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Thread: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

  1. #1
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    Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Hi,

    I'm currently intresting in setting up a HTPC system in a networked area. I have little to none knowledge from Linux before, some access through work and 2-3 installs of gentoo but thats about it. I also wan't to build these system to some of the family members if it works out well later so instead of going by a sepearate core / mythTV install, I guess a complete package would be better and easier to maintain.

    First of all I wan't to start with one dedicated "storage" server that I put away in some closet somewhere where I have the majority of recorded dvd:s etc. This I should install a regular Ubuntu on I guess? or is it support already for use of another comps files in this Mythbuntu release? It's a P4 2.8 Ghz comp with 2 GB of ram, 2x120 GB disks 2x250 GB disks and what I really want in, a FireWire 800 card for external disks (I have PCI-IOFW82AA2 now but i'm not sure it has linux drivers). I'm guessing the specs is ok for that part. Is there drivers available for this card or do you have any other card that you recommend?

    As for the HTPC requirements I wan't to playback 1080p, MKV files etc but I guess this is as in windows just different codecs. Anyway here is the specs of the HTPC and you can give feedback where I need to boost hardware a bit.



    Does Linux make good use of the dual core in videoplayback? I know windows has some issues on this on some mediaplayers. And I can probably find a cheaper processor if it won't make use of both cores.

    Is there support for the LCD-Display on the Antec chassi or is this a goner? Do I need a special connector on the motherboard or is it standard USB it uses?

    I want to have an internal soundcard to this but I'm not sure I need it / can find any that takes one of the PCI-x slots. I have a surround system and I'm not gonna buy a soundcard if the output from the motherboard is enough input to the reciever.

    Will the internal Graphic card be enough to playback 1080p?

    The recommended processor for 1080p playback is 3 Ghz but what is the recommended processor if you have dual core?

    I will probable have some followup questions later on but this is what I can think of now.

    // Andreas

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
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    Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon

    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Ok, I'm actually working on figuring out the same myself, but the documentation is spotty at best it seems right now. Here's what I've been able to piece together.

    - The graphics card doesn't matter too much in this application since all decoding in Linux currently is software only. As long as the chip can output 1920x1080@60Hz, you should be fine. You *might* want to look at getting a lower end nVidia 8xxx series simply because they're supposed to support hardware decoding in Linux sometime in the future. Theoretically, ATI has pledged the same, but I haven't had a whole lot of luck with their stuff in Linux, so I'm of a wait and see attitude on them.

    - It would seem the rule of thumb is 2.4 GHz on a C2D for H.264 @ 1080p. Don't take that as gospel, but from what I can piece together of people currently watching such videos, this is roughly where the min. spec. of their systems lie. I can tell you both VLC and Mplayer make use of both cores for decoding. Going to a 64bit OS over a 32bit one seems to reduce the processor requirement by about 20%.

    -As for your server/frontend scenario for playback, look into MythTV a bit further. Part of the standard installation package allows you to build a backend storage server for Myth, just as you described.

    That's about all I can help you with for now. If you can figure out if its possible to stream a 1080p clip from the backend server to the frontend player over 802.11g and if so, how much space is needed for a buffer cache, I'd be mighty appriciative.

  3. #3
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    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Quote Originally Posted by theacoustician View Post
    - The graphics card doesn't matter too much in this application since all decoding in Linux currently is software only. As long as the chip can output 1920x1080@60Hz, you should be fine. You *might* want to look at getting a lower end nVidia 8xxx series simply because they're supposed to support hardware decoding in Linux sometime in the future. Theoretically, ATI has pledged the same, but I haven't had a whole lot of luck with their stuff in Linux, so I'm of a wait and see attitude on them.

    - It would seem the rule of thumb is 2.4 GHz on a C2D for H.264 @ 1080p. Don't take that as gospel, but from what I can piece together of people currently watching such videos, this is roughly where the min. spec. of their systems lie. I can tell you both VLC and Mplayer make use of both cores for decoding. Going to a 64bit OS over a 32bit one seems to reduce the processor requirement by about 20%.
    I'm interested in a 720p htpc. are there 'rules of thumb' for that, or can you give a pointer to where to find this information?

    -As for your server/frontend scenario for playback, look into MythTV a bit further. Part of the standard installation package allows you to build a backend storage server for Myth, just as you described.
    mythbuntu is great. I've been working on trying to figure out the software installation before finalizing the hardware.

  4. #4
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    Kubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Quote Originally Posted by pasta514 View Post
    I'm interested in a 720p htpc. are there 'rules of thumb' for that, or can you give a pointer to where to find this information?


    mythbuntu is great. I've been working on trying to figure out the software installation before finalizing the hardware.
    If you are not doing h.264, the requirements are pretty low. Pretty much any dual proc will do all the way up to 1080p. I do 720p with my pentium 2.6Ghz and a geforce 440mx without using XvMC.

    Stick with nvidia lower end card, for now. I nice passively cooled 6 series do nicely (I have a 6200 LE PCIe that does great in one of my frontends).

