In the last part of this little sojourn into keeping myself entertained, both figuratively and literally, I had reached the conclusion that wireless technology can never ever beat old fashioned wiring when the requirement is reliable and consistent data transmission.
So, with all of this in mind, the next step is really to ensure that there is a foolproof home network, good, reliable hardware and well written, smart software to take advantage of this.
So, the most critical step is the creation of a great backbone network in the house. This requires the laying of Cat5E or preferably Cat6 network cables to the areas where you’re looking to have data going to. This allows futureproofing for data transfer rates of up to one gigabit. Of course, for those renting, it might be hard to convince landlords to do this bit. Wireless might be the go here and so long as the required data transfer rate is not too high through the whole network at any time, it might well be sufficient.
A good modem and router is definitely important, luckily, our ISP is fantastic at providing both top notch customer service and rugged, reliable hardware. If you’re not as fortunate, Belkin and Netgear provide great hardware that’s reliable and easy to set up. I would also add that large houses, especially double storey buildings really need at least two well located wi-fi antennae, one at each end or floor of the house (whichever is applicable). The wi-fi is necessary purely because of all the laptops, tablets and smartphones in use around the house nowadays.
The next step is setting up an appropriate server machine. Previously, my desktop computer was the main media server and continues in this role today. The only downside is the thumpingly massive video card in it can draw quite a lot of power, not to mention the quad-core CPU. The desktop computer was obviously designed for framerates rather than silent operation. The option to assemble a new dedicated server machine is there and will be taken up in future.
For the ultimate in entertainment convenience across the widest variety of devices, I looked into getting some decent software that would work across the myriad ecosystems at home. Plex became my choice, both for its simplicity and its ability to stream anything and everything across the network. Plex uses DLNA, which is a home network and entertainment communications standard. Any piece of hardware that can read this standard can interpret and transcode from and to other devices. The fact that Plex also scans various databases for episode names and summaries as well as organises artwork and television show seasons is amazing and shows good development. Of course, it’s not perfect in getting results, but works 95% of the time unless the title is very obscure. Finally, it has software versions for both Windows, OSX, iOS, Android and Windows Phone, allowing everyone to watch anything at any time.
This pretty much covers how we have set up everything in the house now. The only thing left to do is build a dedicated server computer and remove some load (and also lower the power bill) by not using my main desktop as the storage device for all our home media.