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post #1 of 40 Old 07-23-2013, 05:03 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm having a hard time deciding on which software to go with when I eventually have my HTPC completed.

Can anyone be so kind to offer recommendations? Pros/cons of each?

XBMC, WMC, Plex, etc...

Many thanks, in advance!

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post #2 of 40 Old 07-23-2013, 07:19 PM
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MediaBrowser 3 is very nice so far, even though it's still in beta. http://www.mediabrowser3.com. Mediabrowser is awesome for metadata and very fast for movies, tv shows, Games, Music, and Home Videos. The MB Theater plugin, which plays the content from a PC, hasn't been released yet but will be soon. It's currentlly restricted to the Media Browser Classic interface that uses Windows Media Center.

It does have a web interface that lets you view and customize your media from inside your network or outside of it. The MB Server program lets you control most of your media from your phone, tablet, or any other computer in the house. The Android client has been released in beta also, and it's hit or miss. It works on my Kindle Fire for the most part, and others have reported it's flawless for them on different devices. The iPhone/iPad and Windows Phone clients are due to release soon also.


As far as the others, I've tried all of them.

I'm currently using XBMC until MB releases their Theater program. XBMC is good, but it can be buggy a lot, and doesn't run as fast as I would like. It's not a dedicated metadata fetcher, more of an htpc or device client for watching the media. It seems like it's a little bloated at times. It's available on pretty much any device you can think of, and they have a very nice remote app that controls everything.

Windows Media Center just needs to go away. It can be ok, but it takes far too many resources to run, and it's just a matter of time before it dies. WMC does have very nice live tv components. The Media Browser Theater program doesn't use WMC anymore, which is why I'm so high on MB3.

Plex is good, and seems to run nicely. It can be a bit of a pain to setup, but once you get it working, it's good. It's downfall though is its lack of live tv support, and how bland it is compared to XBMC and MB3. Customization is limited, but it's on most devices.

Hope this helps.
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post #3 of 40 Old 07-23-2013, 07:32 PM
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What exactly are your goals? There's no best software out there, it just depends on what you're looking for. Are you wanting a central server that serves up media to multiple clients? If so Plex is excellent for this. Media Browser 3 is very promising, but many of the clients are unfinished. XBMC server functionality is very basic and more difficult to set up compared to Plex and Media Browser 3. WMC itself doesn't really have any server functionality, although My Movies and Media Browser 3 integrate into WMC. Choose WMC if you want live TV.
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post #4 of 40 Old 07-23-2013, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your replies, guys.

I'm a bit new to this, so please excuse my ignorance.

Here is what I want to do:

I want my HTPC to control my and distribute all of my media. I'd like to place all of my movies/music/pictures on this HTPC (via however much HDD space I need). The HTPC will be a part of my equipment rack in my dedicated home theater. I'd also like to be able to distribute this media to the main TV in our living room, which will be downstairs, as well as music to in-ceiling speakers in the living room and patio area. We're going to be getting started on this home soon and I was thinking to have an HDMI cable going down to the main TV as well from the upstairs dedicated HT.

I have some experience with XBMC on the AppleTV1, and it's somewhat slow/buggy and gets "stuck" a lot. Is it any different on a HTPC? I like the general layout of it, though.

I did play a few Youtube videos of Plex and although it seemed simple, it just looks "plain" or simple compared to XBMC. Am I right?

Is Media Browser 3 comparable to XBMC?

Oh, and the other thing I'm looking to do is to be able to control all of my media via iPad. This is very important to me.

Can Plex, XBMC, and Media Browser 3 all be controlled via an iPad?

Thanks again, guys. I look forward to your replies!

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post #5 of 40 Old 07-23-2013, 08:40 PM
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I'd take a good look at MB3's server. It is coming along very nicely.

EXTREMELY simple to setup.

Currently it's in beta but very functional. I use it for my everyday HTPC's around the house.
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post #6 of 40 Old 07-23-2013, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

What exactly are your goals? There's no best software out there, it just depends on what you're looking for. Are you wanting a central server that serves up media to multiple clients? If so Plex is excellent for this. Media Browser 3 is very promising, but many of the clients are unfinished. XBMC server functionality is very basic and more difficult to set up compared to Plex and Media Browser 3. WMC itself doesn't really have any server functionality, although My Movies and Media Browser 3 integrate into WMC. Choose WMC if you want live TV.

True, though the web client will work very well on most mobile devices.

The android client is coming along nicely and available for testing and the ios...well it's being actively developed. But again the web client works good on it.
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post #7 of 40 Old 07-23-2013, 09:29 PM
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MediaBrowser 3 is looking better and better. The central server option is going to be the key to their success. I am very glad they went this way.
I am eagerly awaiting the MediaBrowser Theater, which is the standalone version which doesn't require Windows Media Center.

