NAS, the heart of streaming

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For those interested in the results of yesterday's package unwrapping, Henry's fart gun was a bust. I've agreed to return it, much to both our disappointments. It doesn't actually do what it's name implies. Instead, it's a difficult to use gun that puts out a puff of air if you pull back on the rubber stopper–far too difficult for a 3 year old. Worse, it makes no obnoxious sound. Disappointing to both the 3 year old it was intended for and the 67 year old who bought it for him. Nothing upsets us more than expecting one thing and getting something else. Like expecting Plug N Play (UPnP) to perform as its name implies. It may work for printers and other simple devices, but not when it comes to a DLNA music system. I had detailed how a NAS is a hard drive with an internal computer built in. It is accessed over a home network through ethernet cables, and sent on its way by the home router. Pretty simple setup. Computers can do nothing without a program to instruct them. Like a car needing a driver to steer it, the complex mechanisms inside computers are powerful tools in need of direction. When we read that a NAS (Network Attached Storage) is DLNA "ready", it means nothing more than a DLNA server program has been installed and configured to control the NAS. The internal computer does the work, but this DLNA server program tells it what to do. One DLNA server program dominates the NAS landscape. Twonky. Twonky has been around for a very long time. It was founded by a company called PacketVideo who started business in 1998 out of California. Twonky is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan's largest mobile phone provider, NTT DoCoMo . Twonky performs as well as its name suggests. Not well. But, it is stable, low cost, handles most media (not DSD) and pretty much is what you're going to be stuck with if you run a NAS. Some companies, like Synology and QNAP, have their own version of DLNA server that outperforms Twonky - I am guessing hoping that trend will continue. There's also one available for easy install, by Synology NAS owners, as well as Windows and Mac owners as well–for those not owning a NAS–that is preferred by Audiophiles and is free. It's called Minimserver. So, what does this all important program do? Let's first review the three critical elements in a DLNA music system: server, controller, renderer (player). The server, in this case Twonky, can do the following tasks (among other things):
  • Tells other devices on the network what the NAS is, what it is capable of doing and playing, and what it has stored on it
  • Reads the stored contents and delivers a list when asked to
  • Connects the player to a specific memory location on the hard drive where music is
Tomorrow we'll look at the controller.
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Paul McGowan

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