In keeping with this week’s theme of “Not Group Policy-related” stuff, I wanted to share with you my recipe for how I get Music, Pictures and Video all around my house and around my life.
Here’s the thing: There are a LOT of ways to skin this cat. But for me, I was looking for something simple, that worked, and used as much existing technology as I already had.
This is a walkthrough of how I chose to solve the problems for my particular (modest) needs.
In my world, I already had the following devices: Upstairs bedroom TiVo (Generation 2), Downstairs Den TiVo (Generation 3/ HD), and an iPhone 3GS.
All these devices already play music, show pictures and display video.
The question was: how can I deliver all *MY STUFF* to them whenever I wanted?
Here we’ll learn:
- How to set up a home “server” and store everthing there
- How to stream to any TiVo in the house (most things)
- How to stream your world to your iPhone.
- Some technical bits (some GP related) on how to fix some little technical “left overs.”
Part 0: Set up a home “server” and store everything there
The first thing I needed to do was have a “central repository” for all my stuff.
This was the easy part. I already have the machine I needed. It is running Windows 7, 64-bit Ultimate edition has 3TB disks, with 2TB usable storage with a hardware RAID 5 controller.
On my box I have a directory named d:MEDIA. Inside MEDIA is CD-COLLECTION, PICTURES, and DVD. That is all the types of media I wish to stream today, though it’s conceivable I will want to do more in the future.
Let me tell you which software, specifically, I use to perform the “ripping” of my stuff.
Pictures: No ripping needed. I have old CD-ROMs of pictures, and just keep this updated all the time.
CDs: I use Easy CD-DA Extractor. The price is kinda high, but it’s also quite good. There are many others. http://www.poikosoft.com/download.html. I know many people who are happy with the built-in ripper from iTunes.
DVDs: I use SlySoft CloneDVDMobile to take my home-movie DVDs which I own and get them to “bite sized pieces” that I can use on the road with my iPod. 3 clicks per DVD and I’m home free. Then I just drag the resulting file to iTunes, and, whamo. Instant movie on the road. Note that same company SlySoft also makes AnyDVD which can read movie-studios’ CSS encrypted DVDs as well, which then can be again read by CloneDVDMobile. Theoretically, you can also then read / rip those rented or store-bought DVDs, NetFlix movies, etc, and archive them files as well, but, I would never, never personally do that. (That might not be legal depending on who you ask.) You can find both programs here: http://www.slysoft.com/en/. Additionally, if you don’t want to copy the movie to the iPod, but want it just available for streaming, you can literally just copy the files on the DVD (readable because of AnyDVD) and then stream your movies directly (as I’ll explain in a moment.) Both programs are reasonably priced and can be bundle priced for 56 Euro right now. About $80 US.
Part 1: The Easiest part – Use TiVo Desktop Plus for 66% of the project
So my first goal is to get Pictures and CDs to play around my house. I spend 90% of my time in my office (next to the computer that has all this stuff), and the other 10% between the bedroom and the den (which have TiVos.)
So, on my Windows 7 machine, I bought TiVo Desktop Plus.
Why did I buy the “Plus” version if TiVo Desktop is free? Two reasons, both in a minute.
With TiVo Desktop (and Plus) I can install it on the Windows 7 machine then immediately point it toward the Pictures and CD-Collection I have amassed.
Instant streaming of Pictures using the two TiVos in the house. Be sure to consult this tech document if it doesn’t just “magically work” the first time to open up Firewall ports on the Windows 7 box and/or your router:
On NY Eve, it was great. I started off the night with a 135 song mix I had stored on the computer, and streamed it down to the TiVo. Then, later, we looked at some old vacation pictures and pictures of NY Eve past. Then, we moved on to singing against some karaoke backing tracks I had on the computer, streamed thru the TiVo.
It was awesome.
Okay. So, Pictures and CDs. Done. So, why did I buy TiVo Desktop Plus?
Because with TiVo Desktop Plus, I can take the material in the DVDs section of my Windows 7 box and “publish it”. Then while I’m on the TiVo upstairs or downstairs I simply “request it” while using the TiVo!
So if I have a home-movie DVD (or other DVD) I’ve captured (using the software detailed in Part 0) and I want to watch it on the TiVo Upstairs or Downstairs, I just “request it” and, Blamo. It starts to come down.
The only problem with this is that it pulls them down one at a time, not exactly “on demand.” I’ll overcome this in part 3.
So, with one program, I’m “publishing” Music, Photos and Video — to the two locations in my house I need them the most.
The other reason to get TiVo Desktop Plus is that I can pull my favorite TV shows from the TiVo recordings and automatically make iPhone compatible .mp4s of them for copying to my iPod.
Learn more about TiVo Desktop Plus here: http://www.tivo.com/buytivo/tivogear/software/tivodesktopplus.html
Part 2: Get ORB Media player. Install it on the same Windows 7 box.
I’ve now got Pictures, CDs and Video around my house where I am the most.
What about when I travel?
I always have my current phone (an iPhone 3GS) with me. Yes, I synchronize a fair amount of CDs, Pictures and DVDs with me. Yes, it’s a 32GB device, but my Windows 7 box at home has, well, up to 2TB of stuff (potentially.) I cannot carry all of it around with me at all times.
Welcome ORB Networks’s ORB Media server.
Once installed on your Windows 7 box, you can again, tell it where your CDs, Pictures and DVDs are.
