Low Power MythTV Home Server List

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thrope
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Low Power MythTV Home Server List

Post by thrope » Thu May 22, 2008 9:57 am

Hi,

Here is the list of parts I have arrived at for my low-power always-on budget home server/mythtv box:

Antec Solo

Sparkle SPI250EP 80+ 250W PSU

Biostart TA690G mobo

X2 4850e
Seems like a recent chip and theres not much price difference between this and the other 45w parts that are available in the UK. Is this the best choice? Are there lower power options? Will it work with the 690 chipset? (I think it should because its AM2 but not certain).

1GB RAM
Does RAM choice really make a difference? Will probably just get whatevers cheap/on offer at the retailer I buy most other parts from. Is there low power ram?

WD Green Power 500GB

Hauppauge WinTV Nova-T 500 Dual DVB PCI card
Chose this becuase MythTV people recommended, but the reviews aren't great so I'd be interested in other options, especially low power ones!

That's it. May add a M-Audio Delta 44 depending on how good the onboard sound is and will probably add more disks as I migrate from existing machine, but I think the 250W should be enough for that.

Also will add a passive cpu cooler (Scythe Ninja?) once its up and running and replace the case fan with a quieter nexus. (Will try and get away without the front ones).

Any other tips? Should I tape up any of the vents on the solo as I have seen others have done in the 'systems' forum.

Spod
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Post by Spod » Wed May 28, 2008 9:47 pm

Hi!

I'm planning on doing something very similar!
MythBuntu + WinTV Nova-T 500 on a low power, budget-ish (£400 - £500) box.
A couple of my colleagues have done this in the past few months. The TV card has its issues (both ended up getting the Microsoft MCE remote, giving up on the Hauppage bundled remote, which would connect to whichever tuner device initialised first, confusing Linux). One (on the previous version of Myth and Ubuntu) had problems with USB resets, losing 1 in 10 recordings if the tuner had been allowed to reset in the meantime, but the other, who built from scratch on MythBuntu 8.04, had no such issues. But it's such an elegant design, using just one antenna input for both tuners (splitting the aerial signal really impacts reception), and it seems to be well understood and documented by the Myth / Linux TV community.

Good catch on that motherboard! I'd given up all hope of finding a motherboard with TV-out, but now I know it's possible, I've had another look. The Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H has a TV-out header, but no integrated port, but I can see that that TA690G has an S-Video port right on the back panel. Not only that, but it'll fit in the NSK-2480, and has integrated Radeon graphics, which means I can connect a homebrew VGA to SCART adapter, and use s-video until I've got SCART working! Fantastic!

How did you find it? Was it a tip-off, or a retailer that made it easy to find motherboards with s-video? I'm wondering if there are others out there with s-video. Perhaps with more modern chipsets?

The 4850e seems to demand either 1.15, 1.2 or 1.25 V at stock frequency, but the TA690G BIOS has a minimum setting of 1.2V (though this may go lower for Cool'n'quiet). The manual says that the Windows based utility goes down to 0.8V. The 4850e is a G2 core revision, the motherboard only officially supports up to G1, which starts at 1.25 V for the 3200+. If it recognises the chip, it should be fine, but it's a bit of a gamble.
Hence why I'm asking if there are other comparable boards out there.

It seems that a 4850e should be enough to decode H.264 without help from the GPU, which is useful because I might end up recompressing recorded TV to save space.

I've toyed with the idea of going Intel and getting the E7200, then buying a £25 Radeon HD 3450 for the S-Video and SCART compatible VGA. But that's expensive and feels wasteful. Another option is to get a 780G and use a dual hybrid tuner card with s-video out (which would also allow me to transfer my video collection onto HDD/DVD), but I'd have to split the aerial input and the Myth/LinuxTV support is a bit uncertain on most of those cards.

I was planning on getting 2GB of RAM, since it's so cheap, and it means that if I end up having to dual boot with Vista (for gaming or whatever), I won't have to upgrade the hardware. But 1 GB ought to be plenty, one of my colleagues has 1 GB on Myth and it's fine.

The WD Green Power sounds ideal, but seems expensive considering it's a 5400 RPM drive. The Samsung drives are £10 - £15 cheaper for 500 GB or 750 GB, but perhaps it's worth it for the reduced HDD noise. I guess you think so.

So, a mixture of answers and questions! I could have started another topic, but it looks like we're pursuing similar goals.

Keep us posted!

