Author Topic: Recommendations for server and station computers  (Read 794 times)

KirkD

  • Regular Poster
  • **
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
Recommendations for server and station computers
« on: August 04, 2014, 01:25:38 am »
I'm building a new house and I've just gotten all the details set for sound and network wiring.  Briefly, I'll have two rooms wired for sound with embedded speakers, and I'll have multiple locations where there will be Cat5 ports where I want televisions.   The speaker wires will terminate in a utility room in the basement, and I'll be able to put my server and other equipment (audio amplifier?) there as well.

Now I need to start buying computers for the system.  Specifically, I need a server and at least two media director computers.

For the server, what specs should I go with?  Processors?  Storage?  Memory? Video card specs? Audio card? etc.  I'm inclined to buy from Zareason or System76, but I'm open to other options as well.

Likewise for the media directors - what specs do I need.  I stumbled across these recently which look like they would be perfect as media directors:  https://www.thinkpenguin.com/

Any recommendations/advice are truly appreciated.

-Kirk


davegravy

  • Addicted
  • *
  • Posts: 518
    • View Profile
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2014, 04:26:33 am »
Are you going to go with 1204 or 1004?

The former may open up more hardware options for you but may have more functional issues as it is still alpha - It's the best choice if you are proficient in linux and willing to fix some things on your own with help from the community.

The later is the inverse.

posde

  • Administrator
  • LinuxMCE God
  • *****
  • Posts: 2993
  • Wastes Life On LinuxMCE Since 2007
    • View Profile
    • My Home
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2014, 06:50:12 pm »
Where are you located?

KirkD

  • Regular Poster
  • **
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2014, 09:59:37 pm »
I'm comfortable in Linux, but was planning to go with 1004.  How compelling is the improvement in equipment options for 1204 relative to the liklihood of a lot of fixes?

I'm in Colorado, USA.


posde

  • Administrator
  • LinuxMCE God
  • *****
  • Posts: 2993
  • Wastes Life On LinuxMCE Since 2007
    • View Profile
    • My Home
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2014, 02:46:13 am »
It is mainly in the support of newer network chips and graphics chips.

davegravy

  • Addicted
  • *
  • Posts: 518
    • View Profile
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2014, 04:47:10 am »
From the video end, this is a good resource:

http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/1004_Video_Hardware_Compatibility_List

I'm not sure, but likely haswell is not supported in 1004 either. I think the goal with 1204 is to support more of the small form factor and power efficient mini pcs (like intel NUC).

I've asked the same question as you in the past and never received a clear answer or recommendation.  Ultimately I found it best to buy the same hardware that the devs have (they often discuss in the wiki, forums, on IRC, etc). You still run into the odd issue but it is far easier to get a fix when they can reproduce bugs at their end.

On the other hand, they'd of course be happy to have you buy something different so you can contribute by making LMCE compatible with a larger hardware base :)
« Last Edit: August 06, 2014, 04:54:22 am by davegravy »

KirkD

  • Regular Poster
  • **
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2014, 07:27:19 pm »
Thanks for the info. 

I have some time before the place is built - probably 3-4 months - so I plan to buy the computer equipment and do some tests with a mock setup.  I'll keep checking back here as things develop, and if I can contribute, I'm all for it.

-Kirk


totallymaxed

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 4431
  • Smart Home Consulting
    • View Profile
    • Dianemo - at home with technology
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2014, 03:26:22 pm »
I'm comfortable in Linux, but was planning to go with 1004.  How compelling is the improvement in equipment options for 1204 relative to the liklihood of a lot of fixes?

I'm in Colorado, USA.

We've been shipping Dianemo on Ubuntu 12.04LTS Desktop pretty much since Canonical released it and I can say without hesitation that I would recommend going with a 12.04LTS based installation. You can test your proposed hardware for 12.04LTS compatibility simply by testing if it boots from a Ubuntu 12.04LTS Desktop USB stick or LiveCD (Core & Media Directors). If they boot and you get a desktop and a network connection your pretty much good to go.

The hardware you choose for your Core will be largely dependent on how many rooms you will equip with MD's and how much media you will be streaming concurrently. The more MD's you have the more load you will place on your Core when everything boots (hopefully this is not something you will be doing everyday) and when you are streaming video to several rooms at once.

Another factor to consider, if you are going with traditional MD's, is where will they be located? Will they be located local to the TV's or will they be located in your central equipment rack? Any surround Amplifiers or other audio amplifers will either need to be located with the MD's centrally (with long speaker grade cable run to each room) or with the MD's locally in the rooms they serve. Either is ok...but in-room means you will need more well ventilated cupboard space in the room (but will have shorted speaker cables etc). In Dianemo we still support MD's but 95% of our installations now use upnp media players, SmartTV's or AppleTV's instead and we use small IP based controls to provide discrete control of devices in and around the house (something in the past we would have done via the ports on an MD). We're also, like LMCE, moving to a new style Orbiter which does not require UI regens ever - UI regens historically have always caused a lot of overhead on the Core's of larger installations in particular. Moving away from MD's and modern Orbiters all add up to requiring less powerful Core's that use far less energy than they did just a few years back.

