Custom HTPC And Home Media Server

[Benoit Frigon]’s builds are a tribute to tidiness: both his HTPC and media server are elegant creations packed full of features. He has quite the knack for clean builds in this form factor; his PBX server was met with high praise earlier this summer.

For the HTPC, [Benoit] gutted and cleaned an old DVR case and modified it to house a Mini-ITX board. He added standoff mounts to support the motherboard, then sketched up a template for the IO shield as a guide for cutting the back panel. The front of the DVR case originally had a 4-digit 7-segment display and a few simple buttons. Though he kept the original button layout, [Benoit] chose to replace the segment displays with a 20×2 character LCD. The new display is controlled via a python script on the HTPC, which runs an OpenElec Linux distro with XBMC 12.0.

The HTPC’s hard drive bay is a bit lighter these days, because [Benoit] decided to migrate his media storage to a separate server. Inside the new home media server is yet another Mini-ITX motherboard with an embedded Atom N2800 that runs Ubuntu Server. Live television streams via a WinTV HVR-2550 TV tuner and TVHeadend software. The case originally suspended the tuner from the IO bracket on the back (and nowhere else), which left the rest of the card dangerously unsupported inside. [Benoit] solved the problem by building an additional aluminum bracket that firmly holds both the PCIe riser and the tuner. Check out both builds’ pages for downloadable templates, software details and bill of materials.

21 thoughts on “Custom HTPC And Home Media Server

    1. Yeah same here. I especially like it ’cause it’s quiet ! eg. no grinding old hard disks or active cooling. And if you want a display, just slap an AVR or PIC or whatever on the UART or I2C port and make it drive the HDD44780.

          1. you’d wind up using an external power supply and a port multipier, while possible- it becomes a hassle. I’ve been wanting to build a small form factor HTPC+NAS for awhile now but can never settle on hardware because of issues like this, and I can’t quite find a case that seems ‘perfect’ I may wind up just designing a case around the perfect board- if i can find such a thing. xD

    2. Have you tried running raspbmc yet? It runs awfully slow :( I was so pumped when I first hooked up my raspberry pi but I rarely use it for my movies because it brings back the nostalgia of 56k modems and waiting 30 seconds for a page to load. Don’t expect to flip through your movies faster that one every couple of seconds.

      1. Really? I do not experience that, and i am running on an 256MB Model with Ambilight. Do you have a decent speed SDHC? I found that the difference between an “expensive” 8GB Class10 an a budget Class6 16GB was really, really noticeable.

        1. Thanks for the advice. I got a card that was recommended by others but perhaps I should try another. I’ve avoided overclocking it because I don’t turn it off and figured that would be better suited for burst usage.

      2. Don’t give up so fast.
        Put the root filesystem on an external thumb drive instead of on the SD card. A Class 10 card helps a lot, but an usb thumb drive will be even faster. You can also run the mysql db externally, which is again an enormous performance increase. Then I could easily overclock to 900 MHz, and it’s running mighty fine now.

        1. I have a setup in my garage running off of WiFi and it is pretty fast itself, but mines overclocked a little heavier as I made an aircooled case for it that runs if it gets a little too hot. (I know they are supposed to take a beating thermally but I was getting hitches in the playback until I did this).

          I can stream from in 720p or in some cases higher with no problems, if that isn’t decent for a WiFi installation that can sit on the back of the monitor i’m using then I don’t know what is.

      3. My raspbmc runs very quickly get a decent class 10 SD, there is almost zero delay when i flip through my movies. I’ve built a few HTPC’s over the years and the pi for me has been the best option.

  1. I built a 5 drive + os drive nas with a mini itx motherboard with 6 sata ports. I believe its the asus c60-m1. It has 5x4TB drives running nexenta and a 4 port intel nic on it. It gives me 14tb of storage while consuming about 20-30w. The trick was to get the drives from external enclosures. They were both cheaper ~150bux/drive and quiet and cool running. They are 5900rpm drives. The os drive is a 10k raptor I had laying around. It also has 16gb of ram. This setup gives me peaks into the 180mb/s over bonded interfaces. Depending on file size and source.

  2. I like it! nicely done :)

    I have a HTPC with 5 2TB drives in RAID 5 and a 2TB OS drive as well and i like having it all in one. That way if i want to take it with me to a friends house, it’s just one box to take with me, plug in power and HDMI and i’m good to go. So much nicer than using the RPi if you ask me…
    The ONLY think i would like to comment on is the use of the WD drives… i used to run exclusively WD drives, but they all started dying on me (thank god for RAID!) and i started replacing them with Seagate drives and havent had a problem since. I had WD drives fail within a year and the Seagate ones are still going strong a couple years later. Something worth noting…

      1. I had 4 Seagate 1TB drives silently corrupt data and then die within a month of each other. It was so bad the RAID kept failing to rebuild. When they were returned from RMA, they were all a different 1TB model.

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