Archive for May, 2011
The Media Server
The starting point and the heart of my TV and Movie solution is my Windows Home Server which is based on the now discontinued HP ML115 G5 server. I chose this server as at the time HP were selling these at the rather excellently discounted price of £159.99, a complete bargain for an HP Server I’m sure you will agree!
The server has an AMD Opteron™ 1352 Quad Core Processor 2.10 GHz with 2 x 2GB Crucial ECC RAM and has the following disk configuration (as at 20th May 2011)
I’ve been running this setup for the past 2 years so obviously things will have moved on. Windows Home Server 2011 is about to ship but loses out on the Drive Extender (ability to throw any old hard drive in and have it present as 1 large disk) although there are add-ons available to replicate the version 1 functionality.
The reason I chose Windows Home Server (WHS) was for its ability to handle my PC backups automatically. This means that in the night it wakes each computer and laptop, backs it up and then puts it back to sleep. These are complete disk backups of the PC’s so if a hard drive fails on the PC then WHS can create a DVD to recover the OS and restore the files. The other critical feature was the ability to add a mish mash of drives and for them to show as a single large volume. This makes managing data a none issue for the end user and with the ability to turn on folder duplication I know that my data is mirrored over multiple disks to give resilience against a server hard drive failure. If a disk fails I can just shut down, pull the drive, insert a new one and then boot it back up. No need for matched drives that you need in a RAID configuration which again makes this a great end user solution.
On the server front HP have released the smaller form factor HP Proliant Microserver which they’ve been plugging away with a £100 cash back rebate. This sees this server available for £121 from some retailers once the cash back has been applied.
For my clients I am running the tiny Acer Revo Apire nettop computers. I currently have the R3700 in the lounge and the R3610 in the master bedroom. These Ion and Ion2 nettops are both capable of decoding 1080p content. These are both running 2GB ram, 250GB hard drives with Windows 7 Home Premium on them. The Revo’s came supplied with wireless keyboards and mice and I’ve added a Media Centre remote control to allow for easy arm chair navigation.
The Revo’s come with a v-shaped desk stand or alternatively they can be mounted directly to the rear of your TV. I use the HDMI connectors to rig them to my surround system which then passes through via HDMI to the TV.
Both of my Revo’s have gigabit ethernet connections which connect via Netgear GS605 gigabit switches to the server. Although these boxes have wireless 802.11n I prefer a hard wired connection for stability and bandwidth.
As mentioned the clients are all running Windows 7 Home Premium and this include Windows 7 Media Centre (W7MC). W7MC allows you to view photos, movies and live / recorded TV. You can also listen to your music including music from iTunes.
I am running the following additional bits of software or W7MC add ons:
Nevermiss.tv – Access to BBC iPlayer / ITV Player / 4OD etc as well as the Catch Up TV service
Media Browser – Superb media interface for your TV and Movie archives. Incredibly rich both visually and with the information it can display
Remote Potato – Remote access of your media as well as being able to set recordings when out of the house
vmcMote – Ability to browse my music collection on the iPad and create playlists to play on either the lounge or the bedroom system. Great app for when you’ve got friends around!
Meta<browser> – This handles renaming, image and information retrieval as well as trailer downloads for Movies and TV episodes. This is set to watch certain folders for new content and will then handle the renaming and image and information retrieval automatically.
Watching Live TV
The TV solution that I am using gives me the best flexibility for recording programmes that are available for each of the clients to access. I decided to go for DVB-S2 TV card to be able to receive both Standard Definition as well as High Definition Freesat and Sky channels. I purchased the TechniSat SkyStar USB HD box which is a mere 10cm x 10cm x 2.7cm in size! This box is connected directly to the R3700 in the lounge via USB and this makes it available within media centre as TV source.
I already have a master plan to move the TV cards to the server so instead of configuring the card directly I purchased the TVSource and Network Pack from DVBLogic to allow me to share the tuners between the client PC’s.
Once this was configured I used My Channel Logos to enhance the look of the Electronic Programme Guide.
