Setting up new network; school me in A/V streaming

Black Morty Rackham

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Jan 8, 2004
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I'm moving in with my girlfriend, and her current network situation is basically a single Cat 5 cable coming out of the wall going into her laptop. I assume there is some kind of switch system in the building, but we have no control over it (obviously). As far as we're concerned, all we have is a network cable with internet connectivity.

There is a TV with HDMI in (as well as DVI, 3.5mm stereo, Scart, etc). DVDs are played on her laptop, through an HDMI cable. With my laptop, iPhone and iPad added, it's a bit of a cable nightmare. Internet is generally shared either by switching the Cat 5 cable to the other machine, or by turning on internet sharing via wifi on the one computer that is connected. I frequently connect my laptop to the internet through my iPhone via Bluetooth. Not the best of solutions, as it's not very fast and I do have a network cap on my phone.

The annoying thing right now is that whenever we want to watch a movie or play audio, we need to connect and disconnect a whole bunch of cables. And, of course, every time we do, they get more and more tangled...

So, long story short, I want to set up a device/software combo that does the following:

1. Wifi (g/n). This is obviously the most important bit.

2. HDMI out to connect to the TV.

3. Audio out. The speaker system is a pair of self-amped studio monitors. They're pretty good, and I have no intention of replacing them just yet. The only input is a regular 3.5 mm stereo cable.

4. Lets me play music in Spotify and iTunes on any of the connected devices and have that stream to the speakers via wifi. Airplay seems reasonable, but it's iTunes only?

5. Lets me play video content, in iTunes and/or other software, on any of the devices, and have that stream to the HDMI output.

6. Preferably, the router should have a USB (or equivalent) connection for sharing a hard drive across the network. Ideally, this should be able to store our media library.

I looked into the Airport Express, but it only does audio. The Apple TV only does optical audio, so I would need a digital audio receiver as well. Seems pointless right now.

Is all this possible? I haven't really had time to keep up with home networking tech the last few years. It's a bit much to take in all at once, so I figured I'd check with you guys.

Thanks!
 

dashpuppy

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May 5, 2010
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wd live tv ? 80$ does what the apple tv does but has 3.5" audio and hdmi out etc etc..
 

Electrofreak

[H]ard|Gawd
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Aug 5, 2008
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I'd build or buy an HTPC and toss XBMC on it. And probably will soon, as it's a little bit more slick than the way I'm currently doing it.

Right now I have an old-ass HP tower sitting in my basement, tied into a switch that connects to my Wireless N router using Gigabit E. It runs good 'ol Windows XP, and Media Player is mapped to media folders on various laptops and desktops in the house. The video is piped upstairs from the HP tower into the entertainment center to an automatic video switch I got at Radio Shack. It takes a number of inputs (HDMI, RCA, co-ax) from different sources and automatically switches to whatever is the current active video source, whether it be the media PC, the Wii, the DVD-player, or the VCR (yes, we have an extensive VHS collection :p).

Each of the laptops have UltraVNC shortcuts on the desktop that automatically remote into the Media PC where any file on any PC/laptop can be played from whatever device it's on. Windows Media Player just lists it all together in the library so there isn't any hunting around between devices. I can even remote to the media PC from my smartphone and have a movie running within moments.

The video switch will switch to whatever new video connection is established, so if I turn on the Wii, it'll switch to that. If I turn off the Wii, it'll switch back to the media PC. If I turn on the VCR, it'll switch to video from that, etc. Obviously the TV pulls audio and video from this switch.

My only major gripe is that the media PC is always running even when I don't need it to, and it's old enough that it's a power hog and does not have wake-on-lan. I'd also prefer something a bit more attractive and intuitive than Windows Media Player, and my friend raves about XBMC. Lastly, I won a couple tablets and a wifi sound system this Christmas in a giveaway (a Transformer Prime + dock, a Kindle Fire, and a Sonos system) so I'm looking to integrate them in a way that will be a little more polished than remoting to the fossil always running in the basement. :)
 

/usr/home

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Mar 18, 2008
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WDTVLiveHub. I love mine. 1 TB of internal storage. Plays back any file from anywhere on the network.
 

Black Morty Rackham

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Jan 8, 2004
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The WD stuff doesn't have any built-in wifi, right? And they are unable to act as a wifi hotspot. So then I'd have to buy another device.

But I guess I could buy something along the lines of this and stick some Linux dist on it.

So, now the question that remains: can I have this box running, connected to the TV and the speaker system, and play music in Spotify and iTunes or videos in VLC or what have you, all on my laptop, and have it all forwarded to the HTPC system? Because I don't want to have to control it via the TV, with a different keyboard or anything. It just needs to work with the existing software and hardware. Kind of like Airport Express / iTunes, where I just say "play via Airplay". The whole idea is that I don't want another computer to use; I just want to be able to play my media through the new device. A remote desktop connection isn't ideal, because it's a hassle to control on my phone.

Thanks for the effort, everyone :)
 

Black Morty Rackham

Supreme [H]ardness
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Jan 8, 2004
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I ended up buying an Airport Express. It's small, and gets the job done. I'll look into getting a more comprehensive solution at some point in the future —potentially a HTPC.

Thanks for all the advice!
 
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