Edit: the Asus M2A-VM HDMI seems to include an S-Video port on a PCI bracket, but it's another 690G; this one claims G2 support, including the 4850e, with a BIOS update. So there's hope yet for the Biostar, too.

thrope
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Post by thrope » Thu May 29, 2008 12:35 am

Wow, thanks for the comprehensive reply!

I hadn't actually realised the Hauppage came with a remote so I was planning on getting a seperate - actually the Microsoft one was recommended by several mythtv people, but it's a bit expensive so I might try to find something cheaper.

I found the motherboard from a tip off on tomshardware forums. The only other one I'm aware of with integrates s-video is the ASUS M2NPV-VM which again has it on an includeed add on bracket. I guess I want with the biostar becuase it seemed to review better, both for performance and I think I remember seeing something that it used less power. Also I was bit worried I might end up not getting the s-video insert included with the Asus and I think it would be a nightmare trying to find one.
As far as I know there are no 780 boards with S-video. I'd definitely rather have the integrated for the reduced power, and I think I saw a comparison that the 690 uses less than the 780 as well. It will certainly be enough computer for me considering what it is replacing.

Do you have a link about vga to scart? I had thought the best way to connect to (analogue) tv was s-video (if the tv supports it)... My s-video cable plugs in through a scart adaptor anyway. So I'd be interesting to read about it if it's better.

I think I'm going for 2GB too - since I've no decided it will be running a couple of virtual machines (windows, linux for NX terminal server in a virtual machine to get round 2 user limit, ipcop or similar).

I think the WD is worth it. It's not only the reduced noise (although that's great since it's going to be in the living room) but apparently it draws 4-5W less than a comparable standard drive. I plan on ending up with a few of these in there - so a 15W saving from the drives is great (about £20 a year for 24/7 operation [very rough estimate!]) I have a load of other drives I will be using to start off with - including an old WD Raptor 36GB from when it first came out, so I might start booting from that.

The info about the 4850e is very interesting. I'm now unsure whether to go with an Asus board that claims support, or go with an older BE- cpu for the biostar. I think it would be a shame not to get the 4850e because it is a modern chip and I think the performance is very good for the price (compared to the other low power chips). I wonder if theres a way to find out for sure whether it will work?

Spod
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Post by Spod » Thu May 29, 2008 2:02 am

The MS remote can be had for £15-£22, but I'm still tempted to wait and see how I get on with the Hauppage remote before splashing out. You can even get a Logitech Harmony 525 universal remote for £37, but that's pushing it, and support is still fairly experimental for those, while at least the MS remote is very well supported in Linux.

It does seem that 690G is the only chipset offering integrated S-video. That's really useful to me, since I think it'll take some effort to get VGA to SCART working, and S-Video means i can still use it in the meantime. You apparently need to have a Radeon GPU to do a VGA to SCART cable, nVidia (and Intel?) don't offer the ability to pass the synchronisation information in a form that TVs can understand. There's some good info here: AVForums thread

You can get something like the Grand Hand View III from Amazon UK for about £33 that takes a VGA input and converts it to SCART output, but i suspect that doing it directly would give better control of resolution and picture quality. And if it doesn't work, I can always buy a VGA to SCART converter. You can buy cables that claim to go from a PC VGA output to RGB SCART, but information on them is pretty sketchy, some people only get black & white, and I don't know anyone who's tried one.

I expect power consumption between 690G boards would be fairly similar, though power circuitry would differ a little between manufacturers. Given that the Asus and Gigabyte boards both explicitly support the 4850e, it's likely that the Biostar could do the same with a BIOS update. Their last BIOS update was May 19th 2008, so it's likely that the new processors are supported.
I can't find a list of BIOS changes on the Biostar website, so I think I'll email Biostar support to confirm it. I'll post any reply here if/when I get one.

maalitehdas
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Post by maalitehdas » Thu May 29, 2008 6:09 am

I did have a low budget TV-system with a win-TV NOVA PCI card, but I didn't get myth to work with it, ending up using a hauppauge TV software in winXP.

Nowadays im getting all channels true IPTV, and i'm using a NOKIA mobile phone as the remote control for both the IPTV and Hauppauge. Phone is possible to be set up as a remote with either IR or Bluetooth, and the buttons can be programmed the way you want. So my low cost system is now able to watch one channel and record two at the same time :) (low cost doesn't include the fiber-connection needed for IPTV, which is a bit expencive thou)

My next goal is to send the live TV channel to my mobile phone through a WLAN, but i have not found a program which would translate the .h264 signal to a mobile supported format. VLC Media player was close, i managed to get the picture streaming in text to my NOKIA screen with it.