All recorded TV is captured locally and then the WHS Connector software handles the movement of the files to the server for viewing by both clients.
(The slow down in live TV on the youtube clip is caused by the screen capturing software)
TV Series are stored on my server in the folder structure TV Collection > TV Show Name > Season x > Episodes. Using Meta<browser> I have artwork grabbed for the TV show, Series as well as Episode stills. I also have synopsis information as well as cast listings and duration.
I use Media Browser to browse and select the shows and episodes that I want to watch.
Movies / Films
As with TV series I use Media Browser to browse and select my movies. By this point Meta <Browser> has also hopefully grabbed a trailer for each of the movie files. This means that when looking for a film to watch you can see the cinematic trailer for it and decide whether you want to proceed or not.
All of my music, including iTunes, sits on the media server ready for access via any of the clients. These can either be accessed from the Music section in W7MC or as explained you can use vmcMote with an Apple iPad to browse and create playlists that will play on whichever client you choose.
With the recent Google Panda update we’ve seen a lot of our websites move around in the Google listings. A lot of our sites went up but 1 or 2 have taken a slight dip and so we were looking at tools to analyse our website against our competitors with the aim of optimising them for the search engines. A drop in your site ranking clearly leads to a reduction in visitors and therefore sales revenues suffer……bad times.
After some research we were pointed in the direction of Advanced Web Ranking which has recently undergone an upgrade to version 8. Advanced Web Ranking was recommended by several webmasters and SEO experts so we decided to grab the 30 day free trial to explore it for ourselves.
How do I get started with Advanced Web Ranking?
The first thing you need to do is create a new project and a wizard will guide you to enter the website that you wish to analyse, you can add your competitors websites into the mix further along.
From your website name AWR will pull back some suggested keywords and allow you to add, edit and delete to create the keywords you wish to monitor.
On the next stage of the wizard you can select the search engines you wish to run your analysis against. This is particularly useful if you site targets many different geographic regions.
Finally you give the project a name.
Now the software will go off to each of the search engines, pass in your keywords and return the results. If you have lots of websites and lots of keywords this can take some time to happen, remember it’s still going to be faster than you doing manually!
Once the analysis has ran you can look at various metrics about your website,
Website Rankings – This shows you web ranking for a selected website, keyword and search engine. If you have multiple websites (for instance if you are analysing your competitors also) then you can see who is ranking for which keywords.
Keyword Rankings – This shows your keyword rankings for a selected website and search engine. You can show just 1 of your keywords or make a multiple keyword selection.
Search Engine Rankings – This view shows an overall picture of where your website ranks over the various search engines for the selected keywords.
All of the “Rankings” views show the results in a plotted graph type of fashion. This is ideal as when you run the analysis again you can compare how your performance has changed over time.
Top Sites – For a selected keyword and search engine you will see what the websites are that are ranking above and below you. Useful to understand who you competition is for a particular keyword.
Overview - This gives an easy to see snapshot table of your rankings across various keywords and search engines
There are lots of other types of reports and analysis and it really is worthwhile grabbing the trial to see what Advanced Web Ranking can do for you.
Under the Tools section of the software you can run some very powerful Optimization and Research analysis to compare how you site ranks for various SEO attributes. Are you keyword stuffing, missing out on your keyword in your domain name or URL? Using Advanced Web Ranking you can see exactly how your site ranks against another for these various SEO indicators.
What version of the software available?
There are 4 editions of this seo software that provide various different bits of functionality. The different version are:
- Standard – Click to see latest features
- Professional - Click to see latest features
- Enterprise – Click to see latest features
- Server – Click to see latest features
Each of these version runs on either Windows, MAC or Linux so whatever your operating system you can still take advantage of this excellent software.
This really is a great tool for the SEO professional or a serious webmaster who are looking amongst other things for a keyword research tool. The automation available makes tracking your websites performance over time a simplified task that frees up your time to work on other more profitable tasks! We are already reaping the rewards of using this software and are sure that it will easily pay it’s investment back within 3 months.
Anyway don’t take my word for it, download the 30 day free trial and give your comments below.