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AV Rant #243: Stuck on Stuff

Part two of Liz’s Soup to Nuts on streaming this week is about storage. More than you ever wanted to know about servers, clouds, and NAS (links below). Tom has a few things to say about the entire “modular design” idea. Velodyne starts selling subs – directly. AppleTV allows ownership (again). Logitech throws a Hail Mary for the Revue. AT&T drops ESPN3D. Receives nearly 15 complaints. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to vote for us at Podcast Alley! To see our (mostly) complete collection of show videos, click here. Download Tom’s FREE ebook Bob Moore: No Hero which is pretty much available everywhere. Friend Tom and Liz on Google+ to join in on one of our hangouts.

Additional links from last week:

Streaming Content Storage:

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  1. jfalk
    August 5th, 2011 at 08:20 | #1

    Just to be clear, I want to reiterate what Tom said, especially since Liz cited me by name. My only use of DVD Catalyst and MakeMKV are to take discs I own and move them to my Blackberry Playbook. If, like Rob, I wanted to store them on a central server to stream to my TV, that’s another reason I’d use them. No pirating… or at least nothing I consider pirating.

  2. Rob
    August 6th, 2011 at 00:30 | #2

    14TB?

    Pshaw, Tom! How could you think I would settle for so little :p

    I’ve got two 12TB (4 x 3TB drives) Synology NAS, each with two 2TB USB external drives attached for a total of 32TB of Networked Attached Storage :D

    Speaking of which, I was a little bit surprised not to hear Liz mention Synology. Their storage servers are a great “middle ground” between Drobo (by Data Robotics, by the way ;) ) and a “roll your own” NAS or RAID server.

    The Synology units do require a little bit of setup on the part of the user – not quite as “plug and play” as a Drobo, but thanks to their user-friendly DSM (Disc Station Manager) software, they are quite easy to use and not at all difficult to setup.

    What made me go with Synology was the price – about half the cost of a similar Drobo unit! Synology also offers lots of apps that work with its DSM software that allow you to easily use a Synology NAS as an iTunes server, an automatic download client, a DLNA server, an FTP server, or many other options. There are apps for iDevices (I’m not sure if there are Android apps, but it’s likely that there are) so that you can access your files via your iPhone or iPad.

    I’ve been extremely happy with my Synology DS411j units, although I’m barely scratching the surface of what they can do. I just have the eight 3TB drives and four 2TB USB drives set up as “Basic” drives. No RAID, not even JBOD (Just a Bunch of Discs). Each and every disc can be accessed manually and individually. I have zero data protection, but then again, all I’m doing is making exact 1:1 copies of discs, so if I ever lose a drive, it’ll cost me some time to rip all of the discs on that failed drive to a replacement, but I won’t actually lose any data that I don’t have on discs themselves!

    For me, increased read/write speed or data backup isn’t the priority. I went with inexpensive Hitachi 3TB drives (only $120 for 3TB! Not bad :D ). They are by no means the fastest drives, nor is the DS411j the fastes NAS server, but since all I’m doing is slinging Blu-ray movies around on my Wireless-N network, the standard drives and the 411j NAS are fast enough for my purposes.

    I use AnyDVD HD to rip exact 1:1 ISO image files. AnyDVD HD is sold by Slysoft. I purchased their “lifetime” update service before they took away that option :( I’m all set, but it’ll cost new customers more in the long run if they go with AnyDVD HD.

    Slysoft also offers a program called Virtual CloneDrive, which is free, and “mounts” the ISO image files so that the computer “thinks” I have simply inserted a physical disc. As far as my computers know, they’re just playing a physical Blu-ray, HD-DVD or DVD. And with an ISO file, I’ve made zero changes – all special features, menus, BD-Live – and yes, the annoying warnings and trailers – are still present, but so too is the unaltered video and audio quality.

    With what are essentially exact copies of my discs on the hard drives, I always have the option to use a program like HandBrake or BlueCloner (from OpenCloner) to create other versions of the rips. I could make MKV versions, versions that will play on my iPhone, or just re-author the discs to eliminate the trailers and warnings. I just do the ISOs because, all by itself, AnyDVD HD only offers complete 1:1 rips and right now, I have the space (32TB!) and it’s just easier and lazier this way :p In the future, I might decide to make compressed versions of the movies that I don’t really care that much about, or make versions that I could easily stream over 3G to my iPhone (although LTE is rolling out in my area right now! Yay!)

    For playback, I’m just using either my PC tower or my Laptop, both of which have HDMI out. My Laptop won’t pass the HD-Audio though. I use ArcSoft Total Media Theater 5 for playback, since it’s the only current software that still supports HD-DVD! Again, with the full 1:1 ISO rips, I might decide to convert my HD-DVDs to MKV so that they are easier to play.