Spod
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Post by Spod » Thu May 29, 2008 11:09 pm

Right, well I've had a response from Biostar - they do support the 4x50e CPUs. I'll paste the email, purely for comedy value:
Dear Customer,
This is Customer Service of Biostar. On May 29
you asked about CPU compatibility for TA690G AM2
for AMD Athlon X2 4850+ whose reversion is G2
we have added G2 Micro code into BIOS.
if you would like to use 4850+, we highly suggest that you upgrade the latest BIOS
you could download the BIOS on http://www.biostar.com.tw/app/en-us/t-s ... hp?S_ID=17
however, upgrade BIOS failed may no post

Thank you that choosing Biostar motherboard.
If you have any problems, please don't hesitate to tell us.


Regards,

Biostar FAE Team
Seriously, it may prove necessary to insert a regular AM2 CPU so that you can upgrade the BIOS before it will POST with a 4850e, depending on what BIOS was applied when the board you buy was manufactured. I expect I can get my hands on one, but it may be something you need to consider.

It should be possible to use any remote - you may need to use LIRC to find out what codes it sends, so that you can configure Myth to interpret the appropriate codes as play, pause, up, ok, etc.

As far as S-Video backplates go, you need to contact the retailer and confirm whether it's a retail pack, or simply ask if it's included in the box.

For me, the annoyance is that the S-Video port on my TV is on the front (for easy camcorder access, I guess). Unfortunately, I have a one year old who likes pulling at cables! So I'm going to have to do the VGA to SCART route sooner or later. I'll keep this thread updated on that mini project.

My preference for Windows was also to run it in a virtual machine, so I don't have to shut down Myth. I don't know if performance will be enough to run games like Civ 4, though, even with experimental 3D acceleration now available in VMware. (I use that at work, so I'll start with that at home too).

I've decided to go with the 750 GB WD GP for £80- it's not worth an extra £50 to get the 1 TB version, but it's worth £15 to make the system a bit cooler and quieter, given it's likely to be running even when I'm not watching TV. It'll be using its idle time to transcode, remove adverts, and various other things.

What keyboard were you planning to use? I'd found the Keysonic ACK-612RF wireless keyboard with a touchpad and some media keys, but I don't know if the media keys will work in Linux. I expect it's possible, with some effort.

My final hurdle is that it'll have to connect to the internet over WiFi, which annoyingly means losing a PCI slot. I don't want any extra boxes with power bricks or USB dongles if I can help it.

Anyway, good luck!

thrope
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Post by thrope » Fri May 30, 2008 2:28 am

Wow, you got a much more considered reply than I did (I emailed as well before I read your post saying you had). I guess they read yours first and then got fed up.
CPU is new ni the market, and with latest bios should work

support@biostar-usa.com
Needing another CPU is a bit of a pain but I suspect you're right. I'll have to start putting some feelers out but I suspect people will be reluctant to lend me their CPU. If I can find it or order it from a local shop perhaps they could do it for me.

I have an S-Video to scart dongle from when I used to plug my laptop in to the tv (before I got an xbox) which takes s-video and sound and has an input/output switch:
http://www.lambda-tek.com/componentshop ... dID=B19338
If you TV support s-video it should work OK and if you're happy with s-video quality it would be a cheap/easy way to get the cables round the back! Also putting the sound through it means you can control it with the tv's remote control - although I think with mythtv I will put sound straight into the hifi, providing the remote control has nice volume buttons.

Not sure about games in VMware - for me it's just to have on hand for when you need windows stuff (IE, some vpn software, etc).

I will just be using whatever keyboards I have onhand - it'll mainly be running headless with mythtv running and I'll connect in to an NX session with nx client to do bittorrent downloads or other admin. Actually I've even got a thin client from ebay (HP T5520) which I'm going to netboot from the box so people can always log in and download even if there are no laptops in the house. (It's also going to be a print server for a Usb printer in another part of the house). So anyway, I haven't given the keyboard too much thought, although I do have an old wireless logitech I don't use so I might try that.

The shortage of PCI slots is the only drawback to the board - I would like to add a sound card and perhaps in future another sata card, but with the tv card there already isn't enough space. I was thinking of trying to find a pci-e tv card to free up the two pci slots, but I guess I can stick with onboard sound and the extra sata requirement is a long way off. I don't think a USB dongle at the back would be too bad...