I used to be involved in MB several years ago and I have faith that the developers there will bring us something fantastic.
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post #8 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 12:20 AM
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I have been experimenting with both Plex and MB3, the drawback I have found so far is that neither one of them will play recorded cablecard content (yes it is copy freely) that is recorded using SageTV
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post #9 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 05:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Guebert View Post

I have been experimenting with both Plex and MB3, the drawback I have found so far is that neither one of them will play recorded cablecard content (yes it is copy freely) that is recorded using SageTV

Hmm...what file types are they?
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post #10 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 06:01 AM
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If you're talking about server software then you should probably be thinking more along the lines of unRAID, FlexRAID, SnapPRAID or similar program and build yourself a dedicated machine to use for storage. Programs like MediaBrowser, XBMC and others are more for use as a media center front end and not so much as a server. OTOH, apps like Plex are designed for server functionality with individual Plex clients.

I am currently using unRAID on a standalone server and WMC and XBMC on standalone PCs throughout my house. I have used an older version of Media Browser but nothing of recent vintage. I'm looking hard at MediaPortal since it has been announced that it now has cablecard support.

As has been stated previously, you have to decide what you want the software to do for you. If you want to record TV then that limits your choices. If you want to record digital cable then your choices become extremely limited. If you're just looking to share media with other PCs then all you have to do is set up the folders on your PC so they can be shared with other PCs. Just about any front end software will let you access shared folders from another PC.

It all boils down to what kind of interface you want on the remote PCs. You don't really even need a media center frontend program on a remote PC as long as you have the proper codecs and playback apps installed for whatever type of media you want to play. The media center frontend just makes it pretty to look at and consolidates everything in a neat little package for easier access. A lot of them also include the codecs and playback utilities as part of the program so it's an all-in-one solution.
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post #11 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 06:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Guebert View Post

I have been experimenting with both Plex and MB3, the drawback I have found so far is that neither one of them will play recorded cablecard content (yes it is copy freely) that is recorded using SageTV

Yes, those can be added to play. A developer would just need the file extensions and you would be good to go.
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post #12 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 06:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captain_video View Post

If you're talking about server software then you should probably be thinking more along the lines of unRAID, FlexRAID, SnapPRAID or similar program and build yourself a dedicated machine to use for storage. Programs like MediaBrowser, XBMC and others are more for use as a media center front end and not so much as a server. OTOH, apps like Plex are designed for server functionality with individual Plex clients.

I am currently using unRAID on a standalone server and WMC and XBMC on standalone PCs throughout my house. I have used an older version of Media Browser but nothing of recent vintage. I'm looking hard at MediaPortal since it has been announced that it now has cablecard support.

As has been stated previously, you have to decide what you want the software to do for you. If you want to record TV then that limits your choices. If you want to record digital cable then your choices become extremely limited. If you're just looking to share media with other PCs then all you have to do is set up the folders on your PC so they can be shared with other PCs. Just about any front end software will let you access shared folders from another PC.

It all boils down to what kind of interface you want on the remote PCs. You don't really even need a media center frontend program on a remote PC as long as you have the proper codecs and playback apps installed for whatever type of media you want to play. The media center frontend just makes it pretty to look at and consolidates everything in a neat little package for easier access. A lot of them also include the codecs and playback utilities as part of the program so it's an all-in-one solution.

Still only the copy freely material...I doubt they will be able to figure out how to get it to work with copy once material. But hey, I'll be glad if they do.

ALSO mediaportal has just released a plugin (in beta) to utilize MB-Server. So if you're really looking at mediaportal closely I'd suggest giving it a try.
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post #13 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slateef View Post

Thanks for your replies, guys.

I'm a bit new to this, so please excuse my ignorance.

Here is what I want to do:

I want my HTPC to control my and distribute all of my media. I'd like to place all of my movies/music/pictures on this HTPC (via however much HDD space I need). The HTPC will be a part of my equipment rack in my dedicated home theater. I'd also like to be able to distribute this media to the main TV in our living room, which will be downstairs, as well as music to in-ceiling speakers in the living room and patio area. We're going to be getting started on this home soon and I was thinking to have an HDMI cable going down to the main TV as well from the upstairs dedicated HT.

I have some experience with XBMC on the AppleTV1, and it's somewhat slow/buggy and gets "stuck" a lot. Is it any different on a HTPC? I like the general layout of it, though.

I did play a few Youtube videos of Plex and although it seemed simple, it just looks "plain" or simple compared to XBMC. Am I right?

