Recording Live TV to an iSCSI target with Media Center.

By | August 26, 2013

My primary HTPCs (living room and bedroom) were built with, for the most part, identical hardware.  So, they both share a common deficiency now that I have re-introduced Live TV back to my Media Center experience – disk space.  I use a small-ish SSD as the OS drive in both of them.  At the time, the ~60GB SSD was plenty big enough to house the OS and Media Browser…it was all I used it for.  I had some space to spare.  But now, I can’t even think of recording any shows if I wanted to.  Considering I use mATX cases, adding additional HDDs isn’t really a solution – there’s no room.  Upgrading to a larger SSD (hey, I love the speed) isn’t in my prioritized budget list.  So, what to do?  iSCSI.

I happened across this solution by accident.  I was playing with an old Dell PowerVault 745N I had lying around, looking for a similar use out of it for a WHS.  Things didn’t really work out the way I wanted there, so it was scrapped, but not before I came across the notion of running iSCSI.  The hangup I had was that the 745N is a 32-bit platform only, so I couldn’t install the free Microsoft iSCSI target software on it.  I could only use it as a client.  Then I realized, I have this Dell PowerEdge 2950 II sitting here acting as a totally over-qualified MB3 server.  I also had a spare 400GB 10K SAS drive sitting around.  Plus, the important thing – it was running 2008 Server R2, which is 64-bit.  I had my iSCSI platform.

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7 thoughts on “Recording Live TV to an iSCSI target with Media Center.

  1. Mike S

    If your server hardware is compatible, you could also try setting up your SAN server using one of the more popular SAN/NAS server packages. FreeNAS, OpenIndiana (formerly OpenSolaris), unRaid, etc… There’s also OpenFiler (although I don’t know if it’s still available or in use). They all have iSCSI targets, and most support advanced disk managment/file system technologies (like ZFS, replication, deduplication, etc..).

    AFAIK, the free Microsoft iSCSI initiator should work fine as a client for any of those packages.

    Reply
    1. Jon Post author

      Tried them all and just could not get any of them to load to this old 745N via flash drive for some reason. I’ve only been able to get Windows and Ubuntu to install from thumb drive for whatever reason.

      FreeNAS was my first choice, but it never got past bootloader.

      Reply
      1. Mike S

        Try downloading the ISO files and burning a boot CD. A lot of the bootloaders for distros don’t support “non-standard” devices, and the USB controller on your 2950 might fall into that category. I would be very surprised, however, if you couldn’t at least boot the installer from an optical disk.

        The only other problems you might have are the disk controller (especially if you’re using an onboard PERC controller) and the onboard NICs (usually Broadcom’s for Dell).

        If you’re inclined, I would give it another go with an optical boot disk, especially if you want to try out FreeNAS. You may have to fiddle with drivers to get it working, but I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a lot of help and advice on their forums for your server. That’s a pretty popular piece of hardware on the used server market, so somebody has probably already gotten it working. Just be sure you know what’s in your sever first.

        Also, you might want to go to Dell’s support site and download the latests firmware updates. That’s how they keep the onboard hardware up to date. You can probably search for the latest drivers via the Service Tag (“latest” being a relative term for that model). I know they usually provide firmware updates for the PERC and Broadcom NIC’s, and maybe some other essential bits as well.

        Reply
        1. Jon Post author

          Unfortunately, it’s a NAS appliance with no optical drive and I don’t have an external.

          Reply
  2. Pavel

    Hi, I was wondering: while setting up the iSCSI Microsoft software on PE2950 did you have in the server only on-board network cards or was it necessary to have Intel Pro 1000/PT adapter in the PCIe slot? Thanks, Pavel

    Reply

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