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.
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!