Music and File Server

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tempeteduson
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Music and File Server

Post by tempeteduson » Mon May 14, 2007 1:17 am

Hello,

I'm planning to build a 24/7 system that will run Slim Devices' SlimServer software, which will power a yet-to-be-acquired Squeezebox audio-streaming device (SPCR review), as well as act as an NAS for my Windows network. It will most likely be connected to my router using Ethernet for reliability, but I may allow for a wireless option. Having been a bit disappointed with the sluggishness of Softsqueeze (thanks, Java!) as a virtual Squeezebox, I wanted to know that the actual hardware would be better. The interface is what drove me toward a dedicated streaming solution, and in my opinion that aspect goes a long way toward satisfaction and continued use: my mother and sister will definitely not appreciate having to use a keyboard and mouse. I was thinking of trying out the SB firsthand before buying parts for this system (I have an entire FLAC music collection at the ready), but then I wanted to wait and see what the fourth-generation product would bring (or snatch up the current-gen version at a significant discount). In the meantime, I could really use a centralized storage solution to consolidate the litter of files across the five PCs on the network (one of which is running out of its 40GB of storage quickly). The so-so reliability of consumer NAS devices inspired me to build my own. I thought hard about any other potential uses, not wanting to waste hardware on idle processes, but decided that specialization was best to keep expenses down. That means that the system will run headless most of the time, and I will connect an old 15" CRT for diagnostic purposes only. My priorities are, in order of importance:

1. Obviously, very low noise.
2. High reliability, minimal maintenance.
3. Low cost.
4. Low energy consumption.
5. Small size.
6. Aesthetics.

All of these attributes are distinguishing features of VIA's EPIA-series integrated Mini-ITX motherboards, so I've settled on that platform. First, the tentative parts list:

1. VIA EPIA-5000 Mobo+CPU
2. Morex T3300 Case+PSU
3. Buffalo Select 256MB CL3 PC133 SDRAM
4. SYBA IDE-to-CF adapter (Direct Insertion Mode) + A-DATA Turbo 4GB 266X CompactFlash boot device
5. Western Digital Scorpio WD1200VE 120GB 5400RPM 8MB Cache 2.5" storage HDD

I have chosen (and already purchased) the classic and least-expensive mobo+CPU option, the EPIA-5000 (the subject of SPCR's first-ever official review!), which runs a lowly 533MHz C3 processor. The case-and-PSU combo is the only item that I really need feedback on. The Morex offering listed above is the cheapest package I have found, looks sturdy, and isn't too big. Airflow looks restricted, though, and I'm not sure about the efficiency of the DC-DC converter or AC adapter included. A serious alternative to the Morex is the M200/M300 cases from mini-box.com, makers of the PicoPSU series. These are made from light aluminum, which doesn't bode too well for strapping on a hard drive without some sort of soft suspension. On the plus side, they are obviously designed for the PicoPSUs, which have proven themselves in an SPCR review. In my case, the 80-watt version of both the DC-DC and AC-DC components should be sufficient (though the site offers a combo of 120W DC converter + 60W AC adapter for a significant discount). The combined cost ends up quite a bit higher than that of the Morex.

I've scoured eBay the last few days for these parts in an effort to minimize costs, and I think I can come in under $300 with the latter option.

I thought about going with dual hard drives (one for music, the other for other documents) to keep things separate and to minimize damage in case of a drive failure. However, a single large disk (with two partitions) will minimize cost, power consumption, and noise. I think I'll go that route.

As for the OS, I want to give Linux a try. Stability and security are advantages over Windows, and its low hardware requirements are perfect for the VIA platform. In addition, Linux compatibility with Windows networks is excellent thanks to Samba, and recent releases of many distributions have included an NTFS driver for accessing that file format. Among the few popular distros I've tried, I found file sharing to be easiest on SimplyMEPIS 6.5, which also ranks high on the usability scale. Another top contender for "most usable Linux" is PCLinuxOS, which has gotten very good reviews, but which I haven't tried yet. Ubuntu doesn't appeal to me as a server OS, or as a good desktop one, for that matter.

The amount of RAM and space on the boot drive have been sized to allow a bare-minimum installation of Windows XP, just in case I can't get Linux to work. As you can probably tell, I have no need for an optical drive.

