Tue, Nov 10, 2009
Home is definitely where we all prefer to be, nothing beats it, especially when you have a fully networked media centre letting you access all your digital files from any room in the house.
What was once the preserve of the rich is now far more accessible, only requiring a bit of basic knowledge and a small investment in some extra technology.
Using a PC, wireless router and any modern LCD TV you can stream films around your home from a digital database on your hard drive, watch BBC iPlayer on the big screen, interact and play the same video game, regardless if you are on different consoles, and enjoy the Internet and all your digital music, images and films whenever and wherever you choose.
Creating a central digital database for all your media content is easy. Most of us already store our digital photographs, our music and our favourite films on our PCs, whilst most broadband providers supply a wireless router which we use to connect to the Internet.
All you need to have to access the content on a PC’s hard drive from, for example, a laptop in another room is for them both to be connected to the same wireless router. It is then possible to configure both computers so that they can share files with each other, Microsoft Windows even has a set-up wizard installed for this very purpose.
Using this simple wireless system you can have as many computers as you like connected to the wireless router all sharing files and interacting with each other. You can also have one printer in the house which can be used wirelessly by all of them. This is quick and affordable networking at its simplest.
What else can I connect to my network?
Now that you have a wireless network running around your home there are loads of other devices that you can attach to your network.
Gamers can connect their consoles to the internet via the router in exactly the same way. This allows you to play multi-user games online, enabling you to chat and exchange messages with other gamers around the world, or maybe just in the room above you.
Radio enthusiasts can gain access to thousands of stations around the world using a simple internet-radio tuner, available from as little as £60, that connects to your wireless router, giving you a world of DAB quality listening.
How do I connect my network to my TV & audio?
Buying a simple device called a Streaming Media Player, available from just £80, allows you to access all the content that’s stored on your PC, including digital photos, home movies, films, music and files. Many have built in Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity and you can usually access radio and live streaming features from the Internet as well as the aforementioned DAB radio stations from around the world and even some HD content and online streaming services.
What about BBC iPlayer?
At present there are appear to be certain legal issues, surrounding popular online streaming channels, such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player coming through Streaming Media Players, but nothing can stop you plugging your laptop into the back of your LCD TV using the HDMI port and getting the big screen experience that way.
Wireless or Ethernet?
An alternative to wireless networking is to use an Ethernet cable instead, which has both advantages and disadvantages. You will find that an Ethernet cable is quicker at firing data around your home and somewhat more reliable and less prone to loss of signal etc.
However the problem of running cables around your home might put you off. Can you really face hiding all those wires? Not many of us can, so unless you are in the process of a complete renovation then the cable option probably isn’t for you.
Protecting your home network
Having all your home PCs connected over a network makes it imperative that you protect them all with a firewall to prevent malicious software (malware) from causing major damage.
Many routers come with a hardware firewall already installed, check with your broadband supplier to see if yours does. If not you can buy a comprehensive protection software package from any of the leading anti-virus providers on the market. Happy networking!
Written by John Hillman
John Hillman is the editor of PC Site and a writer/journalist who spends his days researching and writing about new technology, cybercrime and social media.