Newbie Needs Help with Media Server and Client Builds

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Joined: 21 Aug 2007
Newbie Needs Help with Media Server and Client Builds

For the past couple of months I have been researching what it would take to add a media center server and clients to my three home theaters.  What I thought would be a simple task, turns out to be much more complicated than I originally thought.  Since I am a newbie at this I have a lot of “dumb” questions, but first here is what I would like to do:

  • Rip all my 500 DVDs and stream them to anyone of my three home theaters.  For the client, I would like to browse my DVD collection from each home theater and launch a movie.  It is possible that all three theaters would be in use at the same time.
  • Store and access all my pictures and music (about 4,000 MP3 files)
  • I don’t have HD-DVD or Blue Ray just yet, but I anticipate I will in the near future (or even buy it for this project) so I want the ability to rip and stream HD videos too.
  • During streaming of a video, I wish to take advantage of my high end audio systems (5.1 to 7.1)
  • Video quality during playback is also important since I have three HDTVs: rear projection 1080i, LCD 720p or 1080i, and a plasm 1080p
  • I promised the kids I would buy them the Xbox 360 elite, so I would like to use this system as a media extender.  I would need to build at least one client HTPC and use the old Xbox core system or build two HTPC clients or use two other types of comercial media extenders.
  • I am currently using 3 DVRs from the Cable Company, so controlling, recording, and scheduling TV is not important right now, but eventually I would like the ability to incorporate this functionality into the media center server/client architecture.
  • I have a Linksys WRT350N wireless N gigabit router with network attached storage capability

I read the post on the Perfect Media Server and the Media Server Guide, but being a newbie I am still confused on what to do.  I have some basic questions and then would like to have some suggestions on server and clients specs:

Server Questions:

  • Can I use Network Attached Storage with an UPnP media server for streaming video to Xbox, HTPC clients and other third-party media extenders?
  • How effective is WMP11 as a media center server?
  • Is Windows XP MCE 2005 a better choice?
  • I hear mixed reviews about Vista.  Should I even consider it?
  • How do Beyond TV, SageTV, MythTV etc. compare to other media center server options?  Are they compatible with Xbox?
  • It appears that video capture cards don’t work with encrypted premium HD channels like HBO.  Is this correct?

Ripping:

  • What file format is best at providing high quality audio and video playback (ISO, Xvid, DivX, MPEG, WMV….) considering that I intend to use an Xbox, but also expect to upgrade to high def DVD formats?  In other words, does the Xbox hinder or help me? 
  • What is a good ripping program that would be appropriate for my needs?

Clients and Video Players:

I looked at a lot of extenders such as SageTV, but their video output appears to be limited to composite and s-video.  Are there any extenders that support better video output options?  I suspect a client HTPC would be a better option? 

Finally, based upon what I am attempting to do, what media center server and client specifications do you recommend?  Any ideas and help would be greatly appreciated. 

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Joined: 26 Sep 2007

Bump

Silverstone LC13, MSI K9N Platinum, AMD Athlon64 3500+, 1GB Corsair Ram, Gigabyte 7600GT passively cooled, Powercolor Theater 550 Pro, Seasonic M12-500, MCE 2005, 1.75TB of storage space via 4 HD's.....ABOUT TO GET OVERHAULED......

Mike Garcen's picture
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Joined: 1 Oct 2006

I'll help out quickly, but at work so can't tackle everything:

    * Can I use Network Attached Storage with an UPnP media server for streaming video to Xbox, HTPC clients and other third-party media extenders?
yepperz

    * How effective is WMP11 as a media center server?
it works fine. Sometimes spikes up resources, but it recovers fine

    * Is Windows XP MCE 2005 a better choice?
depends on your system specs. Personally, i find the networking peppier in XP than Vista

    * I hear mixed reviews about Vista.  Should I even consider it?
Read my 6-month Vista blog Smile Always consider everything Smile

    * How do Beyond TV, SageTV, MythTV etc. compare to other media center server options?  Are they compatible with Xbox?
Depends. If you're talking the MCE interface, then NO, only Vista/XP MCE will work. BUT, if you're talking just streaming ala UPNP, then they'll all play fine.

    * It appears that video capture cards don’t work with encrypted premium HD channels like HBO.  Is this correct?
well, they work, but you'll have to go through a set top box, so you're not going to get NEAR-HD quality. Unless you go cablecard, but then that's a whole other bag of worms

Mike Garcen (shadymg) MissingRemote Editor-in-Chief Windows Entertainment and Connected Home MVP (formerly Media Center MVP) Twitter @mikegarcen MissingRemote on Facebook

John's picture
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Joined: 5 Aug 2006

DoctorT wrote:

  • How do Beyond TV, SageTV, MythTV etc. compare to other media center server options?  Are they compatible with Xbox?[/*:m]

Here is some more info on using an Xbox as a MythTV extender.

http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/index.php/Xbox_Frontend

[/]

Famous Last Words - "I am new to Linux, but my technical background should make this new adventure go smoothly."

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Joined: 12 Aug 2007

DoctorT wrote:

  • It appears that video capture cards don’t work with encrypted premium HD channels like HBO.  Is this correct? [/*:m]

Yes and no.  You can always record any channel you get via S-video, but that will limit it to SD.  You most likely won't be able to record premium channels in HD due to restrictions from your cable provider. 

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