Author Topic: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice  (Read 5657 times)

cbass

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New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« on: October 03, 2008, 04:28:31 am »
Have been reading about Linux MCE since June, After getting most of my house wired with cat5e and getting a descent display for my living room, I am finally going to order some hardware for a hybrid/core.  I'll worry about my 2 needed MD's later.

Motherboard:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131013
I scoured the forums and wiki looking for the best feature-filled no headache mother board.  Every good one I found seems to be discontinued and not for sale.
I've kind of decided on ASUS M2N-SLI deluxe but also have considered ASUS M2NPV-VM and ABIT AN-M2 or ABIT AN-M2HD
I like the deluxe because no one seems to have problems with it, 2 onboard network cards, plenty of expansion, onboard digital audio, a serial port, and passively cooled northbridge.
cons are I can only find it on Ebay, no onboard video.

Videocard: I picked ASUS EN6200LE.  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121249
From what I gather this isn't a big decision, mainly just an Nvidia chipset

Ram, I'm thinking 2gigs of kingston value ram, have used it before and it works ok.  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820134117

processor, AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 Brisbane 2.3GHz.  Fast, low power consumption, 45w, cheap.  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103215
procossor heat sink, haven't picked one, I'm thinking a passive cooler, any suggestions?

Harddrive.  I always get seagate drives, will get a smaller one (250gb or so) for the OS.  That will be the only one in my hybrid for now.

NAS, DNS-323 NAS with 1 or 2 1TB drives as JBOD with periodic backup.  I would like to do a raid 5 eventually, but I've heard of too many horror stories of datalose so far, will try it later.  I plan on using the print server cababilities of it as well.

Case: SILVERSTONE LASCALA 10 CS-SST-LC10B ATX Media Center / HTPC Case.  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163033   I haven't reserched much on cases, but this seems like an OK one.

Power supply:  SeaSonic M12II SS-430GM 430W  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817151057

Tuner, Hauppauge PVR-500 or 150 or SiliconDust HDHomeRun http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815327005

Pointing device: I haven't decided.  I'm thinking a few RF gyro mice, wiimote, or the even the fiire chief if I have some extra money.  I may go the route of IR in some rooms to save money, but I'm not sure.

optical drives:  maybe a few slot loading dvd drives, but perhaps blue-ray.  I haven't read much about support for blue ray in lmce yet.

other misc stuff:
gb switch  NETGEAR GS608  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122141
D-Link DBT-120 USB 2.0 Wireless USB Bluetooth Adapter
Slim Devices Squeezebox (wireless network mp3 player)

I am in the US, my cable company is mediacom, I'm not sure if they encrypt their thier digital channels, which might hinder my hdhomerun.
Through my cable company I have a motorola HD DVR that I plan to connect with the a firewire cable.  I hope to be able to share and control this device on any md with firewire.

I have 2 LG lcd displays that I will control with RS-232.  A 3rd display I will either have to get a new TV with RS-232 or get a usb sert to control it with ir.
I plan on using coax spdif for audio.

In the future, I plan on using some of the home automation, VOIP, and security camera control, but for now all I'm looking for a mediaserver/DVR with a good UI, where I can share my media across 3 rooms and set up recording from any room.  It looks like lmce will do this fine. :)

Just posting this hoping to get any suggestions on my hardware selections or other advice.  I plan on ordering this weekend.

Thanks,

indulis

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2008, 03:45:27 pm »
Hi!

OK, first we sould try to put our recommendations into http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Category:Newbie_Packs

Motherboard: why not just stick to the recommended MSI motherboard? K9N6SGM-V V2 http://www.msicomputer.com/product/p_spec.asp?model=K9N6SGM-V_V2&class=mb
This has onboard nvidia video as well.

Video card: 6200LE is probably a bit slow for UI2 and HDTV. My 6200 stutters on 1080i. And I can't run UI2 photo screensaver at the same time.  This could be because I have just recently got LinuxMCE running and there is something else wrong but all video device drivers are loading correctly. Would also agree with the suggestion of the 8500GT or 8600GT card as per the Wiki entry above.

AMD 4850E dual core low power 45W.  2.5GHz so no slouch.

Hard disk: Samsung drives are quieter.  Check out http://www.silentpcreview.com. 1TB is around US$130 or less (AUD$160).  You could get a 2nd drive and mirror all your important data as LinuxMCE will do mirroring for you.  Photos=irreplaceable, MP3s and DVDs =painful to rerip, TV programs= a pain to lose.  And if the system is controlling YOUR HOUSE you want it to be as reliable as possible.  Why a NAS?  LinuxmCE will do NAS duties for you anyway using samba.