Is Media Browser 3 comparable to XBMC?

Oh, and the other thing I'm looking to do is to be able to control all of my media via iPad. This is very important to me.

Can Plex, XBMC, and Media Browser 3 all be controlled via an iPad?

Thanks again, guys. I look forward to your replies!

If you are trying to redistribute media to multiple locations, I strongly recommend going with a server/client model. In one location you have an always on server that stores your content and that you can manage from remote desktop or a web browser. The idea is that the server is always on, doesn't get messed with much, and has some sort of redundancy built in for data protection. I use WHS2011 + Flexraid, but Windows 7 would also work perfectly fine as "server" software. Then you have clients, which could be HTPCs, Rokus, TVs with DLNA, etc. that connect to the server.

Your best options for server/client media software are Plex, Media Browser 3, and JRiver. JRiver is more geared towards advanced users and can be a bit daunting to set up. Media Browser 3 looks great but is still coming along. Plex is the easiest and most fleshed out solution IMO.

XBMC should not be slow on an HTPC. You could actually use XBMC as a client (but I wouldn't use it as your server software). There's a plug-in for XBMC called PleXBMC that lets you access the media managed by Plex Media Server from within XBMC. It looks like Media Browser 3 can also create metadata for XBMC.

I don't understand why so many people say Plex looks plain. The default Plex skin is very similar to the default XBMC skin (the Plex skin is actually much nicer IMO). Plex also can use custom skins just like XBMC. In fact many XBMC skins are also available for Plex (including Aeon, Alaska, and Refocus). XBMC does have a larger selection of skins overall though.

Media Browser 3 is similar to XBMC in many ways, but like I said it has a better server/client model. Keep in mind the standalone Media Browser 3 HTPC client has not been released yet.

Plex has a dedicated iPad app that can work as a remote. On JRiver and Mediabrowser 3 you access your server through safari and can use it as a remote that way.
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post #14 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 08:02 AM
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+1 for the client / server model. If you need simultaneous multi-zone playback (for your additional two channel living room and patio areas) from a single HTPC, J. River has the most robust multi-zone switching out there, but as previously mentioned, it's not for beginners. It really depends on whether or not you already have a source component that can play to those addl. zones AND have network connectivity (i.e. DLNA).

@slateef, you still haven't mentioned whether or not you need to record Live TV...it doesn't sound like you do. This is important for us to know in order to assist you further.
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post #15 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Guebert View Post

I have been experimenting with both Plex and MB3, the drawback I have found so far is that neither one of them will play recorded cablecard content (yes it is copy freely) that is recorded using SageTV
I've used NPVR and WMC to record copy-free Comcast channels. I don't recall testing any .wtv files, but NPVR dumps recordings to .ts and I have used the internal Plex/XBMC players as well as mpc-hc to play these back. NPVR uses SageDCT to capture these recordings (mostly from HD stations like USA, E, ESPN, etc)
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post #16 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by FantaXP7 View Post

Still only the copy freely material...I doubt they will be able to figure out how to get it to work with copy once material. But hey, I'll be glad if they do.

ALSO mediaportal has just released a plugin (in beta) to utilize MB-Server. So if you're really looking at mediaportal closely I'd suggest giving it a try.
Unfortunately, Windows Media Center is the only choice available if your provider flags any channels as copy once. This isn't likely to change in the near future. Lucky for me I'm on FIOS and don't subscribe to any premium channels so everything I record is copy freely. Otherwise, I wouldn't even be considering MediaPortal or any other third party front ends.
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post #17 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks to all!

I appreciate you taking the time to flesh that out, lockdown. It helped.

@Polemides: No, I'm not interested in recording TV at all.

Again, what I'd like to do is to keep all of my media on one HTPC and then distribute it from there to not only my HT, but to my living room TV and living room/patio speakers (for music). I'd like a program to be able to do that can be controlled via iPad.

On that note, we haven't gotten started on our home yet, so I still have time to plan out how I'm going to distribute the media to all of my locations. Obviously, I'll have HDMI running out of this HTPC to my projector in the HT, but how should I go about getting media to the living room TV and music to the living room and patio speakers? Run another long HDMI run downstairs to the TV? How about the music? I'll of course have a receiver in the HT along with the HTPC, so should I have speaker wire running from there downstairs to the speakers?

Oh, brother...I need help!

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post #18 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slateef View Post

Thanks to all!

I appreciate you taking the time to flesh that out, lockdown. It helped.

@Polemides: No, I'm not interested in recording TV at all.

