Media Portal Frontend on Compact flash - Tutorial/Howto

Discussion in 'MediaPortal 1 Talk' started by BennieBoy, April 22, 2008.

  1. BennieBoy

    BennieBoy Portal Pro

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    Introduction
    I wanted my MP frontend as quiet as possible. For this I wanted to remove as much as moving parts as possible.
    The harddisk is such a moving part which had to go.
    As I have the TV-Server running on a separate computer, no TV cards are present in the frontend.
    See Cold Startup at YouTube - Boot XP From Compact Flash (then MediaPortal)

    Setup
    Frontend
    Gigabyte AMD939 board with Athlon 3000
    DVD drive
    512 Mbye memory
    4Gbyte Compact Flash card connected to the IDE port by use of a CF2IDE converter.
    NVidia 6600LV passive cooled.

    Backend
    Intel 775 board with Pentium4 3.2Ghz
    1.5 Gbyte Memory
    1.2Gbyte of storage
    1 Hauppage PVR500
    1 NTTV card
    1 Hauppauge DVB-S Nova

    This tutorial will assume you will have TV Server on a separate machine and use a dedicated Client PC as frontend. To make this Client PC as small and quiet as possible the Harddisk is replaced by a compact flash card (costing no more then $30,- max).

    Hardware to buy (costs about $30 including shipping)
    Goto ebay and search for "compact flash ide" or when you have an s-ata port to spare, search for "compact flash sata".
    While you are there, search for "compact flash 4G" to obtain a compact flash card.
    40speed will do fine (everything faster is a nice to have)

    Tip
    Do your full install on a harddisk and after you completely finished installing everything you want, GHOST the harddisk to compact flash.

    Sofware
    nLite
    Download, install and startup nLite ( nLite - Deployment Tool for the bootable Unattended Windows installation )
    Click "Browse" to select your XP CD
    Select your (empty) working directory
    (you can load the ini files attached to this message)

    Select the actions you want to perform
    Service packs for installing the latest XP SP3 (SP3 contains SP1 and SP2, so only SP3)
    Hotfixes for installing the latest updates from windows Update (and other stuff you want to include)
    Drivers for installing the drivers for your hardware like the graphic card, Ethernet, sound driver etc
    (Remove) Components for removing everything you are not going to use (like fonts obsolete drivers, etc
    Unattended will give you the possibility to startup the install and go to sleep.
    Options and Tweaks will give you the possibility to tweak the system to your needs, like the way XP starts up, the way XP looks, etc.
    Bootable ISO To create a bootable Disk or ISO with all your stuff included

    Things you really have to do with nLite
    You can choose to do nothing and only do the drivers section and unattended, but, do also the following to make things a bit faster:
    Tweaks:
    Performance: Disable Last Accessed Time stamp on files
    Performance: Disable optimized hard disk when idle
    Performance: Disable paging of kernel and core-os
    Performance: Minimal Power Management

    Startup your computer with only the CD/DVDRom and CF connected
    Boot from CD/DVD Rom
    When requested, select the CF as installation disk and (quick) format it as NTFS.
    From this moment on, go on holiday, go to sleep, work or whatever because the installation will take a long time as writing to the CF is very slow.

    When you come back (After a few hours or so), you will have a booted system, hopefully with all drivers in place and ready to go.

    It will be kind of slow and sluggish and every write to the CF will be notices as an hickup.
    Here EWF will be used later on to make a bleeding fast system (further in the How To).

    Do not install to much at this moment as you will pollute your system.

    Perform the following tasks to improve the speed (can also be done in nLite)
    Turn off system restore
    Right-click My Computer -> Properties -> System Restore tab -> Enable Turn off System restore on all drives

    Disable Indexing Services
    Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs -> Add/Remove Window Components -> Uncheck the Indexing services

    Disable Hibernation
    Set Windows to auto-logon a single user
    Disable Fast-user Switching
    Disable System File Proctection

    Disable paging
    Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Performance -> Settings -> Advanced -> Virtual Memory
    Set it to “no paging file” and press “Set”