    What I want to do is either buy or build some small, quiet, cool-running HTPCs. It’s kind of a pain to go through my tower and, like I said, my Laptop won’t pass HD-Audio. ASRock has some nice, small HTPCs, but reading on AVS, only one or two of them seem to play back 24p properly. I’ll probably wind up building my own ;)

    Honestly, I absolutely do not NEED this setup. I have the discs and I could easily just play them on any Blu-ray player! I’ve got two HD-DVD players – only one of which outputs 24p though :p

    I just did this ’cause I wanted to and because it’s just plain cool to have all of your movies available on any screen from one, central NAS (or, in my case, two NAS). It would make a lot more sense if I were pirating, but I’m not. I just take all of the money I save on not drinking alcohol or coffee or smoking and put it into Blu-ray movies instead :p

    Folks should be warned though, once you start down this rabbit hole, it’s hard to stop! I keep thinking that I ought to be more efficient. I keep thinking that I ought to use redundant storage for safety. I keep thinking that I need a better interface for playback. I keep thinking that I want to be able to access my files no matter where I am in the world!

    There are a ton of options and cool ideas, so it’s really easy to keep spending and expanding. But when I boil it all down, I’m still really glad to have all of my movies, music, photos and other files all stored on two central NAS that are connected to my Network and those will be there for me, no matter how I want to access them or what crazy things I want to do with them!

    No streaming service offers Blu-ray quality. And no Cloud service will affordably offer me space for 300-some high def movies! So I made my own damn cloud…

    :D

  3. August 8th, 2011 at 20:15 | #3

    Couple of corrections. the Pegasus is SOLD by apple, not made by.

    RAID5 requires 4 or more drives, not exactly 5.

    You need a RAID card OR a motherboard that does RAID.

    And yes, what i do is magic :-D

  4. August 8th, 2011 at 20:20 | #4

    SMB = Unix implementation of Windows filesharing. used in the *nix world (including OSX).

    And our server is TECHNICALLY a NAS. It has storage and is on the network.

    Our macbook has a bunch of software running. The biggest help is RemoteBuddy. It allows you launch applications with only a remote.

    Other websites for info are the apple support forums.

    If i would start again from scratch i would do a drobo or similar and a mac mini. The Mac Mini would both be our media server and HTPC.

  5. August 8th, 2011 at 20:21 | #5

    Also, feel free to hit me up with questions. @Flyinace2000

  6. August 8th, 2011 at 20:25 | #6

    The biggest issue with Cloud storage is bandwidth. It doesn’t make sense to store HD video content in the cloud.

  7. Rob
    August 8th, 2011 at 21:33 | #7

    Yeah, if you’re a quality snob like me, Cloud storage, streaming or downloading pirate versions just doesn’t cut it. Uploading massive 40GB movie files is completely infeasible at present. And no streaming service is going to offer Blu-ray quality when the majority of people seem perfectly happy with DVD quality video and incorrect aspect ratios (yuck!).

    The vast majority of pirated versions are H.264 recompressed video with 1.5 Mbps DTS audio stuffed into an MKV container with no menus or special features attached. The quality certainly isn’t bad, but it still isn’t Blu-ray. And I get that most people just want to watch the movie, but I like having the special features and menus available.

    Regardless, I think having a NAS in your home just makes a lot of sense. Many people have multiple computers these days and it just seems obvious to have all of your shared files stored on a NAS rather than on individual computers around the house.

    The Cloud is a fantastic idea in theory, but we’re still faced with bandwidth limitations that make moving very large files around in the Cloud infeasible. There are also the horror stories of Cloud providers losing customers’ data from time to time or the ever-present question of what happens if your Cloud provider goes belly up!

    I just honestly think that most people feel more comfortable with having their important files stored locally. Something like a Synology NAS allows anyone to affordably store huge files, protect them with redundant RAID setups if desired, protect all of their computers’ data with automatic backups and share files across multiple computers as well as offer access via the internet for off-site access. It’s extremely similar to the Cloud idea, but you’re just doing it locally! Right now, I think that approach makes more sense.

  8. David
    August 16th, 2011 at 23:48 | #8

    I know this is a little late, but if I hopefully someone is still watching this thread.

    I’ve been cable free for over 2 years. I have dedicated HTPC with plenty of storage that we also use as our household file server.

    I’ve been looking for the best way to play live TV in other rooms such as the kitchen and bedrooms. I bought a 360 when Target had a crazy sale for $80 and have been using it as an Media Center Extender in the bedroom for about a year. This is OK for the bedroom (although we rarely use it) but we need something much smaller for the kitchen area. Ideally something the size of WDTV or Roku.

    We would like to be able to play live TV from the HTPC tuners, MP3s, FLAC and Pandora. DVD rips and Netflix streaming would be a bonus.

    Anyone have a device other than the 360, an ancient out of date extender or a second HTPC that will meet our needs?

    I’m almost ready to abandon my quest and just get an audio device like a Squeezebox, but I figure if I’m spending money I may as well have video as well.

    Advice would be greatly appreciated.

  9. Rob
    August 17th, 2011 at 05:23 | #9

    @ David:

    I’m not sure if it’s exactly what you’re looking for, but have a gander at the positively tiny HTPC offerings from ASRock. If all you want is to connect via WMC for TV recordings and to play DVD rips and various streaming services, even their lowest-priced HTPC should have you covered!

