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View Full Version : Where's the "servers for duffers" wiki to be found?



donmacn
2013-11-22, 04:45
Hi there,
As my signature says, I've been using SB products for quite a while, and love the concept. For me, it's been a pretty stable platform too overall, probably because I don't tinker too much and work on the principle of "if it ain't broke...."

I currently run LMS on a HP PC. Not especially noisy, but not particularly quiet either. My wife has this thing about devices being left on, and pretty much runs a regime of switching the PC off when it's not being used. Of course, to her that means no one sitting in front of the monitor.. I think there's something to do with fire risk in her thinking too. It would certainly be cheaper ($, �) to change her thinking.... but, well...... maybe more expensive in the long-run.

So, to try and get round that one I've started to think about a fanless server of some description - what I think would be described as a NAS set-up. I could explain that this was designed to be 'always on'. To be fair I'd like to think that it would also provide me with a more stable long-term platform to run LMS and the SBs, because PCs die or choke up eventually.

Finally, as the kids get older, I start to be able to play music more again, and had wondered about re-ripping all the CDs as FLAC or some other loss-less format. I did them all as MP3s first time round. I have begun to consider a vortexbox appliance - a bit pricey, but it appears that it would do the ripping, tagging and storage in one package, but thought I'd look around first.

So... as someone who just about gets along with computers when they are working OK, I thought I'd start my research here. I know a lot of folk are using something like this. Rather than jump in with dumb forum questions with no background info, I thought I'd research fanless servers first. A google search threw up this link: "wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Beginners_Guide_To_Servers‎" but it doesn't seem to work. I assume that's to do with the Logitech/Slimdevices take over etc etc, but I thought the wiki might still be alive somewhere? I thought I'd seen a post to that effect somewhere on here, and tried searching the forums first before posting, but couldn't find it again.

Thanks for any pointers to the wiki, or other good (basic!) sources of info. I may come back with other questions about specific hardware, compatibility, ease of use etc later on, but at this stage I'm just starting out.

Ta

Donald

aubuti
2013-11-22, 08:59
The wiki site (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/) has been working until recently. I suspect the current outage is temporary, but I guess it's always possible they've pulled the plug. Keep checking and it will probably come back up.

As for inexpensive solutions, what about using your PC's existing power management software, combined with the excellent Server Power Control (SPC) plugin? A typical application of SPC is to have it detect when your SBs have been inactive for a certain period of time, and then put the server into a low-power mode. It could be suspend (sleep), hibernate, or complete shutdown. Then when you to listen again, SB's wake-on-LAN feature will automatically wake-up the server. In my experience, if the server is a suspend (sleep) state, it will be back up and running within 2-3 seconds of receiving the WOL command. Waking up from hibernation or complete shutdown takes longer. When my pc is in suspend (sleep) mode it draw about 3 watts -- that's more than zero, but a lot less than most people waste by forgetting to turn off lights (or even using incandescent lights at all) or neglecting to clean the dust bunnies from behind the fridge.

Note that for all but a few very special cases, WOL only works if the server has a wired connection to the router. The SBs can send the WOL packets via wireless, but most computers power down their wifi receivers when in sleep/hibernate/shutdown.

Also note that NASs are not necessarily more energy efficient than a PC. Some are and some aren't, and most are not fanless. If you want to get new hardware, consider a small pc based on an Intel Atom CPU.

donmacn
2013-11-22, 09:55
Hi Aubuti,

I don't dare look behind the fridge!

I don't think it's really energy efficiency that's behind the 'switch off' thing, probably we just both belong to a generation where electrical and electronic devices weren't as as advanced or even safe as they are now, and it bothers my wife more than it bothers me. But, as the PC is wired to the router, then installing the plug in would probably be easy enough, and does make sense. It would be a focus for a discussion about leaving the PC switched on, and would save me the walk through the house to the study to nudge the mouse when I want the system to start-up so that I could play music!

