18 December 2007

My media server content update

My Half-Terabyte media servers is starting to look old. It's Intel P4 CPU based computer, using 4x160GB RAID5 storage for digital media. Still I have plenty of room there, only 171 Gigabytes is used out of 450 GB:

Server type:
TwonkyMedia 4.4
Used memory: 6868 KB

Last database update: 20:41:15

Music tracks: 6695 (42 GB, 799 albums)
Pictures: 22971 (32 GB)
Videos: 307 (77 GB)
Radio stations: 150

License information: The Server is registered.

Resolution mess

Today everybody have HD-ready plasmas or lcd-s at home Either 1080 or 768 horisontal lines resolution. There are only few devices what provide HD resolution, but lets refresh our memory in the resolution mess!

480 lines NTSC DVD, format mostly used in US 720 x 480
576 lines PAL TV and DVD, format used in Europe 720 x 576
720 lines HD format
1080 lines HD format

  • SCART is capable of carrying up to 576i lines (technically 625 lines with additional data)
  • Component video is capable of carrying signals such as 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p
  • HDMI cable is capable handling signals up to 1080p

Hope, it helped...

D-Link DSM-520 update and more....

Album art is there!

It's has been a while from my last post. Few reasons for that. First, my system is up and running and I use it for everyday home entertainment. Secondly, no major new products have been purchased. Still, tho main improvements in my setup: D-Link supplied remarkable firmware update for DSM-520 media player; secondly I purchased Logitech Harmony programmable remote in order to get disappeared remote mess on my coffe table.

In this post I'll concentrate on dLink. Almost half year back I replaced old DSM-320 with HD model DSM-520. First I connected it to my 1080i plasma via YUV HD Component cable, then via HDMI and now via PAL Scart. Strange, that I downgraded to 625 lines , but I did it because of convinience. My Hitachi 1080i plasma soesn't allow to adress inputs directly, only cycling via all inputs. Scart allows seamless automatic input selection. Pity, that HD formats (HDMI and Component) doesn't use automatic input sensing. Using HDMI requires selecting correct input each time on my plasma.

So, about one month ago new firmware ver 1.04.05eu became available and I installed to my media player. Main and most visible difference is music track playing screen, whitch is totally re-designed now. It shows album art, which is very nice! You tend to remember albums associating with album art.

From bottom to top: D-Link DSM-520, Onkyo DV-L55 DVD player, Onkyo TX-L55 d-class receiver

Also, it supports now 1080 resolution via HDMI now. At least few versions back, HD formats where not supported via HDMI as intresting as it was.

31 March 2007

LobsterTunes and HP iPaq rw6815

Few weeks ago mr. Iain Barclay from Electric Pocket contacted me and offered to test their Pocket PC UPnP media player software, called LobsterTunes. At first I tried to install it to my unused Dell Axim Pocket PC, but I forget that it has older OS version than Windows Mobile 5. So, dont bother installing Lobster on old gear, it requires WM5.

Few weeks passed, cause I had to travel and had skiing holiday with my kids. But lately I had enough time to go to local HP and pick up new HP iPaq rw6815 , called "Personal Messenger". Its basically Pocket PC + smartphone. Having 2,7" LCD and relatively speedy 416 MHz Intel PXA CPU.

So, following the "dont kill the (personal) messenger" guidlines, I installed LobsterTunes application. Installation was straight-forward and easy and appplication was usable right away. As proper UPnP client, it found my server and was ready playing music without any additional configuration. One of the UPnP beauties is: no drivers, no configuring. Still, You have to keep in mind, that WiFi keys should be entered.

I ran my personal usability test: from 10 000 tracks on my server, find as quickly as possible Advertising Space, Album Intensiv Care, artist Robby Williams. It took mere 30 seconds to find this track -- good resut! Not much slower than using D-Link DSM 320 with the remote. Lobsters user interface pretty much followed the same logic than any other Media Receiver.

I had lot of small interruptions, some 2-3 per track. At the beginning of each new track I had small 0,5-1 sec interruption on 2.-d second position. Almost always, regardless of signal strength, etc. As this product is yet in beta testing, there is enougt time to sort it our.

Version tested was

Features I really liked are album art and QuickMix.

13 March 2007

From This Moment On in BMW 7-series

Some people like Diana Krall, some don't. I like. Today I got the mood to listen her last CD "From This Moment On". I did it much louder than usually.

