Sunday, January 11, 2009

Assessment of Possible Home Media Server Connection Setups

The information contained in this blog post is the result of current extensive testing and research within my home office. I felt that this is pertinent information to share with colleagues, as I had a quite brilliant-but-skewed vision of how my home media universe was going to flow. I will have a follow-up blog post after the PS3 has been purchased and actually tested, as my preferred setup is yet to be finalized. Stay tuned...
Windows Server 2008
  • Uses Windows Media Services (not Windows Media Center), which requires clients to access media via Windows Media Connect 2 protocol; this is an optional installation
  • Per extensive research and perusal of consumer reviews, Server 2008 OS seems to be more popular than Vista Ultimate with beta testers with claims of improved performance
  • I agree with most beta testers: this serves as a great OS, even using it as a workstation; much more reliable than Vista when dealing with 64-bit processing, not as intensive on the system hardware resources
Windows with Media Center
  • Media Center not included on new Server OS (despite various recent gripes to Microsoft from various customers on the Microsoft Connect site)
  • Vista Ultimate OS pricey and shaky, almost better to wait and run Windows 7
Media Management Software
  • Works with Media Extenders: Windows with Media Center
  • Works with Windows Media Connect 2: Windows Media Player, Zune, TVersity, Orb, MediaPortal
  • Works with Internet-enabled server-native GUI through uPNP AV for DLNA-certified devices: Orb, MediaPortal
Internet-enabled Server-native GUI through uPNP AV for DLNA-certified Devices
  • An effective and universal standard
  • Playback of content is dependent upon media server software and codecs/plug-ins installed there
  • Uses media server software's GUI, which is just a web interface (i.e., PHP, etc)

For more information on DLNA certification, visit:

Windows Media Connect 2 (***strictly a protocol***)
  • Can be used as a media streaming protocol with a variety of Media Management Software
  • When used in combination with Media Management Software: shows up as an accessible uPNP network device
  • The client device's GUI is utilized for accessing shared content rather than using the media server's GUI
  • Content is disbursed into the client GUI's applicable folders, if at all
  • Media content playback is restrictively dependent upon the file-types that the client device supports
Media Extenders
  • Network devices that work only with Windows with Media Center
  • Seem to be proprietary and unable to use on a network lacking Media Center
  • When connecting to a Media Center PC: starts Media Extender software, requests RDP-like (Remote Desktop Protocol) handshake, navigation & access to shared network media is now through the Media Center interface
  • Is the media load taking place on the PC when running it? Answer so far has been yes, unless dealing with a special codec or plugin that is only on the Media Center PC's side, such as DVD Library
  • Basically firmware with an RDP shell - connects only to Media Center OS; then, allows remote control of the content through the Media Center GUI, which is essentially being projected through the protocol onto the screen connected to the Media Extender hardware
XBox 360
  • Media Extender installed/ready
  • Alternative is to use Windows Media Connect 2 to access "Computer" on Private Network
  • Can access current Netflix account's Instant Viewing flicks through XBox Live Gold membership (HD content on my A/N network streams at an amazing quality)
  • 1080p HDMI connection looks beautiful on Samsung 650 Series 52" HDTV
  • Can use Internet-enabled server-native GUI through uPNP AV for DLNA-certified devices
  • 480p resolution not the greatest, but okay for quick Internet browsing and great for play on Samsung 650 Series 52" HDTV

***Personal home network solution award: PlayStation 3 with Orb wins out***

PlayStation 3 (aka PS3)
  • Can use Windows Media Connect 2 to access "Computer" on Private Network
  • Can use Internet-enabled server-native GUI through uPNP AV for DLNA-certified devices
  • 1080p HDMI connection will look beautiful on Samsung 650 Series 52" HDTV
  • Has a Blu-Ray Disc player

***As for business clients with no interest in purchasing the above video game systems, the most universal network media player goes to...***

Popcorn Hour A-110 with WN-100

Code: A-110-WN

Sale Price: $250.00

Information from as follows:

This special package included Popcorn Hour A-110 and WN-100 802.11n (draft 2.0) USB Wi-Fi adapter to enable out of the box wireless access to Popcorn Hour A-110.

The Popcorn Hour A-110 is an enhanced version of the popular A-100 model. It adds support for 2.5"/3.5" SATA HDD and USB Slave functionality to improve connectivity and transfer rates. HDMI has been updated to the 1.3a spec, allowing full support of HD Audio pass-through for DTS HD-HR, DTS HD-MA, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. The ports on the device have also been reconfigured, with a USB port moved to the rear panel, optical S/PDIF replacing the co-axial S/PDIF and hardware reset button to allow for easier use of the device.

Popcorn Hour A-110 allows you to pull in digital video, audio and photos from various sources for your enjoyment on your HDTV or Home Theater setup.

