Media Server - Matt Whipple

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Going Inhouse

I've been procrastinating on setting up a media management solution for myself. My original focus had been on photos and short home videos and had planned to build a basic cloud based solution, but several years ago I started to use Google Play Music for my online music library and the recent EOL announcement of that service leaves me also seeking a new home for those files. This expands the scope of what I need in terms of not only file types and the means to access them, but also whether the media involved can/should be available for public access.

This also raises some concerns around any reliance on cloud provided services. While this is unlikely to be something that is an issue with any type of frequency or urgency (especially depending on the services used), this particular problem is one that I'd prefer to minimize attention to for the foreseeable future on the scale of my adult life (rather than in terms of business time where plans on an overly long term (such as ten years) are likely to be naive).

All of these factors lead me to pursue a solution which I can run myself on my local network, which can then be supplemented by cloud services to support functions such as publishing and backing up. The hope is that by using an established solution that can manage much of that additional functionality itself a wider range of immediate needs can be addressed more quickly and the risk of needing to make any longer term pivots can be avoided; any self-run (FOSS) service has a similarly self-dictated EOL and the integrations which are defined primarily in terms of that managed service introduce far less dependency on any external service than those which are primarily based around that service.

Appliance or Computer

The recognition of an expanded need coincided with my decision to introduce OpenWRT to my home network, so one of my first thoughts was to provide media serving by using additional storage attached to an OpenWRT router. After stopping a beat it was recognized that the additional storage precipitates the need for an additional device at which point moving more of the responsibility for media serving to that device feels more natural. Having a storage in the form of a NAS that supports media serving therefore felt like a very attractive option. Briefly browsing for NASes look as though there are many that may be well suited for these needs, but the price ranges vary based on the desired functionality. Unfortunately while just starting down this path my practical needs are incredibly unclear and therefore committing to the limitations of any budget NAS seems risky and spending money on a more powerful option whose power may not be harnessed before it reaches obsolesence seems foolish. I will therefore start with a computer so that I have the option to evolve the implemented solution while the boundaries of my use resolve. A computer (particularly an inexpensive one) is unlikely to be as performant as more directly exposed storage, however it should satisfy my immediate needs, that issue is unlikely to be the first bottleneck, and the price difference due to computers being far more commoditized than the alternatives all lead me to adopt that as a starting point.

System

I ended purchasing a refurbished HP Pro 6000 MTW. My selection criteria was pretty minimal: I wanted a functioning system in a case that would allow me to replace or upgrade parts as needed. I've been toying with building a desktop system for which I could evolve individual components and so this could also scratch that itch. The only clear immediate need was a decent sized hard drive. While that's easily upgradable, it was also the clearest need and therefore the most direct value for any cost. All things considered any decent platter drive seemed sufficient so the only initial focus was on storage space.

Monitor

The purchased system unsurprisingly did not include a monitor so I have to dig one out to get the system configured for remote access (and to have on hand in case it breaks in some way).

I fished out an old Dell E196FPb monitor which has been sitting around. This is likely not a monitor I would want to use for any notable work, but certainly a usable solution for providing occasional visibility into a normally headless system. Searching through a trove of cables that hasn't been touched in about as long as that monitor produced VGA and power cables that should get me into action.

Author: mwhipple

Created: 2020-10-27 Tue 19:36

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