Stream and share media with UPnP server/player setup

upnp_icon I spent recent few days on the couch with my notebook and nasty cold. Trying to reduce piles of queued video seemed like logical thing to do.

However copying files over wireless network got boring fast and simply feeding http links from HFS into VLC cut basic control options (like skip and rewind).

So I decided to setup UPnP server on my desktop (which I tried and failed to do in the past for my Nokia N810).

Why bother

Setting up centralized media server allows to keep everything organized, in single place and (depending on your level of media obsession) offers numerous expanding and integrating opportunities – from simple convenience enhancements to smart home networks.

Universal Plug and Play

UPnP is set of open standards that aims to simplify networking tasks and (among other things) allows compatible hardware devices and software to share and access media files.

Terminology

There are three basic types of nodes in UPnP setup:

  • server – does media sharing (computer, NAS, etc);
  • renderer – does media playback (software or hardware);
  • control point – enumerates and controls servers and renderers.

These can all be combined or separate with common split into server on one end and player (control point plus renderer) on another.

Scope of my setup

Few variants I offer are all software based and for Windows environment. This is very general case that can be easily accomplished on average computer. Dedicated media servers might be better using specialized solutions like MythTV.

It was actually quite hard to find viable Windows ways to put it together because choice of free UPnP software for this platform frankly sucks.

This guide also leaves out video transcoding (on-the-fly re-encoding for underpowered devices) – because choice for that is beyond sucks and into realm of words that won’t be polite to use in post.

Windows Media Player 11

windows_media_player11

Native Windows solution. Can act as UPnP server and player (latter only if used on Vista). Despite being same version on outside, embedded Windows Media Connect technology (that handles UPnP) is of different version on Vista.

To enable server check option in Library > Media Sharing. This will run background executable (and make it run on startup as well) that will handle UPnP server. It works independently and doesn’t require WMP running but relies on it for all media library management.

Each remote player must be confirmed and allowed access first time it tries to connect.

For additional reference Microsoft has FAQ on media sharing.

Pro

  • native Windows solution with easy setup;
  • complete WMP library integration.

Con

  • lacks native support for some media types like MP4 and MKV.

Link http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/11/default.aspx

XBMC Media Center

xbmc

Formerly Xbox Media Center this project had grown into massive open source and cross-platform media application. It can act as UPnP server, player and renderer.

To enable server check option in Setting > Network > UPnP and add content you want shared.

For viewing content add your UPnP share as source when choosing media to play.

Pro

  • packed full of features;
  • remote-friendly interface.

Con

  • Xbox roots show up as some bugs that seem unfixed for years – I had encountered high CPU usage when idle and low volume problem on some files;
  • sometimes stuck and required restart when browsing UPnP share;
  • too bulky solution to run for server only.

Link http://xbmc.org/

Free UPnP Entertainment Service (FUPPES)

fuppes

This one is quite old and seems to be no longer developed but turned out to be very efficient.

FUPPES is UPnP server only that runs in background (with icon in tray that gives access to some basic controls and calls main web-interface).

Initial setup is supposed to be as easy as adding some folders (or iTunes database). I also had to correct mis-detected IP address, change access port and manually edit XML configuration file to add support for MKV files.

Security is based on list of allowed IPs and open for all by default.

Pro

  • most suitable to be server only;
  • just works;

Con

  • clunky setup.

Link http://fuppes.ulrich-voelkel.de/

Overall

Comparing to Linux platform choice of decent software for the task on Windows is extremely limited. I was unpleasantly surprised that my media players of choice (Media Player Classic and VLC) are completely oblivious about UPnP.

XBMC turned out to be best (and only for WinXP) player.

For server part:

  • WMP is easy but limited;
  • FUPPES is complex and flexible;
  • XBMC somewhere in the middle with occasional negative quirks.

Despite complicated choice of software (which I just did for you) actual server setup is quite easy to perform and media playback is nice and convenient experience.

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14 Comments

  • What are your thoughts on Orb or Tversity? Would these fit for your environment?

  • @nicbot

    I had tried Tversity (before I had notebook) with N810 but I failed to make transcoding work and my overall impression was that it is heavy and with confusing interface.

    I had looked at Orb as well back then, but that one is more of a service that requires account and such (as I understood at least) which is excessive for my needs.

    Glad to see you stick around and comment again. :)

  • Stick around?? I love this site :D One of my daily reads for sure…when work isn’t beating me into the ground that is.

    I’m setting up my own media server right now actually. I’ve got a dual boot system running win 7 rc1 (love it) and Linux Mint right now…side note, I had MythTV installed, but I just wasn’t feeling it. My main issue I think with the *nux flavors was lack of support for my lame MCE remote. Once I get a new (more supported) one, I’ll probably go back to Myth or Sage.

