Boxee Box home AV system
November 14, 2010 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for a home AV system based upon the Boxee Box.

I really like the look of the Boxee Box as a solution for watching movies, tv etc. I would like use a NAS to feed it content over wifi.
Would love some suggestions about compatible kit that is not too expensive.

Here are the components i have/may need:

NAS: I have an old laptop (circa 2005 Dell with 1.8ghz centrino, 1gb ram) that i have put ubuntu and samba on. I tried streaming a 720p movie to my Macbook (using the DLink wifi router described below) but it stuttered every 5 or so seconds so I am not convinced that it is up to the job. If this computer is not up to it then i thought to use the Macbook (2.4ghz core duo2, 4gb ram) as the NAS but am not sure that the Boxee Box will work be able to stream from a mac based network.

Router: I have a DLink DIR-625 n router but have never really been that happy with it (a bit flaky). What are good robust n routers that can handle the demands of streaming HD but will not flop when a second device connects, possibly using g (ipod touches etc)?

Running a Ethernet cable is not feasible between the room with the computers and the room with the tv etc

Any advice would welcomed!
posted by SueDenim to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
You say running Ethernet is not feasible between rooms, but is it feasible to plug one of your computers directly into the TV's HDMI/DVI/VGA port?
You could save some money just running the (free) Boxee software directly on the computer.. and also play your content locally to remove the network lag altogether.

To more directly answer one of your other questions:
As long as your back-end can do standard Samba or Upnp sharing, Boxee will easily be able to handle it. So, no fear about keeping your content on the mac.
posted by jozxyqk at 1:11 PM on November 14, 2010

I've been streaming all of my TV from a Windows machine to a Playstation 3 for the last two and a half years, and I'd love to be cutting edge like I'm expected to, but I've been forced to adopt a cardinal rule that wifi and home AV streaming are (currently) incompatible. Streaming video requires a much more error-free connection than wifi will allow. NB: I don't use 802.11n in my apartment, only g.

Run your cable along the baseboards, you can get white or paintable cable if you want. Wifi is likely a much bigger problem here than the 1.8G Centrino, which may still be underpowered, but the network issues are currently masking its effect.
posted by rhizome at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2010

I've been debating similar and will probably go with either a newer mac mini (hdmi port) running Boxee wired directly to the television, or an Ubuntu equivalent.
posted by furtive at 1:20 PM on November 14, 2010

Running a Ethernet cable is not feasible between the room with the computers and the room with the tv etc

Can't help you with everything else, but look into powerline ethernet for a potential solution to this issue.
posted by smalls at 2:36 PM on November 14, 2010

Incidentally, I've had absolutely no trouble streaming video over Upnp over a wireless 'g' connection. Haven't tried HD content, but DVD-quality video has no problems.
posted by jozxyqk at 3:13 PM on November 14, 2010

Considering my NAS (with ethernet) is powered by a 500Mhz chip with 64 mb ram, and streams 1080p just fine, it's probably not your computer.

Question, are both the nas-computer and your macbook on the wireless? That makes things worse. Can you wire your NAS computer into your d-link router?

I can stream DVD and 720p quality just fine at 802.11g, but my NAS is wired into my wireless router. I can stream 1080p fine from the wired NAS to a laptop on 802.11n (usually connecting between 200-300mbit). But, for my normal TV watching, everything is hard wired on ethernet, it just makes things work better.

Wireless router - TP-Link 1043N FWIW. I miss my Linksys WRT54GS running tomato though, it was perfect.
posted by defcom1 at 3:59 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, I got a Boxee Box. (Love it, by the way!) I have a shared Video folder on my 18month old cheapo Dell laptop running Vista. It's streaming to the Boxee Box just fine. The laptop is connected via wifi. I'm a geek and should know these things, but I'm not even sure if it's g/n/whatever. The Boxee Box however is wired to my craptastic router (which cuts out internet to all other users while downloading torrents, for example...) I'm seriously amazed at how well this is working, but... it just works. The only reason I hooked the Boxee up wired was because the streaming content (from the interwebs) was a little choppier than I'd like. I get the feeling it would work over wifi with the content on my laptop, but I haven't tried it.

There have been mixed reviews over the Boxee Box (mainly due to the lack of Netflix and Hulu apps, but they are coming.) For streaming your own media though... I'd give it a whirl with the setup you have. Worse case scenario, you take the Boxee Box back.
posted by cgg at 4:12 PM on November 14, 2010

Oh - I missed the HD content requirement. I've only been watching DVD quality stuff, divx, etc. Haven't tried anything HD.
posted by cgg at 4:14 PM on November 14, 2010

defcom1: You misunderstand some things there. It's the decoding of high-res video data that is CPU-intensive; this happens on the PC where you are actually watching the video, not on the NAS where the files are stored.

So in your situation, the 500MHz processor isn't the limiting factor, the faster one in your laptop is.
posted by teatime at 4:52 PM on November 14, 2010

With the current technology, streaming HD content over wifi without hiccups is nearly impossible unless your devices are so close together that you could easily run a patch cable between. Instead consider moving your NAS to be adjacent to the player device, then transfer media files to it before you start to watch them. Even if this means setting up a new NAS it's going to be much, much easier buying new network gear in an attempt to get streaming to work properly.

Ethernet over power line isn't much good for streaming HD content either. Most solutions offer a maximum rate of 200mbps, but the real number is usually much lower and is subject to environmental interference (e.g. somebody turns on a box fan in the other room and suddenly your movie glitches up.) HD streaming is probably the most bandwidth-critical thing you'll be doing with your NAS, so you should endeavor to make it happen over copper.
posted by contraption at 5:19 PM on November 14, 2010

thanks folk for the help. i need to think a little about this - maybe the dream of wifi streaming HD is still a little way off....
posted by SueDenim at 5:31 AM on November 15, 2010

This might not be the cheapest route, but is what i'm doing at home. I currently use an AOpen Mini-PC as my AV solution, with Windows 7 launching the media center at startup. From there I can use a remote or gyro mouse and wireless keyboard to watch Netflix and Hulu streams (oh...and there's a Hulu as well as a Boxee plugin for WMC).

A fully loaded AOpen PC with blu-ray will run you about $800-$1k however once you get all the parts for it. For me it was worth it to make full use of a 73inch DLP TV...something to consider if you're comfortable working with barebone PCs.
posted by samsara at 7:24 AM on November 15, 2010

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