Other forums, books, and perspectives for learning HTPC, multimedia computing, and building a home theatre?

ullbeking

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Hello!

Can folks please recommend other forums and books that I should be reading to keep up to date regarding HTPC's, building multimedia NAS'es and transcoders, display technology, and, basically, how I can build up my own home entertainment system?

I've already looked and there sure are a lot. But with this comes a lot of misinformation.

Where are the people located who take time to share accurate and precise and answers, and where I can contribute things I've learned too?

Forums where libre and open source software is appreciated are especially interesting!

@ullbeking
 

Serverking

The quieter you are, the more you can hear...
Jan 6, 2019
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HTPC's, building multimedia NAS'es
There are few subs, and 1 other forum I know.

www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder
www.reddit.com/r/HomeServer/
www.reddit.com/r/unRAID/
www.reddit.com/r/HomeTheater
www.reddit.com/r/HTPC

www.forums.unraid.net/forum
www.snbforums.com/forums/

Few good blogs if you type "htpc blogs" into google

Forums where libre and open source software is appreciated are especially interesting!
Most of that will be on Reddit but you can use news aggregators like lobste.rs Slashdot to read up on new projects.
 

i386

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Are htpcs still a thing? Nowadays I would use something like an nvidia shield in combination with kodi + plugins and store all the media on a simple fileserver or nas.
These little devices are powerfull enough for 4k hdr/dolbyvision, are easy to setup, don't take a lot of space, are pretty quiet and don't look that bad in the living room.
building multimedia NAS'es and transcoders,
I recommend the website servethehome for that, a lot of folks with different backgrounds trying to achieve similar things at home :D
 

Serverking

The quieter you are, the more you can hear...
Jan 6, 2019
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I recommend the website servethehome for that, a lot of folks with different backgrounds trying to achieve similar things at home
You mean forums.servethehome.com? :D :D :D
 

SDLeary

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Aug 4, 2015
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AVS Forum... A view from the other side, but there is a sub-forum about HTPC issues. This site will really help you get your TV/Projector, Audio, and equipment management dialed in though.

SDLeary
 
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PigLover

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+1 for AVSforum.com for all the tech about displays, amps, speakers, whatever. Great source of info.

The HomeTheaterPC stuff is has really evolved to be just good build practice - and ServeTheHome.com is the place for that.
 

EffrafaxOfWug

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Feb 12, 2015
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how I can build up my own home entertainment system?
This is the wrong way to go about it IMHO - you should come up with a firm set of your own requirements first, and then seek out information/solicit advice on how to build it. Without planning a clear set of goals I feel it'd be far too easy to spend a small fortune on unnecessary stuff but I think it's important to get these things written down beforehand so as to get a handle on inevitable scope creep before it runs away with itself. Tot up what you've currently got, where you want to end up, what needs to be built or bought or replaced or upgraded along the way, then look to doing it in the right order.

It's very easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole if you chuck "how do I do something really open-ended and subjective?" in to your search engine of choice; you'll get a much narrower set of options if you ask "what's the best quality screen in the 50-60in range I can get for under £1000 in 2021?".

Some starters for 10:
* Budget - total available now, as well as total you might guesstimate to spend on upgrades over the next X years
* Pace - what is needed on day 1 and what isn't?
* Size of screen for available living space
* How much storage you need now/5 years from now
* AV receiver - yes/no?
* Surround sound - yes/no?
* Recording of broadcast TV - yes/no?
* Watching of commercial streaming channels - yes/no?
* DVD/BD/4k Blu-Ray playback - yes/no?
* Tolerance of the SO/neighbours/dog in the TV being offline/super-loud for their favourite show
* Do you want to be able to use your HTPC or whatever to play games/run arbitrary software/emulate consoles/do the ironing or could you get away with just using an off-the-shelf media box/console?

Your requirements will undoubtedly change, but any home theatre should be modular enough that most bits of it can be easily replaced to accommodate these changes.

Grumpy old fart disclaimer alert - I built my first NAS+HTPC in about 2001 and my usage patterns haven't really changed very much since. I started out building with leftover bits of hardware and whatever new bits I could afford; personally I feel budget constraints (self-imposed or otherwise) should be a default position to start from, but that might just be the miserly scottish stereotype in me talking.
 
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ullbeking

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Thank you @EffrafaxOfWug for reminding me of the fundamentals. Indeed, this is why I was the question... I have a lot of unknown unknown questions, and I am looking around for somewhere where I can discover what I need to learn more about. Your list is a wonderful first start, and I thank you sincerely for taking the time for helping me elicit my specifications, some of which I hadn't thought of beforehand.

