The SqueezeCenter software will run adequately on just about any PC. FreeNAS also has trivially light hardware requirements. My choice of a hardware platform stems from something that I had conveniently at hand…a box of recycled H-P T5700 thin clients.
Thin clients are nice little boxes for embedded projects. The T5700s I have feature a 1 GHz Transmeta CPU, 256 MB RAM, several USB 1.1 ports, ethernet, VGA & audio capability. At first glance they seem more than adequate for hosting SqueezeCenter, given suitable storage arrangements. They are also completely fanless, dead silent, and consume very little power.
The T5700s come with an internal flash disk-on-module (DOM) on a 44-pin IDE connector. Thus the obvious choice for a storage strategy is to replace the flash module with a laptop style 2.5″ IDE hard drive.
The most appropriate deal I could find was a 250 GB, 5400 RPM Western Digital disk for $99. My music library is over 400 GB but I decided that I could keep a significant portion of the library on offline storage. Thus I only needed about 200 GB available for music.
While commercial NAS often feature RAID storage for my purposes I decided that this wasn’t necessary. As well as the original CDs I have all my music backed up onto portable hard drives so I feel that I’m adequately protected. Fault tolerance is simply not a requirement for my dedicated music NAS, so one 2.5″ disk was all I needed.
FreeNAS could easily be configured to support RAID 0, 1 or 5 given suitable storage media. Fitting multiple disks into the T5700 chassis might be a challenge. I’m reasonably certain that I could fit three drives into the expansion case, but mounting them sensibly might be tricky, as would be finding a 40-pin IDE cable with connectors for multiple drives.
The T5700 chassis is small. It’s possible to mount a laptop disk in the standard case, but I happened to have one of the optional expansion kits on-hand. These are intended to allow the addition of a PCI card, but also provide enough space for a couple of small disks. The metal portion of the expansion kit is perforated to provide extra cooling to the PCI card, or in my case the hard drive.
The expansion chassis also makes possible a second storage strategy. You could add a PCI card with USB 2.0 interfaces, then use externally attached drives. They might be 3.5″ desktop drives in a USB housing or 2.5″ drives in bus-powered USB cases
Be aware that the T5700 will not boot to a drive attached to a USB port on a PCI card. It will boot to the on-board USB ports, but these are USB 1.1 so not especially fast.