All-in-one mobile HTPC server?


Senior Member
When traveling, and on our boat, it's been convenient to bring along something capable of acting as a standalone media source.  Lots of hurdles have existed in the past, and a few persist today.  I've lugged along a combination of gizmos to work around a lot of these.  Like a hotspot capable router to make cellular connections, when the local wifi/ethernet was too slow or restricted. 

Most recently I've had luck using a SOHO router running an OpenWRT build to do this, along with act as a wifi client to the local network.  Some hotels no longer offer wired ethernet in-room, but their local wifi won't support multicast devices like a Chromecast.   Local devices connecting to that, and then it makes another wifi connection for the Internet.  Not ideal, what with double-NAT networking, but better than nothing.
I've also lugged along a laptop running a Plex server.  This to allow using a tablet or phone running the Plex app to instruct the server to cast video to a Chromecast on the TV.  Using a Chromecast into the TV, and casting to it, allows avoiding trying to string an HDMI cable from the laptop to the TV.  Not ideal in many hotel rooms, for many reasons.  Most notably theft risks or cleaning services knocking it off the furniture.
But it works pretty well, actually.  Trouble is the rats nest of cables.

I'm entertaining the idea of configuring a fanless miniPC to act as a single box for all this.  Potentially running a Hypervisor or docker on it to allow hosting the 'most suitable' OS for the various tasks.  I'm well acquainted with the hassles of VMs (pass-through hardware, etc) so it won't be without complicated config struggles and careful hardware selection.   With modern systems there's a lot more CPU and resources available. 

I'm not talking about some Android-based TV setup (like an nVidia Sheild TV).  Lots of those run afoul of "you can't get there from here" limits to their OS.  Or a ton of tapping through a UI to get things configured.  

My expectation is to boot the beast, make a wifi connection to it's network and use web pages, terminal or remote desktop connection (vnc, rdp, etc) to configure how it should uplink.  Local wifi, wired or cell, and whether to maintain a nailed-up VPN back home.  This has been do-able on some SOHO routers running OpenWRT for a while.  I've got a Wirie setup on my boat that also does this (cell modem and pushbullet).  

Anyway, it's early days and I've not yet found a good candidate to act as the VM host.  The Qotom fanless PC I've got as a my home router only supports 8gb via a single so-dimm slot.  I'm scouring the web looking for ones with more RAM support.  
I like the OEM like DIY'd methodology of not having to carry or connect anything portable and not see it...
Here secondary failover os a combination WAP, Firewall, Switch, Telephone box running off 12VDC and backup battery....seen this is stock today on many boats...
Renting vacation homes in the 90's would just bring portable entertainment with us.  A few times did bring a small portable DTV dish and tiny satellite reciever which did work except for the cable.  Did it also once in Estes / mountains home (nothing there - no cellular reception) and the dish worked fine on the deck at the time.
On a boat...and docked seen this with water, electric et al.  (by sisters boat and dock space)..
The development of the "portable" airline terminal / kiosk was related to using an IBM / Lenova latptop, touch screen and multiple mechanisms of connecitivity from wherever to wherever.
Just redid my desktop here...smaller footprint ...6 NICs (for VMs), 32Gb of RAM, built in raid using hot swap dual 2.5" easy access slots...from the front of the small box...mostly like multiple displayport stuff for 4 desktop monitors...
For the boat you could DIY build a double din with LCD and remote LCD "control" panel with all of the bells and whistles plus leaving a combo modem built in to the boat.  Preferred methodology here is as you mention...self contained media plus internet if needed but not depended on..sort of do this today with two automobiles preferring to listen to my music database...but today tapping in to the bus can remote control the automobiles except for driving them...personal preferred chill time on a boat here is (age thing)...falling asleep facing the stars and air and enjoying the peace and quiet of the water (no media, no network no internet...)..
Used this case and a pico PSU to build a Homeseer Server for a peer a couple of years back. 
You could power it via a cigarette lighter plug or a 12VDC laptop power supply.
It is using a .m2 SSD drive as primary.  You can also fit two 2.5" drives inside.  
I also utilize these cases for my carpc's using DIN mounting brackets.  CarPC's are recognized as a device on the bus and is a menu option on the HU.  Also connects to ODBII port. 
The case width and depth is the size of an mITX board and about 3 inches high.