Multiroom AV
The Future of Media Servers
Fictional Denon Media Server
January 04, 2008 | by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Digitized media and distributed A/V are gaining traction, fast. Where this trend will take us, and which media server technology will dominate are the big questions.
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Posted by Brian  on  01/04  at  11:03 AM

All I want/need is a box the size of a dvd player, that connects like a dvd player, controls like a dvd player and will store all of my dvds, hd dvds and music.  I can place it in my rack, burn the newest media onto it and access it when I want.  With the cost of a TB drive being less than $500, there’s no reason we can’t get something like this for $1000 to $1500.  If I could get something like this I would buy it n a second.  Not everyone wants or needs whole house solutions.

Posted by Sean  on  01/04  at  11:33 AM

This is a lot to expect regular consumers to go through and to pay.  Personally, I’m willing to pay a bit more and do more work but my problem is that for a whole house solution you are very limited in what you can choose because a lot of these companies require that you use a dealer.  I want to buy (at reasonable prices) the same type of technology but do the work myself.  Why can’t I have whole house a/v distribution, home control and a backup solution without spending the hefty cost of custom installation.  Look at the prices quoted in the story and tell me how many regular people can afford good solutions at the prices people are charging…it is ridiculous.  I want something that is going to be in the market for along time, I can upgrade/add-on to and get the type of solution that I want without being forced to go with a dealer or (even worse) reinvent the wheel.  The market to too new and you don’t know who you can trust to be around for the long haul.  No one wants to go through these expenses and then find out they have to redo it all because so-and-so company is out or business or no longer offers your setup.  We need something that is going to be around for a while and can be upgraded as technology changes.

Posted by Nick  on  01/04  at  02:37 PM

Ive got a 2Tb Netgear ReadyNAS connected to my home network(wired) with Apple Mini’s on each TV.
ReadyNAS, with 2TB is around $1200 or so. The Mini’s are about $500 each. Not only do the Minis play the content from the network drive flawlessly, they also support HDMI output and 5.1 optical sound (all from that little box).
To top it off, they are full blown computers, so web browsing, iTunes etc all work (the ReadyNAS has an inbuilt iTunes streaming server which the various iTunes clients detect and let you play music).

Fairly simple, a lot cheaper than the offerings out there, and completely open - the ReadyNas serves as backup server, and the Mini’s can be used for all sorts of things (DHCP/DNS/Web/FTP etc.).

I think the latest firmware for the ReadyNas now supports 1Tb drives, so you can get that loaded up to 3Tb in a redundant hot swap array (the final 1Tb being used for redundancy).

The Mini’s can also be set to record radio programs, as well as serving as a Home Automation server - they are solid, bomb proof, and Ive not had to reboot mine except for an extended power cut a few months back.

Next step would be to integrate some portable touch screens - but with things like the iPhone and other cell phone browsers coming online all the time, it wont take much to hook up the Mini’s inbuilt webserver to the audio/video functions. I still dont understand why these touchscreens cost thousands, when I can buy an iphone for a few hundred dollars. I could just buy an iPhone and glue it to the wall, using the WiFi and web broswer to control stuff - at least it has the cool touch sensitivity screen.

Just my 2c.

Posted by PSG  on  01/05  at  10:03 PM

I will echo Nick’s comments on the ReadyNAS. I have the 2TB version(1.5TB available configured as x-raid). It’s a great box and I’ve just started putting my music on it and using Sonos music players to play back through the house. It comes with the necessary software to support various things like iTunes, PnP AV, etc. Plus you can backup other data files on the same box.

I love the idea of the Mac Mini to play video content. I’m definitely going to looking into that. Thanks for the great idea Nick.

Posted by Andy  on  01/06  at  02:49 AM

A more informative article than many on EH. Thanks. Still, it leaves me scratching my head as to how to set things up as I would like (as are many others, judging by the comments). I’d like to do away with the pile of boxes under my screen—maybe centralize them in a rack in the basement or a storage closet—and control all the functions from the TV. Just need a DVD/CD player and any plugs or docks for external media located nearby. Controlled from one remote using on-screen menus. Sounds like a server or Media Center, but I have yet to see an article describing how to implement this solution. I’m tired of looking at the pile of junk and having to explain how use all the different devices and remotes to get what they want. This article helps me understand some of the issues getting in the way. Let me know when you’ve figured it out!

Posted by Loran Harding  on  01/06  at  05:09 PM

This is the biggest load of double-talk I have ever read. The managements of these companies should be fired and sued by their shareholders, if any. They would rather make people feel stupid than sell their products. We are all electrical engineers working right at the cutting edge of home electronics, right? Well, NOT right. There, I said it. I’m stupid. Or rather, I graduated from Stanford at 21 and know BS when I read it. When they climb down off their self-constructed pedastals of double-talk and decide to make money by stating in English exactly what their products can do, exactly how they do it, and exactly how a consumer sets it up, I may buy some of this stuff. Until then, go bankrupt, you morons.

Posted by DistinctAV  on  01/06  at  08:42 PM

As a systems integrator I can tell you that the manufacturers do not make products to solve complex scenarios that often occur in homes.  This is why most custom installers install systems that do not completely meet the needs of their clients.  I look for products that have interfaces that allow us to customize them or extend them to get more features than even the manufacturers thought were possible.  This kind of customization is not for most consumers but as an integrator I can apply the development time investment to several homes.  Having a good systems integrator create a system for you will completely change your paradigms toward what is possible and how much it costs.  Some manufacturers will pull our dealer agreement if we allow the homeowner to access the configuration software!

Posted by Robert Steel  on  01/21  at  01:26 PM

I’m a tech geek, so I created my own media center system at my house, but most of my customers don’t want a personally-rigged system—it’s tacky for a millionaire to showcase to their friends an X-box or Apple TV system or media center PC. 

My typical customer wants an appliance that his wife, grandma, and kids can point and click at.  But, the problem is that setting up multi-zone environments is something that requires a custom integrator—someone who eats, breathes, and sleeps this stuff all day long. 

Once this technology matures, it will be something consumers can handle themselves, even Stanford or Cornell graduates—but, until then, media servers are a high-end custom integrated piece that only people with high-end tastes will buy.

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