My Media Server Build

A little back story first.
I have been building my own computers since 1993. Next to motorcycles, it is my oldest and favorite hobby. Over the years, I have built everything from minimalist machines for simple web browsing and email to small server farms to handle small and medium business needs in the beer distribution industry, the web design industry, 2 realtors, the 3 largest home builders in central Iowa and a friend's commercial and residential remodel business.

I have built gaming rigs from basic to absolute bleeding cutting edge machines with hardware that was either just coming to or not yet released to the public market. My customers were, quite literally global as I have built machines for people as far away as Poland, New Zealand and South Korea.

I am one of those fortunate few who gets to do one of his hobbies as his career. Unfortunately, I have gotten burnt out on it as a hobby.
A few years ago, I built my last top of the line build for myself. It served duty as my gaming computer and as a small VM farm for various things.
I also get my fill of fiddling with hardware/setup in my job as a systems engineer for a large government contractor. So aside from a couple of minor gaming builds for some friends, I haven't built anything since then.

I state this not to brag or seem immodest but simply to give some background on my experience.

Shortly after I sold my last multi-purpose rig, I purchased a small NAS to run in RAID 1 and serve up media (music, movies and my GoPro videos from motorcycle rides).
For a time, this solution worked great. But then, I was only serving up media to one device.

My daughter moved in, I discovered how much I liked Plex and its apps for IOS and picked up more DLNA capable devices.

Suddenly, my little NAS couldn't keep up. For the last 6 months, I have been running my laptop as my Plex server. It is more than capable but I ran into some issues with my NAS.

The NAS had trouble streaming to more than one device at a time.
It is a small home Synology device and it was consistently running at 90%+ on CPU and similar or higher memory usage. All while note even using more than 10-20% of my home network's bandwidth.
The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was a recent project I embarked on to clean up my music library. I had somehow managed to pick up duplicate copies in my library over the years along with a lot of orphaned songs, singles, "Unknown" entries, etc.
In my effort to clean things up, I deleted a lot of stuff, renamed a bunch of things with the same name and completely reorganized my library from one of genres-->artist-->albums-->songs to a simpler Artist-->Album(Year)-->Songs format. Surprisingly, this made things a LOT easier to find.
But I digress. During this process, I tried to multitask to speed up the process and in doing so discovered a MAJOR flaw of my poor little NAS. Lack of its ability to multitask.

I would be ripping an CD and go to another folder to sort things out and would run into serious slowness to the point of even typing in a new name for a folder would take several seconds for each character to show up. I know it wasn't on my laptop's end as it is a 3rd gen mobile i7 with 16GB of RAM and dual SSDs running in RAID 0. From a completely shut down state, press the power button and the computer is up and running in 8-10 seconds. The laptop is not the bottleneck.
I also know that the network is not the bottleneck either as all wired hardware is gigabit with CAT6 cables and the wireless side is handled by an Asus RT-AC68U dual band router on the first floor and an Asus RT-N12/D1 running as a range extender in the attic above the second floor. I get full signal strength from my wifi network whether I am 5 ft from the router or in the opposite corner of the house from it.
The NAS is connected directly to the router via CAT6 and has an internal gigabit NIC.

My wife saw my frustration as, over several weeks, I dealt with the headaches of waiting for the NAS to catch up. She knew that I wanted to eventually build a server to run Cinemar Server/MainLobby/DVDLobby software www.cinemarsolutions.com and to house all of our media including all of my music, my entire Blu-Ray library and my legacy DVD library (I own a lot of movies that will most likely never be ported over to Blu-Ray).

One night, she said to me, "Why don't we go ahead with that media server as a Christmas present to both of us?"

I was pretty floored. Usually, she is the level headed penny pincher of the two of us but she had just given me the go ahead to go nuts with what was essentially a home entertainment purchase!
Her only stipulation was that I didn't go too overboard. If she had given me free reign, I would have probably ended up with a Kaleidescape 3U server, Disc Vault and player! http://www.kaleidescape.com/products/premiere

So I began planning the build.
Primary function: Media Server
Secondary function: Plex Server, a few other lightweight server apps
Tertiary function: Light and infrequent gaming (I still fire up a game now and then on either my xBox or my laptop for old-times sake but didn't want to build a mega-gaming machine again)

I wanted Windows based as I don't have the patience to train users at work, let alone at home. I own several Windows 7 Professional and an Ultimate license. Both my wife and daughter are familiar with doing things in a Windows environment and I can troubleshoot any issues in my sleep. It just works easier for me. I do love Apple's integration within it's own "biosphere" but not enough to build a Hackintosh server for this project and enough to replace our existing laptops/ultrabooks.

I also wanted to stick with Intel. As much as I like the affordability that AMD brings to the table, it is the fact that overall, Intel is simply more powerful.
I am also an NVidia fanboy so I will be sticking with them for my graphics solution.

"Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

"Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip

Comments

  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    The Build
    I wanted a form factor that would be silent as well as look good in my audio/equipment rack in the living room.
    To this end, I ended up looking at the Silverstone Grandia GD06B case to house this project.
    31OqJU3B86L.jpg
    This case will house 4x3.5" HDDs and 1x2.5" SSD.
    This worked out great as my storage would be 4x4TB Hitachi (HGST) Deskstar NAS drives and my OS/app drive would be a 128GB Crucial MX100 SSD.
    The Hitachi drives have a fantastic reliability record in large scale data centers and I have plenty of experience and love for the Crucial SSDs (of all the SSDs in our house (6 total), 6 of them are Crucial).

    I will be running the 4 mechanical drives in a RAID 0 array. I want performance. Redundancy isn't of much concern as I will be backing up any "irreplaceable" media to my NAS. The physical media will be moved to our climate controlled storage unit while any digital downloads that are stored locally will also reside somewhere on the "Cloud".
    I will also have a secondary backup of "important" things like pictures and home videos on a USB external 2TB drive that will be left in our safe deposit box.

    I decided that I really wanted to find a dual on board NIC motherboard. This led me to a mini-ITX solution in the form of the Gigabyte GA-H97N-WIFI motherboard.
    71Jtgrmih8L._SL1000_.jpg
    This motherboard offered dual gigabit LAN, an add on wifi card and 6 SATA3 ports along with an on-board RAID controller with support for RAID 0,1,10 or 5.

    For processor, I decided on a dual core "Pentium" as it was more than capable of handling its own in this build. I decided on the G3220 as it outperforms the quad core AMD Kabini 5350 by a fair margin and costs the same.

    I went with 8GB of RAM. Specifically, Geil Evo Veloce 1600. I had plenty of great experience with Geil Black Dragons in my gaming days so I ran with it.

    For a power supply, I wanted efficiency and ended up getting an 80plus Silver rated 500w EVGA PSU. My last gaming rig ran a 1200w EVGA PSU that was very efficient and surprisingly quiet. In restrospect, I wished I had gone with a modular or even semi modular PSU but the location where the excess cables will reside doesn't inhibit airflow so no biggie.

    I wanted to be able to rip Blu-Rays directly to the box, so I went with a Pioneer BD/DVD-RW combo drive. Nothing fancy but great reviews.

    On the GPU front, I wanted something that would have no problem with full HD and would possibly be capable of UHD somewhere down the road. I found that in the Gigabyte GTX-750 2GB.
    61yZYKElTKL._SL1000_.jpg

    I have just started the build, so there isn't really anything exciting to show there. Here is a picture of the majority of the build except for 2 of the 4TB drives and the case...
    1939614_10205621800533396_6649202936722912981_n.jpg?oh=5fcbee2dd17147ccff4e1d9346a823c5&oe=54FF630F&__gda__=1426238648_9405339454a580b8cddae19638c769ea

    As for the OS and software, for now, the load will be light.
    Windows 7 Professional configured to run as a media server.
    Plex Server to feed portable devices and the Roku Streaming Sticks.

    That is it for right now.
    I will document more details of the actual build and configuration when that time comes. But for now, thanks for reading my small novel about my random media server build.
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • codyc1arkcodyc1ark Posts: 2,539
    Nice write up, I'd love to come check out how everything works/how you navigate it when it's done. I've also heard you've got a pretty killer LSi setup from a fellow polkie? Myself, I've just stepped into the realm of networked music through my Squeezebox and I'm floored with the results. Good luck, seemingly though you don't need it!
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,758
    edited December 2014
    Ryan, any reason not to go with a APU chip instead of a CPU + GPU card? I'd think the space savings would be nice, and you could always add the card on later if needed.

    Or was it more of a choice due that you were forced into as a result of the motherboard you used?

    Also nice case selection, I like one of the Lian Li ones (the PC-C60, PC-C50, PC-C32), but they are another 50 dollars or more.

    PS thanks for the write up, you know I've been waiting for it :smiling_imp: ...
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    The APU didn't offer any real cost/performance savings/gains to make it worth it.
    The space wasn't really a concern either as the case I wanted to meet my needs aesthetically and physically allowed for a standalone GPU.

    The other issue I ran into with an APU is that there are quite literally no dual NICs in any form factor let alone Micro ATX or Mini ITX. While this wasn't a deal breaker, having the extra throughput is nice when multiple people begin pulling from the box.
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    codyc1ark wrote: »
    Nice write up, I'd love to come check out how everything works/how you navigate it when it's done. I've also heard you've got a pretty killer LSi setup from a fellow polkie? Myself, I've just stepped into the realm of networked music through my Squeezebox and I'm floored with the results. Good luck, seemingly though you don't need it!

    I have been debating adding a Sonos to the mix. Simply because I absolutely love how seamless that thing can integrate into a system.

