One feature of my new LCD television I hadn’t given much thought to was the VGA input. Downstairs I already run a PVR system, so when I saw the VGA port on my new television I decided I would build another computer and hook it up upstairs, so I could watch divx and other downloaded video files easily. But then it hit me — can’t new consoles such as the PS3 and Xbox 360 stream media? I’ve heard about people using the original Xbox for multimedia streaming, but had never personally tried it. This weekend I decided to give it a go.
Streaming media to the PS3 involves the installation of UPnP (Universal Plug-n-Play) software on your PC. This software acts as a server, to which your PS3 will connect. Your media (music, pictures and video) remain on your PC and are streamed over a network connection (wired or wireless) to your PS3, where they are displayed on your television. There are many uPNP programs to choose from, but the first four I found were Nero’s MediaHome, TwonkyVision’s TwonkyMedia, TVersity, and Free UPnP Entertainment Service. TVersity and Free UPnP Entertainment Service are free; Nero’s MediaHome is not, but I already own it (comes with Nero Ultra 7 and 8). TwonkyMedia is also not free, but a free trial is available.
First up — Nero’s MediaHome, a really slick product. Nero’s MediaHome was the easiest uPnP server I attemped to set up. The computer did everything. Unfortunately, it didn’t do anything quickly; Nero Ultra 8 took over 30 minutes to install on my 2ghz/1gig of RAM Windows 2003 Server. While I realize this machine is not the powerhouse it once was, the only installation I can remember taking longer than this one was Windows itself.
Behind the scenes is Nero Scout, a program that scans your hard drive for media files to include in its database. Actually, “scan” is probably an understatement; “seriously thrashes” is much more accurate. From the moment Nero Scout launched, my CPU maxed at 99% and stayed there until I stopped the service. A Google search of “Nero Scout” turned up complaints from multiple users. Unfortunately, MediaHome won’t run without Scout, and when Scout’s running, my computer is so maxed out that it can’t stream video. That makes it unusable to me. Nero certainly got the installation and configuration down smooth, but it must require a beefier box than I own.
Next up — TVersity. TVersity was almost as simple to set up as Nero’s MediaHome, which makes sense as its performance was almost the same as well. The PS3 found the TVersity service running on my server almost immediately, and while viewing photos and listening to MP3s worked well, videos were completely unwatchable. Even low quality videos would only play for a few seconds before they began to spit and sputter. Concerned that my wireless network was not fast enough, I directly connected my PS3 to my 100 megabit switch with no improvement in performance. I skimmed the TVersity forums for help, but instead found other PS3 users with similar complaints. Strike two.
The third uPnP server I tried was Free UPnP Entertainment Service, or FUPPES for short. FUPPES appears to have been written for Unix/Linux and ported to Windows, and it shows. Documentation was sparse and disjointed; I spent a lot of time on Google just to get the program up and running; more modifications were needed to make the streaming PS3-friendly. FUPPES’ configuration program allows you to change about four settings in the program’s cfg file — everything else must be done by hand. The PC interface is decidedly unpolished and requires technical knowledge (or patience and Google) to configure.
And you know what? FUPPES worked FLAWLESSLY. Videos began streaming perfectly from my PC through my PS3 to my HDTV. And not only did those videos stream flawlessly — I was able to stream videos from a machine connected via wireless to my server; I was streaming videos from PC (wireless) to my server, to my PS3 (wireless) to my TV with no stutter. A winner is you, FUPPES. The program was a bear to configure, but was definitely worth the effort in the end. My CPU hovers at around 15% while streaming DIVX movies, a completely acceptable overhead.