Second HTPC on Network - Side-by-Side or Extender?

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Second HTPC on Network - Side-by-Side or Extender?

Post#1 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:51 am

I have been running my Windows 7 Media Center + HD Homerun Prime HTPC for 4 years now, and I love it. I have a way overkill desktop (i7, 16GB RAM, 250 SSD for OS, 2TB RAID1 for storage), and it has been running well without a hitch. However, it's time to add a second computer to my setup in the basement/man cave, and I'm not sure how to go about this.

I just purchased a PowerEdge T20 on Cyber Monday, and I am awaiting its arrival. It has a Xeon processor and 6 bays for harddrives (4 easily accessible for RAID). It does not come with an OS, but I was planning on installing Windows 7 Ultimate. Should be more than sufficient for running a HTPC. I also purchased a second HD Homerun Prime for a total of 6 tuners (2x 3 tuners each)

I would like to use the server as a RAID/NAS, but I'm not sure I need to set it up as a side-by-side WMC install. Is it better to have parallel installs, or use the server as an extender? If I do this, does this mean the desktop computer has to be on at all times? Or, I can run the server as the main install, and run the desktop in extender mode. But then what happens with all my scheduled recordings and settings? Is there lag/delays associated with running an extender vs side-by-side installs? How do I make most efficient usage of all my tuners?

A lot of questions, I know. Just looking for some advice on how to set up my second computer. Open to overhauling my setup as long as I do not have to buy any more hardware.

Thanks in advance!
dberm22
 
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Post#2 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 4:29 am

It depends.....

What is the name of your cable company?

Are any of your channels "Protected"?
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Crash2009
 
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Post#3 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 10:59 am

dberm22 wrote:I have been running my Windows 7 Media Center + HD Homerun Prime HTPC for 4 years now, and I love it. I have a way overkill desktop (i7, 16GB RAM, 250 SSD for OS, 2TB RAID1 for storage), and it has been running well without a hitch. However, it's time to add a second computer to my setup in the basement/man cave, and I'm not sure how to go about this.

I just purchased a PowerEdge T20 on Cyber Monday, and I am awaiting its arrival. It has a Xeon processor and 6 bays for harddrives (4 easily accessible for RAID). It does not come with an OS, but I was planning on installing Windows 7 Ultimate. Should be more than sufficient for running a HTPC. I also purchased a second HD Homerun Prime for a total of 6 tuners (2x 3 tuners each)

I would like to use the server as a RAID/NAS, but I'm not sure I need to set it up as a side-by-side WMC install. Is it better to have parallel installs, or use the server as an extender? If I do this, does this mean the desktop computer has to be on at all times? Or, I can run the server as the main install, and run the desktop in extender mode. But then what happens with all my scheduled recordings and settings? Is there lag/delays associated with running an extender vs side-by-side installs? How do I make most efficient usage of all my tuners?

A lot of questions, I know. Just looking for some advice on how to set up my second computer. Open to overhauling my setup as long as I do not have to buy any more hardware.

Thanks in advance!


Let's clarify this one main point: only an extender can be an extender. A Windows machine cannot be an extender. There is no "extender mode" for your desktop Windows machine.

A Windows machine can see the shared folder where recordings reside, and it can play the non-copy-protected recordings (depends on your cable company). But it's not an extender.

That all being said, I'm unclear as to exactly what you're trying to accomplish here with two computers in "one setup". Can you clarify the locations and roles of each physical computer? "Side-by-side" doesn't make a bit of sense to me.
adam1991
 
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Post#4 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 1:42 pm

The only real reason to do this is if you want to use more than 5 extenders. You would probably not want to record shows from the second computer because you have to manage them separately. It has also already been mentioned that copy-once content is also not viewable on the other computer or it's extenders.
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Post#5 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 10:17 pm

And even then, you can HAVE more than 5 extenders--but you can have only 5 in use simultaneously.

And if you have a main TV and 5 in use simultaneously, AND that doesn't meet your needs, you have a rooming house.
adam1991
 
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Post#6 » Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:20 am

adam1991 wrote:Let's clarify this one main point: only an extender can be an extender. A Windows machine cannot be an extender. There is no "extender mode" for your desktop Windows machine.

A Windows machine can see the shared folder where recordings reside, and it can play the non-copy-protected recordings (depends on your cable company). But it's not an extender.

That all being said, I'm unclear as to exactly what you're trying to accomplish here with two computers in "one setup". Can you clarify the locations and roles of each physical computer? "Side-by-side" doesn't make a bit of sense to me.


Hmm, I was under the assumption you could use a windows machine as an extender, is this not correct? In that case, my only option is having the two comupters run "side-by-side" in that both computers are running their own installations of WMC, independently. In this case, will they know about eachother (i.e. programs recording on one computer will sow up as recording on the other)

In terms of what I mean by "one setup", I'm basically hinting that I want them to be network connected and want the media centers to know about eachother. I want to be able to share tuners, record on one TV and play back on the other, ensure that things aren't double recorded, etc.