I'm the lucky owner of BMW 745, equipped with Lexicon's Logic 7 (7.1 channels) sound system. Lexicon’s LOGIC 7 technology converts standard two-channel music seven-channel surround. The new LOGIC 7 system in the 7 Series BMW consists of 13 speakers, including two low profile subwoofers that are positioned under the seats and coupled to the frame of the car. A set of tweeters is positioned both in the front and the rear of the car with midrange speakers in the front and rear doors. A center channel speaker is located in the middle of the dashboard and surround speakers are located on the rear deck. Also in the system are a six-disc CD changer and a 420 Watt DSP amplifier (main channels 7 x 40 plus 2 x 70 Watts for the subwoofers).

Before this musical experience I was in quite bad mood, because of visiting local tax office. But "after" mood was great. My car was filled by huge concert piano, contrabass sounded better than in live concerts, percussion was sizzlinly live and electric guitar was precise and true. Most of all I was impressed of clarity and natural sound of piano. I even forgot to listen Diana herself because of strong emotion coming from instruments.

Why I'm writing it here, in digital media blog. Cause I bought this album on-line from www.gomusic.ru . I just was very-very satisfied with 256 kbps MP3 sound quality and precision through my in-car 7.1 system.

Didn't sound so good

Dee Dee Bridgewater is my favourite jazz artist. Period. Last Sunday I grought back 2 CD-s (Live at Yoshi's and Live in Montreux) what have been about 2 years at my friends house, still unripped, still missing from my Music Server.

My friend is equipmeent fetish problem. So, we listened my CD-s at his place via Danish Copland valve pre-amp and Copland power amp, attached to DynAudio speakers via very-speecial speaker cables. I sounded so damn good.

Then I went home and ripped righ away these CD-s to my Media Server. I used WMA Variable setting, producing best quality available on my system, Then I listened same tracks from my system. D-link DSM-320; Onkyo d-class amp, Polk Audio speakers. It didnt soud so good at all. Is it due to compression or because of my equipment costs 3 times less than my buddy's? Good question -- no answer.

08 March 2007

Great feedback from my reader

Today I receive such letter:

Hello Jaak,
On my search for a HD mediaplayer I found your Blog. The information really helped me. I wanted to buy the Helios X3000, but as I looked further I found the Ziova ClearStream. The Helios looks better, but the ClearStream has more options. See
With regards, Marcel (from Holland)

I am glad, that my blog has been hepful and that I got valuable feedback.

Lets take a glance, who is the Ziova Corporation and what they have. They have only 2 main products, HD networked media players. HD only! They also have HDMI and Component cables in their product range.

They have 2 media player models, CS510 pure media player, CS505 media player with DVD.

Clearstream CS510 and CD505 highlights (listed only interesting features)
  • HDMI and Component Video HD output
  • Plays MPEG2 and MPEG4 video up to 1080i
  • Plays WMV9 HD video up to 1080i
  • Streams UPnP
  • Streams directly from MS Windows Shares (no authentication)
  • Both wireless and 10/100 ethernet
  • Twonky media server included
  • Dolby Digital analog output included


  • CS505 model had DVD player, but no upscaling
  • 1080p is missing (I personally don't care)
Conclusion: Full-bred High Definition media receiver with good connectivity.

02 March 2007

2 Mo birthday, who are the quests


  • My blog is interesting among americans, europeans and in China
  • Blog popularity is risen to 20-40 visits per day
  • I get feedback from developers and users by e-mail
  • Japan is zero - I believe, because of language difference, despite of many companies in this field
  • Commenting still slow
Next report in 1 month

27 February 2007

More big guns

For some reason I keep stucking to serious media servers recently. This is my latest discovery -- S1 Digital Media Server

Pretty amazing tech specs:
  • 3 terabyte RAID storage
  • Full 1080p Video Output via HDMI, DVI, Component or VGA
  • 7.1 or 5.1 Channel High Definition AudioOutput audio via S/PDIF
  • Dual HDTV and SDTV Tuners (Four TV Tuners!)

Damage about U$ 7500

13 February 2007

Some more serious sh*t

Being extremely proud about my Half Terabyte Media Server, equipped with RAID5, Gigabit ethernet and Twinky software, its hard to write about product, following.

Looking for serious media server. having exess of U$ 10 000. Dont look further, if You are living in the States.

NiveusMedia Denali Edition

With scaling of DVDs up to 1080p resolution, and a 7.1 pro audio solution that boasts a 115db Signal to Noise Ratio, the Denali not only manages your entire home's digital media collection, it does it with the finesse that has made the Denali the industry's reference point in media center excellence.

Some key facts:

  • 1.5 Terabytes of Storage
  • Playback DVDs at high resolution 720p/1080i/1080p
  • four built in television tuners (2x NTSC & 2x ATSC)

12 February 2007

Xbox 360 connected!

