We have a lot of disparate sources of media around our home. DVDs, CDs, VHS, downloaded content, mp3s, etc. I find it to become more and more of a hastle running around finding the media I want, and then finding the device that can play that. Plus with 3 kids running around it is inevitable that their (and sometimes my) optical media gets scratched or damaged.
To that end I have decided to try and go completely digital in our home and felt that documenting it may be of help to others.
Wireless network (802.11g)
2 original xboxes
1 xbox 360
1 server (more on this later)
multiple client laptops
-Have all media centralized
-Have a backup of all media (if I had to do this all over again I would cry)
-Have different media available from different terminals (kids television should not be able to watch adult shows)
The first step here was to get a central computer that will store all the media. This computer should have the following:
-Lots of storage
-A DVD and or Blue Ray player
-Have some sort of hard drive redundancy
-Enough CPU power to convert videos on the fly (A Pentium III 700Mhz is the bare minimum you would want)
-Enough techincal knowhow to install an operating system, install software, and install hardware into a computer.
To do this I took an old server I had (but a desktop would work just fine) and installed two 2TB drives into it (at the time of writing they cost only $150 each). I also installed Windows Server 2008 R2 onto it but any OS of choice should do.
The biggest difference between my setup and the average user is that my media server has a builtin SATA raid card which I configured to mirror the drives (so I only have 2GB of storage but when (not if, when) one fails I can plunk in another and be on my way). If you don’t have hardware RAID and don’t want to purchase it you can actually setup a raid in software. Setting up a software raid can be a bit tricky but I found a great article about it. The only thing I would change is to give more than 10GB to windows / programs (at least 40GB nowdways I would think). Trust me in that running out of room on a partition is one of the most annoying things to happen to a person.
Once you have the system setup and running I like to make sure that the drives are actually redundant. I have never ever found that a mirror is not actually working after I set it up but I just like to make sure. To do this I take each hard drive out and slave it into another computer and ensure that they both have the same data on it (just a quick check to make sure that the folder structures are copied to each). Once that is done I put them both back in and ensure the mirror is functioning (sometimes it may detect they are out of sync and need to resync the array). The other way to do this is to remove one drive from the server, turn it on, make sure it works, then repeat with the other drive. This process will require a resync of the array which is time consuming. It took at least 15 hours to resync my 2TB array.
That is about it for now. In the future we will talk about software on the server, ripping DVDs and CDs, and how to watch/listen to this stuff on you TVs and computers effectively.