Recently I managed to acquire a few surplus hard drives so I decided to get a RAID device. Already owning a Mac mini that I use as a server I wanted to use directly attached storage, but the device I got (a Sonnet Fusion QR) was pretty terrible and didn't work properly, and their support was pretty rubbish too. I ended up getting a Synology DS1815+, an 8-slot NAS. We use Synologys a lot for clients at work and I've been unimpressed with their performance in the past - they are just powered by Intel Atom processors after all - but since the x15+ models now have quad core Atoms I decided to get one and I've been pleased with the performance so far. It's able to transcode 1080p video at 10Mbps rate (with Plex) smoothly whilst also running a virus scan, so I'm happy with it. I've also moved my Mac mini (and the Synology) into my kitchen (I may write a little post about my current IT setup because I'm quite pleased with it, and between these two I have plenty of horsepower for running plenty of things. Which begs the question - what's the point of having my Raspberry Pi running any more? Well, there is one thing I can do with it, which is using it as an off-site backup location.
I've had my Raspberry Pi for a while now, and it's done a few different things. Firstly it was just a toy to tinker with, the latest cool gadget out, and that's what my previous posts about it have detailed. I found though that while it is powerful enough for some things, it's certainly not powerful enough to provide a smooth desktop experience compared to powerful modern computers which limits its useful functionality somewhat. After a several month gap I moved into a new flat, and found that I had a 20" computer monitor and some speakers that I didn't have a use for, so I set up the Raspberry Pi with XBMC and a Plex plugin so I could use it to watch stuff while cooking, in an attempt to make me cook real food more often. My Mac mini is my Plex server and the idea was that I could watch any media on it on this Raspberry Pi, but I found that the Plex plugin for XBMC on here was a bit clunky and wouldn't always find the server and I still find cooking rather dull so that never really got off the ground. It was however capable of playing back up to 1080p h264 content thanks to the onboard hardware decoder, so that's good.
My flatmate of the time left a couple of months ago (he enjoyed cooking and found lots of use with the Twitch.TV functionality) so I had the opportunity to repurpose the Raspberry Pi. My living room was getting increasingly warm thanks to the combination of summer and the Mac mini running in it constantly, and receiving a really big electricity bill was the icing on the cake: I resolved to find a new use for my Raspberry Pi.
The picture above is a Raspberry Pi playing a 1080p video (Prometheus trailer from the Apple Trailers site). What's more, it's not playing it from the local SD card storage, it's playing it from a cifs-mounted volume. And it plays it totally smoothly. I threw a higher bitrate 1080p video at it and it wasn't so happy with that (potentially due to ethernet performance) but for the most part 1080p should be alright, and 720p moreso, if it is encoded in h.264. More thoughts and explanations after the cut.
I received my Raspberry Pi today! I've had a little bit of time (very briefly) playing with it tonight and have some initial thoughts and observations on it. I'll play with it a bit more tomorrow. I'm running Debian Squeeze as a starting point, just so I could get a glimpse of what's to come.