Thanks for reading this far, and please leave any suggestions you may have. :)
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DanW
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Post by DanW » Tue May 15, 2007 12:09 am

Looks like you've thought this through pretty well... The only thing I'll add is the NTFS driver, it's a little funny. It works well by all accounts but you need to use some extra commands to mount it then fix something is breaks and unmount it. It's not too much effort if you really need that data, but you might just be better using a Samba share and getting it off remotely.
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tempeteduson
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Post by tempeteduson » Tue May 15, 2007 12:52 am

Thanks for the heads-up. I think I'll try the NTFS driver and see how it holds up.
License to Silence!
[size=75]Antec SLK3700AMB | ASUS M2R32-MVP (AMD 580X) | AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ (Brisbane) | 2x1GB Corsair XMS DDR2-667 | ATI RADEON X1950 XT w/ AC Accelero S1 | Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer | 320GB WD Caviar SE 16 (WD3200AAKS) | Samsung 16X DVD+/-RW, Lite-On DVD-ROM | abit AirPace PCI-E Wi-Fi[/size]

Xichael
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Post by Xichael » Sat May 26, 2007 6:20 am

Let us know how things go with the Morex T3300. I've been thinking about getting one myself. It appears to have a fan at the top. Is it quiet/cool enough?

santacruzbob
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NTFS driver

Post by santacruzbob » Sat May 26, 2007 8:47 am

I'm assuming you intend to format the partitions with ext3 or reiserfs or something of the sort, and not NTFS. Read support for NTFS has been near flawless in linux for 5+ years. You aren't going to need to jump through any hoops or worry about fscking your disks if you only intend to copy from NTFS. The write support on the other hand, although somewhat functional, is by no means stable and can (probably will) end up damaging your filesystem. I've done a bit of testing using various methods to write to NTFS and I've still yet to find a solution I am confident in. Until then I am running ext3 and on dual boot machines I will use the windows ext2/3 driver available for free at www.fs-driver.org

tempeteduson
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Post by tempeteduson » Sat Jun 23, 2007 1:57 pm

A little update on this oft-delayed project. I have the VIA board and Kingston RAM (both from eBay) and have tested them with an old case/PSU and optical drive. At first, I neglected to install an HDD because I was just testing with some Live CD distros. They all refused to load from CD after the initial POST. I checked everything from the IDE channels to the cable to the drive itself, but it turns out I needed to have a hard disk connected anyway.

It took me a few weeks to figure that out (not a newbie, seriously :P), but now I've successfully tested MEPIS and MEPIS Lite. PCLOS simply reboots every time it gets to a certain loading stage, so unfortunately that option's out. I may try Ubuntu at a future date. Linux Mint is a candidate, too, but it appears the ISO I downloaded may be corrupt (or the CD has errors), as it cannot load successfully on any of the three machines I tested it on.

Currently I have a three-pack of CompactFlash-to-IDE adapters (~$10) on order from eBay, which should arrive soon. I want to make sure the mobo recognizes the CF card as a hard drive (I have an existing 1GB card for testing) before I plunk down the cash for a new 4GB card for Linux installation. The hard drive will be ordered as soon as that phase is complete. I'm forgoing a case and fanless PSU until I can get the system up and running.

Xichael, I think I'm abandoning the T3300 in favor of either the Morex 3688 or this case (also known as the Procase Noah?). The main reason is that I can get these two cases from a local Directron, which saves a substantial ~$15 on shipping and means I can get either one immediately. Plus, they look better to me, and can take an optical if I ever need one. The choice between the two comes down to the PCI expansion slot offered on the Noah, which makes the case bigger but allows for a Wi-Fi card for wireless connectivity (I don't trust USB devices for this).

santacruzbob, I intend to format the storage drive as two NTFS partitions (music and other) using the built-in Windows tool. In use, Linux will read files and stream them to a Squeezebox (or test PC with Softsqueeze), but it will not write to the disk. Instead, I will use my desktop to rip CDs, encode to FLAC, and write files over the network. Performance may be low, but I'm fine with that as long as the disk remains healthy. If this sounds stupid, don't hesitate to say so. :)
License to Silence!
[size=75]Antec SLK3700AMB | ASUS M2R32-MVP (AMD 580X) | AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ (Brisbane) | 2x1GB Corsair XMS DDR2-667 | ATI RADEON X1950 XT w/ AC Accelero S1 | Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer | 320GB WD Caviar SE 16 (WD3200AAKS) | Samsung 16X DVD+/-RW, Lite-On DVD-ROM | abit AirPace PCI-E Wi-Fi[/size]

