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rob at webworxshop

Oct 4, 2011, 2:04 AM

Post #1 of 11 (965 views)
Permalink
Hardware Recommendations

Hi All,

I'm moving towards buiding a dedicated Myth box/home server system and
am looking for hardware recommendations. It will be a
front-end-back-end system and I'm also toying with the idea of moving
my current VPS setup onto it as a KVM virtual machine. There will also
probably be no end of other uses I can find for it once it's actually
in place and running.

With all this to consider I'm thinking that the machine will have to be
fairly beefy. I've been looking at the new AMD Processors (specifically
the A8-3850 [0]), but I'm not sure whether to go for that or swallow
the extra cost of an i5. The integrated graphics in the AMD processors
is of little interest as I'll probably go for an Nvidia card so that I
can run VDPAU (assuming the integrated graphics can be turned off?).

As I'm going to be running the thing in my living room noise and power
usage are also concerns, so any tips there will be well received.

I haven't built a PC in a few years, so all recommendations are welcome.

Thanks in advance,

Rob Connolly

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stephen_agent at jsw

Oct 4, 2011, 6:56 AM

Post #2 of 11 (961 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

On Tue, 4 Oct 2011 22:04:16 +1300, you wrote:

>Hi All,
>
>I'm moving towards buiding a dedicated Myth box/home server system and
>am looking for hardware recommendations. It will be a
>front-end-back-end system and I'm also toying with the idea of moving
>my current VPS setup onto it as a KVM virtual machine. There will also
>probably be no end of other uses I can find for it once it's actually
>in place and running.
>
>With all this to consider I'm thinking that the machine will have to be
>fairly beefy. I've been looking at the new AMD Processors (specifically
>the A8-3850 [0]), but I'm not sure whether to go for that or swallow
>the extra cost of an i5. The integrated graphics in the AMD processors
>is of little interest as I'll probably go for an Nvidia card so that I
>can run VDPAU (assuming the integrated graphics can be turned off?).
>
>As I'm going to be running the thing in my living room noise and power
>usage are also concerns, so any tips there will be well received.
>
>I haven't built a PC in a few years, so all recommendations are welcome.
>
>Thanks in advance,
>
>Rob Connolly

CPU fans are much quieter than they used to be, and so are quite a
number of power supplies. Video card fans can still be a noise
problem, so you should look at the silent Nvidia cards that are
available. These usually have a heat sink that protrudes into the
next PCIe or PCI slot, so take that into account when planning how
many slots you need.

Take a look at http://www.quietpc.co.nz for some ideas on what is
available (you do not have to buy from there, but almost everything
they sell is intended for making a quiet PC).

The MythTV part of your requirements does not need a particularly
beefy box - recording is really just copying data from the DVB-T
tuners to disk, and for playback it is just copying data to the GPU
and letting the Nvidia chips do all the hard work of H.264 decoding.
The only thing the CPU gets a workout from is scanning the recordings
to find the ads for you (mythcommflag), and that does not work very
well with H.264 anyway, so you may not even want to do that. You can
set the mythcommflag tasks to be run at low priority in the
background, but they still require a bit more RAM to work with. A PC
with 512 Mibytes of RAM is fine for recording and playback, and 1
Gibyte of RAM is fine if you want to do mythcommflag on two recordings
at once (on a dual core CPU). I have 1 Gibyte, and it runs without
problems with no swapper space, although I do have a bit of swapper
space normally in case I want to use the box for other things. I
often record four or more programs at once and play another back at
the same time. The CPU also peaks for a second or so whenever the
MythTV scheduler runs to decide how it is going to record things. That
happens whenever a recording is started or stopped, or a new recording
time is defined. The rest of the time, the CPU is rarely at 100%, and
is often running in a reduced mode.

Since the PC is likely to be on 24/7, it pays to invest a little extra
in a power supply that is more efficient, and efficient over a wider
range. The total power bill from a 24/7 PC can add up to quite a bit
over a year. The green lower power hard disks are reported to work
fine with MythTV, and they use significantly less power eg 2-3 Tbyte
drives are 6-7 watts for a green drive and 10 watts for normal or fast
ones. I can not speak from personal experience on that though, as I
usually buy fast drives.

