Some Random Thoughts

by Damian on March 21, 2011 · 30 comments

in News

I had a few things bouncing around in my head, so I thought I would jot them down in a post. Please accept my apologies in advance for my ramblings :-)

Upcoming Writeups/Reviews:

  • Sonos – ok, this one is WAY overdue, I actually had pictures uploaded around September of last year for my writeup! Since Sonos is one of my favorite electronics devices it really is time I stop being a bum and get my writeup posted already. Stay tuned as I should have it posted by Wednesday
  • Nixeus Fusion HD – I was hoping to have this posted last week. However, I have run into some conflicts between the Fusion and my Windows Home Server which I am trying to resolve, so that has pushed things back. Hopefully this will get resolved soon enough so I can post my review
  • Media Browser – the next version of Media Browser (Titan) was due to be released I believe on March 22. However, checking out the Media Browser site it appears the release date has been pushed back to March 28th. I never put together a good writeup of the previous release (Draco), but hope to spend more time with Titan when released
  • Hauppauge Colossus – finally installed this weekend, just haven’t actually turned on the HTPC I installed it in!!! Stay tuned for more.
  • Maybe something HTPC hardware related. My love for the HTPC has lessened a little bit of late, but the urge to build something is coming back! There is the Sandy Bridge Platform, AMD Fusion, AMD 6xxx GPU supporting 1080p 3D, etc…
  • More media players. For the most part this year appears to be shaping up as somewhat uneventful in the media player market, but there will be some interesting players to keep in eye on such as the 2011 Xtreamer lineup and the Nixeus Fusion XS

Tablets:

As expected CES 2011 was all about the Tablet. I had been eying several of the ASUS products but an innocent visit to Best Buy last weekend to pick up Printer ink left me with an iPad 2. So far I would say that my experience with the iPad 2 has been a positive one. The size is considerably lighter then the original iPad which is a positive, and I actually find myself reading a lot more then I used to. It appears that the first real push of non iPad tablets will be hitting the markets in the next few months (Blackberry Playbook, HP webOS Slate, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, etc…) so it will be interesting to see how well received they are (and if they fair better then the Motorola Xoom). I will be keeping a close eye on and if a tablet comes along that offers more of what I want I will have no problem parting ways with my iPad 2, but of course these tablets need to deliver first (and to be honest I don’t quite get the 7in tablet. You are already past the point of a smartphone size, so wouldn’t you rather have the extra screen real estate of a 10in. After all, isn’t that part of the reason for a tablet). I am tempted to pull the trigger on the ASUS Eee Pad Slate running Windows 7 but I am still scared off by the price and I think I would rather wait until a Sandy Bridge version it released which should be better for battery life.

Windows Home Server 2011;

I finally had a chance to install Windows Home Server 2011 RC on one of my test HTPCs this weekend (code name REDEMPTION). I haven’t had much time to spend with it, and I still want to test out some of these drive pooling add ins. In its current form without DE though I just don’t see anything in particular that sets it apart from just using Windows 7, at least in my opinion. The whole “shared folders” concept seemed a little bit confusing since there is no more pool. In the Dashboard there is a “Server Folders” tab, but at install this only represents your primary drive. You can add Server folders for other drives, but man will that get ugly. It will take one of these DE replacement add ins to prove legit for me to seriously consider Windows Home Server 2011 as a replacement for my current Windows Home Server (code name SHAWSHANK), and even then it will take some time before I gain any sort of comfort trusting my data to these add ins.

Quick question for anyone testing WHS 2011. How has streaming performance been, in particular for high bitrate videos? Part of the reason why I set up REDEMPTION this weekend is because of the issues I mentioned earlier with the Nixeus and SHAWSHANK. For the time being I was thinking about copying over my test files to REDEMPTION to test out the Nixeus, but my concern would be getting unreliable results due to issues with REDEMPTION and not the Nixeus.

