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Old 10-08-2012
samnyc samnyc is offline
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media server?

Hi All,

I have so many picture of my kids, and movies and videos. I really want to create media server. After doing some research on the internet, I am going to install Ubuntu media server. This old server I have has two disk drive. I was thinking about mirroring that. After that I want to add external USB drive for the data. Just want to find out if that will work.

Do you think it's going to slow? This server will be directly connected to Linksys router, users will connect to it using Wifi.

Please advise. Thanks.
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Old 10-09-2012
bakunin bakunin is offline Forum Staff  
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I suppose from the phrasing of your questions you have never tried to accomplish such a project. I think i serve you best in not only trying to answer your questions to my best knowledge but also raise the questions you probably should have asked. (Maybe you indeed have and my comments are superfluous - excuse me for estimating your level of expertise wrongly in this case.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by samnyc View Post
I have so many picture of my kids, and movies and videos. I really want to create media server.
OK, stop here. First you should decide how you want the media to be served.

One way is a "shared drive" which you can "see" and use across your network. This is not a media-specific solution but a way to share files - in your case picture files and video files - over a network and have them physically stored in a central space. Depending on the OS of your clients you will need an NFS server installed (is maybe even included with the Ubuntu distribution, i don't know) and configured and maybe a SAMBA server, which does the same for Windows-clients if the don't know NFS (which is to be expected). Set up some access rights and connect the shared drive(s) to the client computers and you are done.

This solution is quite "low-tech" and won't accomplish some of the more exotic applications in modern media technology, but it is easy to install (1-2 hours for an knowledgable person) and very low on maintenance (next to nil).

The next variant is a streaming server for the videos. You can use vlc, a freeware video player, to accomplish this for the videos. For the photos you can use a web server (Apache, ...) with some logic (a few CGI-scripts will probably suffice) behind to automatically generate web pages from (newly added) photos.

For a generally knowledgeable person without specific knowledge in this area the effort to create this is 1-3 days. You need to set up the server, configure the web server, write the scripts and install and configure VLC to do streaming video. You have nothing to configure on the clients (maybe install VLC as client for the streams if you don't have any other software for this) as all the media will be served via web technologies. You simply "surf" to a web site which happens to be in your local network.

You can make this even more complex by adding video-on-demand features, authentication (probably based on a RADIUS server), some web content/application management (from very basic up to the enterprise level IBM WebSphere and every size in between), VoIP features (using RTP / SIP), etc., etc., and the projected effort to do so can range from some days to several hundreds of man-years (have a look here they are doing exactly this, i worked for the project some years ago).

Now i am fully aware that this last part is perhaps way to big for your private purposes, i just wanted you to know what you can do and decide where you stand in this.

Quote:
After doing some research on the internet, I am going to install Ubuntu media server. This old server I have has two disk drive. I was thinking about mirroring that.
Good idea. Btw., you only need a mirrored disk where data can be lost. Mirror your data disks but leave the system disks unmirrored. In case this crashes you can simply reinstall the server from scratch. In professional environments system disks are always mirrored, but only because the machine would be down when you reinstall. Failing disks which are mirrored can be changed and resynchronized online this way foregoing the downtime. In your case it won't matter if the server is down for a day or two.

Still, you need a regular backup for that server, because even mirrored disks can (and will, over time) fail. If you put all your data into one place you should make damn sure you do not lose this place, because it will mean everything is gone. Don't only take disk failures into consideration: what about a lightning (flood, whatever) wiping out your machine - would you like to lose you data then?

Backup media tend to deteriorate as well as disks do, btw. Take a tape backup, put it into a safe for 10 years - chances are you can't read it any more even if you still have a working tape drive to do so. Big tape libraries regularly rewind and retension their used tapes automatically so that this doesn't happen. You will perhaps not buy some file cabinet with a roboter so you will have to take care for this yourself.

The same goes for DVDs: burn them, store them for some years and one or the other probably has failures.

Whatever you use, set up mechanisms to check on the quality of your backup at regular intervals and create a new backup set from time to time (say, once a year or so).

Quote:
After that I want to add external USB drive for the data. Just want to find out if that will work.
Igitt! Suppose you do so: you connect two (three, four) disks to your server. You have some central chassis with 2 (3, 4) cables and disks connected dangling from it. The system is probably located in your basement, next to the router, etc.. Now send one of your kids to fetch something from the basement - chances are they trip over one of the cables, ripping the disks from the connectors, most probably causing head creashes, ... You want that? You want to take chances?

Do yourself a favor and use a ("a" as in "one") firm casing for the disks. Ideally the case of your system allows many internal disks, but even if not: go for "the sturdier the better" and "the less cabling outside the better". Typically i would have suggested SCSI disks and a Fast-Wide-SCSI controller onto which you can connect up to 15 disks per channel. I know, SCSI disks are expensive and there are other technologies (SATA, multi-port IDE controllers, ...) which probably will do what you want at a considerably lower price. I am not that knowledgeable in consumer technics and if noone else answers you will have to investigate yourself. Ask around in hardware shops (and, at all rates, buy there once they consulted for you - if you first let them do the work then go to the next box-shifting hardware supermarket you will help drive out of business the hardware shop who just helped you) and let them show you the options.

Quote:
Do you think it's going to slow? This server will be directly connected to Linksys router, users will connect to it using Wifi.
That depends on a lot of thing, mostly the number of users: in a household you may have 2-3 users max at the same time, probably max. 2 will use streaming at the same time. A halfways modern PC with sufficient RAM (i suggest 4GB min) will effortlessly cope wiht such a workload. The bottleneck will probably be the WiFi router because the backplane of these consumer pieces is not the fastest at all. Still, i think it will suffice.

