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Thread: "Media Hub" running on a Pentium SBC - Madness?

  1. #1

    "Media Hub" running on a Pentium SBC - Madness?

    Okay, so I'm wanting to set up a media hub style affair on my home network. Eventually I'm thinking a beefy little machine like a Pi or a Beagleboard but, for now, I have an old Advantech computer gathering dust in its box in the garage. So I'm planning a proof of concept based on what it might reasonably be expected to be capable of.

    So the exact model I've got is either a PCM-5820 or a PCM-5822 (I just grabbed the manual out of the box, only realised once I got to work that it was the manual for more than one model, doh!) with two memory expansion boards that I believe will max out the RAM the computer is capable of handling.

    The setup that it will be plugged into has a Windows machine (Home 7), an iPad 2, two Kindles (attached to the same Amazon account) and a few other irrelevant devices that I wouldn't want to interface with. The iPad is also connected up to the Windows PC, as well as an iPod, for iTunes. In the future, I envisage some Linux desktop clients in the mix as well.

    Since this is going to massively underpowered, I'm leaving aside thoughts of ripping all my DVDs for now (if I upgrade to something that can handle it, I'd go for a HTPC style setup and hook it up to the TV, but not for now, unless anyone thinks it could handle standard def video? I don't have a HDTV for the moment)

    What I would like is to handle music and e-books.

    Firstly, music. The iPad is used by my wife: can you hook up the iPad to an external library and "stream" the music while using other apps on the iPad? I've come across daapd but don't know whether that's something that would enable this on the iPad, or if there are setups for it? Similarly on the PC, I'd like to not need to have a copy of the library on the PC, although there is plenty of space for syncing the collection if needs be. The PC would be the machine that rips the CDs - I'm currently using EAC to copy them and lame to convert the rips to mp3. I've just started ripping our CD collection so am able to "start again" if the software on the hub could, for example, store the music in a lossless format such as OGG and transcode them on-the-fly for whatever the client needs?
    In terms of the iPod, I'd like to be able to plug that in to the PC and be able to download from the media hub - I'm thinking that iTunes on the PC connecting to daapd on the hub will sort that, unless anyone knows of a different way?

    Books: My wife will not like it if whatever system I come up with breaks her ability to click a book in her Kindle and have it bought and downloaded directly to her device without needing to plug anything in or wait for syncing or whatever. However, I really don't like that Amazon can lock up our book collection on their own whim. So, is it possible to MitM the Kindle connection? Have the Kindle talk to the media hub, thinking its the Kindle Store, have the media hub then talk to the Kindle Store pretending to be the Kindle, download and store locally the file, then pass it on to the Kindle? I don't mind some inconvenience to get books on to the second Kindle.

    I'd ideally like the system to be as free (as in freedom) as possible. It absolutely must be zero-cost.

  2. #2
    Doesn't know that mice use holes.
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    2,516
    For daap you have a few options. There was one called mt-daapd (firefly) a few years back which seems to have died out and been replaced by forked-daapd. I never had particularly good luck with it but that was a couple years back. You can also use one called tangerine. The disadvantage (again, dated knowledge) of tangering is that you have to actually run it each time you boot up whereas forked-daapd could run as a service. You also should be able to set up Banshee to stream its music library but that requires running the GUI each time you reboot.

    Another option is to set up apple-talk on the server so that you can just share out those directories to the iPad. You can also use this to use your server as a Time Capsule.
    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=11101453
    Also, I can kill you with my brain.

  3. #3
    I'm confused. What exactly are you trying to use this crappy Cyrix PC for? Is it just going to be a fileshare? It could probably manage that, but:

    1. It'll likely never decode anything more complex than MP3. ESPECIALLY not MPEG-2, even Pentium 2 chips couldn't do that below 400mhz.
    2. It's also unlikely that it'd be able to encode anything fast enough for on-the-fly streaming.
    3. The audio output is likely to be horrible, and the video resolution equally horrible, if you intend to use it as non-headless in any manner.

    Frankly, if it's just going to be a file share, try using your router instead (it'll run circles around your Cyrix box for transfer rates), or just use your existing PC.

  4. #4
    No, not just a fileshare, but not particularly streaming. Somewhere in the middle.

    For example, I'd want it to provide the library in some form, with album covers and so on. If this can be done with a simple fileshare I guess that's fine, but what about the e-book stuff I outlined? This really does have to be utterly transparent to other users.

    Does "on-the-fly" mean streamed in real-time? What I meant was simply music file stored in OGG format is requested by a client that is known to only handle mp3, so before serving up the file, the box converts the OGG to mp3 and serves up that content instead. My thought is for e.g. iPod, I don't believe they can play OGG, but it would be better to store as lossless should a superior digital format come along later so I can simply reencode without having to rip from source all over again. Whether this is pre-computed or done JIT I don't really care I suppose, as long as the system handles it for me.

    The other point is that I mentioned upgrading at some future point to some hardware that would handle video and audio output - I really do need more experience with running services on a headless linux box before I dive into that whole world.

