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 Post subject: Cheapy server/PC
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:48 am 
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Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:14 am
Posts: 2
Hey, ive just registered to these forums but despite that, ive been stalking about these forums for quite a while.

Im just curious about getting a small print/media server setup in the house, and have been looking about some small/fanless systems for a while.

The basic requirments are that it needs to be cheap, cool, energy efficient and mostly quiet. It will probably be running a linux distribution and will be plugged into various HDDs (mostly external) which I will share over the network. The linux system will also act as a headless torrent machine (vnc because im a sucker for GUIs) as well as a subsonic server which will stream FLACs and MP3s and occasionally transcode a few FLAC files as well as video files. Theyre mostly VOB/MKV/MP4 with most of them below 480p. There are a few 1080p / 720p videos here and there.

It also needs to run a windows virtual machine for light weight tasks such as office applications and MSN (I prefer to use them over libre office and pidgin, because for some reason pidgin has a habit of deleting contacts)

Would the following system be able to transcode the non HD files at a suitable rate, to stream them over a home network (I.E., above 30 frames/sec)?

http://www.fit-pc.com/web/fit-pc/fit-pc3-info/#techinfo

Does anybody have any recommendations as to other systems ? It doesnt really need to be small, it just needs to be cheap, relatively silent, have a lot of ports and be powerful to do the tasks assigned above.

My current desktop is a Asrock ion330 which currently does all these tasks, but using it for these services, as well as my normal desktop PC strains the poor little atom system a bit : P

Thanks for your time and advice in advance :D


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 Post subject: Re: Cheapy server/PC
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:01 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Posts: 1694
Location: Switzerland
The ability to transcode arbitrary video files in real-times is no small feat. I do not personally own a computer capable of fulfilling this requirement. I think you should drop or downside this requirement which has as far as I know no practical use.
If you create your own video files, you can do it so that no transcoding will be required. If you don't, either you're obtaining files with a particular encoding you could use in your requirements or you're obtaining random files which might require serious work to even decode and which might not even play without further processing (because of an incompatible bit depth for instance).
In case you didn't realize it, you don't have to transcode in real-time or even on the computer which will serve the files.

How good a performance you want for your Windows VM might affect your requirements if you drop the arbitrary real-time transcoding thing.

You didn't specify how many internal drives you want to be able to use, which is a big deal!
You also didn't say if your external drives would require power from your build (and if so, how much).

Your other requirements (print/media/torrent server) are very basic and could be matched by the fit-PC which I nevertheless do not recommend unless you really, really want something that small. You can have better and cheaper totally silent PCs (but they might not match your other requirements either).


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 Post subject: Re: Cheapy server/PC
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:10 am 
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Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:14 am
Posts: 2
HFat wrote:
The ability to transcode arbitrary video files in real-times is no small feat. I do not personally own a computer capable of fulfilling this requirement. I think you should drop or downside this requirement which has as far as I know no practical use.
If you create your own video files, you can do it so that no transcoding will be required. If you don't, either you're obtaining files with a particular encoding you could use in your requirements or you're obtaining random files which might require serious work to even decode and which might not even play without further processing (because of an incompatible bit depth for instance).
In case you didn't realize it, you don't have to transcode in real-time or even on the computer which will serve the files.

How good a performance you want for your Windows VM might affect your requirements if you drop the arbitrary real-time transcoding thing.

You didn't specify how many internal drives you want to be able to use, which is a big deal!
You also didn't say if your external drives would require power from your build (and if so, how much).

Your other requirements (print/media/torrent server) are very basic and could be matched by the fit-PC which I nevertheless do not recommend unless you really, really want something that small. You can have better and cheaper totally silent PCs (but they might not match your other requirements either).


I probably wouldnt be transcoding video files a lot, and the videos that would be transcoded would all be 576p or less anyways. The rest of the encoding would be ocassional flac ---> Mp3 which shouldnt be a problem, as my current net top doesnt seem to struggle with it too much.

The external drives would be the bog standard external ones, and they would have their own power supply (which is why an abundance of usb/Esata ports is important to me).
The internal hard drive would be just to house the OS/Programs.
I understand that with a lot of storage it might just be easier to convert the videos to a compatible format, and have it streamed from there.

The physical dimensions or Size is really not an issue.

As far as VMs go, im not very technically proficient, I was simply planning to run one windows 7 VM on virtualbox (under linux) which will have office/msn/windows only CD printing apps/whatever.

Would this be a good system ?

http://www.asrock.com/nettop/Intel/Core ... ifications

It retails here (Australia) for about 600$. Am I paying too much for something I can easily build myself ? I Have built a computer, but that was a low end system (for myself) and it was around 2002, so its been a while.


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 Post subject: Re: Cheapy server/PC
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:12 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Posts: 1694
Location: Switzerland
I'm not sure what you're actually after now.
The fit-PC and the computer you selected are very different products.

The fit-PC consumes little electricity which is nice for 24/7 operation and makes no noise whatsoever. Like I said, there are better alternatives if size isn't an issue but the affordable ones are all quite limited compared to mainstream PCs.

The Asrock is a mainstream PC, except it uses laptop parts which make it expensive. I'm not sure what benefit exactly you get for paying so much. Maybe they consume substantially less elecricity than cheaper desktop alternatives? Laptop parts are typically sold at very high prices (if at all) to consumers so I doubt you could build something that's as good in all respects yourself.
But I suspect you could build something less noisy for less money however. I don't know for sure because vague specs aren't very useful. But the product you're looking at is anything like this one, it's to be avoided because you can do much better: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3824/asro ... -market/11

So the question is: do you want a totally silent PC after all or not?
Because if you're OK with a little noise, you can build yourself something quite nice without spending too much. You can use very powerful CPUs compared to your nettop's with this energy-efficient motherboard which takes electricity from a standard AC/DC brick instead of a noisy or expensive PC power supply for instance: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ ... h61ag.html

If you want something totally silent on the other hand, you basically have three choices:
-use hardware that's comparable to your nettop (a bit better perhaps)
-accept very high temperatures which are not recommended by the manufacturers and may cause your computer to fail early
-spend a lot of money on an exotic cooling solution

My general approach would be to use nettop-type hardware for 24/7 home servers and to use separate computers for desktop or HTPC tasks.
Especially if you want to use a VM, desktop performance won't be great with nettop-type hardware. Some people are OK with that but it makes less sense now than it did until about a year ago when mainstream PC gear bridged some of the gap with nettop gear in terms of noise and power consumption.
So if you want an all-in-one unit and unless you're a total silence fanatic, I would recommend accepting a little noise and going with mainstream PC hardware. If nothing else, such a computer would be likely to remain useful longer while current nettops might be obsoleted as soon as 2013 if Intel delivers on its promises. Running a file/print/torrent server on obsoleted hardware is fine but desktop VMs and video transcoding are something else.

About transcoding, the trouble is that the sky's the limit as far as compression is concerened. I've only encountered 720p and especially 1080p files which would be hard to transcode but I've not been looking for difficult 576p files. With the same compression method, a 576p file would be much easier to transcode than a 1080p but who knows what compression methods people will decide to use?
If you only want to make sure you could easily transcode the particular type of 576p file you've been using, perhaps you could tell us how your nettop handles them...


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