If you have not built a PC for a while, be aware that hard drives are
rather less reliable these days. Do not buy any Seagate 7200.11
drives, even if you get them for $1 on TradeMe, as they collapse
without warning. I have had all but one of mine die, and then the
replacements also die! The older 7200.10 ones are very reliable, and
the 7200.12 ones are OK - comparable with the other manufacturers. But
it seems that all the home use (cheaper) drives are made now on the
basis that they will have a high failure rate and they will just be
replaced as necessary. I have had problems with Seagate and Western
Digital drives. So far I have not had any problems with the Hitachi 3
Tbyte ones, but they are pretty new still. I have only one Samsung
drive, and that has been good too. Make sure you install SMART
monitoring software to alert you before a drive finally crashes. The
failure modes I have met recently all showed up on SMART at least a
few days before final death, and I have been able to copy off my data.

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nick.rout at gmail

Oct 4, 2011, 11:52 AM

Post #3 of 11 (960 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

On Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 10:04 PM, Rob Connolly <rob [at] webworxshop> wrote:
> Hi All,
>
> I'm moving towards buiding a dedicated Myth box/home server system and
> am looking for hardware recommendations. It will be a
> front-end-back-end system and I'm also toying with the idea of moving
> my current VPS setup onto it as a KVM virtual machine. There will also
> probably be no end of other uses I can find for it once it's actually
> in place and running.
>
> With all this to consider I'm thinking that the machine will have to be
> fairly beefy. I've been looking at the new AMD Processors (specifically
> the A8-3850 [0]), but I'm not sure whether to go for that or swallow
> the extra cost of an i5. The integrated graphics in the AMD processors
> is of little interest as I'll probably go for an Nvidia card so that I
> can run VDPAU (assuming the integrated graphics can be turned off?).
>
> As I'm going to be running the thing in my living room noise and power
> usage are also concerns, so any tips there will be well received.
>
> I haven't built a PC in a few years, so all recommendations are welcome.
>
> Thanks in advance,
>
> Rob Connolly


I'd have to say split your backend and put a quiet frontend in the lounge.

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acaferacer at gmail

Oct 4, 2011, 2:45 PM

Post #4 of 11 (958 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

I bought a Gigabyte GT430 like this
http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/components/video-cards/pciexpress/auction-412049597.htm
The fans are really quiet. It is a modern card, does full VDPAU.


On 4 October 2011 22:04, Rob Connolly <rob [at] webworxshop> wrote:
>
> Hi All,
>
> I'm moving towards buiding a dedicated Myth box/home server system and
> am looking for hardware recommendations. It will be a
> front-end-back-end system and I'm also toying with the idea of moving
> my current VPS setup onto it as a KVM virtual machine. There will also
> probably be no end of other uses I can find for it once it's actually
> in place and running.
>
> With all this to consider I'm thinking that the machine will have to be
> fairly beefy. I've been looking at the new AMD Processors (specifically
> the A8-3850 [0]), but I'm not sure whether to go for that or swallow
> the extra cost of an i5. The integrated graphics in the AMD processors
> is of little interest as I'll probably go for an Nvidia card so that I
> can run VDPAU (assuming the integrated graphics can be turned off?).
>
> As I'm going to be running the thing in my living room noise and power
> usage are also concerns, so any tips there will be well received.
>
> I haven't built a PC in a few years, so all recommendations are welcome.
>
> Thanks in advance,
>
> Rob Connolly
>
> _______________________________________________
> mythtvnz mailing list
> mythtvnz [at] lists
> http://lists.ourshack.com/mailman/listinfo/mythtvnz
> Archives http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/mythtv/mythtvnz/

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dmoo1790 at ihug

Oct 4, 2011, 3:19 PM

Post #5 of 11 (957 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

On 04/10/11 22:04, Rob Connolly wrote:
> Hi All,
>
> I'm moving towards buiding a dedicated Myth box/home server system and
> am looking for hardware recommendations. ...
>

The noisiest fans in my system are the case fans. They're only 80 mm and
one runs constantly. Avoid small fans at all cost IMHO. I have a fanless
video card and 120 mm fan on the power supply.

I have 3 Western Digital drives: 500 MB, 1 TB and 2 TB. They're all
Green drives and so far I've had no problems with them.

My Asus motherboard has onboard video but it was no problem to disable
it when I put in a better video card.

