is it worth the time/money?

Dome

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For a long time i've entertained the idea of building a HTPC with a media server. the idea is i would copy all my dvd/BD to the server, use the HTPC to record tv shows, and be able to stream them around the house.

i'm doing some work on the house (a lot of it) and was thinking i might be adding a satellite soon to get some programming from China, to add to my usual cable fare if i wanted to build a HTPC to act as DVR for cable and satellite programming, as well as have a media server with all of my movies (and music) is viable to stream them around the house wirelessly and is the work really worth it?

i can put together a computer okay; i'm just worried that the software is a pain and that copying over my library to a server would take forever and a day.

so for those who have done it; is it really worth the effort and cost?
 

KGarcia

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Jul 28, 2005
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When looking at it from an ROI prospective I don't think it makes any sense at all, really. The truth is you have to want to do this knowing that it's going to take a lot of your time, effort, and money. What are you really gaining in the end? You have to weight it out and before you start you should be convinced that it's worth it to you. I personally look at it as being a hobby.

Back in 04/05 I built my first HTPC. I did it because I was single, had nothing better to do, and found it interesting. In all I ripped 150 of DVDs. Fast forward to today and all those movies have since been deleted. I didn't end up using it to it's fullest but I chalk it up to a learning experience. The only reason I did it all over again with blu-ray is because I was inspired by Plex and thought it would be cool for the family (living room, bedroom, kids rooms). The kids use it the most and I've probably spent more time building and maintaining this thing then actually watching movies. Rather then having just another living room HTPC it turned into a whole house project running cat6 everywhere and deploying Roku 2 XS boxes connected to Plex, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu accounts. It's pretty funny when I think about it. Just like you I started looking into integrating DVR capabilities and IPTV streaming but we're just not there yet. For now I'm sticking with movies only. Streaming services for other content. No DVR.

Fast forward... 10 years from now everything could very well be streaming only and available on the fly via subscription. When the time comes I'll just pay the sub and be done with it. OR... maybe that won't happen and I'll be ripping all the same movies again but in 4k. lol. Like I said, you have to like doing this stuff. ;-)
 

rhouck

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Absolutely, 100% worth it for music. By now, does anyone NOT have their CDs ripped into a digital format?

For TV, I would say as it is convenient.

For movies.... I have all of mine ripped (and it's a lot), but I first did it a good 9 or 10 years ago back when I had a lot more free time (and treated it like a hobby). If i had to do it again now, I'd probably just drop a disc in when I wanted to watch it. Unlike TV and music, movies are watched less and a lot longer so the ease of browsing and selection is less important. I still rip new ones as it's easy enough to keep up at this point, but starting from scratch (especially with blurays) is time-consuming and still costs a bit for all the hard drive space.
 

PointandClick

Limp Gawd
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Dec 6, 2008
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383
Not necessarily a HTPC, but for me, XBMC is the cats meow. I loaded it up on my original Xbox 9-10 years ago. Wasted many a afternoons in college watching my roommates questionably sourced movies through it.
I moved to a JB ATV2 to get some h.264 grunt, and now am trying out a Pi for the other TV. To me, spinning discs is just so... uncivilized. :p Maybe the wife would get quicker at picking a movie if we had to sit in front of the shelves of dvds to pick one out though.

My biggest frustration is what a giant mess streaming is. Every network and studio only wants you to watch content in a way they approve of. I can watch ABC for free over the air, and for free in a web browser, but if I want to watch it on the TV through a Roku I have to already pay for cable. :confused: I can watch Hulu for free in a web browser, but have to pay to watch it on my TV. If I do pay for Hulu, I can watch the last X episodes of this show, but only the last Z episodes of this.
People want to pay for these services if they're reasonably priced, but they make it such a PITA to get what you want, it's easier to just "pirate" it.

I've never payed for cable/satellite, so maybe my feelings for XBMC are a little biased. Most of the shows we watch are on the big networks anyway. I'll probably end up picking up a HD Homerun and just setting it to record everything we watch every week so if we miss it, no big deal.


Now that it's cold out I have been more motivated to get the rest of our movies run through Handbrake. As they say, two birds...
 

parawing742

Limp Gawd
Joined
Feb 5, 2003
Messages
199
I can watch ABC for free over the air, and for free in a web browser, but if I want to watch it on the TV through a Roku I have to already pay for cable.

Solution: Simple.TV. It's a bit kludgy, but it lets me DVR from my antenna and stream through the Roku. They can be found on Woot from time to time for less than $100 with the full lifetime subscription.
 

thekipper

Limp Gawd
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Feb 7, 2008
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471
For music...yes, the kicker being there are only two, maybe 3 viable formats. MP3, AAC, and maybe flac. Basically anything can play mp3 so it's easy.