Good luck to you too!

truckman
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Post by truckman » Fri May 30, 2008 12:38 pm

Spod wrote:The TV card has its issues (both ended up getting the Microsoft MCE remote, giving up on the Hauppage bundled remote, which would connect to whichever tuner device initialised first, confusing Linux).
It should be possible to word around this problem using udev rules. This MythTV wiki page describes how to hard wire two different remotes to unique device names. In the case of identical tuners, it might be necessary to look at the KERNELS attribute of the parent. This explanation about writing udev rules should be helpful.

On my MythTV box, I had to write udev rules for both my lirc devices and my video tuner devices.

suzyj
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Post by suzyj » Fri May 30, 2008 9:55 pm

I'm currently building a combined Myth frontend/backend, using a VIA EPIA EN15000G (with the fan removed), a Hauppauge Nova-T-500 dual DVB tuner, and a 500GB 2.5" hard drive. I'm powering it with a PicoPSU 120, using an XP power ACS60US12 60W 12V switching supply (from Farnell).

My TV has a VGA input, so I'm not using the TV out on the motherboard.

So far it's working really well. The Via motherboard isn't particularly fast, but it's plenty fast enough to do MPEG2 and MPEG4 at SD resolution. I've got a power meter in line with the mains, which indicates 30W when playing back SD MPEG4 content. The motherboard runs quite happily without a fan. It's not cased at the moment. I'm building a case for it so it'll blend in with my hifi gear - I'll use an 80mm Nexus fan in there to keep everything cool.

The only annoyance is the standby power. The ACS60US12 power supply is specced at 84% efficiency (presumably at full load), but draws 7W with no load. My PicoPSU came with a 60W brick, which also took 7W with no load. Whatever happened to the 1W initiative?

Spod
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Post by Spod » Sat May 31, 2008 12:19 pm

That's an elegant build Suzy! Keep us posted! I'm especially interested in how you get on with the tuner and the remote.
I'm still hesitant to drop the spec on my build, since I'm thinking of transcoding my recordings to H.264 to save space, and I'll probably want a pain free transition to HD a couple of years down the line, when terrestrial Freeview HD (MPEG4 transmissions over DVB-T2) comes to my part of the UK. It's probably the best excuse I'm going to get to finally replace my 28" CRT with a 1080p LCD.

Thrope - I contacted CCL Online http://www.cclonline.com, who are based between Leeds and Bradford, and they said they were willing to update the BIOS before I collected it. They are prepared to do it for delivered orders as well, but said:
With mail order it gets a bit tricky but im sure we could accommodate them. Its just a hell of a lot easier to do it as a collection.
I think they may be referring to needing to repack the motherboard neatly and securely for transit, though they didn't say so explicitly. Or maybe it's because mail order items don't normally come near a techie or a workshop, perhaps not even the same building. Still, they're one of the cheapest vendors for that motherboard (£37.71 plus £4.99 shipping, inc. VAT), and if you ask them, they will do it.

Speaking of CPUs, I've had to switch to the 65W 4800+ Energy Efficient. Same core, different bin, higher stock voltage. I couldn't find the 4850e in stock for a reasonable price (considering shipping) anywhere. So if anyone spots one for less than £60 including VAT and shipping, let me know! On the plus side, the 65W version is only £46, and it's probably not much warmer in idle.

thrope
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Post by thrope » Sat May 31, 2008 1:36 pm

I had a look at the Via embedded boards too - they're certainly attractive from a power consumption point of view - but this is going to be the main/only computer in the house so I think I also want something with a bit more power. I want to run IPcop in a virtual machine, and probably an XP and another linux virtual machine as well so I don't think the via would be up to it. Also sort of hoping that one day I'll drop the cash on three new drives and do a software raid 5 but I can't really justify the expense at the moment.
Spod wrote: I contacted CCL Online http://www.cclonline.com, who are based between Leeds and Bradford, and they said they were willing to update the BIOS before I collected it. They are prepared to do it for delivered orders as well, but said:
[\quote]

That's great, thanks for the info - I will keep them in mind for when I order. It's a bit far to get there, but not completely impossible (about 60 miles). I will spend a bit of time looking locally first I think.
Spod wrote: Speaking of CPUs, I've had to switch to the 65W 4800+ Energy Efficient. Same core, different bin, higher stock voltage. I couldn't find the 4850e in stock for a reasonable price (considering shipping) anywhere. So if anyone spots one for less than £60 including VAT and shipping, let me know! On the plus side, the 65W version is only £46, and it's probably not much warmer in idle.
Try this:
http://ecommerce.cbccomputers.com/Inu_p ... f=84342498

£53.98 inc VAT, free delivery (5 working days).
I haven't used them myself - found them through google.co.uk/products.