  5. #5
    The ebook thing is going to be something completely separate to the music, and as far as I know there's only one Kindle DRM-breaking software out there. It'd be pretty damn hard to automate it, as it's all GUI-based.

    And yes, what you describe is on-the-fly and I honestly doubt the CPU could manage it. After a bit of Googling, you'd need at LEAST a Pentium 150mhz just to decode an OGG file (depending on complexity!). A Cyrix CPU is not equivalent to a Pentium, btw. They were typically much slower especially when multitasking. Re-encoding it to MP3 would most certainly overload your CPU, especially on top of doing anything else like streaming it to a PC/iPad. And if you went lossless, it'd probably be even less likely (just because of bandwidth/memory concerns). If you wanted to pre-convert all of them, sure (do it on your PC and save yourself a couple weeks of time) but even then it's like, what's the point?

    Why not just use your PC for this instead? You can run far more capable software on it. If you wanted to get fancy, run a Linux VM on there and learn how to set it up on the Linux side. That way, if you ever do decide to get a Raspberry Pi, you can apply what you learn to using that, instead of having to do a bunch of hacky stupid crap to make that Cyrix POS work
    Last edited by Cool Matty; 07-01-2013 at 06:04 PM.

  6. #6
    No they aren't!
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    3,364
    Use a real computer and run Plex.

    o.0

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Greenboy View Post
    Use a real computer and run Plex.
    *XBMC

    (Although it doesn't matter since this is not what Giraffe wants anyway)

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Cool Matty View Post
    Why not just use your PC for this instead? You can run far more capable software on it.
    The PC isn't on all the time, it's turned on when we need to use it. The iPad is often being used when the PC is not on. The computer I'm proposing to use for this is low power and can be left on. It is also going to fit into a very small space under the TV where a "real computer" (not sure what makes an SBC not a real computer?) would not.

  9. #9
    Admiral of Awesome
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    18,560
    Quote Originally Posted by Giraffe View Post
    The computer I'm proposing to use for this is low power and can be left on. It is also going to fit into a very small space under the TV where a "real computer" (not sure what makes an SBC not a real computer?) would not.
    It's also 1/100th the power you would need to do the kind of transcoding you want to do. (So are the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone Black, for that matter, unless you exclusively deal with MPEG-2 and H.264.)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Giraffe View Post
    The PC isn't on all the time, it's turned on when we need to use it. The iPad is often being used when the PC is not on. The computer I'm proposing to use for this is low power and can be left on. It is also going to fit into a very small space under the TV where a "real computer" (not sure what makes an SBC not a real computer?) would not.
    It's not a real computer because it's effectively serving the function of a really ****ty NAS (because the CPU isn't fast enough to do anything more).

    I understand wanting to do a low power thing, but for what you want to do, an OLD (and **** for the time) PC isn't going to do it.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    It's also 1/100th the power you would need to do the kind of transcoding you want to do.
    I'm kinda regretting mentioning the transcoding thing now, as it's really not a core part of what I'm after, just a nice-to-have. I'm certainly not thinking video transcoding, or any media output from the device itself right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cool Matty View Post
    It's not a real computer because it's effectively serving the function of a really ****ty NAS (because the CPU isn't fast enough to do anything more).
    Okay, so if a ****ty NAS is the best thing this will be able to do, that's better than nothing. You early on mentioned something about my router being able to do this better - how exactly do I go about adding storage to my router if that's going to work better? Can iTunes happily work with that as a network share, or would something running DAAP be better? And can the iPad use that as a media source without needing to go via iTunes on the PC? Anyone have any experience trying to store e-books on such a thing? (Preferably allowing a number of non-Amazon books in epub format to be synced in with the collection as well?)

    I never imagined streaming media, really, if I gave that impression I misled you. I'm after more of an authoritative source for various media files, exposed in such a way as to be really easy to access from a variety of devices, which is why I went into the detail I did in my original post about what clients I had and what sort of access I envisioned them each wanting. So, yeah I guess a NAS is kinda what I'm after, but one with a bit of smarts, I guess, not just a blob of network storage.

    Oh, and I also forgot about digital photos, which is another thing I'd like it to handle. Various digital cameras where we stick the SD Card into the PC, the iPad and also a Windows (7.5 i think?) phone - preferably the latter two automatically syncing their photos up to the hub whenever they are connected to the home network.

  12. #12
    iTunes on the iPad pretty much won't talk to anything except local storage and the iTunes Cloud. You'll need a third party app to do what you want.

    You're not going to find an ebook syncing solution that's any better than Kindle's own software (or really, not even close to it). It just doesn't exist, there's no demand for it.

    And you'll never get the iPad to sync photos directly to any network share regardless of what software it's running. The iPad will only copy to the phone's camera roll or whatever.

    I don't think you're going to find the all-in-one solution you're looking for here. All you'll ever get is a network share, and you'll need an app on every device to talk to that network share, for each individual service (like photos, music, etc). Especially since you're looking for something easy that your wife can use. Just ain't happenin'.

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