Hi, all! Not new to HTPCs and media ripping/editing, but I am quite rusty on new/latest tech and overwhelmed with researching the separate component possibilities. So I figured it would be better to ask some people who "just know" things like this off-the-cuff, in order to gain a focused direction in which to research.
So, let's say you had the following "items" in operation ... what would you recommend as the best (or top 2) free/economical approaches to accomplishing a smooth & easy method to serve your content (and consume some cable TV) under a unified platform/umbrella?
I'll organized the "items" by the "heads" ...
- FreeBSD (Unix) server running Samba4 (for Windows/SMB share service)
- thousands of legit ripped/recorded movies & TV shows (H.264 & MPEG-2, mostly in WTV, slowly being shrunk & converted to MKV ... and I'm only just hearing about H.265?)
- gigabit wired Ethernet
- SiliconDust HDHomeRun 3-channel CableCARD networked box
- Panasonic 50" plasma 1080p TV (older not "smart"):
- HTPC running Win7Home & WMC (H67 Intel board, i3-2100 CPU, built-in graphics, 4GB RAM; WinTV 1-channel card (supports direct local cable); Hauppaugge Colossus PVR card)
- Logitech K400 wireless keyboard/pad-mouse
- Xbox One S
- Verizon FiOS "2-channel" Set Top Box (aging)
- Yamaha AVR (probably irrelevant here)
- Universal WR7 remote control
- Vizio 32" LCD 1080p "Smart" TV (supports DNLP):
- Xbox 360 (fully operational)
- WMC remote control
- Note: formerly ran a Win7Home laptop as an HTPC here, but it died; only to be replaced if deemed necessary
- 2nd Logitech K400 wireless keyboard/pad-mouse (for the aforementioned laptop)
Notably Missing: any smartphones of any kind; just some merely-semi-reliable tablets in the house (nerfed-Amazon + full-Android); could add 2 current tablets on Black Friday
How Present Items Are/Was Working:
- Both HTPCs could/can tap into the SiliconDust box for live cable TV and record content (other house PCs tap in via VLC for watching only)
- WMC as main interface on both Win7 HTPCs
- WMC ran/runs old MediaBrowser3 add-in to present owned-media (in a Kodi-like manner, but inferior) on both HTPCs
- Upon death of Vizio HTPC, Xbox360 was attempted as a WMC extension to the Panny WMC "master" but the 360 WMC doesn't support the MediaBrowser add-in (eliminating all owned-media for the Vizio TV)
- because the Vizio TV is also directly wired to the Set Top Box on a separate floor, live cable TV is available to the Vizio TV if watching the same channel as the Panny TV
With 1 HTPC dead, Win7 sunsetting soon, and MediaBrowser way out-of-date (and requiring higher maintenance levels), I think it may be time to replace the software services with some combination of Kodi, SiliconDust's HDHomeRun app (for cable feed), and possibly Plex?? So far, I know that Kodi has a HDHomeRun plug-in, but I have never used Plex.
The questions/thoughts in my mind that I don't expect anyone to answer all of (just letting you know where I am with this):
- Is it possible that Plex is available on all relevant platforms here and has enough features to "do it all", i.e., serve from the Unix box, organize & consume from the living HTPC, support Xbox 360 for the non-HTPC TV, and maybe even watch/record from cable feed? But I gather Plex is not free for all this; but for the right parts of this? Plex talks a good game (on their site), but could it actually work 100% with my setup here? Or just pieces?
- Or is there some other way to use the Xbox 360 to support the Vizio TV?
- Or should I be looking at a Roku/Google/Apple/etc. TV box, or a Raspberry Pi build, or some other cheap laptop to "re-HTPC" the Vizio TV?
- Is there a way the Xbox One S helps here?
- Is there anything better overall that can serve from Unix and be consumed by a PC and list other types of devices?
Bottom Line Question:
If you had all this stuff lying around and working good enough for now, how would you most economically change this architecture to plan for the near future? (I figure planning for a long-term future is pointless the way tech changes.)
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I decided long ago (20 years) not to rely on a Media Server but just use SMB network shares to share videos in the house. Currently we use an inexpensive, low power (<20 watts), Windows PC (Celeron J4105 CPU) with SMB shares as a file server -- an SSD for quick boot/wakeup, an 8TB internal drive for the videos, and an external 8TB drive to back it up).
In one bedroom we use a Raspberry Pi 3B with Kodi as a client media player. I've also used an inexpensive (US$45) Android TV with Kodi. The TV in the bedroom has Roku built in for Netflix, Amazon, Sling, etc.
The TV in the living room used to have a Windows PC with Windows Media Center to view cable TV with a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime. For the network shares we would just browse with Explorer and use MPCHC to view the files (the files are pretty well organized so there really isn't any need for a fancy interface). Lately we dropped the cable TV subscription and now use an old Roku 3 to view streaming content. The Roku's greatest shortcoming is it's lack of an SMB browser/player. Currently the old Windows computer is still connected for watching files on the server (and some previously recorded cable shows are still on it). I may eventually swap it out for the Android TV that was previously used in the bedroom. Or maybe another Raspberry Pi.