Movies? We'll it's somewhat frustrating with ISO, avi, mkv, mp4, etc. and it's frustrating to find something that works for all players, especially if you still want a disc option. For example on ps3, windows media server won't play mkv but ps3 media server will. MP4 works for both and ps3 media server converts ISO and will play but the video is jumpy in my experience. Sigh.

I agree with first poster...it's cool and kind of fun but frustrating as we'll. I ran cat6 to boot and honestly it's more like an accomplishment than a convenience:)
 

PointandClick

Limp Gawd
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Solution: Simple.TV. It's a bit kludgy, but it lets me DVR from my antenna and stream through the Roku. They can be found on Woot from time to time for less than $100 with the full lifetime subscription.

So, if I understand correctly, it's similar to an HD Homerun with the backend integrated into the box? I think I would still prefer the Homerun so I can integrate it with XBMC. I think the Roku is going to end up being returned. Compared to the Apple TV or XBMC, the Roku interface, for lack of better word, sucks.

That is an interesting device though. Would be good for my parents as a more plug it in and go setup.
 

Dome

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Mar 16, 2002
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2,096
Thanks for the replies. it sounds like i'll be holding off then for a while. if i want to play my mp3s on my 5.1 system what's the best method to do so?

i have a denon receiver with 5.1, xbox and ps3 and my music on my computer. it's a small collection, more than can fit on my xbox but it'd be nothing on my ps3. is it easier to stream or move collection? also will either console stream in 5.1? i've tried xbmc but i think i didn't have success, what's the best way to stream from pc to ps3?
 

KGarcia

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Joined
Jul 28, 2005
Messages
42
So, if I understand correctly, it's similar to an HD Homerun with the backend integrated into the box? I think I would still prefer the Homerun so I can integrate it with XBMC. I think the Roku is going to end up being returned. Compared to the Apple TV or XBMC, the Roku interface, for lack of better word, sucks.

That is an interesting device though. Would be good for my parents as a more plug it in and go setup.

The brand new HD Homerun will do h.264 over the network but it's antenna/QAM only. They have a 4 tuner cable card version coming out later this year that I might be interested in. All my QAM tuners are dead since comcast went encrypted and we only have a few antenna channels in the area so it's not worth it.
 

Zangmonkey

Supreme [H]ardness
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Jul 6, 2005
Messages
4,468
A few things:

HTPC is definitely a hobbyist pursuit. You will have to tweak and customize to get things working how you like them. That said: once it's all working correctly an HTPC system is an outstanding thing to behold.

Even if you're not going the HTPC route I would hardwire cat6 all over your house. Terminate wiring in bedrooms, behind TV areas, etc. Home run all cables somewhere. RUN CABLE TO THE GARAGE. Even leave stray cables in walls dangling. Cable is cheap, running wire later is expensive.

I would keep a file server and HTPC separate. Consider a file server in the garage or some location where the noise won't bother you. Client machines can stream over the network via small and silent PCs or even chromecasts.
 

qbanb8582

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Sep 15, 2006
Messages
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For a long time i've entertained the idea of building a HTPC with a media server. the idea is i would copy all my dvd/BD to the server, use the HTPC to record tv shows, and be able to stream them around the house.

i'm doing some work on the house (a lot of it) and was thinking i might be adding a satellite soon to get some programming from China, to add to my usual cable fare if i wanted to build a HTPC to act as DVR for cable and satellite programming, as well as have a media server with all of my movies (and music) is viable to stream them around the house wirelessly and is the work really worth it?

i can put together a computer okay; i'm just worried that the software is a pain and that copying over my library to a server would take forever and a day.

so for those who have done it; is it really worth the effort and cost?

For me it was worth it. I have an HTPC I use as my DVR, blu ray player, and some games. I have xbox 360s in the bedrooms as the extenders. Using windows media center can flaky when it comes to file formats but majority of the things I watch are usually H.264 so I haven't ran into any issues.

As far as software windows media center is pretty easy to use. Everything I have is connected through ethernet, so I cant say how well it would stream wirelessly.
 

Megalith

24-bit/48kHz
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13,003
Do it if you want instant access. That's the real reason.

I am working on ripping most of my prized Blu-rays just so I can jump to my favorite scenes in seconds.
 

KGarcia

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Jul 28, 2005
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Do it if you want instant access. That's the real reason.

I am working on ripping most of my prized Blu-rays just so I can jump to my favorite scenes in seconds.

I'm loving the handbrake/subler combo. Pulls in all the chapters and Plex even shows a clip of the scene for any particular chapter. On Thanksgiving my brother-in-laws and I were browsing old comedies and jumped right to some scenes for a good laugh. You would have never seen us standing in front of the blu-ray cabinet reminiscing and then taking discs out one by one trying to find the scene that we were talking about. heh

Maybe the wife would get quicker at picking a movie if we had to sit in front of the shelves of dvds to pick one out though.