You can stream or playback your digital media content from a variety of sources, such as your PC, NAS, digital camera, USB mass storage devices (Flash drive, HDD, DVD drive), internal SATA HDD (HDD not included, please refer to the HDD compatibility list for Popcorn Hour A-110) and even directly from the Internet via the Media Service Portal.

It also serves as a NAS and a Bit-Torrent peer-to-peer downloader (an internal HDD is required for these functions) to eliminate the need to switch on a PC or other device for this purpose.

The Popcorn Hour A-110 supports the latest high bit-rate video formats (MPEG2 MP@HL, H.264 HP@L4.1, VC-1 AP@L3 in TS of at least 40Mbps) to give you up to 1080p high-definition videos.

In recognition of advances in Internet TV, the A-110 supports peer-to-peer Internet TV streaming technology from SayaTV, as well as popular unicast internet TV such as YouTube, Revision 3 and Vuze via the Media Service Portal.

The A-110 firmware is upgradeable to support future media containers, codecs and features.

  • Bonjour
  • UPnP AV
  • Windows Media Connect
  • Windows Media Player NSS
  • SMB
  • NFS
  • BitTorrent P2P
HTTP Servers
  • MyiHome
  • WizD
  • SwissCenter
  • MSP Portal
  • Llink
  • GB-PVR
NAS access
  • SMB
  • NFS
  • FTP
Web services
  • YouTube
  • Veoh
  • Videocast
  • DLTV
  • Cranky Geeks
  • Bliptv
  • PodfinderUK
  • Vuze
  • Break Podcast
  • Revision 3
  • CNN The Larry King Podcast
  • CNN Anderson Cooper 360
  • The CNN Daily
  • CNN In Case You Missed It
  • NBC Meet The Press
  • NBC Today
  • CBS Face the Nation
  • NBC Nightly News
  • Mevio
  • Live365 Radio
  • iPodcast
  • Radiobox
  • ABC News
  • BBC Podcast
  • CNN News
  • Indiefeed
  • Jamendo
  • Flickr
  • Picasaweb
RSS feed:
  • Bloglines
  • Yahoo! Weather
  • Yahoo Traffic Alerts
  • Traffic Condition
  • Cinecast
  • Yahoo! News
  • MSNBC News
Peer-to-peer TV:
  • SayaTV
Internet Radio:
  • Shoutcast
Media files supported
Video containers:
  • MPEG1/2/4 Elementary (M1V, M2V, M4V)
  • MPEG1/2 PS (M2P, MPG)
  • MPEG2 Transport Stream (TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS)
  • VOB
  • Matroska (MKV)
  • MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4
Video codecs:
  • MPEG-1
  • MPEG-2
  • MP@HL
  • MPEG-4.2
  • ASP@L5, 720p, 1-point GMC
  • WMV9
  • MP@HL
  • H.264
  • BP@L3
  • MP@L4.0
  • HP@L4.0
  • HP@L4.1
  • VC-1
  • MP@HL
  • AP@L3
Audio containers:
  • AAC, M4A
  • MPEG audio (MP1, MP2, MP3, MPA)
  • WAV
  • WMA
  • FLAC
  • OGG
Audio codecs:
  • Dolby Digital
  • DTS
  • WMA, WMA Pro
  • AAC
  • MP1, MP2, MP3
  • LPCM
  • FLAC
  • Vorbis
Audio pass-through:
  • DTS
  • Dolby Digital
  • Dolby True HD
  • Dolby Digital Plus
Photo formats:
  • JPEG
  • BMP
  • PNG
  • GIF
Other formats:
  • ISO
  • IFO
Subtitle formats:
  • SRT
  • SMI
  • SUB
  • SSA
  • Cardea DRM (WMDRM-ND)
  • Sigma Designs SMP8635
  • 32MB Flash
Audio/Video outputs
  • HDMI v1.3a (up to 1080p)
  • Component Video (up to 1080p)
  • S-Video
  • Composite Video
  • Stereo Analog Audio
  • S/PDIF Optical Digital Audio
  • 1x USB 2.0 slave
  • 2x USB 2.0 host (placed at front and back panel each)
  • SATA
  • Hardware Reset Button
  • Network - Ethernet 10/100
  • 12V DC
  • 3A
  • Width 10.5"(270mm) x Depth 5.25" (132mm) x Height 1.25" (32mm)
  • 2.2 lbs (1Kg)
Package Content
  • Popcorn Hour A-110 (HDD not included)
  • 100~240V Power Adapter and 3 Prong Flat US Cord
  • 1.5M length HDMI cable
  • Remote Control with 2 "AAA" batteries
  • USB Slave cable
  • Quick start guide
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution By license.

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