    On my Vista 64 machine Orb worked great for web access, I never really had a chance to use it as a lan media server though and am curious to give it a try now via Win7. TVersity seems equally as cool, but is more web content orientated which is what I’m ultimately looking for since WMC works great for local content imo. The current Pro version ‘works’ with Hulu which is a huge plus for me. The on the fly transcoding is huge as well.

  • @nicbot

    I know from stats there quite a few dedicated lurkers out there, still I am glad to see comments that show readers sticking with blog for months. :)

    Are you building dedicated media server or just desktop that does everything? I prefer virtual machines over dual boot. Rebooting is… meh. :)

    Not touching Win7 any time soon. In general I am not using beta software (which in case of Windows anything withous SP1) and I am even slower to adopt when it comes to operating system. Diehard WinXP user at moment.

    Visited TVersity site, seems to progress a lot since I tried it so maybe my gripes are outdated.

    By the way had you encountered Windows Home Server? I heard some good feedback but it’s rare beast and I never seen or done installation of one.

  • It will be dedicated, but my girlfriend needs to be able to use it :/ So it’s gotta be dummy proof.

    I’m all about VM’s for testing apps, different configs and such, but if it’s going to only be an HTPC / media server I don’t want to spare the resources on this machine. Dual booting works fine for this task as well as will be one less hoop to worry about.

    Since it’s a ‘project’ machine, I’m not worried about putting an RC OS on it…and RC 1 is pretty solid so far imo, but we’ll see

    I was an XP junkie for a long time as well and it wasn’t till I was given a copy of Vista Ultimate 64 that I made the switch…And honestly, I will never look back (post sp1). I use XP at work just to avoid compatibly headaches not to mention my hardware there is not exactly pwn-tastic. But as for home, for gaming and media, I love Vista. It just takes a bit more hardware umph…But since I’m not an uber gamer, it’s no biggie for me.

    Never looked in to WHS as I’ve never thought I had the need. I think if I was just going to serve files, I might just get a NAS drive. Or if I want to serve content, there are a ton of Linux distros as well as server apps (as you noted above) to host on just about any Windows platform these days.

    Again, this is my first HTPC so it’s going to be a learning experience, but that’s what stokes me out the most :) Something about breaking things and fixing them that really fulfills me. Maybe it’s all that MacGyver I watched as a kid…ok ok still watch.

  • @Nicbot

    Yeah, tinkering with things is awesome. :) Especially if new shiny hardware is involved.

    Good luck with your server!

  • Not to keep rehashing this post, but I just stumbled across this and wanted to share.

    TunerFree MCE:
    http://www.milliesoft.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9&Itemid=11

    If you’re in to WMC at all, this is a pretty rad plugin…and it works on Win7 MC too :) Closest thing to working Hulu in MC (Vista/W7) that I’ve found yet plus a ton more.

    This plus MS’s new Netflix addition to MC will make WMC a monster imo.

  • @nicbot

    Looks cool but since I am no UK or US it’s useless for me.

    And what makes Microsoft products monsters is Microsoft part in my opinion. :)

  • True that on the MS front.

    …Proxy??

  • @nicbot

    Proxies are pain. And I hardly lack entertainment options, humanity produces way too much of those. :)

  • Hey Rarst –
    I liked the summary. Have you tried “EyeconTroller” from Eyecon Technologies? Worth checking out. The PC/Mac software aggregates any media on a network and creates a virtual library of all your local and web media; you then easily route it to any connected device. It’s compatible with just about any UPnP or DLNA device, and very simple/easy to use, with a common UI for all your media and all your devices.

    The software if free at http://www.eyecontec.com. The coolest part is the iPhone app which has the same UI and lets you control everything remotely – it’s also now temporarily free at the Apple App Store under ‘EyeconTroller’. Apparently they’re also working on an Android version.

  • @Johnny

    Thanks for suggestion, bookmarked to check it out. But lately I prefer to simply keep media on notebook synchronized rather than stream it. Acts as backup as well this way.

  • Hi all ,

    I have a quary regarind WMP12,

    Steps:
    1. Play a song from WMP12 select the remote devide “Play To”
    2. Song start plyaed on the remote device.
    3. On from the device select the other server to play the song
    4. Now Device will start playing song from the new selected server.

    Issue :
    WPM12 still streaming the song it not stopping the progerss bar in WPM12.

    Please let me know how to stop this..

    Regards,
    Abhishek

  • @Abhishek

    Unfortunately I do not have computer with WMP12 to test that at moment.

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