I love music. Emma loves photography. we both enjoy sitting down to a good film at the end of a day.
That means that we have 1.5 terabites to store. To put that into perspective, there are 1000 gigabites in one terabite. There are 1000 megabites in a gigabite.
We’ve quite a lot of media that we want to be able to access in either my computer room or Emma’s sowing room. We already have CAT5 cable in almost every room in the house connecting to the NAS (Network Attached Storage) and the server that live under the stairs so centrally storing large files isn’t an issue as the slowest connection we have to contend with is a 100MBPS connection and that will be upgraded to 1GBPS in the next few weeks. For streaming, 100MBPS is more than adiquit but for backups etc it would be more conveenient to have a faster connection speed.
Streaming from the server to PC’s is easy. It’s done via the Internet all the time! Streaming to the television however is slightly less common and requires a bit more work.
The first solution to this challange was to use a modified XBox gaming console with Linux on it running a media server application called XBMC. This is the ultimate in media center software but it has one fatal flaw. It’s not accessible if you cant see the screen. It’s a great solution if you want something that’s very simple and straight forward to run once it’s set up.
My latest idea is an ultra portable desktop PC> In fact, it is arguably the smallest desktop PC you can currently buy. It’s the Asus EEEPC B402.
They say it runs as quiet as a normal watch and it uses 90% less power compared to a normal PC.
The only down side to it is that it has no CD drive however this is more than made up for by a 5 in one card reader, Wireless networking supporting A, B, G and N standards, wired networking that supports up to 1GBPS, 2 USB on the back and 1 on the front and HD output via a DVI connection. It’s so small that it can screw onto the back of a television or monitor using the standard wholes that are usually in the back to facilitate mounting on a stand. Even after six hours of streaming music it doesn’t get very hot and the 160GB hard disk is absolutely fine for what I want it to do.
I have upgraded it so that it is running with 2GB of RAM. This means that it runs Windows 7 Ultimate without even breaking a swet.
It displays using the Aero interface on our 40 inch television and from the reactions I’ve got so far, films look great.
I’m connecting the PC to the television via a DVI to HDMI cable with sound coming from an external Sound blaster live card. This is because this provides better sound than the onboard card and it delivers it via an optical cable to the amp.
That’s connected to the 5.1 surround system that is integrated into the walls in the living room. Hay! If she gets a 40 inch LCD screen, I get a 5.1 surround sound system that’s tidy! every body wins! it was a good deel!
So, the Windows 7 machine obviously has a copy of Jaws on it so I can use it without any problems. It also has XBMC on it so if Emma doesn’t want to use the Windows interface, she can use the remote to jump around that flashy and visual interface.
The great thing about having Windows on it though is that If we’re just sitting there, we can have Windows live messenger in the background or we can make arrangements online instead of putting them off for a time when we’re at a computer.
The great thing though is that I spend a lot of time on a computer when I get home in the evening. with that in the living room, I can remote desktop into one of the computers up stairs and work away without disturbing Emma. She prefers that because I’m not missing for hours on end locked away tapping away on a keyboard.
Over all, I think this new PC has taken over from the responsibilities of the XBox very well so I think I’ll be sticking with it for a while yet. At least for a month or two until something else comes along that I want to play with.