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Can anyone suggest a good solution for sharing media resources in the home environment for a family of 5. Hardware currently in the home includes -

  • Windows Home Server
  • 4 Laptops
  • 1 desktop
  • 3 xbox 360's
  • 3 mobiles

Network connections include a 40Mb (getting 37Mb) FTTC internet connection.

The hardware is spread across -

  • Living Room, TV and 360
  • Conservatory, TV and 360
  • Dining Room, Nothing, need something to stream to here
  • Main bedroom, TV (need something to stream to here)
  • 13 yo Daughters bedroom, TV (need something to stream to here)
  • 10 yo sons bedroom, TV, 360
  • 4 yo sons bedroom, TV (need something to stream to here)
  • Office, desktop PC, need to be able to stream to here

What I'm looking for is a way to get all the music and dvd's onto the Windows Home Server, which I've already found software to do. Then I want to be able to share all the music and dvd's across all the devices. In addition I would like to be able to make use of streaming media services to the tv's (eg youtube, iplayer, etc).

Requirements include being able to watch the media on the tv's (currently acheived through xbox 360's but I need to add the ability to 3 more rooms which at the moment is looking like needing the purchase of 3 more 360's + something for the dining room ). Also be able to watch on the laptops and download to the phones for use on the go. Each user should be able to have their own favourites, playlists and ratings independently of each other.

Ideally looking for a consistent user experience across the devices as the user's aren't all overly tech savvy, especially my wife.

I've searched the internet and specifically searched SuperUser, but can't find any good suggestions that meet all the requirements. My current thought is using Zune on the 360's and laptops, with the addition of swapping current phones for windows phones to use zune on them as well. This would require adding more 360's though as mentioned earlier and also Zune Pass seems to support only 3 pc's and 3 devices, I'll need alot more than that. Whilst I like the 360's, having 6 in the house sounds excessive especially when they are for media streaming.

Hope that all makes sense, and if it does, any thoughts? Main thing I'm struggling with is the independent favourites etc and consistent ui experience.

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unless you need the gaming capabilities of the additional 360s i would say just get some Media Center Extenders for the additional TVs. from what i understand of the WHS (which is admittedly very little) it should be able to serve up the media to them as well. –  Xantec Dec 2 '10 at 14:27
    
Hmmm, would they offer the full zune experience though to enable streaming video and music from internet as well as WHS? Also the older 360's are selling really cheap, to the point they are not much more than an extender? –  ChoccyButton Dec 2 '10 at 23:13

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

For starters, you already know that with the Windows Home Server, you get built-in media sharing and streaming via the built-in Windows Media Connect software. I'm guessing you already know this as it sounds like you're already using it to stream media to some of your TVs via your XBox 360. Hopefully you're taking advantage of this by filling the server's built-in Music share with your home's music collection, and putting all your films on the Video share.

You can take further advantage of that by buying cheaper media streamer boxes to attach to your other TVs, these will still allow you to watch films, etc that are on saved on your WHS but without the expense of having everything else that the Xbox does. Here's a few pages with reviews of dedicated media streaming devices that can plug straight into your TV: Media Streamer reviews, or Which streaming media device is right for you?

You don't say quite what media you want to stream into some rooms, but if you only want to stream music into a room, say the dining room, which I notice you don't have a TV in yet, then something like a Logitech Squeezebox music streaming device might be a good idea? They have a (free) Windows Home Server add-in that sits on your WHS finds all the music and indexes it with a nice web interface, there are then Squeezebox devices that you can put out in your house, each can play its own playlist of music from the server, they can either be stand-alone devices like the Squeezebox Boom or Radio, or plug into an existing hifi and speakers like the Squeezebox Touch or Duet.

As for your other PCs/laptops (presuming that they're running WIndows) when you install the Windows Home Server connector software onto them they should add your WHS Music and Video shares into the library in Windows Media Player for you. So all you have to do is go into Library and you should be able to find all the media on your server in there already, and everyone can create their own playlists, etc.

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Thanks for the detailed explanation. Unfortunately I can't see how this gets around the requirement for independent favourites and a consistent UI across all systems –  ChoccyButton Dec 17 '10 at 13:13
    
If consistent UI really is a requirement, then the only way is to stick to one device. Really most of these solutions are designed to be used by non-technical end-users, and most of them are easier than the Xbox's myriad of choices. However if that is a requirement then either all Xbox 360, or even all mini Media Centre PCs. –  GAThrawn Dec 17 '10 at 15:22

Did you know the Zune Software supports streaming music/video/pictures to Xbox 360's? alt text

have personally never tried this, since I don't own an Xbox...Knowing Zune and Microsoft though, I'm sure this would work pretty well with tight integration...

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I have been using a very robust Home Media Sharing solution for sometime now and it works a treat for me. Here is what I have:

1 x Windows Home Server 2011 (4 x 2TB Drives for TV & Video, Music, Pictures and Generic Docs/Data etc..) 1 x Paperback sized PC (Sits behind a 46" TV in the Living Room) Windows 7 installed 1 x Paperback sized PC (Sits upstairs in Master Bedroom behind 32" TV) Windows 7 installed 1 x Paperback sized PC (Sits in Guest Bedroom behind 32" TV mounted on the wall) Windows 7 installed 1 x HP Touchsmart PC (Sits in the corner of my living room as main control centre and Work PC) Windows 7 installed 1 x Samsung Slate 10" Tablet (Used for wireless control of all devices) Windows 7 installed 1 x Samsung Omnia 7 Windows 7.5 Phone (Used for smaller version of tablet and of course my phone)

All the Paperback PC's are asus pc's with HDMI Ports and are either wireless or wired depending on their location. All other devices are wireless except for the Home Server which is wired at 1GB throughout my home network.

All my media is installed on one of the Home Server Drives, each users settings are configured to have their libraries in Windows 7 point to the Home Server, so they each pick up all the same media across all devices, the users can set their own favourites due to it being their own user account. The one in the Guest room is a generic account with restricted access to folders on the home server and all other devices on the network. Each PC also has Zune installed, so if any new music, videos etc... are downloaded, they go onto the Home Server drive and thus are available to everyone, this works really well for me. My home PC also has 2 HD USB Receivers installed which records my favourite TV programmes through media centre, so I can watch and record at the same time, these recorded programmes are then stored on the Home Server too, which all the devices can see in their Windows Media Player library, but I actually use the new Zune client because its looks much more fluid and clean.

My Windows Phone also has Zune installed and this connects to my Home Server Drives and a SkyDrive account which has a connector on the Home Server to sync it from the Cloud and visa versa, so when I am away from Home, I still have access to my music, pictures and videos.

I think you pretty much have what I have except for the xBox, as they are Microsoft Products, they will also connect to both the Home Server and any other PC that happens to be sharing its media across the Microsoft Connect Protocol, so you have that covered as well.

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Have you looked into mythbuntu?

http://www.mythbuntu.org/

A friend of mine is using it for his setup, though to be noted it is slightly smaller in scale.

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Doesn't seem to be a great amount of details immediately available on the website, but from what there is it seems to be a PVR solution, not a streaming server sort of solution? –  ChoccyButton Dec 2 '10 at 23:16
    
hmm maybe he was using something else in combination with mythbuntu.. ill see if i can get a hold of him and ill get back to you –  madmaze Dec 3 '10 at 14:50

Have you tried XBox Media Center as PC/Notebook client, along with PS3 Media Server as a server ?

This set is doing very well for me nowadays.

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