Minimalist Media Server

The unassuming little Atom that could

Here is a tiny little Compaq Atom netbook that's been sitting around for a long time doing nothing. (The Compaq name alone should give you an indication of its age.) With a new 1TB SSD and a fresh 32-bit Debian installation, it's become our new house-wide media server. Proof that with the right software, your hardware doesn't really need to be all that powerful. Here's what all it's doing at the moment:

  1. It's running ReadyMedia (aka MiniDLNA), serving out an archive of videos on my home network. We use Rokus and Roku TVs to watch them using the built-in media player app. On my desktop and laptop, I use VLC's built-in UPnP support for viewing (though I'm on the search for a way to use MPV instead).

  2. It's running MPD and hosts my 200+ GB music library, and the sound output is wired into the house's central audio distribution amp. Each room with a network drop also has a second physically-identical drop which can receive balanced audio on the first two pairs, and all that's required to play it is an amplifier or powered speakers which can reproduce balanced audio (possibly with the assistance of adapters/transformers). Currently this includes the living room, my computer room / nerd cave, basement workbench area, and garage. There's one additional output on the DA and I'd like to add another drop for it in the upstairs somewhere, perhaps in the hallway (stealthily hidden inside an antique radio). "Why not just distribute audio on the network?" you may ask. Eh, this honestly just seemed easier to me, especially since I've got a bunch of old pro-audio gear sitting around.

  3. It's running my Odysee+YouTube subscription download script on a nightly schedule, into a folder that's also shared to the Rokus via DLNA. This is what I watch every night instead of TV. Usually educational/tech shows, shows about offroading/overlanding, current events podcasts, homesteading/off-grid living, crypto/economics/entrepreneurship, etc. Trying my darndest not to rot my brain, in spite of the establishment's efforts to the contrary.

  4. It's got the flatpak for Pithos installed, so we can listen to streaming radio, also broadcast via the DA. Unfortunately there's no way to remotely control it like there is with MPD... so I may look into a solution like Mopidy-Pandora in the future instead.

One benefit I was after was a super low-power server that I can leave on all the time rather than my desktop PC, which was total overkill for these tasks. I've got plenty of ideas for other ways to use it, such as a command-line-only LBRY network client (since most of my nightly downloads are from Odysee anyway), or perhaps a pacman package cache served to my Arch-based PCs with nginx. But I'm sure at some point I'll butt heads with the 1GB of RAM and 32-bit OS.

Modified Tuesday, February 22, 2022