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Old 02-19-2008   #41
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 7
Default Re: Are servers the new media?

Yes, servers are most certainly the new media. Media servers offer flexibility and conveniences to accessing your media that can't be denied or duplicated in other ways.
I ripped my entire 2000 CD collection to hard drives seven years ago when I bought an iPod and have never looked back. I was able to access any song at my fingertips, they were all cataloged and sorted. Making a mix CD for the car was a simple process.
I've been playing movies from my PCs for a while. I have three LCD TVs in the house and two of them have a computer directly connected to them. On the third floor it's Mac Pro and I have a custom built Windows Vista PC in the basement. Playing files worked fine, but it was lacking finesse. I'd walk across the room and start the movie playing. Someone would have to get up and pause it for a bathroom, phone or snack break.
Last year I bought a TerraStation Pro NAS array. I loaded it with 4 x 1TB drives and started copying all my HD rips to it. The goal was to have all my media centralized and playable from any location in the house. After copying some HD files up though, I was having a very hard time getting proper playback in my house, even with a wired gigabit network.
Then I started playing with the Media Center application built into Vista. The interface was amazing, but lacked support for my HD rips. Through a lot of trial and error, I found that my 64 bit version of Vista has far fewer options than the 32 bit version. I swapped in a spare drive and tried out a 32 bit install of Vista with the proper codec packs recommended for playing HD. Low and behold, Vista Media Center was the perfect solution. The files streamed from my NAS array to my PC with nary a hiccup. The HD looked and sounded fantastic. The Vista Media Center interface is slick and full featured. I bought the Vista MCE remote. The setup had finally come together. At Christmas I bought a Western Digital My Book external 1 TB drive and connected it to the NAS for 5 TB of storage. With everything working so well I built a dedicated Media Center PC. Antec makes a tiny case called the Minuet and more importantly, Asus just released a micro-ATX motherboard with HDMI on board. I put in a 250 gb drive, 2 gig dual-core processor and 2 gigs of memory. A simple, clean Vista setup with only the drivers and codecs needed and everything works great. Set the PC to auto login and Media Center to launch at boot. Hooked it up where my Oppo DVD player was and used that HDMI connection to my TV. I keep a wireless kb and mouse on the side for any updates, but 90% of the time it's just the power button and MCE remote. The Minuet case is tiny and quiet. The system has just the motherboard, hard disk and DVD drive, so it's low power, cool and quiet.
It worked so well that I built a second one the next week for the third floor. For this one I went a little better and used an Antec Veris Fusion Black 430 HTPC case with a built in IR receiver, volume knob and VFD display. Of course I still used the great new Asus motherboard with built in HDMI. The processor was a 2.2 dual-core for $99 and I bought the LG Super-Blu drive for $230 to play DVD/HD DVD/Blu Ray. This case looks slick. Same size and look as my A/V receiver. The VFD display scrolls the title, shows the spectrum analyzer and so on. Both of these running Vista MCE play my HD files perfectly. Picture perfect with proper 5.1.
Sorry to go on, but the moral is, yes I've seen the future of entertainment and it's name is a media server.
I now have 600 HD movies on the server and they look and sound fantastic. They're a combination of my disc rips and HD captures.
When i ripped my CDs all those years ago a 200 GB hard drive was $500. A year later a 300 gb one was $300. I just cloned the files to another hard drive as the drives came down in price and saved the backup. I'm sure in a year from now we'll have 2 TB drives for less than todays 1 TBs, then I'll just clone my HD movies the same way.
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