Today I connected new Xbox 360 to my Media Server via wireless adapter. I was absolutely positively surprised. Setup was quick and easy. Just enter WAP key, select server connected and bingo! I also tester wired setup, what was even easier. Just plug and play!

I have 42" Hitatchi 1080i HD plasma and my Xbox is connected to that via HD Component cable. It allows to exploit full 1080i capability of my plasma. A tad confusing is digital audio connection. You have to buy separate optical cable and it connect to the Xbox-end of the cable!

Xbox 360 functionality as media player:

- Plays music: Yes, MP3 and WMA

- Shows digital photos: Yes, at 1080i HD resolution!

- Streams video's from UPnP media server (TwonkyMedia): NO (plays only from Xbox Hard Disk)


- Very good graphical interface

- Super visualization during music playback

- Very good quality in photo slideshow, shows also large 10 Mpix JPG photos >3 MB size

- Very quick srolling in the lists (artists, folders, albums, etc..)


- Doesn't stream videos from 3.-rd party media server (TwonkyMedia)

- Doesn't support all sorting/grouping features of TwonkyMedia UPnP server. You have to scroll through all 300 artists + 400 composers, to find one. No useful index feature, TwonkyMedia provides.

- Messes up all artists and compusers. Xbox combines artists with composers, producing 800-artist long list, instead of true 300 artists. Not standard UPnP behaviour

Conclusion: Very powerful and aesthetical graphics and fast CPU raises Xbox to very high level among other media playesr, pitty not streaming videos.

New digital media products from BIG PLAYERS

There are lot of niche players in digital home market. Also few bigger SOHO network company like D-Link and NetGear. Good news is that old slow mainstream hi-fi companies are jumping to bandwagon: Yamaha, Onkyo and Philips. So. You may find now 10/100 LAN connectors among with most usual connectors on the backplane.


Yamaha has good reputation in home cinema systems and receivers. New models RX-V2700 and RX-N600 has media player functionalityes, added to pure good old receiver.

RX-V2700 features

  • 7-channel powerful surround sound: 980W=140W x 7 RMS; 1,295W=185W x 7 Max
  • Digital ToP-ART with superior audio-grade parts and devices used throughout
  • Pure Direct for higher fidelity sound reproduction
  • 3 in/1 out HDMI (Ver 1.2a) for handling digital signals including Super Audio CD
  • Assignable amplifiers for bi-amp connection
  • 1080p compatible HDMI (3 in/1 out)
  • High-definition video up-conversion
  • Up-scaling (480ior 576i to 1080i/720p)
  • De-interlacing (480i/576i to 480p/576p)
  • Wide-range video bandwidth (100MHz -3 dB, 1080p compatible)
  • Network Receiver functions
    (Internet radio, PC music files, USB portable audio players and flash drives)
  • iPod compatibility via optional Yamaha YDS-10
  • Compressed Music Enhancer
  • Improved YPAO sound optimization with 6 system memories
  • GUI on-screen display (6 languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and japanese)
  • Superior zone control with additional zone remote unit and zone multi-language OSD
  • Upgraded CINEMA DSP with 22 DSP programs
  • Dolby Digital EX and DTS 96/24 compatibility
Very interesting feature is MP3 music artifact removing: Compressed Music Enhancer

RX-N600 features

  • 6.1-channel, powerful surround sound: 570W=95W x 6 RMS; 145W/Ch Max (for Europe);
  • 810W=135W x 6 Max
  • Digital ToP-ART and High Current Amplification
  • 192kHz/24-Bit DACs for all channels
  • Playback MP3/WMA/WAV music from a PC
  • USB flash drive/music player compatibility
  • Play Internet radio
  • MusicCAST Client compatibility
  • Compatible with iPod via optional Yamaha YDS-10
  • Compressed Music Enhancer
  • On-screen display
  • 3 HDTV compatible component video inputs
  • Component video up-conversion
  • Digital video processing with TBC (Time Base Corrector)
  • Quad-Field CINEMA DSP and 14 surround programmes
  • Night Listening Enhancer (Cinema/Music) and SILENT CINEMA

Onkyo has also serveral new stream-able receivers. They look lika good old-school AV Receiver, but backplane reveals ethernet connection.

Internet Features:
  • 30 Internet radio random presets
  • Ethernet port (Homenetwork)
  • Net-Tune Protocol Function
  • MP3, WAV, WMA decoding

What exactly is Net-Tune??? Is it UPnP compliant? All what I found from the marketing matherials, that You have to install Net Tune Central server software to Your PC or home media server and starrt listening MP3, WAV and WMA music and Internet radio. Most probably it is just another entry level UPnP server.

