“A computer network that can store all our media: music, video and pictures. Any of the media can then be streamed to any computer or television inside or outside of the house! You can listen to any of the music stored on the server in any room of the house. We can look at all the baby’s pictures and movies through the television and I can get rid of all my CD and DVD cases!.”

That was the case that I made to my wife and she reluctantly agreed that I could try and build an integrated media network in our house. I’m sure she thinks this project is just so I can buy more electronic gizmos.

With my wife’s approval in place I started building an integrated media home network. The first step was easy, adding a wireless router so laptops and other wireless devices could connect to the LAN and Internet. I chose a wireless 802.11 Super G router since it was the fastest available at the time (as of this writing 802.11 N is the fastest). Laptops could now connect at a 54MBPS to the LAN.

Next requirement is to share files, printers and have a lots of storage for music, pictures and video. I started with an old desktop PC and installed 4-250 GB drives, some additional RAM and UBUNTU Linux. Once Linux was installed and configured I needed the laptops, which were running MS Windows, to share the huge hard drives and printers on the Linux server. I chose to use SAMBA, Open Source software which allows MS Windows and Linux to share printers and hard drives through the SMB standard. Once Samba was configured I added the Linux server as a shared drive on the MS Windows laptops. Configuration and integration of a Linux machine can be challenging, but there were a lot of great resources on the Internet that helped me. Linux can also help resuscitate PCs that would have otherwise been thrown out. The desktop PC that I have running the Linux server is 8 years old and it still works great!

Now that I had a wireless network and a huge amount of storage, I was ready to add a media interface to my network. I wanted to be able to record television and be able to watch stored video on any television in the house, or on a laptop. I also wanted to be able to watch home movies, that were stored on the server, to be watched on a television. Fortunately for me the TIVO digital recorder is capable of connecting to a television and streaming video from external storage through Galleon, an Open Source media server. With Galleon installed I could have a 1000 of hours of video stored on my server that I could watch on my television.

The final step was to add the ability to stream music from the Linux server to any set of speakers in the house. I could easily do this by placing a laptop in any room in the house and then connect speakers to the laptop, but I wanted a solution that would force me to buy another gadget. I found the Logitech Wireless Music System for PCs. This wireless device comes in two pieces: a USB wireless transmitter that connects to a PC and a receiving base that connects to a stereo. Whatever audio is playing on the laptop is streamed through the base and is played through the stereo’s speakers. The system also has a remote control so songs can be fast-forwarded or rewound.

Here’s a picture of my home network:

Home Network

1. Router to the Internet
2. Firewall – Rules based router that allows or blocks traffic from the Internet
3. Wireless connectivity
4. Laptops
5. Server – Linux server running UBUNTU, SAMBA and Galleon. 1 Terabyte of storage
6. Tivo
7. Television
8. Stereo with Logitech Wireless Music System for PCs

I am satisfied with my network, but I want more upgrades! wireless speakers, more hard drive space and a better way to integrate an iPod. There are two major problems that I am still facing:
1) It’s hard to navigate through so much media through a television or a stereo. The only way to find a program on TIVO is to scroll through hundreds of titles.
2) I have way too many remote controls. I have at least 6: television, stereo, TIVO, cable set-top box, DVD player, iPod and Logitech wireless music system. I have been able to merge a couple of them, but I still have too many.