I'm still attracted to the vortexbox because it seems to me like a pretty good solution to the overall longevity/sustainability/FLAC ripping and tagging process. I've a bit of money and time invested in the whole SB thing now, and want to be able to nurse it along for as long as I can. From the outside, and just reading their literature the vortexbox seems like a solid package that would help with that, with external (to the PC) mirrored storage etc. I don't doubt that I could knit together an alternative hardware setup of external drives, using the vortexbox software, dbpoweramp, tagging programmes etc, but computers are a little bit beyond my comfort zone really.

But.... using the plug in for now would certainly allow me to make that a medium to longer-term consideration, and allow me to put the cash to one side gradually - for whatever solution I eventually opted for.

Thanks very much for the pointer.

Cheers

D

aubuti
2013-11-22, 10:45
Glad the pointer was helpful. I think a lot of the cost of the Vortexbox Appliance (VBA) is associated with it being a works-out-of-the-box solution, and from your self-described discomfort (or, shall we say, lack of complete comfort) with computers that may be worth the extra money. I actually enjoy tinkering with computers, and was able to buy the same hardware as the VBA for only a little more than half the cost of a VBA.

A happy compromise for you could be to install the Vortexbox software (which is free) on a PC. It replaces the PC's operating system, and is easily managed from another computer or device. The ripping and tagging tools are an integral part of the Vortexbox software, so you wouldn't need to deal with separate dbpoweramp, tagging programmes, etc.

JohnSwenson
2013-11-22, 12:25
For my main server I'm running vortexbox on a fitpc2, which is a very tiny, fanless atom based computer about the size of your hand, they use a whopping 5 watts, this just stays on all the time. You can put a standard 2.5" laptop drive inside, if you can fit your library on one 2.5" drive you don't need an external drive.

The one problem is that it does not have an optical drive (it's smaller than a CD!), I have to use an external USB optical drive to load the software and do ripps. I just plug that in when I need it.

If you have terabytes of songs the official vortexbox appliance is probably a better solution.

The fitpc2 is completely silent and really tiny, it is also very rugged, it is designed as an industrial computer, so should last a long time.

John S.

reinholdk
2013-11-22, 13:28
Regarding the 'switch off' thing, I'm running LMS on a Windows PC without the Server Power Control plugin (but I have no doubt that it's great plugin). The PC fells into a big sleep if no SB device is playing for a while (monitored by the 'Windows: Prevent System Standby' plugin) and wakes up on WOL packets sent when the SB devices are turned back on.

Regarding the ripping and tagging process, I'm running the Vortexbox software in a virtual machine on my PC. Ripping and converting to flac & mp3 is a no-brainer, but tagging usually needs some additional manual work. Don't expect that tags will be perfect after the VB is finished with it!

So I use Album Art Downloader if VB didn't find cover arts to my liking and, of course, mp3tag to polish the tags.

Regarding the hardware, there's nothing wrong with using either a VB appliance, a small PC like John is using or a standard PC. For NASes, you have to be careful that it has enough cpu power, though.

Mnyb
2013-11-22, 14:03
but tagging usually needs some additional manual work. Don't expect that tags will be perfect after the VB is finished with it!

So I use Album Art Downloader if VB didn't find cover arts to my liking and, of course, mp3tag to polish the tags.

Regarding the hardware, there's nothing wrong with using either a VB appliance, a small PC like John is using or a standard PC. For NASes, you have to be careful that it has enough cpu power, though.

Yes thats the clincher , ime there is no just works automatic solution for maintaining good tags in a music collection .
You cant rip files or buy files or steal files without needing to fiddle a bit with them before putting them in the music library , regardles of player or system .

CD rips or quite good comercial downloads or pirated stuff is a mess .