10 February 2007

D-Link DSM-520 from eBay

Today I ordered my second media player D-Link DSM-520. It will be my main player, connected to my home cinema and 42" plasma via component HD.

Why I chose DSM-520? The only reason was HD 1080i ability. I have 21 000 hi-resolution digiphotos in my server to share and also I have 1080 HD plasma to show them to my family and guests. Previously I used to show it in PAL, wat is onli 480 lines. So, the resolution improvement will be 2 times horizontally, what is vlearly visible!
It cost me just 205 €, so, quite cheap!

08 February 2007

High-End Audiophile Media Players

There are number of $ 150-250 players out there, available from internet shops and huge electronics superstores.
But there are lurking some serious pieces of art - toys for purists. Some of them are here:

Olive Opus U$ 3 900.00

  • Plays music from UPnP server
  • Plays internet radio
  • No video, no photos
  • Killer fact: internal 750GB drive hold up tp 2100 loseless CD-s.
Helios X5000 U$ 579,00

  • Plays music
  • Plays internet radio
  • Plays 1080p video
  • Shows shared photos
  • Killer fact: High Definition Upscaling up to 1080p (1920x1080) resolution

Slim Devices Transporter U$ 1999.00

  • Plays music from UPnP server
  • Plays internet radio
  • No video, no photos
  • Killer fact: balanced gold-plated XLR outputs

So, audiophiles, the ball is Yours!

07 February 2007

Best players, on the paper

Information about media players is so scattered. You have to work all day long in very specific forums and make elaborate web searches to get some overview about new UPnP media players.
If I had to buy few media players, then here are my choices:

TOP 5 Living-room / home cinema

For use with HD LCD or plasma. They all comply my minimum requirements:

  • High Definition (HD 1080)
  • Play's music, photos and videos
  • Component output for HD
  • HDMI output
  • UPnP compliant
D-link DSM-520 http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=438
Pixel Magic HD MediaBox http://www.pixelmagicsystems.com/products/media_players/hd_mediabox.htm
NeoDigits Helios X5000 or X3000 http://www.neodigits.com/
NetGear EVA8000 http://www.netgear.com/Products/Entertainment/DigitalMediaPlayers.aspx
Kiss DP-600 http://www.kiss-technology.com/?p=600en

Requirements for bedroom are:
  • WiFi built in
  • 1 box design, speakers included
  • Easy, to use
  • Built-in LCD screen
  • UPnP compliant
Philips Streamium WAK3300; WAS7000; WAS700
Pinnacle SoundBridge Radio
Acoustic Energy WiFi Internet Radio

06 February 2007

I found!

Today I found the product I need. http://www.neodigits.com/
Model X3000

  • It streams 1080 HD video from UPnN server
  • It has both component and HDMI ouput
  • It looks business

I will wait and cool down few days before I most probably order it. Only $ 450.-, shipping included.

Who are reading My blog?

My blog has been up and running about 1 month. At very beginning I started measuring traffic with Google Analytics www.googleanalytics.com . It is very illusttrative tool with different charts, based on very little information of my readers.

All together, readers from 15 different countries visited my blog.

Top 5 Countries
#1 USA
#2 UK
#3 Canada
#4 Swizerland
#5 Australia

I wondered about Swizerland!? Who are these watchmakers, reading my media server blog?

Music in the bed

Tried today to use my Dell Axim X3 as media player, to acess my vast collection off media server. Simple Twonky web client, what works fine on PC, doesn't function on my axim.

Then I tried Rudeo Control http://www.rudeo.com/ but it is so limited in trial period, that very hard to say is it good or not. In some extent it works, but then I experianced quite weird behaviour. Can't recommend.
I have to look further...

01 February 2007

New media project

From today I start photographing estonia art. It is big fun to have good art collection in Your media server. Also displaying them on the 40" HD plasma.

My idea is to make hi res photos, no distorsion, perfect white balance and exposure. Aim is to capture life-like images.
Each image will be about 1,5 - 3MBytes on disk, at least 5 Mpix size, JPEG HIGH quality compression.

Ran out trial

Today I ran out of 30-day trial period of TwonkyMedia server license. It's time to make credic card transaction over internet :) There is no other substitute for me to Twonky currently. MS Media Connect 2.0 and 3.0 are free, but doesn't work so well. MS is slow and overloads server CPU with simple tasks, like browsing in the library.

30 January 2007

My 70 Gigabyte Mahler job

Today I completed my Gustav Mahler 11 Symphonies ripping job, requiring almost 70 GB free space from my ripping workstation. Not mentioning of two 3GHz CPU-s, running hot at 99% performance level.