Edit: One of my requirements is to use as much of the hardware that I already have as possible. Also, I'm going to lurk and research on specialist sites for a while before committing to hardware.
 

EffrafaxOfWug

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One of my requirements is to use as much of the hardware that I already have as possible. Also, I'm going to lurk and research on specialist sites for a while before committing to hardware.
Happy you found it useful.

If you've already got some kit lying around and an inkling of what to use it for, I think it'd be a good thing to start to try to make use of it right away; more than anything that'll usually give you pointers on what are they key areas for improvement.
 

ullbeking

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Happy you found it useful.
Very useful, thanks again to you, and also to everybody else who is so helpful and patient with me in this thread.

If you've already got some kit lying around and an inkling of what to use it for, I think it'd be a good thing to start to try to make use of it right away; more than anything that'll usually give you pointers on what are they key areas for improvement.
In fact, I do!! I'm going to start out with a base system, perhaps even something like an all-in-one NAS+transcoder+HTPC (which goes against my principles of one server per use case). By starting out this way and just discovering the unknown unknowns about interfacing with the audio and video equipment (amplifiers, projectors, etc), well, this is probably the best way to keep things as compact as possible while discovering what other questions I need to ask:
  • MSI X99A WORKSTATION board
  • E5-4667v3 QS CPU (hopefully it works)
  • No cooler decided yet (will be Noctua)
  • GPU needs to be well compatible with Linux
    • Unfortunately it seems that this board has no facility for iGPU output...?
    • Recommendations please?
  • Probably I already have a good amount of RAM and storage
  • Fractal Design Define 7 XL chassis will probably be the chassis
  • High grade Seasonic ATX PSU
  • IMPORTANT REQUIREMENT: The ability to rip DVD's so that we and our daughter can easily watch movies, etc.
    • I need to decide on a high grade DVD+/-RW ODD or several ODD's. In the latter case, each ODD may be set to a different region if I can't get away without using a regionless solution.
    • I've even considered designing a DVD or Blu-Ray ripping station, with many 5.25" bays and an ODD in each bay set statically to a different region (and other settings as required). These ODD's are not changed so I don't have to worry about this "<=5 region changes" bullshit.
So this is the start of my multimedia home entertainment system. If anybody has comments, they will be highly appreciated.
 

EffrafaxOfWug

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Feb 12, 2015
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I'd always recommend keeping storage and presentation layers separate if you can avoid it; you can always cart data in over the wire to your HTPC, but you can't easily expand your storage. Your storage server is almost always going to be larger and noisier than something you'd want sitting under your telly.

Personally I'm using an AMD 2400G for my HTPC which is pretty much perfect for me; low power (low enough I can use a slimline passively cooled case), good onboard graphics well-supported by linux with enough grunt to run some sofa games.
 

psc

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Jun 30, 2019
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I'd always recommend keeping storage and presentation layers separate if you can avoid it; you can always cart data in over the wire to your HTPC, but you can't easily expand your storage. Your storage server is almost always going to be larger and noisier than something you'd want sitting under your telly.
This. More than you can imagine. I started ~15 years ago with much the same outlook as you; re-use an existing desktop case, motherboard, CPU & 2 spare disks (boot + media). Then I went to 4 disks, then bigger disks, then hardware RAID & 6 disks, then.... I'm now spread across two 846 chassis. Between DVD\BluRay rips & DVB-T2\DVB-S, the space just gets eaten. Unless you strictly use it to time-shift, you'll end up hoarding.

Either separate storage & front-end now, plan to do it later, plan to be capacity constrained, or plan to be deaf whilst staring at a storage array bigger than your HiFi stack...

PS: I've got an nVidia 1030 that's passive and more than capable in Linux. I had artifacts with Intel iGPU using subtitles in MythTV, and I still don't trust ATI\AMD drivers. I use for MakeMKV for extracting disks then x264 & mkvmerge for re-compressing; there may now be better options for compression, but it's worked well for years and I don't have the time!
 

ullbeking

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This. More than you can imagine. I started ~15 years ago with much the same outlook as you; re-use an existing desktop case, motherboard, CPU & 2 spare disks (boot + media). Then I went to 4 disks, then bigger disks, then hardware RAID & 6 disks, then.... I'm now spread across two 846 chassis. Between DVD\BluRay rips & DVB-T2\DVB-S, the space just gets eaten. Unless you strictly use it to time-shift, you'll end up hoarding.

Either separate storage & front-end now, plan to do it later, plan to be capacity constrained, or plan to be deaf whilst staring at a storage array bigger than your HiFi stack...
This is just what I'm doing. I'll probably soon post a message in another forum for the "compute" or "transcode" or "playback" part. I realized all along that the home server I'm currently building can be used to spec out the front end of this system!

