10 Jun 2015

Using Pi as an home-based Media Server

This is among a series of articles on my experience with the Pi.

This article is about using a Pi as a primitive low-end File-Server for your home network:

Expectations:

  • Torrent-Server
    • Download Torrents
    • Store on a File-Share
  • Windows Share
    • Serve the File-Share as a Windows Share Drive
    • Allow Read / Write to this Windows Share Drive
  • Use File-Share as Media-Server
    • Using any Smartphone / Laptop
      • Play Movies using VLC
      • View all Photos / Home-Videos


Effectively:
  1. Always on
    1. Always accepting new Torrent requests
    2. Instantly start downloading 
  2. In Real-time
    1. Allow user's to view torrent download status
  3. Use any UPnP Phone App to play Video content over WiFi on a SmartPhone
  4. Use VLC (Network Streaming) to play any Video over WiFi on Laptop / Desktop
  5. Use Windows Share Drive and view all Photos / Home-Videos as needed

How-To:
  • On Server
    • Install Torrent-Daemon
    • Configure Torrent-Daemon to listen on RPC requests
      • Here's the howto for that
    • Configure Samba
      • Set the Download folder to be shared
  • On Windows
    • Install Transmission-GUI-Remote
    • Configure GUI to use the RPC based Torrent-Daemon server
    • Make this application the default for .torrent & magnet files
  • On Linux
    • Install Transmission-Remote
      • sudo apt-get install transmission-remote
    • Configure that to use Daemon (instead of downloading directly with transmission-cli)

Pros/Cons:
  • Pros
    • Once torrent download has begun, client can disconnect / shutdown client computer
    • Server continues to get torrents, after a restart
    • miniDLNA serving speed pretty decent
      • Watching a movie (over WiFi) on VLC
        • CPU ratio barely 0.01 which is pretty decent
          • Should be able to easily serve a small army :)
            • If no other IO is happening
            • If WiFi isn't the bottleneck 
  • Cons
    • Storage on Pi needs to be managed from time-to-time
      • Currently is highly adhoc based
        • Truly taking RAID concept to heart!!
          • Have 6 Pen Drives (ranging from 4GB to 16GB)
            • 8GBs are INR ~170 ( $3 )
            • All connected via 3 USB Hubs (both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0)
              • One Powered, two non-powered hubs
            • Most on Btrfs
              • Pretty stable, surprising that still get 1+ MBps with Pi's CPU
            • Some VFAT fs since have need of moving stuff off of Pi to a Windows Laptop
            • All mounted under /disk
              • Very temporary arrangement
                • Ideally am looking for a LVM solution (which allows me to remove / add pen-drives on the fly and thus can be called as one) that actually is suited for this purpose.
            • But miniDLNA picks up Photo / Audio / Video pretty well from all different mounted folders
    • Download speed limitations
      • Internet Speed = 2 MBps
      • Daemon Download speed capping = 1Mbps
        • But PI never reaches it :D !
          • Just imagine the poor configuration
            • Pi + Btrfs + USB 2.0 + 3 USB Chain + Unpowered Hub
              • Still consistent at 450kbps! Impressive!
    • Lack of Transmission-Daemon configuration tool means all configuration has to be done via black-screen configuration files
  • Careful configuration
    • Give all access to 'all' users only if you're sure that all users are going to be careful

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