Holiday Projects, Looking Back:

A few months ago I posted about some holiday projects I worked on. One of the projects was installing a center channel in wall speaker. As much as a like the new setup I have now encountered an issue, noise traveling into the adjacent room (which happens to be my son’s). On the opposite side of the wall where the speaker is installed is my son’s bedroom, and unfortunately the only barrier to the speaker is the sheet rock in his room. At some point in the next few years we plan on redoing our bedroom, so at that point I could look at doing something more drastic to help soundproof, but for now I am trying to come up with some temporary solutions. A reader on AVSForum suggested I look at building a Backer Box to place in the wall to help insulate the sound from the speaker, but I need to do a little more reading up on to see if this is a good solution without tearing up my wall for now. Any other recommendations on options I can look at?
UPDATE – as suggested by an AVSForum member and our own Seth in the comments below I decided to got with the Dynamat En-Wall to help isolate the noise from the in wall center channel speaker. When I receive I will definitely do a writeup regarding my experience. If it works as expected I may then proceed with adding Front L/R in wall speakers as well.





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 30 comments }

Seth March 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

I’ve heard stories of people covering the backsides of in-wall speakers with sound insulating material like dynamat (http://www.dynamat.com/).

Damian March 21, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hey Seth,

Funny enough a member on AVS just suggested Dynamat as well this morning, I am on their site now, might do the trick.

Seth March 22, 2011 at 7:04 am

Let us know how it works out.

Damian March 22, 2011 at 7:18 am

I just ordered the En-Wall 6in – http://www.dynamat.com/products_architectural_en_wall.html

Hopefully I will get it by the weekend and will definitely do a quick writeup regarding

jam3ohio March 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

Damian–

I bought an EP-121 a week or so ago and reviewed it here: http://usingwindowshomeserver.com/2011/03/21/asus-ep-121-review/

Nice unit. I understand why you are leaning towards a Sandy Bridge version as battery life is right at three hours, but so far I really like it!

Jim

Damian March 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

Jim,

Awesome writeup, I am a little jealous. You don’t know how many times I stop by NewEgg or Amazon to check up on it (as if something is going to change)! Reviews on Amazon seem very positive as well. I am surprised that you cannot output to 1080p as the core i5 GPU should support that. That would be a deal breaker not to have that option. The main reason why I like the idea of the EP-121 is it can play every format I have. I was thinking about putting a movie on my iPad to watch while I jog on the treadmill in the morning, but this is a PITA as it means I have to spend time encoding, etc….

Overall how are the controls? For web pages can you simply scroll up/down by using your finger anywhere on the page, or do you have to do this via the scroll bar only? Also, how about navigating around WMC?

From what I have heard about Sandy Bridge there should be a substantial increase in battery life, but as you mentioned in your review it will probably take W8 + ARM to get there.

Thanks for sharing Jim

Cheers
Damian

jam3ohio March 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Damian–

Pretty sure the issue on outputting 1080p is carbon based interface error. This is my first foray into HTPC’ing so I’m sure that I need to tweak the settings. I’ll update my post once I figure it out. If I get the TV working, I’d be willing to test some file formats if you are in a sharing mood ):…

Gotta say that the scrolling works great without the mouse almost everywhere. I almost never use the scroll bar. This is especially handy in Excel models when I am whipping around to show people sections of the spreadsheet. IE9 is awesome with the touch controls, and IE8 is perfectly fine. The only issue that I’ve seen is in the v1 console.

Controls in Media Center are great. After Windows 7 SP1, there was an update that corrected some freezing that I was seeing in Media Center. Now, all is great.

Like you, I really was on the fence. It was only when I held one in my hands that I decided to buy it. Way cool device.

Jim

Damian March 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Jim,

Since it is running the core i5 GPU you should be able to access the gpu settings from the task bar, at least that is what I have done for my core i5 HTPCs.

That is great to hear about the scrolling, that was probably my biggest concern since W7 isn’t exactly touch optimized. Did you ever look into getting a USB Ethernet adapter in case you ever wanted to go wired. One thing I noticed is it appears that it won’t support 5GHz, only 2.4GHz for wireless N.

Definitely a good time to be a gadget geek :-)

Cheers
Damian

Jim March 25, 2011 at 10:19 am

Damian–

As you suggested, I checked the driver on the Intel integrated graphics. Once I updated the driver, I was able to drive 1080p. I wrote up my experience here http://usingwindowshomeserver.com/2011/03/25/asus-ep-121-review-update/ .

