OS setup for a NAS/CheapHTPC Build to use on network with OS X/Win 7 machines!

-D.Payne-

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Hi all,

I am *trying* to build a Storage server & Part-time HTPC for the following tasks:

- RAID 5 enabled storage. 3x2TB drives for 4TB usable storage.
- Will be used to store back-ups of photos, movies, TV shows, music
- Ideally recognized as ONE Network Drive from my iMac
- Will be part of a normal 10/100 LAN setup
- Needs to have complete compatibility with OS X and Win 7 machines on the network
- Will be playing HD/SD content sometimes on a 32" LCD TV. A neat interface would be cool. :D
- No issues with USB/e-Sata drives

Hardware details:
- C2D E5200 + Gigabyte G31 MS-2L mobo + 2GB RAM
- Add-on Rosewill RAID 0/1/5 card
- 3 x 2TB SATA HDDs

Questions:
- I'd like to seperate the OS from the storage drives, is a Linux USB distro ideal?
- Which Linux USB distro will let me do all of the above with no compatibility issues?
- Should I be looking at a faster network? Gigabit LAN etc. How much will a Switch cost then?

Please help! :D

Cheers!
Payne
 

Gannu

Unbanned
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I'm not aware of the Linux distros but if it had been a NAS minus the HTPC setup, I'd have suggested the WHS. It appears that WHS has also received some improved media playing capabilities using the newer PowerPack 3. It may be worth a try. Besides, there are several addons (both paid and free) for the WHS. For a NAS setup which may also double up as a download system, WHS is perfect. Speaking with experience, used on an Atom setup before.

Besides, have you already invested in that hardware? You would require an additional GPU for decoding HD videos. Such as the HD 5570 or the prev. gen 4350. Retails for cheap and supports 8-channel LPCM over HDMI. Something you are going to need if you decide to invest in an AVR later on. :)
 

Sei

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Nice idea. Will be following. Subscribed.

I can help you with the networking part. Gigabit LAN is only really required if you transfer huge files frequently. In your case, I don't think that it will be really a necessity. Routers with Gigabit capability cost around 6k. You can search around the forums in the Networking subsection for details.

The onboard on G31 is not ideal for 720p/1080p playback. You should think of investing in a card if you want decent HTPC performance.

Instead of complicating the setup by using USB Linux ( don't think that it is meant to work this way.. as a permanent OS. not sure though) why don't you get a cheap HDD separately and install the OS on it? XP or 7.. your choice.
 

-D.Payne-

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@Gannu: Ok. Will check WHS for sure. I have already invested in the hardware (for dirt cheap!!) but I don't mind adding in a dirt cheap GPU later on. For now, it should do with some jugaad (KMPlayer etc). :D

@Sei: Sounds fair. I will only have to do weekly back-ups of my photos with this setup anyway.

My only problem with adding another disk is that I'll end up having 4 disks on the system! Which is a tad too much isn't it?

I have only 3 SATA power connectors on my PSU as well - FSP 350W Saga II. :D

Is it okay to use one of the 2TBs as a boot-drive?

Will I be able to still use them in RAID 5 if one of them is a boot drive?

I am a total n00b who has a fair idea of these things but no clue how they come together, so please help!

WHS sounds real good on the surface, will dig deeper.

Wow! Windows Home Server - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I can't wait to learn more! :D

More info: http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whshardware/thread/86b9f8ed-9c0d-4bd2-bab0-65e29ea77270

Cheers!