I hope this helps.

bakunin

Last edited by bakunin; 10-09-2012 at 06:48 AM..
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Old 10-09-2012
samnyc samnyc is offline
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Hi Bakunin,

Thank you so much taking your time to answer the question. Your post was very helpful. Since I never did any thing with media server, I am very interested to try this. I will write back with the status of this home project.

Thanks again. :-)
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Old 10-09-2012
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vbe vbe is offline Forum Staff  
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As I have very little time to spend at home ( I bought a sun solaris in 2001... never had the time to finish the install...) I bought myself a small synology... after buying a laptop for my son almost 2 years ago and having to fight with it to get it working correctly regularly, I got my daughter a second hand ibook! You cant imagine the difference...
So much I told the next time my son complains, I will just format his disk and install a linux...
Since I managed to find a little time to get my little NAS configured and use it...( Yes I bought it some time last year and never been able to set it...).
well so far it backs up my old powerbook and daughter's ibook, Seeing what has to be done to get a PC backup - I decided to wait the next complain of my son...

I will follow your installation to see how well you do, so to compare with a commercial product ( what are you to suggest when one asks you...)

Bakunin is really a master...
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Old 10-09-2012
bakunin bakunin is offline Forum Staff  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vbe View Post
So much I told the next time my son complains, I will just format his disk and install a linux...
You should have done that first and foremost - don't let kids develop bad habits which you have to get out of their system afterwards. ;-))

Quote:
Bakunin is really a master...
Ahh, c'mon now .... :blushes: thanks!

A few things i thought might be worth explaining:


1) Plan, plan, plan, then plan again.

As with most projects in IT what you want to achieve is not so much a matter of doing but having a clear picture (in mind - better yet on paper) about what to do. Plan thoroughly, only then start to put your plans to work. The upshot of this planning is you automatically start to create a documentation for what you do.

Documentation is also an absolute imperative. When i undertake something complex i am not above taking notes about every command i issued to achieve the desired outcome. Chances are if i have to do the same again i have already forgotten how exactly i did what i did, but i can still rely on my documentation to help my memory. And it is often helpful to have something at hand which you can just mindlessly paste into the commandline because the outcome is tested and guaranteed to work.


2) What is a server?

Most people coming from Windows networks often have a problem with the term "server", because they think it is someting radically different from a "client". It is not. In fact Unix networks are a very democratic (even better: a meritocratic) lot. Every system is just a "system", neither client nor server. But every system can offer some services to others, which make them "servers" in respect of the service they offer: one such system might offer print services (and hence be a "print server") but at the same time rely on file services of another system, making it a client to the "file server", etc..

In practice, services are often concentrated on one or a few systems in a network, so these systems are largely "servers", while most systems offer no services at all, making them "pure clients". But neither does that have to be so nor are clients and server separated in respect of the OS software they run.

This means you don't have to select anything because it is named "server" in its name, like the "media server" by Ubuntu. If you decide to use the "desktop" or any other version you will get the same (Linux-) kernel, the same (GNU-) utilities, the same everything. Maybe you get some programs with the desktop you won't get with the server because usually they are not needed at a server (and vice versa). You can still install all of these packages (or remove what you don't need) through package management and arrive at an absolutely identical system. So take your time, most Linux versions can be installed on a USB stick - boot from it and you get a good impression of how the system would look like. If you like what you see install this, if not try some other - there are plenty to choose from: Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, RedHat, SuSe, ...

As a beginner you might want to stay away from Gentoo or Slackware, because both are tailored for the needs of experts. You wouldn't want to learn how to drive a car using a 600hp monster from Maserati - probably the worn out Toyota Corolla with automatic transmission is a little more forgiving. That isn't to say Gentoo or Slackware are any better or worse - it is still the same software, just differently packaged.


3) My disks, your disks, ....

When you install the new system it is a good idea to strictly set apart the disk(s) for the OS itself and the software on one hand and the data you want to be served on the other hand. This way it is easier to upgrade the system. You can simply pull out the data disks, reconnect them to another system you have configured and on you go. If it doesn't work - replug them to the old server and you are back working again. You don't even have to have a complete PC as replacement server - one (old) disk will suffice. Use it to install a new OS and maybe new software. Once everything is as it should be, copy this to your servers disk or just replace the OS disk in the server. Either way, you don't have to shuffle data around if you want to change your servers configuration hardware- or software-wise.


OK, these were the points i thought might help you getting started. They are somewhat unsorted, though, just off the top of my head. I'd be glad to hear how the project is going on, what you found out, what worked and what didn't.

If you have further questions about specific topics, don't be shy to ask them. It is nice to see something more complex than the usual "how can i ..." being asked here and would definitely be pleased seeing the project progress.

bakunin
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Old 10-09-2012
alister alister is offline
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In case you aren't aware of its existence, you might be interested in XBMC. It's a mature (just celebrated its 10th birthday), popular media center app which can be installed on Ubuntu (and other unix-like systems).

You asked if your old server is too slow but neglected to provide any tech specs. I have never used XBMC myself, so even if you provide more info I cannot answer that question. A possibly quick way to find out for yourself is to download their live cd, XBMCbuntu. If the live CD works well, you can choose to install XBMCbuntu from the LiveCD or to install the XBMC package after installing Ubuntu.

Here's a short demo to give you an idea of what to expect from XBMC and a link to an article referenced by the video description:
Youtube: XBMC Media Cener Demonstration
Lifehacker: Create a Kickass, Seamless, Play-Everything Media Center: The Complete Guide

Regards,
Alister

Last edited by alister; 10-09-2012 at 04:01 PM..
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