You're not alone on this one! Seems like every time we go to watch a movie it's a 30 minute process to pick one. She either wants to read descriptions or watch trailers for movies she hasn't seen or it gets nostalgic and we both get sidetracked into the spider web of actors, directors, years.
 

KGarcia

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Jul 28, 2005
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Thanks for the replies. it sounds like i'll be holding off then for a while. if i want to play my mp3s on my 5.1 system what's the best method to do so?

i have a denon receiver with 5.1, xbox and ps3 and my music on my computer. it's a small collection, more than can fit on my xbox but it'd be nothing on my ps3. is it easier to stream or move collection? also will either console stream in 5.1? i've tried xbmc but i think i didn't have success, what's the best way to stream from pc to ps3?

I actually use Apple TV with iTunes home sharing for this rather then Plex but you can definitely play music via xbox or PS3 over the network. The xbox works nativly using Windows Media Center. This is exactly how some people use their HTPC and DVR capabilities by using Xbox Windows Media Center Extender. I used to do it before moving to Mac. Take a look at DLNA as well. XBMC and Plex will stream DLNA to xbox or PS3. There are multiple options out there for DLNA.

As for 5.1... Unless you're talking DVD audio discs your music is going to be 2.0. Depending on your receiver you may be able to do multi-stereo 5.1. It takes your stereo track and splits it across all speakers without making it sound weird. It's similar to how it sounds when you're sitting in the car. I use it when we have company over or when my wife is scrapbooking in the living room. The sound is more filling without having to crank it up.
 

parawing742

Limp Gawd
Joined
Feb 5, 2003
Messages
199
So, if I understand correctly, it's similar to an HD Homerun with the backend integrated into the box? I think I would still prefer the Homerun so I can integrate it with XBMC. I think the Roku is going to end up being returned. Compared to the Apple TV or XBMC, the Roku interface, for lack of better word, sucks.

That is an interesting device though. Would be good for my parents as a more plug it in and go setup.

As I said, it's kludgy, but it works. Took me nearly an hour to get setup the first time (software updates, network issues, etc). It takes about 5 seconds to switch between channels and the interface is pretty useless. I wouldn't buy it for the parents as it's somewhat painful for everyday use, but for someone who wants to DVR a couple shows a week easily this is a very workable solution.
 

Kelvarr

Supreme [H]ardness
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Jul 19, 2001
Messages
4,335
It was worth it for me. I wanted to consolidate my components, and the HTPC let me do that. I don't even have a DVD Player/Blu-ray Player or CD Player hooked up anymore. I got rid of all that by ripping my movies and music, and if someone brings a disc over, then we have that option also (although I usually try to rip it first).

I use Windows 7 MC, and XBMC for Windows. Once I got MC7 configured, I haven't had to touch it hardly ever. The biggest thing we've got to do is reboot the machine every once in a while, and that can be done with the remote.

I cannot imagine having to go back to putting a disc in to watch a movie. So much easier to browse all of my movies on the computer.

I currently have cable, and a HDHomeRun Prime w/ Cablecard. It works nice, but I might just cut TV out of my budget again. Some 700 movies ought to be enough to not get that bored.
 

The Lurker

[H]F Junkie
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I have an HTPC/media server/DVR/BR Player all in one as well. While it has been nice, I have a strong feeling that in a year or two(maybe sooner) I am just going to replace it with a NAS and a cable company DVR. While the system works, it took more time then I would care to admit to get it perfect and to this day it the cable card tuner still fucks up from time to time. Sure its nice to have a computer connected to a 60" screen because you can do anything but the few times that I needed features beyond the four I mentioned there were other ways to get media on the TV.

With a dedicated NAS you can get the same reliability, FTP, Plex and streaming capability that I have now just in a smaller box and it will require less management.

Streaming anything from it, whether movie or music is easily accomplished with a Roku or Smart TV.

The cable company DVR offers more features, specifically, on demand which you cannot do with an HTPC.

Sadly, I feel the HTPC is going the way of the dodo and its slowly becoming more and more evident. You may need one to record your chinese satellite, but knowing what I know today I wouldnt invest into it for the purposes of building a media server for home use. So as others have said, separate your HTPC and Media Server.
 
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KGarcia

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With a dedicated NAS you can get the same reliability, FTP, Plex and streaming capability that I have now just in a smaller box and it will require less management.