Payne
 

Gannu

Unbanned
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Sei said:
Routers with Gigabit capability cost around 6k. You can search around the forums in the Networking subsection for details.
Not so much. There are Gigabit routers available for cheaper rates in the eBay and local dealers. It all boils down to the stock firmware on the router, the ease of use and how the connection sustains without frequent disconnections. For instance this one - eBay India: Buffalo Nfinit Gigabit Wireless-N Router & Access Point (item 150467807523 end time 22-Jul-2010 11:54:55 IST)

Like Sei has already mentioned, a Gigabit router isn't a must unless you move huge volumes of data. I usually send all the downloaded data from my netbook to the main system through a Buffalo HP-54G, once in a week which accounts to roughly ~35 GB. I do that overnight when I head to sleep and switch off the system when i wake up sometime in between. :ashamed: :p

WHS is more suited for a NAS system and strips down several features from a usual OS. Since this is an HTPC, I'd ideally suggest you to use Win 7 instead. You can load XMBC and do all the needed customisations. :)
 

Sei

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Desecrator said:
Not so much. There are Gigabit routers available for cheaper rates in the eBay and local dealers. It all boils down to the stock firmware on the router, the ease of use and how the connection sustains without frequent disconnections. For instance this one - eBay India: Buffalo Nfinit Gigabit Wireless-N Router & Access Point (item 150467807523 end time 22-Jul-2010 11:54:55 IST)

WHS is more suited for a NAS system and strips down several features from a usual OS. Since this is an HTPC, I'd ideally suggest you to use Win 7 instead. You can load XMBC and do all the needed customisations. :)
Aah nice find. I'm using the Belkin N router ( 100 mbps LAN, not 1 Gbps ) and I'm not feeling the need to have a Gigabit ethernet network. However, I am feeling the need to add a repeater somewhere. The bedroom on the extreme end sometimes drops the connection on my phone and iPod touch. Though that may be due to the weak adapter in the phone and iPod, but nonetheless.

I'm using the same for my HTPC and it is running great ( Specs in my sig ).

-D.Payne- said:
Any thoughts on the RAID 5 implementation?

Will I be able to use it as a single drive on the network?

--- Updated Post - Automerged ---

EDIT: Need advice setting up a Windows Home Server with RAID 5 - SlickDeals.net Forums

Looks like using WHS for Software RAID is a much better option.
I would really love to know that. Also, there is one more thing that I don't know. If one of the drive fails, does it imply that I cannot use the data till I attach another similar drive?

Edit: Some interesting facts regarding Software Raid from Wiki

Software RAID has advantages and disadvantages compared to hardware RAID. The software must run on a host server attached to storage, and server's processor must dedicate processing time to run the RAID software. The additional processing capacity required for RAID 0 and RAID 1 is low, but parity-based arrays require more complex data processing during write or integrity-checking operations. As the rate of data processing increases with the number of disks in the array, so does the processing requirement. Furthermore all the buses between the processor and the disk controller must carry the extra data required by RAID which may cause congestion.

Over the history of hard disk drives, the increase in speed of commodity CPUs has been consistently greater than the increase in speed of hard disk drive throughput. Thus, over-time for a given number of hard disk drives, the percentage of host CPU time required to saturate a given number of hard disk drives has been dropping. e.g. The Linux software md RAID subsystem is capable of calculating parity information at 6GB/s (100% usage of a single core on a 2.1 GHz Intel "Core2" CPU as of Linux v2.6.26). A three-drive RAID5 array using hard disks capable of sustaining a write of 100MB/s will require parity to be calculated at the rate of 200MB/s. This will require the resources of just over 3% of a single CPU core during write operations (parity does not need to be calculated for read operations on a RAID5 array, unless a drive has failed).

Software RAID implementations may employ more sophisticated algorithms than hardware RAID implementations (for instance with respect to disk scheduling and command queueing), and thus may be capable of increased performance.

Another concern with operating system-based RAID is the boot process. It can be difficult or impossible to set up the boot process such that it can fail over to another drive if the usual boot drive fails. Such systems can require manual intervention to make the machine bootable again after a failure. There are exceptions to this, such as the LILO bootloader for Linux, loader for FreeBSD, and some configurations of the GRUB bootloader natively understand RAID-1 and can load a kernel. If the BIOS recognizes a broken first disk and refers bootstrapping to the next disk, such a system will come up without intervention, but the BIOS might or might not do that as intended. A hardware RAID controller typically has explicit programming to decide that a disk is broken and fall through to the next disk.