I have bunch of DVD-s in my posession. All Gustav Mahler's symphonies fom 1 to 10, plus Das Lied von der Erde. All DVD-s had:
  • Video: MPEG-2 / 720x480 (NTSC) / 4:3;
  • Audio: DTS audio + PCM stereo audio 48KHz 16bit
Original recording was done in stereo and DTS was artificially generated later.

What I did

I copied the contents of DVD-s to my workstation's HDD, using DVD Decrypter. Decrypting happened at the speed 7x - 10x, depending other simultaneous tasks. Then I converted original MPEG 2 video to much more efficient format MPEG 4 in AutoGK. It took about 1:1, eg 20 frames per second.


I have now Gustav Mahlers 11 symphonies in MPEG 4 compression with hi quality PCM stereo sound.

29 January 2007

Mpeg 4

Today I ripped The Matrix again and converted it into Mpeg 4 AVI (Xvid). My Matrix DVD is NTSC 16:9 format with english AC3 sound. In that case my particular workflow was:

DVD Decrypter ver Read more
AutoGK ver 2.40 Read more and download

My main objective is to save some disk space, keeping high audio and picture quality. Also, my current media renderer D-link DSM-320 hangs playing huge VOB files. So, basicalyy I'm searching the way to playable.

First DVD Decrypter phase copies the raw content of DVD to HDD, removing copy protection. AutoGK phase converts number of 1 GB VOB files to one AVI file.

Size matters

VOB form: 5 GB (main movie + AC3 Dolby Digital 3+2/1 soundtrack only, 720 x 480)
AVI MPEG 4 1,86 GB (Target quality 100%, 720 x 304 resolution)

BitRate while playing: AVI 1954 Kbit/s; VOB 7600 Kbit/s (measured by DSM-320).

Viewing experience

First I looked video from my Dell Optiplex 20" Wide aspect monitor. I looked good.
Then I copied the AVI file to my Media Server and lloked it via D-Link DSM-320 media receiver on my Hitatchi 42" 1080HD plasma and Onkyo TX-L55 digital receiver. The result was disappointing. Sound was good -- as soundtrack is probably unaltered during compression, but image was unharp and had problems with moving objects and camera panning. Movements were jerky, not smooth. Soud was badly out of sync. Not recommended.

Next steps

Have to try other media renderers. May-be I have to build one, based on Intel SFF desktop PC?

26 January 2007


I have all Gustav Mahler symphonies in my posession, all DVD-s. If I'd like to rip only audio, what is the best method?

DVD has 2 soundtracks:

-> PCM 48 KHz, 16 bit
-> Dolby Digital 5.1

Quality is vital. I play music off mu server via UPnP media player D-Link DSM-320.
So, best technique? Please comment!
I found Mr Elliott's tutorial for conversion, going to try it.

25 January 2007

Minor upgrade

Today I upgraded my Media Server RAID setup.

One volume per server
RocketRaid 1640 controller
RAID 5 volume, bootable (Win XP + data)


NEW: Two volumes per server
NEW: 40 GB IDE UDMA 5 bootable HDD (Win XP + TwonkyMedia server + other software, not shared)
NEW: RocketRaid 1810A controller (hardware accelerated RAID 5 parity calculation)
RAID 5 (4 x 160 SATA 150), containing digital music, images and movies - shared

So, basically I have bootable, not shared HDD for Win XP and data-only RAID 5 volume, shared to my house.

Performance IOmeter

Write throughput
Before 10 MB/s
After 54 MB/s Improvement 5,4x

Read throughput
Before 100 MB/s
After 100 MB/s same

Real-world copy test 254Mbyte CD

Before 8,5 MB/s
After 21,2 MB/s Improvement 2,5 times

Performance HD Tune

After (55MB/s, burst 82 MB/s) and before (47,7 MB/s, burst 57 MB/s)

I'm satisfied with new RAID 5 write performance!

Dirt cheap Russian option

You have to fill up Your huge media server with music. How? One option is iTunes, billing 1 € (U$ 1,2) per track. Another option is www.gomusic.com ,they bill just U$ 0,10-0,15 per track. Ten times less, one album for one track from iTunes.

Gomusic in the nutshell:

  • > 31 000 albums
  • > 25 000 artists
  • fast download
  • U$ 0,15 per track

It is mad to make U$ prepayment to russian internet company, selling online music? For most people it is. Still, this service has been reliable and fast. I have used it over 2 years. They claim,that legally is all correct with "Federation of Authors and Rightsholders for Collective Management of Copyright in Interactive" - so it's not pirate site.

