DLNA Servers for the Mac
Very short version: Finding a DLNA player that supported the Mac and my new Oppo player was time consuming. Twonky is ok, but I would like something prettier, more reliable, and reasonably secure. I wanted to blog my experience in case it helps other folks.
Also, as I posted this, I came across Ed Bott’s “In the battle for the living room, the ghost of Steve Jobs looms large.” I think Ed gets it mostly right, but undervalues the importance of protocols in the living room. With good and open protocols, the ability for any one player to “control your living room” is dramatically reduced. Your ability to choose between feature sets, experiences and user-interfaces will be higher. But creating good protocols in this space seems to be hard. It appears that a lot of devices aren’t effectively talking to each other. That allows for a comparative advantage for the big players.
Anyway, I recently picked up an OPPO Blue Ray player, because it allowed me to replace three boxes (CD, DVD and Ruku) with a single box. It also supports “DNLA” media streaming. Based on “DLNA on OSX, done right,” I downloaded MediaLink, which, contrary to that blogger’s experience, it didn’t ‘just work.’
I emailed OPPO, and filled out the bug form on Digital River’s site, and Oppo responded in less than 6 hours on a Saturday on Labor Day weekend. Perhaps not the spirit of labor day, but I’m impressed. They hadn’t had any experience with that player, and suggested I try another.
So I’ve downloaded four other free players, figuring that there’s a lot of great, modification-friendly software out there. I looked at:
- Kinsky Desktop from Linn. Linn is a super-respected British manufacturer of high end audio gear. Their package is small, which I like, and came in a .pkg which worried me a little-what’s it installing? It seems (based on lsbom) to only install in /Applications, which is odd, but whatever. Didn’t work out of the box, and I didn’t feel like debugging.
- TVMobili is also super-small. The terms of service are bizzare, and read like they’re using the same contract for the software and their web site. They also seem to demand your home address. I did not consent to their contract.
- XBMC is an application which seems to be designed to turn your computer into the center of a home theater. It’s a full screen app that appears designed to be used with a remote control. I couldn’t find a way to make it not run in full screen mode. When the MacOS firewall dialog came up to allow network connections, I couldn’t get the mouse out of the XMBC screen onto the Mac dialog. A very impressive, polished looking system if you want a media center PC, but that’s not what I wanted.
- Plex is a large package (109MB), but it seems reasonably well behaved, using system APIs to open a hole in the firewall. It has a decent install process, only slightly odd language in the EULA, and politely tells you things like iTunes music will be automatically covered, and allows you to opt out of their data collection system. It also politely tells you where it’s going to go to get file meta data. It also offers to stream things like TED, CNET and Al Jazeera for you, and that part of the install was slow. (On the order of many minutes with a net connection that was full of software bits. Plex also seems to want to be a home theater system. The mouse doesn’t work. I popped into their discussion web site, and was told that Plex only works with Plex clients.
I’ve also looked at several non-free packages:
- PlayBack. Looks really nice. Has some options I’d prefer, like Aperture support. However, their FAQ currently says:
Leopard and Snow Leopard users: If you are unable to see Playback on your PS3, make sure that the built-in firewall is turned off.
That’s a show stopper for me. I’ve emailed and asked for more details (in other places their FAQ is very detailed), but not heard back yet.
- Majestic Media Server seemed to work out of the box, but the video skipped in a big way. (This was version 1.2.8) It does pop a warning about an inability to bind to a port, but has an ignore option.
- Twonkey Media Server does work, but the Mac UI is slow and renders as a web app. (Using 6.0.34)
A one page that was particularly helpful and didn’t come up early in my searching was: “Oppo BDP-83 DLNA/UPnP thread “