I thought about going with a NAS for low power, low maintenance (mgmt), and less hardware costs. It does have it's limitations. Most of the NAS devices that support Plex can Direct Play but there are many that can't transcode HD effectively. I pretty much Direct Play everything but I ended up sticking with a dedicated media server mainly because of Plex sync. Plex sync has to transcode all media, regardless of device compatibility. This is fine by me since medium quality looks good on the iPad and takes up 3x less space. Transcoding a movie to the iPad takes about 20 mins rather then hours. I also like having my main workstation free. Now I run all my handbrake batch jobs on the server, which typically take 2-3hrs for each job (i7-3770s hackintosh). Backup was another plus. While a NAS can do RAID for redundancy, a RAID isn't a substitute for a backup. Recovering arrays that were never backed up is never fun. They don't always completely bomb out but when they do someone is usually shitting bricks asking themselves why they didn't make another copy somewhere. :eek:

I don't think many people think about how much power these computers use. Some older computers you're looking at $20 a month. Some of the direct play only NAS devices will save you hundreds over the course of a few years. Plus the NAS will cost a lot less to begin with. My i7-3770k with a 32GB SSD + 4TB Media drive cost $10 a month (@ .21 kw/h). Not bad considering the first media server I tossed together out of old parts used more then 2.5x the electricity and had 5x less CPU performance. ;)
 

m1abram

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T All my QAM tuners are dead since comcast went encrypted and we only have a few antenna channels in the area so it's not worth it.

I have read this many times about comcast. I have comcast in northern VA area and still get my locals in clear QAM. I thought the FCC said they could not encrypt the locals and had to provide them in the clear IF they provide them at all.
 

KGarcia

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I have read this many times about comcast. I have comcast in northern VA area and still get my locals in clear QAM. I thought the FCC said they could not encrypt the locals and had to provide them in the clear IF they provide them at all.

They were allowed to encrypt the locals but Comcast has to provide DTAs free for 2 years.

Here's where it gets good... before the switch life was good and you were able to get the locals in HD using the Clear QAM tuner built into your TV. Then you got a notice letting you know about the switch to encrypted. No worries, you'll get a DTA box for free for 2 years. So you go and pick up your new fancy free DTA box and think.. hey I was expecting some type of adapter, this is a pretty neat little box with HDMI and a built in tuner. This will work perfect with my projector. I'll take 2. Then you get home and plug it into your HDTV and after tinkering around for half hour you start to think that you're loosing your mind because there's not a single channel in HD. Long story short you can no longer get the locals in HD without PAYING the $10/month HD technology fee. GOTCHA! ;-)

In the end it's all about getting as much money out of everyone as possible. They want $10 for the HD technology fee and then they want $10 per TV for the box that will get you the channels that you actually subscribed to with your package. Forget the fact that the 4 TVs we have in the house already have perfectly good HD tuners. I'm on a good deal for 2 years but I'm hoping that things get shaken up real good before my deal ends. Right now my daughter has the 1 advanced tuner that's included with the package. I'm using DTAs on the other TVs.

http://customer.comcast.com/help-and-support/cable-tv/limited-basic-encryption/
 
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dar124

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HTPC is definitely a hobbyist pursuit. You will have to tweak and customize to get things working how you like them. That said: once it's all working correctly an HTPC system is an outstanding thing to behold.

I would think this is true for a lot of things (HTPC, Home Server's, Home networks, etc.) Sometimes they're a bit of a pain to setup and maintain, but when they're running good, they're nice to have!!!


I would keep a file server and HTPC separate. Consider a file server in the garage or some location where the noise won't bother you. Client machines can stream over the network via small and silent PCs or even chromecasts.

Quick question related to this, I've got a WHS 2011 machine down in my basement that I use to store all my movies, music & pictures. In the past I've connected my laptop to either our living room TV or our bedroom TV via HDMI cable to watch videos/movies, etc. I just recently set up a WD TV Live on our bedroom TV and can now watch all the videos, etc from the server thru the WD TV box. I'm currently only using this to watch content from my server, eventually I'd like to move 100% away from cable, but for now I'm just using it to access my network shares. And I just bought a Mini-ITX HTPC in the For Sale thread from ShepsCrook. So after some recabling for HDMI, network cables, coax, etc from our basement to up behind the living room TV, I'm going get that Mini-ITX HTPC setup as a HTPC for the living room.

My thoughts right now are to run W7 64 bit on the HTPC. I've been doing some reading on XBMC and was going to give it a try on this new machine. So, do I only need to install XBMC on the HTPC (and then configure it, etc) or will I need to install something down on the server as well?? I'm sure there's gonna be some more questions as I go, but I'm trying to get a basic understanding of how this is all gonna work before I start the project. Thanks in advance.
 

fsd1969

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Mar 17, 2013
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There's so many easy solutions now: roku, xbox, etc. Also most people have their PCs hooked up to both the computer monitor and the tv. So a dedicated HTPC isn't as necessary these days. However they always offer the greatest customization.
 
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