Again, what I'd like to do is to keep all of my media on one HTPC and then distribute it from there to not only my HT, but to my living room TV and living room/patio speakers (for music). I'd like a program to be able to do that can be controlled via iPad.

On that note, we haven't gotten started on our home yet, so I still have time to plan out how I'm going to distribute the media to all of my locations. Obviously, I'll have HDMI running out of this HTPC to my projector in the HT, but how should I go about getting media to the living room TV and music to the living room and patio speakers? Run another long HDMI run downstairs to the TV? How about the music? I'll of course have a receiver in the HT along with the HTPC, so should I have speaker wire running from there downstairs to the speakers?

Oh, brother...I need help!

Ok so I understand it better, you want a main HTPC to output to your living room, your home theater projector and outdoor patio speakers? I'm not sure 100% what you mean and if that is the case I don't think you want to try that.

I'd have either a central server running whatever software you like and possibly some form of Raid, or more simply have a main HTPC powerful enough to act as a server/client. Then add another lower powered HTPC for your living room that can access the media via cat5 located on your main server and/or HTPC.

As for the patio music I might suggest a small amp with a bluetooth adapter, you could set up your ipad to wireless access music on the server/HTPC and stream it wireless via bluetooth to the amp...that's just one way to go about it.

But I don't think it is common to have on HTPC display video for two different rooms and stream music to a patio.

Am I way off base here tongue.gif
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post #19 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 01:54 PM
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What kind of device will you have at the receiving end to play the media? Since you're not interested in recording TV I assume you want to play movies, videos and music, correct? If so, the easiest way to distribute the data to each room is over an Ethernet connection via a home network. You can use inexpensive media players, like the Roku or WDTV Live, to play back the media. The main thing to consider is what format you want the video files to be in. I personally prefer mkv format for ripped movies from DVDs and Blu-Rays as they will likely be compatible with most media players.

You also have the option to use individual PCs at each location, which is more complex and more expensive. You could always start off with media players and then migrate to PCs if you want at a later date as your budget permits.
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post #20 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 05:28 PM
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Hmm...what file types are they?

They are MPEG2 TS files, they are captured with SageDCT. For whatever reason none of those files will stream with either MB3 or Plex, or for that matter Sage Placeshifter. They work fine however locally on Sage extenders and with VLC or media player classic.
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post #21 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Guebert View Post

They are MPEG2 TS files, they are captured with SageDCT. For whatever reason none of those files will stream with either MB3 or Plex, or for that matter Sage Placeshifter. They work fine however locally on Sage extenders and with VLC or media player classic.

Are you able to see chapter images with these files? I posted the problem over at the mediabrowser forums, they will likely get an answer.
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post #22 of 40 Old 07-24-2013, 11:11 PM
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Are you able to see chapter images with these files? I posted the problem over at the mediabrowser forums, they will likely get an answer.

Now that you bring that up, no. It does not show the chapter breaks.
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post #23 of 40 Old 07-25-2013, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by slateef View Post

Thanks to all!

I appreciate you taking the time to flesh that out, lockdown. It helped.

@Polemides: No, I'm not interested in recording TV at all.

Again, what I'd like to do is to keep all of my media on one HTPC and then distribute it from there to not only my HT, but to my living room TV and living room/patio speakers (for music). I'd like a program to be able to do that can be controlled via iPad.

On that note, we haven't gotten started on our home yet, so I still have time to plan out how I'm going to distribute the media to all of my locations. Obviously, I'll have HDMI running out of this HTPC to my projector in the HT, but how should I go about getting media to the living room TV and music to the living room and patio speakers? Run another long HDMI run downstairs to the TV? How about the music? I'll of course have a receiver in the HT along with the HTPC, so should I have speaker wire running from there downstairs to the speakers?

Oh, brother...I need help!

XBMC works great for music because you can use AirPlay with your iPad. It turns each device into a music streaming device into whichever room you have it in. On your iPad, all you have to do when you hit play is tap on the little rectangle with a triangle icon next to the volume slider and it will bring up a list of devices you can play it from. MediaBrowser does this as well, so it works either way. With iTunes (Mac or PC), you can output your library to any individual device on Airplay, or all of them at the same time.

It sounds like you want a setup similar to mine.

I have a regular Windows 7 PC with plenty of storage space and flexraid that I use as a Media Server. FlexRaid is a program that takes 2 or more hard drives and pools them together to make 1 hard drive. They call it storage pooling. The best part is it takes all of your files in each hard drive and combines them into the one pooled drive. There is no data loss, and your files are always left as is in case the storage pool disconnects. I have the one pooled drive shared across the entire network. I was using Windows Home Server(WHS), but I stopped because it was a big headache.

