Saturday, September 12, 2009

Home Media Servers

The battle has been raging for a while on who owns a device near your TV. My bet is one of the consoles is going to win as they have the video quality, compute power etc. A while back I remodeled my family room and since I didnt have much time at the time I hired a company to do the sound piece. The speakers etc worked out fine and i'm happy. What i'm not happy with is that they installed a Control4 unit as the controller for the whole system. There's an attached drive to load media on. This system is dated by today's standards and you can't make any configuration changes without calling a dealer to support it -- yes you cant manage a device you own. Some day i'll rip it out of my system and get a better approach. What a waste.

Anyway, using it for video playback doesnt work, it supports music (poorly) and pictures (also poorly) (perhaps the $250+ software upgrade would make things better but im not going to find out). Basically anything you do with it costs serious money which means it has to go.

I got a disk of the first season of 24 for Christmas and I wanted to watch it but not be feeding disks to my playback device constantly. I had the idea to rip the disks and then do video-on-demand within my home. I already have Cat5e cabled networking and a GigE switch between the major computers and my family room so bandwidth wasnt an issue. I had the ripped files and needed a way to serve them to the TV. I use my PS3 as a DVD player since my old DVD player died and as it also does the BluRay disks too. Unfortunately the PS3 disk is tiny. 

I looked around and found MediaLink which turns a mac into a media server for the PS3 (They have a version for the XBox 360 too). That works great, I can now browse my pictures, music and video from iTunes, iPhoto or on folders on my drives and play them back on the PS3. The PS3 could use better menus/controls but it works and the software was $20.

So now my video library is on a TB hard drive in my basement and streams to my family room when I need it sure beats the DVD shuffle.

Only problem is Snow Leopard broke it. See next blog entry.