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868 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 67686 6-Sep-2010 22:21
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I wasn't sure if this belonged here or in the desktop PC forum as it probably could fit under either.

I have 4 computers of various age at my disposal. I have my main desktop PC, a dual core 6420 (overclocked to 3.0GHz) with 2GB of ram running XP, which is used for everyday stuff, email, web etc. I'm a video editor so I sometimes edit video and photo work etc so I need to keep this as my main PC.
The other computers are:
An Athlon Thunderbird 1.4GHz with 512MB ram and 40GB HDD, no OS.
Dell Dimension 2400 Pentium 4 2.8 GHz, 512MB ram, 40GB HDD, Windows XP.
Celeron 566MHz, 64MB, 10GB HDD, Puppy Linux

My original plan was to eventually get the Athlon running as a server for keeping backups and shared media (music, photos, video) on. Setting up the Dell as a budget HTPC with a DVB-S card and using the server for storage. Then running the old Celeron as basically a jukebox music player in the garage with maybe a bit of light browsing.
I realised this would require pretty much both the server and the HTPC to be on all the time, and with the main desktop PC on for a lot of the day, that's a whole lot of power.

So I'm wondering if setting up the Dell as a HTPC (mediaportal possibly) and server in one would work? I have a PCI SATA card I could use to bump up the storage there (hopefully a couple of TB in RAID 1).
Then when I finally get ethernet down to the garage I could setup the Athlon as a music player there, which would be much easier than getting the Celeron working well. I got Puppy Linux running on it but it's unfamiliar territory and I think it'll be quite a mission to get it working nicely.

Does this sound feasible? Will I be able to get the Dell doing duty as a HTPC and server at once? It will only be dealing with SD material as we only have an SD TV. Then all I would really need is a DVB-S card, and a couple of big HDD drives when funds for such things become available.

Any other suggestions welcome.

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 378675 10-Sep-2010 21:23
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Anybody??? Is this post in the wrong place? Should I have it under desktop PCs?

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  Reply # 378688 10-Sep-2010 22:54
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Sounds fine if you don't want to or can't spend any money.

Personally I'd scrap all the antique hardware and build a new htpc for <$1500 and then either build or buy and off the shelf NAS and drives for <$1000.

... but yeah what's your budget? 



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 378692 10-Sep-2010 23:00
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Ragnor: Sounds fine if you don't want to or can't spend any money.

Personally I'd scrap all the antique hardware and build a new htpc for <$1500 and then either build or buy and off the shelf NAS and drives for <$1000.

... but yeah what's your budget? 


yeah...about a $1.50 give or take a few cents. Pretty much no budget, hopefully sneak a couple new HDDs and a tuner card in somewhere along the line. That's why I'm trying to utilise the old PCs and at least have something to play with.

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  Reply # 378728 11-Sep-2010 08:45
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I would also go with the Dell for the HTPC. I find brand name PCs boot faster than scratch-built PCs, probably because Microsoft already knows the hardware configuration and the drivers are optimised to work together. The advantage of a scratch-built PC is you can configure the performance the way you want/need it.

Consider increasing the RAM of the Dell to 1GB, you can probably take it from the Athlon if you can't find cheap RAM.

HTPC and server combined should be okay, especially if you get a modern hard drive with lots of cache (buffer).

Cheap tuner card copies on eBay are $35 delivered. As far as I know most of those don't officially run on Vista/7, but supports XP. Can't say anything regarding quality, but since most of the card is digital and the tuner front-end is a bought-in module, should be fine. Or a similar capability brand name tuner card with remote can be bought from PB Tech for $100.

Once a year or 6 months just open your HTPC and clean out all the dust (from running 24/7). Either use a brush and strip the whole PC including taking the cover off the power supply, of much easier use a compressor and don't strip anything. Just don't hold the compressor on a fan no matter how much fun it is, the fan will spin too fast and wear out bearings. And don;t blow too close, you can build up localised static electricity which can damage electronics.




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  Reply # 378742 11-Sep-2010 09:39
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I agree with Ragnor in getting a new PC but since you are on a budget I don't know if the old Dells would be powerful enough for a Media PC. They are notoriously slow too, Dells are built on bloatware(unless of course you'd done a clean XP install).

One major thing to note is the 2400 series came out at a similar time to teh gx260/270s(business models) which develop leaking caps and die. You could already have leaky caps onboard, you might want to open it up, look at any caps. If any are fat or bulging, then they have already had it.

