In search of a mediaserver

I’ve been looking into ways to move my media library to a safer and more accessible medium than the external hard disk I use at the moment. I also plan to rip all my CDs since more and more of them are starting to have scratches, even though I’m careful with those silver discs. My home network consists of Windows PC’s (desktop, media center) and Apple products (MacBook, iPhone) so I need something that works for both environments and can be expanded to other audio devices.

The first mediaserver I looked into was SqueezeCenter. The server is opensource and has the backing of an established company, in this case Logitech. They have several commercial products which can listen to your server and play the music or send the stream to your hifi installation. The stream can be opened in iTunes or WMP, just like you’d do with any internet radio. The downside of this is that you can’t browse your collection through these players though I’m sure that you can find a plugin for WMP to do this since there are iPhone applications (iPeng, Squidgy) available to control a SqueezeCenter.

I first tried their recent 7.3 release but that didn’t want to run, the previous version 7.2 ran like a breeze. The only out of the box way to control what songs are played is through the web interface.

The second one I installed was Firefly Media Server, since this one is based on a proprietary Apple protocol it works great in iTunes. Your collection is recognized as a shared iTunes library so you can choose what you want to hear in the same way you do when the mp3’s would be stored locally. The downside of this is that I can’t run this in my media center and that I need iTunes on my other windows machines. Also if I’d want to play music on a stereo I’d need to keep a PC running since the server can’t stream directly to AirTunes.

The third one I tried was TwonkyMedia, installation was no problem but I couldn’t connect with any player and the posts on their forum didn’t seem that promissing, customers who don’t get support is no good advertisement. The server however is based on the UPnP protocol, which is kind of the standard in the industry. WMP 11 can connect to such a server, as can the Playstation 3 and a lot of other players.

Searching for UPnP servers led me to TVersity, which blew me away. I can connect with my iPhone, my Vista Media Center, WMP, any browser,… It’s much more than just an audio server I suggest you look at their website and try it out. The only downside, iTunes doesn’t support UPnP.

So far my search for a media server, I haven’t decided which way to go.

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