Seasonic or the other power supplies mentioned are good.  Corsair is actually a rebranded Seasonic series 2 anyway.

Antec quiet case- 4850 or Fusion Remote.

DVD- Pioneer 216


Again, more details are on the WIKI.  Have fun!


cbass

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2008, 09:51:28 am »
First off, thanks for great feedback guys.

Based on your comments and a little more research, I think I've refined and improved my hardware choices some, but I still have a few things up in the air: case, how/where I will store media, tuner, and input devices.  I will probably try to nail down what I'm doing with that stuff tomorrow.
 
Motherboard: ASUS M2N-SLI deluxe http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131013
Video Card: ASUS EN8600GT SILENT/HTDP/512M GeForce 8600 GT 512MB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121098
PSU: PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS500 500W http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817703015
Passive cooler: Ninja Mini from Scythe http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835185046
CPU: AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 Brisbane 2.3GHz http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103215
DVD: Pioneer Black SATA DVD Burner DVR-216DBK http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827129032
Case: Silverstone LC10B-E http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163118

My displays are native 1366x768 so I will either try that resolution or 720p.  I will either try UI2 w/ overlay or alpha blending if I find I can stand the tearing.  Once I get one room working, I will try to throw together a MD with existing hardware, and if that doesn't work build one new.

indulis, about the MSI K9N6SGM-V V2.  There has been little to no positive feedback about it on the wiki or forums (other than being mentioned in the newbie packs)  The features look good, but noone is talking about it much.

I will drop the NAS off my list and just get some drives to put in the hybrid at first.  I will definantly have to read up on Unraid and samba.  For years I've wanted to put a linux software raid5 fileserver together, but I've never gotten around to it.  Right now all my data is spread accross multiple 300 and 200 gig drives and I would like to get it all on one volume :)

indulis

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2008, 07:15:42 pm »

Motherboard: ASUS M2N-SLI deluxe http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131013
Video Card: ASUS EN8600GT SILENT/HTDP/512M GeForce 8600 GT 512MB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121098
PSU: PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS500 500W http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817703015
Passive cooler: Ninja Mini from Scythe http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835185046
CPU: AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 Brisbane 2.3GHz http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103215
DVD: Pioneer Black SATA DVD Burner DVR-216DBK http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827129032
Case: Silverstone LC10B-E http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163118

My displays are native 1366x768 so I will either try that resolution or 720p.  I will either try UI2 w/ overlay or alpha blending if I find I can stand the tearing.  .....

You probably don't need a 500W power supply!  My Gigabyte motherboard, 2 x 1TB drives, DVD, Antec Fusion Remote case with LCD and volume control electronics, 6200 video card, and 450W Corsair power supply draws 70W!  This was measured using an external power meter.  So go Corsair or Seasonic 380W if you can get it.  Power supplies are more efficient running in the 30% to 60% nad (i.e. on a 450W power supply it is most efficient running about 150W to 300W).  Don't believe the claims of silence.  Check out the recommended components at http:www.silentpcreview.com.

And I'd look at spending the money on the AMD dual core 2.5 GHz 4850E.  It is an AM2 chip with new silicon process.  A few more dollars but a lot less heat.

You should not get tearing with UI2, you can just set Vsync on.

I'd recommend NOT to get that ASUS video card.  It takes up 2 precious slots!  You can get a Zontac card that takes up 1 slot, or go for an eBay 8500GT card (silent no fan is the rule!).  Then if it doesn't measure up just resell it again, no big $ lost.  My 6200 card is *almost* good enough for 720p/1080i.  8500GT should be about 2x performance (I should get mine next week).
http://www.zotac.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=51&Itemid=244

For your displays, I'd recommend borrowing or otherwise getting to temporarily use a Windows XP system with Powerstrip (requires Nvidia video on the system, google for a download).  You can tune it attached to your TV until you get 1:1 mapping of computer pixels to display pixels. Use the sample picture from http://pixelmapping.wikispaces.com/Pixel+mapping+explained.   Then cut/paste an xorg.conf MODELINE from it once tuned to the least amount of moire pattern.  Because YOU DONT WANT THE TV TO TRY TO UPSCALE YOUR PICTURE. 

