Danoff's NAS and PVR Build

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Danoff

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I have an HTPC right now, and I don't think it's good enough anymore. The reason it's not good enough anymore is because it's running XP, and XP cannot seem to figure out how to output to 120hz on my TV.

Here comes linux (yet again).

With linux, I might be able to salvage my HTPC and keep it as a front end for my media server (FreeNAS). The two are connected over gigabit LAN (wired). The freeNAS system is ok. It houses an older processor, but has modern HDDs, 3x3TB seagates, with one redundant and enough ram for data striping so that the read rate is improved.

So that's all fine and good, and it's just a project for me to get linux up and running in place of Windows XP. Hopefully then I can push 120hz and my issues with the current HTPC will be mostly solved. But here's the other problem... I don't like my DVR.

I pay for Dish Network (during football season), and I have a DVR through them. It sucks, it's slow, it doesn't have much space, and the encoding leaves a lot of artifacts. This is not good enough for Danoff to watch football (I posted about this in January). So what am I paying Dish for anyway?

I'd like to put up an antenna and pipe the signal to a DVR backend (mythbuntu) with multiple tuner cards. The backend needs to have good hardware... good tuner cards... because I have a lot of complaints when it comes to artifacts in my HDTV signal. I figure I'll have it write to my media server since I still have 5TB free and the media server is optimized for HDD performance. That might even allow me to get away with an SSD on the backend machine.

So, the question you've all been waiting for. Does anyone have opinions or experience in trying to set something like this up? I've never tried to build a DVR, and it doesn't seem terribly straightforward. If I can get it right I'll be removing about $60/month from my monthly budget during football season, so it's worth some cash to get it right.
 
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One thing to clarify first: As far as I know, only one tv in history has been able to accept 120hz natively. And it's not yours. Unless you've bought a Seiko 4K in the meantime. A select few can apparently be overclocked to do so.

I don't know enough about broadcast and hardware options in the US to know what to recommend on the solution front though.
 

12thgear

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I have an HTPC right now, and I don't think it's good enough anymore. The reason it's not good enough anymore is because it's running XP, and XP cannot seem to figure out how to output to 120hz on my TV.

Can your TV even accept 120Hz input? The vast majority can't. Just because a TV may have a 120Hz or even 240Hz panel it very likely still only allows for 60Hz input. The higher refresh rates are limited to its internal motion interpolation processing. Some people have hacked 3D TVs to output at 120Hz and it might be possible with some 4K TVs.

I'd like to put up an antenna and pipe the signal to a DVR backend (mythbuntu) with multiple tuner cards. The backend needs to have good hardware... good tuner cards... because I have a lot of complaints when it comes to artifacts in my HDTV signal. I figure I'll have it write to my media server since I still have 5TB free and the media server is optimized for HDD performance. That might even allow me to get away with an SSD on the backend machine.

So, the question you've all been waiting for. Does anyone have opinions or experience in trying to set something like this up? I've never tried to build a DVR, and it doesn't seem terribly straightforward. If I can get it right I'll be removing about $60/month from my monthly budget during football season, so it's worth some cash to get it right.

I'm using Windows 8 Media Center since I needed support for DRMed content via CableCard. Really limits my options. In your case the most obvious combo to me seems to be MythTV and an HDHomeRun Dual. My understanding is that tuner does not recompress the signal either.
 

Danoff

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One thing to clarify first: As far as I know, only one tv in history has been able to accept 120hz natively. And it's not yours. Unless you've bought a Seiko 4K in the meantime. A select few can apparently be overclocked to do so.

Can your TV even accept 120Hz input? The vast majority can't. Just because a TV may have a 120Hz or even 240Hz panel it very likely still only allows for 60Hz input. The higher refresh rates are limited to its internal motion interpolation processing. Some people have hacked 3D TVs to output at 120Hz and it might be possible with some 4K TVs.

Interesting. This I did not know. Perhaps that is why my computer will only push 60Hz.

