HP Microserver N36L as HTPC

Discussion in 'HTPC' started by goldpenis, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. break

    break Member

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    XBMC just never worked how I wanted, it would constantly freeze/crash etc.... it was just a pain in the back side, plus Mediaportal has the ability to record TV should I want to go down that path eventually.
     
  2. Willis-

    Willis- Member

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    Interesting thanks for the reply.

    Pretty sold on getting one of these babies at least to use as a NAS and then i'll start dabbling in the HTPC stuff. I'm happy to wait to see if they go on sale again as I don't even have my new TV yet anyway!
     
  3. htpcfan

    htpcfan Member

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    I had a little spare time tonight, so I opened up my n36l, installed a 4GB RAM module and an ATI HD5450 video card then hooked it all up to the TV in the lounge, plugged in my USB DVD and booted the latest XBMCFREAK Natty Dharma v2 LIVE cd - http://www.xbmcfreak.nl/en/xbmcfreak-livecd-natty-dharma-v2/

    installed to the default 250GB HDD and I reckon it took maybe 10 minutes to format, install and then reboot to XBMC.

    Worked 'out of the box', with a couple of minor issues, which I really didn't spend much time trying to fix:

    - no navigation sounds (I like the audible clicks)

    - video output was overscanned, changing my TV input functions fixed it - but the xbox 360, WD TV etc. don't overscan.. so don't know why it would do it for HDMI input from the HD5450?

    - it's been a LONG time since I've fiddled with XBMC and setting up folders etc. for media scanning, as well as access through XBMC is going to be a hassle for me (movies need to be in seperate dirs don't they?) going through the 'BROWSE', select the directory, wait while it's scanned and then displays the files was a pain.. especially if I then went UP a directory and back into the SAME directory it'd rescan it (why didn't it cache it?). hopefully this is just an option to tick in XBMC somewhere.

    EDIT: not XBMC related (but HTPC related) - I thought the n36l cooling fan was maybe just that little bit too loud for watching quiet movies, but mind you I was only sitting about 1m away from it, I'll try again with it sitting in the tv cabinet and me sitting the usual 4m away from it.


    Anyways, not bad for an hour or so's 'testing'. mostly it just worked, I was impressed (again, but I've always loved XBMC and I know the wife will be happy to see it make a re-appearance in our loungeroom as well. She'll be even happier with the movie and TV summaries and auto fan art).

    Now to find a USB IR receiver so I can use my old XBOX (1) remote control :)


    Eventually I'll stick some 2TB (or 3TB if the price comes down majorly) HDDs inside the n36l and move all my movies and TV to it's local HDDs, as well as re-install a 'better' linux OS with better NAS support.

    Or maybe I'll just install WHS 2011 (would make backing up the wife's laptop etc. easier) and run the Windows build of XBMC and run software RAID 5 in WHS 2011 just for our photos, backups and documents etc.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011
  4. RoSWeLL

    RoSWeLL Member

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    Just a word warning if you are silly enough to buy an Asus 5450 LP and do not realise it comes with a double bracket that is incompatiable with the Microserver (why on earth would you not have two brackets)

    http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/AMD_Series/EAH5450_SILENTDI512MD2LP/

    [​IMG]

    I ended up having to hacksaw the bracket in half and then tidy the edges up with the dremel, I'm yet to try it but it should be fine.
     
  5. HUMMER

    HUMMER Member

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    as you said. nothing a dremel cant fix.
     
  6. OP
    OP
    goldpenis

    goldpenis Member

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    Thanks for all the input guys! I have been slowly looking and researching on setting up the N36L as a HTPC and am still a little confused as to what I actually need/need to do!

    I downloaded XBMC live and managed to get it installed. It booted up without too much issue but I couldn't get any videos to play. I was using the onboard video controller with a vga output to my LCD display (just moved and I don't have any other gear unpacked necessary for testing). Guessing the no video could be due to the crappy onboard controller?

    I plan on buying some additional RAM and another video card but can't decide to go down the widely supported under linux nVidia route (G210/220 etc) or grab the ATI HD5450. Are the ATI cards still compatible/easy to setup and configure under linux based software?

    So this was just plug and play? Whats the difference with this as opposed to the normal XBMC Live install?
     
  7. htpcfan

    htpcfan Member

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    Correct, I literally installed the HD5450 and 4GB RAM in the n36l, took it into our loungeroom and booted the XBMCfreak LIVE CD, installed the software, ejected the CD and then rebooted direct into XBMC. From memory I had to change a couple of things in the SYSTEM menu (eg: change audio output to HDMI, set audio to STEREO (I was connected direct to the TV, not my A/V receiver)) and then went back to the HOME menu, selected VIDEO, click ADD SOURCE etc. and watched some test 720p and 1080p MKVs.

    I think the XBMCfreak LIVE build is more optimised for the ION / ION2 chipsets and has fewer generoc drivers support than the 'full' XBMC LIVE (I used to have a REVO R3610 micro box and was using the XBMCfreak LIVE builds a year or two ago, so when I thought of XBMC LIVE, the XBMCfreak version is the version I thought of).