This probably makes more of a difference to picture quality than going from DVD to BlahRay.  If you are using a Panasonic TV (50"?) then you should use the VGA input because all other inputs upscale (well at least on the 1+ year old models YMMV).  Other TVs suffer the same sort of manufacturer stupidity, where you can't turn off the upscaling on component/DVI/HDMI cos the manufacturers assume video is coming in from a source that needs a bit of clipping about the edges.
http://www.dtvforum.info/index.php?showtopic=47701

Go for a computer resolution that matches the native pixel input of your display panel if you can.  For you 1366x768.  Againg some manufacturer stupidity.  Latest Panasonic panels which have 1080 lines acn only be driven as 768 lines from the computer input!  Why?  Who can explain!

Also I can recommend the Gigabyte GA-MA78GPM-DS2H motherboard.  It has onboard ATI graphics chipset but can be disabled if you are going to use an Nvidia graphics board.  Only 1 x Gbit Ethernet port though.  Sound works OK (analog only tested, but can switch otpical out on/off).
« Last Edit: October 04, 2008, 07:24:39 pm by indulis »

colinjones

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2008, 12:36:16 am »
I just wanted to add, the 6200 chipset should be sufficient, and the 7050 certainly is. Currently the community wizdom is that the 7300 chipsets are the way to go - they have grunt in spades to do the relatively simple graphics that LMCE needs.

Just be aware that the 7300 is already overkill, the 8600 is massive overkill, it will make NO difference to your experience of the UI, and will not work out of the box! In other words you will pay more for a less smooth (installation) experience. It is just a matter of installing the updated drivers, however my view is why bother, just get a 7300 card...

The other bit of advice is the alpha blending - if you are already concerned that you might not be able to stand the tearing, then you probably won't be able to :) the issue that causes it has to be a bug in the drivers (or perhaps the Orbiter? Less likely tho) not a performance issue - compare 2 chipsets were there is a factor of 4 or even 8 difference in performance, but the tearing remains exactly the same. Plus it does it even when there are no menus alphablended on top of the video... That does not speak of a lack of performance. So I would suggest not getting the high end chipsets in the hopes it will make the tearing go away. It won't. There are some people out there that say they have AB working without tearing, even on chipsets I have tested.... don't know how to interpret that... it remains unexplained...

indulis

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2008, 03:55:29 am »
Colin is more likely right than me, as I said I have just got my Linuxmce working, and my 6200 issues with HDTV could be something else (like a BIOS setting or device driver setup or...).  I am getting 85 fps in glxgears which seems v low to me.  Though not an indicator of performance with 2D (ie video).

My HDTV playback being jerky, and I know from experience with my previous Mythtv system that this can be any of a number of causes!  The photo screensaver was also jerky with the 6200.  When I ran up my onboard ATI 1250, the screensaver was v smooth in comparison, so I assumed performance of the card was an issue.  Though the photo screensaver took over the entire display and I could never see the LMCE UI!

For $50 I will test an 8500GT this week to see rather than spend another couple of nights troubleshooting what might be a card performance issue.

Did some tests, had to set nvAGP to 1 in xorg.conf file, took frame rate from 85 to 250.  This is despite the card being a PCI-E not an AGP one! This is with LMCE stopped and Sync to Vblank off for both XVideo and OpenGL.  Orbiter running in background frame rate down to 170. More tests later.

If I still get slow UI2 performance with the new card I'll do some more troubleshooting.

Anyway the 8500GT boards are only about $50, so putting one instead of a 7300 should be an issue of needing a low profile card (7300/7500), rather than a decision based on price.  7300 card is $35.  IMHO you might as well get the faster card for a similar price unless there is another reason not to (physical size, power/heat).
« Last Edit: October 05, 2008, 04:40:24 am by indulis »

cbass

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2008, 04:38:46 am »
Thanks again guys, lots of good advice.

I read up on unraid, and it looks like a pretty good way to set up media server.  Easy to set up, stable, expandable, don't need all drives the exact same size so I can use my numerous older drives.  I also like the fact that the drives are still readable outside of the raid (array isn't striped, the data drives are normal file systems).  I will have to look and see if I can use some of my current hardware with it (i have an old amd xp2100 system with 4 pata ports and a 4 port sata pci add on card, promise tx4200 i think i remember that sata controller card listed on their site, but the cpu might be too slow, ill have to see).  I dled the free version for now and I'll try to get something up and running before getting a license.  Can't wait to try it. ;D

Yes, I agree 500 watts is a little overkill.  I will probably still get that same power supply for a mediaserver, but I picked out a 380w seasonic for my hybrid.  I've had 2 psu's die in the 6 months  >:(, so I think I'm done with el-cheapo psu's that come free with the case.