Ok, here's the thing, I'm having a judder problem when I play blu-ray ripped mkv files. It only happens on scenes that are particularly prone to judder, and it doesn't happen when I play the movie straight from a blu-ray player. The computer is running decent hardware, and even if it wasn't, I get judder on playback from any computer or monitor (even better hardware) at the same spot. I figured that this is because the TV is capable of running 120hz when using a blu-ray source, but doesn't seem to do so from the PC source, and I was under the mistaken impression that that was a limitation at the computer side.

Any suggestions for how to further diagnose this problem? I've used VideoLAN and Windows Media Classic so far, both exhibit the same problem (with very very select scenes... most of the time it's fine). Both programs are probably using the same codec.

In your case the most obvious combo to me seems to be MythTV and an HDHomeRun Dual. My understanding is that tuner does not recompress the signal either.

Thanks
 
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Yes, converting to PAL and NTSC Hz numbers can severely cripple the output. Certain panning speeds will just not cope.

When not running 24p (what films are shot in) to the display there are very awkward mathematical equations going on with the numbers of frames. Judder results.

I've never done a blu-ray rip, but I assume they can be done at 24, 50, or 60 Hz?
 

12thgear

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Yes, converting to PAL and NTSC Hz numbers can severely cripple the output. Certain panning speeds will just not cope.

When not running 24p (what films are shot in) to the display there are very awkward mathematical equations going on with the numbers of frames. Judder results.

I've never done a blu-ray rip, but I assume they can be done at 24, 50, or 60 Hz?

Definitely sounds like pulldown judder of some sort. No idea how the MKV was authored but for sure a Blu-ray rip can be set to preserve 24fps as that's how I do it. I end up watching my rips in Plex as it can be set to adaptively adjust output refresh rate. So when a 24p rip is playing, Plex tells my PC to switch the video output to 1080p/24Hz. Then my TV will happily take that 24Hz signal and repeat each frame 4 times and refresh at 96Hz so the frame rate is consistent and refresh rate is high.
 

Danoff

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Definitely sounds like pulldown judder of some sort. No idea how the MKV was authored but for sure a Blu-ray rip can be set to preserve 24fps as that's how I do it. I end up watching my rips in Plex as it can be set to adaptively adjust output refresh rate. So when a 24p rip is playing, Plex tells my PC to switch the video output to 1080p/24Hz. Then my TV will happily take that 24Hz signal and repeat each frame 4 times and refresh at 96Hz so the frame rate is consistent and refresh rate is high.

I use makemkv, it doesn't appear to have any preferences when it comes to fps - which I assume means it's not messing with it.
 

Danoff

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After thinking about Aereo a little longer, I'm pretty convinced that the quality won't be high enough. Netflix HD streaming has artifacts that bother me - if Netflix can't do it, I have serious doubts that Aereo (or anyone) will be any better.
 
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On the topic of makemkv, I'm now pretty confident that it would be ripping 24p.

So your tv should be fine, and the content should be fine. It's very likely then that the transportation is the issue. Maybe try running Plex, as used by 12thgear. There's also a test program named Mediainfo that reads the exact frame rate. If it's right it'll be at 23.xxxxx fps.
 

Danoff

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Alright...

The makemkv issue is squared away - an upgrade in hardware somehow fixed the issue... no idea how. The HTPC is now running really well (Windows 7) on new hardware. It's stable, it works with everything, I love it. I also just ordered $1200 worth of speakers for it to complete the 7.1 system... should be good.

The old HTPC hardware has now been salvaged into a machine in my basement waiting for a video tuner card to arrive and mythbuntu to be installed. The media server still has plenty of free space to dump files as they are saved from the DVR.

I checked my antenna reception today to make sure I can get good reception, and I've ironed out a decent method for wiring coax into the attic and installing the antenna there (once the weather cools off a bit). This project is a go!

