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I've got a bunch of movies on my desktop. Each one is around 700MB long, so for an average movie this is around 128 kb/s.

My WiFi is capable of transferring the movies at an average speed of 1 MB/s, sometimes 1.5 MB/s. However, if I try to watch a movie directly from the mapped network drive, it stutters all the time.

Watching a traffic monitor I can see that both Windows Media Player and Zoom Player do something that is entirely incompatible with WiFi - they load a bunch of bytes, buffering up to about 10 seconds' worth, and then show the 10 seconds of video. Only when the buffer has nearly run out do they try to read the next chunk. So they leave themselves 1 second to read the next 10 seconds' worth. WiFi isn't fast enough to let them do that.

Any ideas on how to fix this? Perhaps a video player that's a bit smarter than this? Or a network drive mapper that proactively buffers a specified amount of data any time a program performs a read?

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Try decreasing the buffer size to 1 sec? – Vincent Van Den Berghe Aug 20 '09 at 10:22
Tried that. I couldn't find a relevant setting anywhere, and ffmpeg has a couple of hundred of them... Couldn't find one in WMP or ZoomPlayer either. – romkyns Aug 20 '09 at 12:07
up vote 9 down vote accepted

You could try using VLC to do streaming, that might cope better

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+1 for VLC, was going to say the same. – fretje Aug 20 '09 at 9:50
Just to clarify I'm suggesting using VLC as a streaming server on the desktop as well as the client on the desktop if you don't get sufficient improvement using it just as the client. – Col Aug 20 '09 at 10:28
Oh! I didn't know this was possible. Will definitely give it a shot. Thanks. – romkyns Aug 20 '09 at 12:06
Here's a shortcut to the pdf instructions on the videolan site – Col Aug 20 '09 at 12:22
The main problem with this is that VLC is often too weak to play the actual movies, much less handle them while streaming. What can an MPlayer fan do? – Joe Philllips Aug 21 '09 at 4:49

Windows file sharing has an incredible amount of overhead. I'd recommend using a protocol that uses less such as HTTP. I set up an apache server to just serve my video files. You can then copy the url from your browser into VLC. I was using this on my 802.11B network years ago and was able to get a much better speed.

You can also increase the buffer size in VLC. It will cause a small delay when you first start playing the video, but it should reduce the stutter.

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Set up a decent Media Streaming application. XBMC edition is easy to use and buffers decently! Have UPNP on your router turned on!

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Just as another datapoint: I don't have any problems watching 1Mbit/s video over 802.11g from an NFS mount using the "totem" video player (Debian/Lenny). No "streaming" software involved. I suspect totem is sensible about buffering ahead though (network bandwidth monitor shows none of the bursty bandwidth behaviour you describe).

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Can you start the movie and then hit pause allowing the media player to download the rest of the video? Then, you could play the video when it was done downloading evreything...

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that's what I do with youtube :) – warren Aug 20 '09 at 11:51
Hehe, yes, it works with services like YouTube that were built with streaming in mind. Not so much with watching an .avi off a network drive :) I really wish they did that though. – romkyns Aug 20 '09 at 12:05

What kind of wireless card/adapter are you using? I went through 5 before ending with a slightly older Intel 4965AGN before i got perfect streaming. Broadcom WiFi chips seem to be quite bad at streaming. I even went up to Broadcom draft N chips and they didn't help any over G. Try finding an Intel wireless card if you're using a laptop. Fact is there are so many variables with where you live, it can be very hard to figure out what could be the main problem. The final form of N should help a lot as with beamforming.

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I can't say off the top of my head, and I have no access to the laptop right now. However the fact is that I have at least 8x-12x the theoretical minimum bandwidth available, so even if I can just fix this by getting a faster WiFi adapter it still means that something is majorly wrong with my setup. (Judging from other answers, it's "not using streaming" & "using directshow filters") – romkyns Aug 23 '09 at 18:23

My home setup streams TVersity to my PS3 over 802.11g. The media server computer is like a PIII 800Mhz w/ 512MB ram. I'm able to stream w/o stuttering. Try it!

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What standard of WiFi are you using? The newer 802.11n is much faster than the (more common) older 802.11g protocol and should be able to stream your videos (and maybe even HD) at sufficient speeds.

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I'm aware of 802.11n, but I'd need to upgrade everything to it... Plus the dongles sticking out of laptops - I hate those. – romkyns Aug 20 '09 at 10:08

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