I could install Linux on it but both myself and my partner love Apple's movie rental system and the iTunes integration for our music. So by applying the above hacks we get everything we need.
    It does also support network shares with a bit of hacking.
  • XBMC + Acer Revo (Score:5, Informative)

    by mprinkey (1434) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:33PM (#33459098)

    If you want to roll you own, use XBMC on an Acer Aspire Revo R1600 ($200). It uses the Nvidia ION LE chipset that supports h264 offloading. I would use these myself, but I already have three Popcorn Hours.

    PCHs are nice, quiet, and cheap, but the UI is awful. It will require some tinkering to make nice. YAMJ is your friend (Yet Another Movie Jukebox).

  • by cheeni (267248) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:35PM (#33459112)

    Option 1: ReadyNAS Duo [readynas.com] (built in torrent client) + WD TV Live (simple remote)
    Option 2: Ubuntu server on network + PS3MediaServer [google.com] + Sony PS3 (enable HDMI CEC for use with TV remote)
    Option 3: Fritz!Box 7270 [fritzbox.eu] + USB HDD + PS3 as DLNA client / built in DLNA client on TV
    Option 4: ASRock ION330 + Ubuntu [blogspot.com]
    Option 5: Mac Mini + Apple Remote + Plex / XBMC + NAS/USB HDD

    The key bottle neck is the network, if you can run LAN cables no worries, if you decide to go wireless 802.11n will do fine for 720p, 1080p is pushing it

    • by cain (14472)

      Option 6: ushare [sourceforge.net] + XBox360 (or any player that supports UPnP)
         

    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      The key bottle neck is the network, if you can run LAN cables no worries, if you decide to go wireless 802.11n will do fine for 720p, 1080p is pushing it

      If you are serving up native BluRay, then you might run into problems, but a transcode to less than 15Mbps will still keep 1080p24 looking stunning on anything less than a 60" display.

      Now, if you have some 1080p60 source that really is that (and not 24fps film with duplicate frames in a 60fps stream), then you'll need nearly 25Mbps, so wireless would be iffy.

      This is one of the reasons I went with an actual HTPC...there are very few media players with a BluRay drive (other than the PS3), so you unless you ca

  • I have a MacBook Pro (Core 2 Duo, circa 2008) connected to an SMB share on a Windows 7 box (1055t/8GB ram) over wireless-n (~300mbit) and 1080p STILL gets the jitters - sometimes completely fucks out at high bitrates. 720p will mostly play nice, standard divx is fine too. If I close the lid of the laptop and lose the network share, it takes about 10 minutes to find the SMB share again. All I'm saying is, if a MacBook Pro is still complaining about 1080p over 300mbit wireless-n, AppleTV is a pipe dream unles

    • by mewsenews (251487)

      I have a MacBook Pro (Core 2 Duo, circa 2008) connected to an SMB share on a Windows 7 box (1055t/8GB ram) over wireless-n (~300mbit) and 1080p STILL gets the jitters

      You realize running a serious stream over wifi is asking for trouble, right? You can't just say "oh it's 300mbit" and expect everything to arrive on time. There's a difference between bandwidth and latency, and every time the wifi has some freak drop in signal you're going to see problems. You would have to specifically configure a huge playbac

  • by do0b (1617057)
    XMBC Live on a Atom + Ion machine.
    Something like the Acer R3610 ( http://www.acer.co.uk/acer/productv.do?LanguageISOCtxParam=en&kcond61e.c2att101=68913&sp=page16e&ctx2.c2att1=17&link=ln438e&CountryISOCtxParam=UK&ctx1g.c2att92=242&ctx1.att21k=1&CRC=2669969291 [acer.co.uk] )
    It can process 1080P h.264 without breaking a sweat.
    • by Bruha (412869)

      Did they fix all the issues with running on ION? Hardware accel, sound over the fiber port etc.

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:38PM (#33459144) Journal

    The beauty of a PC is that it's no big deal if a new codec comes around, and if you don't like the interface you have others to choose from.

    Appliances have limitations, may not allow new codecs to be installed etc.

    Find a quiet PC

  • I personally have a Patriot Box Office that I bought off NewEgg for $65. It is solid for what it does. Every format, streaming off a network SMB share or from its own HD. Also has a P2P bitorrent client with web browser interface that'll store your torrent files directly to a local hard drive. This is a feature missing from many of the other similar media streamers.

