Thursday, November 20, 2008

Experimenting with media streaming

Inspired by Nokia Home Media we tried out media streaming between various devices. The setup included two PCs with Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux, a Playstation 3 and a Nokia N96.

First we tried streaming video from Linux to N96. We faced our first obstacle when starting Home Media in N96. The software tried to use previously defined WLAN access point and didn't offer the available ones. The access point had to be specifically selected from the settings. If the previously defined access point is not available it would be logical to show the ones at hand.

Setting up a media server on Linux is pretty easy using the Mediatomb software. Basically you just select the files to be shared with a browser user interface and that's it. The problems start when trying to view the files with N96 though. You can see the shared files just fine but playback of music or video won't start. We simply were not able to get this work in spite of several attempts.

After this we tried streaming files from Linux to PS3. Mediatomb was easily found under the Video menu in PS3. Also streaming of videos worked but some of the video files didn't work automatically. Mediatomb is able to transcode videos on the fly to a supported format but we actually skipped that part for now. How about music? Ok, we navigated to music folder of the shared PC files, and none of the files were found. After a moment of confusion we realized that you actually have to select the media server under the Music menu in able to see and play music. This seems pretty silly because you still can see the whole shared file hiearchy. Anyway, after this streaming music worked ok.

There is a Windows counterpart for Mediatomb called TVersity which is free and has streaming and transcoding capabilities. For some reason TVersity couldn't be seen at all from N96 though.

What about streaming from N96 to PS3? First it was pretty difficult to see the N96 media server in PS3. We had to toggle share content/hide phone/show phone a couple of times to see the device in the PS3 list. Browsing files worked fine but selecting something to play didn't seem to make anything happen. After a while we noticed that it was actually just some buffering delay that took about 10 seconds. All in all everything worked and the quality was fine but the buffering was a bit annoying. Videos didn't work but this was to be expected as PS3 is a little picky about video formats.

Trying Play via home network from N96 didn't however work at all. This is because PS3 expects itself to be the controlling point and is just a media viewer and not a media renderer. This is quite a common problem with several home entertainment devices.

One of the biggest problems using these above mentioned media servers with N96 was that the devices didn't see each other straight away. This was an interesting geeky experiment but can't be recommended for serious use. Streaming from PC to PS3 works well with different platforms but if you want to use Nokia Home Media enabled devices the best option is to use Simple Center. Unlike the other media servers, Simple Center also works as a media renderer.

1 comment:

Teppo said...

Nokia announced Nokia Home Music in Nokia World 2008. This will compete with other home media devices like PS3 etc.

To be able to win this battle, I believe Nokia Home Music must introduce state-of-the-art user experience. NHM must work instantly and it shouldn't require any configuration, hassle or other annoying stuff.