Sunday, 8 November 2020

STICKY: The Grand Plan

Welcome to Mediaserver8, a place where I document my adventures in home automation and media serving - mostly for my own reference and future sanity!

I'm going to keep this post on top and maintain the overview schematic at Gliffy to offer an introduction to my HA system as it evolves. (Here's a direct link to a scalable version of this diagram).


Read on for a detailed breakdown of this setup...

Saturday, 24 August 2019

UNIFI: The start of something big....

'Dad, the internet's slow!'
'Dad, can you restart the Wifi?'
'Dad, will we ever have WiFi in the kitchen?'

It was getting tiresome. A few years ago, I'd augmented the ISP all-in-one modem/router/WiFi with an Archer wireless router and a couple of Huawei extenders. This was an improvement, but never a satisfactory, long-term solution.

I'd been reading a lot about the Unifi range from Ubiquity and this week bit the bullet and purchased;

The idea was to provide decent wifi throughout the house, with 2x access points connected to the Switch from which they would receive both data and power. As an added bonus, the fully managed switch also supports link aggregation, so I could leverage both ethernet ports on my recently reconstructed MediaServer8.

Despite copious amounts of reading & research, and pre-installing the Unifi Controller Docker on unRaid, setup was not as smooth as it might have been.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Total Harmony

It was getting quite ridiculous. This is the set of remotes I had built up to control my HT. From right to left; Receiver, NowTV box, PVR, FireTV, BluRay, Projector, Squeezebox, DAC.

It's little wonder no-one else in the family used the system!

In the past, I'd used various Logitech Harmony remotes but all had outlived their usefulness and have been retired. A few months ago, I'd picked up a Harmony Companion set on Amazon warehouse for a steal, but hadn't got around to configuring it all until now.

VM Audio Solution

When setting up VM access over ethernet using the AV Access device, I noted that one issue was the failure of my Harman Kardon Soundsticks to work with the system. Plugging them in to the receiver USB port would result in intermittent but regular screen blanking.

A few readers suggested additional power and I purchased a USB power/data cable, but that didn't work.

Next, I tried a cheap and cheerful external USB soundcard. I plugged this into the receiver and attached some powered speakers. This worked, in that my OSX VM recognised the device immediately and could play audio, but it was annoyingly distorted - just enough crackle & pop to distract.

Next, I tried attaching the USB soundcard directly to the (passed through) USB adapter on the unRaid box. I then passed the audio out to the AV Access transmitter audio in and attached the speakers to the receiver audio out.

Hey Presto, perfect audio*. No crackles, pops, noise or distortion. The lesson here is that with this method of video/IO/audio distribution, the soundcard needs to stay upstream. My SoundSticks are now moved to another workstation where they can be attached to that VMs USB adapter directly.

My final working audio chain is;

PCIe USB Adapter -> USB Audio Card -> AV Access TX Audio In -> AV Access RX Audio Out -> Speakers

*When I say 'perfect', I mean adequate for needs in that system sounds and youtube audio plays just fine. I wouldn't be using this set up for anything close to critical listening.

Friday, 9 August 2019

MediaServer 8.2

It’s been over 5 years since I built MediaServer8, an unRaid based system that looks after not only storage duties, but also hosts my main workstation, manages whole-house audio systems, whole house LiveTV and PVR, home automation and a bunch of other stuff through dockers, VMs and plugins.

The AMD FX8320 based system has been rock solid in all of that time. Indeed, the only problem I’ve ever had occurred in the past week when my dual 1TB spinners assigned to a cache pool started showing millions of unrecoverable BTRFS errors. Fortunately, I rescued my appdata and domains folders in time. My docker image was not so lucky :-(

A few months ago, the itch emerged and, try as I might, I found it difficult to resist the urge to scratch. There was nothing wrong with the system per se, but with ‘only’ 8 cores and 32GB RAM, it was a bit restrictive in the number of VMs I could run simultaneously, and no real scope for growth. I had a particular hankering to virtualise the dual boot Hackintosh the family use daily, as well as a few other utility systems. Threadripper was calling. Here’s how I answered....

Friday, 26 July 2019

Routing VMs anywhere

I'll start my saying that these things are freaking amazing!

I've been running a few VMs on my unRaid box for a while now. Specifically my main workstation (Win10 /OSX switchable), as well as some utility boxes.

One of the challenges has been physical location and signal transfer - my unRaid server resides in my attic and any VMs that required an interface (display & USB), would need to be located within the reach of a HDMI run.

This ruled out virtualising some systems, including a Win 10 / OSX dual boot hackintosh that's the main system the family uses. It's miles away from the server with no hope of running cables.

I'd toyed with HDMI over ethernet before, with little success. Recently, however, I came across the Av Access range of products...