I would do this:

Sell:
150 Dell Dimension 2400
75 Thunderbird system
10 celeron system
= $230

$80 E7200 CPU off Trademe
$40 Aywun mATX A1-101 case off Elive or PcOnline
$70.88 Foxconn G31MX-K motherboard PConline
$33 1GB DDR2 PConline(if you can afford it try bumping it up to 1x2GB stick, with room for 2GB later)
= $223

For a system which will decode full HD(if required later on) have plenty of SATA storage etc

As long as you can get your hands on a copy of Win7 or XP. I think most scratch builds will boot a lot faster than most Dells, HPs or Compaqs, as long as you have the latest drivers. After working on the amount of Dells and Compaqs that I have. I have to say, I wouldn't buy one for myself...ever.

Asus for laptops - and only after installing my own windows on it. Scratch built for a PC :)




I have moved across the ditch.  Now residing in Melbourne as a VOIP/Video Technical Trainer/Engineer. 

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  Reply # 378795 11-Sep-2010 16:08
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Your Dell came out after the capacitor issues, but yes certainly check the tops of the capacitors if they are bulging out. All capacitors have a limited life, these ones just died prematurely due to a manufacturing fault. The motherboard capacitor issues ended with the GX270 (and GX280 for power supplies), but Dell lost their reputation due to delaying acknowledgement.

The issue was that a major capacitor manufacturer had a production error whereby they overfilled them with electrolyte. This resulted in them failing prematurely and affected virtually all motherboard manufacturers. Dell was just one of the slowest to acknowledge the problem and stop using them. I've replaced capacitors on a number of Dell motherboards and power supplies and after a few years they still work fine, but I am an electronic engineer and know what to do with a soldering iron. Capacitors cost about $20 to $40, depending on how many there are.




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  Reply # 378821 11-Sep-2010 19:08
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Niel: Your Dell came out after the capacitor issues, but yes certainly check the tops of the capacitors if they are bulging out. All capacitors have a limited life, these ones just died prematurely due to a manufacturing fault. The motherboard capacitor issues ended with the GX270 (and GX280 for power supplies), but Dell lost their reputation due to delaying acknowledgement.

The issue was that a major capacitor manufacturer had a production error whereby they overfilled them with electrolyte. This resulted in them failing prematurely and affected virtually all motherboard manufacturers. Dell was just one of the slowest to acknowledge the problem and stop using them. I've replaced capacitors on a number of Dell motherboards and power supplies and after a few years they still work fine, but I am an electronic engineer and know what to do with a soldering iron. Capacitors cost about $20 to $40, depending on how many there are.


Yeah totally agree, easy to fix eh if you know how to work a soldering iron :)

Did an old GX270 a few years back, threw it back onto Trademe after fixing it, cool $200 profit, spent $20 buying the Capacitors incl shipping off Ebay :)
 




I have moved across the ditch.  Now residing in Melbourne as a VOIP/Video Technical Trainer/Engineer. 



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 378959 12-Sep-2010 12:09
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Thanks for all the suggestions. Some food for thought there for sure. I didn't notice any dodgy looking capicitors when I was cleaning it the other day but I wasn't really looking so I'll have a better look. Ideally I'd like a decent remote to operate it with and preferably easy setup so a name brand tuner might be the goer there.



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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 388934 6-Oct-2010 21:11
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I was orginally planning long term about setting up a raid 1 on the HTPC as a backup but doing some reading I might be better to go for a bigger drive as the main storage for the HTPC/server and then just buy an external drive as a backup and keep offsite. Any advantage for/against either?
Also what's the best type of drive for a HTPC/server setup. Big cache, preferably quiet. Do they need to be 7200rpm? What's everybody else using for HDD storage?

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  Reply # 389019 7-Oct-2010 06:37
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In my experience consumer targeted raid for redundancy is not worth doing. It most likely will not save your data if one drive goes out as the smarts to pick up that something is going south are not good enough and you normally finish up with the bad drive corrupting the good drive.
As you suggest using that second drive as a off site (or even on site if the data is not irreplaceable) is a better idea.







Media centre PC - Case Silverstone LC16M with 2 X 80mm AcoustiFan DustPROOF, MOBO Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H, CPU AMD X2 240 under volted, RAM 4 Gig DDR3 1033, HDD 120Gig System/512Gig data, Tuners 2 X Hauppauge HVR-3000, 1 X HVR-2200, Video Palit GT 220, Sound Realtek 886A HD (onboard), Optical LiteOn DH-401S Blue-ray using TotalMedia Theatre Power Corsair VX Series, 450W ATX PSU OS Windows 7 x64

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