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How to play all of those movies/TV shows you got while deployed

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While recently deployed, I've found a lot of people are interested in setting up a home media server to play the movies and TV shows they "acquire" while they're down range. So, I wrote up a quick list of gear that helps a lot, and I will write up a "how-to" to follow!

For the gear you need at home, there's three main categories: Something to play the media (Raspberry Pi 2 is my favorite choice), something to serve the media (WD My Cloud EX 2100 or similar is what I like), and a decent network to tie it together (I list a few examples).

For the Raspberry Pi Kits:
Raspberry Pi Kit with everything you need, I have one of these and I prefer the case more than the other kit:
Other Raspberry Pi Kit, don't care for the case as much:
With both of these kits, you can use "NOOBS" which is pre-installed on the SD Card in the kits. With "NOOBS", you just plug the SD Card in and boot up the Raspberry Pi. You'll get a screen with a list of options, and you just pick OSMC. Each of these particular kits are $69
 
For the NAS:
The Ex 2100 w/ 4 TB is newer, and faster than the Ex 2. However, it's slightly more expensive
 
The Ex 2 w/ 4 TB is obviously then older and a little bit slower. But this is the system I'm using in the media room now, and it works great.
 
If you're considering spending the $385 on the EX 2100, you may also want to consider buying the EX 2 with 6 TB instead.
 
For the Router:
TP-Link
This is what I own, it's a great price and works great:
 
This is the next model up. it's a little bit faster, but costs a little bit more:
 
This thing is ridiculous, but you won't need to upgrade for like 10 years (or 3):
 
Linksys
This is what I will probably buy next, I'm a huge fan of Cisco products, and this one seems legit:

So, if you have inputs about something you've found that you like better, let us know! I ordered an Amazon Fire TV stick, but I haven't been home yet to test it with the NAS. 

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Another option that I use: Buy a mac mini for 500 bucks and hook it straight to your TV/sound system; my TV is my monitor.  After years of doing a lot of different avenues, I've found this way to be the easiest, least problems, and I find myself using this setup as my normal "go to" computer in the house anyways.  The laptop exists almost exclusively for when I'm on the road.  It makes for a very easy setup to watch anything in HD you want all via internet...haven't paid a dollar to a cable or satellite company in over 5 years.

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Another option that I use: Buy a mac mini for 500 bucks and hook it straight to your TV/sound system; my TV is my monitor.  After years of doing a lot of different avenues, I've found this way to be the easiest, least problems, and I find myself using this setup as my normal "go to" computer in the house anyways.  The laptop exists almost exclusively for when I'm on the road.  It makes for a very easy setup to watch anything in HD you want all via internet...haven't paid a dollar to a cable or satellite company in over 5 years.

This is what I do. About 3 years now.

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I've done the same thing since 2010. I bought a used Mac mini to act as a media server; any Mini since 2010 comes with an HDMI port. Don't worry about getting the fastest one because it'll basically run "headless" or without a monitor just to serve your files. I run 5TB via two FireWire 800 standalone drives. The two hard drives feed media to the Plex Media Server (the evolution has been great and significantly more stable than 2010). All the other TVs have some sort of Roku which has a Plex client application (recently released) and this has a significant better wife approval factor. Makes the whole process of Plex, Netflix, Hulu, and ESPN watching better. I got a Mohu (so?) Leaf antenna to pick up the local channels in HD and haven't found a good way to integrate that so I just sent it up on my remote so my wife hits one button and it'll switch between antenna and computer.

Overall I figure I've paid for 2x Minis (one for fried by a power surge), 2x Rokus, the Antenna, and paid the subscription fees for Hulu and Netflix for five years. That and it puts ~40-100$ a month in my pocket.

I haven't explored the Sling tv option but it may be in the works after this deployment...

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So out of curiosity, do you feel like the mac mini and hard drives are cheaper and easier than a WD MyCloud EX2100? The MyCloud runs Plex as well. Assuming a new mini = $500 and two external 5 tb @ about $140 each = $280, so total of $780. Compared to MyCloud w/ 12 TB = $580 or w/ 8 TB = $477. Additionally, assuming the mac mini has gigabit, you're limiting your max transfer speed to a very theoretical 800 Mbps (firewire 800 also assumed). The MyCloud has nearly hit 1000 Mbps in my tests.

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I only use the internal storage on the mac mini, so I don't have any experience with external storage transfer speeds.  You guys store a lot of movies!  That said, Mac's thunderbolt connection is 10 gbs - I cannot imagine that kind of speed prevents me from watching movies off an external hard drive without degradation/waiting.

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So out of curiosity, do you feel like the mac mini and hard drives are cheaper and easier than a WD MyCloud EX2100? The MyCloud runs Plex as well. Assuming a new mini = $500 and two external 5 tb @ about $140 each = $280, so total of $780. Compared to MyCloud w/ 12 TB = $580 or w/ 8 TB = $477. Additionally, assuming the mac mini has gigabit, you're limiting your max transfer speed to a very theoretical 800 Mbps (firewire 800 also assumed). The MyCloud has nearly hit 1000 Mbps in my tests.

I can't give an opinion on the speed of a MyCloud because I haven't tried one. The second mini I purchased was from eBay and it was $250 (2010 model) the drives I purchased as a shell (with USB3 and FireWire 800) and the drives separately. This cost me a bit l as than $140 (~$120/each). I've never had any issues but the most I've tried to stream is 720p to a Roku and the Mac mini itself. I'd imagine that if you tried more than two HD streams you might have some issues.

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