    Problem is the interface. It's not as slick as Boxee or AppleTV. I'd go with one of those if you want it to be accessible to people not famil
  • I just hooked up a LG BD570 [lg.com] for <$200 that plays Blu-ray discs, Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, other online content, files on a networked CIFS share from a Windows box and has built-in wifi. Only issue I've noticed is that it doesn't play .vob files from a network share.
  • GeeXboX (Linux) (Score:2, Informative)

    by sven_eee (196651)

    http://www.geexbox.org/ Its a mini Linux install using Mplayer. I had been using it for years with out issues. You can install it to a USB flash stick or LiveCD to test it out be for install

  • Cripes. (Score:4, Informative)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:45PM (#33459244)
    I spent a couple hundred bucks on Newegg, put together a MicroATX box in a home theater case (looks like a DVD player, virtually silent.) I've run Linux on it and played videos with Xine, and I've had XP on there with the Mega Codec Pack's Media Player Classic. Plays everything I've ever thrown at it, including Quicktime videos (hell, it even plays Real's media, as if anyone still uses it.) I used a $35 ATI Radeon with HDMI out, and plugged it into a 65" Samsung DLP TV. Plays everything in 1080p, smooth as silk. Better even than the upsampling Samsung DVD player I bought with the TV.
  • I've actually done this two ways:

    1) PC in living room.... if you can, see if there's a way to hide the big noisy PC. In my condo, I have a conveniently located closet exactly on the other side of the wall from my TV. Poking a hole through the drywall and feeding AV cabling and the IR sensor for the remote was trivial. No noise, no mess, all the convenience.

    2) Instead of an AppleTV, take a look at a Mac Mini. Has HDMI out, is only twice as tall as the AppleTV, and is incredibly silent. I use this with Plex (

  • by De Lemming (227104) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:48PM (#33459280) Homepage

    The Shuttle XS35GT [shuttle.eu] is a fanless box with the new NVIDIA ION2 GPU, if you put a SSD drive in it it's 100% silent. It should be able to handle H.264 1080p without a problem. You can run Linux (e.g. XBMCbuntu [xbmc.org]) or Win7 with XBMC [xbmc.org] on it. It also supports a DVD, DVD-RW or Bluray drive.

    Another option is the Xtreamer [xtreamer.net], I don't know much about it but it's cheap ($99, that's without a HD) and according to the site it can play 1080p (the new Apple TV only supports 720p). It has an option ("SideWinder") to attach external heat sinks to make it fanless.

    A good place for more information is the XBMC hardware forum [xbmc.org].

  • with the whole focus being power, heat and noise mgmt.

    simple idea: allow dynamic spin up/down of drives via some mgmt console (a truly out of band console, even allowing the system to be booted and shutdown).

    I gave up on RAID. too much heat and noise and I just don't need all my drives spinning at once. I'm starting on a new project to mount 16 or more drives for use on a standard pc. way too much to keep spun up all the time.

    no, auto spin-down is not working for all architectures (usb, sata, etc). I ne

  • Viewsonic makes an awesome little nettop box (basically it's a high end netbook without a screen) that is absolutely perfect for this.

    http://www.viewsonic.com/products/vot132.htm [viewsonic.com]

    Stick a USB tuner card in there and use Windows Media Center and you have a fantastic all round entertainment system for your living room - and nearly silent and very low power so you won't feel bad about having it on all the time. I don't understand why you would buy a box that can only do streaming when you can have a full comput

  • by shams42 (562402)
    Just watch your porn on your laptop.
  • by BKX (5066) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:56PM (#33459366) Journal

    You'll need two things:

    1. A computer that stores your movies. This computer must run some sort of UPnP media server software like PS3 Media Server on Windows or fuppes on Linux. It must be powerful enough to transcode in real-time your movies. Think Core 2 Duo 2GHz for 1080p, or P4 3GHz for 720p.

    2. A Playstation 3 or XBox 360. This will be your display device hooked to your TV. Both are cake to use for non-computer experts and can do other fun things as well, like games, the Internet, Netflix, etc. I prefer the PS3 since it can handle Netflix without paying Microsoft a subscription fee, but if you already have an XBOX 360 with and Xbox Live account, then that may be a better idea.

    All other answers to this question are lame and/or missed the point. Seriously. Making some crap computer out of spare parts and hooking it up to your TV just doesn't make sense when you probably already have a PS3 or Xbox 360 and a computer good enough to transcode on-the-fly and large enough (storage wise) to hold your media. Hell, that computer probably sits in the same spot all day, every day and never gets turned off, so put that wasted power into good use. If you're really just trying to shoehorn some old, piece of shit computer into something useful, then what you really have is a solution looking for a problem. Fuck that. Sell the POS on craigslist and be done with it.

