Moving Media Around the House

By definition, this is a “first world” problem. In the news gap between CES and the Apple event next week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I might manage my media collections between all of my computers. The buzz around the Boxee box and anticipating the need to have most of my working data in the cloud so that I can access it regardless of what computer or platform I’m using has inspired me to find a better way to work with my media. Actually this is a “problem” that I didn’t have until I moved from my one-room studio to my one-bedroom apartment and then two-bedroom townhouse. I have four macs floating around the house (and anticipate a fifth Apple in the form of an iPad-netbook-media-thingy), each with their own full copies of my iTunes library, DVDs ripped to a couple macs, and daily podcasts downloaded to all four computers. In the past I manually erased podcasts I’d already listened to on one of the four computer and my iPhone, but given how many podcasts I listen to this method is just too much work. I’d also been hoping to store my DVDs on one computer and be able to view them on any of the other devices. The upcoming release of the Boxee box has me rethinking my media sharing scheme.

Boxee Beta from boxee on Vimeo.

One of the things that I’ve learned so far is that even though I’m using fast wireless “N” and or a fast “power” Ethernet connection between the first and second floors, ripped DVDs stored on hard drives in their original Mpeg2 format won’t play across the network without lots of buffering or dropped frames. Unacceptable. I was anticipating using my PS3 as the movie/media player downstairs (still working on that), so I had previous converted some movies to mp4 and those videos seemed to play nicely across the network. So, even though I’m a firm believer in having access to all of the “extra features” that I look for with my DVDs (and how convenient they are to access using the DVD menu system), I’ll need to rip and convert my media to a more network friendly format, like mp4 (which makes each extra feature into it’s own separate video file). Grrr.

image by Joe Bustillos

I have a huge DVD and music collection and get most of my more daily news and entertainment via video and audio podcasts, so I need some kind of box attached to my TVs so that I can get my Internet/network media. I was hoping to use my PS3 as the player in my living room, but it has a crappy web-browser and doesn’t do RSS, so it can’t natively do podcasts. More work needed here. At the moment my mac mini is doing living room media duties. I love the Front Row interface, but it seems a bit confused that my episodes of StarTrek (classic and Next Gen) are not movies and won’t let me organize things. So maybe the updated Boxee interface will do the job.

I’ve played with Boxee previously, but couldn’t break away from my iTunes addiction. With the software upgrade and set-top box, I’m thinking that this might be the solution to my Internet TV/podcast thing, either the software or the set-top box. Depending on my success using the PS3 as a media player, I still might need another set-top box for the bedroom TV. I’m also thinking that I need to plug into the NetFlix thing (streaming and disc) so that I don’t find myself buying every movie I want to see. So whatever box I get needs to do Netflix, access my music and DVDs across the network and either grab podcasts off the net or the ones stored on my other computers. Having invested in the PS3, I’m aware of the problems of getting a box that isn’t as expandable to handle all of the twists and turns that tends to happen in the media market.

* Boxee Demo. retrieved on 1/23/2010
* FrontRow image by Joe Bustillos
* Tekzilla » Episode 124: “Should I buy a Boxee Box or a Roku or Stick With My xbox?” retrieved on 1/23/2010
* Tekzilla » Episode 121: Boxee Box. retrieved on 1/23/2010