My home network is more the product of evolution than intelligent design.

It started out with all the computers in one room, upstairs. So there's a consumer ADSL router-thingy with built-in switch up there, and everything was hooked up to that by Ethernet.

Then various devices requiring wireless showed up in the living-room. A PVR, then an AppleTV and a Wii. A laptop appeared. There were several devices capable of 802.11n, so I added an Airport Express and switched off the wireless AP on the router-thingy.

Then I moved my main desktop machine downstairs.

By this point almost everything is using wireless. Which is a pity, because even with 802.11n wireless is slow and insuffucient for media streaming. It is also prone to crapping out from interference. The difficulty is that any substantive rebuild has the potential to take me off the Internet for days, and that would be a Bad Thing(TM) on account of needing to be able to work from home at the drop of a hat.

Yesterday I finally made another step in this evolutionary process, running a long bit of cat-5 from the iMac downstairs around the room to the PS3. I am surprised and delighted to report that Ubuntu handled this very gracefully: edit the "Auto eth0" IPv4 settings, change "Method" to "Shared to other computers", and boom. DHCP server, NAT, DNS, all configured for the PS3 every time it starts up.

Installed Mediatomb on Ubuntu. Required a slight change to force it to bind to eth0 -- it was far too keen on virbr0 -- and now I've got video streaming nicely. Two complaints: can't get internet radio stuff working, despite there being several "how-to" guides online, as the PS3 doesn't handle it directly and Mediatomb's configuration is somewhat on the obtuse side; and the interface for media selection on the PS3 via Mediatomb is nowhere near as nice as XBMC or Boxee. Particularly the bit where it doesn't remember what you've already seen.

Still, image quality is significantly better than the AppleTV, even on my 32" SD CRT with both devices connected via component and running 576i. And the PS3 gets aspect ratio right, which both XBMC and Boxee struggle to do. If I could solve the streaming audio problem I could pull the AppleTV out of the system entirely.


Abort, Rephrase, Ignore?

October 2011

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