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Home Media Server
Jeff with Leif and Piano
I'm been wrestling with the idea of a home media server for a bit. Our home computing needs are pretty light, they only thing either of us really do outside of a web browser these days is ssh (me) or nethack (Angie). Outside of the laptop we have a pretty standard non-connected house. The only case where I'd really like to change this is music. We don't generally watch TV (and when we do, it's usually DVDs that we've actually purchased), but we do listen to a fair amount of music. The CDs tend to get scattered around the house and then mauled by our velociraptor offspring.

I looked at the Squeezebox, which would be perfect if it wouldn't mean replacing a whole bunch of perfectly good stereos with a whole bunch of nicer-than-we-need stereos.

The solution I've hit onto is this: a NAS with an FM transmitter on the site. The LineX one looks like it would do a nice job since it just acts as a USB speaker. The question then is figuring out if there's software or whatnot to drive such a thing.

What I think I want:

* 802.1n NAS with no moving parts. 2 64GB USB keys in a RAID-1 config would do the job nicely.
* Enough horsepower to play Oggs, MP3s and FLACs.
* Remote song selection through an Android app.

Anyone know if anything comes close to this? The best thing I can think of is perhaps Debian running on a Linksys NAS box. If I could get that far, then the software seems pretty straight forward if it doesn't exist in some form or other in the Debian archive already.

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Have you looked at the Popcorn Hour series devices? My brother has one, one has some caching issues with IPTV streaming, but otherwise he is pretty happy with it serving his kids.

I hadn't seen the Popcorn Hour stuff before, but it seems to be primarily focussed on video stuff. My problem is the audio: I have a pile of places I want to listen to music, which means that centralising the music somewhere is a problem.

Neat to see that TV stuff is getting that far, though!

I like the little atom based msi computers. I have one that I use as a NAS box and it works great.


That looks like a nice little box. The biggest problem is that it still has a cooling fan. Passive cooling to me is important because we have cats, and anything with a fan will eventually get clogged with cat hair. I literally caused a G5 PSU to boil over because cat hair clogged the intake vents. =( (The repair shop said they'd never seen anything like it)

Thanks, though! I'll look to see if I can find a fanless version.

I'd recommend an Atom-based system, too. With a GSE-chipset the power usage is quiet low (I recently configured a system with a 2.5" disk drive which should total to about 15W maximum power consumption). You do not neccessarily need to buy a case with fans AFAIK. Given a good thermal design case it should be possible to run an atom system fanless.

Ah, okay. The Atom systems I'd seen talked about noisy fans. I'll take another look. thanks!

I use a PC Engines ALIX3c (now 3d). It's a Geode (x86) based system, with a very small form factor and fanless (the geode chip doesn't even need a heatsink). The only limitation I can see from your requirements, would be that there isn't a system with built in audio and PCI-express for wireless, (I am still using G, which is fast enough for me) although there are mini-PCI N cards available.

LinITX.com would give you a good indication of what is available.

I run absolutely everything on mine (running Debian), including a wireless access point, record live radio, audio stream, UPNP, bit of web-serving and backup. The only thing it is too slow for is video processing.

Re: PC Engines Alix

Neal Walfield replied to me by email and recommended these, too. I'd played with Geode based-systems before. I was surprised to see these on the market, I thought I'd read the AMD had end-of-lifed the Geode.

This seems like the bet I'll likely make since I'm familiar with them.


I can control the alix 3c with anyremote, via bluetooth (although I think it could work by wifi if my phone had it) mplayer.

Sorry about the ugly yahoo URL, only just enabled OpenID and can't work out how to change it.

OpenID isn't that great with LJ yet. I'd ideally like it if I could change my auth to accept OpenID. Instead if I try, it seems to become a different account. =(

Thanks for the pointer to AnyRemote! That looks like what I want. I'll poke at this a bit and see if I can make it do the job.

Actually, Fabian pointed out a perfect app further in this thread: http://sourceforge.net/apps/trac/android-tesla/

I'll try that first.

how about:


Main problem is that for your usecase you'd need a usb hub, and some hubs are notoriously flaky.

I do worry a bit about the hub, although I don't have any concrete reason to do so. I haven't had a flaky USB hub in half a decade. I'd need for it to be powered, which is one disadvantage, though. The FM transmitter I'm looking at is USB powered.

If I can find something with an internal powered USB hub, then that will be ideal.

That looks like a nice little box, though!

Ew. OpenID here s*cks.

Tesla should be it. I haven't tried it though:

Oh, sweet! That's actually perfect, including being focussed on music playing!

I'll invite you over for a demo. Now to clear the budget with the lady of the house. =)

SqueezeBox does analog...

Hey Jeff,

http://www.logitechsqueezebox.com/support/faq.html indicates to me that you can connect your SqueezeBox to your stereo via a plain-old RCA cable.

Would using RCA for audio require upgrading your stereo? That seems surprising!

Hope this helps - do reply!

Re: SqueezeBox does analog...

You're using a higher-end definition of stereo than I am. =) We don't have anything component-based, and many of the things I want to play through are about the grade of a clock-radio with a CD player.

That's half the problem: In order to go to a media-centre solution, I'm currently having to look at replacing *each* of these. That goes from a $30 music solution per room to at least $200 music solution per room. Not a win!

This is probably the fanless PC that you're looking for:


Wi-Fi is b/g instead of n, but... well, in my Apple hardware environment that's fine, because the 802.11n devices are on 5GHz and the 802.11g devices are on 2.4 GHz. Not sure whether that works for you.

Of course, you could nix the built-in Wi-Fi and use a USB wireless NIC that supports 802.11n, so maybe that's not a problem at all... and your internal storage would be an IDE SSD, so you'd have the two external USB ports available, one for WiFi and one for the FM transmitter, no hub required.

True. There's a certain point when there's too much dangling off the box. No technical objections, it just seems like a bad idea. =)

Eh? You were originally proposing to have 3 items dangling off the box (2 USB drives and an FM transmitter), whereas this would involve two if you require 802.11n (an 802.11n USB dongle and an FM transmitter) and only one if you can get away with 802.11g (only the FM transmitter).

So, with all due respect, I fail to comprehend how two is more than three.

Well, 1+1 *could* exceed three for sufficiently large values of 1. Especially if I don't read the post carefully enough...

At the risk of over-commenting: this model is an Atom 1.1GHz, has no onboard wi-fi but plenty of USB ports, burns only 6 watts, is ready to accept a 2.5" SSD, and is a model that ships with Ubuntu as a standard configuration. Alternately, they appear to be closing out a variety of superseded versions of the product (with less powerful CPUs).


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