Interpretation of streams

Illustration by Parliament of Owls
Date:21 July 2012 Tags:, , ,

Nearly every video, song and photo I have lives on my computer. My TV is in the living room – across the house. What’s the easiest way to bridge the two?

A You need three things to transfer media across your home. The first is a media source, or server, which you already have – your computer – that has all the videos, music, and photos on it. The second thing you need is a receiver of some sort that supports the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard.

If your TV is a relatively new “smart” TV equipped with Wi-Fi, it can probably act as a media receiver; if not, you’ll need to attach an external one. The Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player is a good option. It supports Online streaming (in SA, this might involve a hack.) Both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 also support local media streaming, along with a full complement of Internet streaming services.

The third thing you need is a translator – that is, software to take your media and make it visible to your streaming box. Windows can stream some video types natively via a feature called Windows Media Centre, but you’re far better off downloading a free app called TVersity. This will make your media visible to any DLNA device or game console and, if necessary, convert the files to a format your device can read. (For this feature to work, you’ll need a fast processor – at least a Core 2 Duo.) As a bonus, TVersity can stream to your mobile devices, as long as they’re connected to your home Wi-Fi network.

Mac users using a DLNA TV or streaming box should download an app called TwonkyServer, which will immediately
make your media collection visible to your streaming device. PS3 or Xbox owners will be better served by the now-free
Rivet application, which will stream your content and retain your computer’s folder structure.

Wireless speed is also important. Even if your router claims to transfer data at a full 54 megabits per second – the top speed of 802.11g routers, which is theoretically more than fast enough to stream an HD video – signal fluctuations can reduce that data rate drastically. You don’t really notice the difference when you’re surfi ng the Web; you do notice it when you’re subjecting the connection to a steady load. File-sharing apps such as BitTorrent are a common cause of speed fluctuations, but distant router placement can cause problems, too. If your Wi-Fi video streams are getting  choked, it might be time to consider upgrading to a faster 802.11n router or, better yet, rolling out some Cat 5e Ethernet cable.

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