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Hardware platform overview mt-daapd

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  • #2152

    mas
    Participant

    As I recently found a new option for a nice hardware platform, which I have been looking into, so I would like to give a short overview over the currently recommendable hardware platforms for running mt-daapd. There isnt much comprehensive on the forum yet about this so I thought I make a start.
    Feel free to expand it and give comments.



    In general mt-daapd can be run on most unix or x86 based hardware, provided one finds a way to compile software for it. There are binaries for most unixes and also for x86, so one will in some cases get around compiling it onself, but obviously the platform must offer a way to compile for it as someone has to do it at least once. Also the hardware must allow for new software to be installed or it must be hackable.
    Here are the options I am so far aware of together with a few pros/cons:

    1) Normal computer: (varying price range > 300 EUR)
    Whether linux or Windows, there are binaries for it and it works. Once the OS is on it it should be pretty straightforward and easy to get mt-daapd running. Any x86 computer that is nowadays available, even a 5 year old one, has more than sufficient power to run even larger collections of music, so thats also good.
    Unfortunately there is a rather big disadvantage also – the computer has to be running or you need to always fire it up before listening to music. That is either very inconvenient or it means burning a lot of energy for nothing, which ends up a very bad deal as your electricity bill goes up quite a bit. Unfortunately normal desktops aint really good at conserving energy. And they also usually arent really very silent.

    Typical energy use: around 60W idle and easily >100W active

    2) The NSLU (ca. 65 EUR):
    This is perhaps the most commonly used platform for running mt-daapd. It is also the cheapest option with currently around 65 EUR hardware (harddrive excluded) and an energy consumption of <10W for the NSLU. There is a huge community for it and thus almost all problems that can turn up are documented and solved. Installation requires a reflash with the hacked unslung formware. For computer inapt people that can be a burden but it is rather fast and easy for people with computer experience. This would be currently the recommended platform if you want to run just mt-daapd with a normal large music collection and nothing else

    Typical energy: around 10W with a 2.5” disk and a bit over 20W with a 3.5” disk.

    3) Synology (200+ EUR better versions):
    Synology offers a range of network storage units that come with a nice range of preinstalled softwares and functions, which is its main advantage. mt-daapd is unfortunately not installed but the units are hacked and there are threads about it also in this forum. Generally you can split it up in the “pre 107+” units, which are not much faster than a NSLU and the 107+ or higher which are faster, but also significantly more expensive (200+ EUR). The older units are well hacked and it should be easy to get mt-daapd on em. For the 107+ units things can be a bit more tricky as the compiler environment for these is rather new yet, but it shoud also be possible.
    Biggest disadvantage is that hardware-wise these units are overpriced nowadays. Compare to 1) and 4) resp. 5).

    Energy: no idea, likely not much higher than a NSLU solution

    4) Buffalo Linkstation Pro 250 GB (thanks pmorris):
    Priced around 150 EUR for the 250 Gb version (thus including HD) it is about the league that 3) offers. Slightly less CPU power same 128MB ram means it shouldnt differ too much, albeit for a much more reasonable pricing.

    “It’s easily hacked. It performs much better than the NSLU2. Consumes about 17w of power (which includes the disk drive) and is available for under US $200 for a 250gb version, but also has 320GB, 500GB, 750GB & 1TB versions. It supports gigabit ethernet and is very stable.”

    Energy: no idea, likely not much over a NSLU

    5) Mini-ITX computers (200+ EUR):
    This is the relatively “new” (well for mt-daapd) platform I recently stumbled over. Mini-ITX is a much smaller motherboard standard than ATX (normal computers) and thus it is often used for thin clients. But it should also give an excellent “fat” mt-daapd server. One should use a board with a passively cooled Via CPU, as those are low in energy consumption. With the right compounds such a computer shouldnt need more energy than a NSLU albeit for a lot more CPU/RAM power. The Mini-ITX standard and computers are around for a while already, but its recently through some price drops that they get interesting. I saw a barebone (thats motherboard, CPU, power and casing ready assembled) for 185 EUR and 1 GB ram is also cheap (20 bucks). So for pretty little money one can built a low-energy system with a lot better performance than a NSLU. This should mainly be intersting for those who want to do more than just run mt-daapd. E.g. for http servers with php/sql and/or video streaming, which the NSLU aint ideal for due to low memory/CPU. I will explore this further.
    Main disadvantage is of course you need to install your own operating system and then mt-daapd. Nowadays installing a good distri isnt a big hassle any more but it costs some time and you should have heard the word “linux” already.
    One can by the way save around 50 EUR by choosing Intels new Essentials platform with a celeron 1.2GHz, as those boards are available from 60 EUR. These are even faster than the Via C7 1GHz, but they burn afaik around 10W more for the motherboard/CPU combo.

    Energy consumption: 22W idle, 26W with HD action and 30W under full use CPU/HD.