I also noticed that the 8600gt took up two slots, but only after I posted, oops.  I did like the look of the specs on the 8600gt compared to the 8500gt (another 2x faster), and for only $20 more.  However, all I need is something fast enough to run UI2 w/ ablending or overlay at 1366x768.

I haven't done a lot of research on hdd's lately, but I will look into the samsungs.

I was planning on getting a USBUirt, but I didn't think I would need one until I set up my 3rd room (no rs-232 tv there).  My cable company DVR is a model DCT 6416 III, which I was hoping to control/stream/record with firewire, but some quick research finds this is kind of spotty at best.  I will definitely want to control this device, so a USBUirt may be the way to go.  (this device also has an IR-in plug, if that will help me any)

As far as getting a xorg.conf MODELINE for my display from an XP system, I don't have a system with a pcie slot.  But if I have issues, I can always install xp on my hybrid on a spare drive, and get it there.  (I'm getting a card with dvi, vga, and s-video, just in-case there are issues with one or the other)

Also FYI, the display for this hybrid will be a LG 42LG30- 42" and my other is a 20" LG 20LS7D.  They both have RS-232.  They are not in the wiki yet (i will add them), but the wiki says LG's with rs-232 are generally plug and play.
And about the tearing, I'm aware that there is no fix, unless the opensource ati drivers can surpass nvidia, or nvidia patches it.  I'm not too worried about it, it can't be any worse than streaming over wireless B (with a flaky router) to my laptop, which is what I do now. (i'm serious  :'( )

I looked at the GIGABYTE GA-MA78GPM-DS2H.  Its got a lot of good features, and is much newer.  The cons for me compared to the asus are: less expansion slots because it is microatx, no 2nd nic, no coaxial spdif, need to buy a serial/rs-232 header or usb to serial adaptor, and the spdif is untested so far.  After a little more research, it seems to be popular for MCE under windows, but many linux users are reporting problems with the on-board ALC889a audio chip, mainly spdif doesn't work for 5.1 and the driver won't capture audio with the audio-in jack (mythtv).  Anyways, I'm not ruling this board out.  I do like the onboard video, I gather that in the (near) future, it will be possible to decode h.264 with this chipset.  Here are some links discussing the audio issues:
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=4653915
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N82E16813128341 (newegg review, not entirely reliable but it was one user that had problems)
http://article.gmane.org/gmane.linux.alsa.devel/55108 (probs with the spdif)
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=755110
most of these are a few months old, maybe realtek released a new driver since then.

indulis, have you experienced any of these issues?  I know you haven't tried the spdif yet, but have you used the on-board audio-in to capture yet?  and is the volume control problem only with the orbiter?

I do have one other question that I can't seem to find in the wiki or forum.  What network card/chipset are best supported for a 2nd network card.  I would like to look at a usb nic to save pci slots if I were to get the gigabyte board.  Would this question best be answered by looking up the general linux compatibility of the different chipsets.  I do remember reading about issues where you have to have certain ones on the internal/external network or you run into issues.

Most of the hardware above still stands, but I'm still deciding on mobo.  here are some links to my most recent selections:
psu: SeaSonic S12 II SS-380GB 380W  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817151032
vidcard: MSI 7300GS 256MB 64-bit GDDR2 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127241 (thanks for warning colin)
cpu: AMD Athlon X2 4850e 2.5GHz Socket AM2 45W http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103255

For the cpu, since this one comes with a hs-fan, I will probably see for myself how that performs noise-wise before I purchase a fanless.

Anyways, I'm trying to be really careful about my hardware selection (if you haven't noticed ::) ), This is because my linux experience is Zero.  But, I have built several PC's, can troubleshoot most hardware or software issues (i think), and can do some light programing, so I think I should be able to catch on.  The biggest thing is, if I spend this much, it better work, or my wife will kill me  ;)

colinjones

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2008, 06:19:05 am »
indulis - its certainly true that you might want the extra grunt for other reasons. eg I recently added Savage 2 to the Computing menu (actually works v nicely, makes it much easier for my partner to play games!) Savage 2 is V heavy on graphics, my 7300GT is just about coping, so I'm glad I got it in the end.

The AGP thing is very strange! In fact according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NvAGP it really shouldn't make any difference even if it was an AGP card....

indulis

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2008, 01:57:04 pm »
OK the AGP setting did *not* make a difference, after I retested it at a sane time of night. You do NOT need the NvAGP setting for PCI-E cards (though it doesn't seem to hurt either).