Trekmeister
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Post by Trekmeister » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:41 pm

tempeteduson wrote: santacruzbob, I intend to format the storage drive as two NTFS partitions (music and other) using the built-in Windows tool. In use, Linux will read files and stream them to a Squeezebox (or test PC with Softsqueeze), but it will not write to the disk. Instead, I will use my desktop to rip CDs, encode to FLAC, and write files over the network. Performance may be low, but I'm fine with that as long as the disk remains healthy. If this sounds stupid, don't hesitate to say so. :)
Uhm, yeah it sounds a bit stupit, at least if I understand you correctly. :)
If the storage drive is in the Linux machine it will still be Linux reading and writing to the disk, even if you upload the files to it from a remote machine using samba or similar.
NTFS writing support is supposed to be stable using ntfs-3g, however I still see no real reason to use that instead of a more native format such as ext3 or reiserfs. (unless you are planning to reboot the machine into windows regularly)

Anyhow, looks like a really nice build. I've also been pondering using flash memory as a system "disk" too when/if I get the money to build a proper HTPC.

gb115b
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Post by gb115b » Sat Jun 23, 2007 3:02 pm

to be honest i'd go for a sonos for usability...although i have slim kit at home at the mo...it's a bit of a geek toy compared with the sonos...

sonos also doesn't need a dedicated server...works fine off a nas...

anyway..regarding the Sqeezebox..i find the interface pretty good on the units themselves for playing albums etc...not as good for creating playlists etc though... its also pretty speedy - but to be honest i noticed no speed problems with softsqueeze on windows xp with sun java vm...

i think having a beefier processor would be beneficial as even on my e6400 slimserver can take up some resources / processor time

(but then a lot of that is due to perl - yuck)

if you can lay your hands on a cheap touchscreen try the winFX skin for slimserver - it's pretty impressive - but again the speed isn't quite right from a luddite user perspective...

re: 4G squeezebox...i've seen no details and last time i asked i was led to believe it wasn't round the corner...though logitech have a policy of not pre-announcing their products...

interface wise they do have something quite snazzy called Jive in the works..which looks to give the sonos remote a run for its money possibly...but it looks a fair way off....

tempeteduson
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Post by tempeteduson » Sun Jun 24, 2007 4:03 pm

Trekmeister wrote: If the storage drive is in the Linux machine it will still be Linux reading and writing to the disk, even if you upload the files to it from a remote machine using samba or similar.
NTFS writing support is supposed to be stable using ntfs-3g, however I still see no real reason to use that instead of a more native format such as ext3 or reiserfs. (unless you are planning to reboot the machine into windows regularly)
You're right... it would be Linux writing to the disk, so formatting to NTFS would be pointless. Thanks for clearing that up. :oops:

gb115b, I have run Softsqueeze on the system in my sig. It's not that slow, but not as responsive as I'd like... and there are occasional glitches with the interface. The Sonos wasn't really an option because of its cost. I like the SB precisely because it's a geek's toy (:lol:), but I was hoping it would be satisfactory for others as well. Older units also frequently appear on eBay for ~$150, which is low enough for this sort of test/experiment. And, yeah, Slim was quite tight-lipped about the SB4 even before Logitech acquired them... guess they can't risk sales of the current model. This Jive interface you talk about... I'll have to read up on it at their forums. It's been a while since my last visit.
License to Silence!
[size=75]Antec SLK3700AMB | ASUS M2R32-MVP (AMD 580X) | AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ (Brisbane) | 2x1GB Corsair XMS DDR2-667 | ATI RADEON X1950 XT w/ AC Accelero S1 | Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer | 320GB WD Caviar SE 16 (WD3200AAKS) | Samsung 16X DVD+/-RW, Lite-On DVD-ROM | abit AirPace PCI-E Wi-Fi[/size]

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