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skerdoba 11-03-2007 12:15 PM

Vista MC & DLNA
Several vendors (Buffalo, QNAP) are touting their DLNA capabilities and compatibility with the Xbox 360. I haven't seen DLNA in action so I may not have a full grasp of what it will do for me. My general understanding is that the DLNA protocol allows direct streaming of media content from the DLNA-enabled storage device to the DLNA-enabled playback device without having to pass through a PC. My questions:

1) The hard drives from Buffalo and QNAP are NAS appliances and as such cannot be defined as media storage locations in Vista Media Center (ok, at least not without hacking and headaches). With that in mind, are the DLNA capabilities of these NAS drives of any use to Media Center? Even if I record tv shows to a local drive and batch them to the NAS, wouldn't playback still have to occur through the Media Center front end? If that's the case, then DLNA is not being used at all, right?

2) Since the Xbox 360 is DLNA enabled, I assume it would "find" media files stored on DLNA NAS appliances and could play them back without passing through the Vista PC. In that scenario, wouldn't I lose the pause, rewind, ff, etc. capabilties of the Media Center interface/remote control? Or does the Xbox game controller provide those functions also?

3) Many forum posters advise against using NAS appliances as High Def media storage locations, claiming that playback performance will be degraded for various reasons (congestion, unreliability, overall speed, etc.) but I haven't seen anyone say "except in DLNA configurations". That leads me to wonder if DLNA is a lot of hype that doesn't really work? On the flip side, I wonder if the naysayers are assuming that people are attempting to play media across workplace networks with hundreds of PCs competing for bandwidth. It's hard for me to imagine network congestion being an issue on a typical home network with 3 or 4 PCs browsing the internet and one them streaming media from a NAS device (my home network is wired gigabit).

The bottom line is that I have Vista Ultimate, I'm just not sure how I can use the Media Center features yet and want to make sure I understand its capabilities and limitations before I invest in a NAS applicance and extender. I don't want to pay for DLNA capabilities if they are of no use to Media Center.

JerryDelColliano 11-03-2007 12:19 PM

Re: Vista MC & DLNA
GREAT to see you posting here.

I am not the biggest HTPC user (Mac guy) but I can speak on the quality of drives. In ONE DAY I had two go bad on me that house an 88,000 song music collecting. Both had bad power supplies. Both were in separate locations. Now a third drive by the SAME maker (Lacie) is starting to fail.

In today's Wal-mart and Costco driven "bigger, faster, cheaper" market - FEW companies in the PC world are building storage for "BETTER". With that in mind, I would work to configure your content on multiple drives if at all possible. Bad things happen to good people's hard drives. I am living proof.

CoastalHome 11-05-2007 03:01 PM

Re: Vista MC & DLNA
I cant' really speak to the integration and PnP abilities of various NAS devices but I can say that Media Center (MCX) is a great digital media aggregation platform and one I install professionally and use in my house. MCX can be set up to burn music and photo files directly to the local hard drive, or grab them across a network from another computer or NAS. You can perform a simple search across your network from shared folders and files and "watch" them so that whenever anything is added, it's automatically served up in MCX.

You are right, though - there's needs to be some sort of PC-device that the media contect streams through. You can't just serve it up bare bones off of a NAS. Of course, you could use something as simple as Sling or even a MAC mini to get music content off a NAS. You can, however, stream music content from a NAS to an Xbox without the use of a MCX machine and there is an Xbox remote that will give you the CD playback buttons from control.

I also can't speak to degraded performance of HD playback over a network as I've never had an issue. The only issue I've ever had was with a little bit of network congestion where the buffer got full and playback either momentarily stopped or hiccuped in the form of pixelating. This was mostly resolved on my network by changing the gigabit router settings. I'm confident I could 110% resolve it by upgrading to a business-grade gigabit router.

My advice is if you have Vista Ultimate with MCX - use it! You're one and only real limitation is going to be DVD playback - you can't playback stored DVD content via MCX unless you use a hokey, third-party app. I don't recommend that. Hopefully the arcane DRM laws will change soon and streaming DVD content will no longer be an issue for those that don't own Kaleidescape.

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