Frankenputer Streaming Media Server: It Lives

I got tired of having fifteen different flavors of media (pictures, movies, songs, home videos, bought videos, DVDs, Memory chips with pics, etc. etc. etc.) that all required different devices or different cables or some widget or wadget to display, hear, or print. So I grabbed all of the old computer carcasses out of the basement and piece-patched them together to create a pretty robust server that I can stream everything to and also back up my pics, music, and movies to. Thus starts The Chronicles of Frankenputer.

I’m going to try out Windows media server and also Itunes to see how they compare – along the way I’ll note the “technology gaps” so you can overcome them easier or know what isn’t quite ready yet for those who might be planning doing this themselves. Before you say “what’s the big deal, it’s just a computer hooked to a big screen so you can play DVD’s” keep in mind that this critter is also wireless, a back up server, and running Media center, Itunes, and Photoshop, and it connects to everything wireless in the house. It’s more than just another computer as a DVD player set up…

The media server specs are here:

  • Core II duo CPU
  • 8 4 GB memory*
  • 1.5 TB disk space (I had butt loads of old 250 GB drives around to create that with.)
  • Bluetooth Mouse and Keyboard
  • Wireless N network adapter
  • Nvidia GTX 260 video card
  • DVI-D to HDMI adapter for the flat screen
  • Creative sound card for 5.1 sound
  • Windows 7 64 bit
  • Photoshop Elements 8.0

Here’s a picture of the of it under construction with temp keyboard and speakers. After I’m done configuring it will go under the cabinet and plug into the 5.1 sound. I’m using an old FX-7026 case and MB as base, but the parts are cobbled from other machines — the poor thing is really a Frankenputer full of hand me down parts. It’s networked wth Wireless N, so any widget from security cams to my regular camera can stream to the big screen, which is kind of nice.

With Microsoft Media center I’ve been able to add home movies, Netflix, CBS online, streaming internet radio, all of my picture directories, and all of my video libraries. Streaming Hulu and Netflix comes across much better than I expected, and I’m going to hit the other video channels to bookmark them later tonight (youtube, vimeo, etc. etc. ) along with satellite radio since I have a sub for that in the car.

Of course any other internet site (yes, Pron! too) works fine and later I’ll be adding the Kindle PC reader. It also replaced my DVD/ Blu ray player which allows me to raise the shelves high enough to fit this in the cabinet. Since this thing blows a lot more heat than the DVR I am also going to make a cutout with a small fan in the back of the cabinet. After that I will probably upgrade the DVD R/W drive, the one I have in it now was a loss leader no name that cost $25.00.
Even though it sounds great, there are still gaps in the technologies, and I’ll be going over some of those in the near future. There are also things you can’t get yet over the internet that you can get over cable, so this solution is not for everyone, but later I’ll be looking at methods to tie into the Cable DVR.

*Update: the original 8 GB was dropped to 4 GB after I discovered that Frankenputer has a pair of bad memory slots. (the 2 two gig simms work fine in other PC’s) I also discovered that loading ITUNES still loads the Gear drivers, and these can hose up some older internal DVD drives, forewarned is forearmed. I had to unload ITUNES to make the DVD fully functional, but ITUNES worked fine while it was loaded, and I will attempt a reload now that I have a newer DVD drive. In the meantime Media player works good.