Thanks for the tip!

Jim

Jeff Kruse March 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Damian,

First time responding – just wanted to mention that I’d love to hear your write up on Sonos. I just recently purchased a Sonos S5 unit (after debating with myself for a year on Squeezebox vs. Sonos) and I am extremely happy with my purchase. It completely changes the way that I listen to music now. I’d just love to hear what others have to say (both about Sonos and Squeezebox). I’m going to play around with using one of my servers as a squeezebox client (thinking of creating a vortexbox) and hooking that up so that I can somewhat compare the two. Not apples to apples, but a decent enough way to see how I like both.

Jeff

Damian March 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Hi Jeff,

Much of my Sonos writeup is done, so it will be posted by Wednesday at the latest. Not sure if you saw my Squeezebox Review (http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/08/30/review-logitech-squeezebox-radio/) I am actually listening to the SqueezeBox Radio right now, I have it playing pretty much every day at work. At home I solely have Sonos.

Cheers
Damian

Jeff Kruse March 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Damian,

Thanks for pointing that out. I almost picked up that same unit in addition to Sonos that I just bought, just to have something a little more portable to use. I think I might wait for the next big sale at Best Buy and pick one up. I have some gift cards to use up!

Keep up the good work – I appreciate the site and for the time you take to answer our comments.

Jeff

Damian March 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Jeff,

I think I got the Squeezebox Radio for $119 as a special, gave it to my Dad for Christmas. It is a great little budget player. Supposedly you can remotely access your local library, but I haven’t had any luck figuring out (and from asking around no one else I have asked has got it working). At work I just usually play Pandora or Rhapsody (playing right now). The screen is nice so you can control without a remote. I am actually surprised that Logitech has been quiet and not announced any new Squeezebox players of late.

Glad you have enjoyed the site. I will try to keep the content coming as long as my head doesn’t explode :-)

Cheers
Damian

Emory Lehman March 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Damian,

Have you looked in to Amahi? I would like to see a review on it, and a comparison to WHS.

Thanks,

Emory Lehman

Damian March 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Hi Emory,

Amahi is definitely on my list as well. If I get to it you will definitely see a writeup regarding.

Cheers
Damian

Emory Lehman March 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

Damian,

Cool I can’t wait! I have been thinking about setting up on my network, but just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and dig out what is needed to get one started. Also with the new version of FreeNAS coming out I was wanting to play around with it also.

Keep up the good work!!! I truly enjoy your reviews!

Emory

Damian March 22, 2011 at 6:52 am

Emory,

I have to do some digging around as well to understand what is needed with Amahi. I believe it is linux based, so the big thing for me is figuring out the proper drivers (I have only ever worked with Windows based O/S’ to date). Should be fun!!!

Cheers
Damian

Rhinoevans March 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

New toys> I just ordered an IPAD 2. Who knows when I will get it, with Japan and all. I hear 5-6 internal parts come from Japan

A/V Receiver Just picked up the Yamaha RXa3000. Awsome receiver with newtwork capability. I can see my WHS with the receiver and control it with an iphone app anywhere on the network. I have 3 zones. I can select a zone, turn it on and select an input from the iphone. On the back patio the other day, turned on zone 3 and selected FM stations, and controlled the volume, then selected what the wife was watching on TV, all with the iphone. It has HDMI pass through, which is great since my wife NEVER uses the receiver for sound!!!! Also has 2 HDMI outputs, with 8 HDMI inputs. Sweet little receiver.

Damian March 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm

HDMI pass through is nice, and something I will probably always make sure I get going forward. The remote control via iphone does sound sweet. Neither of my receivers are capable of, but it would be a nice feature

Adam March 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm

You mention that you don’t see much difference between WHS 2011 and Windows 7. While I agree that you can put all your media on 7 and share it out, what would you use to reach out and backup all of your PCs in the house with?