  • by chmilar (211243) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:58PM (#33459372)

    I have been using SageTV and their Media Extenders for a couple of years now, and I am very happy with it.

    The basics:

    1) You set up a "server" PC loaded with hard drives and tuner/capture cards, running the SageTV software.

    2) At the TV, you connect a small, low-power Media Extender, which presents an identical user interface to the SageTV software.

    I am using this to record broadcast TV from an antenna, watch DVD and Blu-ray rips, and (with the addition of PlayOn) watch Hulu and Comedy Central streaming.

    Their website: http://sagetv.com/ [sagetv.com]

    I used to use MythTV, and I find that SageTV has pretty much identical functionality, but I could remove a computer from the living room and use the small extender device instead.

  • The PS3 will do a lot of this but not all formats. It's a bit picky with some things. A small form factor pc connected to the tv and a lan would probably work best. I believe several other people have suggested exact models. If you have a newer tv, check if it has a ethernet jack or usb jack built in. I have the samsung series 8 led tv and it natively supports more formats than the PS3 but doesn't do DTS sound and can't fast forward or rewind mkv files (which is my only hurdle at the moment to ditching my s

  • I have a Roku Netflix Player (or whatever they call it these days, one was just on woot the other day for 50$). It is an network-connected device (wireless, ethernet and also USB in the new version) which can stream Netflix and Amazon and other junk. It is about an inch high and maybe 5 inches wide and makes no noise (no fan, no hard drive, just a couple A/V ports). But also...

    You can install aftermarket applications on the box, in a manner of speaking, and Roku offers an API along with detailed examples

  • I worked exhaustingly to get my MythTV setup 'finished' and gave up on it after about three full years. I had a server, a living room PC, and one/two bedroom deployments, depending on whether or not they were broken at the given time.

    Streaming killed it all. The wife added Netflix, and I added Hulu (and later Plus), and we haven't looked back. We keep basically nothing, and thus are at the whims of the people controlling the services, but aside from needing a relatively-beefy Windows PC to handle the Fla

  • Mac Mini and Plex (Score:3, Informative)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:11PM (#33459536)

    Plex [plexapp.com] running on a MacMini is what I use. The mini is a solid low power platform that you can easily hook up external disk or access your NAS with. Has HDMI output for connecting to your stereo/tv etc.

    Plex is made to use the apple remote control, so you don't need a keyboard/mouse after the very initial setup. There's also a iPhone/Pad/Touch app [plexapp.com] so you can control Plex or stream from the plex app to your iPhone/Touch/Pad. The main application for your mac mini is free and the iOS component is $5.

    Great community of support for the app definitely better than XBMC.

  • by GWBasic (900357)

    I used to use a Mac Pro on my TV, which is very quiet. It had no problem with 1080p video. I later bought a mac mini for my TV. I bought whatever they were selling in July 2009, It can do pretty much anything, although 1080p video is a bit of a stretch because the mini's CPU isn't as powerful as the pro. Specifically, it tends to skip in high-motion scenes. I really wish I spent the extra money for the faster CPU.

    If you have a budget slightly over $1000, the Mac Mini with the fastest CPU will probably

  • The d525 is a dual core, 4 thread atom at 1.8Ghz.

    ION2 = just a low power GPU but can decode high def easily with this CPU
    bcm70015 decodes divx, xvid, wmv, mpeg4, vc1, h264.

    slam these in a cheap case from newegg for 75 (includes power, is VESA mountable.

    Thats a ~$225 system.

    This system has zero fans and is completely quiet. no lights blinking, nothing.

  • by DodgeRules (854165) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:18PM (#33459626)
    I am currently using a Box Office by Patriot purchased thru CompUSA (TigerDirect) and it supports Linux kernal 2.4.1.0 or above as well as various Windows flavors and Mac 9.0 and above. The box supports a good number of video formats including MPEG-1 (MPG/MPEG/DAT) up to 1080p, MPEG-2 (MPG/MPEG/VOB/IFO/TS/TP/M2TS) up to 1080p, MPEG-4 (MP4/AVI/MOV) up to 1080p, DivX 3/4/5/6 & Xvid (AVI/MKV) up to 1080p, H.264 * AVC (TS/AVI/MKV/MOV/M2TS) up to 1080p, Real Video 8/9/10 (RM/RMVP) up to 720p, FLV, WMV9 (1080p) and ISO (1080p). Many audio formats including the regulars plus OGG and FLAC. Image formats include JPEG, BMP and PNG. The box has fast Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0 ports and internal 2.5" SATA HDD connections. (HDD sold seperately, but very easy to install.) A USB wireless adapter is available, but came included in my package. You can stream video from network storage devices. Best of all, it is small, quiet, has a remote control, HDMI output as well as composite A/V and S/PDI outputs.
  • I use an ION based HTPC. I have two of them and both are about the size of a Wii. The decoding is done via the NVIDIA chipset and VDPAU under Ubuntu. My ASROCK has a DVD drive - it's not needed. My Zotac is small enough to mount on the backside of the TV if I wish. I get 1080P video just fine and I get surround sound as well. Visit the XBMC forums and peruse the Linux section for hardware help - I post there too. Hardware I use is quiet, power saving, and produces little heat. The Live distros work well IMO

