Streaming video from my PC, not the cloud.
October 31, 2012 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me set up video streaming from my Windows computer to my TV with a minimum of fuss, expense and wires.

I have a whole lot of videos saved to my home PC. I have a big shiny HDTV that I'd like to watch them on. Problem is, every time I think I've worked out a way to get them to play nice together, it doesn't quite work out.

I have an XBox 360 that can grab files from networked drives and play them (assuming a compatible format, which isn't usually a problem), but for some reason it often can't "see" files or entire folders despite them being visible to other computers on the network. Many times files that have been added in the past week simply won't show up in the folder, even though older ones are there and can be played easily. Restarting the computer or XBox doesn't help.

I also have a laptop with HDMI out, but it's my wife's primary computer so not really suited to being a dedicated media box. Also I have to fiddle with the picture settings on the TV every time I hook it up.

So I'm looking for a piece of dedicated hardware that I can use to play videos. App support like Hulu or Netflix is irrelevant - the Xbox handles those just fine. I've seen Boxee, Roku, Google TV and other names banded around in talks about streaming video, but almost always with an eye toward grabbing content from the cloud instead of my den (Also Boxee is undergoing major change with the Boxee TV so future features/support is a big question mark). All I need is something that will play nicely with Windows shared drives over wi-fi and can handle legacy file formats. Preferably for less expense than a media center PC, but I suppose that's an option.

(Apple TV would do what I want, I believe, but is an absolute last resort because iTunes is the Devil. The Devil, I say.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My suggestion is plex media server on your pc, and it looks like plex client is available for xbox 360.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2012

ps3mediaserver works great for PS3 and I'm pretty sure it works well for Xbox 360 as well.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:29 PM on October 31, 2012

Response by poster: Neither works.

Plex: After setup, attempts to open a browser window pointed to localhost which somehow times out. What?

ps3mediaserver: Sets up fine, configures fine, detects my XBox fine, does not actually serve any media to my console. Shows up on the list of available servers but doesn't open.

(Firewall is already off, thanks)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:35 PM on October 31, 2012

A WD TV box should work well for you. They will play just about anything over your local network or USB. And they also have Netflix and Hulu if you ever want to stop paying for Xbox Live.
posted by zsazsa at 4:50 PM on October 31, 2012

Best answer: Have you tried TVersity?
posted by czytm at 4:54 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That seems to do the trick. Not perfect - for some reason a few files play at half speed - but all the affected videos seem to play with the XBox's native video app so no harm, no foul. Thanks!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:16 PM on October 31, 2012

Also, I use XenonMKV to convert HD mkv x264 files into mp4 for compatibility with the xbox360.
posted by czytm at 5:51 PM on October 31, 2012

AppleTV + AirParrot. No iTunes required.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:04 PM on October 31, 2012

Keep using the XBox, but instead try using the "Play to" feature. In Windows 7, find the file you want to play in Windows Media Player, right click it, and there should be a "Play to..." option, where you can send the file to the XBox. This pops up a little window to control playback remotely on the XBox (play, pause, rewind, etc.).

In Windows 8, you can skip loading Windows Media Player beforehand, as the "Play to" menu is directly in Windows Explorer - just right click media file.

Currently my plan is to investigate using this "Play to" feature from a Windows based file server, using a separate control device (such as my phone), to instruct the server to play to the xbox. That's upping the complexity a bit though.

Alternatively, look into configuring Windows Media Center on the PC, then configure the XBox as a media center extender. That route can take you down the rabbit hole of cool customisations though. If you go this route, check out to see what you can turn your XBox into.
posted by Shelduck at 6:45 AM on November 1, 2012

I should add - to tie back to your post - that I find these options work much nicer than trying to navigate through network folders in the XBox's video player, which as you've discovered can be a bit flakey.
posted by Shelduck at 6:48 AM on November 1, 2012

Response by poster: The strange thing about Media Center - and this may be something I can correct with customization - is that it has a much more limited repertoire of codecs than the native XBox player. When I tried it, back when I first got the console networked, there were a ton of files that came back "not supported" when I tried to play them in WMC, but worked fine if I used the regular video player.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:18 AM on November 1, 2012

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