In the end I should be able to record endless amounts of MPEG-2 local channel HD feeds onto my media server and play them via XBMC on the HTPC. This should be higher quality than what I had been watching, and allow me to ditch $70/month of bills for 6 months out of the year (because we only paid for it for the football season before).
 

Danoff

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The new DVR just went for a spin around the block for the first time (first preseason football game) and it passed with absolute flying colors. No problems recording the game, and the quality of the image was significantly better than my Dish Network Satellite DVR. I am officially ready to pull the plug on satellite and go over-the-air only. I cannot believe how badly the compression algorithm on that satellite DVR mangled the image in retrospect. I was right to be appalled. The notion that I'd pay so much money to have the image messed up is just ridiculous.
 

BobK

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Certainly glad to hear you got it working to your satisfaction!

Any chance you'd care to share the details of what you've built?
 

Danoff

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Certainly glad to hear you got it working to your satisfaction!

Any chance you'd care to share the details of what you've built?

Sure, the only problem is that I won't be able to remember all of the specifics when it comes to recycled old hardware. All of these are on CAT-6 wired gigabit ethernet.

Media Server
OS: FreeNAS
CPU: Dual-Core CPU E5300 @ 2.60GHz
HDD: 3x3TB, one is redundant, uses FreeNAS ZFS file system with data striping
RAM: 4GB it was the minimum amount needed to achieve data striping
Graphics: Ancient card
Specialty cards: None
Monitor: None
Keyboard, Mouse: None, None
Notes: OS is loaded on a USB stick, computer boots from USB, uses all internal drives as storage.
Notes2: Filesystem is shared and automatically mounted on all windows and linux computers in the house (in addition to these 3 computers there are 2 laptops and a desktop)
Notes3: File I/O generally peaks out at around 70 MB/sec, transfers a blu-ray disc (25gb) in about 6 minutes. More than fast enough to stream the data while watching.

PVR
OS: Mythbuntu
CPU: Dual-Core CPU E5300 @ 2.60GHz
HDD: 250GB?
RAM: 4GB?
Graphics: Ancient card
Specialty cards: Hauppauge Wintv-Hvr-2250 Dual TV Tuner card (records two shows at once)
Monitor: 17" LCD that wasn't being used
Keyboard, Mouse: Both were retired due to general flakiness (sometimes a key would stick in software, etc). I think they're both over 10 years old.
Notes: Connected to a reasonable Wineguard Antenna (I think it's about 2 feet wide) and Wineguard Amp. Antenna to be moved to the attic soon.

HTPC
OS: Windows 7
CPU: i5
HDD: 250GB SSD
RAM: 8gb
Graphics: None
Specialty cards: None
Monitor: Sharp 60" LED LCD
Notes: XBMC is used for video and PVR playback.


One interesting thing of note, the PVR is recording each file as an MPG, so I expect to fold these into my permanent media library for shows/games that I'd like to keep.
 

Danoff

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Turns out that mounting the Media Server to the PVR and having the shows record directly onto it is a bit trickier than expected. It would be no problem if I weren't sharing the media server with windows, but I am, so it has to be configured for windows filesharing. That means the PVR permissions get mangled when I try to mount the same volume on the PVR. I could create a separate volume, but that's an unnecessary pain.

I have an unused 1TB drive sitting on my desk right now, I think I'll add it to the PVR to get some more local storage. I now have a perl script that someone wrote to help name the mythtv recordings something more readable. I've written my own perl script that goes through and adds the information I want. It's already pretty easy to package these recordings up and ship them off to the media server for XBMC to categorize without having to do much. At the moment I'm archiving 3 shows this way (Big Bang Theory, House, and Seinfeld). I'll add more as they become available. Star Trek would be another good one.

I think at this point I have 20+ episodes of Big Bang theory that haphazardly span 4 seasons. I haven't watched any of them yet other than a quick check to make sure they were recording correctly. I also have yet to check to see whether XBMC auto-skips commercials for saved TV programs the same way it does for the PVR recordings.
 
