By David Worthington | Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm
There’s a little-known fact: you don’t need to buy set-top boxes or gaming consoles to enjoy digital media on your TV. Unfortunately, buying more hardware is oftentimes the easier–although more limited–option at the moment.
I just got a great deal on a nicely equipped Samsung LCD television. It comes equipped with DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) client software. DLNA is an industry specification that allows devices to share content over a home network.
DLNA servers share content that is played and viewed on clients like televisions. Samsung provides free software to turn your PC into a home media server.
Easy, you might think. Wrong. Samsung’s DLNA server software only works on Windows, and the application’s interface is hardly intuitive. Weaker yet, the client can only play a limited volume of codecs, and has no support for copy-protected media. The average non-geek would be in over his or her head.
I have a Mac, so I loaded the software onto Windows 7 via Parallels. My TV did not recognize my virtualized DLNA server. So, I then did some digging on Google, and happened upon a very helpful blog post reviewing DLNA servers for Macs.
After reading through the blog, I installed software called EyeConnect. EyeConnect worked, but much of my media library was off limits due to Apple’s DRM restrictions. Pictures did not display at all, for whatever reason.
However, EyeConnect inspired me–it had plug-ins. Why couldn’t it have plug-ins for Hulu or NetFlix? That led me to PlayOn. Playon streams video from an impressively broad selection of sources, but wasn’t available for my Mac. I eventually got it to work in Windows after tweaking Parallels’ settings.
My Samsung recognized PlayOn, but the experience left me unconvinced. Hulu videos either wouldn’t load (citing codec issues) or would take a long time to load – even over a Wireless-N broadband router. My TV also crapped out several times, forcibly rebooting itself.
Now, I am at a crossroads. Do I run LAN cable across my living room floor and into my bedroom to hook into my Mac (or drill through the wall of my apartment)? Since my Samsung does not include Internet widgets for direct access to online video and audio, as some new models do, it may be my most economical option.
A Boxee box or gaming console would also work, but why buy additional hardware when I already have the plumbing? More interoperability testing is desperately needed. Psst…Apple–how about opening up Apple TV to developers (and ditch the DRM)?
I still think DLNA shows promise, but years after its debut, it still doesn’t feel like it’s ready for promise–which might help explain why it’s never become a household name. I’m also pleased with my Samsung flatscreen, but I’ve got to say: Until today, I never saw a TV set crash.