TLBCAS (trouble lies betweeen chair and screen).

BUT I can report that my stuttering and HDTV and UI2 and photo screensaver performance problems were due to my 6200 Turbocache graphics card.  Got an 8600GT card today (Gigabyte fanless- watch out, it is a little taller than a normal card, and just fits in my Antec Fusion case).

I would have bought an 8500GT for $20 less but my normal store has had them on back order for 2 weeks, so took the short cut.

In short, I have a magnificent picture now, and a smoothly scrolling photo screensaver.  Hooray!  Maybe about the same perf as the built in ATI video card was giving me (judging by the photo screensaver performance which was the ONLY thing I could see on my ATI card).


colinjones

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2008, 02:56:28 pm »
indulis - not strictly relevant here, but I just broke Savage 2... really pissed off! I was tinkering as usual, and had noticed a few people talking about fgl_glxgrears. I have only used glxgears before and wanted to see what the difference was. Found that I had to install it, and did that. BUT didn't notice until too late that presumably the dependancies required it to uninstall 2 other packages. Can't remember what they were now, but certainly one was to do with Pluto video drivers. Had I realised this before hitting Y obviously I wouldn't have gone ahead!

Needless to say I completely screwed my system. Even after removing the fgl_glxgears package and reinstalling the 2 it had removed, X wouldn't start. I re-installed the latest nVidia drivers, and had to edit the xorg.conf file back to roughly what it was before, and that finally got LMCE back up and going again...

But now, the Savage 2 entry in the Computing menu that worked perfectly before just blanks the screen briefly, you see a spattering of corrupted graphics (lines and pixels is all) like the frame buffer isn't initialised, then it fails and drops back to the Computing menu.

DAMN! No idea where even to look for any logging. But from the KDE desktop it seems to start just fine... wish I hadn't been tinkering now!

cbass

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2008, 06:50:47 am »
Just an update,

Finally ordered some hardware.  Even got some delivered, but not enough to complete the box yet. :(

I just couldn't bring myself to pay $170 for the Asus deluxe on ebay, so I ended up ordering an Abit AN-M2, which seems to be highly regarded and plug and play.  My main problem with them is lack of expansion, and lack of serial rs-232 ports, only 1 nic, but I already ordered some usb to serial adapters and extra gbit nic so I don't expect to have too many issues getting my hybrid installed.  If i run into expansion problems, maybe I'll try a newer full atx motherboard, and move the abit to MD duties.

Dave, good news. I got a basic unraid server up and running on my old hardware, xp1600, 512mb ram.  Problem is I have no SATA raid slots on the board, so I can't hook up my 1.5tb hdd's yet.  I do have newer hardware on order for a real one, but this one may prove to be enough for now, then I can use my newer hardware as a MD.  If I build an array on one, do you think I will have much problem switching out motherboards at a later date?  I think it is supposed to find all the harddrives again regardless of controller.

indulis and collinjones, I have no idea what you guys are talking about.  Maybe someday  :P

Thanks for the help everyone.  I'll be sure to update the wiki with my experience once I get this thing going.

krys

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2008, 05:03:36 pm »
Did you end up using the switch that you linked in your first post? Any issues with it? I am about to order one myself and that looks like a sweet deal.
Thanks,
-Krys

cbass

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Re: New user, have hardware picked out, welcome advice
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2008, 03:30:41 am »
The switch works good.  Its been up since I got it a few months ago, haven't had to reset it or anything.  I'm always doing large transfers and streaming video through it.  I haven't verified the exact throughput I'm getting, but I'm pretty sure its hard drive limited.


I guess on a side note, I gave up on linuxmce for a while, after working on it for a few weeks.  Problems with networking, getting my tv to be controlled by serial, getting the other buttons on my remote wonder to work, it took a long time for remote media to be added to database (a few videos would be added per day), couldn't control cable box with usbuirt.  Really sucked troubleshooting the network problems too without the internet because I simply could not get an external IP address assigned, but I think it was partially my ISP's fault (requires spoofed mac address, which I couldn't get to stay after restarts).  I'm sure a lot of it was hardware issues, but I didn't have the patience to figure out that many problems.

I got mythbuntu up and running, and am using unraid for storage, and it works goods for now, but I would like some of the features in LMCE, so I will probably give the next version a try, and hopefully will have better luck.

Anyways thanks for the help all,