Category: Powerline - MyHomeBroadband.com
 
Been lazy (and busy) so not has a chance to post. Besides I’m not one of these bloggers who feels they have to put something up just for the sake of my viewing figures. As my wife says, quality over quantity ;-)

DLNA-or to give it its proper name Digital Living Network  Alliance. Big name, rubbish sounding but it’s all around us. PVR’s (Personal Video Recorder). It should actually say DVR (Digital Video Recorder) but the two names are interchangeable. Most people know the latter, few know the former. Thing is, you’ve got a DLNA TV or a DLNA client (PS3 is one) and you probably don’t even know it. And probably don’t even use it. So why is it a big deal?

Well, it’s all to do with the magical expression that media companies and Internet providers will stuff down our throats called the “digitally connected home”. There-I said it. Sky will say they do it, with their multi-room facility and Virgin Media would like to say it but they’re not quite there-yet. Freeview is even worse, as you need a separate box for each room and there is no way to watch one programme on one box, on another TV.The big problem with this is you need a separate box for each room-pain in the b*tt, extra power, need one for each of the kids and costs you a fortune. Plus it isn’t scalable. Be honest-how often do you watch Sky Movies? Thing is, the media barons will have you believe that you need them-you don’t. In the US, this is called cord cutting-that is, people are ditching their traditional Pay TV subscriptions and streaming straight from the content providers-NetFlix & LoveFilm are two examples. In a few years, the TV will again become the centrepiece of the family home but this time with the Internet content on it.

(I hear people complaining that this doesn’t cater for Premnium TV-true, but Freeview is by far the biggest provider of TV in the UK-and always will  be. You could always supplement your viewing experience with a Slingbox  ;-))

What you do like is the flexibility they give you, to tie in with your busy lives. I always look at my family and friends, rather than some media marketing nutjob, to make me stop and think what people want. My wife very rarely watches anything “primetime”-she’ll watch it delayed. Why? Because a) it fits round her life and b) she can fast forward through the adverts. So I’ve set the scene and hopefully you get the point.

So you have the big TV (s), you don’t have the time and you want the flexibility-how do you do it? With DLNA, stupid. I’ll go on to describe, with a little thought and some cash outlay, how you get all your programmes, wherever you want, when you want.


Picture
Home DNLA set-up
Step 1-fire up that old desktop PC you consigned to the loft. This will be you media centre-where you have all you videos, your music and wait for it, your TV recordings. You’ll need 3 things-a TV tuner card (about £50) and 2 bits of free software. The first part is called MediaPortal and the second part is PS3MediaServer. You install the software and the tuner-tip-try to get a connection to the tuner card (which is a USB stick-no need to pull apart the PC) from your external aerial. It will come with a small internal one but unless you’re close to your TV transmitter, you won’t pick up all the channels. Might be a bit of hassle but it will be worth it.

Step 2-get your TV or client connected up to the media server PC. Now, I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you have a broadband connection. If you’re really lucky, and not like me, you’ll have a Virgin Media broadband connection-which means you’ll have blazing speeds, as well as a router. This router supplies your wireless connection and wired-I specifically mention the wired (Ethernet) side of things as that part seems to have been forgotten in the mad rush for everything wireless (see my earlier posts). I blame that bald guy and his slightly ugly female partner on the Gadget show-or Dick and Fluff as I call them. A lot of the TV’s, which have DLNA, have the facility to connect to your router via a special wireless dongle-tip-don’t bother. They will also have an Ethernet port on the back-use this with a Powerline adaptor. It’s cheaper, and faster. You can do it wireless but wireless doesn’t really scale to high-def video, plus you’re in a very congested airwaves scenario-go for wired, you won’t regret it. As your TV will need to be near a power socket, you can use these all round the house-you can now get ones with in-line sockets so you don’t even need an extension. So idea is, wherever you have a TV, stick in a Powerline adaptor. These are all connected to the router (and hence your media server) by another Powerline adaptor. If you’re really adventurous, you could just run CAT5 cabling all round your house and dispense with the adaptors but I guess you really can’t be bothered drilling holes through your walls and putting your foot through ceilings.

Step 3-ahh, but what if you have an older TV or one that doesn’t have DLNA? Well, this is where this little beauty comes in-£60 and it fits in the palm of your hand. An extra bonus is that it can also do some Internet “stuff”, like YouTube and suchlike. No hardrive, it really is meant for streaming, but you can connect USB drives off the back of it (powered or pen drive).It would also fit very nicely strapped on the back of a wall mounted LCD/LED TV.

Step 4-addtional software to make your life easier. For remote control of the media centre (you don’t even need a monitor) get TeamViewer-stick the main app on your laptop and the client app on your media centre. No more running back and forward. The more canny of you will realise that with a PC as the hub, you can download other “stuff”. Maybe a few torrents with the likes of Utorrent?