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@Danoff, two questions if I may;

1) Why mythbuntu in particular, or will any light Linux do?

2) When on earth will you watch all this stuff?! :)
 

Danoff

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@Danoff, two questions if I may;

1) Why mythbuntu in particular, or will any light Linux do?

Any linux would do. I chose mythbuntu because it has all the right stuff built-in from the get-go, so you don't need to go fishing for software. Mythbuntu will actually also do a full desktop install allowing you to have the DVR software as well as all of the desktop functionality if that's what you want. I've been keeping it lean so far.

2) When on earth will you watch all this stuff?! :)

I dunno, maybe never. I do like having the ability to have it around in case I feel like watching it. It costs me nothing to keep it, only about 5 minutes of archiving work to process 20-30 episodes. If it started taking up too much space I'd probably blast them away by show. But for now I guess the approach is just... why not?

Every once in a while I get a hankering for old shows. It's nice to be able to drop in and pull up an episode on that weird day when you want it. Of course if it's available on Netflix or Amazon prime, then I don't need it locally. But who knows 2 years from now what shows will be available on those, and like I said it costs me nothing to keep them now.
 
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Any linux would do. I chose mythbuntu because it has all the right stuff built-in from the get-go, so you don't need to go fishing for software. Mythbuntu will actually also do a full desktop install allowing you to have the DVR software as well as all of the desktop functionality if that's what you want. I've been keeping it lean so far.

Cool, that's pretty much the logic behind my recent switch to UbuntuStudio, packed with fully working installs of lots of things I couldn't get my (non-Linux) brain around in lesser flavour.

Reading up on mythbuntu (link for others who still may not have heard of it) I'm very very intrigued by mythtv! I can't see any reason why I wouldn't be able to have a multi-boot Linux machine with this on, is that right? My Linux experience is mostly limited to a cool Tux desktop I had in the late 90s.
 

Danoff

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Cool, that's pretty much the logic behind my recent switch to UbuntuStudio, packed with fully working installs of lots of things I couldn't get my (non-Linux) brain around in lesser flavour.

Reading up on mythbuntu (link for others who still may not have heard of it) I'm very very intrigued by mythtv! I can't see any reason why I wouldn't be able to have a multi-boot Linux machine with this on, is that right? My Linux experience is mostly limited to a cool Tux desktop I had in the late 90s.

You could dual boot it, but you wouldn't be able to record any scheduled programs while you were in the other OS.
 

Danoff

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I have an unused 1TB drive sitting on my desk right now, I think I'll add it to the PVR to get some more local storage. I now have a perl script that someone wrote to help name the mythtv recordings something more readable. I've written my own perl script that goes through and adds the information I want. It's already pretty easy to package these recordings up and ship them off to the media server for XBMC to categorize without having to do much. At the moment I'm archiving 3 shows this way (Big Bang Theory, House, and Seinfeld). I'll add more as they become available. Star Trek would be another good one.

1TB drive added for more space. Should be able to store just a ton of shows on the PVR now. Plus anytime it starts to fill up I can just run my script and move them off to the media server. I can say, though, that this is getting out of hand quickly. I've started recording children's shows off of PBS for my daughter - this happened when Netflix dropped sesame street (we subsequently dropped Netflix). A quick glance at my recording schedule for the week shows:

Monday: 5 programs
Tuesday: 7
Wednesday: 4
Thursday: 5
Friday: 3

There is no way I (or my daughter) will watch all of that. In fact, probably the majority of it will never get watched. And yet, I can't see a reason not to have them just in case. Most likely things will just expand from here.
 

Danoff

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Sure, the only problem is that I won't be able to remember all of the specifics when it comes to recycled old hardware. All of these are on CAT-6 wired gigabit ethernet.

