My Personal Netflix

If you are OK with having to take out a DVD each time you wish to watch a movie, you probably still enjoy your Discman and hate when it has to buffer the CD's or skips. For the rest of us with a large collection of movies and TV shows, it makes sense to store them better. This is where file servers and media centers come together. A file server is essentially a computer with the ability to share files to another computer over a network. This can be done in the form of a NAS, a server, a desktop computer, whatever. It just has to send files to another computer on request. Once that is in place, you can and should use media center software with 10-foot displays*. I recommend MediaPortal, xbmc, or boxee. But what about when you are on the go? You have all these awesome movies stored up, but visiting Grandma for Thanksgiving means you can't watch that new Blu-Ray movie you just bought, right? Wrong. This is where Air Video comes into play. There are two portions to get this running: a server install and an iPhone/iPod/iPad app. The server install is easy- it only requires a moderately fast computer with Apple's Bonjour services enabled. If iTunes is already installed, you have Bonjour. Once it's installed, you set the folders that have your movies and make a note of the Server PIN. Install the app on your mobile device. There's two versions, a free and a paid-for. The free limits the amount of files that can be viewed, the paid does not. Add the server by using the PIN you recorded in the previous steps, and voila!, you've got a list of all your videos. The biggest problem is that most of the videos you have will not be in a format the mobile device can view. You can do one of two things: play with live conversion, which will re-encode the video on the fly (and take some extra seconds to get it going) or convert and then play. On my dual-core with 2GB RAM that this is running on, an HD video takes 40-60min to convert and ~20sec to start watching on the fly. That's pretty much it. The hardest part is getting the videos on the server from your disks, but we won't go through it in this tutorial. Have fun! Oh, and there is some iTunes integration as well, so you should be able to (but I cannot confirm) play any purchased TV shows or movies as well. * The displays are not actually ten feet wide, but rather you will be ten feet away and need to read the screen.
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