Synology NAS as the ultimate XBMC media backend

As you can read in my previous posts I’m a big fan of the Synology NAS products and the XBMC media center. In this post I’ll show you how to transform the Synology NAS into the ultimate XBMC media backend.

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Share media from Synology to XBMC with NFS

This week I’ve posted about my new Raspberry Pi which is running XBMC. All my media is stored on my Synology Diskstation and accessible over the network using the SMB protocol. The disadvantage of SMB is that it’s very CPU intensive, and because the Pi has only a 700 MHz CPU core you may experience some hick-ups during video playback. To solve this we can use NFS to share the media to XBMC. The NFS protocol has less overhead compared with SMB and therefor uses about 20% less CPU resources.

So in this post I’ll explain how to enable NFS on the Synology DS and connect these shares to XBMC.

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XBMC Frodo 12.0 Release Candidate?

After 7 Alpha and 3 Beta releases of XBMC Frodo 12.0 I noticed today the following download on the XBMC download mirrors;

XBMC Frodo RC1

But no official press release of Team XBMC… Will XBMC 12.0 be the first Christmas present?

Want to check it out yourself?

Update: The release is now posted on the XBMC website:

Hello Raspberry Pi, bye bye Apple TV G3

Because my Apple TV 3 is still waiting for a jailbreak so it can run XBMC (without a jailbreak it’s useless imho) I decided to order a Raspberry Pi. For those who doesn’t know what a Raspberry Pi is;

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

Okay, I’m not interested in programming and not a kid anymore, but this part took my attention;

It also plays high-definition video.

So how can a $35 ‘pc’ play 1080p high-def video? This is achieved by the Broadcom SoC (System on a Chip) which is able to hardware decode h264 media. You can connect your TV set by using the HDMI interface and it has a 100 mbit NIC for the network connections (optional you can use a USB WiFi adapter).

Here’s a schematic picture of the Raspberry Pi;

So I ordered the Pi and and few days later it drops at my doorstep;

The Raspberry Pi is shipped without storage or a power supply, for storage you need a SD-card (4GB is more than enough) and the power comes from a 5V 700mA mobile phone charger (with a micro USB connector).

So now we have to install some sort of operation system on the Pi, the main goal for me is to run the XMBC media center. There’re 3 different options to chose from;

I’ve decided to go for RaspBMC, the installation of RaspBMC is really user friendly and the OS is self updating.

Installing RaspBMC

At the RaspBMC website you can download an installer (for Windows, Linux or Mac OS X)  and install RaspBMC directly on your SD-card. I’m using Windows so here’s a screenshot of the installer;

Your SD card should be shown on the list. Simply check the checkbox and click Install to complete the installation. Note, if you have not inserted your card yet, you can do so now and click Refresh to update the devices list.

When the image is downloaded and transferred to you SD card you can put it in your Raspberry Pi, connect all the cables and fire it up. On the first boot RaspBMC will be installed. So take a cup of coffee and when you’re back XBMC will be presented to you!

So XMBC is running, lets see how it performs when we playback a 1080p h.264 video (you might seen this video before…)

Controlling XBMC

As you expect the $35 Pi doesn’t come with a IR remote, so how do you control it? Well you have 2 options. Option one is to control XBMC with the remote from your TV-set. This is achieved by the integrated CEC software delivered by RaspBMC, this will enable XBMC control with your (compatible) TV-set IR remote. The other option is to control XBMC with the ‘Official XBMC Remote’ app on your smartphone or tablet. You can download the app from the Apple AppStore or Google Play.


Remote restart ESXi management agents

Today I had a problem with all of our vSphere hosts in my cluster. To resolve the problem I needed to restart the management agents on each host. In the past with ESX there was the service console to which you could connect by using SSH and then execute the restart commands from the CLI. But since ESXi doesn’t ship with the service console this is not an option.

The correct method stated in KB 1003490 by VMware is to restart the management agents from the console of the host. Because we have over 15 hosts this is time consuming task so I decided to look for an alternative method, and found it 🙂

First you have to enable ‘remote techsupport’ (SSH access) to your hosts, this can be done at the configuration tab of your host under the ‘security profile’;

Click the ‘Properties…’ link to enable or disable services.

Now highlight the SSH service and click ‘Options…’

Click ‘Start’ to start the SSH service, now you’re able to remote connect to your host using SSH.

Now you can restart the management agents by executing the following command

/sbin/ restart

This command will restart the management services, the VMs running on the host are not affected.

When you’re done is recommended to disable SSH for security purposes.