    You are welcome to come over some time for a movie night once it is done. My wife will make sure that your stomach is happy and I will do what I can to entertain your ears.
    And yes...way to many LSis have ended up at my house from fellow Polkies. Hehe. I do want to get my LSi7 heights mounted too but one project at a time. Once this is finished, the 3 dedicated (1 20 amp and 2 15 amp) circuits for the HT system needs to get done.
    And then there are my unfinished 2.3TLs...and the 2 channel system updates upstairs and...LOL

    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • gudnoyezgudnoyez Posts: 6,947
    edited December 2014
    Sounds like a mini Iowa Polkfest at Ryans in the near future. To think I struggle navigating the laptop with windows 8 I hate it, and find my self using one of the many hand held devices that the wife seems to collect. I have some pretty good Go Pro videos of me or my grandson crashing on the mountain bikes might have to hit you up on how to edit them so I could post a few pretty funny stuff.
    Home Theater
    Parasound Halo A 31 OnkyoTX-NR838 Sony XBR55X850B 55" 4K RtiA9 Fronts CsiA6 Center RtiA3 Rears FxiA6 Side Surrounds Dual Psw 111's Oppo 105D Signal Ultra Speaker Cables & IC's Signal Magic Power Cable Technics SL Q300 Panamax MR4300 Audioquest Chocolate HDMI Cables Audioquest Forest USB Cable

    2 Channel
    Adcom 555II Vincent SA-T1 Marantz SA 15S2 Denon DR-M11 Clearaudio Bluemotion SDA 2.3tl's (Z) edition MIT Terminator II Speaker Cables & IC's Adcom 545II Adcom Gtp-450 Marantz CD5004 Technics M245X SDA 2B's, SDA CRS+

    Stuff for the Head
    JD LABS C5 Headphone Amplifier, Sennheiser HD 598, Polk Audio Buckle, Polk Audio Hinge, Velodyne vPulse, Bose IE2, Sennheiser CX 200 Street II, Sennheiser MX 365

    Shower & Off the beaten path Rigs
    Polk Audio Boom Swimmer, Polk Audio Urchin B)
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,758
    If you didn't live so fanged far away I'd come visit lol...


    And I figured the dual nic mobo likely dictated your cpu but was curious.

    So how's the connection going to run? Both LAN connections to a switch or does it let you combine the throughput out of one?
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • codyc1arkcodyc1ark Posts: 2,539
    gudnoyez wrote: »
    Sounds like a mini Iowa Polkfest at Ryans in the near future.

    I like your thinking! I'm thinking it might take all three of us to mount those front height speakers... :wink:

  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    gudnoyez wrote: »
    Sounds like a mini Iowa Polkfest at Ryans in the near future. To think I struggle navigating the laptop with windows 8 I hate it, and find my self using one of the many hand held devices that the wife seems to collect. I have some pretty good Go Pro videos of me or my grandson crashing on the mountain bikes might have to hit you up on how to edit them so I could post a few pretty funny stuff.

    Steve, for GoPro video, my wife and I just use their own studio app...
    http://shop.gopro.com/softwareandapp/gopro-studio/GoPro-Studio.html#/start=1
    It's free and works well.

    I would be cool with hosting something once it is all up and running.

    I am also working on squaring away everything I need to start running the Roomie Remote app. http://www.roomieremote.com/
    The only thing in the HT system that is suspect is turning on and off my TV. But I found out what I need to make that happen so it looks like I will be upgrading my remote options as well. I want to add lighting and thermostat control as well.
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    Dan, I will just be running both to my router. I will be running the Windows 7 load balancing.
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,758
    We shall talk about this at a later date. I dont want to sully up your thread with my stupidity.... Its also late and I'm not all here...
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    It pertains to the topic so it is all good.

    Got the last 2 drives in and installed last night.
    Cable management is going to be the biggest challenge of the whole project as 2 of the 4 3.5" drives take up space that would have been suitable for hiding unused and excess cables.

    I am having my wife order up the parts to finish up the Roomie Remote stuff today. That should be all said and done next week as the TV is the only thing that isn't IP controllable but the IR emitter will take care of that and the learning functionality for that side of Roomie includes my TV model.
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    So the physical build is complete. Cable management is a little more lax than I am accustomed to but I worked with what I had that didn't involve customizing the power supply wiring lengths.

    I powered it on to make sure everything was good with the assembly and that all 6 drives were recognized correctly.

    I will be busy this week but hope to get Windows installed and updated in the next day or so and then will likely kick off the copy of music from my NAS. But that will pretty much be it until next weekend.
    I hope to then be able to have everything in place for my Roomie install and will set up the Plex server and start ripping media to the new box.

    Anyway, that's where I am right now...
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,758
    Pics of the internals por favor :smile:
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 5,049
    Nope.
    It's ugly as I had to concede a lot of internal space to cables and in an effort to maximize airflow/minimize turbulence, I had to tuck them in places I normally wouldn't...
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
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