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Glossary

Codec

A codec is a device or computer program capable of encoding and/or decoding a digital data stream or signal, the term codec coming from combination of the words coder-decoder. DVD's use an MPEG-2 Codec for its video compression as does most television signals but in order to highly compress your ripped DVD's, you should look to install and use one of the 3 main standards for this. These are DivX, Xvid and H.264.

DivX

DivX® is the name of a popular video compression technology developed by DivX, Inc. It is an MPEG-4 based codec which allows videos to be highly compressed whilst still maintaining a high quality image. The codecs delivers high efficiency and conversion speed and DVD's can be compressed up to 1/10 of their original size, fitting onto a single CD whilst still offering excellent quality video.

The DivX codec has been around for quite sometime and watching videos encoded in this format does not restrict you to the PC. DivX offers a certified program and which has a presence in over 100 million shipped devices such as DVD Players, Mobile Phones and Media Players. Using this standard format means you only have to maintain a video in one format and this can then be played across all your home media and portable devices.

In late 2008, DivX launched its newest certication program for devices, DivX Plus™ HD and in Jaunaury 2009, DivX® 7 was released, enabling playback and creation of high definition H.264 video.

DivX Convertor

DivX Converter is a commercially available product and cost about $20. It is bundled with the DivX Pro Codec but if you download the free DivX codec, DivX Converter comes with it offering a 15 day trial. It offers a very simple front end and allows you to convert your various video sources into a divx, avi or mkv format (mkv is used for HD and us available from version 7.0 and above). The current list of input file formats are:-

  • MPG
  • MPEG
  • VOB
  • M1V
  • M2V
  • TS
  • TP
  • WMV
  • AVI
  • AVS
  • MP4
  • MOV (if user has QT 5+ installed on their computer)
  • MKV

DNLA

DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) is a standard used by manufacturers of consumer electronics to allow entertainment devices within the home to share their content with each other across a home network.

FreeNaS

FreeNAS is an excellent free NAS (Network-Attached Storage) server, supporting:-

  • CIFS (File access from Windows Clients),
  • FTP (File Transfer Server to upload/Download files),
  • NFS (File Access from Unix./Linux clients),
  • AFP,
  • RSYNC(For synchronising files. Can be used to backup files from other devices)
  • iSCSI protocols,
  • a UPnP Media Server supporting the streaming of multimedia to Games consoles and other Media Players,
  • S.M.A.R.T.,
  • local user authentication,
  • Software RAID (0,1,5) for protecting data using more than one disk,
  • a Full WEB configuration interface.

The beauty of FreeNAS is you can reuse an old PC or laptop which is now too slow to run those latest applications. The PC that has been used for the guides on this site is 8yrs old with a 700MHz Pentium processor and 128MB of memory. Internally it has a 160GB disk but an external 500GB USB drive has been added. It is possible to install your FreeNAS server onto a Compact Flash Drive or USB stick to improve security and aid in performance and power reduction. Tests on throughput (using this hardware) using FTP have shown the transfer rate at around 90Mb/s over a simple Wired Network.

H.264

H.264 is a standard for video compression, and is equivalent to MPEG-4 Part 10, or MPEG-4 AVC (for Advanced Video Coding). It is one of the digital video codecs specified for the Blu-ray (BD) and High Definition DVD (HD DVD) formats but also has a very broad application range that covers all forms of digital compressed video from low bit-rate Internet streaming applications to HDTV broadcast and Digital Cinema applications with nearly lossless coding.

HandBrake

Handbrake is a free software Conversion which will convert practically any source video file into a format which can be played on virtually any device. It has a number of presets which take the hard work out of knowing how to configure codecs and comes with a very simple and easy to use interface although a command line interface is available too.

Orb

Orb is a free media server for Windows Vista, XP or Windows XP Media Center Edition. It is a web based front end that is built on Ajax and can give you access to all your Movies, Music, Photos and even live TV from a huge range of devices. This includes a PC, the whole range of the latest generation games consoles and hand held devices such as the iPhone or iPod touch.

Orb offers MyCasting. It turns your home PC into your personal broadcasting system by giving the users of Orb the ability to to not only access content from within their own home network but also the chance to access it via any number of external internet connected devices. To access any of your Orb content you create an Orb login, the details of which are store on the Orb central servers. For this user account, you simply set your preferences for which media folders you wished to share. As long as the PC is switched on and internet connected, it will remain in contact with the Orb Servers. You would then login to the orb mycast web site from a range of devices and since your PC is in contact with the Orb servers, the Orb servers will redirect you to your Home PC and you will then be able to access any available share media. Another excellent feature of Orb is that it allows you to share selected portions of your content to your friends and family using this same Personal Broadcast System.

NAS Server

A NAS or Network Attached Storage Server is a means of storing you files on a computer network such that they can be accessible by more than one machine whether it be Windows, Mac or Linux.

A Home NAS Server can deliver much more than this basic file sharing functionality as they usually offer other features such as a Web Server, iTunes Server, a Bit Torrent client for downloading files from Peer to Peer file sharing sites and even offer solutions for streaming you multimedia content to your favourite games consoles such as the XBox 360, PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Wii.

As these NAS Servers are traditionally left on for long periods or usually continuously, it is important to use low powered hardware in order to minimise the ongoing cost of these devices.

PlayOn.tv

Playon.tv is a shareware software product from Mediamall technologies. If you have a Games Console such as a PLAYSTATION 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or Media players such as a Moxi HD DVR, NETGEAR ITV2000, HP MediaSmart TV, or other DLNA-compliant device, you can use PlayOn.tv to watch video streams from multiple internet websites such as Youtube, Hulu, ESPN as part of it's core product and in it's latest beta versions, it now also offers access to your local multimedia such as Photos, Movies and Music. Other internet streams are available via user developed plugins which can be found at playonplugins.com.

