More Media Server Options
I still haven’t solved my media server problem, mostly because I know it’s going to be a time-suck to set it all up and rip all the DVDs and get it to meet the minimum Wife Acceptance Factor. I can imagine eating up a full weekend on it. It’ll be nice when it’s done - if it gets done - but the investment is sort of a hurdle.
Anyway, following various Twitter links and surfing around, I’ve found a couple more interesting articles to contribute to the thought pool.
- How to choose a DLNA Media Server for Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux: This points out a few software alternatives to Windows Media Center.
- The Death of DVD: A story about switching from using DVDs to using a Mac Mini running Boot Camp and Windows Media Center/My Movies as a home theater PC, Windows Home Server as the storage.
That “death of DVD” article comes closest to what I’m looking for. It even points to Windows Home Server for storage, which is definitely something I’m considering. The only real problem is the number of PCs and the form factor of each that I currently have. I have a desktop and a really under-powered mini-tower that I can use for the HTPC and the file server. The problem is that neither are really suited to sit in my living room. The desktop is too large, and the mini-tower, which is a better size, isn’t nearly powerful enough to be anything but a simple file server. Of course, it’s not powerful enough to run Windows Home Server, either, so if I wanted to go that route, I’d have to allocate the desktop to it and punt entirely on that mini tower.
And there’s the rub.
So now the current plan is (I think), based on budget and time…
- Get a 1TB drive from Costco that I can use to start the ripping of the movies.
- Get the mini-tower formatted with some sort of OS on it that can work as a file server. Maybe a Linux variant with Samba or something. Jury’s out.
- Hook up the 1TB drive to the file server.
- Hook up my existing media/archive drive to that, too. (I have iTunes on my laptop running off of that so I can just switch where the network drive gets mapped to and I’m good.)
- Rip a couple of movies so I can test it out.
- Get Vista Ultimate (I have a license for it just hanging out) on the desktop and get My Movies installed.
- Point the desktop to the file share on the mini-tower with the movies and see if the media server will play it reasonably.
- Start making decisions:
- Does the mini tower work reasonably as a file share? Is it fast enough?
- Can the desktop go out in the living room or is it too big and
loud? If it’s too big and loud…
- Should it be the file server instead so there’s some more power behind it?
- Do I need a Mac Mini or the like for the living room?
- When do I get my 1080p TV? (I have 720p now.) Do I want the TV more than the media center? (Probably.)
What my ultimate plan would be to save me time and frustration…
- Get a 1TB Windows Home Server ($730).
- Get a Mac Mini ($600).
- Get a Media Center remote control and receiver for the Mac Mini ($30).
- Install my copy of Vista Ultimate on the Mac Mini using Boot Camp.
- Install My Movies on the Mac Mini.
- Rip DVDs to the Windows Home Server.
- Play through Mac Mini/Vista/My Movies.
That sounds simple and doesn’t require any stressful decision making… but it does run $1360 (plus, in some cases, shipping). Is it worth the extra cost for reduced hassle? (It might be.)
UPDATE 8/25/08: I ended up getting a Windows Home Server.