    On your server, prepare the following:
    Create an empty directory
    Create a Shared Disk from this directory e.g. \\server\MP
    Download MP to this directory
    Download ffdshow to this directory
    Download Haali Matroska splitter to this directory
    Download VNC to this directory (handy to configure things from your main PC)
    Download EWF (part of a package found here )
    Unpack this ISO to a a directory named \\server\MP\XpeSP2FeaturePack2007 (use WinRar or simular)
    Within the \\server\MP\XpeSP2FeaturePack2007 directory, there is a file called xpefp2007.exe
    UNpack this file (with winrar) to a directory called \\server\MP\XpeSP2FeaturePack2007\xpefp2007

    Back to your Frontend PC (Client)
    To run .NET applications (like MP) from a network share, you have to tell the system that the share is trusted. If you do not do this, you will get a Security Exeption.

    Trust the share
    open command window.
    cd C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727
    caspol -m -ag LocalIntranet_Zone -url \\server\MP\* FullTrust

    Create a shortcut, on your desktop, to the previously created share ( \\server\MP). This will become handy because you will use this a lot.
    Create a Commit.bat file on your desktop (will come in handy later on) with the following content:
    “ewfmgr c: -commit”

    Install ffdshow
    Install Haali Matroska splitter
    Install VNC
    Install MP to \\server\MP. The reason is that changes made in MP will be saved (EWF will prevent it from saving it to c:\....)

    Reboot your system and make a backup (I just used ghost to write it to a temporary attached hard disk).

    Enhanced Write Filter
    EWF will sit between your applications (also the operating system) and your Hard disk or Compact Flash Card. It will intercept all writes to the Disk and store it in RAM. As RAM is very fast (in respect to HD en CF) this will done instantly. When you reboot the system, you loose all the changes. This does not sound ideal, but it really is as your system will be rock steady. Whenever you need to write changes to your hard disk or CF, you can use the Commit.bat file described previously.

    Copy \\server\MP\ XpeSP2FeaturePack2007\xpefp2007\rep\ewfntldr
    to c:\ntldr (this will overwrite your original ntldr
    Copy \\server\MP\ XpeSP2FeaturePack2007\xpefp2007\rep\ewfmgr.exe
    to c:\windows\system32
    Copy \\server\MP\ XpeSP2FeaturePack2007\xpefp2007\rep\ewf*.dll
    to c:\windows\system32
    Copy \\server\MP\ XpeSP2FeaturePack2007\xpefp2007\rep\ewf.sys
    to c:\windows\system32\drivers
    Copy \\server\MP\ XpeSP2FeaturePack2007\xpefp2007\rep\horm.dat
    to c:\

    Save the attachment ewf.reg.txt to C:\ewf.reg and open it.

    I myself had problems with the following key
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\Root
    If you have too, go into the registry and set the Permissions of Root (temporary) to full control.

    Reboot

    If everything is OK, you will have a relative fast booting system which handles very fast when is up and running.

    Some Timing
    12.8 Seconds when BIOS Information disappears
    16.9 Seconds when I see the windows Logo with KnightRider Bar
    23.0 Second when I see my Desktop
    40.1 Seconds when MP is fully started

    Remark
    When the PC boots into windows and MP is automatically started, it can happen that the network is still not available. For this, I wrote a small program which can be started from the "Start Menu"/"Programs"/"Startup".
    It is Called WaitForNetwork and takes 3 arguments
    TryForNumberOfMillisecond
    HostNameOfYourShare
    FullNetworkPathToMP




    It will start MP the moment it finds the computer with the network share.
    You should disable Automatic startup in the configuration.

    You can use this small application also for starting other stuff from the network share. Just replace the FullNetworkPathToMP to the Full Path to your Program.
    I wrote everything down from memory so feel free to comment.

    Have fun,
    Ben

    ______________________
    some of my [HowTo] guides
    Media Portal Frontend on Compact flash - Tutorial
     

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  3. medaust

    medaust Portal Pro

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    can we do these on a single pc

    Thank you for sharing this, I have always been interested in using CF to boot XP quickly.
    My questions are:
    1. Can I do this on a single pc, not client / server? XP and MP on a CF card and use EWF to stop writing to CF card. Maybe another hard disk for contents.
    2. Would it be much quicker to boot from a CF than a normal hard disk?
    Thanks again.
     
