Media in the Home – The State of Play, part 2

A month ago, I summarised the state of play concerning the media systems we have in our home. Since then, I’ve made some changes, so I thought I should once again summarise how things look at the moment.

The major change is that I’ve added a second server to the network. This is an Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) box, the NUC6i3SYH.

I did this because I need a server to be running 24/7 to host our Home Automation system (a Domoticz system). Originally, I had Domoticz installed on a low power Raspberry Pi2, but a couple of months back I repurposed the RPi2 to become a Roon Endpoint device for our music system, so the Domoticz system was moved across to the main media server. This meant that the media server had to be running 24/7 for the Home Automation role, and frankly, that was not particularly energy efficient (the server uses about 75 watts). I could have purchased another RPi2 solely for running Domoticz, but it struck me that we want to hear music much more often than sitting down to watch a film, so perhaps the alternative would be to split the roles of the main media server, and move the music server role off to a more energy-efficient server and combine it with the Home Automation role.

So that’s what I’ve done. The Intel NUC now runs 24/7 and hosts Domoticz and Roon. It has a 256 GB SSD for the OS and the Domoticz and Roon databases, while the music library (mainly FLAC files) is held on an internal 1TB 2.5” hard drive. Being an Intel NUC, its power consumption is much lower than the original media server (less than 20 watts as compared to 75 watts).

The original media server now holds our films, home videos, recorded TV and photo media, together with backups of our data from other PCs in the house. Since we don’t need this server running 24/7, I’ve installed the Lights Out software service on it so that it spends most of its time sleeping. Lights Out is set up so that when the HTPC is turned on, to watch a film for example, it will automatically wake up the server. When the HTPC is turned off, the server will go to sleep ten minutes later. If we want to view media from other PCs, laptops or tablets in the house, we can wake up the server remotely before launching a media player. That’s less than ideal, I’d prefer that launching a media player application would wake up the server automatically, but that’s not possible with Lights Out at the moment.

I should perhaps add that I’m still dithering between Plex and Emby for handling visual media. At the moment Emby is back in the lead – Emby Theater is currently much more complete and polished than the Plex Media Player. However, both are still evolving, so for the moment I’m keeping both ecosystems running.

As for music, I’m very happy with Roon, particularly over the wired connections to our Hi-Fi and Home Cinema systems. Its performance over WiFi still needs some further work I think. This may be down to our local setup, so I need to investigate further. In some rooms, I can have multiple laptops all playing different music without issue, whilst in other parts of the house I sometimes get dropouts even with just one music stream active. We do have WiFi repeaters installed here, but Roon seems particularly sensitive to network quality over WiFi.

As a result of the changes in the past month, this is the current network setup:

Network Layout May 2016

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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