Damian March 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm

PC backups isn’t really critical for me so I could probably just use acronis or other. That is definitely an area that whs excels in, but with the removal of de whs 2011 just doesn’t have the same appeal to me as whs v1 (for my setup media storage is the most critical part). If pc backups is a main feature whs 2011 definitely has an advantage of W7

Coop March 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm

My latest toy is installed in my Escalade, its the GMX550 Lockpick. It add’s audio and video out to my navigation screen so I can stream any video I have on my iPhone plus Netflix. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Damian March 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

That sounds sweet. I have two young boys so when we eventually get a family car (or what my wife calls a mini van!) I hope to have a similar feature

rshol March 22, 2011 at 8:34 am

I would not recommend Amahi. Its not really an operating system so much as a service. You can’t operate the server without an Amahi account. It also wants to try and do too much that you may already have set up another way, like be your DNS server, your master WINS or windows domain server. It wants you to direct your private domain address scheme through Amahi, etc.

I say bah. If you’ve never messed with Linux before Amahi is still going to come with a learning curve and a bunch of stuff you will want to work around because it won’t be the way YOU want it to be. So just take the plunge. Ubuntu server is dead solid easy to install and it’ll recognize 99.9% of the hardware you’re likely to have on your home server (I currently have it running on an HP EX 495 and didn’t have to hunt for a single driver).

Amahi is currently using Greyhole for drive pooling. Personally I wouldn’t trust any files to it just yet. If you have four 2TB drives (for example), I would configure them Raid 5 in a single big volume using sofware Raid and let the Linux installer partition it like it wishes.

SMB shares are dead solid easy to configure even from the command line, the firewall is easy to configure using ufw (no AV required). A simple, one line cron job can keep the box accessible via a dynamically assigned IP address. Remote management is handled by SSH (or you can install WebMin). Secure remote file access is via SFTP. Access files on IPhone with EZshare Pro, admin from phone with iSSH.

Scott Foster March 23, 2011 at 9:50 am

Damian:

You were musing over the value of Windows Server 2011 and just using Windows 7. I would think that MyMovies users would still appreciate the centralized/automated media collection with the server version of the MM product. They are going to be extending their product to WS 2011.

Damian March 23, 2011 at 9:53 am

Scott,

I believe you can still do this with W7, you would have your W7 “server:” act as the centralized database for MyMovies which other PCs could then connect to

KeithM March 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Read your comments about WS 2011 and DE. I also am not happy that MS dropped DE – because my main focus is media distribution in my home, and my EX475 has 13TB (more than half orig content, and the rest folder duplication) of movies, music, and photos hanging off of it. Honestly, I got tired of burning up half of my drive space on duplication – and dealing with all of the lousy add-on software that keeps me from running software updates on my WHS.

I bought a used, rackmounted, 18-bay server chassis on Ebay for $300 (16 drive slots up front, and 2 in the back for OS). It included two 8-port hardware RAID controllers, motherboard, CPU, 6GB memory, and a redundant 550W power supply. I installed the 2011 RC on it, and configured 2 RAID 50 partitions (one with 10 drives and the other with 6 drives). First thing I did was copy over a 40GB 1080P copy of Underworld and went upstairs to watch it on my HDTV in the family room. It played back perfectly without any issues (native streaming in HS 2011) and when I pulled up the CPU usage to check the load on the proc (which was also humming away on software updates and other misc tasks) – it was sitting at 1%, and flipping to 2% once or twice a minute. :-) Me likey!

Keith

Damian March 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Hi Keith,

Your hardware actually sounds similar to mine (16-bay, 2 x 8-port hardware RAID controllers, etc…)

I am sitting around 25TB right now. I actually just started testing the Drive Bender Add in with WHS 2011 yesterday on some dummy data. Honestly though before I trust my data to some add in it is going to take quite some time (months if not longer). I think my goal for now will be to continue running WHS v1 for the foreseeable future (I have no issues streaming any of my BluRays). This should give me plenty of time to see how things play out with WHS 2011, DE replacement add ins, unRAID, FlexRaid, etc… It will definitely make for some interesting months as everything unfolds!!!

Cheers
Damian

Drcorso March 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

The thing I like most about mymovies on whs is the ability to just drop a bluray in and have it show up in your library ejecting the disc when done. Is that possible using win7 as your server?

Damian March 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Yes, in Collection Management you do have the disc copy option as well

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