  4. BennieBoy

    BennieBoy Portal Pro

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    Medaust.

    I used a 4Gbyte 40speed CF.
    This will not give you the fasted booting system (it will boot in under 1 minute).
    If you want a faster booting system, go for a 133speed or 266 speed. But that will be at a price. Than again, a 2 Gbyte card will be sufficient too.

    I first tried to create a Frontend with just MP without TV server.
    I was unable to let the Frontend save the recorded files to a shared disk (I managed 1 year ago, but now it was impossible).
    I do not know if the TV Server is able to save it's data to a shared disk, you should try.

    Using another harddisk for content will be OK, but you loose some advantages (But the system will still be rock Steady and almost indestructable.

    For people interested, I added the nLite config files to the main Tutorial.

    Greetz,
    Ben
     
  5. polarie
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    polarie Retired Team Member

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    Hi BennieBoy

    for te question with the recorded files -

    i also have a seperated TV-Server - and if i wanna record something - the SERVER does the recording - not the client .
    so if u share the recording folder on ur server it should work without any problems .. also for the other clients to read the files.

    or did i missunderstand the record problem?

    (sorry for my bad english)

    EDIT:

    Are u running XP on ur TV-Server?
     
  6. BennieBoy

    BennieBoy Portal Pro

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    Polarie,

    You misunderstood the problem. :)
    I was using MP without TV Server. SO I used the build in TV functionality.
    When I first tried MP, I was able to record to a shared folder.
    With 0.2.3 I was not able to do record to a shared folder.

    I did not want to have a Harddisk in my frontend, so I switched over to a Client Server Configuration.
    Now my problem is solved and I have a nice, Cool, Quiet and relative fast booting Diskless Client.

    Greetz,
    Ben
     
  7. polarie
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    polarie Retired Team Member

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    ah now i c ... hmm sorry - i was wondering and thought the other way - that this is STILL a problem with the recording... shame on me ...

    well thats what i am also looking for.
    think wil try ur version (with that CompactFlash-Card/drive)
    soon as i got my new Gigabyte board (with that HD-32xx Grafic-chip on Board like that in IEB's thread)
    KLICK HERE for IEB's HTPC
    couse i want it also cool, quiet and small ...

    bad enought that my TVServer is in a real big 19"-rack in the basement of our house.
    so very small and quiet clients would increase the WAF ;-)

    Did u test your discless-clients with a HD-Stream (ANIXE or premiereHD) ?
    because in my opinion the "normal" 3000+ is a bit undersized for "HD" i think ...

    i have premiere and i don't wanna miss HD anymore ...
    hows performance with the CF-CLients (stream-buffering, e.g.) ?
     
  8. BennieBoy

    BennieBoy Portal Pro

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    1920x1080i is no problem
    I tried the movie serenity.hdtv.1080i.fanxy@silu which has the following characteristics:
    Container TS split by Haali Splitter
    MPEG2 stream
    Codec used : Nvidia Purevideo
    Video stream 13000 kb/sec
    Audio stream AC3 6channel 447 kb/sec

    Output Screen: 800*600
    Average processor load is about < 40%

    Output screen: 1920x1080
    Average processor load is about < 40%

    Nvidia PureVideo uses hardware accelaration which causes this low Processor load.
    I had an x.264 FullHD video file which was unplayable.
    Processor Load 100% and lots of drops.

    Greetz,
    Ben
     
  9. Zappza
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    Zappza MP Donator

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    Hi!

    I recon that the issue with you not beeing able to play a x264 full HD movie is because you didn't have enough CPU processing power, not that the CF can't do the job?
     
  10. medaust

    medaust Portal Pro

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    Hi BennieBoy,

    Thanks for you reply. Why I am interested in CF card is because I thought CF card is faster than a normal hard disk. Is this true? Otherwise I will stick with my hard disk.
     
  11. Zappza
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    Zappza MP Donator

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    That depends on which speed you buy.
    CF cards have many different speeds they operate at. The higher you go, the quicker it gets =)
     
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