Best of luck with your house & your installation.

All the best

Andy
« Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 07:43:29 pm by totallymaxed »
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom

Read My Blog; http://ellipticalcurve.com

Contact me for Smart Home consulting advice here;
@herron on Twitter, totallymaxed+consulting@gmail.com via email or PM me here.

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
http://www.dianemo.co.uk

KirkD

  • Regular Poster
  • **
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2014, 01:00:15 am »
We've been shipping Dianemo on Ubuntu 12.04LTS Desktop pretty much since Canonical released it and I can say without hesitation that I would recommend going with a 12.04LTS based installation. You can test your proposed hardware for 12.04LTS compatibility simply by testing if it boots from a Ubuntu 12.04LTS Desktop USB stick or LiveCD (Core & Media Directors). If they boot and you get a desktop and a network connection your pretty much good to go.

The hardware you choose for your Core will be largely dependent on how many rooms you will equip with MD's and how much media you will be streaming concurrently. The more MD's you have the more load you will place on your Core when everything boots (hopefully this is not something you will be doing everyday) and when you are streaming video to several rooms at once.

Another factor to consider, if you are going with traditional MD's, is where will they be located? Will they be located local to the TV's or will they be located in your central equipment rack? Any surround Amplifiers or other audio amplifers will either need to be located with the MD's centrally (with long speaker grade cable run to each room) or with the MD's locally in the rooms they serve. Either is ok...but in-room means you will need more well ventilated cupboard space in the room (but will have shorted speaker cables etc). In Dianemo we still support MD's but 95% of our installations now use upnp media players, SmartTV's or AppleTV's instead and we use small IP based controls to provide discrete control of devices in and around the house (something in the past we would have done via the ports on an MD). We're also, like LMCE, moving to a new style Orbiter which does not require UI regens ever - UI regens historically have always caused a lot of overhead on the Core's of larger installations in particular. Moving away from MD's and modern Orbiters all add up to requiring less powerful Core's that use far less energy than they did just a few years back.

Best of luck with your house & your installation.

All the best

Andy

Just saw this one, Andy.  For some reason I'm not getting notifications on this thread.  Hmmmm...

That is great info, and thank you very much.  I'm narrowing my options down quite a bit and I think I've settled on something like this for my core:

System76 Eland Pedestal.  It ships with Ubuntu 14.04.1 Server LTS, so I'm guessing it'll be AOK for this purpose.

Intel Xeon E3-1220V2 (3.10 GHz 8MB Cache - 4 cores)
16 GB DDR3 1333 MHz ECC
2x2 TB SATA III 7200 RPM in hardware RAID-1
Hot swap drive cage
CD-RW/DVD-RW Dual layer drive


The questions that stand out for this one are: 

Graphics are integrate Intel HD.  Is this enough for a core?  I assume the core doesn't need much graphics support.

I very much like the hardware raid setup - is this compatible with LinuxMCE?

No audio included, but there are extra bays for expansion.  I'll probably pick up an audio card or two, if they are needed.

As far as structure, I plan to have the core in a utility room in the basement.  I'll have Cat5e access there as well as all the house speakers will terminate there.  I assume I can either connect the speakers to audio cards in the core or to amplifiers controlled by the core.  (Those amplifiers would be in the utility room also.)  I'll have 2 rooms with 2 speakers each in the ceilings, and all those wires terminate in the utility room. 

For the media directors, I anticipate 2 rooms, maybe 3, and those will have small footprint computers in place next to the TVs.  I'm thinking something like this for the media directors:  https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-pocket-wee-gnu-linux-desktop  They have Intel 1080p HD video and audio support.

That's my current plan for hardware.  As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated.

-Kirk




totallymaxed

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 4431
  • Smart Home Consulting
    • View Profile
    • Dianemo - at home with technology
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2014, 07:36:24 pm »
Just saw this one, Andy.  For some reason I'm not getting notifications on this thread.  Hmmmm...

That is great info, and thank you very much.  I'm narrowing my options down quite a bit and I think I've settled on something like this for my core:

System76 Eland Pedestal.  It ships with Ubuntu 14.04.1 Server LTS, so I'm guessing it'll be AOK for this purpose.

