Media Centre - Phase 3

In 2020, when Google Music was taken down and replaced by the awful, awful Youtube Music...where a number of features were sudenly locked behind a paywall, I committed to having my own music hosting, rather than rely on a 3rd party.

It went quite well!. Since then it's expanded to other media...movies, audiobooks etc, and in 2022 I added in far more capable video processing and storage. The nVidia Shield is a very capable video processor, but as a server it's a little flaky. In the last year I've had to completely rebuild it twice after it decided to stop providing a reliable connection...I think it's just the case that Android, as an OS, is not built for the long uptimes that Linux is.

So, in preparation for the move up north (which is still going ahead, just not quite to the timescales we had originally hoped), I'm moving my media centre back to a Linux-based platform. Once Video is in the equation, a Pi4b is not going to cut it...which is a shame, as Rasbian as an OS is incredibly well documented...pretty much everything has a simple user guide to help you through. Instead, the new media server is going to be a Beelink i5 mini-PC, installed with Ubuntu, which seems to be the recommended flavour of Linux. It's sitting next to me right now, whirring away.

Ideally I'd have done a fully headless install, however this quickly proved to be an absolute rabbit warren of complexity (and to compare this to Rasbian, the Raspberry Pi Imager offers this functionality with a couple of tickboxes and some values to fill out, like WiFi credentials and default user), so I ended up plugging in an old keyboard and mouse that normally lives with the Wattbike, and jury-rigging a screen with a Capture Card, Fire Tablet opened up with Fire Toolbox and a simple OTG Webcam app. The install went pretty smoothly. I've installed full-fat for now, though my goal is to get comfortable enough that I can do everythig just via Terminal, so ultimately I can reinstall it with the server version, and just run it via SSH and Putty.

The Beelink came with a 500Gb SSD, and I've added another 500Gb 2.5" HDD to it (salvaged from an old laptop). The plan is for all the media libraries to be connected via USB (the video library is already on an 18Tb WD External HDD, and I have another 500Gb 2.5" HDD (from the same laptop...had some "fun" with that one as nothing would recodnise it...turns out that as it was part of a RAID array it was not correctly formatted...Windows was having none of it, but via Linux I was able to add a partition and format it) which will get a copy of my Music Library.

One benefit of going from ARM/nVidia to an x86 64-bit chipset is that I'll be able to use Sonic Analysis on my music library. This adds in a bunch of AI DJ's that will generate playlists on the fly. I'm also goin to take the opportunity to tidy up the metadata a bit on the music collection...there are some errors that I'e corrected in Plex, but as that keeps it's metadata separate to the media itself, the underlying files are incorrect (file paths are correct, embedded metadata is not. MusicBrainz Picard to the rescue there!

Once this is all done I'll be left with 4 Pi4b's, and an nVidia Shield. The Pi's are easy to re-use...the new house will have security running on the garage (I have a lot of expensive bikes), so 1 or 2 of them will be running Motioneye along with some RTMP-based cameras...very similar ro what they are alrady doing.

I will probably convert one into a NextCloud server, initially with an array of cheap HDD's. I'm still fairly sure at some point all the "free" hosting options will vanish (for example, the photo backup to Google Pictures is now only free as I have a Pixel phone...Google continue to Push their One solution), and if you look at the current squeeze on streaming providers (Netflix being the main example, thoguh other providers are also removing content to reduce the amount of royalties they pay) I can definitely see having a Plan B is good. Long-term, I'll probably go to a proper NAS solution, but Pi's are great for testing the water and reusing cheap hardware.

The 4th Pi will probably become a torrent-box. This is currently done with a laptop, however thats not an ideal always-on solution, and is not that power-efficient. A 64-bit Rasbian Pi running Deluge and ExpressVPN is a far more practical option.

As for the nVidia Shield, it turns any TV into a top-end smart TV, complete with remote etc, so it will probably be installed in either the garage of the new house (where there will be a wall-mounted TV for use with the Wattbike, which will be living out there) or the "Snug", which will also have a TV installed.

In terms of "where does all this go in the new house?", my plan is to have power run out to the garage (as I want to use it as a bike workshop), and I'm hoping to get a network cable run out at the same time. I can then have all the "always on" PC's out there, where fan nose and HDD clicking is no concern. This also doubles-down on the need to be able to maintain them via terminal and SSH rather than directly via keyboard/mouse/screen.


I'm utterly impressed with your set up. Cloud storage for us is just another small sub outgoing that I'm happy to pay. I don't need to manage photos on Kate/Felix phones and all our documents (some are large) are there. Works for us but I totally see where you're coming from.

I like your idea as a garage media center, that's awesome!

brainwipe's picture

I think it's fine while streaming services are still there...however if you look at their financials, most are either non-profit making, or actively making a loss. For example Spotify regularly loses millions each quarter. There is no assurance these companies will continue to exist in the long term...right now it's an arms race for customers, and then if/when the "winners" beat the others into financial submission they'll ramp up costs to recoup the lost revenue over the years of fighting.

For non-media storage, I've currently got about 20Gb stored in "free" cloud options, and another 500Gb on local archive. I've got about 1Tb of local media (mainly raw video footage from various projects) that needs a better home than a large USB drive. Looking at consumer cloud storage, that's about £100-120 a year. add on a couple of media streaming services (currently £10.99 for Spotify, and ~£8-10 for each video service you want (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney, Apple TV, Paramount Plus, Sky, Hulu...etc etc)) a "small fee" each month can quickly become £4-500/year.

If I'd known what I was doing back in 2020 I probably would have gone for a more powerful solution immediately...the Raspberry Pi phase was needed to get a level of confidence in non-Windows OS'es. I must admit I find Raspberry Pi's incredible devices. Just checking now, and the ones I have running the security cameras are reporting an uptime of 123 Days (almost certainly the last time I did an update run) , with 38% average load...and that's passively cooled on a 5v/3A shared power connection. When I think back to poor Boris under a chair at Highmead, I think he did well with an uptime of 23 Days!

babychaos's picture