    =================

    General hint: USE 2.5” laptop harddrives!
    Until recently 2,5” laptop harddrives were either pricy or too small. Now that is fortunately changing. I saw a 250GB laptop harddrive for 84 EUR and that is certainly not the end of the development, so I would strongly recommend using 2.5” laptop harddrives for any 24/7 running system. These harddrives are using a lot less energy (a few Watts only, typical 2-6W) and are also less noisy. As an additional plus they are built to do a lot of spin-down/up cycles without defect. Note that most 3.5” desktop HDs have a problem there. If you have em spin down a lot you may experience an early failure as they are not built for this (typical MTBF spindowns 600k for 2.5” vs 40-60k for 3.5”). So using the energy saving options on a 3.5” HD is not without risks while it would be much needed there…

    #15955

    stretch
    Participant

    Infrant (Netgear) ReadyNAS 1100/NV+/Duo: Price varies depending upon version + number & size of hard drives.
    NV+ with 2x500GB or 4x250GB drives is US$1100 (~750 Euro) direct from Netgear. Prices increase from there. Can’t find pricing on the Duo yet.

    Version 4 firmware has Firefly svn-1676 with memory leak fixes from svn-1696 preinstalled.
    Some functionality has been removed (e.g. it will only transcode FLAC).

    Infrant have released an *SSH access to root* add-on, *APT* add-on, cross compiler tools, etc so that others can develop software to run on the NAS. No hacking required to gain access.

    CPU is a custom RISC based chip, RAM is upgradable from the standard 256MB to 1GB (SODIMM form factor), Drives are configured as a Raid array, extra drives can be added at a later date without having to recreate the raid volume (x-raid only)

    Only hassle is the price πŸ™

    #15956

    Anonymous

    Nice work documenting hardware platforms.

    I’d like to add the Buffalo Linkstation Pro. It’s easily hacked. It performs much better than the NSLU2. Consumes about 17w of power (which includes the disk drive) and is available for under US $200 for a 250gb version, but also has 320GB, 500GB, 750GB & 1TB versions. It supports gigabit ethernet and is very stable.

    #15957

    mas
    Participant

    You got a point pmorris, the Linkstation pro is also a nice option powered between 2) and 3)

    Features: “400MHz Marvel Orion Media Vault processor Ò€’ 128MB SDRAM Ò€’ 250GB SATA hard disk”

    means the CPU is about 1.5-2x the speed of the NSLU and most importantly its ram is x4 which should make it really significantly faster already.

    At a price of 150 EUR including the harddrive it also fits pricewise between 2) and 3).

    How easy is it to get unslung or similar on it?

    #15958

    Anonymous

    How easy is it to get unslung or similar on it?

    I think it’s one of the best values for Firefly in price/performance. I also like that it’s very quiet, provides good environment monitoring all in a small form factor device. It’s also very simple to hack and gain root access. The wiki has a easy to follow article on how to do it here.

    #15959

    mas
    Participant

    Any idea of the energy consumption of a Buffalo with a 2.5” and with a 3.5” disk, idle/active?

    Considering energy costs ranging 15-25 ct/kWh thats something to also consider.

    Example calculation:
    A device using 20W constantly throughout 1 year will consume 175 kWh total electricity. Thats 35 EUR/year assuming 20 ct/kWh.

    A very low energy device using only 10W would cost you only 18 EUR and a PC with 60W almost 100 bucks.

    Not to speak of CO2 balance and other problems with energy consumption.

    #15960

    Anonymous

    Also the Freecom FSG-3… if we can ever get it stable.

    But might just give up with this completely and leave the uNSLUng NSLU2 Slug to serve my music…. tiny, sips power, fanless (and thus silent)… a pity, had other plans for that box!

    #15961

    Anonymous

    I am pretty happy running svn1696 on a WD MyBook World Edition.
    The drive is pretty silent and spins automatically down if not used (saving some energy consumption). At idle times it should consume about ~10 watts.

    I have no idea if the processor can be compared to NSLUG standards but the WD is using an OMAP850 – 200 MHz ARM926EJ-S (also found in some phones if I am correct here πŸ™„ ).

    The WD MyBook World Edition comes in 500Gb, 750Gb, 1TB
    The WD World Edition II comes in 1Tb, 1.5Tb, 2Tb and supports RAID0 and 1.
    Both drives comes with a Gigabit. Eth, so streaming HD movies and should be noproblems.

    Hacking the drive is very simple (installing a hacked firmware wil enable SSH), and takes about 2 minutes (incl. 1 minute to read the instructions πŸ˜€ ).

    Cheers,
    Tony

    #15962

    kellyharding
    Participant

    Geez I dread to think what my mt-daapd server draws πŸ˜‰

    It is a HP/Compaq Proliant ML370G2 server…

    Admittedly it is also a file/web/print/X11/backup (tape/network) server.

    But it was free.

    Obviously mt-daapd runs perfectly on it, but I suspect the power draw is fairly high, but it does the job of what 5 different computers did previously, so it isn’t too bad, plus it has two software raid5 arrays set up, and 50Gb tape backups/network backup.

