Saturday, December 27, 2008

Update the Media Server

After two years of service it is time to update the central media server in the home. The current server is running on an old red hat linux image hosted on a old hush pc platform. The hardware is still gusty enough but the OS is past it's prime and good for a upgrade. The main service provided by this box has been to run the in home audio system. This system utilizes the great slimdevices (recently aquired by Logitech) and server component called squeezecenter (was called slimserver) was the only key service running on the box I am updating. The audio system will remain on the new platform since it is the best I have found after trying many different brands over the years, and it has given us over two years of stellar service without much of a hitch other than the occasional upgrade and perhaps most important everyone in the home can actually use it.

So the current audio system stays, but things move on in the house and we have discovered the joys of internet TV and the various torrent feeds that are out there. For the most part we have survived for a couple of months with a patchwork of solutions which work but are not efficient in the delivery of video content to the main TV in the home. The first upgrade was the inclusion of a 802.11n network (not really into pulling wire) which sits along side of the two G class networks, one for computing and one for audio and media. The media G network and the new n Network converge at a hub which the media server will be connected to.

First part of the upgrade is the OS, Redhat is going and will be replaced with the ubuntu 8.10 this proved to be less simple than I expected. First I chose the Server edition because I didn't need a Gui. Everything went well with the install included surprise bonus features of installing LAMP and Samba, however on first boot the kernel failed due to my Via C3.1 processor not supporting the pae Cx8 (pae = Physical Address Extension) feature even though the install CD happily installed it!. According to the chaps in the forum at ubuntu I had to use a generic kernel and that could only be found in the Desktop version. For those people who are now screaming what about the Microsoft Home Server edition. Well apart from the cost (yes I am a tight wad) I had tried to install this on a couple of platforms recently and in both cases it failed to perform. After hours of set up and configuration I finally ended up with a re-badged Windows 2003 Server that either didn't support my display or network adaptor..Anyhoo, the Desktop install (including updates) took about 90 mins which isn't too bad. Now to the software.

Since i had to bail on the server edition I needed to install/configure a few things I would need later.

Firstly ssh access, I don't really need a GUI but I do need remote (secure) access for doing some administration. Since Ubuntu Desktop does not come with ssh enabled this needs to be added.

sudo apt-get install ssh

Since i didn't need a graphical interface I disabled the GUI (Gnome - gdm). Simply click System/Administration/Services. Then unlock the configuration scroll down and disable GDM. Ignore the warnings and restart.

Time to set up file sharing and that means installing Samba

sudo apt-get install samba smbfs

I organized my content under

/media/samba/images - Photos
/media/samba/music - Audio content
/media/samba/videos - Video content

This required a modification to the default samba configuration, first stop the samba server

sudo /etc/init.d/samba stop

Copy/Move the current config. Then use this a basis for your new configuration, make the necessary modifications wherever you see the "YOUR_" prefix. The last section ([MyFiles]) is the actual content you want to share. Change the section name to be the label you want to share. For example I create three sections labeled [Images], [Music], [Videos]. Each identical except for the path information.

Finally make sure that all the paths you specified exist on the local machine with the correct permissions. Then start samba up again.

sudo /etc/init.d/samba start

I didn't want to use to systems passwords over samba so I used smbpasswd to set a network password.

sudo smppasswd -a system_user

First part done...time for a cup of tea...

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