So you now have the software, you have the hardware and they are all connected up-sorted. Hopefully the diagram will show you what I mean. Because your TV’s will all have Freeview built in, you still have all your channels as before, for the usual real-time experience. The programmes will be recorded to media centre PC-in my experience, a 30 minute show will take up about 400MB of space (about half a CD). Whereas a 90 minute film will be about 1-2GB of data (half of a DVD). But you can get a 1TB (terabyte) drive for about £50 now so you have oodles of space-as as with your PVR/DVR, you can simply delete the files to clear up space.

Additional Notes (techy bits)

DLNA server software-I prefer PS3MediaServer as you don’t have to continually update/refresh your library as the likes of TV Versity and Serviio require-I Iike the latter but the PS3MS lets you browse all your drives

Media Centre software-yes, you can use the inbuilt Windows supplied one (if your operating system came with it), or you could use the likes of GBPVR but I find Media Portal to be much more feature rich and user friendly, especially where the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is concerned.

Freeview PVR’s-there are some PVR’s coming onto the market now that have networking capabilities but they are pricey (£300) and probably best to wait until they become mass market. Besides, its just another cost.

So this is a brief intro to getting that media content around the home-hope you've found it useful!

 
Powerline/Homeplug-take your pick. I have a few Samsungs TV's with the DNLA client functionality within them.Basically, your TV becomes a media extender.I use a program on my main PC called Serviio-check it out, its ace. It beats the likes of TV Versity into a pulp-beleive you me, I've tried them all and this one is not only free, it has a nice clean interface and it *works*.
Anyway I digress-I have more than one TV-the other main TV is in another room, away from the PC which has Serviio. I dont have direct Ethernet connectivity and the walls/floor prohibit me from running cables. I want to be able for my kids to watch films (or me) in this room. I have tried wireless but wireless, believe it or not, does not lend itself to media streaming, especially when you get onto the Blu-ray DVD's or HD. It just doesn't. When I say wireless, I mean taking a wireless router and popping on the likes of DD-WRT firmware-this extends the functionality with things like repeater functions. But what I found was that when you get to the 9-10Mb/secs rate (Fantastic Mr Fox is an example), you get stuttering/freezing etc-and then the cry from the kids comes up "Dad-the TV is preparing to play again"!
So I looked at Powerline-basically its a technology that has been about for years (I remember discussing it in 2000) which really should have beaten wireless hands down, in the home, but for some reason (regulation,standards bodies etc) it lagged and wireless filled the void. Wireless was going the same way but the vendors got sick of the regulators and just started launching products-consumers lapped it up and Wi-Fi was born.
Powerline uses the mains circuits in the home to tranfer Ethernet data-same idea as wireless (a conversion ) but not through the air.You need at least 2 adaptors-one connected usually to your home router (the assumption being your main PC is also connected to the router) and the other at the TV. Another reason Powerline has not flew are the prices-your still looking at £40-50 UK for just one circuit-this adds up for a big house and you dont get the conveince of wireless. And this only gets you the "basic" bandwidth model-I'll come onto that shortly. What also happens is that you take up a mains plug socket-so you really need a double socket next to the TV (one for your Powerline box and the other for your TV), or you get a passthru Powerline unit (more expense again). And guess what?-Powerline hates extension leads (I quote from the ZyXel website FAQ " It is not advised to use PowerLine HomePlug Adapters with an extension lead as this can lead to a degradation of throughput signal or in case stop the signal completely") Oh yes, they despise each other.So you can see the consumer barriers starting to come up here-price, functionality and ease of use. And for some reason, some companies think that electric blue is a nice colour to have sticking out of your sockets, rather than white-my wife particularly hates those ones! There are also security issues but unless your in a flat, you should be ok.
Perfromance wise-this does grate on me-you have 3 standards at the moment-by speed it is 14Mb/secs,85Mb/secs and 200Mb/secs. As with wireless, you will get nowhere near this speed.The 14M/secs I could manage 5Mb/secs throughput, the 85Mb/secs I could manage 25Mb/secs-I've not tried the 200Mb/secs because frankly, I'm not shelling out for a 3rd time to be dissapointed. And the above speeds were 2 laptops, on 2 Powerline adaptors, on the same wall socket-start going between rooms or different ring circuits and the speed drops dramatically.My house is only 10 years old so the electrics are fine. Its just not very good.
So I'll be using Powerline as a filler at the moment-dont be fooled by the claims. If you can run Ethernet cables, please do-it really is the only way.The other suggestion is you use a combination of wireless for low bandwidth/easy use/conveince with Powerline for point to point circuits. But dont depend on one of the two to fill all your needs as you'll be dissapointed. With the media home on its way, somebody better had come up with an alternative to wired Ethernet or plasterers will be in big demand shortly