( I suppose iTunes music store is ok with metadata but they only sell lossy so they are pre broken, not for me )

w3wilkes
2013-11-22, 19:11
When you talk of re-ripping all your discs I would ask how they were originally ripped? Was it high bitrate mp3 or was it low bit rate? The reason I ask is I had also ripped my CD collection to mp3 (about 1,000 albums) using VBR highest bitrate / highest quality (LAME -v0 -q2). I started talking to my son a few years back (who's a party kind of DJ) and told him I was thinking of re-ripping all my CD's to FLAC. His only comment was "are you crazy?" "do you really think you'll be able to tell any difference?". He said he uses high bitrate VBR MP3 exclusively for his business. He challenged me to rip one of my favorite CD's to FLAC and see if I could tell the difference between the FLAC and the MP3. I really wanted to hear a difference, but honestly couldn't. Then along comes Archimago in these forums and he puts up a challenge to the group. You might find the thread interesting.
http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?98010-RESULTS-Blind-Test-MP3-vs-Lossless-out-now
After listening to my son, doing my own little test (not double blind, but I think I was pretty objective) and then reading through that thread over in the audiophile section I've come to the conclusion that I'd save myself a couple of months worth of work by just sticking with high quality MP3's. Funny, I've not had a single comment from anybody I know about the quality of my recordings. I have had a couple of friends ask about how I did all my music and then play it on the stereo though. 2 have since invested in SB and couldn't be happier!

Mnyb
2013-11-22, 20:08
There are more to it than soundquality , but I agree it's a lot of time I've done it with my first 1000 CD's :) ouch.

Archival and transcoding its more future proof as lossles I only have physical CD's of 1/3 of my collection.
When times moves forward and current lossles formats gets obsolete I can just transcode without any soundquality issue .
You can never transcode one lossy format to another lossy format ( or the same lossy format ) without introducing artefacts .
And I hope you are aware of that lossy sound compression do discard data forever its not like a zip file ,decoding you mp3 back to flac or WAV would not restore the data it's gone forever ! ( you get a working flac or WAV but that's the mp3 decoders best guess you have )

If you do mp3 do it at 320kbps with the lame encoder then you get the best possible mp3 , many older encoders are not that good :/ If the file where on lower rate and I had the cd I would rerip ASAP to flac . A 128kbps mp3 is not at all transparent on my system

I would also decode mp3 on the server ,you can dig out some old treads about the mp3 decoder in the players , you can have audible artefacts in SB3 or Touchs built in mp3 decoder with some music ( this one is real not the audiophile fantasies about flac vs WAV ) . So it would be more server load .

A server decoded 320kbps lame encoded mp3 is in most cases transpararent on my system too and actually any system or listener with some rare exceptions. You can always find some recordings that not do well in a lossy decoder , but they are rare ,but in a big enough collection you are bound to have some of them ( but you won't always know which one ).

That mp3 is probably ok is not good enough for me . I would be much happier knowing that I archived and backed up my music in the best possible way .

So I stick to rip my records to thier original spec CD's or DVDA if you not yet ripped your CD's there is no argument for ripping to something else but lossles . You can always batch transcode to mp3's or AAC from the lossles originals for your portable players .

donmacn
2013-11-23, 10:59
A lot of interesting points in these replies..

i hadn't seen the FitPc until it was mentioned above. At the moment, it looks like I've got about 120Gb of MP3 files, so it would fit on a standard hard-drive. But at 220 + the cost of a drive, and the various bits of software, it doesn't seem like much of a difference with the 479 version of the vortexbox i was looking at - especially with the 'one box does it all' functionality.

i do accept that tagging needs more care. I had been using 'freedb' from my version of EAC, and sometimes while it looks OK, there are variations. I do have MP3tag and use that to try and tidy stuff up. In this context I liked the look of the 'bliss' link that comes with the VB - but I have no experience of it, and perhaps it has its own shortcomings.