When you do, you can FOR FREE, listen, look and watch all that stuff from ANY OTHER COMPUTER in the world. You can also tell Orb Media server where your FILES are (optionally) and get to any file on the box you want. (Very handy.)
So, when I’m holed up in a hotel somewhere and I want to watch a movie on my large laptop screen, it’s 100% free. Again, the ORB media server software is free, and watching your stuff on a computer is free.
But, on my iPhone, it cost me a whole $10 in the Apple iTunes store to get the media player for my iPhone: http://www.orbnetworks.com/en/orblive
Now, whenever I want to.. (especially while shopping with my spouse or waiting at the airport) I can just whip out my iPhone and watch a movie or TV show I’ve put in the DVD section of my hard drive.
It’s like magic and works over the 3G network.
Additionally, instead of carrying my entire CD collection or entire picture collection, I just fire up ORB on my iPhone, and flick-flick-flick show all the pictures of what I want to whomever I’m with.
It’s just dreamy. Be sure to check the checkbox to allow ORB to run when no one is logged in.
Part 3: True (On-Demand) streaming to my TiVo (well, one of them, anyway.)
In part 2, I was able to use TiVo Desktop Plus to accept requests from my Upstairs (TiVo Generation 2) and my Downstairs (TiVo Generation 3).
Honestly, this solution would be “good enough” for most people. You just tell the TiVo “I want to watch Video #1 and Video #2.” And Video #1 is “downloaded” from the server first, then Video #2 is downloaded next.
You can USUALLY watch Video 1 while it’s being downloaded. But then if you change your mind, and think “Well, I really want to watch Video #2 now.” You can’t. You have to wait until Video #1 is fully downloaded BEFORE Video #2 even starts.
So I wanted a way to allow on-demand streaming FROM my TiVo.
StreamBaby is an open source utility which, I loaded on my Windows 7 machine.
You can find StreamBaby here: http://code.google.com/p/streambaby/. Be sure to follow the Getting Started guide here http://code.google.com/p/streambaby/wiki/getting_started (very important.)
This just worked first time out the gate for me, no problems at all.
In short, my Downstiars TiVo (Gen 3 HD) now has a “Stream, Baby, Stream” menu item showing me all my DVD files and can I pick any one I want, and it will, well, stream down in realtime. I can even pick a time index, and start right in the middle of a movie.
Wow. Awesome. Cost? $0.
Note that my Upstairs TiVo (Gen 2) also shows “Stream, Baby, Stream” but it will not pull any data down. There ARE ways to perform hacks on the TiVo Gen 2 devices to things like what StreadyBaby does. But they seem technically complicated, so I have no plans at all to do this for my Upstairs older TiVo. I’m perfectly happy “requesting” the one item I want to watch via TiVo Desktop Plus and just be sure I want to watch it as opposed to using StreamBaby.
Once TiVo Desktop Plus, Orb and StreamBaby are all running — you’re golden. But you may want to read on for some “extra credit” opportunities.
Part 4: Autologin, Srvany, and BeyondTrust (technical “extra-mile” stuff)
Yes, my Windows 7 server has a battery backup. But that lasts 6 minutes then shuts down the machine.
I’m gone away to teach a class, and the box needs to be restarted / rebooted for whatever reason, I want to make sure my other house members are able to continue to use the streaming services I have made available. And I want to be able to use my iPhone via ORB to see the stuff back on the box while on the road.
TiVo Desktop Plus and StreamBaby each need some user logged on and then launch the applications.
But I want to have it so that if I reboot the machine, everything just magically works. I need Windows 7 to auto-logon with my user account (which is not an administrator.)
To do this, you can teach Windows 7 to auto-log in a user by using these directions:
Again, in my world, this is NOT insecure. I have physical security to my home office via decent locks, police-monitored alarm system and a live guard dog. I am comfortable with using Autologin; I am not recommending it to everyone for all circumstances.
Now, the next logical step would be to put TiVo Desktop Plus and StreamBaby in my Startup folder. (Remember: I made ORB run in the background thru it’s service.)
Here’s the thing: I’m logging in a standard user, not an Admin user.
In this case, TiVo Desktop Plus runs just fine when I auto-login as my regular user. So does StreamBaby, except when it starts up it has a big ol’ ugly DOS box as troubleshooting output. (More later)
- TiVo Desktop Plus: Great.
- StreamBaby: Ugly DOS box I don’t want to see.
- ORB Media Server: Must run as admin, but can run as a service.
So, honestly, StreamBaby just WORKS SO WELL for me, so I don’t really need to see output. To prevent it, I set up StreamBaby with SRVANY, a program in the Windows Server 2003 resource kit. In short, I configured StreamBaby to be a Windows service. So when Windows starts, so does StreamBaby — even if no one is logged on. Even though I’ve set to Auto login now, I’m at least squelching the big ol’ DOS box by making it a service. Learn about SRVANY here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/137890
So .. That’s it. Three programs, one machine. I’m able to stream CDs, Photos and DVDs to my two important in-house sites, and anywhere at all using my iPhone.
The total cost for the software I used was:
() CD-Ripper Software (iTunes / Easy CD-DA): $0 – $40
() AnyDVD and CloneDvdMobile: $80
() TiVo Desktop Plus: $25
() Orb Media Server: $0.
() Orb Media Player for iPhone: $10
() StreamBaby Server: $0
() SrvAny: $0
Anytime I add another CD, Photo or DVD, it’s all centralized, and can be viewed or listened to from anywhere. Instantly: In my home or on the road.
I hope this guide helps you out.