Media Server
OS: FreeNAS
CPU: Dual-Core CPU E5300 @ 2.60GHz
HDD: 3x3TB, one is redundant, uses FreeNAS ZFS file system with data striping
RAM: 4GB it was the minimum amount needed to achieve data striping
Graphics: Ancient card
Specialty cards: None
Monitor: None
Keyboard, Mouse: None, None
Notes: OS is loaded on a USB stick, computer boots from USB, uses all internal drives as storage.
Notes2: Filesystem is shared and automatically mounted on all windows and linux computers in the house (in addition to these 3 computers there are 2 laptops and a desktop)
Notes3: File I/O generally peaks out at around 70 MB/sec, transfers a blu-ray disc (25gb) in about 6 minutes. More than fast enough to stream the data while watching.

Just updated my Media Server a little. Here's the new breakdown:


Media Server
OS: FreeNAS
CPU: Intel i3-4170 CPU @ 3.70GHz
HDD: 4x3TB, two redundant, uses FreeNAS mirroring without data striping, and 2x500GB drives, also mirrored with each other
RAM: 4GB
Graphics: onboard
Specialty cards: SATA Expansion card
Monitor: Old
Keyboard, Mouse: Old, none
Notes: OS is loaded on a USB stick, computer boots from USB, uses all internal drives as storage.
Notes2: Filesystem is shared and automatically mounted on all windows and linux computers in the house
Notes3: File I/O generally peaks out at around 95 mb/sec, transfers a blu-ray disc (25gb) in about 3-4 minutes. More than fast enough to stream the data while watching.

I switched to mirroring after better understanding the downfalls of data striping. In theory I have 2 redundant drives, but really each of those drives only mirrors another drive. So if I lose 1 drive, then I have a 1/3 chance of losing data if I lose a 2nd drive at random. On the other hand, I could lose 3 drives and not lose everything.

I moved the more critical files off of my heavy-use 12TB system and onto a 1TB area built of of 2x500GB drives. These drives will get hit with data requests a lot less frequently, and are better isolated against any failure of the larger drives.

I got a case that can handle 12 drives and provides better cooling for the drives. In addition to that the case has spare room for SSDs to be Velcro'd on to the inside of the case, so probably room for maybe... 16? drives in total. At the moment I'm happy using 6. My motherboard is only equipped for 8 right now, though an $80 expansion card would put that number at 18.
 

Danoff

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Just a quick update here. My previous setup was to have the cable modem connect to my router, which farmed out to a switch, which farmed out to a switch that my media server was sitting on. I re-arranged my network to put more connections (especially the media server) on the same switch below the router and I've seen about a 10% boost in speed for file transfers. It might be because the new switch is capable of handling jumbo frames, but I kinda doubt it.
 
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Danoff

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Alright it's been a while since the last update.

I'm considering going rack-mounted. My equipment is as follows:

- Cable modem (work line)
- DSL modem (home line)
- Home router
- Work router
- 16-port Switch (full)
- Monitor
- Keyboard x2
- Mouse x2
- Media server (4U rack case)
- DVR server (desktop case)

What I'd like to add to that (following a brief power outage provided by the "Bomb Cyclone") is a UPS. I could potentially buy a 1U form factor UPS. The work router is a cisco model that can be rack mounted with a $16 adapter. The DVR could be moved to a rack-mounted case that I do not own currently. As far as I know, there is no way to adapt my 16-port switch to work on a rack, so it would have to sit on a shelf or in a drawer with the modems.

I think I would benefit greatly from a patch panel to manage the 20ish wired connections that I have floating around down there. So I'm at a crossroads, do I buy a cheap UPS to keep my router and switch flying in a network outage? Probably not. Do I buy a more expensive UPS to keep the network up and give my server time to shut down properly? Yea that seems more likely. Do I then pony up the dough to make it rack mountable? Dilemma.

What do you fine folks think? I have no experience in this department.
 