Most interesting has been the question of FLAC vs MP3 and the testing done by archimago. My CDs - roughly 800-900 - were all ripped via EAC and LAME. I think I selected the option for the highest bitrate, so assuming that's worked, then they should be reasonably OK. The best kit they get played on is via the Touch to a 1984 'Creek 4040' and a similar-vintage set of Celestion Ditton 130s, but this certainly isn't especially 'high end'. I guess I'd thought that going to FLAC on a separate box would be a more future-proof solution for me and my SB kit. I don't know that hearing the difference has been part of the equation, but the comparison test was certainly interesting. I also assume that ripping via a 'one box' vortexbox would be a bit easier than done through the PC?

ref the SvrPowerControl - I've installed it, but it doesn't seem to do what I expected to - but i think that's maybe a topic for another thread, and I'll try and search through for answers on that.

w3wilkes
2013-11-23, 13:08
The only other thing to consider on the switch to FLAC from MP3 is the additional disk space requirements (granted disk is cheap nowadays). As a comparison the highest VBR quality/bitrate MP3 of the "Taylor Swift - Red" album is 120MB MP3 and if you go with the highest FLAC compression (least amount of space) it is 430MB. I'd say you should multiply your space requirements by at least 3x.

One thing I'm curious about when talking about FLAC being the future proof format as opposed to MP3. I have yet to find a digital music playing platform that doesn't support MP3, however I find many platforms that do not support FLAC. Is there a shift occurring to move to FLAC on all platforms?

And on copying MP3 and its loss in fidelity. Once I've ripped my original CD to VBR highest quality/bitrate MP3 my copying would be strictly a file copy. I should be able to copy A to B, B to C, C to D and so on until I got to Y to Z. Even with Z being 26 generations away from A the sound quality of Z will be identical to A since the file itself is identical to A. I would not create copies transcoding, they would simply be file copies.

The only time I would ever see a need to transcode would be if I needed to create a audio CD to play in some ancient CD player that didn't support MP3. Since I keep my original CD's I think I'd just copy that instead. Even if I did create a audio CD from MP3's I'd guess that the sound quality would still be exponentially better than in the days when I used the first play of a purchased piece of vinyl (or even CD) to create a audio cassette using a Nakamichi Dragon.

aubuti
2013-11-23, 13:18
One thing I'm curious about when talking about FLAC being the future proof format as opposed to MP3. I have yet to find a digital music playing platform that doesn't support MP3, however I find many platforms that do not support FLAC. Is there a shift occurring to move to FLAC on all platforms?
In my opinion it is not ripping to FLAC per se that is "futureproofing", but rather ripping to _any_ lossless format. That way you have preserved the full fidelity of the original file/disc, and if your favorite codec (FLAC, MP3, whatever) becomes obsolete, you can always transcode to a new codec. You're right that there is no loss in fidelity when making copies of MP3, but if MP3 ever goes bye-bye (as one day it must, though not necessarily in our lifetimes), then you have to live with either further degradation in sound quality (which you may or may not notice) by transcoding from MP3 to something else or dragging out the discs again to re-rip (ugh!).

donmacn
2013-11-23, 13:19
I'd agree with the exact copies scenario you've outlined, but I know that ripping the CDs was actually a longer process than I'd credited at the outset.

Doing it once again, into FLAC, would leave me with a more "high res" copy, and that could hopefully be used as a basis for any further transcoding(s) - as mynb suggested - without needing further rounds of copying, and as you say the cost of storage isn't too high these days.

It's not really a 'big deal' for me to be honest, and ultimately i might not go that far. My real aspiration is for a more robust operating platform for LMS and the players, the ability to relatively easily re-rip into FLAC would just be a bonus, and something I think I would do "as and when".

re-reading this before posting had me questioning the use of the word 'robust'. I think I mean that I perceive a vortexbox (or similar) that's a dedicated music/SB streamer, to be a better solution than working with my 'jack of all trades' PC.

Mnyb
2013-11-23, 13:34
Any lossles format really rip once and be done , flac has good tag support and is working really well with squeezeboxes .
On some other platform it migth be something else .

reinholdk
2013-11-23, 13:47
Looks like you're ready to spent the money for a vortexbox appliance, so just do it - I'm pretty sure it will provide a lot of value.