    I’m not totally up on which of their US retailers have the best selection and prices, but you can check all that via the asrock.com website.

    It’s an option at least :)

  10. David
    August 17th, 2011 at 14:56 | #10

    @Rob:

    I’ve thought about a second HTPC, but from what I understand I would either need a network tuner like the HD Homerun or a Ceton Cable Card Tuner that has 4 assignable tuners.

    I already have a tuner and don’t want to spend the money on another. A second HTPC would be more expensive when you factor in remote, wireless and a new tuner.

    I would prefer to keep the price under $150

    I really wish all these new media streamers were full Media Center Extenders. WD, Roku, Seagateor Popcorn hour should add Media Center Extender functionality.

  11. Rob
    August 17th, 2011 at 15:22 | #11

    Yeah, it sucks that WMC is really such a niche product at this point :( It has such potential! If MS really threw their weight behind it, I think it could dominate. But I guess we have to wait for Apple to copy it before we’ll get something that succeeds :p

    Anywho, it’s all but impossible to get those WMC DVR recordings to play on other devices. The DRM is pretty strong and a WMC Extender really does seem to be the only option. All of the online streaming services can, of course, be accessed with other media streaming devices. But getting that live TV feed from your HTPC’s tuner or playing your WMC DVR recordings really is the problem.

    If you’ve only got the one tuner in your HTPC (I’m assuming it’s receiving and OTA signal from an antenna), then yeah, you’re kind of stuck needing a WMC Extender if you wanna just watch live TV in other rooms. A multi-tuner setup would let you use a small, inexpensive HTPC in another room, but I don’t think that’s going to happen under your desired $150 budget.

    Sad to say it, but the Xbox360 is sort of the only game in town for what you want to do. Is the Xbox360S really too big? It’s certainly more compact and quieter than the original 360 design :) Best Buy’s got $170 4GB Refurbs :p

    Sorry I couldn’t be more help. In my own setup, I still have cable for television purposes. I only use WMC to serve up all of my Blu-ray, HD-DVD and DVD rips in a slicker-looking interface ;) I guess it’s hard to imagine the idea of going back to cable, but I watch far too much TV and cable still makes sense for me. I’ll be getting the new Shaw (I’m in Canada) Gateway soon, which offers a central 6 HD Tuner DVR and then “Portal” boxes that go with each TV in each separate room to access the central DVR. It’s based on the old Moxi platform and allows for pretty easy multi-room viewing over a MoCA network. During the peak of the TV season, I’ll often have 4 shows in one prime time hour that I’ll want to record – sometimes 5 or 6! So the new 6 HD tuners will be very useful to me! No more needing to use both the Eastern and Western feeds plus look for a rebroadcast on Saturday or something :p

    To be honest, I think your best solution might be to add at least one more tuner to your HTPC. If you only have one tuner right now, it sure is nice to be able to record two channels at once. I don’t know how I managed before it! (Oh yeah…those were the days when I had two VCRs! lol)

  12. David
    August 17th, 2011 at 19:34 | #12

    I have a dual tuner, so I can record 2 shows at once, but I don’t think you can share it with another HTPC.

  13. dad311
    August 17th, 2011 at 22:28 | #13

    Just a reminder to all readers. RAID is not a backup. If you use RAID you will still need to backup your files!

    • August 17th, 2011 at 22:30 | #14

      True. It is a storage solution with storage protection built in. It can be used as your main drive for your computer or as additional external storage. Like a single drive, you can use it as a backup drive as well.

  14. dad311
    August 17th, 2011 at 22:54 | #15

    During the POD cast I kept hearing references to MAC or PC. You are forgetting Linux. There are a LOT of free programs available for Linux. I would rather not give my money to Apple or Microsoft when there is a free alternative.

    I’m running Mythtv with PVR features and boxee. I rip/backup all my BLU-RAYS, DVDs and CDs using Linux to a Linux SAMBA server. Also, Linux plays all formats (MAC,PC and Open Source).

    I really don’t believe RAID is needed for storing media files, but that’s a personal choice.

    I have a working SAMBA network disk and two(weekly and monthly) backup USB disks.

  15. Rob
    August 18th, 2011 at 04:02 | #16

    @ David

    I’m honestly not familiar enough with WMC’s DVR and tuner functions, but I was under the impression that so long as you pointed your DVR recordings to a shared file on your network that two or more HTPCs could easily access recordings.

    The live TV part though, I’m just not educated about though. Like I mentioned, I’m using cable still for TV. I know there’s some weirdness with the way that an Extender seems to be a lot easier than just a full-on second HTPC. But there might be some sort of “Master and Slave” setup available, or just establishing one PC as the “Server” and the others as “Clients”.

    I think it would be worth checking into at least. I’m sure that if it isn’t already baked into WMC that someone out there has written a plug in to allow you to have tuners on a “server” HTPC that “client” HTPCs can access.

    I’ve never been there, but thegreenbutton forums seem to be the place to go for all things WMC. Maybe they can help you out far better than I can :)

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