Media Center 2011 - Hardware

Guess some of you know how it goes, you have a bunch of Logitech Squeezeboxes sitting around but rarely use them for listening to your own music since you would have to start up your workstation to get that server up and running. Or, maybe you just would like to watch some online content on the television or shit like that. Maybe you just backed up your DVD collection (abiding local laws, mind you) but found that your DVD-player doesn't like being forcefully fed a harddisk through the drive bay and definitely does not want to play the movies you painstakingly put on it. Enough with the maybe's, I decided I needed a way of playing back media in the living room.
I did a quick research on hardware for my project with my main emphasis being low power consumption, low noise and NO GODDAMN STUTTER in video playback. This got me on to AMD's rather new Brazo platform. According to current reviews it has more muscle than Intel's Atom offerings (flame me if I amm wrong, fanboys) So naturally I decided to take the AMD path to media playback bliss. Since I ABSOLUTELY NEED ALL THE BELLS AND WHISTLES I can lay my hands on I found a full-featured, passively cooled board, namely the ASUS E35M1-I DELUXE. I decided to equip it with 4GB of RAM to give it a little memory and to keep boot-time low I bought a 60GB OCZ AGILITY 3 Solid State Drive. To house it all in a fashionable manner I bought a SILVERSTONE LC19B since it is discrete and comes with a silent PSU sufficient for my needs. Since I want to store all music in this box I found an old 250GB harddrive lying about that I threw into the mix for a little storage.

Final system ended being:
Motherboard: ASUS E35M1-I DELUXE
RAM: 4GB Corsair run-of-the-mill DDR3 1333MHz RAM
Boot drive: 60GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD
Media storage: Some old Western Digital 250GB SATA harddrive

Next came the horrible waiting for the parts to arrive, that day-before-christmas feeling you get when new gimmicks are on their way, making minutes feel like days and days feel like years... Next day I got the parts and brought them to the workshop to assemble it all.
Under the hood of the case is this.

Basically... Not much. Not much is needed either, but Silverstone COULD have done better than this, but more on this in a second.

Yep, this is where I had to hold back a second and wonder where on earth Silverstone thought I would want to place that SSD since I was all out of mounting holes. I found a spot that fit perfectly and drilled the mounting holes.

With the mounting holes in place I added some Nylon spacers and I was ready to go.

All set.

Finally, with the mainboard and BOTH drives mounted I was ready to proceed. Next task was to wire everything up...

...and erm, this started out looking like this. Though I have no idea what on earth the "missus" would want to be snooping around inside the media player for I decided to add som WAF by cleaning up the cable mess. I removed the front audio connector since all sound will be fed intravenously via HDMI into my receiver. Firewire and excess power cables were removed also.

Now this is what it should look like, nice and tidy. All that was left was for me to put the lid on and get on installing an operating system on the beast.

Yep, this is what it looks like all assembled. When not accessing the hard drive this beauty is absolutely silent and when playing back media from internal storage it is still not too loud.

You might wonder what software I chose? Well, I chose to install Ubuntu Linux running the XBMC software for playback of media files.
All went smooth except for the hardware acceleration of video playback which is really needed when playing back FullHD material (1080P I believe they call it). Oh, and I am still fiddling with the sound driver to throughput full surround through HDMI, but I am making progress as of writing this.
If anyone out there would like me to go more in depth with this whole Ubuntu/XBMC installation (and how to remotely control it with your smartphone), feel free to encourage me by writing me an email. The address can be found on the "about" page.