As for my setup, I have the desktop in my living room and plan to put the server in the basement, directly underneath the living room. If it works out better, I can probably move the desktop downsatirs and keep the server in the living room.
dberm22
 
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Post#7 » Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:24 am

cwinfield wrote:The only real reason to do this is if you want to use more than 5 extenders.


To do what? Extender, or separate, independant installs?

cwinfield wrote: You would probably not want to record shows from the second computer because you have to manage them separately.


Ideally, I would store recordings from both computers on the server/NAS. Is this not a good idea?
dberm22
 
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Post#8 » Thu Dec 03, 2015 3:00 am

This sounds like a terminology issue to me.

You cant use the new Xeon or the I7 Desktop as an Extender. An Extender is an additional device that is connected to your TV's.

You could use the I7 Desktop as your main WMC, and store all the recordings on the Xeon acting as your NAS, But what Adam and CW are suggesting (and I agree) is that you get yourself an extender for each of your TV's, which would access your I7 and all the recordings stored on the Xeon.

Here are a couple pages explaining The Extender.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Media_Center_Extender

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/windows-media-center-extenders-frequently-asked-questions

A couple of the more popular extenders are the Ceton Echo and the Xbox 360, here is a comparison.

http://missingremote.com/blog/ceton-echo-vs-microsoft-xbox-360a-bloggers-perspective
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Crash2009
 
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Post#9 » Thu Dec 03, 2015 8:15 pm

dberm22 wrote:Hmm, I was under the assumption you could use a windows machine as an extender, is this not correct? ...


Your assumption is incorrect. You are describing Softsled. The software that we all wanted from Microsoft that we never got. Saget did produce a Softsled capability for their software but Microsoft did not. The only thing you can do with the Microsoft architecture is to have separate independent media center PCs that can share network tuners and recorded storage space but "have no knowledge of each other" (by your definition). Or use hardware extenders (Ceton echo, MS xbox360, Linksys DMAs etc). The hardware extenders will give you access to your main media center PC through a special use case of RDP. They will also allow you to view any recordings from the main PC. Separate PCs may or may not do this based on the copy once flag of your recordings set by the cable company. Hardware extenders will also allow remote scheduling from a common grid guide. Individual PCs have their own separate grid guide.and can not dynamically manage local recordings amongst each other. You'll need to decide which type architecture and corresponding set of rules you want to live under. Then set up your hardware to deliver.
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Post#10 » Fri Dec 04, 2015 2:12 am

EZEd wrote:Your assumption is incorrect. You are describing Softsled. The software that we all wanted from Microsoft that we never got. Saget did produce a Softsled capability for their software but Microsoft did not. The only thing you can do with the Microsoft architecture is to have separate independent media center PCs that can share network tuners and recorded storage space but "have no knowledge of each other" (by your definition). Or use hardware extenders (Ceton echo, MS xbox360, Linksys DMAs etc). The hardware extenders will give you access to your main media center PC through a special use case of RDP. They will also allow you to view any recordings from the main PC. Separate PCs may or may not do this based on the copy once flag of your recordings set by the cable company. Hardware extenders will also allow remote scheduling from a common grid guide. Individual PCs have their own separate grid guide.and can not dynamically manage local recordings amongst each other. You'll need to decide which type architecture and corresponding set of rules you want to live under. Then set up your hardware to deliver.


Well that makes my decision easy then. Two independant media center PCs it is! I'm glad to know they will be be able to share tuners, and I'll use cron jobs to move all recordings to the NAS every night, as I already sort of do.

I already have the hardware, and I've had a bad experience with using my 360 as my extender - just too much lag. It's fine when you're in a pinch, but not going to be my first choice for my primary tv watching device. Plus it can't be used to surf the web, or as a computer, in general.

Thanks for the assistance.
dberm22
 
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Post#11 » Fri Dec 04, 2015 7:17 pm

dberm22 wrote:Well that makes my decision easy then. Two independant media center PCs it is!
...
I already have the hardware, and I've had a bad experience with using my 360 as my extender ...


I actually went the other way but for a different reason. I already had 2 Linksys DMAs but they didn't have Netflix and streaming. I had 3 other PCs sharing my Infinitv6ETH. I got 2 xbox360s to replace the DMAs and to gain streaming in the main theater system. Best move I've made. By disconnecting the WMC7 server PC from the main monitor it seemed to make the overall system more stable. I've not had to reboot the Ceton unit nearly as much as before. The 360s have far more remote controllable streaming capability than the PC had natively inside WMC7. So all around it was a better deal for me. Wish I had not waited so long to do it.

Also xb360 does have a limited version of IE explorer built in. I still have to whip out a wireless keyboard or use the controller to make it easier. But does/can work with the remote too. I don't need it as much since 360 has most of the streaming apps that I need built in.

Just something to think about. YMMV. I've not experienced any lag with using extenders over a straight PC so I can't comment there.
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