I live in Manchester and was hoping I could find most of the stuff at one of the big online retailers based locally (microdirect, aria) but it seems neither of them stock it at the moment.

The idle wattage on the 4x50e series is very low (~7W I think) but I'm not sure what it would be on the other. I'm certainly going to stick to a 45W part - I think I would look at one of the BE- parts (can't remember the details) if I couldn't get the 4850 although they are a bit slower.

The only change I've made is the power supply. I think ordering the 250W sparkle from the US is going to be a bit of a pain. At the moment I'm thinking of the Enermax Pro82+ 385W. Although it's far more than I need I think it's still >80% efficient down to below 50W so should be comparable with the sparkle, and probably quieter. I looked at the pico PSU but it between that and the brick it seemed quite a bit more expensive, and I wasn't sure that the AC/DC brick would necessarily be so efficient.
There's a thread in the PSU forum about some Dell 255W PSU's that have been certified as 80+ silver and are supposed to more than 90% efficiency in that range, but I suspect they are going to be in Dell boxes only which is a bit of a shame.

Anyway thanks again for the info!

Edit: not sure why the first quote doesn't show up properly... oh well

Spod
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Post by Spod » Sat May 31, 2008 3:13 pm

Good catch! Not only do they have free shipping, but they're cheaper for the processor (regardless of stock), case and HDD!

All I have to do now is find the bits I need for the VGA to SCART cable.

Spod
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Post by Spod » Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:20 am

A quick update - I've started building it, just waiting for CPU, HDD and TV Tuner. CBC have been very helpful, delivering the case to my home so I don't have to lug it across Leeds on public transport but the other bits to work, so I don't have to wait in for them!

The Biostar motherboard puts the CPU right on the line between the two fans on the NSK2480, putting the Ninja Mini about an inch away from the fans. So I guess I'll have to run both case fans if I want to run the Minja fanless, but at least it should get the highest airflow from the edge of each fan, and the HDD will be well cooled. If the fans turn out to be too loud, I might swap them with the two Nexus 120mm fans from my main PC. The case (see my sig) should mask the noise of the tri-cools better than the NSK-2480, and ideally this HTPC needs to be quiet enough not to notice when I'm not watching TV or listening to music.

I found a cable on Amazon ("Scart Plug 21 Pin to S-VHS & 3.5mm Stereo Plug", under £4 delivered) that directly linked the s-video and line out on the motherboard to SCART on my TV, so I picked that up instead of an adaptor. Saves finding the additional cables I'd otherwise need.
I did end up getting the MS MCE remote - not just for the software convenience, but it's better at working when not pointed directly at the receiver as well. Apparently the Hauppage remote could be fussy about getting its signal to the IR receiver.

Annoyingly, the NSK-2480 was about 3mm too wide to fit into the alcoves in my TV table, so it had to sit on top next to my TV instead. Of course, it'll get better ventilation that way, but might well be noisier. Silly me for not measuring the space before planning the build! Still, I don't think it's worth swapping it now, it should still be quieter than most of the HTPC friendly alternatives that might have fit, and if it gets too annoying having it out in the open I can always replace the TV table!

When I've finished the build, I might see if I can borrow a power meter and see what it actually draws from the wall. It'll be interesting to compare with what the video, freeview box, DVD player and stereo draw in standby.

DervMan
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Post by DervMan » Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:39 am

Hi Thorpe,

Now your system is built do you know what the idle power consumption is?

Thanks

Spod
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Post by Spod » Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:48 am

I don't know about Thorpe, but I'm still struggling to get the ATI TV output working in Linux as I'd like it. But I can still get idle numbers from mine, if you give me a few days to borrow a power meter.

DervMan
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Post by DervMan » Wed Aug 20, 2008 11:04 am

I'd appreciate that.

I'm looking to replace my NAS and Myth backend with a single low wattage unit.

quikkie
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Post by quikkie » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:00 am

thrope wrote:...I'll connect in to an NX session with nx client to do bittorrent downloads or other admin. Actually I've even got a thin client from ebay (HP T5520) which I'm going to netboot from the box so people can always log in and download even if there are no laptops in the house.
May I suggest investigating torrentflux (web based torrent admin), I personally used torrentflux-b4rt (a fork of torrentflux) with transmission (+lighttpd+php-cgi+sqlite) on my NSLU2 which worked fantastically well.
And for general OS admin there's webmin - although there's nothing wrong with NX, I've used it plenty of times myself.

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