Some people like to leave their systems on 24/7 but I like to save the
planet :) so I have mine set up to power down after I log off and power
up again when myth needs to record something.

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joel at aenertia

Oct 4, 2011, 3:37 PM

Post #6 of 11 (955 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

Has anyone had any experience with the cheap Arm based Android set top boxes
starting to come out? Some of them have hardware h264 decoding logic.
Presumably myth is in debian armel ports but have not had a platform to test
on.


Anyone?

On 5 October 2011 11:19, David Moore <dmoo1790 [at] ihug> wrote:

> On 04/10/11 22:04, Rob Connolly wrote:
> > Hi All,
> >
> > I'm moving towards buiding a dedicated Myth box/home server system and
> > am looking for hardware recommendations. ...
> >
>
> The noisiest fans in my system are the case fans. They're only 80 mm and
> one runs constantly. Avoid small fans at all cost IMHO. I have a fanless
> video card and 120 mm fan on the power supply.
>
> I have 3 Western Digital drives: 500 MB, 1 TB and 2 TB. They're all
> Green drives and so far I've had no problems with them.
>
> My Asus motherboard has onboard video but it was no problem to disable
> it when I put in a better video card.
>
> Some people like to leave their systems on 24/7 but I like to save the
> planet :) so I have mine set up to power down after I log off and power
> up again when myth needs to record something.
>
> _______________________________________________
> mythtvnz mailing list
> mythtvnz [at] lists
> http://lists.ourshack.com/mailman/listinfo/mythtvnz
> Archives http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/mythtv/mythtvnz/
>


dmoo1790 at ihug

Oct 4, 2011, 5:45 PM

Post #7 of 11 (964 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

On 05/10/11 02:56, Stephen Worthington wrote:
> If you have not built a PC for a while, be aware that hard drives are
> rather less reliable these days. Do not buy any Seagate 7200.11
> drives, even if you get them for $1 on TradeMe, as they collapse
> without warning. I have had all but one of mine die, and then the
> replacements also die! The older 7200.10 ones are very reliable, and
> the 7200.12 ones are OK - comparable with the other manufacturers. But
> it seems that all the home use (cheaper) drives are made now on the
> basis that they will have a high failure rate and they will just be
> replaced as necessary. I have had problems with Seagate and Western
> Digital drives. So far I have not had any problems with the Hitachi 3
> Tbyte ones, but they are pretty new still. I have only one Samsung
> drive, and that has been good too. Make sure you install SMART
> monitoring software to alert you before a drive finally crashes. The
> failure modes I have met recently all showed up on SMART at least a
> few days before final death, and I have been able to copy off my data.
>
I guess I got lucky with my 500 MB 7200.11? Maybe something to do with
temperature? Mine's running at around 33 deg C according to smartctl.
This drive is about two years old.

What kind of early failure warnings did you get from SMART?

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Douglas.Pearless at pearless

Oct 4, 2011, 8:02 PM

Post #8 of 11 (955 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

If you can run 3 x cat5e from another location to your living room, I'd recommend putting a dual core + NVIDIA GT200 or better backend/front end box with your tuner cards somewhere the sound doesn't matter.

Run a USB over cat5 (about $50 for a pair of converters) for IR and HDMI over 2 x cat 5 (these are under $100 for a transmitter and receiver). This means there is ZERO sound in the lounge, and if you want to, you can add a USB DVD for movie playback.

This is what I have and it has a high WAF (only a tiny IR receiver is visible under the TV).

If your USB over cat5 is great than 5m, add ferrite noise suppressor at either end to counter any RFI picked up by the cables (the HDMI transmitters and receivers seem to be OK with a 15m run)

Cheers
Douglas.
On 5/10/2011, at 11:19 AM, David Moore wrote:

> On 04/10/11 22:04, Rob Connolly wrote:
>> Hi All,
>>
>> I'm moving towards buiding a dedicated Myth box/home server system and
>> am looking for hardware recommendations. ...
>>
>
> The noisiest fans in my system are the case fans. They're only 80 mm and
> one runs constantly. Avoid small fans at all cost IMHO. I have a fanless
> video card and 120 mm fan on the power supply.
>
> I have 3 Western Digital drives: 500 MB, 1 TB and 2 TB. They're all
> Green drives and so far I've had no problems with them.
>
> My Asus motherboard has onboard video but it was no problem to disable
> it when I put in a better video card.
>
> Some people like to leave their systems on 24/7 but I like to save the
> planet :) so I have mine set up to power down after I log off and power
> up again when myth needs to record something.
>
> _______________________________________________
> mythtvnz mailing list
> mythtvnz [at] lists
> http://lists.ourshack.com/mailman/listinfo/mythtvnz
> Archives http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/mythtv/mythtvnz/


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killerkiwi2005 at gmail

Oct 4, 2011, 9:35 PM

Post #9 of 11 (944 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

>
> Some people like to leave their systems on 24/7 but I like to save the
> planet :) so I have mine set up to power down after I log off and power
> up again when myth needs to record something.
>

I've never manager to get this working as I'd like.. basically if its after
say 10pm and nothing is *being recorded or played* I'd like the machine to
shutdown and then always wake up at say 8am (or earlier if required for a
recording).. this would save 10 hours of ontime a day and keep the mrs happy
about having to start the machine...

I should really have another attempt at it... it would be quite a power
saving...

Jason Taylor

-- "Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely
> pointless. " - Calven
>


stephen_agent at jsw

Oct 5, 2011, 2:20 AM

Post #10 of 11 (990 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

On Wed, 05 Oct 2011 13:45:56 +1300, you wrote:

>On 05/10/11 02:56, Stephen Worthington wrote:
>> If you have not built a PC for a while, be aware that hard drives are
>> rather less reliable these days. Do not buy any Seagate 7200.11
>> drives, even if you get them for $1 on TradeMe, as they collapse
>> without warning. I have had all but one of mine die, and then the
>> replacements also die! The older 7200.10 ones are very reliable, and
>> the 7200.12 ones are OK - comparable with the other manufacturers. But
>> it seems that all the home use (cheaper) drives are made now on the
>> basis that they will have a high failure rate and they will just be
>> replaced as necessary. I have had problems with Seagate and Western
>> Digital drives. So far I have not had any problems with the Hitachi 3
>> Tbyte ones, but they are pretty new still. I have only one Samsung
>> drive, and that has been good too. Make sure you install SMART
>> monitoring software to alert you before a drive finally crashes. The
>> failure modes I have met recently all showed up on SMART at least a
>> few days before final death, and I have been able to copy off my data.
>>
>I guess I got lucky with my 500 MB 7200.11? Maybe something to do with
>temperature? Mine's running at around 33 deg C according to smartctl.
>This drive is about two years old.
>
>What kind of early failure warnings did you get from SMART?

All my failed 7200.11 drives were 1 Tbyte units. It is possible the
500 Mbyte ones are OK, but I would personally not trust any 7200.11
one.

Google's test data pretty much proved that it is a myth that the
operating temperature of a drive affects its reliability or lifetime.
They found that as long as a drive was operated within specification
(< 60 C for most drives now), temperature did not matter. I still try
to keep my drives below 50 C anyway, but I am not much bothered by
high temperatures much any more after I read that report. The drives
in my MythTV box are currently reporting 43, 41 and 45 C. The new
green 3 Tbyte drive which is external to the box is at 32 C.

The SMART warnings I usually got from the 7200.11 drives were more and
more bad sectors being remapped, or pending unable to be remapped yet.
There were around 1500 spare sectors available for remapping on my
7200.11 1 Tbyte drives, and a couple of them reached that limit!
Usually, one or two bad sectors remapped is not a problem. But if you
start to get one a day or more on average, then replace the drive
quickly as you are likely to have less than 10 days before it is dead.
And it there is a continuing pattern of more sectors being remapped,
even if it is not up to averaging one a day, then I would get the
drive replaced too.

My two failed WDC WD2001FASS 2 Tbyte drives both suffered from
multiple bad sectors that would not remap. IIRC, these appeared all
at once on one drive, and in two goes on the other. The two
WD2002FAEX drives that they sent to replace them are fine. Of the two
other two WD2001FASS drives I have, one is fine so far and the other
has just had one sector fail and it will not remap, so it looks like I
will need to get it replaced too. Fortunately I have already replaced
it on my MythTV box with a 3 Tbyte green drive, but I was going to use
it to replace the Seagate 7200.12 ST31000528AS that is my Vista boot
drive and is now failing (averaging over 1 new remapped sector a day).