23 January 2007

DVD economics

How much is one DVD on Your digital home media server HDD in $$$? In VOB form? Lets take 5 GB Movie (The Matrix for example).

one 250 GB HDD = U$ 80.00
one Matrix = 5 GB
one HDD can home 50 movies

So, 1 movie occupies U$ 80/50= U$ 1,60 worth of hard drive.

In reality, You tend to have RAID, so multiply it by factor 1,25 (in 4 disk configuration)

1 Movie occupies U$ 2.00 worth of RAID5 disk system :) Not cheap, heh!

Half Terabyte server update

I downloaded best performance meter available -- Iometer. As the Iometer User's Guide says, Iometer is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998 - since then it got wide spread within the industry. Look more: www.iometer.org

So, I played in my home network, particularly with my HTMS (Half Terabyte Media Server) RAID subsystem.

My HTBMS server config:

So, test data:
Maximum read throughput: 100 MB/s (with >1Mb packets)
Maximum write throughput: 10 MB/s
Maximum I/O ops/s: 10 000 ops/s (with 512 Kb packets)
I am not happy with write performance. Read performance is very good, also through gigabit NIC and my home lab, all gigabit. Problem for low write performance is parity calculation during write in RAID5 model. Option is to go for RAID 0 or 1, but I'd like to stay in RAID5, because of reliability and space. Buying model 1640 I didn't have any idea, that parity is calculated by computers CPU. So, processor load is 100% during large writes. I found that RocketRaid 1810a has hardware XOR parity module, so CPU is not overloaded. Have to swap RAID controller, or I'm not satified.
I found extremely interesting forum thread about buidling cheap and powerful RAID5. Must reading for everybody, who are trying it at home.

22 January 2007

Geisha is Ripped

Today I sarted ripping DVD-s into my Half Terabyte Media Server (HTMS). Filling server with DVD-s is easy. Geisha was about 5 GBytes! I have 390 GB free, it can handle about 70 DVD-s only!!!! Shame...

I used DVD Decrypter for ripping. Later found from Wikipedia article, that this program is illegal. Is it so?
My ripping hardware is dell Optiplex 620 Dual Core 3GHz Intel Pentium D, with 2GB RAM. I ripped all DVD at 10x speed. So, 100 minute movie is in Your server in 10 minutes. Satisfactory!

Bad news is that olny first VOB file played, all the rest hanged my DSM-320. Have to play with options.

Good news is that TwonkyMedia server can handle huge VOB files, Windows Media Player 11 can't, too slow.

21 January 2007

Wish List

This is Media Receiver wish list, concerning D-Link DSM-320, DSM-520 and upcoming DSM-750 models. I use model DSM-320 in conjunction with my home cinema. Soon I replace it with DSM-520 and old unit goes to bedroom, connected to old-school CRT TV. But I have wishlist for D-Link.

Please add LCD monitor D-sub output
Currently You may see the server contents, setup it and make adjustment only using your AV equipment -- LCD TV, Plasma TV; projector etc. DSM has composite, s-video and component outputs. I am lucky and have 42PD8600 42" 1080i Hitachi plasma TV. But I have a problem. If you listen all day long music and plasma is on, all static texts of DSM-320 "burn in". They disappear in some time. Still, You dont to keep Your 42" plasma on all day only to show track name currently playing. I miss some additional display. D-Links philosophy is not to add one or twil-line lcd to their receiverst, as some other companies do, like Roku. OK, I agree. But please give oportunity to add additional 15" PC LCD monitor via d-sub connector.
Screen saver
To avoit durnt in characters on my plasma screen

More resolution for OSD
Having about 260 artists and 700+ albums in my media server, I'd like to see a lot on the screen, trying to find album I wish to play. Currently You can see only 10 lines of text or so. TwonkyMedia has good solution indexing and grouping albums, artist etc to reduce time-consuming scrolling. Thats a good solution. But still, I'd like to see info in many colums, at least optionally.

Track properties
Please make possible to see bitrate, encoding and other properties of streaming tracks and also streaming video. Hope, that UPnP standards support it.

Thats it, three wishes only where is my goldfish?

19 January 2007

Ripping in My Mind

Today I did some more ripping.
Ripping (also referred to as digital audio extraction) is the process of copying the audio or video data from one media form, such as Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) or Compact Disc (CD), to a hard disk (definition from Wikipedia).
My objective was to understand difference between WMA Variable and MP3 320 Kbit/s encodings. They both are my vavourite because they meet hi quality listening needs and still they both are compatible with most of equipment available.

MY test album was Denon's high fidelity demo CD, containing 11 tracks from Beethoven to Bruckner. Demanding stuff! Symphony finales and Piano contserts.

