For the past 6 months or so, I’ve been using XBMC on a Mini-ITX computer I hooked up to my HDTV through HDMI. Just a barebones AMD Fusion PC. For those who don’t know what XBMC is, it’s a open source media center application for Windows/Mac/Linux. They even offer a minimal Ubuntu install with XBMC preinstalled (Didn’t run HD very well for me because of the ATI graphics on Linux). Otherwise,  it’s awesome. Really slick interface for watching/listening to pretty much anything, and a ton of community support and forums. It even downloads poster art and media info automatically (if your files are named/tagged correctly). Right now I’m using refocus theme. One of the best themes I’ve found yet, especially for the Pre-Eden builds.

Refocus Theme

Refocus Theme

So after reading through the XBMC forums for a while looking for cool addons (and believe me, there’s a lot of cool stuff there), everyone kept talking about NAS, RAID, and Usenet. I’ve been using torrents for years, since I was on dial-up (which was only about 5 years ago if I think about it…). I’m on private trackers, I read TorrentFreak, I upload my own torrents, etc. On a couple of private sites, they had an RSS system where I could set a TV season to my RSS, and it would auto add it to my client when something new was added to it. A really great idea, but I really wanted something even MORE automated, even MORE streamlined.

Then I saw programs like Sickbeard and Couchpotato, programs written in Python that would search NZB providers periodically for new TV Shows or Movies. With Sickbeard, you can specify a TV Show, it will auto grab all the episode names, screenshots, everything from TheTVDB, and auto searching whatever NZB provider you have set up for any episode you specify (You can set it to skip/want any season/episode you want). Couchpotato does the same thing, but for movies. (You can also use a program called Headphones that does the same for Music but I couldn’t get it to work properly)


The Holy Trinity

The best features about this is that they ALL talk to XBMC and update the XBMC library automatically. Everything is automated. I can set it and forget it. For example, if I decide to get all of Futurama, it goes out and finds all the seasons, unzip them if needed, put them in the right folder, rename the files to the episode name, updates XBMC with the new episodes.

I also recently bought a RAID enclosure to house all of this media. I bought a Mediasonic ProBox 4 Bay Enclosure with USB 3.0 with 4 2TB drives. Put them all in RAID5 and I have about 6.5TB in RAID5 with USB 3.0. Works great.

I’m really happy with the whole set up. If anything, I would change my PC specs to be something slightly more powerful (preferably with an nVidia chip so I can use the Linux distro of XBMC).

If anyone wants to use the same Usenet service I use, you can sign up to UsenetServer here (affiliate link).  They offer unlimited downloads, and a huge binary retention at a great price.

If anyone wants a similar setup, leave me a comment and I’ll try my best to help out :)

23 comments so far

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  1. Hey, great article! Mind explaing what “RAID” is? Thanks a lot!

    This is also the same setup I have at home, just like cable… but better.

    • RAID is a way you can set up multiple hard drives as one volume. For example, I have 4 2TB drives in RAID5. With RAID5, if one of those drives fail, I can hotswap it (take the drive out while the computer is still on) and replace it with another one and not lose any data. You can also get a performance boost with RAID because you are reading data from 4 different places instead of just 1 (most of the time). You can read more about it here: http://searchstorage.techtarget.com/definition/RAID If you have the budget, I would suggest looking into it.

  2. I am attempting to set up sickbeard with the UseNetServer you recommended but I just can not seem to figure out how to set it up. I am able to manually search and download using SABNZBd. I have under search providers created a custom newznab provider using both the global search link and the home page UseNetServer but am constantly getting errors. Any help would be appreciated

    • Which NZB providers are you a part of? I have NZBMatrix and NZB.su and they work fine for me.

      • I am apart of http://www.usenetserver.com/en/index.php? or is that something different? I am new to usenet as of…3 hours ago :)

        • You’ll also need to be member of a NZB search provider to grab NZB files. I recommend NZBMatrix http://nzbmatrix.com It has a one time fee (about $10), but it’s worth it for the amount of stuff they have there. I’m also a member of NZB.su (Newznab).

          There are free accounts for both, but they have download limits set on free accounts.

          • The service I signed up and paid for has a search http://globalsearch.usenetserver.com/index.php

            What is the difference between that and nzbmatrix, or is there something I am missing? Thanks for your help on this btw

            • I think NZBMatrix and NZB.su are updated far more regularly. For example, they had a TV episode the other day already up about a half hour after it aired.

