media, windows comments edit

I took the plunge today and decided to do a little upgrading on my Windows Home Server. I was already going to have to add some drives, and found so many people out there who noted that a RAM upgrade was a massive improvement, I decided to do both - add RAM and drives.

The first, and trickiest, upgrade, was the RAM. I got a Corsair DDR2 667MHz 2GB stick from Fry’s. Then, following this guide, I disassembled the server, swapped out the RAM, and put it all back together. (There are a few Home Server RAM upgrade guides out there, but the one I used from Home Server Hacks seemed to be the most detailed and helpful.)

The RAM upgrade was a little fiddly, having to take so much apart to get to the RAM, and I’m not afraid to say I started sweating a little when it booted up and the “health” light on the front of it turned red for several seconds (presumably as it realized there was more RAM and adjusted things). After that, though, I was able to log in and see the upgrade had taken effect:

Home Server RAM upgrade - the readout shows 1.97GB
now.

I also adjusted my pagefile size (there’s a guide for that, too).

The difference? I don’t have many add-ins running (just the standard stuff that came on the server and the KeepVault backup add-in), but even the basic Home Server Console comes up noticeably faster. Before the upgrade, the console took maybe 10 - 15 seconds to come up. Now it takes maybe three seconds. Definitely an upgrade that was well worth doing.

I also bought two 1TB Western Digital Caviar GreenPower drives to put in. Admittedly, the “green” aspect of the drives is nice, but the simple fact is that they were on sale for $155 each at Fry’s (limit one per customer, so I had Jenn buy one) and I didn’t have to take my chances with NewEgg’s shoddy OEM drive packaging… plus, since it’s a retail package, I get the full retail warranty.

Adding a drive to the Home Server is the easiest thing in the world. Power down the server, take one of the empty drive trays out, snap the drive into the tray, put the tray back in its slot and snap the drive in. Done. Power up the server and it sees the drive - all you have to do is, through the Home Server console, tell it if you want it to be added to the main server storage or not.

I added both drives to the main body of server storage since I’m ripping DVDs to it and ended up with a total capacity of 2.73TB (1.91TB free).

Adding two 1TB drives gave me a lot of free space for
DVDs.

The difference in space is due to that awesome “marketing 1KB == 1000 bytes, computer 1KB == 1024 bytes” thing. You only get about 931MB of actual usable space on a 1TB drive.

Regardless, after these upgrades, my Windows Home Server is a tiny box of awesome. Now I’m going to go set up that Dell Studio Hybrid I ordered for our home theater PC.

UPDATE 2/4/09: I’ve added an eSATA port multiplier and two more 1TB drives for a total of 4.55TB in storage. It was an easy upgrade that enables future storage upgrades without using the USB ports up.

General Ramblings comments edit

I’m not a big handyman. To be honest, I’m not even a little handyman. I have some tools, I can hang a picture, but when it comes to anything much beyond putting a couple of screws into a board or hammering a nail into a wall, I’m pretty much out of it.

We’re putting this thing together at home for our cat box to sit on. It involves cutting a board, and I noticed that I don’t really have a saw. To remedy that, when we bought the board, I got a decent mid-to-low-end circular saw. (I obviously don’t have a ton of call for such a thing, so spending more than, say, $50 would have been wasted.)

During my first-ever-in-my-lifetime use of a circular saw, I learned a few things I thought I’d share to help out the other less-than-handy people out there:

  • Don’t stand on the cord or the saw won’t go.
  • Don’t pinch the cord between your leg and the table or the saw won’t go.
  • If the saw doesn’t go, the cut doesn’t come out as clean as you might hope.
  • Stop over-thinking it and move the saw faster than a snail’s pace or the cut won’t be smooth.
  • Sandpaper can go a long way in cleaning up a messy cut on MDF.
  • MDF generates more sawdust than you will ever be able to clean up.

traffic comments edit

Took my car in to the shop this morning to get it fixed from my one-way-grid collision. The estimate is that it’ll be done and back to me on Friday, but until then, I’m stuck in a rental - a Kia Rondo. My usual car is a 2002 Acura RSX Type-S, so moving over to an odd SUV-identity-crisis with an automatic transmission has me sort of weirded out. I don’t really want to try parking it in my garage because I can’t figure out where the front and back on the thing are yet.