    Also there is no GUI / desktop linux support underneath it.. it's aimed more at the 'turn it on and play' crowd. So could make customising and adding torrent clients, NZB clients, NAS etc. underneath a little harder.

    As said, this was purely an hour or so's testing to see what it was like 'out of the box'.


    Ultimately I think my needs are more suited to running Windows Home Server 2011 (I need scheduled laptop etc. backups) and XBMC / utorrent / Alt.binz EXEs. That and laziness and lack of time to fap around testing and learning a setup under linux.

    EDIT: oh, one thing I did neglect to post previously - total time from power on to XBMC HOME menu was about 40 seconds :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011
  8. Slidey

    Slidey Member

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    so ive built mine.. 5450 gfx and 4gb ram.

    installed win 7 and then XBMC and it works flawlessly.

    Downloaded the xbmc iphone app and can now just chill on the couch and use my iphone as a remote. very cool and easy.

    i love how xbmc just automaticly downloads all covers and movie info. So much 3rd party apps to play with aswell. Much better then using the WDTV that i was in the past
     
  9. RoSWeLL

    RoSWeLL Member

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    I installed mine last night and could not get videos to play within XBMC, Win7 and HD5450, They play fine within windows but are frozen within XBMC, I try to skip and it just goes to a static image, this is just testing through the DVI on the card.

    Don't know what is up with that.
     
  10. EEPROMS

    EEPROMS Member

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    I used to get the same with an ATi card and in the end I found it was a video setting within XMBC causing the problem, cant remember of the top of my head and Im not at home.

    Also I have found if you don't get the sound settings right it will also make XBMC stutter. You set these things up once and never touch it again so when you have to do it again you really have to strain the grey matter a bit to remember.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  11. Joehax

    Joehax Member

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    I'm using my Microserver as a HTPC / Newsgroup box

    I tried Ubuntu with XBMC but didn't like it.

    Currently using Windows 7 with WMC & FlexRaid to provide software 'RAID 5'.

    I skipped using an optical drive as I have a PS3 that can do bluray, so installed a 5th HDD instead.

    TV & Digital radio being provided by one of these:
    http://www.digitalnow.com.au/product_pages/Dabby.html

    However I find both pretty unsatisfactory so would not recommend it unless you're desperate for DAB+

    Audio & Video through HDMI on a HD 3650

    Does 720p without issue.
     
  12. mooboyj

    mooboyj Member

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    I'm using the following:

    - Ubuntu Server 10.04 x64
    - XBMC for media duties
    - 8GB ECC RAM
    - 4 x 2TB Hitachi hard drives
    - Original 250GB hard drive for the OS
    - 2GB USB key internally that has my /home, /etc and MDADM config files backed up
    - GT210 with a passive cooler (smaller cooler) from an HD3XXX card (I think)
    - Tiny USB bluetooth dongle at the front
    - Tiny USB wireless dongle at the front
    - Micro bluetooth keyboard/mouse

    It serves as a NAS and HTPC mostly. I install various distros on the 250GB drive as VMs to play with (hence 8GB RAM).

    I've played 1080 content on it without issue. I don't have any blu-ray movies, so haven't tested that yet. I have a blu-ray player, so....

    My N36L is for all intents and purposes silent.
     
  13. hui

    hui Member

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    Do you guys know if the internal graphics can handle 1080p without a dedicated card?

    If not where did you guys get the 5450 from?
     
  14. HUMMER

    HUMMER Member

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    dont think it can. as for getting 5450. i got mine from arc.com.au other places that have them are:

    pccg.com.au
    msy.com.au
    scorptec.com.au
     
  15. break

    break Member

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    The internal graphics can display 1080p fine, it just can't decode 1080p media (nor can the CPU for that matter).

    The reason we have all been going add-on cards (I went a gigabyte 5450) was both to use them for hardware decoding of 1080p, but also to be used as a sound card and HDMI link to the TV (as there is no built in sound card to the Microserver).
     
  16. Del3ct1

    Del3ct1 (Banned or Deleted)

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    Hi Hui, to echo what others said, you can get 5450's from just about any computer parts seller. Just when you purchase one make sure it comes with the low profile bracket as there is several brands (Powercolor for one) that do not come with the low profile bracket.
     
  17. sjhupp

    sjhupp Member

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    So does an ATI 5450 do 1080P decoding under linux (ubuntu/XBMC)?
    I too am not sure if I should go HD5450 or a G210 under linux.
    Encouraging to see some using 5450, as they seem cheaper and more capable in comparison (under windows at least)
    I'm setting up ubuntu with (software) raid5 server, but would like XBMC on top so I can use my AppleTV2 on another tv :p
    A few games would be a bonus too (obviously old ones!). Big screen dosbox!! :D
     
  18. hui

    hui Member

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    Thanks very much guys! :thumbup:
     
  19. htpcfan

    htpcfan Member

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    my ATI HD540 worked 'out of the box', no driver tweaks etc. necessary with XBMC live. Yes the OS supported hardware decoding on the video card for 1080p MKV playback (and audio output).

    big screen MAME FTW :)
     
  20. HUMMER

    HUMMER Member

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    you just gave me a great idea. street fighter EX2 on MAME... FT-mofo-W
     

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