After all, it's only money - as I've been told here in the forum when I was in doubt to buy a Touch as a spare. And I'm still appreciating this advice I've got. :)

The re-ripping process of your CDs to flac is probably not that hard, if the tags of your mp3 files are as you like: I guess you can copy the tags from the mp3 files to the flac files with mp3tag in an automated way.

TimT
2013-11-23, 14:03
You might look at a Western Digital My Book Live (MBL). I have two 1tb units, each picked up on eBay for about $100 ... 500 physical CDs ripped to FLAC and at least 250 MP3 downloads fit comfortably in about 300gb of space. You will have to install LMS on the MBL yourself, but fortunately it is doable at home as long you can follow instructions (here: http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=84735).

Good luck and let us all know what you decide to do!

donmacn
2013-11-23, 14:27
Looks like you're ready to spent the money for a vortexbox appliance, so just do it - I'm pretty sure it will provide a lot of value.

After all, it's only money.

Yeah, I think I'm getting there! But it's going to have to wait till after Xmas at least. Too many others things to spend the money on before then.

As to automating tags, or doing any tricky software installs, it's just that I'm not comfortable enough with computers to be confident. I know I "could", but I also know it would be hard to find the time to learn the right skills.

In the meantime i'm just enjoying listening to the music - radio paradise is suiting me pretty well this evening!

JJZolx
2013-11-23, 16:40
IMO Vortexbox ripping isn't of much value. You can continue to rip your CDs on your desktop PC, then transfer the finished, tagged files to the server. Whatever ripping software you choose (which on Windows should be either EAC or dbpoweramp) will automate the downloading of metadata, allowing easy tagging of the tracks. You'll then probably want to use a good tagging program such as Mp3tag to clean up or add additional tags, as you find necessary. I would never trust a completely automated ripping process, as it's bound to pull down typos and incorrect or inconsistent data from whatever database it uses.

Sounds like your key decision will be which software environment you can deal with and how much work you're willing to put into learning something that may be new. If the answer to the latter is "very little" then there really aren't many choices. I would say it would have to either be a system with LMS already on it, such as the Vortexbox, or a system running (or capable of running) Windows, with which you're already familiar and where the installation of LMS is very easy.

Another possibility might be a Mac Mini, which (I believe) can be run headless, where LMS is easily installed, and which probably wouldn't require much of a learning curve. Small, quiet, very good looking, powerful, but pricey.

reinholdk
2013-11-23, 16:54
If you don't feel comfortable enough solving some issues around your SBs, just ask here. There are always some helpful people around, as I've experienced myself already.

erland
2013-11-23, 17:46
IMO Vortexbox ripping isn't of much value. You can continue to rip your CDs on your desktop PC, then transfer the finished, tagged files to the server.

You might be correct assuming you are using Windows, but for Linux and OSX users Vortexbox is great because they don't have the same user friendly ripping/tagging solutions as available on Windows.

To me, the value of Vortexbox is that when I get a new CD I just insert it in the CDROM drive and wait a bit and after that it's available in my library. I always go through the tags afterwards and adjust stuff, but Vortexbox does make the whole ripping process a lot easier for me because it's really simple to rip a CD with it. It's also important to notice that you won't need a Vortexbox Appliance for this to work, you can also just install Vortexbox on an old computer and get similar functionality.



Another possibility might be a Mac Mini, which (I believe) can be run headless

I'm running a Mac Mini headless and it works great since I have other Mac computers which I can use to connect to it using remote screen sharing.

Without other Mac computers which I could easily use for remote screen sharing I would not recommend a Mac Mini for this purpose. Theoretically, you can run VNC towards the Mac Mini from a Windows/Linux computer, but my experience is that it's a headache because Mac's have a specific keyboard layout with some special keys, so using a Windows or Linux keyboard will produce some extra struggle. You don't want to connect to a headless Mac Mini just using ssh or some other text based terminal, while it works for some operations it makes it way too complex for other stuff.

donmacn
2013-11-24, 03:23
I'd multi-quote if i knew how...

