My girlfriend calls me the CTO of our apartment and she’s the boss on which screen she wants to watch her favorite shows. The modern way to “wire” your home audio video system is in fact wireless. To stream video from any mobile device, whether its her iPhone or my Android, both our laptops and desktop computers, then out to one of several connected TVs in our apartment, requires several streaming workarounds.
The body of laws surrounding broadcasting and media rights is beyond consumer comprehension with practical use cases for streaming technology left for dead air. For example: The “older” Mac Mini connected to our bedroom TV struggles to play Netflix using Silverlight’s DRM format, but loading Hulu in the web browser on a 42 inch TV has all the shows that are restricted from streaming through the AppleTV in the living room. To stream video everywhere throughout our home with the magic of a Sonos audio, we used a combination of available consumer media solutions.
For the Apple household:
To enable Airplay from any computer in your house to an AppleTV, try AirParrot. Using Airparrot you can mirror your screen from older Macs desktop and laptops not Airplay designated by Apple. If you run into any trouble streaming Airplay audio along with the video, try holding the Option key when clicking the Volume icon in the Apple Menu Bar to select the audio output destination. To connect to speakers outside of Apple’s iTunes, try Airfoil to lift Apple’s restrictions on Airplay Audio streaming. To add perfect room to room Sonos like sync using multiple Airplay speakers, try Porthole to enable multiple home speakers to use stream Airplay audio at the same time. Both Porthole, Airfoil, and Airparrot require a paid license to stream for more than 10 minutes, but also offer free trials to test your setup.
Recently, we replaced our 2008 fully loaded Mac Mini with Google’s Chromecast, the latest cross platform video streaming solution based on Google’s Chrome browser, and for only $35. The $64 difference between Google’s Chromecast and Apple’s $99 AppleTV protocol leaves just one question; do you want to stream every application from your computer or only media from the browser? The simple HDMI plugin device enables personal broadcast of whatever is playing on your Chrome browser or within select mobile applications such as Netflix and YouTube, turning relatively TV into a connected TV. Tab management options allow you to select the tab you want to cast while still have your computer free to surf as a second screen. Google’s long term play is to provide Chrome OS with the just-good-enough Google Office and media functions made available to every device in your home.
Build your own media server:
To create your own media streaming server hosted across many platforms try Plex, which is built on top of open source technology. Plex is well developed if you’re using a custom built PC connected to a big screen TV or if you use Linux. The DoubleTwist beta also currently enables Airplay if you want to completely avoid all things Apple for a media player. Boxee and XMBC initially offered hardware media server alternatives, but today it’s best to stick with the Roku, XBOX, or WD Box for video. The downside to all these alternatives is the complication of setup and lack of screen sharing options. Content is also not widely available with services such as HBO GO who was only recently added to AppleTV along with ESPN – Fox Sports, and Showtime still being widely restricted from every screen viewing.
There will be always be workarounds for broadcast rights, restricted copyright streaming, and artificial scarify of content, but the avid consumer today is willing to pay for the software, hardware, and content to get viewing everywhere they want.