Tuesday, 27 September 2011

[HEA-2] Networked Media

Networked Media
I will assume that most of the media files (Movies/Videos, Music/Audio etc) will be organised within a computer which acts as the media server. Media HadrdDiskDrives portbale or dektop, flash/usb sticks etc are also alternative ways of storing home media files.

PC and TV audio output connected to home theater system
With your meadia PC connected to your sound system, you benefit from the superior sound perfomance whilist playing the filses from your computer. Most TVs have optical outputs you can use that to connect TV audio output to your sound system.

DLNA/Samsung PC Share Manager
Now that you have your TV connected to the network (wireless/ethernet wired), you also have you computer connceted to the same network, you can utilise various dlna utilities or software to play you media files directly on the TV. As for Samsung TVs, you can use the Samsung PC Share Manager software, that comes with the telly. Once you fire it up in your computer, your shared folders will be browsable on your TV. The  are a multitude of other tools/softwares to set up dlna for your TV, check here

Use TV as PC monitor
If your media server/computer is located close to the telly, you can use a vga cable (if your telly has vga/pc input) or hdmi to use yoor telly as a computer monitor. This gives you an advantage whre you dont need to have a separate monitor for your media server. after all theis computer is primarily a media server, so you probably dont use it while watching telly. In any case most tellys nowadays have the PIP feature where you can have split screens, so you can split the screen briefly when you want to check something on the computer whilist watching a channel.
 As for the keyboard and mouse for your computer, using the telly as the monitor, thats where your android phone comes in handy. This is dicussed later, so check back on details of Android apps to use your smartphone as your computer keyboard and mouse.
Youtube, Spotify,Web Browsing
With the setup described above, you will be able to watch youtube videos, play spotify music or other flash based web content with the sound coming off your super sound system, and images coming off your telly.
You can control all these using your smartphone. There is an Android App called 'Unified Remote'
Just conncet your phone to the your home wireless network and install the server version of unified remote on the computer. You will be able to browse on the big screen from the comfort of your sofa.

TV remote control
Most new tv's can be controlled using your Android smartphone. If you have latest (2010 or later) Samsung TV's you can install this android app  or this one to control your tv. If both your TV and smartphone are Samsung brand, you can use this app
If you have an old Samsung TV, you can follow the 3rd instalment of this series to see how I played with a 2009 model Samsung TV.

[HEA-1] Components of a Home Entertainment Nework

Components of a Home Entertainment Nework
Broadband conection
You need to have an internet connection, so that you can be able to pull content from the internet. Many providers will give you a modem/ or piece of equipment that connects to the internet be it via DSL, Cable, or FTTH.
Wired/Wireless home newtork
Most nternet service providers in the UK will provide a wireless router (in somecases eg BT, the wireless router and DSL modem are all built into a single hardware device) You connecet the modem to the wireless router. The wireless router will most likely have a few ethernet port, you can use these if you want to connect any other device eg TV or computer to your home network using ethernet cables. There are perfomance and reliability(qos) benefits of using a wired connection over a wireless connection. However, if you devices are not located in close proximity, wireless will inevitably be the best solution.
Home PC/Laptop/Media server
You can use any computer with any operating system provided it performs good enough to be able to sream media files.
Digital Set-top box/PVR/DVR
You may already have digital video recoders, If these can be connected to you home network, the better. Samsung recoders, blu-ray discs etc all are capable of connecting to other Samsung devices wirelessly (Anynet+) However, these kind of devices may not be necessary for an internet enabled home entertainment network since you can be able to record your freeview or other broadcast to your computer.
Network capable TV
A lot of TVs nowadays are internet enabled. This means they can be connected to your home entwork via either an ethernet port (if it comes with one) or wifi. There are some models which have USB ports that can be used to connect a wifi dongle, and they can then be connceted to your wifi using that dongle. You would need to examine your TV to check for whether it has an ethernet port or a usb port. Also you have to check in its manual for the internet functionality it can do. Most HD TVs from 2009 onwards are network enabled.
You will need a good performing smartphone. Needs to be able to run processor and ram intensive apps decently. In terms of currently available appls and tools, this is an area where Android phones outshine the iPhone.