Jjzolx - it's not so much learning new software. Quite happy to do that. I learnt how to use Clean to digitise my vinyl; then had to switch to audacity for a few cassettes; most recently getting to grips with something for tinkering with bagpipe music settings! If it's a programme, and the options are limited to what you see via the GUI, then I'm happy enough, it's when I need to deal with anything more fundamental such as entering BIOS or system registry stuff, or building or integrating things, that's when I get beyond my comfort level. It seems there's a lot of assumed knowledge and i guess I don't have some of that, and the answers, if they're available can be hard to find on the web, not least because you need to be confident that what you're reading comes from someone who knows what they're talking about so you have to check out a dozen other replies just to be sure.

Reinhold - thanks for the reminder of the support available. I'm certainly appreciating it again. I did also back in the early days getting my first SBs set up. Stuff to do with ports, firewalls and pings, and I valued the advice I got then.

When I first started ripping stuff into MP3 I suppose I didn't fully appreciate all the complexities, and the importance of tagging. I certainly relied too much on the auto-tagging because it was really easy, and I just didn't realise the extent of the errors that could creep in. So I think I'm going to have to go through them all again anyway, and it seems to make sense to me to dovetail that with a systematic re-ripping of the audio content onto a (my perception) more robust platform. At which stage, I might as well do it to a 'better' standard, just in case that becomes important at some stage.

comments from a few here, like erland and garym, who are vortexbox appliance users, suggest that they are quite user-friendly devices, but like I said right at the outset, I'm just starting to look at this, and while the vortexbox is the front-runner at this stage I could well go with something else at the end of the day.

Appreciating all the contributions.

garym
2013-11-24, 06:47
I do like my VB appliances.* Easy to use and simply "work" in the background. Mine are on 24/7 and only get rebooted now and again when I'm doing an automatic update. I often go months without a reboot. I agree with some of the comments re ripping. I use dbpoweramp on my windows machine to rip to FLAC. The ripper in the VB doesn't use ACCURATERIP for better matching to insure a secure rip. And the metadata databases in dbpa are a bit better. And even with this, I still find that I need to tinker with the tags just after ripping. But that's easy enough as I can do this while the next CD is ripping (typically using mp3tag for tagging cleanup/edits in my FLAC files).

*my hardware investment in servers and SB players is so much less than my spending on 1000s of CDs that I don't get overly involved in trying to save money on the hardware. I'm sure I could build my own servers running VB software but the few hundred dollars this would save are not worth the tradeoff in my time investment. I'm sure for others the equation could be quite different. In a decade when I may be retired, I'll have the time to tinker with servers and be more concerned about saving a few bucks.

EDIT: And it is important to consider whether your server is in a location where you can hear it (near listening area) or is stuck in a back closet or in the basement. In one location, the server is near where I listen. So I went with a fanless unit for my VB server. In the other location it doesn't matter.

erland
2013-11-24, 22:35
comments from a few here, like erland and garym, who are vortexbox appliance users

Just to be correct, I use VortexBox software on a laptop, I don't have the real Vortexbox Appliance hardware.
The reason for this is simply that I already had an unused laptop and I was mainly looking for a solution that made the ripping process as simple and automatic as possible.

garym
2013-11-25, 06:32
Just to be correct, I use VortexBox software on a laptop, I don't have the real Vortexbox Appliance hardware.
The reason for this is simply that I already had an unused laptop and I was mainly looking for a solution that made the ripping process as simple and automatic as possible.

And "real" Vortexbox Appliance hardware is just a generic computer box that has been built with appropriate usb ports, etc. There is nothing particularly unique about it other than someone has built a computer with all the correct parts needed, installed the VB software, and tested everything to work properly. As erland points out, one may install the VB software on almost any old computer.