    I connect to mt-daapd on several boxes, ranging from a XP pc, a PPC G4 Mac (iBook G4/Quicsilver) and an xbox with XBMC.

    Kelly

    #15963

    Anonymous

    @mas wrote:

    Any idea of the energy consumption of a Buffalo with a 2.5” and with a 3.5” disk, idle/active?

    Considering energy costs ranging 15-25 ct/kWh thats something to also consider.

    Example calculation:
    A device using 20W constantly throughout 1 year will consume 175 kWh total electricity. Thats 35 EUR/year assuming 20 ct/kWh.

    A very low energy device using only 10W would cost you only 18 EUR and a PC with 60W almost 100 bucks.

    Not to speak of CO2 balance and other problems with energy consumption.

    Since the hard drive within the Linkstation is not directly accessible (or it least wasn’t intended to be), I’ve not found any information on power consumption of a Linkstation with alternative drive configurations. However, I did learn that the Linkstation does not support drive spin down, so within that 17w of power consumption is an opportunity for savings. I’m surprised that Buffalo hasn’t baked that in. Perhaps with a new version of the firmware it will be made available.

    #15964

    mas
    Participant

    Since the hard drive within the Linkstation is not directly accessible (or it least wasn’t intended to be), I’ve not found any information on power consumption of a Linkstation with alternative drive configurations. However, I did learn that the Linkstation does not support drive spin down, so within that 17w of power consumption is an opportunity for savings. I’m surprised that Buffalo hasn’t baked that in. Perhaps with a new version of the firmware it will be made available.

    I doubt they will ever bake that in. If they use a 3.5” harddrive (as they must given the capacities they showcase) then setting it to spin-down often is unfortunately a big trade-off with lifetime. You can ruin a 3.5” HD with spindowns in about a year unless its very carefully setup, which is hard. And as this would be within a 2 years warranty time that many manufacturers state, I doubt they implement that risk.

    By the way, did you measure the 17W or is that an advertisement figure? I found precise energy consumption values to be really hard to find and sometimes overoptimistic. Unfortunately not many people look at this, so its often not advertised and if it is it may not always be true, because not many people check that.

    That 22-30W I stated for my MiniITX I measured with a consumer-grade electronic watt meter as no values are stated by the manufacturer. Not accurate to the % margin likely but also not systematic “tuned” to look nice. I would bet if the manufacturers did give values then they would use “hand-picked” setups with stripped down options to give an especially appealing value.

    Nevertheless, the 17W are quite good if they are right. Even if its in reality a bit over 20W its still good and perfectly in line with what the NSLU uses wuth such a HD.

    A shame one cant easily replace the harddrive of a Buffaloo. It would be tempting to place 2.5” drive in with an adapter and then have a 10W unit.

    #15965

    mas
    Participant

    @kellyharding:

    If that is truly a SERVER case that this thing uses, then the energy consumption could indeed be frightening. Those are made to support HD arrays. Good quality but not nice for your wallet in terms of energy. Maybe you should check it once. A consumer grade watt meter is available at many electronic shops or “self-made home improvement” stores for house owners rather cheaply around 15-20 bucks.

    Oh and you may have gotten it for free, but running it isnt free. It could easly burn 50 EUR/yr extra. With that a smaller unit would pay itself off within very few years. And while I can tell you a NSLU would liklely not be sufficient for your needs, some other solutions will also need only 1 computer and not 5 and be sufficient. Almost noone needs a “true server” for home usage any more. Memory and CPU power is abundant for server applications nowadays.

    @edgecrush3r:
    32MB and that processor looks like roughtly comparable to a NSLU. That is to say good for a mt-daapd-NAS but a bit slow for most other stuff.
    Pricing similar to a NSLU. Software delivered with it I read not much good over, so likely very comparable to a NSLU. I would prefer a NSLU for the broader user community likely, but looks all rather similar otherwise. Just the HD is built in instead USB click on.

    #15966

    Anonymous

    By the way, did you measure the 17W or is that an advertisement figure? I found precise energy consumption values to be really hard to find and sometimes overoptimistic. Unfortunately not many people look at this, so its often not advertised and if it is it may not always be true, because not many people check that.

    A shame one cant easily replace the harddrive of a Buffaloo. It would be tempting to place 2.5” drive in with an adapter and then have a 10W unit.

    I didn’t measure the energy consumption; I got the specification from the Buffalo website.

    #15967

    Anonymous

    Just an idea regarding power consumption …

    Is it perhaps possible to run firefly on a pocket pc?

    greetings
    ed.de

    #15968

    Anonymous

    There is a Firefly buily for the iPhone πŸ˜‰
    http://www.tuaw.com/2007/10/31/stream-music-from-your-iphone-to-itunes-with-firefly-media-serve/
    And I can confirm, its working quite nice πŸ˜€

    I dont know if there is a pocketpc port, but it might compile on other Linux based embedded devices (PDA/Phones).

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