  • In my case, the problem was the kids scratching up the DVD collection, so I wanted a way for the kids to watch a movie without worrying about them popping it out of the player with peanut-butter covered hands. Now I backup up the originals (which go on a high shelf) and we watch the digital backup over the network.

    I am having good luck with the vanilla Win 7 media center that comes with Win 7 Home Premium. The user interface is easy enough for my 5 year old to operate it without assistance. No trans-codin
    • A printer? (Score:3, Funny)

      by 6Yankee (597075)

      I replaced the busybox setup with a full system using optware (ipkg), installed a cups print server, and attached a printer to the USB port. So far it has been able to serve up different movies to three different clients simultaneously over my home network without any problems.

      A printer? What are you doing, making them watch movies on flick books?

  • Get a PS3 and either a network attached storage device capable of running twonkymedia, or a small quiet PC you can stick in the closet running linux and PS3 Media Server.
  • MediaPortal (Score:2, Informative)

    by MrFancyPants (122224)

    I highly recommend MediaPortal http://www.team-mediaportal.com/

    The setup is significant, but once you have it going, it's great. You can use hardware accelerated h264 decoding (whereas Boxee, XBMC and many others are software only). The plugins for it have great, poweful support for automatically matching Movies and TV shows based on regexps and online lookups of the filenames.

    Some screenshots can be found:
    http://code.google.com/p/moving-pictures/
    http://code.google.com/p/mptvseries/

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Woa FUD.

      XBMC has had VDPAU hardware acceleration for almost a year now. The beta that was just released supports VDPAU, ATI's thingy, Broadcom, Apple's Hardware decoder.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:54PM (#33459932) Homepage Journal

    Too many people here miss the fact that you want the PLAYER side of the equation, not the server.

    I'd suggest something like the Patriot Box Office:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=patriot%20box%20office [google.com]
    http://patriotmem.com/products/detailp.jsp?prodline=6&catid=69&prodgroupid=159&id=895&type=20 [patriotmem.com]

    Small, reasonably quiet (more so if you do a bit of work on the fan), HDMI or composite out, does 1080i, does S/PDIF, does just about every form of media I've tried, does SMB/CIFS, uPnP (not just DLNA, but also plain old uPnP), runs Linux internally, can accept an internal 2.5" hard disk, can use an external USB WiFi stick, supports external media via USB (including EXT2/3 file systems).

  • But this is what I do. I keep all of the computers in my office. The server that plays the media (several are in use for purposes of storing it), has video and audio output that feeds into a UHF modulator, and I feed the output of that into a backwards splitter and combine it with the regular
    cable signal on channel 90 (which is unused by my cable company). I could easily use more channels as well with extra modulators, but I so far haven't needed more than one channel at a time. I set this up several ye

  • From The /. Crowd (Score:5, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:43PM (#33460338) Journal

    for the non-*crowd, set-top ready.

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/electronics/home-entertainment/d3fe/ [thinkgeek.com]

      Native 1080p video output at up to 1920x1080 resolution (check)
    - Analog recording of your favourite TV shows from Cable or Satelite (check)
    - Time-shift and scheduled recording (check)
    - Incredible variety of video and audio codec support including MKV (check)
    - Built in BitTorrent client for sharing and downloading video files (check)
    - HDMI, composite or component video output (check)
    - Optical SPDIF 5.1 Channel Dolby Digital audio output (check)
    - Takes up to 2.0 Terabyte SATA hard drive (check)
    - Built in samba server with UPnP implementation (check)
    - Oh and a completely sweet price! ($169, plus $35 for 1 to 3 week coming wireless N USB adapter4, plus you supply the SATA drive up to 2TB, and an external DVD burner if desired).

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