As soon as you get one pending remapping show up on SMART, you can run
a SMART long self test on the drive using the manufacturer's test
software, and it will fail the test. If it is still under warranty,
you can then get them to replace it. If the problem is sectors that
are able to be remapped, then they may argue that it has not actually
failed a self test. But I normally buy my drives from Ascent, and
they have never given me any hassles about replacing bad drives,
whichever way they are failing.

Oh, and one other problem with 7200.11 drives - you need to update
their firmware if they were delivered with the original firmware.
Without the update, they can brick themselves on power on, just at
random. If that happens to you, fear not! All the data is still on
the drive, and you can just do the firmware update and it will work
again. I had one drive do that to me, before they knew about the
problem, and Ascent replaced it. Fortunately, it was just my Vista
boot drive and I had only just finished installing Vista, so I could
just install it again on the replacement drive. After Seagate worked
out the problem, I updated the firmware on all the other 7200.11
drives, but then they went and failed anyway, but not by bricking
themselves.

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dmoo1790 at ihug

Oct 5, 2011, 4:04 PM

Post #11 of 11 (948 views)
Permalink
Re: Hardware Recommendations [In reply to]

On 05/10/11 22:20, Stephen Worthington wrote:
> Google's test data pretty much proved that it is a myth that the
> operating temperature of a drive affects its reliability or lifetime.
> They found that as long as a drive was operated within specification
> (< 60 C for most drives now), temperature did not matter. I still try
> to keep my drives below 50 C anyway, but I am not much bothered by
> high temperatures much any more after I read that report. The drives
> in my MythTV box are currently reporting 43, 41 and 45 C. The new
> green 3 Tbyte drive which is external to the box is at 32 C.

I haven't read the actual report yet but did look at a summary here:
http://storagemojo.com/2007/02/19/googles-disk-failure-experience/
Also this article:
http://www.linuxjournal.com/magazine/monitoring-hard-disks-smart
about Smartmontools which claims "Studies have shown that lowering disk
temperatures by as little as 5C significantly reduces failure rates,
though this is less of an issue for the latest generation of fluid-drive
bearing drives." Maybe the last bit about bearings is the critical thing
these days. However I'm certain from some experience with MTBF
calculations and telecom hardware testing and high temp failures that
higher temps _are_ definitely worse for electronics in general. Having
said that I don't think there's any need for extra drive cooling unless
your temps are getting close to the spec limit.

>
> The SMART warnings I usually got from the 7200.11 drives were more and
> more bad sectors being remapped, or pending unable to be remapped yet.
> There were around 1500 spare sectors available for remapping on my
> 7200.11 1 Tbyte drives, and a couple of them reached that limit!
> Usually, one or two bad sectors remapped is not a problem. But if you
> start to get one a day or more on average, then replace the drive
> quickly as you are likely to have less than 10 days before it is dead.
> And it there is a continuing pattern of more sectors being remapped,
> even if it is not up to averaging one a day, then I would get the
> drive replaced too.
>
Funny thing with my 7 year old laptop. I run Ubuntu normally but booted
Fedora a few times and it popped up a Smart warning about problems with
the HDD. So I installed smartmontools on Ubuntu and ran a long test
which completed without error. There is a warning about "Self-Test Log
Structure error: invalid SMART checksum." but I don't see this as a
reason to flag a serious drive problem. So then I started looking at the
attributes and the normalised values all seem fine. There is a
"Reallocated_Sector_Ct" attribute and this does have a large raw value
(262148) so maybe this is what Fedora flagged.

I also ran a long test on my 500 MB 7200.11 (ST3500320AS) and it passed
with no errors. But the Seek_Error_Rate raw value is 13077544596 (60
worst normalised with 30 threshold). Only 82 raw value for
Reallocated_Sector_Ct though. Hmm. Hardware_ECC_Recovered has a large
raw value (160510852) also.

My two WD Green drives are sitting on zero Reallocated_Sector_Ct and
Seek_Error_Rate raw values. Models are WD10EADS-00L5B1 and WD20EARS-00MVWB0.

I think I need to do more reading about smart attributes. And maybe back
up the laptop and the 7200.11. :)

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