Rallywagon

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Finally Danoff, a topic I am not woefully ignorant on.
So, too rack mount or not. Its honestly just all preference and what your space and equipment allows for. My personal preference is to rack mount. Patch panel and all. It makes for convenience, easy access (generally) and cleaner cabling.
For a UPS, I'd probably just run the server on it if using one at all. Chances are if your out of power, your head end and anything needing power between them and you is too. As is your inclination, a UPS is really only used in the industry to supply power long enough for graceful shut downs or to supply power until a generator kicks in, and to smooth out the power being supplied from said generator.

Out of curiosity, what Cisco switch are you using for work?
 

Danoff

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Finally Danoff, a topic I am not woefully ignorant on.
So, too rack mount or not. Its honestly just all preference and what your space and equipment allows for. My personal preference is to rack mount. Patch panel and all. It makes for convenience, easy access (generally) and cleaner cabling.
For a UPS, I'd probably just run the server on it if using one at all. Chances are if your out of power, your head end and anything needing power between them and you is too. As is your inclination, a UPS is really only used in the industry to supply power long enough for graceful shut downs or to supply power until a generator kicks in, and to smooth out the power being supplied from said generator.

Out of curiosity, what Cisco switch are you using for work?

The Cisco router is 891FW.

It looks like my networking gear draws about 150 Watts. My NAS has a power supply of 450W (though it probably runs significantly below that figure). I could maybe get away with 2 500VA UPS devices, or 1 500VA and 1 750VA.

After looking at it some more, I really think I'm headed for a rack mount. It's gonna take 2 patch panels though. My internet cabling terminates in a bad spot in the basement, and they all have connectors on the end of them already. So I think I'll get a patch panel for those, plug them in to the front of it and mount it on the wall. Then I'll run some new internet cable between the back of that panel and the back of the rack panel located elsewhere in the basement. This seems like a cleaner solution than any other that I can come up with.

So I was chatting with my buddy about how if I lost power, probably internet was dead too. He told me this was not the case for him, and that he maintained internet through quite a few power outages. I have two flavors of internet, fiber and cable. I guess it's possible that one of them would stay up even with the power down. Seems like a big expense just to find out though.

I suppose I could get the 750VA system first and use it to power the server and the networking gear. Then I can test to see if the internet ever stays up during a power outage (if I ever lose power again). If the internet goes down every time power goes down (which is not very often), then there's no point in buying another UPS and I can move my networking gear off of it to make room for additional server power consumption as I add hard drives.
 
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Danoff

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Finally Danoff, a topic I am not woefully ignorant on.
So, too rack mount or not. Its honestly just all preference and what your space and equipment allows for. My personal preference is to rack mount. Patch panel and all. It makes for convenience, easy access (generally) and cleaner cabling.
For a UPS, I'd probably just run the server on it if using one at all. Chances are if your out of power, your head end and anything needing power between them and you is too. As is your inclination, a UPS is really only used in the industry to supply power long enough for graceful shut downs or to supply power until a generator kicks in, and to smooth out the power being supplied from said generator.

Out of curiosity, what Cisco switch are you using for work?

Are casters on the rack important?

Some of the racks are wall mounted, or just sit flat on the floor. It seems like access to the back of the rack would be important, and that casters would be really helpful. On the other hand, I'd need to be careful with cable slack to allow the rack to move at all. Seems like a feature that could be crucial, or not really helpful at all.
 

Rallywagon

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As a best practice you should have a loops worth of slack for the back end connections to the patch panel as a maintenance loop. The wall mounts generally are set up to swing open. You will want to run the ethernet cables for the patch panel, and keep the power cables managed on the side with the hinge.
For a floor mount. If the base is wide, casters might not be bad. If it's a more narrow base, it might not be a good idea. Best practices is to mount the rack to its surface to keep your equipment from tipping. That, of course, also depends on the height of your rack. If it's a short rack, casters again shouldn't be an issue. I have a floor rack is pretty deep. What I do is tuck it into a corner so its away, but getting to the back and front of the rack isn't difficult.