    I have had spotty luck with HD over wireless g. It works sometimes, sometimes not - too many environment issues that can interfere - so not used for HD for me.
    Linux & MythTV 4 Life
    Running ubuntu on an Atom 330, Atom D525, Turion 64 X2 TL-56, X2 3800, X2 4200, X2 4600, E2180, Core i5 450M, and a Core i7-2600
    My Hardware

  5. #5
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    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Quote Originally Posted by pasta514 View Post
    I'm interested in a 720p htpc. are there 'rules of thumb' for that, or can you give a pointer to where to find this information?
    Its an average "safe number" I arrived at by looking at Apple's and Nero's specs for 264 playback, software specs from companies like CyberDVD for HD-DVD/BluRay playback, and just googling HTPC H.264 playback and 1080p. Mostly I was looking at forum posts from places like Doom9, Videolan.org, etc. to see what system specs people were using and getting sucessful playback. There seems to be some wide variance on what actually works for who. Some people can get great decodes on a single core. Some can't seem to manage to make it work on quad cores without frame drop. I can confirm that 64bit seems to make a difference in encode and decode requirements, particularly on encode side.

    Point blank: there's no good documentation out there right now and you're just going to have to do some research.

  6. #6
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    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Quote Originally Posted by newlinux View Post
    I have had spotty luck with HD over wireless g. It works sometimes, sometimes not - too many environment issues that can interfere - so not used for HD for me.
    Tried wireless N? Did it work any better?

    I ask because my house isn't wired and really can't be because of how its constructed. I'm stuck with wireless for data transfer and I'd really prefer a back end server/NAS - front end player configuration rather than having a couple of stand alone Myth boxes scattered about.

  7. #7
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    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Nope, didn't want to shell out the dollars for wireless N. I ended up running wire to as many places as I could. No wire to the garage, so that is still wireless, but maybe I'll try wire there or powerline. I tried some powerline adapters and they did work, but are overpriced, so maybe if I see the right deal on ebay...
    Linux & MythTV 4 Life
    Running ubuntu on an Atom 330, Atom D525, Turion 64 X2 TL-56, X2 3800, X2 4200, X2 4600, E2180, Core i5 450M, and a Core i7-2600
    My Hardware

  8. #8
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    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    TBH I'd never use wireless for streaming if you're looking at HD. If you don't want to use traditional wires, what about the Homeplug option? You get a decent speed without the hassle of wires.

    If you want to cut down on the spec of PC you have then something that may be worth considering for x264 (not H264) is a rebuild of MPlayer on the system instead of the generic Ubuntu install. From the 2 systems I've played around with on this simply doing a rebuild on the platform itself will give a 10 to15% improvement on the decode rates with a similar level being achievable if you then include the CoreAVC codec patch. (I very nearly managed to get a 2.6 Celeron playing x264s back this way but not quite!)

    I'm currently setting up an HTPC system for a friend on a more traditional Ubuntu install (Gutsy) and going through a few bits of agro.

    In terms of graphics cards he's using the ATI Radeon HD2600 XT - the current drivers for it give reasonable 3D performance but not 2D so video playback is pretty choppy at the moment despite the dual core CPU .

  9. #9
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    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Quote Originally Posted by brundles View Post
    TBH I'd never use wireless for streaming if you're looking at HD. If you don't want to use traditional wires, what about the Homeplug option? You get a decent speed without the hassle of wires.
    Hadn't tried it yet because I wasn't real keen on spending $ on something that may or may not work for me. The electrical in this house is a bit squirrelly, but I may just bite the bullet and give that a go.

    Quote Originally Posted by brundles View Post
    If you want to cut down on the spec of PC you have then something that may be worth considering for x264 (not H264) is a rebuild of MPlayer on the system instead of the generic Ubuntu install. From the 2 systems I've played around with on this simply doing a rebuild on the platform itself will give a 10 to15% improvement on the decode rates with a similar level being achievable if you then include the CoreAVC codec patch. (I very nearly managed to get a 2.6 Celeron playing x264s back this way but not quite!)
    What exactly is that supposed to mean, x264 not H264? x264 is a GNU H.264 encoder. H.264 is the standard to which x264 encodes. Furthermore, x264 isn't a decoder, so recompiling MPlayer for that doesn't really make sense (unless you're talking about encoding).

    Now, I can definately see how compiling MPlayer from scratch could definately win you some improvements on playback, since you can set all the relevant advantageous settings for your system. Great idea, hadn't thought of that one yet. Full disclosure on CoreAVC : that's not free software. If you're going to "apply the patch", you need to purchase the codec from CoreCodec first. It is however, the best decoding codec I've come across, so this is again another good suggestion.

  10. #10
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    Re: Feedback on a complete HTPC system

    Quote Originally Posted by newlinux View Post

    Stick with nvidia lower end card, for now. I nice passively cooled 6 series do nicely (I have a 6200 LE PCIe that does great in one of my frontends).
    how about a motherboard with onboard graphics? GeForce 7100/7150? or AMD 690? but sounds like ATI support for linux is poor, so I'll assume avoid the ATI/AMD options, right?

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