Monday, August 17, 2015

DIY streaming media box: building it.

Building the streaming media box consists of a hardware and a software part. Building the hardware is relatively easy. With these modern PC components you can't do much wrong. First I inserted the 4Gb DDR3 memory into the motherboard. In my earlier post on this topic I mentioned that I already had a MSI mini-ITX motherboard and a processor (Celeron G1610) from my sons PC that I upgraded earlier. With the motherboard ready I removed the power supply from the LC-1410mi case. The motherboard fitted nicely over the six elevated mounting points in the LC-1410mi.

Motherboard with processor and memory in the LC-1410mi. The brackets for the drives and the power supply are removed.
When I inserted the power supply I noticed that it blocks the PCI slot on the far side of the motherboard something I hadn't seen coming (see image below). I therefore was unable to use the PCI wifi card that I had. I decided to use a USB wifi stick that I already had. It is not as elegant as the card but it works.

Power supply partly over the motherboard blocking the PCI slot forcing me to use a USB wifi stick.
Next I connected all cables from the power supply and the case to the motherboard. When you do this for the first time it can be intimidating because of all the different connectors on the motherboard. Luckily cases and motherboard generally come with descriptions of all these different cables and connectors.  I connected the 128Gb SanDisk SSD to the motherboard SATA port with SATA cable and to the power supply. The 2,5 inch SSD didn't fit into the bracket that comes with the LC-1410mi. I had to improvise to get the SSD into the case.

With all hardware built-in and connected I decided to test the system. I connected a monitor, keyboard and mouse and booted the streaming media box in the making. Since the SSD was still empty I was only able to enter the motherboard bootmenu (on MSI press F11 to enter the bootmenu while booting). This is sufficient to test the hardware and all the connections. The whole system appeared to be functioning ok.

Testing the media box in the making. The MSI boot menu is visible on the display.
Next I'll fitted all components in the case, did the necessary cable management using several tie wraps and closed the case. Now it was time for the software part of the build. I created a bootable USB drive (at least 1Gb) with the OpenELEC operating system. This is done on a separate PC. Luckily the OpenELEC website provides an excellent wiki that guides you through this process. The wiki describes this process for Linux, OSX and Windows. I used the latter which includes installing some free software on your Windows PC. Then I inserted bootable USB drive into the streaming media box. After booting I choose the Quick Install from the menu. After a couple of mouse clicks (and entering my wifi keyword) OpenELEC was installed to the SSD and the streaming media box was ready to boot for the first time. I restarted the system and it took only 5-10 seconds! before the familiar Kodi screen was displayed. Amazingly fast. I installed some add-ons (YouTube, iTunes Trailers) and ran a trailer. The performance of the media box is excellent. The Celeron is more than capable to run 1080P video's. The system is quiet and fast.

First trial of OpenELEC running a movie trailer.
Next I'll connect the media streamer to my TV-set and buy a suitable remote control to replace the keyboard and the mouse.

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