My surprise was quite big, then MP3 320 gave 23% bigger file than WMA Variable. I assumed, that encoder should choose very high bitrates because of nature of music.

  • MP3 320 Kbp/s: 162 MBytes album size;
  • WMA Variable: 132 MBytes album size.
Ichecked real compression levels of WMA Variable:

  • Track 2 Ludwig van Beethoven, Egmont overture
    341 Kbit/s
  • Track 4 Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphonie nr 7, Presto
    325 Kbit/s
  • Track 10 Anton Bruckner, Symphonie Nr 6, Finale
    317 Kbit/s
So, no real differene in compression, WMA variabl is just more effective than MP3. I didn't hear any difference in sound, listening tracks after each other. I know, that A-B-X blind test is more objective, but I dont have equipment at my home for that.

I didn't make any fundamental conclusion. I keep ripping using WMA Variable, as I used to do earlier.

New fast WiFi @ home

Some people heard already about new products, like D-Link Dual-band draft-N router and DSM-750 media receiver, having so-called draft-N wifi. What is it? How fast is it?

WiFi evolution:

1999 - 802.11 b - 11 Mbit/s, typically 6,5 Mbit/s
2003 - 802.11 g - 54 Mbit/s, typically 23 Mbit/s
2007 - 802.11 n - 540 Mbit/s, typically 200 Mbit/s

Today I link my media receiver to my media server via wired LAN to avoid problems in video streaming. Current WiFi speed is not enough to guarantee bandwith needed for DVD-quality or HD video, if base station is some 10 meters away. Lets hope, that draft-N aka 802.11n does the job.

18 January 2007

D-Link's new media receiver

Dlink announced some new features of upcoming draft 802.11n high definition media receiver DSM-750.

Evolution of DSM media players -- my interpretation:

Wireless 802.11g;
Screen resolution 480 lines? (not confirmed)
SCART RGB or Component + S-video

New in DSM-520 (compared to DSM-320)
HD screen resolution 1080 for MPEG 2 and MPEG4, 760 for WMA HD and 760 x 480 for photos;
Wireless 802.11b & g;
HDMI output

New in DSM-750 (compared to DSM-520)
Draft 802.11n wireless (up to 200 Mbit)

So, only remarkable upgrade is draft N wireless, what allows better video streaming over wireless network.

My 0,03 cents

What is the best and most rational compression method, ripping Your CD-s? To understand it better, I ripped one jazz album, containing 9 tracks of hi quality jazz tunes. I ripped it in 5 diccerent modes, using only good quality setting and skipping crappy ones. My Windows Media Player 11 compressions were:

WMA Loseless (about 250 MB) Not supported by most DMR's!

WMA Variable (about 90 MB) Ennuste recommends!
MP3 320 (about 90 MB) Ennuste recommends!

WMA Pro (about 55 MB) Not supported by most DMR's!
WMA 192 (about 55 MB)
MP3 192 (about 55 MB)

Loseless WMA produces about 5 times bigger file than 192 kbit/s compression. Widespread media receivers don't play Loseless. Usually they are limited to MP3 320 kbit per second rate.

My 0.02 cents

Use WMA Variable or MP3 320 kbit/s compression. You may not forgive yourself in the future, that compressed the music too economically. Lets bare in mind that original CD has 1411 mbit/s bitrate. You lose 66% disk space, using higher bitrate, but result transparent.

There is big quality difference between encoders, not all are created equal in this world. Crappy encoders show high bitrates, but result is not transparent. Use only well-known quality tools!


One CD album occupies about 90 MByte of hard disk, using hi quality 320 kbit/s encoding. What is the cost of this space?

WD Caviar SE16 250GB Hard Drive (Serial ATA II, 7,200RPM, 16MB - MPN: WD2500KS)
Price Range: $71.99 - $131.00, typically around $80.00. One HD can hold 2500 CD albums, so:

Cost of ONE CD on the hard disk = 0,03 cents

Media Server Software

I started experimenting with server softwares first time when I bought my first DMR (digital media receiver) from D-Link. The model was wireless media player MediaLounge DSM-320:
and server software D-Link MediaServer was included in the box. Software is freely downloadable brom D-Link website. I tested MediaServer version 1.07. I don't describe througly this product. Instead, I write how I found software meeting my needs.

