Core

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Core is the term given to the main server for the LinuxMCE system in the home automation/multimedia network.

All settings for the network are stored in the Core Server. Even if a device is connected to a Media Director PC in another part of the house, it is detected by the Core server and information about that device (its location, functions, and options) is stored on the Core.

In this way, plug-and-play function is provided throughout the LinuxMCE system for all AV devices connected anywhere within the system.

The Core Server provides a standardized administration page to every Media Director, which can be viewed through a browser on each Media Director. The entire system can therefore be administered from any Media Director.

This allows the Core Server to be "headless," that is without a monitor, keyboard, mouse, or any other input or output device, if desired. It is a true server.

The Core PC also is able to provide standardised netboot services to the Media Directors on the home network. In this way the Media Director PCs do not require their own OS and can act essentially as thin clients. System administration and updates are therefore much easier, as only the Core software needs to be upgraded.

Hardware requirements

Because the Core handles processing for the whole network, it should be the "brawniest" PC in regards to processing power. Duo-core 64 bit processors with a lot of RAM is very nice to have in the Core Server.

Since a Core can be hidden in a closet (or in the garage or basement somewhere) and therefore does not need to be in your living room (unless it is functioning as a hybrid), fan noise is usually not an issue.

The Core PC does require a large amount of storage. This can be large capacity internal hard drives, a large capacity external hard drive, or even perhaps a NAS (network-attached storage) device, that is accessible by being connected somewhere on the home automation/multimedia network.

Of course you need a DVD/CD drive (at least for software installation -- grin)!

The Core should have 2 NICs (network interface cards) -- one for connecting to an "external" network (such as your cable modem, DSL modem, or home LAN router) and one for connecting to the "internal" home automation/multimedia network (your LinuxMCE system network).

Further, it is best to have the TV card in the Core server, as well as the Video capture board for any surveillance cameras. A Home Automation interface is usually attached to the Core as well. Therefore, a PC to be used as a Core must have plenty of expansion slots, and cooling fans proportionate to the load.

Output and sound cards are relatively unimportant for the Core, because output is usually channeled through the Media Director PCs.

Nevertheless, some home automation/multimedia systems channel output through a central whole-house multi-channel amplifier which is connected directly to the Core. If you plan to do this, make the Core into a hybrid, instead, and put into it a good (nVidia) graphics card and a good sound card (with surround sound jacks -- 5.1, 7.1, or even 11.1).

Example PCs used as Core servers

Here are some PCs that have been used as Core Server PCs.