PS: I've got an nVidia 1030 that's passive and more than capable in Linux. I had artifacts with Intel iGPU using subtitles in MythTV, and I still don't trust ATI\AMD drivers.
What a coincidence!! I was literally just looking at a GT 1030 that I'm thinking of getting. I intend to run Linux, so I was chatting with one of the the Nouveau (Linux drivers) developers who runs the GT 1030 too!! He said, relatively speaking, if using Nouveau then it's not amazing, but I'm looking for the "best", quietest card that will run on Linux.

I would still like to investigate Intel iGPU. You're referring to i945, right?

I use for MakeMKV for extracting disks then x264 & mkvmerge for re-compressing; there may now be better options for compression, but it's worked well for years and I don't have the time!
I would like to make discs using the CPU for encoding. Is this what MakeMKV does?
 

EffrafaxOfWug

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I still don't trust ATI\AMD drivers.
I can understand your scepticism, but they've come a very long way since the horror show of fglrx. I'm using comparatively ancient debian stable and the mesa drivers on my 2400G are superb (they were a bit dicey at first when kernel support was still new in the ~4.15 days); as well as being much more performant than the intel iGPU that preceded it, it's much more stable as well.

The vega on my workstation works perfectly as well. The promise of open drivers for linux was the primary reason I switched away from nVidia about a decade ago. If you're a linux user I'd encourage you to give them another whirl if and when you get the chance.

I was literally just looking at a GT 1030 that I'm thinking of getting. I intend to run Linux, so I was chatting with one of the the Nouveau (Linux drivers) developers who runs the GT 1030 too!! He said, relatively speaking, if using Nouveau then it's not amazing, but I'm looking for the "best", quietest card that will run on Linux.
I've not used it myself but nouveau's main problem is that it can't take advantage of much of the hardware; it's inevitably slower than the nvidia drivers. If you do go with an nvidia card you'll almost certainly want to use the proprietary drivers.

I still think the quietest card that'll run on linux are the AMD APUs however, but it depends on how much 3D and/or hardware transcoding you want to be doing on your HTPC; I've got my workstation for that so the 2400G in my HTPC is perfect for the role since you can't beat passive cooling.
 

psc

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I intend to run Linux, so I was chatting with one of the the Nouveau (Linux drivers) developers who runs the GT 1030 too!! He said, relatively speaking, if using Nouveau then it's not amazing, but I'm looking for the "best", quietest card that will run on Linux.
I'm using the nVidia binary drivers, with Gentoo - so I'm on the two extremes! It works fine, though, and it's fanless so completely silent.

I would still like to investigate Intel iGPU. You're referring to i945, right?
It was a Sandy Bridge; I can't remember which iGPU that is. I used the in-kernel drivers (which are the only ones I know of).

I would like to make discs using the CPU for encoding. Is this what MakeMKV does?
MakeMKV will extract video from DVD & BluRay to an MKV video file, which is widely supported and can include video, multiple audio, chapter marks & multiple subtitle sets, in the same quality as the original disc. I transcode with x264, using the CPU; my file server is an EPYC with just IPMI video, so GPU isn't an option there but it flies through regardless.

I can understand your scepticism, but they've come a very long way since the horror show of fglrx.
They might be fine; it's so many generations since I tried that it's more fear than an informed choice. It doesn't help that *every* generation has been greeted by comments like "there's almost no problem with the drivers this time, they're honestly a lot better than last time".
 

EffrafaxOfWug

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They might be fine; it's so many generations since I tried that it's more fear than an informed choice. It doesn't help that *every* generation has been greeted by comments like "there's almost no problem with the drivers this time, they're honestly a lot better than last time".
Fair enough - to be honest, I wouldn't argue with that statement, when I switched ~10yrs AMD on linux was far ropier than the nV blobs and support for various features on newer cards was slow in coming, but every subsequent release they got way better. Doing an objective comparison is hard though because everyone'll have different priorities, I'm just happy to have not had any problems like I did with nV (mostly around kerne/Xorg upgrades).

Incidentally I'm still using a windows instance with anyDVD to do my blu-ray rips (but do all the transcoding through ffmpeg); makeMKV seems to be the only BD ripping option available in linux still. Installation seems a bit of a faff (I dare say easier on gentoo), do you know why they insist on making you compile it and its dependencies yourself?
 
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Sean Ho

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This is almost exactly the primary use-case for the majority of our community over at serverbuilds.net. Unraid NAS with Coffee Lake QSV for transcoding (look up the "OTiS" build guide), and AppleTV for streaming. Direct-stream 4k at home (no transcoding), and transcode 1080p for low-bandwidth remote clients.

We also have a channel for home theater audio, vintage amps, etc.