I have MediaBrowser3 running as my metadata fetcher, and it has a web interface that lets me watch Movies, TV Shows, Home Videos, listen to Music, or play games in any room or any device. I can only play games on the htpcs, as they require specific software to work correctly as well as controllers. I can play Atari, Nintendo, Sega, etc...

I have a wireless AC router, and two dedicated htpcs (Livingroom and Familyroom). They both are running Windows 7 with XBMC. In the house, there are laptops, iPhones, iPads, and a Kindle. I can use any device to control the other with MediaBrowser, and XBMC has a nice remote app for free in the App store.

The best advice I can give you is not to settle on just one. Try them all out and see which you like best, especially with family input. They are all free for basic functionality except FlexRaid ($30), but you can always donate or upgrade for an affordable amount to get the best features and customization. You don't have to spend a fortune to get the setup you want, and you can always upgrade later.

Don't bother with running speaker wire. Sure it's nice, but you can accomplish similar results with wireless speakers now. Just find some budget friendly wireless speakers you can use with Airplay over wifi. They range anywhere from $50+. Also make sure your wireless router will reach that far. In case it doesn't just get a repeater or range extender. These are pretty cheap now as well.

As for media streaming in various rooms. For the Theater, I would have an HTPC like you stated, but the other rooms you could use an Apple TV, or roku. There are a dozen more that work just as well. If you haven't heard, Google just released a $35 hdmi stick that streams media called the Chromecast. It just plugs into the hdmi port and you're good to go. Development is just beginning for this so it might be worth to wait until most apps and programs are supported. But that should give you an idea of the cost range.

Hope this helps.
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post #24 of 40 Old 07-25-2013, 08:22 AM
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Another option for the location where you just want audio is an apple airport express. You can access the plex server on your ipad and fling music via airplay to those speakers. I also disagree with Nate on the speaker wire. I would always hardwire if possible.

What I do for audio is run iHomeserver (basically iTunes) on my WHS2011 machine and then simply use the Nexus 7 as an itunes remote to play music on my patio speakers connected to an airport express.
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post #25 of 40 Old 07-25-2013, 04:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all of your help, guys.

One other thing. Is it possible to run Ethernet from the HPTC to an AppleTV and be able to access the media on the HTPC through the ATV via the Ethernet?

What I might do is just use the HTPC to play media for the HT, but also use it to be a server to distribute media to the downstairs area via the AppleTV, if it can be done.

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post #26 of 40 Old 07-25-2013, 07:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slateef View Post

Thanks for all of your help, guys.

One other thing. Is it possible to run Ethernet from the HPTC to an AppleTV and be able to access the media on the HTPC through the ATV via the Ethernet?

What I might do is just use the HTPC to play media for the HT, but also use it to be a server to distribute media to the downstairs area via the AppleTV, if it can be done.

You wouldn't run the ethernet cable directly from the HTPC to the Apple TV. You just connect both of the devices to your router or to an ethernet switch connected to your router.

FYI, Plex also has a app for jailbroken Apple TV's and a very clever app for non-jailbroken Apple TV's (which include the ATV3).
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post #27 of 40 Old 07-25-2013, 08:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, lockdown.

So, just to clarify, when I hook up both devices via ethernet, I can access the files on the HTPC on the AppleTV? So, the HTPC can act as the server and the ATV can play the files?

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post #28 of 40 Old 07-26-2013, 06:07 AM
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That is correct! Your HTPC can act just fine as a server. You'll just need to run Plex Media Server on the HTPC.

Here's some more information on PlexConnect, the software that lets you use Plex with your Apple TV.

Edit: I just remembered that you can't use the Plex iPad app remote functionality with the Apple TV (although I know you can with the Roku). I guess you could use airplay within the Plex app to fling the video from the iPad to the Apple TV, which is less ideal. Video will go from SERVER -> iPAD -> AppleTV instead of SERVER -> AppleTV.
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post #29 of 40 Old 07-26-2013, 01:40 PM
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There are a few options out there now when it comes to serving your media. I prefer Media Browser 3. After setting it up... its as simple as adding a movie to your collection. No more fiddling with metadata fetchers and what not. Media Browser 3 does it all for you... And its beautiful!

Media Browser Server...


Media Browser Classic...


Media Browser Roku...


Media Browser Android...



More to come...
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post #30 of 40 Old 07-26-2013, 02:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, so now I'm more confused than ever...

What would be the easiest way for me to be able to access all of my media on the HTPC (upstairs) using any device downstairs (living room/patio)?

Keep in mind that I want to be able to use the iPad to control everything.

Thanks.

I dream of a better tomorrow... where chickens can cross roads and not have their motives questioned.
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