              I’ve never used the built-in usenet server search that you linked, I always went for the other search providers. I could be wrong, check around and see if anyone else uses the built-in one.

    • With Sickbeard and Couchpotato Newznab sites like http://nzbid.org/ can be used for better search.

      • Yes I’ve gotten them to work with a couple different Newznab sites

  3. Actually ATI drivers aren’t too bad now on Ubuntu. I got an HP N40L microserver which was recently on sale and have just used that to build an all-in-one XBMC/RAID/SAB system based on Ubuntu 12.04.

    It auto-boots into XBMC like any HTPC would and all the SAB-related services run in the background. On top of this it runs all my other media stuff like Logitech Media Server, Subsonic etc. and uploads my Music to the ‘could’ with Google Music Manager.

    It’s also my main NAS, sharing out it’s media and receiving my Windows backups. A great little one stop shop for $200 plus $50 for the graphics card and the drives I already had. I have even setup XBMC to store it’s settings in a central DB (held on the same unit) which means if I get another XBMC system in the house it will have sync’ed data (so know what’s already been watched, what’s new etc.). Good stuff.

  4. If XBMC is not work for you, try out Plex. Works well and it also has Mobile clients as well as 3rd party device clients (such as Roku). SickBeard/Couch/Headphones etc can update its library as well (or Plex can simply update itself). Its quite a good setup I have to say. Though Plex’s music capabilities are lacking…subsonic works good for that though :)

    • Plex is good :) Though their updates/bug fixes aren’t as quick as XBMC and they pretty much use the same code as a base. I recommend it for a “plug and play” solution for users who don’t want to mess around with settings, but for everyone else I recommend XBMC.

  5. Spent all of today trying to get a similar rig setup. I think I’ll go back to torrenting… Can’t say I’m very impressed with usenet or couch potato.

    You have to signup and pay to use searching providers, which act just like torrent trackers. (similar concept, download a file to start a download)

    Yeah you can manually search for binaries yourself, but that’s a real pain in the ass!

    So basically you have to pay to even get files off usenet. Pay to even search through usenet, and pay for a vpn just to hide your tracks a little.

    Forget that, I think I’ll just go back to torrenting with a seedbox and a vpn. Probably the same cost but I think an easier setup.

    • If you can’t afford $14/month, then sure you have a point, but in my opinion when you have unlimited bandwidth from your ISP and can leave a PC on all day, I don’t see why you wouldn’t.

      IMO, a Usenet/Sickbeard is a way more user friendly solution to getting TV/Film content once it’s setup. I’ve set it up so many times (on Windows and Linux) and it takes less than 20mins for me now. It all depends on your situation and what you want from it.

  6. Usenet is the best!

  7. Your xbmc,sickbeard,couch potato running in what os?is it linux?or windows? is this a seperate machine from the nas? how is the nas connected if it is a seperate machine?via local network? and does the tv connect to the nas? via hdmi?

    • I’m using Windows. My RAID is connected to the Windows PC via USB3 and the Windows PC goes to the TV via HDMI.

      • Thank you! I am trying to build one myself but currently I’m still deciding on the hardware itself and what platform to run all the software on. I was thinking of having my NAS connected to my local network,with transfers between PC and NAS will be via gigabit ethernet lan.The PC will handle all downloading ie.sabnzbd,Sickbeard,Couchpotato.The NAS itself will have xmbc only and it connects to the TV via HDMI. Do you think this is workable?

        • That would definitely work. Gigabit LAN is plenty to watch 1080p video. Both Linux or Windows (or even Mac) would work, it would mostly depend on how the files in the NAS get shared (Samba,NFS,AFP,etc).

          Also, I would look setting up a MySQL database of your XBMC library on the NAS. That way multiple computers can read off the same DB and all your machines would be synced and you could pause in one room and resume in the other (and other cool stuff). I have a post about that somewhere. Just an idea.

  8. Im not very technical, but if I buy one of the NAS boxes, do I still need a PCto control everything? I only have a work laptop so couldn’t install anything on that.

  9. Hey, thats great mate.
    I have a Raspberry Pi running Raspbmc, I also have a sysnology nas, can i set up newsgroups on this?
    I was using 1channel through the pi but my ips has since blocked it all!!

  10. Hi can you please write a quick tutorial in how i can set this up.