Video game consoles, particularly the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, are increasingly becoming more than just gaming devices. They have become complete entertainment systems. You can now watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other streaming video content. You can purchase and listen to music, and with the new Xbox 360 dashboard update coming this fall, you can even watch exclusive live content from cable providers.
One media streaming dilemma that still faces some Xbox 360 and PS3 users is the ability to stream content from another device, such as a desktop or laptop computer. If you have home movies, pictures or photos, a collection of MP3s, or other content that you have downloaded to your computer, it is a pain to have to copy that content to your game console. For Windows users, they can connect their Xbox 360 to their Windows computers without much difficulty. For the rest of us, there are third-party tools. One in particular that I have been using lately is PS3 Media Server.
PS3 Media Server
Despite the name, PS3 Media Server can actually stream to a number of UPnP-capable devices, including the Xbox 360, Android phones and tablets, XBMC, iPad, and Sony Bravia Internet TVs. It is also cross-platform and free and open source, with builds available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. It is written in Java and can stream supported content formats directly or even transcode incompatible content before streaming.
Installation and Setup
The Windows and Mac versions comes with .exe and .dmg files respectively. The installation process should be familiar to you. For Linux, there are no distribution-specific packages, so you will need to download the .tgz file and extract the contents. You can copy the extracted files wherever you want and then just execute the PMS.sh file. As it is platform-independent, you might be able to get it to work with other Unix-like OSes, such as FreeBSD, as long as Java is installed and working.
After startup, the first screen will show you a detection process where PMS will look for a PlayStation 3 on your network. If it finds one, it will show a picture of one at the top and immediately make itself available to it. Regardless, it will continue searching for additional devices. If it finds an Xbox 360, it will display a picture of one on the bottom half of the window.
Your content will now be ready to stream, but you still need to tell PMS where the content is. To do this, click the “Navigation/Share Settings” tab. At the bottom is a section called “Shared folders”. Click the folder icon with the big plus emblem and select the folders you want to add to your streaming library. Once you have selected the folders you want, you will notice that the top middle button labeled “Restart HTTP Server” has become available. Click it to refresh your new shares.
There are many other features you can configure, such as image thumbnails, network features, and transcoding settings. To support transcoding, you will need to make sure you have Mplayer/MEncoder and/or FFMPEG installed. If you intend to stream HD movies while transcoding them, you will need a powerful computer. My laptop was unable to do it without stuttering through it. Without transcoding, everything streams fine.
At your game console, you should go through the normal process of attaching media streamers and playing content. On the Xbox 360 for example, it will detect your PS3 Media Server and play content from it as if it were a Windows machine. If you have trouble connecting, always go back and check the “Status” tab on PMS, and if necessary, restart it. You should now be able to enjoy your computer’s content from your living room anytime you want it.