I’ve been wanting to build a file server that would centralize all of my media files so that I could play them from anywhere on my home network. In the old days, I would have picked a version of Windows Server as the Operating System for the PC, but I’ve been steadily moving forward with plans to go Windows free and that wouldn’t have fit in the plans.
Since I’ve standardized all of my other servers on Debian Linux, I decided that I would do the same for the new file server as well. During the time that I was buying components for the new PC, I bought an Xbox 360 Elite to go with our new HDTV (Sharp Aquos 46").
Shortly after, I found out that you could stream audio and video to the Xbox using XP or Vista. “Well, damn”, I thought to myself. “I might have to go with Windows after all.” However, one look at the price of Windows Vista or Windows Server changed my mind. I started researching alternatives that would work on Linux.
It turns out that all you need is software that provides UPnP media devices (which the Xbox is) with information on available multimedia files and there are plenty to choose from.
Xboxmediacenter.com has a list of both commercial and free offerings on their site under the entry of UPnP Sharing.
After a bit of research and some trial time, I decided on TwonkyVision’s TwonkyMedia software. While the software is not free, at 29.95 € (euros) it’s something that is palatable to my financial tastes.
The DLNA certified software runs on Mac, Windows, Linux. It also supports a large number of media formats and it’s easy to install on Linux. In addition to that, it comes with a web-based administration console making a snap to add your media.
There are some issues that I’ve experienced. First, it doesn’t seem to work in a routed environment. I think that this might be more of an issue with the UPnP protocol than the software itself though.
I have also encountered some buggyness streaming music to the Xbox. Songs appear to keep playing but no sound comes out and eventually (if left to its own devices) the Xbox will start periodically making a horrible buzzing sound. With that being said, I haven’t ascertained if that’s related to the Xbox itself, my wireless network dropping the stream or the actual TwonkyMedia software.
I did make one modification that seems to have alleviated the issue. In the web-based console, I changed the buffer size from 16384 (the default value) to 96000.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the software and I’d recommend it to anyone that is looking for a low-cost, Linux based UPnP server.