Media Server Evolution

As I told, I started with D-Link Media Server. In the nutshell my server software evolution is following:

D-Link Media Server -> MS Media Connect 2.0 -> MS Windows Media Player 11 Beta -> MS Windows Media Player 11 -> TwonkyMedia 4.1

D-Link Media Server - relatively slow in screen operations and music vas interrupted randomly for 0.5 - 1 sec using my old Celeron server;

MS Media Connect 2.0 - very same problems as D-Link;

MS Media Server 11 - It uses Media Connect 3.0 version, but no actual development in speed or usability. For the comment, that Vista uses Media Connect 4.0 version, but I haven't tested it yet.

Read more about Media Connect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Media_Connect

And the Winner is

TwonkyMedia ver 4.1 is clear winner, despite its a tad complicated web-interface setup. It has several very good usability features, hanling large music collections, lika Arist Index, Album Index etc. Plus, it has excellent technology, it stresses servers CPU minimally, uses cache-s to speed up recurring queries. Result is user-friendly functionality and very good speed moving around huge collections.

Main characteristics of the MediaServer

  • Easy to setup,

  • support for major media formats,

  • convenient navigation on large media collections,

  • very short response time,

  • multiple language support,

  • highly customizable (including navigation structure),

  • easy handling of thousands of media items,

  • Internet radio,

  • interfaces to 3rd party applications like iTunes, Winamp, Adobe Photoshop Album,

  • search actions allow you to easily find a specific piece of content (depending on client support)

  • supports a large variety of UPnP streaming clients (see our device compatibility list)

  • integrated client adaptation layer to support special media player capabilities,

  • available for all operating systems and embedded devices like NAS, STBs and PVRs*,

  • small footprint and very small memory consumption,

  • stable code base deployed in various products and tested at UPnP and DLNA plugfests
Look also: http://www.twonkyvision.de/

Half Terabyte Media Server

"Half Terabyte" media server at home -- sounds good, yeah?! True. It was just few years ago then Microsoft demonstrated 1 TB storage SQL test. It was something! Now I am honored to own 0,5 TB storage at my home. Being exact, its not 0,5 TB, but 0,45 TB, but "Half Tera" sounds much nicer.

Base of my media server is Dell Dimension 8200, equipped with 2MHz Intel P4 and 0,5GB RAM. My son used it about 3 years as gaming and internet surfing entertainment equipment. It had 1 good feature -- big tower case, lots of internal HDD bays, 4 available.

I took out powerful sound card. I replaced Nvidia gaming 3D graphics card with passive (fanless) one. I throw out HDD.

Disk configuration

I installed 4 SATA disks 'a 160 GB into RAID 5 configuration. As my old base computer had only 32 bit PCI slots, I had tu use relatively slow PCI SATA RAID controller RocketRaid 1640 from HighPoint Tech USA.

RocketRAID 1640 Highlights

  • PCI 32bit@33/66MHz

  • 4 Channel PCI to SATA RAID Controller

  • Support up to 4 SATA Hard Drives(compatible with SATA II Hard Drives)

  • RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and JBOD

  • Support Windows, Winx64, Windows Vista, Linux, FreeBSD

HD Tune gives some 47,4 MB/s average data transfer speed and 16ms acess to this system. Enough for home system, but a tad less what I was expected.

Network adapter

I replaced old CNet 100 Mbit NIC with Intel PRO/1000 GT card.

It gave some 60% raw throughput speed (yes, not 10-fold). Its ment for desktop computers and stresses CPU a lot. I should try server NIC and see, is it stressing less. Currently CPU is near 90% stressed during backup copies.

I installed MS Windows XP Pro SP2 with all updates. I installed TwonkyMedia, copied all data from my old server, shared directories for local users -- and voilĂ ! My Half Tera server was up and serving!

17 January 2007

I digitized it all (almost)

One day I made quite fundamental decision. No stacks of CD-s anymore in my house! I should rip them on the hard disk and listen from more innovative systems -- like digital media receivers all over my house.
I made quite MS friendly choice to rip them into WMA format: 192 bps, 44 Khz sampling, 2 channel, 16 bit format. For some reason I believed its sound superiority over mp3 format.

Also, I moved to digital photography -- that's indeed pretty obvious. I also started to scan all my previous films and photos into my digital storage.

Today I have 8 700 tracks from 680 albums, fron 230 different artists in my Media server, about 35 GB of songs.
Key facts of Digital Music:
  • 35 000 000 000 bytes of music
  • 8 700 tracks
  • 680 ripped or purchased online CD albums
  • 230 artists
Also I have 21 000 digital photos in my Media server, allocating 23 GB of disk storage. They occupy about 15% of my half-terabyte Media server. So, there is room for growth.
I don't have videos and digitized DVD-s yet in my Media server, as I use to rent films and look digital TV.
More about my Media server hardware and software, also about media receivers in my future blogs.