Multimedia-filter: Looking for help from all you Network and digital media Gurus in making my first house totally awesome. Movies, Televsion, Music, Wifi, Streaming Content and 50mgbt broadband within.
November 13, 2009 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Multimedia-filter: Looking for help from HDTV, NAS, Media Servers and Network Gurus' in making my first house totaly awesome. Movies, Televsion, Music, Wifi, Streaming Content and 50mgbt broadband within.

Ok guys, this is my first new message on metafilter, so thanks for everything thus far - to business.


The Premise:
In two weekends time, my girlfriend and I are moving into our first house together in Southampton (UK).

Thankfully she is very accomadating and shares the same views with me reguarding the wonder of technology and allure of gadgetry and thus: we have decided to go down the "cyberhouse" network route - all be it slowly.


What we currently have
50mgbt line and a Television package from Virgin.
2 relatively high-spec PCs downstairs (in the lounge) (XP/Vista soon upgrading to Windows 7 im sure)
A new TV - to be bought - (http://www.ebuyer.com/product/154997/show_product_reviews?offset=10&review_type=both&review_order_by=RLF - ebuyer's own)
1 ipod touch
Host of parts to make a low spec PC.


What I would like in my cyber house
DVD's playable on the TV
Normal channels (Virgin package) playable on the TV
Video (films, episodes) from PC's playable on the TV
Music, both downstairs and upstairs: DAB radio/Cd's/Downloaded Music/Online Radio (last.fm etc would be great)
The ability to change the music remotely (ideally, different sources for different rooms)


Some ideas I've been looking at so far
KVM Switch and a long HDMI cable for my computer to use TV as alternative screen - enabling videos from pc to be played
NAT Storage hiding somewhere in the network
Popcorn Hour to play video from PC
Sonos music system to play upstairs and downstairs
Media pc configured to do the job of sonos and popcorn hour (apparantly this is very tricky?)



What do you think metafilter? Remember that we are definately "on a budget" but I much more trust your collective ideas and conceptions than my own - so what would you reccomend should be my immediate course of action?
posted by Cogentesque to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Rather than a KVM switch, consider an HDMI switching receiver - it will simplify many of your issues. Cheap ones are in the $200-300 range which isn't much more expensive than KVMs but includes more control over display, sound and output.

Also consider a universal remote like the Logitech Harmony - mostly because it does a number of intelligent things with configuring "Activites" like "Listen to Sonos" and "Watch TV" and "Listen to iPod" and simplifies the process of configuring same. I really like my XBox 360-branded one - not for the aesthetics but because it controls the 360 natively which is, it turns out, where I watch most of my movies (via Netflix & DVD).

I use Windows 7 64-bit Media Center for non-Netflix videos and find that a combination of an IR receiver, Vista 64 Codec Pack, the above Logitech Remote and a very occasional use of a wireless keyboard/mouse work quite well. You'll want to configure a low-cred "Media" account that you can log into using just the arrow buttons so you don't have to involve a keyboard in signing in all the time. A lower-security option is configuring said account to auto-log-in and start Media Center - that takes a little registry hacking but may be worth it depending on your primary use case.

Can't help you on Sonos or Popcorn hour - my approach to multiple screens if I had them would probably be to just get a(nother) XBox 360 ($200 right now) and use it as a Media Center Extender or to play DVDs natively. (The newest update will have last.fm and several other streaming things built in as well.) I know that's not on your list but they've made it *really* easy to use for that purpose. (Be advised, though, that the Media Center Extender won't play a number of non-canonical formats natively - for instance you can watch an MP4 on the Media Center using codecs from that codec pack but but it will not stream to an extender without some magical transcoding software churning on your PC).
posted by abulafa at 7:31 AM on November 13, 2009


Oh and as for NAS - don't overthink that one. Start with a 2TB ethernet-connected MyBook for cheap and expand as you need to. I stream off it over wifi and it's fine as long as you're not doing a lot of scrubbing through the video.

I've built and maintained the NAS/RAID box on low-end PC hardware and it's a rope-a-dope, especially compared to $200 for an external box you can just buy two of. First you'll need a decent RAID SATA card, then drives, even a free OS is finnicky to configure and manage, etc - it always comes out cheaper to buy the dedicated hardware.
posted by abulafa at 7:35 AM on November 13, 2009


Have you looked into XBMC? It was originally created for the original Xbox but now would work great for a media PC. This Lifehacker article might help you. Personally I currently use an Xbox 360 streamed to via TVersity via network connection, but I don't have an HDTV yet so the downsampling TVersity does to stream doesn't matter.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:35 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just been having a look around myself.

Thanks for your answers Abulafa and haveanicesummer, very kind of you to lend a hand.


What I will do:
Buy a new TV with an HDMI slot to connect up via a big long cable (perhaps with a kvm switcher) to my DVI monitor port on my pc. Plug the cable in as and when downloaded films etc need to be watched. (either have sual screens set up, or different display settings saved for both the monitor and the tv)

Buy a Logitech harmony remote - sounds good just to have one anyway!

When I have enough money - go for a sonos (global house sound) and a popcorn hour (wireless streaming video) and possibley a Mybook to extend space.

Thanks again Everyone :)

Hope I've helped
posted by Cogentesque at 8:36 AM on November 16, 2009


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