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I want to access and play media files on machine S (Windows XP) from machine C (Windows XP). Using Windows File Sharing ("share this folder" stuff), if it works, I would share the folder containing media files on machine S, and I would be able to play media files, sitting in front of C, using any media player I want. Windows somehow ensures that the remote files behave like local files.

But Windows file sharing won't work for me, is there any alternative?

If two machines were both Linux, I would install an SSH server on S and use Nautilus from C to access and play media files.

The reason why I can't use Windows file sharing is, my campus use two different subnets, I have S and C on different subnets and it seems that the firewall governing the whole network in campus doesn't allow file sharing between different subnets. I tried changing Windows Firewall settings on S to allow C in, it still wouldn't work, so it must be the other firewall.

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You could set up a VPN with something like OpenVPN (semi-permanent, flexible, more difficult to configure) or Hamachi/LogMeIn (less flexible, start up the program and log in to connect the vpn, very easy to set up).

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I'm using Hamachi now. One thing that I found helps performance is disabling compression (implying a third person can see the traffic, which can be bad). – RamyenHead Mar 18 '10 at 13:10

I would still use SSH. You could check out SSH for Windows. Another option would be for you to set up a web server on machine S. It's not too difficult to do.

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I think you should really use set up a webserver for yourself.

If you want to stream, vlc does it, but I think you have to do it to individual files.

As for the webserver: You have a few (I center on the small and lightweight):

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You could try using SSH port forwarding for SMB.
According to a question on serverfault, this should be possible.

You'd have to install a SSH server on S and for example use Putty on C for the port forwarding.

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Most video players support UPnP. I suggest to setup UPnP server. So You will be able to stream your media but also browser them.

VLC suggested by Krazy_Kaos has web gui and remote telnet based cli, so there is option for VOD.

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Linux file browsers (for example Nautilus) manage to make remote files over ssh behave like local files, but Windows Explorer doesn't seem to do that. – RamyenHead Mar 18 '10 at 12:27

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