a little project

I’ve completed phase one of a little project. As you may have read, I’ve been living with my brother after he lost his house. He’s got a couple of things he wants and I’ve got the knowledge and skills (practiced, even) to do them.

Phase one was wiring the house for gigabyte network. Cat 6 everywhere. Well, not quite everywhere. There are some areas that he decided not to pay for. (Labor was free. If I already had tools and supplies they were free. He had to pay for the rest.) The areas would have required additional drilling and patchwork to get them in place and he decided – wisely, in my opinion – to not do them at this time.

At this time means they may happen down the road.

But as it is his house now has gig wiring – or to be more accurate wiring that’s got a minimum standard of 600 Mbit/s – for most use areas. Circuit test gave me returns in the vicinity of 1000 Mbit/s (plus/minus 100).

The next stage is the media system. See, between us we’ve got pretty close to 6TB of tv shows and movies. My wife’s a videophile and my brother’s almost as bad. That’s 6TB at standard DVD size, not blue-ray. So up to 4GB per, with several condensed to smaller size. For both it’s not the absolute quality that matters, it’s ‘good enough’ on a wide array of choices. So anyway…

He wants to be able to watch the movies and TV shows whenever he wants, wherever he is (so long as he’s got internet connection). That’s obviously doable with a properly designed media center that has an http access point. But when your file size gets that large doing a basic computer=>media center conversion can get expensive. Thus the wiring change.

See, what we’re going to do is build or buy (depending on cost at time of purchase) some NAS cages with drives. This will have several consequences. One very large consequence is that I will be able to make a much smaller box for the actual media center/player. Another is that any need to expand is already covered – we can increase a drive size or we can add another NAS, whichever makes best sense at the time, because the hooks are already in place. Backups and protections are also a bit easier with the displaced devices.

After a lot of tossing I’ve decided to use VLC for the media player software regardless of whether the box itself is windows or linux. Oh – W v L. My basic preference for this sort of system is linux, but I like windows if I can get over the cost difference (both price and processor). It’s important to remember that I’m not going to be sole manager for the system and I’ve learned about having systems the other people don’t get. I’ve only got so many 2am “help” calls left in me.

One of the reasons for the VLC system is that I’ll run both server and client on it, and the client will feed via HDMI to the TV. Yes, I could use PLEX or XBMC. Both have better user interfaces – well, slightly better – particularly for server setup. But recently XBMC has had difficulty with some codecs and PLEX keeps looking hard at becoming a pay product. I went through that with RedHat and don’t want to do it again.

So if you see me toss up some sort of post about media transfer rates or internet media procedures you know what’s underlying it. It’s a problem or joyous discovery I’ve made in the middle of this little project.

Have fun.

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