It’s Wednesday, but Friday is comin’…

media comments edit

UPDATE 3/18/2014: I’ve re-analyzed my needs and the available technology and I’ve switched to MP4 movie storage.

I blogged a bit ago about setting up a Windows Media Center DVD Library

  • where to store, how to handle metadata, etc. What I didn’t cover was how to choose a format to rip your movies into.

When I created my DVD Library, I had three primary goals:

  • No loss of quality.
  • Menus, etc. intact.
  • Backup of movie that can be re-ripped to DVD if the original gets damaged.

I ended up selecting VIDEO_TS format for my movies. Based on your requirements, you may choose a different format. The following table outlines some common format choices and their relative pros/cons.

 

ISO

VIDEO_TS

WMV

MPEG-2

DivX

Description

Full-disc image, sector for sector. [Wikipedia]

The files ripped from the disc’s filesystem. [Wikipedia]

Windows Media Video. [Wikipedia]

Moving Picture Experts Group video codec. [Wikipedia]

Codec using lossing MPEG-4 compression. [Wikipedia]

Playable in Windows Media Center

Requires a plugin like MyMovies in conjunction with Daemon Tools.

Yes, by enabling the DVD Library.

Yes

Yes

Requires a plugin like Media Control with FFDShow.

Streams to Media Center Extender (e.g., Xbox 360)

Requires Media Center with Transcode360. You won’t get FF/RW/Chapters.

Requires Media Center with Transcode360. You won’t get FF/RW/Chapters.

Yes

Yes

No. (Can play on Xbox360 through file sharing, but not through Media Center Extender.)

Same quality as original DVD

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Menus, extra features, etc. intact

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

All of these can be re-ripped, in some form or another, to a DVD that will play in a standard player, but you can obviously only burn back to disc the data you have. For example, if you rip your movie to WMV, you’ve lost the menus and quality - you aren’t going to get those back by burning the WMV back to a video disc.

File size was omitted because for the lossy formats, you can adjust the amount of size the movie takes on disk by compromising quality. The ISO and VIDEO_TS formats will take between 4GB and 8GB per disc, regardless of movie length, because they’re basically the whole kit-and-kaboodle. I’ve found some discs only use 3GB, but most are between 4 and 8.

A note on quality: When I say there’s a quality difference between ISO/VIDEO_TS and WMV/MPEG-2/DivX, it’s not just a little bit. You will immediately notice that there are more video artifacts and lower quality sound than if you’d ripped the full movie without additional compression. The more you try to keep the quality, the larger the file size gets until you almost may as well have ripped the full ISO/VIDEO_TS… and even then, you still may notice quality issues. In some cases, you may not care - as long as it’s “watchable” it may be good enough for you. I’m a quality freak so I have a really difficult time with compressed video in my home theater, and my wife, who is far less picky than I am, even notices a difference. YMMV.

Given that…

The quick recommendations:

  • VIDEO_TS: If you want a backup with menus, no lost quality, and don’t mind watching your movies through a Windows Media Center (or Front Row, for you Mac people), then VIDEO_TS is the way to go. It’s the easiest of the two full-rip formats to set up and is most compatible with media center style software.
  • MPEG-2: If you want just the main movie, don’t mind losing a little quality, and/or have lots of different devices (PS3, Xbox360, etc.) that you want to watch on, go with MPEG-2. It’s a pretty common format that almost everything will play.

traffic comments edit

My car got hit last night while I was on my way to get my allergy shot. No big deal, just some paint scratches (as far as I can tell), and no one was injured, but, man, it’s just one more thing to deal with.

The other driver and I were heading south on a two-way street and crossed into a one-way grid. He stayed in the right lane, I changed to the left lane (had to turn left soon to get to the shot clinic). He didn’t realize we had switched into a one-way grid and turned left in front of me from the right-hand lane. I got to test my brakes out (they’re decent) and we hit at super-low speed.

Here’s a map of what happened:

View Larger Map

Got the accident reported to the insurance company right at the scene. Cops didn’t come because it was so minor. Now I need to pick a body shop and get my bumper fixed up. Really glad no one got hurt, but like I said, just one more thing to deal with. Sigh.