Playon.tv has a 14 day free trial and can be downloaded here

PS3 Media Server

PS3 Media Server is a DLNA compliant UPnP Media Server written in Java. Meant for the PS3 but now offering some basic functionality to the Xbox 360, it can stream or trancode nearly any kind of media file with minimum configuration using the powerful Mplayer/FFmpeg packages to achieve this.

With no codec packages to install, this is a very simple solution to get running and the video quality seen so far has been excellent. It has come at a price though with some real time transcoding of High Definition content to an Xbox using 96% of the bandwidth available on a Wired Network. It is also highly configurable so these settings can all be tweaked to your particular set up.

It offers features such as

  • Simple streaming of native formats
  • real time transcoding of MKV/FLV/OGM/AVi and then giving full seeking support while doing this
  • Subtitle support
  • Thumbnail generation
  • Support for internet feeds (Pictures/ Audio/Video)
  • Many more

SmartRipper

SmartRipper is a free DVD Backup tool which make the resulting backup Region Free and also removes the copy protection (Macrovision). It gives you the ability to rip out just the parts of the DVD you want such as the main movie, individual chapters and also allows you to select which particular Audio track you want etc.

You can download SmartRipper from here. It doesn't come as an installable package so you can just copy the files into a directory of your choice and run it from there.

TVersity

TVersity Media Server is a software package that allows a personal computer to stream content to UPnP devices, such as the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii, regardless of the limitations of the device. For example, the Xbox 360 does not support certain codecs or Internet videos such as YouTube. TVersity Media Server transcodes the video on the PC into a compatible codec and then streams it to the device.

TVersity aims to:

  • Deliver any media to any device
  • Provide a Personal Entertainment Guide (PEG) by allowing users to create a personalized lineup of channels.
  • Provide Content Guides by making it easy to access links via organized lists of multimedia content
  • Multimedia Social Networking - allowing users to share links with other users

While built from open source components, TVersity Media Server as a whole is not (except for the bundled codecs), though the download is currently free to home users.

Tvix

Tvix offer a range of High-Definition Digital Network Media Players, including the M4100-SH, M5100-SH, M6500-A (v2), the M7000 and their latest device, the M6600. These devices are able to play your High-Definition Movies on resolutions of up to 1080p through it's HDMI or component connections, play your mp3s, wma etc through your Ampflier via it's Optical, phono or coaxil outputs and view your phots directly on your TV. By adding in a TV Tuner(except for the M6600 which already comes with a dual tuner), you can also watch or record DVB-T broadcasts.

The Tvix devices also support a large number of file formats cover most things you would create or download from the internet.

Video Format :.avi, .wmv, .mpg, .iso .vob, .ifo, .mp4, .asf, .tp, .trp, .ts, .m2ts, .mov(H.264)
Codec : MPEG 1 / 2 / 4, AVI, XVID, WMV9(MP@HL), H.264, AVC(HD) , VC-1(MP@HL, AP@L3)
Resolutions up to 1920*1080P
Audio MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg, PCM, M4A, AC3,FLAC, WAV

 

Your multimedia can be played from an internal Sata Disk, via a USB connected external Hard Drive or a Samba/NFS Network share, offering enormous potential for flexibility and expansion

UPnP

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a set of networking protocols. The goals of UPnP are to allow devices to connect seamlessly and to simplify the implementation of networks in the home (data sharing, communications, and entertainment) and in corporate environments for simplified installation of computer components. UPnP achieves this by defining and publishing UPnP device control protocols (DCP) built upon open, Internet-based communication standards.

The term UPnP is derived from plug-and-play, a technology for dynamically attaching devices directly to a computer, although UPnP is not directly related to the earlier plug-and-play technology. UPnP devices are "plug-and-play" in that when connected to a network they automatically announce their network address and supported device and services types, enabling clients that recognize those types to immediately begin using the device.

WMV

Windows Media Video (WMV) is a compressed video file format for several proprietary codecs developed by Microsoft.

 

XBMC

XBMC Media Center (formerly named XBox Media Center) is a cross-platform, free and open source software media-player. While XBMC functions very well as a standard media player application for your computer, it designed for use as HTPC Software for your living-room TV. It was originally created for the first-generation game console, but is now available for the Linux, Mac OS X (Leopard, Tiger), Apple TV, and Microsoft Windows operating systems. There is also a bootable Live CD and Live USB version referred to as XBMC Live

XBMC supports most common audio, video, and image formats, playlists, audio visualizations, slideshows, weather reporting, and third-party plugins. As well as being able to play multimedia media from local Hard Drives, it is also network aware and can pull in Internet streams, connect to network share, UPnP devices etc. XBMC Media Center has as of yet no PVR TV-recording and EPG TV-Guide functionality of its own. However, it does offer the possibility to integrate such functionality through third-party plugins

XVid

Xvid is a video codec library following the MPEG-4 Part 2 standard. Xvid is a primary competitor of the DivX Pro Codec (Xvid being DivX spelled backwards). In contrast with the DivX codec, which is proprietary software developed by DivX, Inc., Xvid is free software distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License

Xvid is a hugely popular codec, especially with the internet file sharing community and you will find at the majority of standard definition movies have been compressed using this format. Most of these videos will play on DivX certified devices except those that have been encoded using some of its advanced features. The Xvid codec is also free and has greater cross platform cabilities compared to that of DivX and WMV and is available on Windows, Mac and Linux. Since it is Open Source, it can be compiled for any number of Operating Systems.

Xvid has also a greater number of tools available for encoding videos than DivX although the quality and difficulty of they vary greatly.