Intel Xeon E3-1220V2 (3.10 GHz 8MB Cache - 4 cores)
16 GB DDR3 1333 MHz ECC
2x2 TB SATA III 7200 RPM in hardware RAID-1
Hot swap drive cage
CD-RW/DVD-RW Dual layer drive


The questions that stand out for this one are: 

Graphics are integrate Intel HD.  Is this enough for a core?  I assume the core doesn't need much graphics support.

I very much like the hardware raid setup - is this compatible with LinuxMCE?

No audio included, but there are extra bays for expansion.  I'll probably pick up an audio card or two, if they are needed.

As far as structure, I plan to have the core in a utility room in the basement.  I'll have Cat5e access there as well as all the house speakers will terminate there.  I assume I can either connect the speakers to audio cards in the core or to amplifiers controlled by the core.  (Those amplifiers would be in the utility room also.)  I'll have 2 rooms with 2 speakers each in the ceilings, and all those wires terminate in the utility room. 

For the media directors, I anticipate 2 rooms, maybe 3, and those will have small footprint computers in place next to the TVs.  I'm thinking something like this for the media directors:  https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-pocket-wee-gnu-linux-desktop  They have Intel 1080p HD video and audio support.

That's my current plan for hardware.  As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated.

-Kirk

Hi Kirk,

Looking over your post here are some quick replies;

- we typically never configure Dianemo NC's (our term for a Core) as MD's so we don't worry about what graphics as such. In the days when we used standalone MD's we'd install enough for the number of rooms in the install.

- your chosen Core hardware should be fine as far as I can see - but I'd test it with a liveCD first to be sure. But I would also say that the Core hardware is way over spec'd for even the biggest house installation. Most of the time your Core will just be sitting there burning electricity. We would usually spec a Core with a mid-range i5 or possibly an i7 (but that would be only for bigger installations than your proposing). So test the hardware first for sure and then decide.

- audio cards can be added if you have enough slots and can be virtualised to so a single 7.1 card can drive 4x stereo zones for example.

- centralising everything is a good approach. If you plan to centralise the Amplifiers then you'll want to use low loss high quality speaker cables to each set of speakers in each room (CAT5/6 is no good for speakers except in emergencies or over very short distances). If the MD's are located in-room then you might want to locate the amplifiers with the MD's to simplify cabling/connections between them (run plenty of cat5/6 back to the rack to cover unexpected situations ). Soundcards always need an amplifier - they can't drive speakers directly.

- I'd recommend locating your media storage in a separate NAS (this could be raided of course easily) rather than in the Core itself. Hardware RAID will use proprietary drivers etc but as long as you can configure the RAID array using the provided utilities then your Core should be able to use it.

- those MD's use and i3 and look very nice. However they may not be ideal because they use Intel integrated graphics. You should check that suitable hardware accelerated graphics drivers are available and test the real video performance with some HD video streams before committing to them. Ironically those MD's are somewhat similar to some of our small Dianemo NC's that we would use in 2-3 bed apartments.

Let me know if any of the above is unclear!

All the best

Andy
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom

Read My Blog; http://ellipticalcurve.com

Contact me for Smart Home consulting advice here;
@herron on Twitter, totallymaxed+consulting@gmail.com via email or PM me here.

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
http://www.dianemo.co.uk

KirkD

  • Regular Poster
  • **
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2014, 08:44:03 pm »
Thanks very much for all that great information!  I think I have most all the details ironed out consistent with your recommendations.  As for the over-spec on the server, I found this (http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Core_Server_Newbie_Pack) after I had put down the specs in my last message.  In comparison, I can probably drop some $$$ by backing off the specs quite a bit and not lose performance. 

This info was extremely helpful!  Thank you again.  I'll do my best to keep information flowing with respect to how I put it all together and the equipment I use.  Is there a location where someone can add details of a particular setup for others' benefit?  Somewhere in the wiki?


-Kirk


totallymaxed

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 4431
  • Smart Home Consulting
    • View Profile
    • Dianemo - at home with technology
Re: Recommendations for server and station computers
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2014, 10:39:40 pm »
Thanks very much for all that great information!  I think I have most all the details ironed out consistent with your recommendations.  As for the over-spec on the server, I found this (http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Core_Server_Newbie_Pack) after I had put down the specs in my last message.  In comparison, I can probably drop some $$$ by backing off the specs quite a bit and not lose performance. 

This info was extremely helpful!  Thank you again.  I'll do my best to keep information flowing with respect to how I put it all together and the equipment I use.  Is there a location where someone can add details of a particular setup for others' benefit?  Somewhere in the wiki?


-Kirk

Re adding your config to the wiki; just create a page and add your systems spec there. Glad to be of help.

All the best

Andy
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom

Read My Blog; http://ellipticalcurve.com

Contact me for Smart Home consulting advice here;
@herron on Twitter, totallymaxed+consulting@gmail.com via email or PM me here.

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
http://www.dianemo.co.uk