How-To: The ultimate iTunes Media Server - MacTalk Forums OK, I'm a big Mac fan, but there are some things that a PC (Windows or Linux) just does better, and a media server is one of them. I'm an audio / video nut. Combine that with some handiness with construction and computer knowledge, and you end up with a fully automated home theater and multi-zone audio system built by yours truly. The above system is nice, but it breaks a couple of hard rules for me.
1. I don't want to have to fire up a computer to choose what to play. The system must be available via a learning remote.
2. It needs to easily support multiple zones of audio and UPnP players.
3. My mother should be able to use it. This is nothing against my mother, but she is a good test case when it comes to technical issues.
My media server is a Windows PC running J. River's Media Center, TheaterTek, and various other automation applications. There is no monitor, keyboard or mouse connected to this server. It is connected to a display but only for playing DVDs. All audio equipment is in a locked closet. If I do need to connect to the server for maintance, I use VNC from one of my other computers. From my Phillips Pronto remote, I can play any album, playlist, song, or DVD at the touch of button without navigating a computer screen. Users of the system do not know they are dealing with a PC. Apple and Microsoft expect you to have a computer running to select anything. That's great, but how many people have a computer in their living room?
With my system, all I need is a small handheld remote to choose anything I want. I can be watching a movie downstairs, listing to a playlist outside, and have a Roku playing music in the kitchen at the same time. It's all served from the same server, and I never once had to look at a computer screen. There are commercial products that do the same thing, but they are several times the cost.
For most people, this is how it needs to be.